Harris Paints rolls out Caribbean color mixing. (International Coatings Scene).
Tapping ICI's Glidden unit for color system technology last year, Harris now is expanding its network of color mixing centers under its new Ultima label, a signature series. Primarily an architectural line manufacturer, Harris produces paint in Barbados, Dominica and St. Lucia, and operates a distribution network within Guyana, according to Mr. Tindale.
As part of the agreement with ICI, Harris now also distributes ICI's U.K.-based Dulux line of paints. The alliance also likely will lead to distribution of more lines that Harris does not produce, including industrial paints and coatings. Harris already distributes Cuprinol, for example, in its market region. And through a limited equity investment in F&B Automotive Art, a Barbados-based franchise chain, Harris also is active in the automotive refinishing market.
More Tourists, More Paint?
As tourism--the single largest contributor to regional growth--expands in the Caribbean, many island governments, hotel operators and home owners are paying closer attention to fresh paint, Mr. Tindale said. In Barbados, for example, the per capita consumption of architectural paint is up to about eight liters, of which Harris sells between five and six liters, he said. In Barbados, most housing is owned rather than rented, which inspires residents to take better care of their homes; indeed most houses on the island--some up to 200 years old--have a fresh multi-colored coat of paint.
While many traditional colors still are in demand on the British-influenced English-speaking islands, more modern colors--like peach--have been used by both residential and commercial decorators of late. "The designers are stretching the limits of the color system," said Mr. Tindale; the new Harris system currently provides 6,000 color options.
Preserving Tropical Paint
To help preserve the life of its architectural paints, bombarded by salty mist and intense sunlight, Harris utilizes a heavier addition of biocides and ultraviolet protectors than non-tropical manufactures might employ. Educating retailers of such characteristics is key to the company now, Mr. Tindale said. Rather than expand the color center network further over the short term, Harris will focus on assuring technical support for the existing network, he said. This support includes training sessions of about 18 hours, which, thus far, about 60 color center operators have completed.
Tax policies on construction and import taxes are factors in the balance of the Caribbean paint market currently. On some islands, if a house or a commercial building is not painted, government authorities have not collected tax on the full assessment of the structure, considering it still to be in a construction phase. And within the Caricom trade bloc, there is an import tax of approximately 15% on paint, although regional integration goals set for 2005 may reduce this tax.
Harris is not yet active in three of the region's strongest--and most competitive--island economies: Belize, Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago. While current market consumption figures for the entire region are not widely circulated, Mr. Tindale suggested that Harris controls close to 60% of the Barbados market, having picked up about five percentage points since the new color system was rolled out.
Such growth seems to be a strategic focus for the company. "Over the mid-term, we will expand regionally and also move outside of the Caribbean," Mr. Tindale added.