ColorVision nearly doubles in six months with acquisitions
Springfield, Mo.—In only six months, PPG Platinum Distributor ColorVision has nearly doubled its store count. Now renamed ColorVision, the four new locations bring the total to nine stores in five states, strengthening the company’s competitive position as a regional refinish distributor. Although it had been 10 years since the company acquired its last location, it wasn’t for a lack of trying. Gary Allen, who owns the business with his wife, Kathy, said he had previously investigated several opportunities that didn’t pan out.
“Part of our strategic planning was to take a look down the road of what’s been going on in the marketplace, and we decided we’d have to expand our footprint,” Gary Allen said. “With Connor (Allen’s son) coming into the business as our next generation, we thought the writing was on the wall — ‘You’re going to have to get as strong as you can.’ So we’re looking to be a very strong, progressive Midwest distributor.”
The additions this year were Color Concepts, in Columbia, Mo., in February; Batesville Custom Color & Auto Glass, in Batesville, Ark., in July; and D&R Auto Paint and Supply, in Omaha, Neb., and Council Bluffs, Iowa, in August. The new stores join Springfield headquarters, with branches in Independence and West Plains, Mo., and Lawrence and Lenexa, Kan.
The acquisitions come at a time of increasing consolidation among refinish distributors, with the May 2016 merger of National Coatings & Supplies and Single Source, and with FinishMaster continuing to purchase additional locations, including Colormaster’s 15 stores in Missouri, Illinois, Louisiana, and Texas, in December 2015.
“And in the last 60 to 90 days, private equity has entered the distributorship realm, with English out of Dallas, and Painters Supply out of Michigan,” Allen said. “So the whole industry seems to be consolidating.”
Allen said he and his wife have financed the acquisitions without needing an outside investor, pointing to their close working relationship for many years with their banker, who understands the industry and its idiosyncrasies and keeps tabs on ColorVision’s financials through a monthly report Allen provides.
Through PPG’s Platinum Distributor program, Allen said members can submit information to measure key performance indicators (KPIs) to benchmark their businesses against their peers. For one of the acquisitions, Allen said he was not able to conduct his customary due diligence research, but data from the Platinum group provided information he was able to give to his banker as part of a Pro Forma income statement to secure the loan.
For a regional distributor such as ColorVision, there is strength in numbers, Allen said, with a broader product offering and the ability as a larger organization to offer value-added programs such as the company’s CPM (ColorVision Profit Management) and vendor-managed inventory programs, which is a new addition in some areas and a continuation in D&R’s market.
D&R former owner Ron Stazzoni will remain a familiar face in shops and is staying with ColorVision for the foreseeable future, Allen said, taking on a sales role, while his wife, Susan, has retired from the company, with her administrative functions transferred to Springfield.
“Ron and Susan did a great job,” Allen said. “The way they go to market, the culture of their employees, and the relationships with their customers: it’s very similar to how we go to market.”
“The rest of the D&R staff is in place and on board. Omaha and Council Bluffs experienced a pretty good hailstorm at the end of June, so those cars are all reaching the paint shop, and it’s all hands on deck there.”
The Columbia location, previously owned by Allen’s brother, Keith, who still owns D&A Distributing in Lebanon and Color Concepts in Springdale, Ark., has a new staff and management, and all staff but the previous owner of the Batesville, Ark., location have remained with ColorVision.
Being a larger organization can provide better service, said Chief Development Officer Connor Allen. ColorVision has PPG-certified Distributor Tech Representatives for both the collision and industrial/commercial markets, and with multiple technicians in several markets, they can be “shared” to provide greater availability as needed, such as for special projects.
“We’ve found that putting the tech through this process does require an investment in time to get them certified and buy the quality equipment they need to perform all of the functions they need to for our customers,” he said.
Kathy Allen praised ColorVision and PPG employees for their assistance in facilitating smooth transitions.
“Through all of these acquisitions this year, our people have stepped up, and they’ve been awesome.”