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With the consumer’s attention at this time of year firmly on fettling the exterior of their home, it’s sod’s law – and hard luck for the paint category – that the weather turned nasty for a while in the middle of the New Year holiday period.
Thankfully, even though the stormy weather seems to have now returned, nestled between the wind and gales there have been just as many hot, dry, cloudless days for painters to take advantage of.
With the sun behind the clouds and winds gusting once again, in mid-January I caught up with Mathew Lawton, Mitre 10’s Category Manager for Paint & Paint Accessories, to get a handle on his outlook and priorities for the year ahead.
Inevitably, we touch first on the mixed weather report. With this in mind, how has the exterior paint peak season been so far?
“The start of the month has certainly been affected by weather so we’re hoping for improved results for the rest of the month and for the sun to come out and stay out. It’s not all bad news though, we have had several decent days this month where customers have been getting stuck into painting and back in December we had pretty good results.
“Paint is one of those categories where the more consistent the weather, like in November, the better really, so when we have significant weather events it does affect exterior sales,” he says candidly.
The paint category has been nothing if not price-competitive for some time now – what’s Mathew Lawton’s take on this?
“Since the introduction of Valspar into Mitre 10, the market has been very competitive across some of the key product lines, like whites for interiors. So it has become a very competitive market and that will continue – there will still be an element of deflationary pressure on market retails.
“So that will be something we will continue to look at and make sure that we remain competitive in the marketplace across our brands.”
Reading between the lines, in terms of paint, Mitre 10 won’t be backing off or being any less price-competitive any time soon.
What about the paint accessories side of things?
Says Mathew Lawton: “It’s competitive in key lines and key product, just like paint.” And this includes key lines like gap sealants and silicon product, despite the strength of some of the brands involved.
What does the coming year look like in terms of product initiatives for Mathew Lawton and his category?
“Well, if it’s not in the store I guess we’re still working on it!” he responds, understandably not wishing to give too much away.
He will however talk to some developments, like the “adjustments” to the Kiwi cooperative’s timber stain offer.
This means continuing the process of phasing out the Cabot’s brand that’s been taking place over the past few months, leaving Resene and Wattyl as the brands in Mitre 10’s stains space.
AALTO – BACK TO THE FUTURE?
Moving now from the DIY market to the premium end of the trade market, in the middle of last year we saw the rebirth of a niche paint brand much respected among specifiers in the 1990s.
Following the sale of the Colourplus master franchise to the owners of Guthrie Bowron in 2016, David Ryan and Decora Group have been busy reinventing and renovating a niche paint brand that used to be beloved of architects.
What used to be called Aalto Colour for many years is now Aalto Paint, targeting “a more discerning buyer who’s looking for looking for something more than just paint in a tin from a retail outlet”.
Majoring on premium coatings and more dynamic colour, Aalto Paint is still not so much about retail as trade, particularly designers of all shades.
Aalto is also still firmly all about multi-pigmented colours – using 8-10 pigments in most colours, as opposed to two to three – and “only the highest grade paint and tinters”, manufactured locally by Decora Group which of course manufactured paint for Colourplus.
What’s different is that the “new” Aalto, rebranded mid last year, is positioning itself as ever so slightly more mainstream than Pru Cook’s original iteration and now also includes some solvent based product in its range, as well as a strong and complementary wallpaper offering.
As well as selling online (www.aaltopaint.co.nz), Aalto Paint has two wholly owned Auckland outlets and currently just two resellers in Hastings (Paint Spot) and New Plymouth (The Decorator Centre), although there is a potential for more resellers outside of Auckland, according to David Ryan.
We’ll bring you more news on Aalto Paint’s development as it proceeds.
TRADE PAINT MARKET “ROBUST”
David Ryan is clear that, specialist or no, Aalto Paint is playing in a trade market that’s probably best described as “robust”.
At the pointy end of all this is Master Painters NZ, whose National Manager Membership Workmanship is Phil Wilkinson.
One example of this robustness in the trade are the structures and systems tying paint professionals to certain brands. Paint suppliers for example are actively “buying” the loyalty of house builders – and not just group home builders either – using rebates and other means.
