‘Focus’ was the theme of the Paint Place Group of Stores 2016 conference, held at the Hilton Hotel in Adelaide from March 18 to 20, with 75 per cent of stores and 210 delegates in attendance.

The group’s focus this year was not only to build on its 115 stores, but also introduce an abundance of exciting new initiatives specifically developed to support group growth and accelerate the group’s momentum.

Paint Place CEO Mark Sutton said the Paint Place 2016 ‘Focus’ Conference, was another successful gathering of members and supplier partners.

“It was a watershed conference, which saw the group’s overwhelming vote for the structural changes that will set the members up for future growth. In a market that will continue to become more competitive, it is important that members work together, focusing on strengths that are not only inherent, but are also being developed,” Mr Sutton said.

“Core to the group’s direction is developing and maximising the suite of marketing tools, ranging from retail and trade, to automotive and industrial. This is complimented by the margin driven buying project, plus the creation of a store development program to assist member growth.”

“Alongside the strong presence of suppliers at the trade show and throughout the conference, the group also presented new margin opportunities through its own buying project. Other key programs presented included the introduction of an on-line ordering portal, development of a ‘Find-a-Painter’ program, re-launch of the T-Card trade credit facility and the introduction of a woodcare/specialty display unit, to compliment the industry leading Design Bar colour room concept,” he said.

Mr Sutton said the conference also saw the introduction of new member engagement through the trade and marketing committee, plus the addition of three new members to the group board.

“Peter Cipolla, Brett Morrison and Danny Slade were all elected to the board, ushering in a new era. Founding chairman and group stalwart, Les Earle, also formally stood down from the board this year, with members expressing their gratitude for his many years of contribution. The group also announced that it ran for profit for its 2015 financial year, while still maintaining services and marketing at levels expected by members,” Mr Sutton said.

Conference program

The main conference program kicked off with presentations not only from Mark Sutton, but also the group’s National Marketing Manager, Georgia Downes, who also presented on the opening morning of the conference. Ms Downes initially informing delegates that a strong interest in renovation and gardening TV programs has not only continued to stimulate consumer demand for hardware and building materials, but has also stimulated growth in DIY painting projects – which has seen a boost in demand for paint and accessories products.

“When a consumer enters your store, they often don’t know what products they need to complete a project. Recent research found 48 per cent of consumers brand switched at a store, while 39 per cent bought brands that were recommended by staff. Ibis research also found 58 per cent of consumers think they can complete a DIY project, but end up with DIFM, often using friends, family and grey trade partners to complete the task,” Ms Downes said.

“It is also most likely that the over 50 DIY consumer is an older female, looking for support and advice around painting and decorating, while over 75 per cent of the grey trade consumer often remains focussed primarily on a residential repaint. The grey trade customer is also more likely to pay cash up front, while also looking for more support from their paint retailer. Valspar Consumer Research from 2015 has also found that over 38 per cent of paint customers preferred to shop at Paint Place,” she said.

Ms Downes also pointed out that stand out keys to business success not only included buying power, a good reputation, a loyal customer base, the ability to quickly adapt to technology and the ability to operate in multiple markets, but also included stock control, remaining multi branded, store location and ensuring a skilled workforce is employed within the store.

“Paint Place is expected to continue to carve out its position as paint specialists, within the Australian market, through its excellence in customer experience, its breadth of products and services, expertise in product choice and painting techniques, as well as leadership in colour and design,” she said.

New to Paint Place…

Several new concepts were introduced to Paint Place members during Georgia’s presentation, which included the introduction of a new member’s website, ‘Portalink’, set to be launched in July this year. The new website includes several capabilities for members including: store benchmarking, online ordering, supplier deals, easy navigation of group office collateral, training portal and target trackers.

On-going concepts for the group included: development of the group’s private label, a new design bar in-store with 26 stores set to install the new bar in April/May, and encouragement for continued consultation from members, including advisory group meetings, group surveys and feedback.

Members then ran through an extensive workshop on the benefits of social media and how to customise their strategies to take full advantage of not only digital media but also local area marketing, planning the next event for the local community as well as making the most out of visual merchandising.

The Haymes Business Boost lunch was also held on the first day of the conference, with author, speaker and entrepreneur, Matthew Michalewicz, speaking extensively on business goal setting, planning, innovation, success psychology and personal motivation.

Valspar Gala Dinner

On Saturday night, the Valspar Gala dinner and awards night kicked off, which not only saw the presentation of many important awards, but also the annual ute draw based on preferred supplier support over the second half of 2015. Alex Hetenyi of Paint Place Phillip was thrilled to be the winner of this year’s draw, which saw him win a new Ford Ranger ute, complete with sponsor signage. The gala dinner’s James Bond theme was embraced by many on the night, with quirky bow ties, glamourous gowns and James Bond themed music welcoming guests to the ballroom.

The much anticipated 2016 Founders Awards were also announced during the night with the following award winners revealed:

New Look Volume Award – Paint Place Merrylands (Peter Cipolla)

New Look Growth Award – Paint Place Cowes (David Fusinato)

Core Range Volume Award – Earle’s Maryborough (Melissa White)

2016 Retail Leader – Pauline Aik of Yamba Paint Place

2016 Marketing Leadership – Brett Morrison of Rockhampton Paint Place

2016 Most Improved Place – Burpengary Paint Place (Alan and Debbie James)

The conference drew to a close on Sunday morning with the official Paint Place Annual General Meeting, followed by the Rokset Gourmet Lunch at Adelaide’s National Wine Centre, with a keynote address by Darren Flanagan, who was crucial to the rescue of Todd Russell and Brant Webb during the Beaconsfield mine disaster.

Paint Place members said it was both a stimulating and motivating conference, and although they returned to their stores with a wealth of information, they felt refreshed and ready to ‘focus’ on the year ahead.

In its 29th year, the group looks forward to welcoming everyone back for the 2017 conference, to be held at the Royal Pines on the Gold Coast.