Every color elicits a unique mood. While gray often gets a negative rap for being boring or dull, our color experts describe it as clean, fresh, peaceful, gentle, and calming. Personally, the only thing that comes to mind when I think of gray is scarlet, the other half of Ohio State’s team colors. As an OSU student and fan, it would be a crime for me to pair gray with any color other than scarlet! However, our more unbiased professionals are willing to share some popular color ideas for any non-Ohio State fanatics.
Our color authorities emphasized the appeal of combining gray with other neutrals. “Grays can feel more livable when paired with a touch of warmth through brown or yellow shades,” said Sue Kim, Valspar color strategist.
Mary Lawlor, manager of color marketing at Kelly-Moore Paints, leans towards the combination of grays and whites, but keeps to the theme of a neutral pairing. “The most popular colors to combine grays with are whites,” she said. “Consumers seem to be having a love affair with creating this refreshingly neutral look in their homes and adding in lively colored accents like lime green, lively corals, and aquatic blues.”
Neutral color combinations allow for more creativity when adding accents around the house, points out Hannah Yeo, Benjamin Moore color and design expert. “Many people are pairing grays with whites, blacks and other neutrals,” she describes. “Because they are keeping the color scheme neutral, homeowners are playing with texture instead. Extra fluffy bedding, big-knotted throws and rugs are brought to the forefront. Metallic accents also play a key role. Copper, gold and bronze tones add a wink of color with a little bit of glimmer.”
This neutral trend goes along with a calm and relaxing vibe that many of today’s consumers desire in their homes. (If your family is anything like mine, you will take any extra kind of calm that you can get!)
Sue Kim agrees, gray can save the day. “I love using grays in a space where you need a peace and quiet. We all need a place where we can unwind and feel anchored,” she said.
Lawlor expands on the previously stated characteristics of gray. “I find that many light to medium grays provide a clean, fresh and open look for interiors. Dark gray accent walls paired with white trim look sophisticated yet subtle. Overall, the trend to this cooler neutral is quite refreshing. It offers the opportunity to pair with brightly colored accents,” she said.
Kim also uses “sophisticated” to describe gray. “People are embracing the color as a sophisticated and versatile neutral for interiors instead of turning to a traditional white and beige,” she said. “Gray has historically been used as an exterior color; however, it is now a popular hue for interior application. It can be found in all aspects of home life including bedding, cookware, and even children’s décor.”
Charlotte Cosby, head of creative at Farrow & Ball, has a sophisticated take on the color as well. “Gray shades can be used like the accessories of the home color palette,” she said. “They can dress a room up and layer on an unexpected but chic element that can completely transform a space.”
Gray continues as a high demand, mainstream color this year. Yeo lists the most popular Benjamin Moore grays for 2017: Revere Pewter (HC-172), Edgecomb Gray (HC-173), Silver Satin (OC-26), Balboa Mist (OC-27), and Collingwood (OC-28), all of which are on the warmer side of gray. “These hues are often used on interior spaces because they are light and airy, but still subtly add hints of color,” she explains.
Cosby from Farrow & Ball adds her company’s tints to the list of popular warm shades. “Slightly warmer grays like Ammonite, Cornforth White, and Purbeck Stone have remained popular since their introduction a few years ago,” she said. “They partner nicely with both cooler and warmer tones, so they are inherently versatile.” Gray highlights, Cosby describes, are a way to add a bit of an edge to neutral palettes.
While the uses of gray have changed frequently throughout history, there is still a connection between historical applications of gray and how it is now used in a more modern setting. “Traditional grays are historically found in exterior applications of Northeastern/Cape Cod style structures. Today, we are embracing this rustic style within the home to feel connected with nature,” Kim explained. “Bursts of bright décor are a way for homeowners and designers to modernize this look and bring it into their homes.” Gray also works well on ceilings or traditional brick fireplaces, she suggests.
The versatility of gray is a great draw when choosing a color, so it might just calm down those confused customers! Yeo sums it up: “It can be warm or cool, subtle or dramatic depending on how you use this color. With so much potential, it’s a great canvas to infuse your personal style.”
So despite what the popular trilogy tells us, our experts confirm that there are far more than 50 Shades of Gray for your customers to choose from when painting their homes. (Plus, their color tools are probably better reading material.) And while the options for color combinations are plentiful, we all know that in the end, there is no better color combination than OSU’s scarlet and gray!
