Dusty wood paneled shelves stocked with everything you could possibly need. Nails weighed by the pound and wrapped in newspaper. Knowledgeable customers dressed in leather aprons with a pencil behind their ear to take your order.
Memories of old Australian hardware stores have sparked an outpouring of nostalgia, while drawing bitter criticism for their huge, modern chain equivalents like Bunnings.
A photo of an old hardware store recently shared on social media led hundreds of users to share their memories of hardware stores that are now sadly a thing of the past.
The photo, shared on the ‘Australia – Remember This?’ Facebook page sparked nostalgia for old hardware stores while also sparking criticism for their huge, modern equivalents
Facebook users were quick to blame chains like Bunnings for the demise of the old hardware store, accusing them of lacking the same expert service and customer experience
The photo, believed to have been taken at the Nock and Kirby store on George Street, central Sydney, shows three men standing behind a glass counter with row upon row of wooden shelves filled with DIY items.
The image of a world now all but gone led users to complain about the decline of the “one-to-one service” they offered and the knowledge their owners had.
“They had everything,” said one.
Another added, “And they knew what their stock was and what product was best for the job!”
‘I also liked going to the hardware store with my father. You could buy the exact amount of what you needed.
“You want 8 wood screws, you have 8 in a little paper bag, not 20 in a plastic container that lives in the landfill for 300 years.”
“Had one near me: an old shop run by a nice man almost as old. You could buy practically everything you needed. I don’t think he even knew some of the stash he had.
“It was a lot of fun going in and finding things on the dusty shelves and all the little drawers he had. It was the kind of place you’d go to find something Bunning’s didn’t have.’
One person remembered an old shop their father would visit in Parramatta, western Sydney.
“Dad would go there and get weird stuff and they always had it and knew their business – not like Bunnings where no one knows where something is or what it’s used for,” they said.
Another blamed Bunnings for the decline of traditional hardware stores.
“Bunnings basically killed all of our local hardware stores, along with the great service that… (they) had.
“Local hardware stores knew what they were selling, unlike Bunnings (where) they can’t point you to the right aisles,” she added.
However, one user defended the retail giant.
“The staff at Bunnings are amazing, I remember the old places and they were rude half the time,” they wrote.
And another user was more cautious in their criticism, suggesting that consumers were also to blame for the demise of these stores.
One person wrote, ‘Bunnings has basically killed all of our local hardware stores along with the great service that… (they) had’
But another user said the consumer should take some of the blame, writing, “Well if everyone didn’t go to Bunnings all those little shops would still be there”
“Well, if everyone didn’t go to Bunnings, all those little shops would still be there,” they said.
People remembered how the stores were more environmentally friendly than the ones that are open today.
“You want 8 wood screws, you have 8 in a little paper bag, not 20 in a plastic container that will last 300 years in the landfill,” they said.
Another wrote, “I remember a hardware store where you bought your nails by weight (lb) and they wrapped them in newspaper.”
Trips to these shops were clearly a feature of people’s childhood.
“Saturday morning shopping with Dad!” someone wrote.
‘Buying the vegetable seedlings for the garden, wrapped in wet newspapers. The earthy scent is unforgettable.’
Bunnings was last month accused of ‘anti-competitive’ conduct over a secret plan to buy up at least seven Miter 10 stores.
Scott Marshall, the outgoing CEO of Metcash’s food division, slammed Bunnings in a recent submission to the federal parliament’s select committee on the cost of living.
In addition to the grocery wholesale business, Metcash owns the Miter 10 hardware chain, with stores run by individual owners as part of a national cooperative.
Mr Marshall told the committee that large companies tried to buy up independent Miter 10 stores and pinned the ‘anti-competitive’ practice mainly on Bunnings.
“Currently, Metcash is aware of Bunnings writing to at least seven Miter 10 companies asking them to consider entering into negotiations to sell their store to Bunnings,” he said in his submission.
The comments came two weeks after Daily Mail Australia revealed that an independent Miter 10 store in Byron Bay was closing for good.
The closure makes it the latest victim of the so-called big box business – after an earlier report predicted more than 6,000 independent retailers would close by 2024 because of bigger companies like Bunnings.
GDC Advisory’s forecast said that Bunnings, as well as Woolworths and Miter 10, intensified competition and warned that smaller companies would not be able to keep up.
The Byron Bay store opened in 1991 and has been privately owned by James Mitchell and Lisa Mitchell since 2001.
Store manager Richard Gibson wrote, “The price of progress, we really enjoyed being part of the crew. To our customers who have been Byronites all their lives, to the latest additions and to those just passing through. What a great audience. You will be missed. Thanks everyone.’
Andrew Terry, professor of corporate regulation at the University of Sydney Business School, previously told Daily Mail Australia: “If Bunnings comes to town, it will be bad news for local businesses.”
Daily Mail Australia approached Bunnings for comment.