Spring set to paint a colourful picture

The paint category is set to boom this spring, with a wave of construction due to begin, dating back to the end of last year, according to Paint Place CEO, Mark Sutton.

Mr Sutton recently reported that although the current market for retail has been inconsistent, Paint Place is preparing for a stronger spring period than last year, “with consumer confidence returning, judging from current sales.”Mark Sutton
In preparation for the up-beat spring season ahead, Mr Sutton said Paint Place will focus on offering an exceptionally high level of service to both trade and DIY customers.
“Paint Place is concentrating on our ‘Painting Made Easy’ vision, in regards to offering a full service experience for all projects. This is what the contemporary customer expects. It is not just about having stock or service – it is an integrated solution that encapsulates retail marketing, trade service, visual merchandising and buying opportunities. We are uniquely positioned to offer this level of support to all of our customers and to close the loop on the painting experience,” Mr Sutton said.
However, the challenge for specialists is to ensure we are always building capacity and awareness around the skills, and to deliver a great in-store experience for all customers, Mr Sutton said.
“It’s an integrated approach that includes training, visual merchandising and marketing. We are doing this through our training programs, which include a training website, conference, roadshows and a week long management course we provide to members,” he said.
“You can’t have a great in-store experience without a store that looks the part. We are investing with our supplier partners in a market leading Design Bar concept that will make choosing paint and colour an easy and enjoyable experience. In addition, we have a comprehensive program that allows our stores to maintain their own unique personality, as well as providing a uniform approach to ‘Painting Made Easy’.”
“We also have our business development managers on the ground, to help monitor standards and assist members in building their store capacity and potential. You could say that Paint Place has evolved to a ‘full service’ model,” Mr Sutton said.

Current market trends
It seems paint customers are continuing to opt for quality finishes over cheaper versions that are starting to appear in the market. These are tiers in our market that haven’t had much promotion until recent times, according to Mr Sutton.
“Customers really understand the ‘get what you pay for’ concept when it comes to paint.  We’re about to launch our annual spring trend colour forecast that features colours and themes specifically developed for the Australian consumer market. This year’s trend colour collections were developed by trend forecaster, Lucy Sutherland, and were brought to life through room settings by Melbourne stylist Deb McLean (Doswell & McLean).”
“In terms of accessories, we have found that customers like value propositions but are also keen to make sure they get the job done right the first time (rework is everyone’s painting nightmare). Any advice on the right accessories is always welcome rather than seen as a ‘sell-up’. All our customers are in our store seeking advice but also want choice and inspiration so it’s important that we provide that,” Mr Sutton said.

The machine age
So what trends are developing in paint stores and why are paint customers demanding much more in regards to service, quality product and colour matching?
It seems Australian paint counters, particularly in independent hardware stores, are still dominated by the manual tinting machine, but in this modern age, a computerised approach to colourising paint has proven to be a more accurate alternative.
Although automatic tinting machines have been used in Australia and New Zealand for many years, the majority of these machines are found in paint company trade centres or big box retailers, according to Bruce Peters, sales manager for Fast and Fluid Management – who are leading manufacturers of paint tinting and shaking equipment.
However, it seems paint technology has moved forward very quickly, resulting in the emergence of highly efficient automatic tinting and mixing machines that challenge the viability of the traditional manual Blendorama dispenser.
In fact, in today’s market, a paint counter is often not only fitted with an automated tinting machine, but also an automatic clamping paint shaker or mixer, at a price point that will surprise even the harshest sceptic.
Automatics are life savers for big box retailers because they “McDonaldize” and de-skill the process, putting the job in the hands of the computer and technology, according to Mr Peters.
In large outlets, where staff are moved from department to department, training time may be short so automatics, like Fast and Fluid’s “Accutinter” models then become a big attraction, he said.
“In smaller stores, artisan skills exist and staff are trained well. These skills, combined with automatic technology in the paint counter, makes for a very powerful blend of know-how and experience, together with speed, accuracy and efficiency,” Mr Peters said.
When high speed is the issue, the Accutinter models are the Olympic champions, squirting out multiple tints at once. If a formula requires 10Y, for example (300mls of colourant), one may think it could take several minutes to complete. The fact is an Accutinter typically does the job in a matter of seconds, according to Mr Peters.
“Technology is also raising a customer’s expectations in-store. They will have experienced the zap of a spectro, which finds a perfect colour match in seconds, sends the formula to the dispenser and then they see their paint mixed in an automatic mixing machine delivering a perfect blend of colour throughout the paint,” Mr Peters said.
It is impressive machines such as this, that are changing customers’ expectations and why it is critical that paint retailers use the right tools. This then ensures that colour errors are reduced, tinting and mixing time speeds up and the overall improvement in customer experience and satisfaction are all part of the impact of the new age equipment required to sell paint.

The perfect colour choice
So when it comes to assisting your customers in making the right colour choice for the job, how do you help take the stress out of their decision?
One of the biggest tips is to get your customer to start painting in a small room, such as a bathroom, or small hallway so your customer can see the results quickly and then know if they need to make a change right away. Ask them what sort of mood they are aiming for in the room that they wish to paint, reminding them that soft cool colours will create soothing moods while stronger colours will prove to be more dramatic. For example: do they want a child’s room restful or exciting?
Also remind your customers to pay attention to the lighting within the room. If there is a lot of natural daylight, this will bring out the truest colour in paint, while fluorescent lighting can cast a sharp blue tone into paint work.
When testing the colour of the paint – tell your customers to also go beyond their comfort zone, and fill a large poster with the colour or a large area of the wall and remember to view the colour from the next room so you can see if the colour flows from room to room. And give them the option of considering different paint finishes such as a matte finish on the walls and a semi-gloss on the trim.
So as you prepare your paint department for this spring, remember you customers will be more educated than ever on colour, finish and paint quality. Be prepared for this well-educated customer, so you can answer even the most demanding questions.