Outdoor projects & furniture restorations on trend this season
With the first COVID-19 lockdown now over and many states beginning to open their economies, Australian Brushware Marketing Manager, Michelle Wee said its Monarch accessories continue to experience strong sales, even with Stage Four restrictions imposed throughout metropolitan Melbourne over the last few months.
“The increasingly good weather has also seen consumers still engaging in DIY projects around the home. We are also seeing a shift towards more outdoor projects as spring continues to bloom, including decking, fencing and concrete painting,” Ms Wee said.
Painting projects undertaken during the first few months of lockdown were primarily indoor, according to Ms Wee, with consumers updating the interiors of their homes, but this has now switched to outdoor painting and restoration projects.
“Furniture restoration is also quite on-trend at the moment and proving to be very popular. This includes the upcycling of bookcases and wardrobes, as well as outdoor furniture,” she said.
Educating customers on the benefits of using high-quality accessories is crucial to achieving ongoing sales, according to Ms Wee, who said her experience has shown that many customers remain unaware that they need to use quality applicators to achieve a professional finish on a painting project.
“Customers often think that if they buy expensive paint, they will be fine using a budget brush or roller. However, once they have completed a job, often they have painter’s regret. This is why Monarch make it a priority to educate consumers every step of the way. Whilst we do all we can to ensure our customers pick the right paint accessory for their painting project, we also ensure we provide the right painting tips and tricks to help get the project done faster and easier,” she said.
“If anything, our sales over the last six months have highlighted that consumers are willing to pay a premium for the right tools to get their paint project completed. As a result of the pandemic, consumers have definitely spent more time learning, checking and comparing products they are interested in on the internet and have then gone on to learn how to use these products through on-line videos,” Ms Wee said.
Paint applicators have seen strong sales during 2020, according to Ms Wee, who believes brushes and rollers were amongst the most popular items. However, with an increase in smaller projects, including furniture restoration, there has also been an increase in mini rollers over the last few months, she said.
“Mini rollers continue to trend up year-on-year, particularly as we head into the spring/summer paint season. Woodcare products are also popular during warmer seasons with outdoor projects becoming a priority as people work on their homes in time for the summer holidays,” she said.
Quality branding and packaging are no doubt key aspects in marketing any product according to Ms Wee, who said ensuring the right packaging message is key in selling the correct product to a customer.
“Within our category, consumers are not afraid to pay a premium for the right tools, but they need to be shown why they should buy and use premium paint accessories. As a result, we ensure we communicate the key reasons as to why a brush or roller is suitable for them. This might include highlighting the application, marketing the product as ideal for use on walls and ceilings, or a roller that is ideal for exterior and rough surfaces,” she said.
“Colour coding products is also especially important if you want consumers cross purchasing your products. For example, if they are completing a woodcare project, they should be using a brush designed for woodcare and also a mini roller ideal for timber. We at Monarch are more than just a paint accessories business. Our brand helps consumers bridge the gap between paint and paint accessories because we show users just how easy it is to complete any paint project.”
When looking at supply chain concerns due to the pandemic, those suppliers importing products from China are most effected, facing inventory issues due to excess consumer demand and longer shipping time frames.
“Luckily for Monarch, we have a great supply chain process in place and strong supplier relations, which has meant that thankfully we have not experienced any product shortages or delays,” she said.
“2020 has seen a lot of pressure placed on overseas supply, however local manufacturers across our industry have also been impacted. Whilst one can assume being locally made offers easier access to products, many raw materials come from overseas and these have also been impacted from the pandemic,” Ms Wee said.
Looking to the months ahead, Monarch currently has several new products in the pipeline, including new and innovative applicators to be introduced in 2021, with more details to be released to the market within the coming months.
Promising estimates forecast for paint industry
The current boom in paint sales is expected to last until Christmas, according to Haymes Paint Director, Matt Haymes, who said the company’s forward estimates are looking promising.
“We expect this sales peak to continue between now and December. This is great news considering quite a few of our trades touched base with us in April when COVID first hit and said the pandemic would be a disaster for them. They believed they would run out of work because they would not be allowed into people’s homes to work. But as things have opened up, DIYers have realised their painting job is not as fun as they thought it would be, so they are calling on trades to either finish or fix the job they started,” Mr Haymes said.
“The exciting thing is that decoration and home renovation is also very topical because of COVID and I am just hoping there is a new generation of consumers out there seeing the advantages of shopping locally. I think if we are priced comparatively to our competitors – Bunnings is not the cheapest, that is just a perception – and the service and product is the same or better, then why wouldn’t people support local business?”