Nothing wrong with that, it’s just business, says Phil Wilkinson. “It’s all part of the deal between the painter and the builder or the building company. We certainly don’t get anybody grizzling too loudly about it...”
Neither are the Master Painters working on larger scale and commercial projects complaining about being told which brand of paint to use.
“20 years ago you used the brand of paint you wanted to use,” says Phil. “Now it’s being specified and guys are saying ‘whatever’s specified, we use. So we’re seeing painters now following specifications much more religiously in recent years than what was done a generation ago.”
As in many other layers within the building trade, figuring out how to mitigate possible risks is a good thing with the potential cost of rework having not followed specs highly unattractive.
In terms of how the paint trade is faring, as with most of the other sub-trades, work ahead is strong but there’s a dearth of skilled painters, despite apprentices being trained in “unprecedented” numbers.
“It’s skilled tradespeople we’re all screaming out for,” says Phil Wilkinson. “And we’re not the only trade – all the other trades are telling us the same thing.”
Master Painters won’t be the only trade organisation then to have some concern about the noises that have been made about cutting back on immigration numbers…
So, should we be humming Blue Skies or Stormy Weather? I just glanced outside and it was drizzling. Oh, well…
Pantone channels Prince, Hendrix with royal purple
Kiwis cover up when faced with Ultra Violet, but Pantone is looking expansive with the choice of its Color of the Year for 2018. Ultra Violet 18-3838 is a “vibrant, plummy blue-based purple” you could say is close to royal purple. Evocative of the infinite sky at night, symbolising “counterculture, unconventionality and artistic brilliance” (hence the musical references above), Pantone says Ultra Violet also has a “mystical or spiritual quality” that comes from the energising use of purple-toned lighting in meditation spaces.
Get up, stand up…
A high quality new product just out will seriously reduce the time it takes to install Ovaboard temporary flooring protection. Ovaboard’s Neil Harray spent 12 months researching various options from New Zealand and overseas to find the best value-for-money product. “Why make life hard for yourself by bending down on your hands and knees joining Ovaboard sheets together when you can use our new stand-up dispenser?” he asks. Made in Denmark, the tape dispenser can be used for a wide range of tapes and uses, as well as being part of the Ovaboard system. The first product from Danish company iTOOLS to enter the New Zealand market, Ovaboard has exclusive distribution rights for iTOOLS here. For further information contact Neil Harray: email@example.com
Own every surface!
Paint can truly transform a space. But what if your customer’s design vision is hampered by hard-to-move furniture, structures or appliances? Enter Paint Behind, a new painter’s companion that makes easy work of painting in tough-to-reach places thanks to its long handle and paint pad. You can’t move a radiator out of your living space, but now you can paint behind it. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information and see Paint Behind in use here: https://youtu.be/Jq4nUvNjHDw
Colour wins awards
Entries for the Dulux Colour Awards 2018 close on 26 February, with Finalists to be announced on 22 March, followed by the winners on 10 May. Most interesting from a New Zealand perspective last year was the Antarctic Heritage Trust entry Hillary’s Hut, which won the International category. Check out the 2017 awards video here: https://youtu.be/G1Mfnq9zIww and find out more about the programme here: http://colourawards.dulux.co.nz/
Featuring all New Zealand projects, the 2018 Resene Total Colour Awards will kick off in the autumn. Top prize last year went to the Tuturu collaborative project between MTG Hawke’s Bay and arts collective Iwi Toi Kahungunu. Checkout all the 2017 Resene Total Colour Awards winners here: http://www.resene.co.nz/awardwinners.htm
The Home Depot wants to “finish the whole room”
With The Home Depot’s December acquisition of The Company Store, North America’s biggest DIY retailer is adding to its décor offering with finishing touches like bedding and bath-related textile products.
Founded in 1911, The Company Store is about high quality, handcrafted bedding, bath and related products that are made in the USA and sold through catalogues and online.
Rather than add further to its in-store ranges, with as much as 6.4% of all sales now being generated online, The Home Depot is using the new resource to extend its digital offering, for now at least.
“The acquisition of The Company Store provides product development and sourcing capabilities to help us expand our online décor business into broader categories across the entire home,” says Craig Menear, Chairman, CEO and President of The Home Depot.