Paint on a roll but what could stop the flow?

By Terry Herbert and Jess Brunette November 21, 2016 Painting & Decorating

You can sum up the paint & decorating category with three words: busy, busy, busy! In fact there’s so much work to go around that only a disaster of Trumpish proportions could stop the flow... Terry Herbert and Jess Brunette report.

To view a PDF of the complete feature as it appeared in NZ Hardware Journal magazine, click the download button at the bottom of this page.

As we race toward Christmas, expect to see a lot more paint speckled painters on scaffolding across the country. The exterior paint season is here and everyone is telling us that the paint trade is already struggling to keep up with demand.

We first turned to Master Painters NZ’s Brian Miller, who tells us: “Nationally the paint trade is strong. Auckland as always is boiling away, Wellington is very busy, Christchurch is picking up with that commercial sector, Dunedin has seen a significant improvement and Central Otago is absolutely manic! And there’s a wide mix now with both residential and commercial rocketing along.”

How about the next 12 months? Has the building skills shortage touched decorating?

“With tourism moving to our number one industry, hospitality will grow and the hotel sector will continue to be good growth for us too. That’s if they can find good contractors! If you have a good contractor and a good relationship, protect it!

“The biggest challenge to our industry is getting skilled hands into the mix. We need more apprentices desperately. And there are nowhere near enough in the pipeline to meet demand.

“So our advice to consumers is simple – if you want a good painting contractor, book them in early. It’s not uncommon for our painters to be working 12 months out.”



A year down the track since Dulux exited the Mitre 10 shelves and Valspar was ushered in, how are the brands faring and is there enough to go around?

Speaking on behalf of the two MEGAs straddling Auckland in his charge, General Manager Dee Lal cheerfully informs us: “You picked a good day. Today is the last day of the 30% off Resene Paints promotion. That’s really pushed sales along.

“Resene have been doing this for the whole of October. It’s always successful and this year is no exception. Right now, and I can only speak for my stores, Resene is still the most popular brand.”

Has the departure of Dulux made a notable impact?

“Initially yes, but since then we haven’t noticed a dip in sales since Dulux moved. Valspar has really picked up in the year since launch. The brand is certainly out there,” he says, adding that its “Buy 4 litres get 8 litres” special promotion isn’t exactly hurting business...

What else is doing well for Dee Lal’s two stores?

“Big for us right now is stain for oiling the deck. It gives decking that natural look because it soaks into the grain, whereas a paint sits on the surface. It also protects and extends the life of the deck. We’re selling a lot of Wattyl Forestwood and that has the advantage of being an oil base, but you thin it with water and clean up in water.”



Part of the paint brand reshuffle referred to above also touches upon both Colourplus and Guthrie Bowron stores.

We were fortunate to speak with Ed Connolly, whose CV includes being CEO of Warehouse Stationery and Carpet Court and, most relevant to this article, being co-master franchisor of Guthrie Bowron.

As we previously reported, with his business partner, Alan Heatlie, Ed Connolly recently purchased the master franchise for the 28 Colourplus stores.

With the 42 Guthrie Bowron stores already in the stable, so to speak, collectively the two now related banners represent a sizable slice of the paint market, especially in the regions.

Will there be changes to either banner?

Ed Connolly explains: “We set up CPHC to acquire the master franchise for the Colourplus network and we continue to support that network with some dedicated people. There is some overlap at head office in regard to roles but, with separate marketing in particular, we will continue to support all the stores under that Colourplus facia.”

And will more be made of the Dulux connection?

“Guthrie Bowron is the only approved trade specialist for Dulux Paint in NZ outside their own trade centres. There is an opportunity for Colourplus stores to also potentially be Dulux trade depots but that decision will be made by Dulux.

“When we bought the Colourplus master franchise the IP was sold on to Dulux. Under the Colourplus System, Decora continues to make paint under the Colourplus label. There are no plans for this paint to be made and sold into Guthrie Bowron stores. As far as I can see into the foreseeable future we will continue to support both brands.”

Speaking of Dulux, when we phone around the Dulux Trade stores and paint counters we are told that sales are tracking very well.

Some aggressive promotions from Dulux and the other big brands ensure that the DIY consumer and the trade are getting good value and it appears that some of the brands at least are still in promo mode.



In previous articles on the category, some of the smaller, independent paint brands had complained that there wasn’t enough business to go round. Now they’re almost too busy getting paint out of their warehouses.

Terry Dalton from Agrippa and Five Star Paints was busy. Really busy. He hastily tells us: “I’m in the middle of a rather large tender at the moment. Hardware’s very busy. We’re very busy.

“For Agrippa, we’ve just moved into a brand new facility. That was two months ago in Hornby. We built a new manufacturing plant and warehousing from the ground up. We haven’t even started promoting the site yet.

