Auto Service World
Feature   June 1, 2007   by Dennis Mellersh

Personalization Trend

colouring specialty paint market

New colours, new technologies, and new trends are combining to make specialty automotive paints for the DIY retail aftermarket a successful and profitable product sector for jobbers.

Because of the dramatic trend in the consumer sector towards personalization, especially in the younger market, the desire to make a personal statement with a vehicle is strong. Specialty paints provide one of the easiest and least expensive ways to individualize a car, light truck, van, or motorcycle. It’s like an automotive version of MySpace, YouTube, or Facebook — individual personal statements are becoming important, particularly to the youth market.

Specialty paint is also a market in which women are becoming more actively involved, as state-of-the-art formulations make these decorative products easier to apply than ever. Today’s specialty paints offer a kaleidoscope of colours, textures, and application-specific formulations to choose from.

The specialty paint market has evolved from the earlier era of the consumer simply needing to make a minor paint fix or repair on a vehicle, to the currently proactive and dynamic retail market. There are a lot of new and attractive paint products to entice the DIY customer, such as colour-shifting paints and reflective paint products, to name just a few.

Jobbers have a strong market base position that can serve as a foundation for moving more strongly into the specialty paint area. A report by the US-based Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) shows that the full-line autoparts/jobber market share for paint and body finishing products is more than 25%.

Skip Chance, director of specialty coatings with Valspar Corporation, says, “We are seeing this as an upside and increasing market. People are becoming more and more interested in personalizing their vehicles and other personal transportation such as motorcycles and personal watercraft. It is part of an overall widespread trend. Young people with their tuners, for example, want to make their cars more individualized. We are also finding that the high-end hot-rod market is increasing for specialty paints.

“We recommend dedicating a specific section of the store for custom paints. This is important in order to convey the impression of specialization within the store. The customers want knowledge and answers, so it’s also wise to make sure that a counterperson is educated on the topic. The specialty paints product sector should be treated seriously, just like other auto parts,” Chance emphasizes.

Specialty paints aimed at the retail DIY trade can represent a solid market if the jobber can show the consumer that he can provide good service, advises Jeffery Murphy, marketing programs manager, PPG Canada Inc.

“At the jobber level, one of the biggest factors for success in this product segment is providing good service to the customer. A lot of customers are not knowledgeable about refinishing and need assistance,” he says.

“One good approach is to teach these retail customers the dos and don’ts of refinishing, for example. Tell them about the various stages of the process. Some stores have entire automobile fronts in the showroom in various stages of preparation and finishing, and can walk the customer through the sequence, from preparation to final finish.”

Murphy also suggests that jobbers can use manufacturers’ websites to advantage. These sites are a good source for troubleshooting information and for instructions on product use. While noting that some DIY customers, or “backyardians”, often have extensive set-ups for doing this sort of work as a hobby, Murphy says that jobbers should keep DIY customers well informed of the realities of refinishing their vehicles. “It is very important that jobbers make the average retail customer aware of the health and safety precautions in do-it-yourself refinishing. Customers need to follow specific procedures carefully.”

The market in Canada is paralleling the trends in the United States market in automotive paints, where new colours such as the candies and pearls are strong.

“From my perspective, the specialty paint market is largely in the tuner area with young people,” says Gus Amodeo, Canadian general manager, Plasti-Kote. “The performance sector is also a factor. To serve this market from a display perspective, we have a new merchandiser wire rack displaying the current hot items geared to the retail performance market.

“In performance we have high temperature paints, such as engine paints. We also feature specialty points such as brake calliper paints, and chassis and roll bar paints in epoxy. We are constantly coming out with new ideas to develop the market, such as our specialty application paints and new colours. As an example of the strong trend to personalization, some people are even painting aluminum wheels black,” Amodeo says.

He advises that at the jobber level, good displays are absolutely imperative. “There are three musts in display: they must be clean, they must be well stocked, and they must be labelled by category. The jobber should try painting various appropriate automotive parts so the customer can see what the part looks like when painted in various colours. This is not a market where simple colour chips and paint lid colour representations will do the job,” Amodeo stresses.