Well, this was inevitable. Mankind is obsessed with creating new, easier, faster ways for man (and woman) to do all sorts of things, but now a legion of robotics companies have zeroed in on typical retail stores as a place where they say they can make your life better, easier and faster…if you let them. Here in The Lou, and in other places across the land, we are starting to see robots popping up as service assistants in stores, as well as to help keep the supply chain moving. Enter Tally from Simbe Robotics. Tally is a robot that moves around a store, possibly yours, and takes inventory, notes items running low or out of stock, or finds items that are misplaced, say a roll of tape that someone left in the caulk display area.
Schnucks, a grocery chain of 100+ stores based in the St. Louis area, is experimenting with Tally in a few stores. Schnucks has been embroiled for the last year in a labor dispute with union employees, and I’ve noticed fewer employees working on the daily at my local Schnucks, so maybe this is where Tally was able to gain a foothold…“for testing purposes?”
Tally doesn’t need meal breaks or smoke breaks, doesn’t get a paycheck or account for any taxes, and doesn’t need a health plan, but Tally, or some other similar robotics, may eventually be one of your most trusted “partners” at your store. When Tally needs to be re-charged, it simply motors over to its charging station and gets the juice it needs before resuming its tasks. The base is about the size of the small robotic vacuums you see out there, like a Roomba, but has a tall, slender “body” that can also have an extension placed on it to view higher shelves. Tally can’t replace the items you are low on or missing, or that have been misplaced in areas where they shouldn’t be, but Tally will make notes about all of this and you or your staff can then act on the issues.
Now, I am in no way advocating replacing any of your staff with a legion of robots, but allowing helpful “smart” robots to ease your strain of day to day operations is not a bad idea. There are fantastic POS systems for paint stores that do a lot of great inventory control already, and robotics manufacturers are looking at those systems to see how something like Tally can help your system to be even more beneficial for you.
Having no idea about the pricing involved, I can only assume that a system like the Tally robot would not be cheap, but if it can save you money while upping your inventory control game, keeping your shelves stocked, and creating more sales, it just may be something that you should look into.
If robotics have already progressed this far, it’s only a matter of time before these machines get an even bigger dose of AI (artificial intelligence) to where they can make suggestions to your customers who are buying paint. “Will you need Primer for your project?” “Do you need tape with 7, 14 or 21-day adhesion?” or even “I’ve noticed you are selecting outdoor stain. Do you need deck cleaning products or applicators?”
The watch Dick Tracy wore was so cool and futuristic when we were kids, then Apple came out with the Apple Watch… almost as cool. Star Trek had its Tricorder communication device, not much different from today’s smart phones. The Jetsons cartoon was very futuristic, and their robot maid, Rosie, could handle a laundry list of tasks in short order. Much of what we all grew up with as futuristic and space age is in the here and now. Keep an open mind to the future and futuristic products that may be your ticket to better inventory control, better in-store service, and better and more sales. Peace Out!
I’m Josh, the new guy at The Paint Dealer. Jerry found it a good idea to give me a shot with you all and we will soon see if his trust is well placed!
With July came Independence Day, and one thing we often think about and reflect on around this time of year, regardless of where we sit in the political spectrum, is the state of our country. What can we do to support our friends, neighbors, and families? One surefire way is by involving ourselves with businesses that manufacture their products here in the U.S.
I try to buy American whenever I can, from a box of screws to a nice guitar. It personally makes me feel good and makes me believe I’m making a difference when I support American businesses, products, and jobs. No doubt many of you readers feel the same way. We are seemingly on the way to another renaissance of American ingenuity and manufacturing and now more than ever the phrases “American Made” and “Made in the USA” mean something special to consumers. I consulted a panel of experts—companies who make a point to manufacture in the USA—about what this means for them and most importantly, what it means for you to take advantage of this trend and how you can capitalize on it to best serve your clients from DIYers to paint pros.
Born in the USA
What does it mean to the pro contractor when a product is made in America? Quite a lot, say our manufacturers! I asked this question to everyone I talked to and unsurprisingly, their answers had some similarities. Keith Herwig, CEO at Warner Tool, believes it’s because paint professionals themselves are primarily local suppliers. “They demonstrate pride in their workmanship and the communities they serve,” he said. “Buying made in the USA products reinforces their positioning as a trusted local supplier, using the highest grade products to achieve professional results for their customers.” He gives more credit from there. “Paint pros understand that Warner products offer uncompromising quality and help them deliver professional results job after job, increasing referrals and maximizing profitability.” That statement of increasing referrals is critical to helping with a painter’s reputation as it’s much easier to do a quality job when you use quality tools!
The idea that quality tools breed quality results is a concept not lost on Corona Brushes’ President Ben Waksman. “In an age of so many imports, we think it is important to painters that there is a company focused on making fine quality painting tools by hand to insure consistent painting performance that painters can rely on. This is quite important to the professional painter as well as the discerning DIY painter,” he said.
