Mitre 10 NZ caters to online paint and accessories market

by | Oct 14, 2021

Mitre 10 NZ caters to online paint and accessories market

While the paint and accessories category has always been an exceptionally busy category in New Zealand, the pandemic has taken sales to a whole new level with strong sales expected well into the future, according to Mitre 10 New Zealand’s Paint and Paint Accessories Category Manager, Kristy Howlett.

The paint boom has continued substantially in New Zealand, according to Ms Howlett, who said every time there is a Level Three or Level Four lockdown, consumers desperately want to paint their homes.

“When you compare this year’s paint sales this year to last year, they differ quite a bit. This is because in the first lockdown last year, New Zealanders were given a couple of days’ notice before we went into lockdown – so people had time to prepare and buy the products they required. This year, however, we were not given any warning that a Level Four lockdown was about to occur. The government announced at seven o’clock that evening that we were going into lockdown at midnight, so Mitre 10 did not experience the panic buying that we did in 2020,” Ms Howlett said.

“Paint is not deemed an essential product for purchase during Level Four lockdowns, so this year it seems like every New Zealander has been looking at their house for the last 35 days and deciding what paint projects they would tackle when Level Four restrictions lifted. You can imagine the huge surge for paint, among other things, that occurred once restrictions lifted.”

Paint may be purchased at New Zealand hardware stores via ‘Click ‘n’ Collect’ once restrictions reduced to Level Three, however customers are only allowed to purchase in-store once restrictions are at Level Two.

“Then of course everyone outside of Auckland moved to Level Three quicker than Auckland so you could see customers, on a national scale, ordering copious amounts of paint after going to this level. This year paint sales have been strong right across the board which is quite interesting because usually we see some sort of seasonal trend. In winter interior paint sales are a little higher and then exterior paint sales increase in summer, but we have seen strong sales in every sector and this will continue for some time,” she said.

New online ‘Paint Colour Picker’

As soon as the pandemic hit, and uncertainty prevailed, Mitre 10 New Zealand soon realised that it was essential to implement a user-friendly online solution so customers could easily choose their colours from home.

Mitre 10 New Zealand launched its exciting new ‘Paint Colour Picker’ online application in September.

“If our customers wanted to order paint 12 months ago, they would actually have to go in-store and request the assistance of a team member. You could not do any online ordering within the paint department. We immediately began working on a new online solution once the pandemic hit which has led us to launch a comprehensive, user-friendly online tool that allows customers to easily choose colours and order paint,” she said.

“Mitre 10’s newly launched Paint Colour Picker solution provides customers with thousands of online colours, including colour palettes that allow the user to consider many different options. Alternatively, if a customer knows the exact paint they want, they can also easily order this product via the Paint Colour Picker as well. When a customer does pick a colour online, the selected colour expands into a bigger swatch on their computer screen so they can easily get more of a feel of what the colour will look like.”

“Another great aspect of the Paint Colour Picker tool is that customers can sit down at home, with the magazine in their hand where they may have seen a certain colour and easily source the product from us.”

“Customers can also view the colour they have chosen in a bedroom, bathroom and kitchen environment, just to get more of a sense around what it will look like in situ. They then go to the cart, confirm if the paint is interior or exterior, confirm low sheen or gloss, choose a size and the order is sent to the nearest Mitre 10 store. It is then tinted at the store and the customer is notified when it is ready for pick up,” Ms Howlett said.

Although the online offer was only launched in September, store feedback has already been positive with Mitre 10 stores reporting that it has been a great tool for staff to utilise as well.

While Mitre 10 has communicated to its customers that every computer screen is going to be different and that colour swatches will therefore display slightly differently, the online tool still provides a good representation of the colour. If they are still unsure, customers also have the option to Click ‘n’ Collect sample pots if they wanted to be 100 per cent sure on the colour before ordering all of their paint. 

Wall mockup in living room design, White sofa in Scandinavian interior, 3d render, 3d illustration

“It really is an easy-to-use tool which has been a real game changer for us and I also believe we are first to market with this type of online selection tool. While there are other solutions around within DIY, our offer is unique because it gives customers the option to browse that colour first and then go through the customer journey to end up with exactly what they want,” she said.

“For those consumers who do not want to do this online, then when we are in Level Two, there is certainly the option to go in-store and speak to an experienced team member or they can phone their local store as well,” Ms Howlett said.

Consumer trends

While it is not unusual for new colours palettes to be released seasonally, new releases have now been disrupted by COVID, particularly as suppliers remain more focussed on simply supplying paint over launching new products due to the increased demand.