Sales for specialty paint products are increasing at Dupli-Color, says Ginny Arenschield, assistant product manager. “We are into the performance area with products such as bumper paint, brake calliper paint, engine paint, wheel paint, and tire detailing paint. The colour painting of tires is becoming known as car tattooing,” she says.

Arenschield reports that for sales at the jobber level, Dupli-Color has merchandisers such as a two-foot aerosol rack, and she stresses that signage is important. “You have to be willing to put up the point-of-purchase (POP) material in the store.”

Overall, she says, the growth area in the customization component is now less in radically modifying cars and “more on the aspect of personalizing them with paint. It’s a large age group market for us, ranging from 18 years to 60 years old. For this customer segment, just a few hundred dollars can really change the appearance of a car.”

The personalization trend has, of course, run up against the technology of current refinish products. Accordingly, the DIYer may not be equipped to deal with professional products.

With this in mind, Dupli-Color recently formulated a refinish line specifically for the DIYer. Branded Color Shop in Canada (Paint Shop in the US), the refinish paints are supplied in a ready-to-use formula and do not require any mixing or reducing. And with no re-coat window, additional coats can be applied at any time. Emphasis has been placed on making it user-friendly and taking the guesswork out of a do-it-yourself paint job.

Color Shop is a basecoat/clearcoat system, with colour selections that include Jet Black, Championship White, Brilliant Silver, Performance Red, Deep Blue, Mineral Grey, Chrome Yellow, and Hugger Orange. Also available are a grey primer, clearcoat, and strainer kit.

For jobbers, it is a question of staying on top of trends in both graphics and colours. New products are being created regularly to capitalize on what is effectively a fashion-driven, consumer product category.

Get your merchandising and product selection right, and you’ll end up with a little more green in the till, regardless of the colours at the top of the popularity chart.

Retail Tips for Specialty Paints

1. Take advantage of literature and information provided by manufacturers to expand consumer knowledge, explaining for example the various causes of colour variations.

2. Utilize available training from suppliers. Courses can be utilized by jobbers, including jobber sales skills, colour adjustment techniques, troubleshooting, and a jobber personal development program.

3. Highlight your retail specialty paint refinish area with a dramatic lighti
ng treatment such as spotlights and a bright departmental colour scheme.

4. Have signage indicating the retail services you supply in connection with specialty paints, such as being able to offer the DIYer advice on the various parts of the paint/refinishing process.

5. Make a definitive statement in your showroom area that your jobber operation is a specialist consumer headquarters for specialty paints and associated pre-painting products. Keep all paint and associated products in one prominent location in the showroom.

6. Display model cars, including racing cars, painted with the current hot colours and colour schemes such as colour shifting paints as well as pearl and metallic finishes.

7. Show auto parts, such as brake callipers and wheels, painted with specialty paints and colours.

8. Establish a paint and associated products knowledge section with printed material with tips or “dos and don’ts” for DIY car painting projects.

9. Have a sign outlining a checklist of the products that the DIYer may need for his vehicle’s paint and refinish project.

10. Make sure that all paint products are easily accessible and not on shelves in the backroom or behind the counter.

11. Consider having a freestanding gondola display section in the showroom for specialty paint products — something like those “mini-businesses” you see on trolleys in shopping malls.

12. Use the learning and training materials offered on supplier websites, and communicate this information to the retail paint customer.

13. Have at least one counterperson trained as the go-to person for consumer information and advice on specialty paints, refinishing, and paint preparation techniques and products.

14. Create a special section on your website for consumer specialty paint products that you carry and information about their use. Also have links to supplier’s sites that offer DIYers information.

15. Print up FAQ sheets on specialty paint products and applications and hand out copies of these to customers browsing in your specialty paints section.

16. Use an auto part such as a fender to make a display showing the correct methods, and application sequence for the products used in a typical DIY paint-refinishing project.

17. Develop a specialty paint section dedicated to accessory products such as application equipment, spot filler and primer, paint stripper, abrasives and other products associated with refinishing.

18. For examples of the latest hot specialty paint colours and colour schemes for this market, check out the website of the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) at — a report on the site is loaded with photos of various vehicles painted in today’s preferred colours and paint schemes.

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