Seizing opportunity in time of crisis

Chin: We react pretty quickly, because we’re a homegrown brand.

WHILE some companies have adopted a wait-and-see approach when it comes to tackling the Covid-19 pandemic, the same cannot be said of home improvement retailer MR DIY Group (M) Bhd.

Its response has been aggressive, going against the current in its industry where salary cuts, layoffs and store closures have become the norm over the last few months.

The group recently opened 33 new stores nationwide on Sept 19, bringing its total outlet count to 670. There are 640 MR DIY shops, 28 MR Toy outlets and two MR Dollar stores.

The secret behind this strong growth trend lies in the company’s ability to react quickly to changes in the market, says MR DIY marketing vice-president Andy Chin.

“For a big organisation, it’s usually hard to move with that much agility, as it tends to be more conservative with a long decision-making process. Hence it is slower in responding to the market.

MR DIY has a wide product mix which usually attracts their customers to purchase more than just what they need.MR DIY has a wide product mix which usually attracts their customers to purchase more than just what they need.

“We react pretty quickly, because we’re a homegrown brand that understands the market. So that’s a core advantage of our business in Malaysia. We always think of ways to go against the current; that’s part of the company’s DNA and it enables us to adapt to current market changes instantly.”

Plans to launch MR Dollar – a brand focusing on food and beverages selling for either RM2 or RM5 in May – were postponed due to the movement control order (MCO), but MR DIY Group went ahead with it when restrictions were relaxed during the recovery MCO.

“We believe it has a strong proposition, strong layout and design and a strong team leading the brand. There are a lot of locally sourced products and the best part is, it has a strong dollar concept that suits current market requirements.

“We will continue to push this cost-saving model to customers in Malaysia since single price point stores do well in many countries and we believe that it will help us reach more markets, ” he says.

MR DIY Group had previously launched the MR Toy brand last year and its e-commerce business in 2017. Its early investment into e-commerce made it well-positioned to tide through the MCO by remobilising its employees to fulfill online orders and bring in revenue.

Chin: We react pretty quickly, because we’re a homegrown brand. Chin: We react pretty quickly, because we’re a homegrown brand.

“E-commerce doesn’t cover all the things we sell in-store – such as fragile items –but it enables us to serve a different group of customers.

“The benefits of embracing online was demonstrated during that period, so we were well- positioned for e-commerce when the MCO hit, ” he says.

The click-and-collect model, where customers order goods online and select the outlet to pick up the items, has seen high usage and is a good way to bring traffic to its outlets, he says.

The company is offering 941.49 million new and existing shares under its initial public offering as it seeks to list on Bursa Malaysia’s Main Market.

In line with the growth in outlet numbers and new business, the group also kickstarted a nationwide recruitment campaign in July offering 1,000 job vacancies, with an emphasis on local recruitment, bringing its number of employees here to more than 10,000.

It received more than 8,000 applications within two weeks. More than 600 were unemployed, 200 were fresh graduates and talents were also hired from the disabled community.

“Two or three months ago, a lot of people had their salaries cut or even lost their jobs. A lot of good people lost their jobs not because of their capabilities but because of the external situation.

“There was a lot of uncertainty in the market, so we wanted to help create local job opportunities and push people to get jobs. But it gives us, as a company, the opportunity to source great talent cost-effectively, ” he says.MR DIY Group will soon start another campaign to fill in more positions by the end of the year.

In addition, MR DIY also invests in its employees by upskilling and upgrading their knowledge.

For instance, it has a six-month in-house training programme to upskill employees.

Called the supervisor apprentice programme, it trains the them on store operations and dealing with workers, among other aspects.

As of Sept 23, more than 500 employees have graduated from the programme.

“It’s lifetime knowledge that would be beneficial for them, even if they leave our company. Employees are our asset – it’s a generic statement, but what matters is how we make the pieces of the puzzle fit.

“We constantly invest in them through training and other ways. The best thing is that if you’re willing to invest in your employees, they will really appreciate it and as a result, they’re more motivated and willing to contribute to the job.”

During the MCO, the MR DIY Group also ran several initiatives to help fellow Malaysians, starting with RM3.5mil worth of medical essentials given to frontliners at the end of March. For the consumers, it started the #KitaJagaHargaKita campaign in line with the MR DIY’s Always Low Prices tagline.

It also ran its Proudly Made in Malaysia nationwide promotion by working together with 11 local brands including Lava and Felton, to support of the government’s Kempen Beli Barangan Malaysia Tahun 2020 initiative.

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