Kacie Baon, Category Manager of ShurTech Brands, makers of Frog Tape, shared similar sentiments to Mr. Waksman and Mr. Herwig. “Consumers and paint professionals expect high-quality products from our brand and we believe the best way to deliver this is by producing FrogTape® brand painter’s tape in the USA,” she said. “Our company understands that many consumers see the value of ‘Made in the USA’ because they see that it translates to jobs and money staying in America, as well as fair labor practices.”
There’s even statistical research in the industry from folks like Sam Averbuch, President of Preval, makers of the popular Preval Sprayer and Re-Grip. “Sixty-five percent of professionals care about where products are made and prefer Made in the USA products because they know that U.S. made products equal more jobs for their customers,” he said.
The Best We Can!
Many manufacturers cite that producing here keeps their quality up and provides for better control over the final product, and also that they can be a force for positive change in the communities where they manufacture. Frogtape lists many benefits of manufacturing between the shining seas. “By producing many of our products in the U.S., we are able to support American manufacturing jobs at key production locations in North Carolina and Ohio as a result of the business in these categories,” said Baon. “Also, keeping the manufacturing local also allows us to be flexible and very responsive to the needs of our customers. It allows us to keep a close eye on the production process to ensure that our quality standards are maintained.”
That’s the name of the game for U.S. built items. Manufacturers want to be able to secure the utmost in quality and consistency so painters can always depend on their product. “When we make our products here in the USA, we have hands-on quality control,” continued Sam Averbuch from Preval. “The standards not only reflect the quality of the product but also the quality of life we provide our employees.”
Trying to Bring it Home
Sometimes sourcing the materials or doing the manufacturing is infeasible in the U.S., but that doesn’t mean that our panel is giving up—far from it. Warner Tool makes products both here and overseas, for example. “As a U.S. based manufacturing company we always strive to produce products at our plant in the heartland of America,” says Herwig. “We only import a small percentage of our product mix and it is always done to meet a customer-specific request. We are continually evaluating any imported item to determine if we can move it to our production facility.”
Ben Waksman of Corona also spoke about difficulties in supply. “Most of our best quality materials are sourced in America, but some of the raw materials are sourced from foreign countries simply because they are not available here,” he said. “A case in point is natural hog bristle, which comes from China. But once these materials reach our facilities, all materials, whether U.S. or foreign sourced, undergo a strict process to meet our standards before they are transformed into Corona paint brushes and rollers.” A continuation of that proof from Corona is its All American series that, says Waksman, is specially made with materials sourced in the U.S. “They are handmade with a unique blend of extra-firm DuPont filaments. These brushes are built full stock, compressed in thinner ferrules, and offer lighter working tools with full performance features,” he related.
M.A.D.E. in the U.S.A.
The big question we hope you’re asking (if you’ve read this far, if you’re here, then you have!) is “How can I sell more American product?” The great thing is it almost sells itself and does the work for you! One thing that resonated across our manufacturers is an agreement that a large number of your customers, both professional and DIY alike, want to support American products—so it’s up to dealers to draw attention to it. “Recent surveys have shown that many Americans indicate a preference for buying locally made goods,” Kacie from FrogTape says. “Consumers are becoming more conscious than ever before about basing purchasing decisions on ethical and patriotic criteria and we are happy to provide them with a superior product that does just that.”
This thought can be applied to any of our panel. “When customers see that a paint store invests in American made products the customers are proud,” added Averbuch of Preval.
Keith Herwig of Warner throws even more crackle on the fire. “We help our dealer network understand the value of Made in the USA products through our marketing and educational activities,” he said. “We also participate in the Made in the USA brand initiative that has been supported by many in the industry. It is an effort to make Made in USA products more identifiable with a common logo across manufacturers.”
Summing up how to sell these pieces of Americana to your clients, Herwig mentioned how in-store signage and off the shelf isle interrupters that help consumers identify Made in USA products provide valuable aids for their shopping experience. “Often the barrier to choosing a Made in USA product is simply being able to identify it—so help your customers find them!”
No matter the product, all these companies band together with a similar and simple message: Your clients want to buy American, so if you can clearly highlight these products and their American heritage, they will do the rest themselves! “American Made” and “Made in the USA” might just sound like buzzwords, but to manufacturers, dealers, painters, and consumers, it means great quality, longevity, consistency, and pride.
