Paint Place Tweed Heads shines in a competitive market

Store name: Paint Place Tweed Heads
Store owners: Stewart and Helen Conroy
Buying group: Paint Place Group of Stores

Paint Place Tweed Heads continues to thrive in a highly competitive market, despite being a small, family owned paint store. Store Manager, Stewart Conroy, believes that sticking to the basics of retailing, such as presenting a well organised store, combined with quality customer service, ensures the store’s survival in a price competitive environment.

Paint Place Tweed Heads not only boasts great customer service and competitive pricing, but also has a perfect location, situated close to major shopping centre, Tweed City Shopping Centre, and other trade stores.

“Luckily, we are located directly next door to a TradeTools store, so literally hundreds of tradies pass our doors on a weekly basis. It is a fantastic location,” Stewart said.

Taking advantage of the priceless location, as well as retaining staff by consistently looking after their needs has also ensured Paint Place Tweed Heads’ survival. Management prides itself on looking after its staff by ensuring their opinions are heard when it comes to running the business, as well as offering flexibility.

“We try to remain flexible when staff need to take leave, especially when it comes to spending time with their families. We also offer regular training opportunities, as well as a happy and relaxed work environment, where we can laugh and joke around,” Stewart said.

“The fact that we look after our staff is particularly evident with our low staff turn-over, and three of our staff are now well past their 10 years of service with us. When staff stay with us for a long time, this also benefits us because consequently their knowledge and service is second to none in-store,” Mr Conroy said.

Store history
Paint Place Tweed Heads was originally opened at its first location in Machinery Drive, Tweed Heads, as a Paint Store way back in the late 1970’s. The store was part of the Paint Place Group of Stores and then in 2001 the store moved to its current location, which was a new, larger premises just two doors down from the former location. At this time the current owner purchased the local Bristol store, merging the two, so it was a Bristol Paints until 2004.

“Since this time the store has had five family owners working in the business, which is now owned in partnership between Stewart and Helen Conroy (married) and Ken and Lyn Bradley, who are Helen’s parents and primarily silent investors.

“All of the partners have at some stage worked in the retail side of the business, however currently Stewart manages the day to day running of the store, while Helen takes care of the financials. Ken and Lyn are currently taking on more of a silent partnership as they move into retirement,” Stewart said.

As the current store manager, Stewart boasts an extensive background in retail, beginning his career working at his local Mitre 10 store in Murwillumbah, straight out of highschool.

“I completed a Certificate 4 while I was working at the Mitre 10 store. I then began working at Paint Place Tweed Heads in 1999, working my way up to a management position before purchasing the store in 2004, from former owners, John and Lyn Reakes, who ran the store with their two daughters.

Stewart said he rebranded the store back to the Paint Place banner in 2012, after he found that Paint Place Group of Stores’ buying power, and membership fees were more enticing than as a Bristol store.

“We also preferred the exclusivity of the branding and the generous national marketing support provided by the group office. By supporting preferred suppliers, the marketing provided for our store well outweighs the investment to be a part of the group.”

“We also intend to continually grow the store though marketing campaigns, conducted via the group office, as well as conduct local area marketing and diversification into new products with the latest technology available on the market,” Stewart said.

Maintaining a fresh look in-store
Currently the 320 square metre store is holding its own in a highly competitive market, particularly as it is located in a very busy industrial strip close to major shopping locations.

“Local demographics include a mix of families and a high population of elderly residents. We try and present the store in a clean, uncluttered environment so that it is aesthetically pleasing to all customers,” Stewart said.

The store is ever changing, but Stewart says the main focus from his staff is to try and keep the store looking modern and neat, especially when accommodating new products.

“The most recent change to the store is the new Paint Place Design Bar, which offers customers a dedicated area to choose different paint sample colours, look through the wallpaper samples and even design their own mood board, along with the staffs’ support. This has also brightened the entrance of the store with fresh colours on entry,” he said.

Some of the biggest selling products in-store currently are the general household paints, followed by woodcare. However, Stewart says the store sells a high range of products so that every painting project is covered.

“We not only sell household, industrial, timber coatings, marine, and automotive paints, but also every accessory needed to complete a painting project from a large range of paint brushes, sand paper, solvents etc. A very large selection of wallpaper is provided in-store as well.”

“The store is currently running at 70 per cent trade/grey trade and 30 per cent DIY, so we have to maintain stock for our trade customers as well as make sure they are not kept waiting when they come into the store,” he said.

Tackling current and future challenges
While there has been a continued growth in household paint sales and specialty products, Stewart also pointed out that the store does have a constant battle to compete against the larger hardware chains, especially as a small, family run independent business.

“Unfortunately, some of the assumptions from our local customers are that they will get better pricing at these larger stores, but this is not always the case as we endeavour to be as price competitive as possible. Our main point of difference is our dedication to ensuring great customer service and keeping waiting times to a minimum, especially when customers come into the store seeking advice on their latest project,” he said.

Stewart said that once customers visit the store, they often say they wonder why they have shopped anywhere else because the service and prices are so great.

Looking into the future, Stewart said that continuing to plan ahead remains essential when running a small, independent business.

“At this stage we will continually change and evolve the layout in-store. We also have a national and local marketing plan in place for the remainder of 2018, because we believe that planning ahead in business is a must,” he said.