“Trends are great for inspiration but when it comes to actually painting something, this is a different story. Kiwis are quite traditional and they love the neutral, classical colours. Even though the new trends have been delayed of late, it certainly has not stopped consumers from purchasing paint,” Ms Howlett said.

“In saying this, there is so much inspiration on social media when it comes to paint colours, as well as lifestyle TV shows like The Block. We are certainly not short of inspiration including upcycling old furniture which has become a good way to make some extra cash during lockdowns.”

While New Zealanders already have a strong passion for DIY projects, according to Ms Howlett, consumers have also gained the confidence to tackle larger projects as they continually upgrade their homes throughout the pandemic.

“Recent consumer trends have shown that most people prefer to tackle interior projects first and they start off small before going to the living room, kitchen, bathroom. They then build that confidence to tackle the deck or fencing outside,” she said.

Ms Howlett said Mitre 10 New Zealand Chief Executive Officer, Andrea Scown has a fabulous saying that ‘Kiwis love to invest in the nest’, which is certainly evident when speaking with customers as well.

“A lot of people have spent money on international travel and when they cannot do this, their homes are their biggest asset which is why so much is being invested back into the home at the moment. The perfect way to the improve the home, after spending so much time there, is of course is to splash on a new coat of paint and easily lift the look of the home.” 

Haymes launches ‘green’ innovations

Haymes’ new ‘Volume 15: Awakening’ palette combines concepts of strength and change in an unstable environment.

Demand for water-based paint – over traditional solvent-based varieties – continues to grow in the current economic environment, according to Haymes Paint Chief Executive Officer, Rod Walton, who says he expects this trend to expand further as younger generations, who are more aware of environmental impacts, enter the home market.

“Since the launch of Haymes Paint’s first Low VOC paint in 2004, our research and development team have continued to look for ways to bring more environmentally friendly products to the market that still meet our high standards for quality and exceed customer’s expectations. Our Haymes Woodcare Dexpress is a great example of this. It is a water-based product with a finish that lasts three times longer than traditional decking oils that are solvent-based,” he said.

When it comes to new colour trends, Haymes has also just released its ‘Volume 15: Awakening’ which includes three colour palettes combining concepts of strength and change in an unstable environment.

Haymes Paint Colour and Concept Manager, Wendy Rennie says the new colours are influenced by Australia’s slow rekindling after what has been an unimaginable time. Haymes wanted to use colours to inspire our customers to create a space that is uniquely theirs and embrace the new way consumers live and grow in our homes, she said.

“The ‘Game Changer’ palette encapsulates new-found freedom to be yourself and challenge everything with a playful vibrancy and optimism, while the ‘In the Moment’ palette features an array of varying shades of rust, earthy browns, burnt oranges, and organic neutrals to promote a sense of roundedness. Finally, the ‘Clearview’ palette represents the idealised tree change, sea change ideal, and everything in between,” Mr Rennie said.

Aussies alter the way they utilise their homes

While the after effects of COVID have not only inspired Haymes to release warm and comforting colours onto the market this season, the pandemic has also changed the way consumers utilise their interior spaces. As lockdowns have continued over the past 20 months, Mr Walton says there has been a definite shift in how people have utilised their homes. 

“Homes are now offices, classrooms, as well as a place to switch off and recharge. For many, being able to define these spaces as well as refresh them have become new projects that would not have not necessarily been a high priority pre-COVID.”

“There has also been a strong shift over the last 18-24 months to Australians shopping local in response to natural disasters and the COVID pandemic, with the desire to support local Australian businesses and communities. It is for this reason that Haymes Paint saw double-digit sales growth despite the fact that the residential and commercial market remained relatively flat during FY21 year compared to the previous year,” Mr Walton said.

While the focus over the last few months has been on updating and refreshing the interior of the home, according to Mr Walton, many consumers will now move outside and start looking at projects that create that sense of escape in their own backyards. 

“The go-to project for most now and into next year is always bringing a deck back to life. During spring and summer, we see an increase in sales for Haymes Woodcare’s comprehensive range of innovative exterior and interior Australian timber finishes,” Mr Walton said.

Also in the outdoor space, Haymes has recently introduced a new Concrete and Paving Protection range, as well as livery for consumers to utilise this season. 

Haymes Paint Senior Product Manager, Michael Parry said Haymes has a number of products in its range which will allow the DIYer and tradie to bring back to life and protect concrete paths, driveways, workshop floors, or an entertaining area. 

“The Haymes Concrete and Paving Protection range is suitable for domestic and light commercial applications and consists of easy-to-use single pack products which refresh and rejuvenate previously coated or aged concrete, through transforming the appearance,” Mr Parry said.

