Industrial pump and spray firm Graco Inc. is hotly pursuing the consumer market and has launched a new high-tech paint sprayer that will retail for less than $200.
It took a team of engineers, designers, marketers and consultants about 18 months and $1 million to create Graco’s new and lightweight spray gun. The TrueCoat 360 was unveiled this month in Las Vegas at the National Hardware Show, which showcases the latest and greatest from Home Depot, Lowe’s, Menards, Ace Hardware and power tool suppliers.
It’s a bold step for Minneapolis-based Graco, an industrial powerhouse best known for making rugged industrial coating equipment. Its sprayers traditionally go into the factories that make appliances, autos, trucks, tractors, as well as auto repair shops across America.
Graco wants to get more do-it-yourself (DIY) products into Home Depot, Lowe’s, Menards and other hardware retailers.
Mike Halloran, research analyst with Robert W. Baird and Co., said Graco’s reach into the DIY sector is only about 5 percent of total sales. So TrueCoat 360 “would be an additive new product launch that expands their pie of that market.”
To do that, Graco researched product demand and made changes.
David Newman, sales and marketing director of Graco’s home improvement channel, said: “In doing focus groups and research, we found that the end DIY user said, ‘You just have to make it easier to me to use [a spray gun]. I don’t want to thin the paint or make a mess.’ What they really want is the smoothest finish possible and ease of use.’’
After months of research, calibrating and designing, Graco’s answer was a spray painter that is 40 percent lighter than its last consumer-oriented model. TrueCoat is also 25 percent cheaper and capable of spraying in 360 degrees. “It will even spray upside down and not lose prime [pressure],” Newman said.
When a consumer is done, he or she can now just detach and toss the newly disposable quart-sized paint liner in the trash. No muss, no fuss.
It’s a big improvement over Graco’s last attempt at a consumer spray painter, Newman said, which sold for $200 to $250. The TrueCoat 360 will sell for $149 to $199, he said.
If Graco calculated correctly, the new price, weight and directional changes made to the sprayer should win Graco market share and boost profits.
Robert W. Baird’s Halloran said, “Graco is as good a manufacturer. And I suspect they found a way for this to be very good for the consumer and very profitable for them.”
Newman said Graco’s looking to move the market needle by a hair.
“Today, only about 2 percent of DIY households buy a paint sprayer. … But we know that a lot of people want to spray. With [the new sprayer] we think we have the ability to throw that sprayer penetration level from 2 to 3 percent. … That 1 percent shift may not sound like a lot, but if you consider we have 70 million households, a 1 percent change could be a good number.”
To help make the new product sales a reality, Graco will rely on social media and ads on DIY TV shows. The return of the U.S. housing industry should also help. Housing is expected to drive Graco’s home contractor sales by more than 10 percent next year. The TrueCoat team hopes they will be part of that growth.
The revived housing industry already boosted Graco’s fourth and first-quarter sales as contractors and construction firms got busy building and remodeling homes again. “We believe housing starts in the U.S. will easily eclipse 1 million in 2014, which should help drive our contractor segment in the Americas,” CEO Patrick McHale said in January.