“We continue to sell through our same outlets but that demand has gone up. We’re just keeping up with demand, but I’m not complaining. We’ve even managed to expand our new product range with revised formulations and we’ve revamped some of the colours on our roof paints too. I’ve been 20 years in this game and I don’t think we’ve been busier.”

Dulux-owned Porters Paints is another small but perfectly formed niche brand. As Business Manager, Shontelle Crosswell explains: “I always think of Porters as akin to a craft beer. It’s a bespoke, crafted paint that is very high quality. And we still do the original lime wash.

“Porters is definitely growing. People are looking for a point of difference in the market and Porters is special and different. The mix is high end residential but there’s also a growing demand for commercial – all those gastro pubs, restaurants, cafes and bars.

“There’s a real resurgence in hospitality and the return to traditional materials and coatings. The market is still largely untapped but more architects and interior designers are seeking us out.”



It’s not just paint. It’s busy in the decorating aisles too, according to Laminex National Specifications Manager, Gretchen Flynn: “We’re absolutely frantic! We’re extremely busy. That Christmas rush has just been all year really and it’s going to stay like this until Christmas.”

Flynn attributes this boom mostly to big commercial projects in Auckland but also Christchurch with Laminex products going into schools, hotels, offices, hospitals and even prisons.

“Melteca, Formica and Laminex HPR, our high pressure laminate for benchtops, are also doing well thanks to a range of new colours that meet consumer demand.”



In the paint category it’s the cutters and masking tapes that continue to do well for Acme Supplies, in particular Tajima blades and of course Sellotape.

Acme General Manager, Lindsay Knowles, first acknowledges that they’re doing “Very well across all the categories. For anyone who is supplying products into the construction area, if you aren’t doing well you are doing something very wrong,” Knowles says.

Trade continues to be the sweet spot for Acme’s well-known brands.

“We are a brand company and thankfully people that are actually using tools for their job generally stick with good quality brands that they know and trust. That’s a bouquet for tradies.”

With so many brands under their wing does the Acme team have to be selective with its marketing focus?

“We tend to focus on Rapid staplers, Sellotape and Loctite sealants. It’s not like paint or power tools with such high value that you can actually pick and choose. Our category is only the size of Sydney say and the market here understands that. So exclusivity is not something that has ever been demanded of the industry. Honesty and fair pricing is something we base our company on and we just make sure we treat everyone fairly.”

And for the coming year? “There will be some range expansion happening in the next 12 months in the masking tape range. But again, construction is expected to continue on its current trajectory for at least the next 12 months or longer and we expect to get our share,” Knowles says.



Over at Chemical Specialities, General Manager, Phil Breytenbach, is also very busy: “We are just getting our ducks in a row for the summer period. Our export to Australia, where we are the market leader with Builders Bog, is going very well. So around this time of year it’s just consolidating and making sure we make maximum use of the summer period.

“The market is a lot more active in summer and also our fibreglass business people start building more boats, motorhomes, swimming pools and the like. In hardware, our building bog products for repairing rotten wood are huge for us.

“Window frames can rot tremendously and instead of replacing the window frame you can clean the rot out and rebuild it with our builders bog very successfully at a fraction of the price and the time it would normally cost you. It’s a permanent replacement and that’s why it’s such a success.

“We have samples here that are nine years old and they are still good as new. It’s a very difficult balance to get right between curing time and shelf life. And then there are subtle differences such as a longer gel time to give you more time to profile the material. You can drive nails through it and drill in it and it won’t crack where other products shatter when you do that and you can paint it.”



Darryl Patterson from Award Concepts is happy for two reasons. “First, the paint industry is buoyant, and second, the spray market is relatively immature. That means we can grow our market share exponentially.”

Patterson explains that the ease of use of their spray products has seen its DIY Wagner products grow up to 40% on top of last year with trade also up about 20%.

So will a spray gun be replacing the paintbrush or roller anytime soon?

“More and more people are using spray guns but there is still a preferred method where they may spray the undercoat on and then roll over the finish coat. Touch ups are more easily done with a small roller rather than using the spray gun again. Though when it comes to the doors and windows we are finding they will be spraying a high gloss finish,” Patterson says.

Is it a steep learning curve to get people’s fingers on the trigger?

“For the big boxes we have our sanctioned training programme and then we have our reps in store training the guys either in their training rooms or on the floor with the product. In conjunction with Valspar we have a road show where we do a lot of instore training with Mitre 10 and do the training with our Wagner products afterwards.

“We also do ladies training nights and trade mornings. We’re getting more ladies using our product because it’s user friendly. I predict more sales but 40% growth year on year is too much to expect, even for me!”