The new retail friendly design brings a stronger brand presence for the range but is also designed to make it easier for the customer to identify which product will meet their needs. 

“In addition to our new livery, Haymes Paint has released new products to the range including new Haymes PaveShield, a quick-drying single-pack, xylene-based penetrating sealer for concrete surfaces that also provides a durable finish that protects the surface from staining. The UV resistant finish is easy to clean and is suitable for high traffic areas, including driveways and garage floors. Haymes PaveShield is easy to maintain with recoating a simple process,” Mr Parry said.

Haymes Paint has also released its new Haymes Paint Elite Rapid-Cote which provides a tough resilient coating that customers would expect from an enamel paint with low odour and low VOC, water wash up, rapid drying and reduced yellowing and discolouring that water-based products provide. 

“Elite Rapid-Cote is the perfect combination for trims, delivering the authentic finish and quality of solvent-based enamels, combined with the benefits of water-based paints,” Mr Parry said.

Solvent-based products move to water-based

Water-based products remain popular due to their high quality and low impact on the environment.

New products continue to deliver innovation in the paint industry particularly as the quality of water-based products entering the market, that have traditionally been solvent-based, have really lifted the game. Traditionally these products are not seen to be up to the mark of their solvent-based equivalents, according to Mr Walton.

“Haymes Woodcare Aqualac Clear is an easy-to-apply water-based coating that preserves the natural colour of interior timber. This low-odour coating is a quick-drying alternative to traditional oil-based products. It is an environmentally responsible product that is safe to use in the family home,” according to Mr Walton.

“We have also released our Ultimate Anti-Bac Single Pack paint. This is a low sheen acrylic formulation that provides an ultra-smooth durable finish with superior washability and mould, mildew and bacteria resistance. It is 99 per cent VOC free for no fumes or lingering odours, you can avoid large scale area closures making it excellent for hospitals, veterinary clinics, aged care, and schools.”

“Elite Rapid-Cote is also revolutionary low odour, interior and exterior enamel. It is a quick-drying, hard-wearing, mark resistant coating that washes up in water. In saying this, it is not just about what is in the can, it is about providing a total solution for our customers through product and exceptional service and expertise. We focus on more than just selling a can of paint. We want to add value to a project or a tradesman’s business and continue to look for ways to do this. This is our key value-add for customers, which gives us a real point of difference over our competitors,” Mr Walton said.

When touching on primary concerns facing the paint industry currently, as the largest remaining Australian made and owned paint manufacturer Haymes has always had the approach of sourcing local raw materials where it is practical and viable. Mr Walton says Haymes knows, “the benefits that investing in local businesses has on the economy and communities.”

“That said, we are seeing a shift in local raw material providers moving their manufacturing operations overseas to remain competitive and sure up supply as they become global market players and deal with the ongoing supply chain challenges that continue as a result of COVID, which is understandable.”

“As a founding member of Paintback, we understand the impact our product can have on the environment. While we continue to look at ways to reduce our impact on the environment during the manufacturing process, it is just as important to ensure that once customers have completed their projects, they are able to dispose of unwanted paint safely,” he said.

Haymes will continue to look for ways to innovate and improve its products in an environmentally friendly manner, including looking at the raw materials used or how the company can manufacture things differently.

On the company’s transition toward a greener footprint, Mr Walton concluded: “There is a continued focus on producing more environmentally friendly products that are easy to use and have the durability of solvent-based products. In the architectural and decorative space there are still a number of solvent-based products that trades tend to prefer. That is why products like Elite Rapid-cote are such game changers. They are combining the benefits of solvent-based enamels with the benefits of acrylic enamels.”

Local competition

While traditionally it has been hard for new players to successfully break into the Australian market, new brands need to establish trust with their consumers and tradespeople so they have faith and reassurance that the product is a quality product, according to Mr Walton.

“For trade, it is their workmanship that will be judged at the end of the day and they want to know that they have used a quality product. For consumers, painting is an investment and a project that they will undertake at a certain stage in life. COVID has also seen a real shift in how consumers are purchasing home improvement products. With trading restrictions and lockdowns retailers have needed to move to Click ‘n’ Collect and contactless pick up to continue to support customers. It is for this reason that Haymes Paint will launch its eCommerce platform for retail customers later this year to ensure that our customers are able to shop with us when and how they want to,” Mr Walton said.

Future company developments also include the Haymes marketing team working with a local manufacturer for its Haymes Paint branded workwear, in an effort to support other local manufacturers. 

“With limited capacity and machinery for domestic clothing production within Australia initially, this proved more difficult than first anticipated. However, with perseverance the team was able to find a local manufacturer and our recent winter and summer workwear ranges have been made in Australia.”

