Paul Roughan, Trade Merchants Sales Director Dulux Trade is BMBI’s Expert for Paint.
With the onset of the pandemic, in the latter part of March and all of April, the trade market was almost virtually shut down whilst the consumer market absolutely boomed. Everyone wanted to decorate and stock up to decorate. The few trade merchants open were only servicing heartland customers with click and collect/deliver orders to service essential projects. Other trades and some consumers, who may have gone to builders’ merchants, went instead to consumer stores that remained open throughout, such as B&M, The Range and Wilko; stores with food lines, hence classed as essential.
In Q1 – a period that included a full week of lockdown – year-to-date retail sales volumes were up 10.8% while trade sales were down 6.6%.
Our Dulux factory in Ireland was under total lockdown while the two UK sites were running although not at full capacity, as we managed social distancing to ensure the safety of our staff as our priority. Our challenge was the sudden change in product mix from a 50/50 consumer/trade lines split to a heavily weighted consumer lines.
The winners have been merchants with robust e-commerce platforms giving them the capability to service the significant demand. We know of a number of merchants who saw online increase from dozens per day, to thousands per day.
Will these new buying habits persist? Some generalist builders and specialist decorators found themselves relying on alternatives and potentially consumer destinations that remained open. Whether they change their buying habits for paint depends on how they found the experience – what will merchants have to do to win them back. Merchants need to demonstrate they are a credible, value for money, one-stop-shop destination for paint, including the provision of expert advice and depth of product range.
The economic recession may not have the same shape and recovery as 2008 – will we see all merchants survive. It’s important for manufacturers to do all they can at this time to appropriately support merchants through this challenging time to ensure we all have a sustainable, profitable future.
There have been many positives. Please check out #TrueColours, ‘Colour The World with Kindness’ on Social Media. It’s a joint initiative within the industry including Dulux, Travis Perkins, major contractors, and Homebase, highlighting acts of kindness seen by people involved in our industry.
I’m sure others, like us, are now looking at a full review to address the new normal potential: routes to market, product categories and habits of professionals and consumers and of course, the economic forecast. We need to get the balance right between managing the here and now and planning ahead for the bigger market shifts.