Not all the paint & dec players have been experiencing purely organic growth. As Brett Bishop, Sales Manager at Almax Industries puts it: “It’s been a year of growth and acquisition. Almax has had great sales growth this year and to cap that off we purchased Aalfa Distributors earlier in the year adding the Wooster, BrushMate and Pro Cover brands to our product range.

“Our main focus continues to be the paint trade accessory market. We’re enjoying good growth across the board.”

Not content with all that forward momentum, although admitting the company has “a wee way to go yet”, Brett Bishop goes so far as to say: “Our goal is to be NZ’s number one trade paint accessory supplier!”

As a category on a roll and with peak decorating season on the way, short of a President Trump-inspired whoopsy that stops us trading with the US and China, we can continue to look forward to more of the same in paint & decorating, even after building work slows down.


Almax picks up Aalfa

Trade accessory specialist Almax purchased Aalfa Distributors earlier this year adding new products to its roster including the CQ masking tape range and the 230x75mm CQ Swish Lambswool Floor Applicator to apply clear finishes, stains, polishes, wax and oil finishers and achieve the best results on all timber decking, cork tiles, slate and tile sealers.

Also available is the Eco-Clean Mobile Paint Waste Water Treatment Station, a mobile cleaning station that provides contractors with an economical and compliant on-site cleaning facility. Designed for easy cleaning of paint brushes, rollers, trays and tools Eco-Clean removes the paint solids from the wash-up water, which is then filtered back into the holding tank and can be recycled several times. Waste water can finally be discharged into council sewage systems by using the appropriate trade waste licence.

Get an Ox on the job

The new Ox Pro Sharpdraw Pencil is a traditional wooden builders’ pencil – with a twist. The Sharpdraw is just like a retractable 9mm utility knife but the “blade” is a graphite snap-off marking pencil with a handy clip. 

Ox Pro Ultraflex Finishing Trowel uses a unique twin blade technology for ultimate flexibility and an effortless, ultra-smooth finish. The rounded corners and excellent flex of the 0.3mm stainless steel blade makes for a super-smooth finish and the lightweight fully fastened shank and ergonomic handle provide superior balance and strength.

Finally the Ox Pro 8m Stainless Steel Tape Measure has a stainless steel case with tough rubber over-mould that provides a hardwearing tape that is comfortable in the hand. The large iconic OX horns hook is magnetic so you won’t lose your anchor point, and the tough nylon coated steel gives an outstanding 3m standout.

More from Laminex New Zealand

Laminex Finished Designed Timber Veneer is pre-finished with a performance coating that enhances its scratch- and stain-resistance compared to traditional veneer and eliminates the requirements for sanding, staining and coating. Made from re-coloured, re-engineered veneers, the range provides consistent colour and a linear structure across multiple panels, eliminating the need to side or end match. Available across nine different decors, these panels are available in two sided panels, or as a single sided panel with a laminated white rear side. Matching ABS edgetape is available too. Backed by a 7-year limited warranty.

Melteca’s Purecoat range has added 11 new decors to its Mirror Gloss panels. Made in New Zealand using UV coating technologies, Purecoat delivers a mirror-like gloss finish across a range of solid colours, woodgrains and patterned decors and are antimicrobial, stain resistant and easy to clean. These highly reflective panels are ideal for vertical applications such as drawers, cabinet doors, wall linings and large feature panels in both residential and commercial spaces. The new decors are available as a single sided gloss panel with a colour matched, satin finished reverse side. Backed by a 10-year warranty.

High School wins top Resene award

Tarawera High School took out the top Colour Master Nightingale Award in the 2016 Resene Total Colour Awards. Recognised for excellence in colour and paint use, Richard Naish of RTA Studio also won the Resene Total Colour Education Award on behalf of Tarawera High.

The judges said: “This project is simply outstanding. It’s a beautiful interpretation of colour created through a commitment to solid research and focused community involvement.”Symmetry and connectivity is created with a real play on how to manipulate colour to both advance and recede structures and spaces. It is a textbook lesson in how to use colour well.”

Dulux raises the colour bar

Now in its 30th year, the 2016 Dulux Colour Awards received a record 256 entries. The judging panel, all leading names in architecture, design and creative industries, were tasked with recognising inspirational thinking in the industry and the showcasing of colour in the built environment.

There were nine category winners spanning; Commercial Interior and Exterior; Residential Interior and Exterior; International; Student and one overall Grand Prix winner selected from all category winners.

Receiving the overall title of Grand Prix winner and taking home a decent cash prize was Australia’s PHAB Architects for The Condensery – Somerset Regional Art Gallery. Category winners each received cash prizes while the Student winner also has the opportunity to develop a colour range with Dulux.

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