As an industry of family owned hardware and paint specialists, Mr Haymes admits independents have not done particularly well telling their story. Despite this, many customers now realise the benefits and value that supporting local business brings.
“Our industry has been in a very fortunate position throughout COVID-19, as people have been house bound, but are decorating and thinking about where they can purchase local products. Many Australians are making the conscious decision to support their local paint specialist and hardware store more than ever.”
“Trade customers are also now thinking how the ‘big three’ are all foreign owned and they also now want to support local. They have really got behind us which is why we have had a big jump in home and commercial contractors opening accounts with us,” Mr Haymes said.
When it comes to being an Australian owned and operated business, Mr Haymes agrees that some people do not care, and that is OK, but there are many others who are thinking about what it means to support Australian products now more than ever.
“Everyone is starting to get it and we have to keep this momentum going, which is vital,” he said.
Despite the current healthy paint sales, Mr Haymes said he is still well aware there will be a downturn in the industry at some stage.
“There will be a bit of a perfect storm once the government money decreases next year. There will be a slowing but we are not sure when it will hit, where it will hit and how heavily it will hit. At the moment all the projections are positive and this is across all the sectors, including interior, exterior, woodcare, render, texture and roof coatings.”
“But for now, all of our categories are up. We monitor the market movements closely through the Australian Paint Manufacturer Federation Data which is sent through to us on a quarterly basis and we can see that the market is still buoyant,” he said.
When discussing the current lockdown in metropolitan Melbourne, Mr Haymes said this has affected sales locally because there is limited ability for retail consumers to transact.
“While we can transact for all trade in-store, as long as all the right protocols are in place, our expectation is that all retail customers will be allowed back in-store once tight controls are hopefully lifted after October 26. I will be really disappointed if we cannot open up after this third step. We are a lucky business in that we can sustain ourselves through a national footprint, but other family businesses cannot do this and my heart breaks for them.”
“We do have to count our blessings because when this all started in March, we said we did not want anyone to lose their jobs, and no one has. Everyone has retained full employment and we have been able to put people on, so we are really lucky,” Mr Haymes said.
The current pandemic has also proven how necessary it is to have online purchasing available, according to Mr Haymes, but he did point out it is also important to execute this properly for distribution and trade partners as well.
“There are some systems we are testing at the moment but I do not want to release these unless until it is properly road tested. For instance, we know it is about adding value to trade businesses and saving them time. If I can save a tradie an hour or two a week, this is around $200 for them, so these are things we want to make sure we can do through technology.”
“Retail wise, we are working really closely with a number of associated businesses to look at this space and how we can occupy it. In doing so, we also want to make sure we link in our distributor’s businesses as well and make sure we are building up their sales through online purchases,” he said.
When asked how Haymes Paint ensures tradies remain loyal to the Haymes product, Mr Haymes said this was a key question for the business at the moment.
“We have always had great relationships with our partners and when there has been a crisis -like the pandemic or bushfires, you can easily put things in place to support people. But now we are asking the question as to how we can properly align with our trade partners and help them build up their customer base. If we can help them be a better business, help them find business and get paid as well, then this will only be beneficial to all of us.”
“Every manufacturer is trying to own the trade space, including Bunnings. But trades will shop where they are getting the most support and respect. One of the reasons we have grown so much in the last 10 years is because they are family businesses like we are, and if we can give them some empathy and support, they remain loyal. I think because a lot of the big guys are foreign owned, they bring many of their foreign policies as well which does not necessarily equate to how we as Aussies operate,” he said.
Mr Haymes also demonstrates a hands-on approach when it comes to servicing his trade customers, personally phoning around 20 tradies a month and thanking them for their support.
“We also thank them when they pay their bills because we are trying to pay 300 families around the country and if they do not pay their bills, then we cannot pay them. It is about cutting through everything and asking your trades and trade partners what they really want.”
For now, Haymes Paint will continue to focus on working closely with its two main customer groups, the first group being the distributors that sell the Haymes product.
“They are currently telling us that the days of selling into stores are gone. It is all about executing sales out across the breadth of all surface coatings and how we can transact with the consumer to get those sales out. This means inspiring people with projects and jobs and making sure that they know when they shop with a local paint specialist, the retailer will be their project partner from start to finish.”
