Paint Place reveals big plans for the year ahead

by | Sep 19, 2023

Paint Place Group of Stores held its national conference at Sea World on the Gold Coast in mid-August, which was the first conference to be held since Western Australian-based business, Central Purchasing Services (CPS) acquired the group just 12 months ago.

Both members and suppliers agreed that the national conference was a resounding success, with several new concepts implemented throughout the event including a ‘speed dating’ system between members and suppliers. This not only added value to the trade show, but also gave the event a real sense of purpose.

The paint group’s traditional, formal gala dinner was also replaced with a more relaxed, outdoor gourmet barbecue, in a bid to encourage more interaction between the 45 members and 60 suppliers in attendance. It was thought that formal events often see delegates restricted to one table with limited opportunity to network, while the more relaxed environment encouraged more interaction and networking.

On the final day of the conference, delegates gathered together to hear CPS General Manager, Stephen Wren, speak on future plans and how CPS would ensure the paint group’s success in the years ahead.

While Mr Wren does currently hold the position of Paint Place National Manager, he did point out that he only ever intended to take the reins for a short while.

“We have already started to look for a National Manager and this will occur post-conference so we can ensure the new candidate has plenty of clear direction and a better understanding of the group,” he said.

For now, the current role of CPS is to oversee major events including the national conference, manage suppliers, build marketing, implement branding, manage chargeback, and a whole host of aspects that support the buying operations of the group. 

“We need to remind ourselves that buying is the engine of the business because without collective buying there is no business. The more collective buying we do, the more diversion of costs that occur. The more stores we have, the more efficient we are and the more we drive the cost of business down,” Mr Wren said.

In the past 12 months, Mr Wren said that members have voiced a clear goal that they wish to boost their businesses by improving purchasing on an ongoing basis.

“When we talk to our suppliers, they are completely on board with assisting members to buy better. Initially, we want to focus on the recovery of leakage from present suppliers, with leakage being when a member’s purchases are not being reported by a supplier. We are now going to rectify these sales through our systems,” he said.

Since the acquisition, Paint Place members are enjoying a newly implemented rebate system, which will not only see a quarterly cash injection into businesses but is also an incentive for members to check the data on their list of suppliers and properly manage their purchases.

“If you are incentivised, and you are getting a rebate for doing this, this financial incentive will help you to properly manage purchases. We are now paying members more in their rebates than it costs to be a part of the group. So our members and new members are now much better off financially. Any gaps in ongoing fees have also now closed and our fees are less than they were before.”

“Managing our purchases properly also gives us quality data on how we are tracking with our buying opportunities. The higher the numbers, the better the business, the more money we put through the books, the more we dilute the costs, and the more money we make together,” he said.

Paint Place members now have the ability to log onto the group’s portal and check all of their rebates, while also sourcing reports by suppliers and purchases through a selected period of time.

Mr Wren also encouraged members to communicate to the group if they had a positive experience with certain suppliers, as their contact could be an easy supply solution for other stores to take on board as well.

“We ask members that if they do have a pretty big supplier on board to tell us about it. It could be a very good product for other stores to grow into. We are all in business together and we need to use the umbrella of Paint Place to help each other, while strengthening each store as individuals,” he said.

The importance of implementing a viable succession plan was also discussed, with Mr Wren saying that CPS needs to continually support stores so that succession planning is a seamless process.

“We intend to develop an onboarding process for new stores which is something we do not have currently. We have also developed a presentation for new members and capture who we are as a group. If we can present our value, what we offer financially, our transparency of who we are and where we come from, this would be highly beneficial to new members.”

“We also need to ensure there are clear procedures in place that will make it far easier for a new store owner coming into the group. To do this we will offer concise training to our customers and we will utilise multimedia to do this. Members can then publish this information in an online portal and strengthen their offering as paint experts by educating the public. Then you are not just a paint store, you are a solution to customers,” Mr Wren said.

Paint Place Member Advisory Council (PPMAC)

The Paint Place Member Advisory Council (PPMAC) is a consultative body that was implemented to ensure that the connection between member priorities and the direction of the business is aligned. The PPMAC adopts a collaborative approach in applying decisions and reflects a flat organisation structure.

“The board is in place to agree on the strategy and to provide governance and oversight to the business.  PPMAC does not have any delegated authority, but it is influential in determining how we go about implementing strategy. The concept was initially adopted from Natbuild, who used it very effectively.  The system works well in member-owned, member-governed buying groups, because it reflects the ethos and purpose of the business,” Mr Wren said.

PPMAC members then took to the stage, including Chris Hall from Paint Place Wagga Wagga, who pointed out the importance of working together to ensure the ongoing success of the group.

“PPMAC is new, and we understand that change is tricky but I think Paint Place is in an important and exciting time and is an important part of driving forward in the future.”

“Current PPMAC members are store owners just like you, with a common goal to improve business for all. Any decision we come across is because it is an issue or idea that has been raised by the member. It is considered by the group; we take the majority on board and then we present it to the general manager. We are family and we are always working hard so we can move forward together,” he said.

“Moving forward we will be the business of the future that people want to come into. PPMAC has a goal to provide reports to members in a timely manner while also making sure that the message delivery between members and the board is on track.”

“Trust is key. I assure you that we will represent you guys to the best of our ability as co-store owners and we will get some resolution to help you with your problem and move forward and share it as a collective across the group so we are knocking problems down one by one. This is our commitment to you,” Mr Hall said.

PPMAC member and Paint Place Beenleigh store owner Mark Alchin then outlined the importance of ensuring the group’s digital realm is up to date.

“If we want to move forward with our online branding and in the omni channel then we do need to reassess how we represent ourselves online. Information needs to be clear, concise and up-to-date, particularly with our IP, our branding and logos.”

Mr Hall also pointed out that there should be no disconnect from the customer to the store, so if a customer does see Paint Place online, when they walk into a store, they know exactly what they are going to get. 

“They know the specials, the brands and the customer service they will receive as well. Every single store also needs its own bio page which clearly tells customers why your store is special and what to expect when they visit your store. We want all of your brands online and what makes you famous in your area, which is accessible through the website. This is where you sell yourself.”

“Remember where we have been, look at where we are now and the lessons we have learned, so we can move forward into the future. Also remember the key areas we have spoken about in the past two days. When it comes to rebates ask yourself if you have the right suppliers or if there is too much duplication in offerings. Let us plug those leakage gaps. Marketing is another key area we need to focus on  which is why we are transitioning the marketing now and looking at our three-, six- and 12-month plans.”

“We are all one, and we will take this business forward. Let’s get the basics right first including building our website and our online presence and see the business flourish,” Mr Hall said.

Paint Place Store Awards

Store recognition awards, along with awards that recognised individuals who had substantially contributed to the Paint Place business in the past 12 months were also presented at the conclusion of the conference. The award-winning recipients were:

Paint Place Cowra – 10 years

Paint Place Tura Beach – 10 years 
Paint Place Beenleigh – 30 years

Paint Place Beerwah – 20 years

Country Place Supplies – Narrogin – 10 years

Contribution to the Business Awards:

Anthony Austin – PPMAC 
Mark Alchin – PPMAC

Chris Hall – PPMAC

Scott Glencross – PPMAC

Hall of Fame 

Danny Slade – Paint Place Noosa