Fleetwood ‘Irish paint for Irish weather’

HAI CEO Annemarie Harte profiles one of the most well-known names in the paint business.

It’s not often that you need to go into the heart of Dublin to meet a manufacturer in our industry but, tucked away behind the building site that is Dawson/Molesworth Street, is the Dublin office of Fleetwood Paints.

And it’s fitting that the company has offices there. Fleetwood started in Dublin over 60 years ago when the Doyle family took up the business of making ferrules – fashioning the metal bands that hold brush bristles in place – using tins of Jacobs Afternoon Tea biscuits.

That business survived and thrived. Today, the third generation of the family are in the business, one which has expanded considerably beyond its scale and scope in the 1950s. From those beginnings in ferrules, it went on to make high-quality paint brushes. By the mid-50s, the company had opened its first factory in Cabra, eventually moving to a two-acre site in Inchicore in Dublin, where it opened one of Ireland’s first paint research centres. And in 1971, the company opened the Fleetwood Paints factory and its HQ in Virginia, Co. Cavan, where 130 people are now employed.

High quality

In a highly competitive market that often reflects a race to the bottom and a space that has been embraced and enhanced by the power of online, how does Fleetwood aim to differentiate itself? “For us, it has always been about high quality,” says Derek Byrne, Fleetwood’s marketing manager. “The paint side of our business evolved because we felt there was a lack of quality paint in the market to match the brushes we were producing.”

And, that commitment to quality is consistently reinforced through sustained investment in

Tiles on an external display stand demonstrate the durability of Fleetwood’s exterior wall paints.

the brand, he says. Currently, ‘Fleetwood Paints’ are two-thirds of the way through implementation of an extensive brand refresh. The familiar figures of “Freddie Fleetwood” and his dog are being moved into the background, while the word ‘Fleetwood’ will be foregrounded with the infinity symbol and a colour spectrum on the double ‘o’.

A new level

Derek believes this new concept takes their branding to a new level of customer appeal and relevance. “The rebranding lends perceptions that it might be a product just for the trade.”

With websites, such as Pinterest and Houzz, inspiring customers to explore and create colourful signature homes, Fleetwood seek to reflect the needs of today’s consumer and the consumer of the future. In fact, the 18-30-year-old demographic is a primary target audience which means social media plays a large part in their marketing plans. “We don’t have the large budgets that others do so we have to be creative with our campaigns,” Derek says.

One such campaign that has done particularly well is the ‘Paint Your Door’ Facebook campaign which encouraged customers to paint their front doors in May. What else makes as bold a statement about who you are, and it’s an easy job – two coats and done!

But there’s more than just a brand refresh going on, 18 months ago Fleetwood teamed up with Pantone to be their Irish licensee. The name, recognisable to many as the quintessential colour referencing guide, Pantone issues a Colour of the Year and this year, it’s Greenery (ref 15-0343). While Greenery may be the trendsetters choice, any retailer selling paint to end-users will tell you that grey still leads the pack in terms of sales and popularity, as it has done for some time now. On that note, Derek tells me that Grey Nuance is Fleetwood’s biggest seller.

Pantone’s Colour of the Year is Greenery. Fleetwood have teamed up with Pantone to be their Irish licensee.

“Irish paint for Irish weather”

Heritage is very important to Fleetwood and they are proud to flaunt the Guaranteed Irish symbol on their products. “Irish paint for Irish weather,” says Derek and shows me a picture of a number of tiles on an external display stand at their manufacturing plant in Virginia. “Our Weather Clad exterior wall paint offers up to 18 years’ durability and we actively test it against other leading paint manufacturers for its colour longevity.”

Product quality is paramount for Fleetwood.

According to Derek, Fleetwood focuses on what the company is good at, and introduces me to the new Prestige range, which has managing director Conor Doyle’s signature emblazoned across the tin, attesting to “the finest paint we’ve ever made”. These are exciting times for Fleetwood.

As September was designated ‘Construction Month’ by Guaranteed Irish, I was delighted to visit this Irish success story; yet another family business, like so many in the industry, that has survived and is thriving post-recession.

Fleetwood Paints, Derek assured me, has an unwavering commitment to the Irish market. The company has plans to expand abroad over the next few years, while continuing to consolidate and build the business here at home.

Derek adds that the company greatly values its Irish retailers and provides support to the sector through its academy in Virginia with workshops and production line visits where they can view the product being mixed, in many cases by hand, and ask questions of the experts in the colour lab.

If you have a story to tell as a supplier or manufacturer in the Irish market, please contact Annemarie on 01 298 0969 or annemarie@hardwareassociation.ie for more information.