“The second group is the trade piece and working out how we can work with our trade partners to find them work, help them do the work and help them get paid. If we can execute this, then our future is pretty secure. Again, we cannot control what our competitors do but we know that they are mostly foreign owned. In my time in the industry they have been bought or sold at least twice and there is more happening. So, we have to stick to doing what we do well and be good enough to know when we are not doing things well – then work with our partners to continually improve our business and theirs,” Mr Haymes concluded.
Confident DIYers to opt for quality products
While the hardware industry continues to experience a home improvement boom during nationwide lockdowns this year, retailers can also expect strong levels of painting activity to continue throughout spring and summer as home owners emerge from government-imposed restrictions, PPG Architectural Coatings ANZ Commercial Director, David Nicholls said recently.
“What we have seen during the lockdowns is a boost in confidence among DIYers. Faced with extended periods at home and an inability to hire in help, many people have taken on projects they otherwise may not have,” Mr Nicholls said.
“As the weather warms up and restrictions ease, people are naturally turning their attention to the outdoors and, in particular, to their alfresco living spaces, planning to summer-proof exteriors and freshen up these spaces for the festive season and New Year,” he said.
Although there has been a strong uplift in painting activity throughout the lockdowns, the mix of interior and exterior projects undertaken has remained consistent with normal activity pre COVID-19, according to Mr Nicholls, who said he does not anticipate any decline in demand for timber care and exterior paint products this season.
“As people prepare their outdoor areas for summer and anticipate being able to entertain even a small number of family and friends during the festive season, we expect to see strong demand for our Johnstone’s Professional Woodcare and Flood timber care ranges, as well as our top-performing Taubmans All Weather exterior paint,” he said.
In the height of Australia’s COVID-19 restrictions this year, the paintdelivery.com.au and ppgdelivery.com.au websites were also launched, to enable DIY and professional painters to purchase and have delivery of all their required products and accessories. These platforms are now permanent offerings from PPG to best serve customers’ needs, Mr Nicholls said.
Mr Nicholls said its selection of accessories available on paintdelivery.com.au had also been well received, indicating that DIY painters were keen to ensure they had everything needed to complete their project in one go.
“Throughout the pandemic, sales of PPG’s interior and exterior paint products have been consistent but at higher levels than similar periods pre-pandemic, with top-selling performers including the Taubmans Endure and Taubmans Easycoat interior paint ranges, as well as Taubmans All Weather and Taubmans Sunproof exterior paint ranges. We have also seen particularly strong demand for our White Knight Rust Guard and Squirts aerosol ranges, indicating that consumers are taking on more metal and craft projects during lockdown,” Mr Nicholls said.
Manufacturing locally has also continued to benefit PPG this year according to Mr Nicholls, who said fortunately PPG proudly manufactures its paints in Australia and has been able to effectively plan and manage demand for raw materials from overseas to ensure minimal impact to its operations and customers.
The continual education of customers is also crucial during this time, according to Mr Nicholls, who said it is important for retailers to keep in mind that the more experienced consumer will not seek the same level of advice as those who consider themselves to be novices.
“This is where your customer service team plays an important role when it comes to supporting customers to find with the best product for their project. Packaging can only relay so much information in an effective way, but your team’s insights, experience and localised knowledge ensures your customers get the result they are after,” he said.
“We have seen DIY painters more likely to ask questions and look for recommendations when it comes to the tools they need to complete their painting projects, as they tend to go for the accessories that make it easier for them to get the job done rather than being particularly price sensitive,” Mr Nicholls said.
One exceptional new accessory launched by PPG this year, is its innovative Coloursmith colour creation technology in the form of a user friendly app and website, as well as the optional accompanying tools for enhanced colour matching accuracy – the Coloursmith Window and Coloursmith Window Reader.
“Coloursmith now enables DIY painters and professionals alike to create custom paint colours from the colour of an image, object or surface, and order sample pot deliveries online, 24/7. Once sampled and settled on, it is then as simple as presenting the unique QR code that Coloursmith generates for each colour that the customer would like to purchase from the paint counter and have their personalised paint made up in the quantity, preferred finish and product for their project.”
“Coloursmith is a game-changer for the paint industry and the consumer paint colour journey. The intuitive, user-friendly app and website enable DIY, professional painters and decorators to create their own custom paint colours from almost any inspiration source – at any time of the day or night and all from the comfort of their home or work space,” he said.
PPG prides itself on continuing to maintain a point of difference through its innovative trusted products for over 100 years.
“At PPG, ‘we protect and beautify the world’ by developing and delivering the paints, coatings and specialty materials that our customers have trusted for more than 130 years. PPG is the largest coatings company in the world, and with a more than 3,500 strong research and development team, and we are constantly looking for new and innovative solutions to support our customers and solve problems,” Mr Nicholls said.