Soy and Services
We had the opportunity to talk to Scott Sarver, the marketing coordinator for Franmar, makers of eco-friendly soy-based cleaning and graffiti-removal solutions. His company’s perspective gives us an interesting take on U.S. manufacturing.
Q: What do you believe it means to paint professionals that you make products in the USA?
A: The responses from our customers indicate that they appreciate the commitment to U.S. made products. Our products are made for a services-based industry by a group of men and women making their living here in the U.S. I think they appreciate knowing that they are helping support other workers here in the U.S. rather than a foreign sourced product.
Q: Do you get better quality product or have higher quality control standards by manufacturing here?
A: Sourcing products from vendors with whom we have built a relationship over the course of many years ensures our confidence in the product that we are receiving and also the product that we are manufacturing. Our managers are regularly in the warehouse and production area working with our team to make sure that what we are producing is done to the standard of quality for which Franmar and BLUE BEAR are known. Since we aren’t delivering finished goods from a remote location, we know if there are any issues and can address them before shipment.
Q: Does the close proximity to your raw materials such as soy, and your involvement in them, benefit your product in ways you wouldn’t be able to if you were overseas?
A: QC, distribution and delivery are certainly easier working with US products. We have developed relationships with our providers that understand our model of business, which in turn benefits our customers. Our JIT (Just In Time) model of sales and delivery extends into a lean and agile operation for our production side. Without the burden of excessive inventory, we are able to transition to meet customers’ needs easily, and the quick delivery system from stateside vendors allows us to thrive in this model without a delay to customers.
Q: How do you believe that dealers can highlight yours and other USA made products to draw the most attention?
A: We proudly let people know that our products are made here in the USA and that we source all of our raw goods from US vendors. We made that commitment long ago to be in business with our “neighbors.” Going back to the point that painters and contractors are service based, the labor is happening here. When a dealer highlights that partnership through shelf talkers and other advertising options, along with having good product knowledge and being able to pass that along to the end user, it strengthens that partnership and helps direct those looking for Made in the USA products find them.
Since its inception in 1958, Mr. LongArm has relied on American ingenuity, creativity and hard work to produce high-quality products. We are proud of our dedicated employees, and remain committed to them. Our above average number of long-term employees is a testament to that commitment.
Mr. LongArm is also committed to our customers’ success. Our company is extremely accessible via our website, social media, e-mail and phone. It’s rare to actually speak with a live person when you call a company but that is exactly what you get when you call us. No robotic voice, no numbers to push, no long menus to listen to. Instead of that our receptionist will see to your inquiries happily and quickly.
It is our goal to provide the highest quality tools, and to achieve this goal we only use the highest quality components. We procure and use American-made aluminum tubing for our extension poles and manufacture components with our own injection-molding and fiberglass pultrusion systems. The majority of our raw materials also come from domestic sources.
We firmly believe that consumers desire to purchase American-made products and help fellow Americans and the companies that employ them. Our products are appropriately marked with the American flag to help consumers with their buying decisions. In addition, we recently created a red, white and blue version of our popular floor merchandiser to help stores promote American-made extension poles. The merchandiser is available at no charge to retailers who purchase a qualifying pole assortment.
It is our hope that consumers and other businesses continue to recognize that by purchasing American-made products we are all playing an important role in keeping Americans employed and helping maintain a strong US economy.
The Paint Dealer accepted an invitation to visit one of Farrow & Ball’s newest showrooms [we’re the media, after all], in Brooklyn, NY, and we thought it would be a great opportunity to see what the company’s design stores are all about and pass on any tips to help you in your own store’s setup. Farrow and Ball advertises a strong emphasis on quality and a distinctive way of doing business—just like you! The staff told us about how they work to create a special experience for their customers from the moment that they walk through the doors to the time they leave. The company values customer service and strives to foster an engaging environment for showroom visitors.
“It is an experience different than going to any other paint store,” says Eric Stogner, manager of the Brooklyn location. “We are constantly helping the customers in any way that we can. It starts by color consulting when the customer first walks in. After that, if we are able, we go to their house to get a feel for the lighting and other factors involved in making the best color decision.” You can see Farrow & Ball’s focus on service for yourself by observing the customer-employee interactions. The staff is not only available for help, but is eager to guide customers through the process of selecting a color, or anything else they may be in need of. “We never want a customer feeling lost when they are in our store; we would rather help them along the way to figure out exactly what they need,” says Eric.
A Peek into Unique
While Farrow and Ball showrooms provide this unique experience, they are nearly identical to each other. The interior of the Brooklyn showroom is meticulously kept up, with nothing for sale other than Farrow and Ball products in order to ensure that customers receive the highest quality service, Eric reports. This mirrors the setup of all other Farrow and Ball stores, although each one has slightly different characteristics. “As a newer showroom, Brooklyn has included such features as a large touch-screen to view our wallpapers, and a garden with furniture painted in our paint.”