“By supporting local manufacturing, we also experienced the added benefit of having our team more involved in the product development, while avoiding freight issues experienced by many companies trying to import this year,” he said.

IPSA update

As the second largest independently owned paint specialist network in Australia with stores in every state and territory, Independent Paint Specialists Australia (IPSA) includes 53 network partners under the Haymes Paint shop brand, along with 33 network associates under the PaintRight brand.

The flexibility in the network partner and network associate model has provided two compelling offers for paint specialist stores and owners, according to Haymes Paint Shop, IPSA General Manager David McCormack, with the Haymes Paint Shop offering a fully-fledged franchise offer, while the PaintRight provides a more traditional co-operative group model.   

“We have been thrilled with the adoption and support by store owners in the market and will continue to work with our members to support the current and future growth plans for these family businesses – as well as continuing to work closely with our major supply partners, who have been unwavering in their support of both the group and growing membership,” Mr McCormack said.

New IHG initiative to support consumer paint experience

Environmentally friendly paints, such as Dulux Ultra Air, continue to grow in popularity, particularly as consumers spend more of their disposable income on upgrading their home’s interior, according to IHG’s (Independent Hardware Group’s) Paint and Accessories Category Manager, Andrew Rumbelow.

Sales are also increasing across the entire paint category with Mr Rumbelow saying rich sensual hues, along with some 80s inspiration, and paving paints continue to sell extremely well.

“Over the past 18 months we have seen a 25 per cent increase in sales across all our paint categories. Last year we saw some of the largest sales volumes in DIY across our network of Mitre 10 and Home Hardware stores, with paint sales leading the way. Demand has reduced slightly from the peak of 2020 but there is still strong demand for interior and exterior projects.”

“Even those categories that have been traditionally stable for many years, such as paving paint and garage paints, have grown over 50 per cent in this same period. Obviously paint accessories form a large part of any paint project which is why we are also seeing strong growth across applicators, fillers and ladders as well,” Mr Rumbelow said.

While there was a slight drop off in sales from the peak of 2020 earlier this year, there has been strong growth over the last two months throughout the entire paint sector, he said.

“Prior to COVID paint sales were relatively stable across the industry. While sales are unlikely to continue to grow year-on-year, as it has over the previous 20 months, we are confident the demand for projects inside and outside of the home will remain high in 2022 particularly as consumers are unable to travel internationally.”

“The traditional categories of interior, exterior and decking have performed very well, as have the sub categories of primers and ceiling. Not one paint category within our store network is in negative growth, including some surprise categories such as garage and paving paint. We have attributed the more recent growth to home owners that have already completed their interior and exteriors projects and are now looking to other areas they can improve on. I can attest to this personally as we have completely redone our front fences as well as the driveway,” Mr Rumbelow said.

While the market does have many players competing within the market, through extensive research IHG has found that its store network is considered a destination in providing trusted paint players, including well-known brands in Dulux and Wattyl.

“The group also has its own brand Accent Paint. These quality brands, along with the personalised customer service that our team members are known for, give us a good point of difference in a very competitive space. Mitre 10 has remained innovative, particularly with the relaunch of its Accent brand in the last 12 months, with completely new packaging, new colour walls and range extension,” he said.

In the online space, the group has continued to see thousands of hits to the Mitre 10 website, primarily from shoppers seeking products and inspiration through the Mitre 10 DIY video series.

This month Mitre 10 and Home Hardware will also launch an exciting new consumer initiative called ‘Colour with Confidence Guarantee’, in an effort to back up its promise to consumers on getting the best paint advice and products from its stores. According to Mr Rumbelow IHG stores are guaranteeing a happy experience the first time around or paint will be replaced for free – up to the value of $200.

“The ‘Colour with Confidence Guarantee’ gives our customers confidence through a colour consultation in store with our accredited staff. If they are unhappy with that colour choice, our stores will replace their paint up to the value of $200 RRP on great quality paint like Dulux, Wattyl and Accent. Another bonus is the fact there is no charge for this colour consultation,” he said.

“Our store staff have taken thousands of phone calls to help guide customers on products needed to complete a job, with many team members even using video calls to walk customers through the store and help select the right plant or product.”

“Through this initiative, customers have the option to purchase through our online store and collect goods safely via our contactless Click ‘n’ Collect or delivery service, or for those seeking a more personalised service, Dial ‘n’ Collect has been popular for local customers wanting a one-on-one experience,” he said.

The ‘Colour with Confidence Guarantee’ marketing campaign commenced from October 11 and will leverage The Block as a key media platform to reach DIY/renovator customers.