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About Mica

What exactly is Mica?

Mica is a vehicle which helps its members compete with the larger corporate stores. Mica is a co-operative voluntary trading group owned by its members who are all first class independent hardware stores. It is retailer owned and directed, and management run. In many ways it is similar to Spar or Nisa - what Spar is to grocery stores, Mica is to hardware/DIY stores.

History of Mica

Mica was set up in the UK in 1995/6 by two former senior members of staff at the BHF (British Hardware Federation), David Braun and Belinda Barnard. The former was Manager Director of Mica from its inception to 2005, and Belinda was MD from 2005-2009. They set up the company with initial assistance from Mica South Africa, a group of independent retailers who came together in the 1980’s to create a company to Market themselves more cost effectively through joint branding.

Mica in the UK took the branding and the concept of the retailer group and adapted it for the British market. It kept the core brand design, and until 2014 followed the South Africa development and changes as they were made, including the switch to ’Mica Blue’ from a previously grey colour in 2001.

The new British company, majority owned by the member stores who joined up, quickly built up trading relationships with some of the biggest names in the business, who were keen to have a partner to drive business for them in the independent sector. Names such as ICI Paints (now Akzo Nobel, owners of the Dulux brand), Draper Tools, Calor Gas, LG Harris, Brabantia, Ronseal (now part of Sherwin-Williams) and Phoenix Security (now Sterling Locks) were all early sign ups to work with the group, who remain suppliers to this day.

The numbers of stores quickly grew, with the help from store owners in South Africa who could explain how to concept works to British independents. Several founder members (Halls Mica, St Annes Mica, Saundersons Mica & more) are still members of the group, some in their second generation of the family business working with us.

The founding members of the group, and most stores who have signed up since, joined Mica to achieve this same goal, although today Mica offers not just Marketing, but also a powerful buying group, store development and setup, and digital support for independent retailers.

By 2005 the group had 120 members, but following a difficult period in 2008/9 after starting a warehouse facility the company was forced to go through an adminstration. A new Mica was set up by a core group of Mica retailers and today we have a stable membership of around 55 retailers.

Mica is now a fully registered retailer co-operative group and has been since 2010. Mica DIY is fully owned by the member stores and run by a CEO who acts based on what the members decide we should do. We have no external influence, ownership or voting rights except for the principle of representation by election, and one member one vote. We are certainly unique in our industry, and possibly in the UK as a whole.

History of the Independent Retailer

Independent retailers in the UK haven’t had a good time in the last 30 years. In the hardware/DIY sector numbers have fallen from 25,000 in 1970 to less than 6,500 now. This worked out over a fixed period as 660 independent UK hardware stores closing every year - or nearly 2 per day, EVERY DAY.

In 1970 no-one had heard of B&Q or Homebase - now they are the market leaders within the DIY sector in the UK. Other market sectors have met a similar fate as the superstores mopped up - grocers, butchers, electrical stores etc. In the grocery sector the massacre only stopped with the arrival of Spar and Nisa etc - independent groups which gave their members a fighting chance.

Why should I visit a Mica shop rather than a multiple?

Every Mica shop shares one main aim - to help you the customer. After all it is you who keep us in business! We try to help you in every way we can and hope that by doing so whenever you need a DIY/Hardware product you will visit us - we all have ’regular’ customers who wouldn’t think of going anywhere else.

All Mica shops offer superb customer service. Each shop is owner run and managed - with the kind of care and attention to detail that only an interested owner can bring. Personal service is guaranteed - a thing so often lacking these days. If you need something we don’t have in stock we’ll try and get it for you; If you think you might need an extra roll of wallpaper, we’ll set it aside for you; If you’ve bought too many cans of paint, we’ll take them back.

Another benefit of visiting a Mica shop is that we know what we’re talking about! When it comes to advice, we’re second to none. With years of experience in the DIY/Hardware trade and expert knowledge of the products we stock, we can help you to choose the right product to meet your needs - whether it be a fixing for a cavity wall, a specialist primer for painting tiles, or a stainless steel cookset.

Aren’t the big boys cheaper?

Regular advertising by the multiples convinces consumers that they are cheaper - in fact this usually isn’t the case. Normally a few key items are priced very aggressively to get customers into the stores, whilst the sundry products are more expensive to make up the shortfall. As Mica shops we ensure that our prices are competitive.

Mica has member shops throughout the UK - all of whom purchase their stock through the group. This gives us enormous spending power with our suppliers - which in turn means that you, the customer, can be sure of getting good, honest, value for money.

Good service, expert advice and great value... In other words we are able to offer you the customer a better deal all round!

Try your local Mica store today!