The website states that while inside the showrooms you are able to “browse the palette of 132 versatile colors, flick through books of our handcrafted wallpapers and get advice from our expert Color Consultants.” The walls are covered with the company’s handcrafted wallpapers and carefully decorated with paint cans and its pristine color display.
The store is furnished with minimal furniture—just enough to display a few table books and fan decks, keeping the display area aesthetically pleasing and comfortable to browse around in. Farrow & Ball plays a significant role in the interior design world, which makes the setup of its showroom even more important in its need to reflect that.
What’s in a Can?
In addition to the layout, the company distinguishes its paint from other brands in a variety of ways. The paints are all water based, and, they tell us, the higher pigmentation that they use creates a more powerful color, allowing for a smaller spectrum of colors to suffice. “Ask us what the single most important characteristic that makes Farrow & Ball paint so very special is, and we’ll tell you this…it’s the extraordinary way our deep and richly pigmented colors respond to light throughout the day, bringing walls to life,” says the company website.
The small color palette also sets the company—and its dealers—apart. All of the colors have an intriguing story behind them that is reflected in their names. The stories often come from historic houses, people, places, or nature. As a dealer, this would be a great conversation to have with potential customers. Stogner tells us that the relatively compact color range is a way to enhance your customer’s experience by allowing for an easier decision-making process, while still offering the range of neutral and vibrant colors that the customer seeks.
Farrow & Ball has over 60 showrooms, most of which are located across Europe and the U.K., however the company is now expanding its presence in the U.S. and along with its showrooms is making its products available to independent dealers. The Brooklyn location recently opened to cater to its sizable clientele in that area. The showroom is a positive addition to the dynamic community that it was built in, and it hosts events at the store with set designers, artists, and museums in order to foster relationships with existing and potential clientele.
Farrow and Ball showrooms also offer a way for independent dealers to learn about store setup. Mark Lipton, owner of Tremont Paint in The Bronx, NY, and well known as The Paint Dealer’s “Mark My Words” columnist, recently arranged to take on the line. He found that visiting the showroom helped him in creating his own retail environment. “As an independent dealer, I do not know as much about store layout or interior design as I would like. Seeing these showrooms can be helpful to guide me on how to better set up my own stores,” he said.
As a natural, earthy, and compassionate color, brown is up-and-coming and is currently being used in varying features and accents inside the home and out. Just like any other color, shades of brown vary vastly, in this case from light and airy to rich and intense. Each shade is popular for its own unique purpose, and, our color experts tell us, these purposes are changing.
As with many colors, people are turning to brown for comfort. “After 9/11, the two colors that bubbled to the surface were blush pink and chocolate brown, because they are cocooning, comforting colors that the nation craved,” said Dee Schlotter, PPG senior color marketing manager. “This combination continues to be popular, as brown has always been a complement to warm-toned colors in homes. A trending color combination is Rich Mocha (DEA159) with Rustique (DE5149).
Rich dark browns continue to be a unique way to highlight ceilings, and is a timeless color for furnishings, adds Sara McLean, color marketing manager at Dunn-Edwards. “This allows for a greater range of design play for the walls,” she says. “Since brown touches on so many trends from urban gardening to global travel, it’s a great color to build off of. I love seeing dark chocolate in a den or living room, a formal area where the drama can really be highlighted.”
Brown in the Balance
Although preferred color combinations vary between companies and color experts, there is a consensus that the balance of colors is your key to success. Ashley Banbury, senior designer, color & design for Pratt & Lambert, weighs in that balance is what it’s all about. “Pairing warm tones with sophisticated blues and grays is a fantastic way to incorporate warm and cool into your space,” she said. Ashley suggests pairing Iron Ore (414F) with Cowboy Boots (330F) for interior and exterior use.
“Possibilities are endless when it comes to browns—it is a color inspired by nature and is therefore always appropriate for use in both exterior and interior spaces,” says Ashley. However, there is often a difference in how it is used on interiors versus exteriors. Taupe is commonly seen on interior walls and accessories, while copper browns are often used in textiles and lighting. For exterior projects, Banbury points to chocolates flavoring trim, shutters and doors in order to accent the main body color.
