Knowledge, service, & advice
Lee Haskayne has owned, operated, and staffed PaintRight Lilydale, in Melbourne’s outer east, for over 17 years. It’s a formula that will continue in the 2013 PaintRight Store of the Year’s new premises for some time yet.
After 17 years as a staple part of the business community in Lilydale, on the outer eastern fringe of Melbourne, PaintRight’s store of the year for 2013 moved premises late last year. It wasn’t a great distance away from the previous shop, but the new store, just off Lilydale’s Main St in Cave Hill Road, represents a significant step forward for owner operator Lee Haskayne.
“It’s been a great business to be involved in,” he told Australian Hardware Journal. “But there are plenty of years left in it still.”
It’s not just the bigger space available – though that is certainly an important part. Haskayne has been able to expand the range and also include a wallpaper section. The new store also now boasts a dedicated colour testing and matching room in its layout. The new premises also has greater street frontage and is a more prominent building in Lilydale’s key thoroughfare. “It’s a more successful looking shop now,” he says.
But while the shop is now bigger, and Haskayne can expect more foot traffic, most things are set to stay the same. That includes the single-man operation that has served the business so well throughout its existence.
“I’d rather work for myself,” he says. “I enjoy what I do, and I enjoy knowing its done to the best of my ability.”
For the majority of the store’s history, that has meant 12 hour days, for up to seven days a week. It’s been a labour of love for the proud Lilydale local; one that has only marginally eased since he decided to stop trading on Sundays a few years ago, taking on a friendlier work-life balance of a six-day working week.
That dedication to sole-entrepreneurship has also meant a delicate balancing act over years, even more so given PaintRight Lilydale’s ongoing success. On the one hand, there is a need for growth and repeat business. On the other hand, Haskayne notes he sometimes needs to limit that growth in order to keep the business manageable for one (admittedly very hardworking) person.
“I always make it too busy for one, but not too busy to need more staff,” he says. “That’s a very deliberate strategy.”
Still, it may prove difficult to continue as more repeat business comes the store’s way. Haskayne says the majority of his business has been based on loyal repeat customers, who return to the store every time they have a painting task at hand.
“Most of my trade has been with me for a long time,” he notes. Adding a greater number of walk-in trade to that ever-growing base can only increase the pressure, but Haskayne takes it all in his stride. “Everyone still gets the same level of service and attention.”
That service, and Haskayne’s personal knowledge and experience in the paint industry, remains the cornerstone of the PaintRight Lilydale brand. Customers are able to get excellent advice every time they come in the store, even if that doesn’t result in an immediate sale. “One of my strengths is that I’m always here,” Haskayne says, noting that on the few occasions he has family members help to cover an absence; many customers opt to come in the next day to ensure they have access to his personal knowledge bank. “People know they are going to get me every time they come in. They don’t mind waiting if there’s someone already here.”
He says knowledge and trust are always important in retail environments, but are especially vital in the paint business. “Customers are looking for consistency of information, and someone who can help guide them through their projects from start to finish.
“I pride myself on not letting anyone out the door without the answers to their questions – that’s how my type of store is still relevant against the big boys.”
These factors and more helped PaintRight Lilydale earn the buying group’s coveted Store of the Year award in 2013. This was judged on sales and growth of the store, as well as customer service metrics that highlight the store’s respect and loyalty among local consumers.
“It’s certainly a great win for the store,” he noted. “It has the best brand, and the best advice of any of its rivals.”
Part of the store’s success also falls at the feet of the buying group itself, however. Haskayne says the PaintRight buying group have helped to ensure he always has the best possible range, at good value prices, and without any gaps that buyers would need to go elsewhere for.
In particular, the group delivers an excellent relationship with the key Haymes paint brand. “Being a trade centre for Haymes delivers excellent products for our customers,” Haskayne says. That’s another factor that helps PaintRight stores compete against some of the big box retailers who have also gone into paint categories.
These retailers have certainly taken some potential customers away, but Haskayne remains confident that the formula of excellent product knowledge, range, and service will continue to stand PaintRight Lilydale (and the wider buying group) in good stead.
“I’m mindful of rivals, but I don’t worry too much about what anyone else is doing,” he says.
Those rivalries are set to continue for some time yet, with Haskayne saying retirement is still some time away. He says he’ll continue running the store until he stops enjoying it, but that isn’t likely to happen any time soon.
“It’s a tough business but I’ve never wanted to do anything else,” he says. “I’m looking forward to starting the New Year in a new, bigger, and brighter store, and servicing three generations of local customers as always.”