“PPG is responsible for leading architectural coatings innovations such as Nanoguard Advanced Technology, which provides the painted surface with a strong protective shield against everyday dirt and stains, and makes it wash, stain and scrub resistant.”
“From a marketing perspective we stand out from our competitors by highlighting the superior features of our products on packaging call outs and marketing materials, and also primarily focus on promoting our premium products,” he said.
Looking to the year ahead, Mr Nicholls said consumers can soon look forward to the launch of its new Taubmans Professional paint range, formulated specially for professional painters for residential re-paint projects, the range offers ease of application, exceptional coverage and a high-quality professional finish. It includes oil and water-based enamel products, interior broadwall, ceiling, interior/exterior undercoat and exterior paint products, he said.
Norglass goes over and above for loyal customers
Australian-made and owned Norglass Paints and Specialty Finishes, has gone from strength to strength this year despite 2020 having its challenges. Managing Director, Brett Mould, said the Sydney based company is thanking the support of its loyal customers for the company’s on-going success.
“We have had an increase in sales right across the board with the smallest increase of course being in Melbourne – though we have still seen an increase despite the Stage Four lockdown. Because our products are not just for boats, but also for caravans, home repairs and renovations, tables and bench tops, artworks and more, we have seen a huge increase in DIY. Our good system of products has achieved an excellent sales increase right across the board this year,” he said.
“While Norglass is a small company, I believe our good name is the reason why we have achieved significant sales. We also have the advantage of being Australian-made and Australian-owned. Consumers want to support local Aussie products right now and we want to thank them for that,” Mr Mould said.
Norglass has also remained extremely proactive in talking to its customers and ensuring they know they are supporting a local family-owned business, with consistent messaging across all of its advertising.
“As part of our marketing, we commenced a radio advertising schedule a few months ago in Sydney and Brisbane. We also sponsor a handyman show every Saturday morning on 2GB/4BC, where DIYers can call in and learn more about our products. We want to make sure we keep being part of the community because right now consumers are making the conscious choice to switch to locally-made, quality products to support small business throughout the pandemic,” he said.
“Our extensive radio campaign has gone a long way to ensure it continually educates its customers on the benefits of using a quality product. It is for this reason that we have increased our advertising, not decreased it,” Mr Mould said.
While Norglass consistently markets its products as high-end, the Norglass team is also very hands-on with in-store training to ensure retailers and staff have a significant knowledge of each product they sell. This knowledge is then typically handed onto customers when they enquire about a Norglass product.
“We did have to postpone our in-store training for a couple of months while lockdown was happening, however I believe this training ensures all retail staff maintain a high knowledge of our products, which then leads to good sales growth. All of this hard work has now paid off. People often say that our high sales are due to COVID-19, but there has been a lot of work in the background to get to this stage.”
“We now know that when customers walk into a store and ask about our products, the retailer has a fairly good idea of what primer to use and what top coat to use. There are a lot of products out there so it is important they know why our products can get the job done properly,” Mr Mould said.
Due to current restrictions on Australian borders, Mr Mould said it has been difficult to source raw materials at times because there are significant hold ups at the docks. Companies that Norglass purchases raw materials from are also having problems getting supply into Australia.
“A lot of containers are being shipped through Melbourne, so there is quite a long wait there. Thankfully, when this all started to happen in February, we bought up as much raw material as we could so we could maintain our 100 per cent floor rate in the shops,” Mr Mould said.
“We pride ourselves on this floor rate because for every out of stock, there are dollars lost and another product is sold in place of it, which is why it is so important for us to have consistent supply,” he said.
When it comes to trends, Mr Mould said the river table market is currently growing exceptionally well.
“A lot of DIYers are making river tables at the moment and it has become quite a big market. We have also just completed a YouTube DIY video which has gone very well. People love creating river tables and cheeseboards which can all easily be done from home using our Liquid Glass and other products,” he said.
The YouTube video can be viewed by simply Googling ‘Norglass River Table’.
“In regards to new products, we have also just launched our new Heat Safe paint in 250 millilitres, 500 millilitres and a spray pack. It has only been out a couple of months, but has already gone very well,” Mr Mould said.
Looking into the future, Norglass plans to continually grow and evolve, particularly now with four new additional staff on board to help with demand.
For now, Norglass will continue with its radio and social media campaigns, as well as educate retailers in-store on the standout features of its products.