Pembroke Paint sees shift in demand to smaller jobs
Bermuda's biggest paint producer has seen a significant shift in business from making paint for big construction projects to providing for more small DIY jobs.
That is according to David Swift, who runs the Pembroke Paint Company. He said that while sales were down on previous years, his company had weathered the recession well and managed to retain most of its 100 percent Bermudian staff.
One of the best gauges of the economy, paint companies are reflective of almost every sector from construction to the rental market.
“In the past year we were doing a lot of paint for new construction but it has completely gone and now we have got a stream of guys who were working for crews and are now working on their own and others who were laid off from other jobs and now trying their hand at painting,” he said.
“The regular paint and pot guys have their set of clients they are still doing work for.
“But big places such as hotels are having problems with cash flow and they are not doing as much decorative work as they would like to.”
Mr Swift said that his business had kept itself above water and was still paying the bills, as well as looking to the positives such as the cruise ship trade bringing more foreign currency to the Island, starting off with the taxi drivers and trickling down into the rest of the economy.
“This is all an issue of confidence and you certainly see it with the man of the street from their job to their house,” he said.
He said that the number of people leaving the Island over the past couple of years had impacted a lot of Bermudians who used to rent out their second homes to support their income but were struggling to find new tenants and he was now seeing them coming in to get some paint to spruce the place up.
Meanwhile the contraction of the economy had caused people to rethink their redecoration plans, he said.
Mr Swift, who took over the business from his father and mother John and Susan and runs a tight ship of 10 employees, said that it was now a matter of adjusting to the ‘new norm', which was here to stay for the foreseeable future.
“It is a case of ‘doing more with less', which is the new buzz word in the Island right now,” he said.
Looking at the bigger picture, Mr Swift said it would be hard for local businesses to absorb the unemployed who had been laid off as a result of the economic downturn as their margins were being squeezed at the same time, particularly with the increased competition from the Internet and websites.
He said that Government should look at putting a different customs duty structure in place for such online retailers to give residents more reason to shop locally and for businesses to be able to take on more Bermudians.
Mr Swift said that at Pembroke Paint the focus was on providing a superior product and customer service as well as a better value for money, as evidenced by the staff knowing their clients on first name terms.
It has had an all-Bermudian workforce since it was launched in 1987 in the midst of Hurricane Emily, proving the point that it was possible to have a successful business that is fully Bermudian, said Mr Swift.
The company's had a long-standing relationship with its primary supplier Glidden going back to its inception and has been reflected in the durability of the paint and colours seen on many a house around Bermuda and had added to the character of the Island, he said.
Another factor which has changed the whole dynamic of the industry, according to Mr Swift, has been the advent of technology and the use of computers for everything from maintaining databases to mixing paint, both improving efficiency and the offering to the customer, but also adding to the complexity of the business and keeping on top of it, as well as the issue of finding computer literate staff to do the job.
Added to this has been the impact of the economic crisis on the cost of raw materials, with the price of one product his company uses rising 35 percent over the past two months alone and the value of solvents up 10 to 20 percent, while even suppliers were having trouble finding the right resins needed to make certain paints and because they had shrunk themselves were controlling the volume and prices of goods, said Mr Swift.
But he added that his company was continually adapting to the changing price structure and had consistently managed to keep its prices down as well as being competitive with many of its global rivals.
Boasting the biggest inventory of paint and related products in Bermuda, Mr Swift is also proud of the fact that his company can replicate almost any colour of paint it has produced over the past 20 years on the spot.