Hardware wars

IN THE battle of the multinational hardware stores in Launceston, the first casualty appears to have been felled with Becks Home Timber & Hardware to close one of its two stores before September.

A spokeswoman for Woolworths, which now owns the Tasmanian established chain, confirmed yesterday, the closure of the original Dowling Street site with no job losses.

It is understood staff were informed of the decision at a gathering on Tuesday night and individual meetings with each employee would now take place.

Becks has been operating for 82 years and has eight outlets in the state, all based in the North.

Its rival is the Wesfarmers-owned Bunnings, which boasts five outlets in Tasmania and two based in Launceston - at Kings Meadows and the recently opened, $47 million, 16,000 square metre Invermay superstore.

``Home Timber and Hardware has decided to consolidate its two Launceston sites on Dowling Street and Boland Street to one location,'' the Woolworths spokeswoman said.

``This means that from the end of August, trading will cease at the Dowling Street Home Timber and Hardware store and will transfer to the Boland Street store.''

The spokeswoman said there would be no job losses.

``We are committed to ensuring that all employees are offered ongoing employment,'' the spokeswoman said.

``We will work closely with staff during this transition period.''

The spokeswoman denied the decision had been prompted by the opening of the second Bunnings superstore just 1.2 kilometres away.

Last October, Bunnings chief operating officer Peter Davis was reported as saying the new superstore was a major tactic to lure customers from its rival Woolworths.

Becks was established by Ernest Beck as a timber merchant, at the Dowling Street site in 1932.

In the 1970s and 1980s it bought other hardware businesses at Deloraine and Scottsdale.

In 2010, John Danks and Son, a subsidiary of Woolworths Ltd, paid $40 million for Gunns Ltd's five Tasmanian hardware stores, as well the Becks Timber & Hardware businesses.

It was reported at the time that the purchase was to take on the growing Wesfarmers' (and its subsidiary Coles) moves to establish a national network of hardware stores.

The last Launceston-based Mitre 10 store - Cleavers Mitre 10 at Prospect - closed last November after 130 years.

Only five Mitre 10 affiliated stores remain in the state, with four of them located in the North

However, there are four True Value Hardware stores (registered to Mitre 10) in the state.

One of the last truly independent hardware stores in Launceston, Charles Street Hardware, closed in December last year, blaming the pending opening of Bunnings and central business district parking fees for its demise.

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