Inspirational store wins ‘Franchise of the Year’

Store names: Inspirations Paint Nerang & Oxenford
Store Owners: Darcy, Andrew, Noel and Edith Usher
Buying group: Inspirations Paint

At the 2017 Inspirations Paint National Conference, Inspirations Paint Nerang not only won the Queensland Franchise of the Year Award, but also the Overall Franchise of the Year Award for 2017.

Inspirations Paint Nerang and Oxenford Director, Darcy Usher, believes his businesses continue to stand out from the crowd because he ensures his staff fully engage with their customers and take a “if the shoe was on the other foot” approach to each and every sale.

“We continually remind our staff that if they were coming into the store to buy paint, they need to ask themselves how they would want to be treated. Th is alone has resulted in some fantastic year on year financial gains and has also been a contributing factor to gaining recognition amongst our national franchise network. When it comes to the awards, business performance is assessed on a percentage increase from the previous year, so the awards are open to all stores regardless of size,” Mr Usher said.

Incredibly, Inspirations Paint has only ever presented three National Awards in total, of which Inspirations Paint Nerang has won them all. Previous to this, only state awards were presented, according to Mr Usher.
All stores are assessed on a wide range of key franchise elements including: external store appearance, internal store standards and layout, adoption of retail programs, percentage of Paint Club transactions, use of business systems, marketing and promotion, program participation, promotion in the local market and overall business performance.

Extensive family history
Mr Usher’s parents, Noel and Edith Usher, initially opened the Nerang store in 1985, and operated the store right up until the early 2000’s. But it was not until 2005 when Mr Usher and his brother Andrew got into the paint business aft er opening their Oxenford store, that the two brothers assumed the day to day running of both businesses. Today ownership of the businesses is split between the four family members, but it seems paint has always been in the family in some form or another, according to Mr Usher.

“My Grandfather was a painter, my father was a painter and before coming to the Gold Coast, our family had a small paint store and curtain shop in central Queensland. So, you can say paint is in the veins,” Mr Usher said.

“My brother Andrew has been involved with the business, from a sales point of view, for the last 22 years and manages the operational side of the business. I come from a trade background as a painter and for the past 12 years I have also managed the financial and marketing elements of the business,” Mr Usher said.

Both businesses were always bannered under Inspirations Paint, aft er Noel and Edith Usher established their store within the group back in the mid-eighties.

“Originally the group was set up as a co-operative buying group, with a small cluster of stores joining forces to gain better buying power. Th is later evolved into a franchise group and with its strategic alliance with Dulux, our group and local stores have certainly gone from strength to strength against other paint specialists,” Mr Usher said.

“Our group also has the added benefits of a centralised purchasing system, a National IT POS system, state and national based field support, as well as a HR department. Th is benefits all Inspirations Paint store owners and I believe sets us apart from other independent paint specialist networks,” he said.

Catering to Queenslanders
At just under 500 square metres, the Nerang store is located on a main arterial road, parallel with the M1 Pacific Highway on the Gold Coast.

“Th e Gold Coast itself is one of the fastest growing cities in Australia and with the 2018 Commonwealth games just around the corner, there is certainly a great buzz in the air. But rather than focus on demographics and try and be all things to everyone, our stores and group have made the strategic move to segment the market and choose one target segment to focus on,” Mr Usher said.

“Our target segment spends more per renovation project than any other segment, are less price sensitive and prefer to shop at a specialist paint store. Our stores are ultimately designed to cater for these customers. Th ere is overflow into other segments and we can cater for them in-store, however they are not our focus and we do not invest advertising dollars trying to attract them.”

“Our stores cater for all facets of painting and decorating, from house to automotive, marine, wallpaper and even pool paint. Our automotive paint sales have also grown considerably in the last five years and now make up nearly 20 per cent of our retail business. Another popular area in our stores is our ‘project workshop’, which is a space specifically designed for customers to interact with staff and view popular colour schemes,
converse on ideas and ultimately get the inspiration to tackle their next project.

The retail side of our business is also a key driver of profit and makes up a substantial part of business and we have key staff solely employed to run and manage this side of the business,” he said.

Local marketing
With the store achieving growth in both trade and retail sales, Mr Usher said the store’s marketing approach, coupled with instore experience and professional staff , will help the business to grow even further in the coming years.

“We highly value local marketing and our key goals for our marketing programs in recent years, has been to increase prompted brand awareness and overall retail sales. Our main marketing platform has been radio advertising all year, with an emphasis on the peak painting seasons in spring, summer and autumn. We also advertise with both brand and call to action messaging across three stations and this dominates the airwaves with program sponsorships and on-air promotions,” he said.

“We are also very active on social media, creating our own content as well as curating franchisor content. Th is presence reinforces our expertise and love of painting projects, as well as positioning around personal attention to all painting projects. We are also heavily involved with community events each year, which may include supporting the renovation of local sporting clubs by supplying the paint and accessories, and this also reinforces our franchise culture of being locals who care,” Mr Usher said.

Another critical area of business within the store, is employing quality staff that are passionate about helping customers with their painting project.

“We will continue to invest in our people to ensure we remain leaders in the industry by combining our service positioning and project focus offering. To assist with this, we have instigated ongoing learning opportunities for our team members in the form of: new product training; coaching and mentoring; specialist skills training, including protective coatings and automotive; redeployment opportunities, such as switching stores and a reward program, whereby team members receive certificates and vouchers for achieving key KPIs,” he said.

“Our approach creates a working environment where team members feel valued, their skills are developed, they can grow with us and in turn deliver impeccable service to our customers,” Mr Usher said.

Future plans
Plans are already well underway for the Nerang and Oxenford stores to create a unique space in-store, utilising the latest technologies so customers can easily view project and colour scheme ideas.

“Our aim is to have a wall where customers can view pictures of room settings and house interiors and exteriors with corresponding colour chips that mirror the colours shown in the image. We are calling it our ‘Wall of Inspiration’ and we certainly see it as a major benefit to our customers,” he said.