MONTREAL – Quebec paint manufacturers are seizing on the American-owned Sico paint company’s move to Ontario from Quebec by launching marketing campaigns and tapping into renewed sensitivity around local ownership after a string of closures and layoffs.
Sico, which was bought in 2013 by Pittsburgh-based giant PPG Industries Inc., said last week it plans to close its plant in Quebec City and distribution centre in the Montreal area next September, eliminating 125 jobs.
Quebec Premier Francois Legault and Quebec City Mayor Regis Labeaume have both reacted to the news by invoking the idea of a Sico boycott.
Denalt Paints, whose 60 employees make products under various brand names in Montreal, has bought ad slots on five radio stations around the province in addition to a web and billboard campaign. Sales director Nicholas Le Marchand said pride in regional wares and “a perfect storm” of foreign purchases and local shutdowns is fostering more demand for Quebec products.
“We’ve booked a lot of new retailers since last Thursday,” he said. His customers, which include home supply chains Reno-Depot, Rona and Canac, turned to him for promotional help after opting to lower their Sico stock, he said.
“Quebec is very proud of everything that’s made here,” Le Marchand said. “I think it’s probably the same thing in every province, every country. But in Quebec, maybe we’re a bit more sensitive on that topic.”
Quebec has been hit hard by business shutdowns recently. Earlier this month, Lowe’s Companies Inc. announced it will close 31 stores and plants in Canada, including nine Rona outlets in Quebec, two years after the American retailer acquired the Quebec-based home improvement chain. Three days later on Nov. 8, Montreal-based Bombardier Inc. announced it will lay off 5,000 workers company-wide, including 2,500 in Quebec, and sell off two units.
Patrick Rodrigue, director of operations at the Laval-based Micca Paint Inc., equated Sico to a “national brand.”
“Quebecers are going to be angry because there are a lot of jobs being lost.”
Micca is revving up for a multi-platform ad push to capitalize on the “opportunity,” Rodrigue said. The campaign, like Denalt’s, will stress local production by his 35 employees, who make recreational and industrial paint sold in Micca-branded outlets as well as home decor stores.
Laval-based MF Paints, which just hired a chemist laid off from Sico, aims to more than double its Quebec market share to 20 per cent after being “swamped” with calls by hardware and building materials stores, said sales director Dino Coletta.
The 75-person company has hired a communications firm to beef up its ad presence, which includes a 15-second spot on a Montreal talk radio station.
The “crisis” caused by a backlash against the Sico “icon” has also prompted Coletta to consider buying a second warehouse, shortly after expanding the first. Recent discussions with BMR Group, which owns hardware stores across Eastern Canada, could boost revenue by $30 million and nearly double his paint dealers to more than 300, he said.
“It’s basically another major company in Quebec that’s leaving. Just look at St.-Hubert,” Coletta said, referring to the French-Canadian fast food chain’s 2016 purchase by Swiss Chalet owner Cara Operations Ltd., now Recipe Unlimited Corp. “Look at Rona, look at the Bombardier selloffs.
“I think that there’s a huge negative response from Quebecers, but it gives opportunities for local, smaller companies, because we are competing against huge corporations.”
Founded in a Montreal suburb in 1937, Sico first came under foreign ownership in 2006 when it was bought by Dutch multinational AkzoNobel.News from © Canadian Press Enterprises Inc. 2019