Sara McLean also speaks to the use of brown on trim and doors, especially when paired with grays. “We are seeing exterior browns paired with grays—both light and charcoal—keeping in line with the continued interest in grays and modern-style homes. Natural wood accents such as shingles and front doors look great for a modern farmhouse or bungalow,” Sara describes. “Another trending use on exteriors is brown trim instead of black trim paired with white or off-white body colors. This adds an extra richness to the home palette. If the home has a front porch, painting the porch ceiling dark brown against white trim and charcoal, sage green, or indigo blue brightens and modernizes a bungalow.”
Don’t Hide Your Tan
PPG’s Dee Schlotter emphasizes the use of tan, especially when paired with greens. “Green and brown paint colors are preferred along the U.S. Gulf Coast because the hues provide a nice contrast to the coastal colors in the region,” she explains. “The colors feel sturdy in these states, which have a lot of character and other natural terrain.”
In addition to the conventional uses of brown, you can recommend the color as a way to highlight a room or a particular feature. “Browns are so versatile, they really can be used anywhere,” said Pratt & Lambert’s Banbury.
“Espresso brown can be a dramatic backdrop to bold tropical colors like citrus greens or papaya orange. If you are seeking a cozy feel, paint your entire room a rich brown, including the 5th wall—the ceiling!”
Schlotter shares similar thoughts on utilizing dark colors on ceilings. “Deep hues can easily draw attention to an otherwise plain ceiling, and if painted on one wall in a hallway, can make a space look bigger,” she said. Certain combinations of browns paired with lighter neutral tones accentuate these spaces even more. “PPG Paints Synchronicity (PPG1021-2), a gray brown, as well as Thunderbird (PPG1021-5), a mocha brown, pair excellently with the deepened indigo undertones of Black Flame, our 2018 Color of the Year. PPG Paints has a gorgeous Heartland collection that pairs varying tones of brown with earthy greens, warm-toned whites and muted golden tones. Brown hues like PPG Paints Rock Slide (PPG1022-4) and Eiffel Tower (PPG1022-5) provide a grounding complement to green and dusty yellow shades such as PPG Paints Whispering Pine (PPG1125-3), Hemlock (PPG1125-5) and Dusty Yellow (PPG1209-3).”
Since browns are gaining in popularity, you can show your customers that by choosing it they are moving toward trend rather than away from it. Now thanks to brown, they can be those Joneses everyone wants to keep up with.
My buddy went to dinner with his wife to celebrate their anniversary. The server overheard them talking about how many years they had been married and was flattered they chose to spend their special night at the restaurant, so he brought them some complimentary champagne. They were surprised and most appreciative…that is, until the bill came.
As my friend looked over the bill he noticed that the two “complimentary” glasses of champagne had a charge of two dollars per glass. Since it was only four dollars, and rather than have a confrontation with the server, he just paid the bill. A perfect evening derailed when the surprise champagne turned out to be a bigger surprise than he expected.
That four dollars nagged at him all night. The next day he decided to let the owner know that charging four dollars for two glasses of complimentary champagne was wrong. The owner was mortified. He couldn’t believe it and apologized profusely. There was a good explanation: it turns out that there should have been no charge for the drinks, but for the purposes of book keeping, the bartender had to charge something. The next step would have been to reverse the charge, which the bartender forgot to do.
So, there was a legitimate explanation. My friend will go back, and I’m sure the owner of the restaurant will go overboard to take care of him. However, that is not what this lesson is about.
What would have happened if my friend chose not to call the owner? I found out, because I asked him. He told me that he would never have gone back to the restaurant. Ever! And he would tell his friends about how they “nickel and dimed” him. He isn’t sure why he called the owner that day. He said, “I was just so surprised I had to let him know how unhappy I was about it.”
We all know the stats. Depending on what you read, up to 96% of customers who have a complaint don’t make that complaint, they just don’t come back. And you’ll probably say, “But we thought they were happy!”
In this case, my friend had a legitimate complaint. What caused it was a breakdown in the system. The good intentions of the server and the restaurant were ruined because a bartender made a mistake when he put in the order. So, what’s the lesson here? Fix the system. What other process can be created to ensure this mistake never happens again? To me, it’s simple. I’m not a restaurateur, but I asked my friend who is and he said, “Assign a dollar value of zero to complimentary drinks. Then it won’t show up as a charge that has to be reversed.”
How many processes in your business can, because of human error, cause a Moment of Misery™? What complaints can be avoided by making a common-sense change? Are you losing business but gaining negative word-of-mouth because of a breakdown in these processes? Think about these questions—then come up with some answers.
