Special agent heads Mitre 10 Plan

Former FBI special agent and Home Depot executive John Hartmann is now heading Mitre 10.

The company announced the chief executive appointment alongside aspirations for a new wave of growth in its large format MEGA retail centres.

The American was the ultimate result of a domestic and global candidate search for a new leader to spearhead the battle with rival Bunnings.

Mr Hartmann, who started two weeks ago, is a former senior executive at the United States' largest retail hardware chain, Home Depot, and started his working career with the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Mitre 10 chairman Martin Dippie said the appointment was a well-timed one as the company looked to keep the pressure on its competitors.

"He's going to allow us to be very innovative."

Mitre 10 had also acquired the rights to use its own name from the original Mitre 10 in Australia. Mr Dippie said securing the rights to their name after 36 years of operation in New Zealand was important for the independence of the brand.

"We control our own destiny. We're very proud to be a fully independent co-operative."

He said the Australian market was fiercely competitive with large food retailers taking over the hardware industry, different to the independence of Mitre 10 in a very diverse New Zealand industry.

The Australian market was having its impact with trans-Tasman hardware giant Bunnings fighting hard to beat Mitre 10 in the "big-box" retail war.

"We're clearly in a battle with Bunnings to win the customer over."

He said the hardware and DIY industry had done reasonably well over the recession, with consumers returning to their home projects in the face of economic uncertainty.

With the exception of the three-store receivership by Wellington Mitre 10 owner Rob Vincent, most Mitre 10 stores were conservatively managed and doing well, Mr Dippie said.

The receivership resulted in a "slight PR disaster" of Bunnings securing the high-profile Tory St site from the Mitre 10 chain, he said.

The strategy to roll out 10 more Mitre 10 MEGA stores by the end of 2011 was well supported by current Mitre 10 owners who were keen to invest.

The company has opened 23 of the large format stores since launching the MEGA brand in 2004.

The Dominion Post