The painting extras that retailers love

shutterstock_57355396Increasing numbers of DIY painting projects have pushed the paint sections of Australian hardware stores front and centre, or at least nearby. A new focus on accessories that can make painting faster and simple is helping retailers maximise their sales

When it comes to do-it-yourself, some facets of home improvement are easier to tackle than others. Building and construction work require the requisite permits and approvals, housing electric systems are no place for amateurs, and anything beyond the most basic plumbing work will also require a professional. But house painting – whether indoor or outdoor – is the one task that anyone can complete – safely and effectively.

Is it any wonder then, that painting is one of the first major home improvement tasks undertaken by new homeowners? That trend is pushing more DIYers into the painting sections of Australia’s major hardware stores. Observers say the market is still growing, with more buyers undertaking bigger painting jobs more often.

Hardware stores and home improvement retailers are responding by devoting more space and greater prominence and marketing emphasis to their paint departments. With that comes a greater focus on the add-on value that painting accessories can bring to both professional and DIY customers.

There’s also plenty of value for the retailer in these items. Every painting task requires a great deal of brushes, rollers, trays, cleaning agents, masking tools, and drop sheets, along with the actual quantity of paint needed. Paint is not necessarily a loss leader, but certainly the margins for accessories are typically significantly higher, adding much value to every customer. While very few people will enter a store with a new roller on their mind – finding the right paint and colour will almost always be the priority – the accessories are an important addition that helps to make or break the task ahead.

Quicker and easier

Accessories are high in mind for both retailers and suppliers at the moment. As the trend toward more DIYers undertaking more painting projects more often continues, paint accessory suppliers are focusing on new tools and redesigns that make the overall task of painting both quicker and easier. “That’s the fundamental question we need to ask,” says Ashley Simpson, national sales and marketing manager with UniPro Painting Equipment Australia. “What can make the job of painting less of a task; what can make it quicker and easier?

“Anything that can do that, as long as it works as well as the product it is superseding, will be attractive.”

This demand for intelligent tool updates and redesigns is taking place across the full range of paint accessories, including hand tools (such as sanders), application equipment (including brushes and rollers), and protective materials (drop sheets and painter’s tape). In each category, products that make painting faster and easier are winning the most favour.

Hand tools that work

Contrary to common expectations, the hard part about painting is not the task of actually putting paint on walls. That’s easy compared to the job of preparing those walls, including sanding, removing wallpaper, and filling in cracks and gaps. Each of these might be simple on its own, but pool them all together and the need for “quicker and easier” becomes stark. Add some height, as cracks and wall imperfections are rarely at that nice eye-level, and its easy to see why painters are constantly searching for any and all help they can get.

There are a range of hand tools that do offer assistance. Prince among them are painters multi-tools, which offer at least five (and increasingly many more) tools in one handset. The first multi-tools were typically five-in-one varieties: with putty knife, roller cleaner, hammer, scraper and spreader. Recent years, however, have seen the rollout of 6, 8, 10 and even 11-in-1 painter’s tools. These allow DIYers to remove peeling paint easily, cut through layers of old paint, remove wallpaper, spread wall filler, pull nails out, and more.

The common sander is another tool that has been crying out for updates, with many manufacturers and suppliers complying. Unipro recently put out a round-shaped sander, designed specifically for use on ceilings. “Previously, only one type of (sanding) tool could be put on an extension pole,” Simpson said. “It was rectangular, and often flipped when used on ceilings.” That not only meant harder work for the user, but could also mean damaged ceilings and walls. The Genius TurboSand, introduced at the end of 2011, works with any 230mm (9”) hook and loop sanding disk.

Application tools: more paint on the wall

When it comes to the application stage of any painting project “quicker and easier” means getting paint from the tin to the wall in the most efficient and effective manner possible. Fortunately, accessory makers have had that goal high on their mind as they developed new styles of rollers, paint trays and other accessories that reduce the effort required to paint, and the mess that’s left behind afterwards.

That’s exactly what microfiber rollers and sleeves, for example, offer the amateur painter. The material’s properties allow the rollers to pick up paint and hold it far better than their traditional counterparts. That means fewer drips, and importantly, fewer trips between the tray and the wall. These newest rollers offer wider coverage and an exceptional smooth finish to any painting project.

The microfiber covers are easy to wash, and can be used over and over, for great value and environmental advantages.

But it’s not just the materials that are changing with rollers. Simpson says there has also been an increasing demand for wider paint applicators among DIYers and home renovators. While traditionally these amateur groupings preferred the lighter 230mm rollers, sales in recent years have trended far more heavily toward the wider 270mm products that were once the sole domain of professional painters.

“They’re looking for slightly bigger rollers, to get the job done faster,” he says.

Paint tray liners are also helping to cut down time and effort in the painting task. By lining the paint tray before they get started, users can enjoy a cleaner project that’s easier to finish up, pause between weekends, and change paint colours. Unipro’s latest additions to its liner line-up include products that are specifically designed to fit its corresponding trays.

Keeping paint where it’s supposed to be

A third category of painting accessories – protection tools – are also seeing plenty of change at the moment. These tapes, drop sheets, and films are all designed to ensure paint doesn’t stray on to places it shouldn’t: non-target walls and architraves, carpets, or even furniture and appliances. Simpson says one increasing trend among DIY painters has been the willingness to take on bigger and longer-term projects in recent years. Often combined with fulltime jobs,that can mean painting lasts over several consecutive weekends.

The development of longer-lasting masking tapes and films has therefore been a priority for all suppliers in the Australian market, including 3M, Unipro, and BND. Simpson says Unipro has been particularly proud of its recently-released 14-day tape, which comes in three widths (24mm, 36mm, and 48mm) and is easy to both apply and remove. It means painters can set up their painting project one weekend, and leave tape in place during the working week, all ready to start again on the following Saturday.

Accessories for professionals too

While it is certainly the amateur end of the painting market that has been driving much of the change in paint accessories and equipment, professional tradies also form a sector that is worth marketing toward. In fact, the developments written about above all bring the types of products demanded by DIYers closer to those required by professionals undertaking painting tasks every day.

This slow merging of the two markets is good news for retailers and suppliers alike. “Accessories have always traditionally offered higher margins than paint itself,” Simpson says. “Paint is the thing that brings people in the door (but) accessories area n important of every profitable sale.”

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