My daughter, my dog, my fiancée, and I were sitting on the couch the other night. We weren’t “deep chatting,” as my daughter likes to say. Lying around “j-chillin” was about all we were doing. Turns out that me and the dog were the only two “j-chillin” because the silence was broken when my daughter said, “Dad, you know what you do that everyone wishes you didn’t?” I’m no psychiatrist nor am I an expert in body language; but one look at my fiancée told me that she was thinking, “You’re about to find out.” She was in on this too!! Thankfully my Brittany spaniel Perry had no intentions in jumping into the fray, and I knew I could survive a two on one!
It turns out that you can’t make everyone happy all the time. This didn’t exactly come as news to me. As an independent paint retailer, the list of people that I need to make happy is a single spaced small font nightmare! I have vendors who want tons of volume and fast payments; employees that want less hours but more pay; landlords that demand a monthly tribute like they were the Godfather (no disrespect to any members of the mafia reading this) and of course…the customers. The difference is that with the customers, I actually CARE about getting it right and making them happy.
For the most part, I have a pretty customer-friendly set of policies in my stores. Custom colors are not returnable ever: unless you’re unhappy with the color and would like another color or a refund. We never waive our $20 delivery fee unless you buy enough paint that we want to waive it for you. Those are easy ways to make a customer happy. The bigger problem is, “What do you do with the customers that can’t be made happy?”
We have all been there. “The customer is always right” only takes you so far with a customer who is being unreasonable in their demands. It can be hard to know what to do when nothing you try is coming out right.
I give my managers a lot of latitude in handling customer issues but they know that if they’ve got someone who is operating outside the lines of “reasonable,” to give them my number or better yet, get me theirs. One of the reasons I like to handle tougher cases myself is that it gives the situation a fresh start. When I make contact, my first step is to try and de-escalate their anger. My most common move is that right from the beginning of the first contact I tell them that they don’t have to be angry because by the time we are done, they are going to be made happy! Most people believe me or at least calm down enough to listen. Then, generally, I can find a solution that makes all sides happy.
I visited a customer recently who was angry about some peeling floor paint in her basement. She was being entirely unreasonable. While she did not have a receipt, she insisted that she had bought the paint from us and now that it was peeling she wanted it removed and repainted. Despite the fact that I knew from the start that I had NO intentions of writing her a check to have the floor repainted, I started by assuring her that I was going to make her happy, but I needed her a bit calmer if I was going to succeed.
I went through the floor and found the problem—it had been covered with oil or grease of some kind and the paint had no chance to adhere. By clearly showing her the problem and the spot on the label that said “remove all grease and oil” I was able to get a little leverage; what I always look for in any negotiation.
I continued to explain that I was glad she called us and I still wanted to “take care of her.” A little charm and detective work and she was ready to be made happy. I explained to her that she needed two gallons of paint and some degreaser to repair the situation and offered her $20 off per gallon of paint. She was thrilled! I never like selling paint for no profit, but I kept the customer and I’ll get her the next time because she will be back now.
They don’t all go this smoothly; sometimes people can be so unreasonable that you need to just walk away. But generally, if I am willing to give a little to keep a customer, they meet me halfway and I can avoid hearing from them exactly what it is I do that everyone wishes I didn’t!
PPG PAINTS™ unveiled a new Frank Lloyd Wright color palette in celebration of the world-renowned architect’s 150th birthday. Based on a palette developed by the architect in the 1950s, the color collection has been updated by PPG’s color experts in collaboration with the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation.
“The collection consists of a blend of Wright’s carefully selected palette from the 1950s with additional modern colors and coordinating interior stain colors, showcasing how harmonizing the palette is, even many years after its inception,” said Dee Schlotter, PPG senior color marketing manager. “Even the colors chosen more than 60 years ago stand strong today and coordinate with modern textiles and materials—a true testament to Wright’s timeless design sense.”
The palette is full of earthy neutrals that elicit thoughts of lavish greenery, serene bodies of water, and rich woods, and it combines various natural elements known to have inspired Wright during his design years. Rich reds represent the iron-ore present in many of his structures. Organic greens pair with deep browns to depict the never-ending inspiration Wright found in plants and vegetation.
Recognized worldwide as one of the greatest architects of the twentieth century, Wright heralded a new thinking in architecture through his work, using innovation in design and engineering made possible by newly developed technology and materials.
Choosing the Rite Colors
X-Rite Incorporated, and its subsidiary Pantone LLC, announced the launch of Color-Eye®, a solution that brings accurate color measurement to smartphones and e-commerce applications. Color-Eye uses a smartphone and a color calibration card to help consumers shop for new items that match or complement the color of items they have at home. Retail paint companies can integrate Color-Eye into their existing mobile shopping applications, allowing consumers to search, match, and purchase goods with a high degree of color confidence.
