Our work for Topline
Topline is the retail brand of Amalgamated Hardware Ltd, Ireland’s largest DIY and building materials buying group. Many of the 90-plus affiliated members are family-owned businesses, together owning and operating more than 160 stores nationwide. This differentiates Topline from other retail hardware chains as members strive to remain locally embedded and relevant—true to their individual heritage—as well as benefiting from group membership and the brand. This presents a unique branding challenge.
Research and strategy
Our work with Topline commenced with research and brand strategy development.
We researched the brand perceptions of stakeholder groups—members, employees, customers, prospective customers, lost customers, etc. We looked at their perceptions of the brand and its standing in the DIY/hardware/builders merchant environment.
We conducted store audits—evaluations of Topline and competitor stores—to review the shopping experience, store quality and layout, product presentation, in-store and external brand application, communications and more.
Based on the company’s business plans and the findings from this research we set out a detailed brand development strategy covering corporate vision and values, purpose, positioning and core messages, the implications for brand structure, identity and trade dress, tone of voice, store design and long-term brand-building.
The brand strategy included recommendation that the group needed a new, unified, national brand identity that also allowed each member store to remain loyal to its local heritage.
We went on to create an identity system, based on a corporate master brand, that facilitated retention of the equity in each member’s name at local level. This required careful consideration of the relationship between the Topline brand mark and member name. We devised a naming strategy for members to ensure consistency across all Topline stores. Solving this problem was a crucial part of the brand identity project.
We continued to work with Topline on retail systems and in-store experience. We developed in-store signage and a special online point of sale system that enables each member store to download consistent POS materials from a Topline database. We prototyped new service and product ideas, including ‘Energy Hub’, an interactive in-store energy product sales area. We created a range of promotional concepts and a private label brand. We also branded ‘Topline University’, an online training system for storeowners and their employees.
As individual stores commit to rebranding they each go through a full internal rationalisation process. This involves designing a new store layout to maximise products stocked, installation of new in-store display systems, along with implementing BFK-created store navigation signs, product notices and POS. The stores also undergo an external revamp, which includes building enhancements and new signage. This process has now been completed in more than fifty stores.
As a result of private ownership of individual stores, Topline is often presented with specific challenges around building design, planning and local circumstances when updating existing stores. Many present particular challenges for the rebranding process. We work with Topline to address each unique brand challenge in a customised but unifying way.