X-Rite research shows that consumers lack confidence in purchasing color-critical items online, typically due to past experiences which did not meet expectations and a difficulty in communicating color from home to store. The digital camera technology utilized by most consumers cannot accurately determine an object’s color, which is affected by lighting, glossiness, texture, angle of view, and sensitivity of the camera.
Color-Eye is a slim color calibration card that is used in collaboration with a smartphone application to accurately measure the color of any inspirational item. Color readings are incorporated into a retailer’s mobile shopping application and deliver the consumer a set of matching or coordinating products.
The technology provides a reliable color reading that can communicate with a brand’s or retailer’s e-commerce application and product database to deliver consumers matching or harmonizing products.
Paint Up and Party Down
Independent We Stand stood in DeLand, Florida on June 30 for its America’s Main Streets block party, to celebrate with the winning city, which received $25,000 for civic improvements. The ceremony was the central focus of a larger “Main Streets Make Us Better” block party for the public as a “thank you” for its support in the America’s Main Streets contest. One lucky attendee took home a $1,000 gift certificate from STIHL. The street was closed and lined with American flags provided by the Rotary Club of DeLand. Presenting and supporting sponsors were also recognized.
The MainStreet DeLand Association, formed in 1985, transformed an abandoned district with a more than 50 percent vacancy rate to a thriving downtown area now at near 100 percent capacity. The Association dedicates itself to continued downtown economic development while promoting and preserving DeLand’s historic roots.
The city will use the $25,000 to continue making MainStreet DeLand a destination to enjoy dozens of independent restaurants, galleries and unique shops. The association plans to add music to the downtown experience.
Awards from sponsors included a wireless street speaker system, a website upgrade, $500 in tools and supplies to include a hand truck and office shelving provided by Do It Best Corp., and $500 in paint provided by PPG to potentially assist with anti-graffiti efforts and MainStreet DeLand office renovation.
Houston, We Fixed It
AkzoNobel has completed a $3.5 million expansion of its U.S. research and development facilities in Houston, Texas. Carried out in phases over three years, the investment in the site—which employs around 40 scientists—will support the company’s Protective Coatings, Marine Coatings and Specialty Coatings businesses.
“Our new state-of-the-art research and development facilities in Houston enhance our unique capability to develop and deliver products and innovations with specific performance requirements for North America. Our development capabilities are now second to none,” said Steve Feldman, Vice President for Protective Coatings North America.
Additional capabilities at the facility include a dedicated area for experimental paint making, a modern paint application laboratory, and environmentally controlled drying areas for conditioning of test panels. Enhanced chemical resistance testing equipment is also available to support the Ceilcote and Enviroline lining ranges in North America.
This is where I get a trip to Pittsburgh for a PPG Media Day and you don’t even get the t-shirt, but we did. In fact, we got two to commemorate the Penguins’ fifth Stanley Cup victory. But there has to be a takeaway for dealers in Nashville and all the other 28 hockey cities, not to mention for the retailers out there who don’t know (or care) a puck from a football.
The day started with bagels and coffee, and after getting sufficiently tanked up, we went on a tour of the PPG Harmar Research and Development Labs, on Guys Run Road in the Pittsburgh metro. We didn’t see any guys running on the road, but we did get a good look at how products are tested and developed. One of the most interesting and telling displays was posed as a “trick question.” One of the technicians showed us all-knowing media folks a sample wall of several rollouts and asked us which one we thought was the best quality paint.
Most of us agreed on a couple of the eight or ten samples, wherein the technician smiled and said, “it’s all the same paint, it were just applied with different rollers.” Ohhh! There’s a light bulb! And it goes to show that the applicator does make a difference, even with great paint. It’s a great game to play with customers who don’t want to spend the extra few dollars on a better applicator.
Much of the tour showed us what goes in to R&D in both paint and also in the company’s Liquid Nails line, and what kind of testing a product goes through before it comes to market. The adhesive needs to adhere, the sealant needs to seal, and product performance is analyzed to see how it can be improved from where it is currently.
Plus, they said, there’s some built in margin for error. Our error, in that if a customer doesn’t follow directions exactly, will the product still perform? That can depend on the degree of variance, but as many folks just open and apply and skip that direction-reading part, they told us, they do their best to cover our mistakes!
Speaking in Color
You’ve read many articles here featuring Dee Schlotter, PPG’s senior color marketing manager. We’ve been consulting Dee for a long time, so it was nice to finally meet an industry celebrity! When Dee talks color, she means it. People there say that she “speaks in color” and that’s as accurate as a good tint machine. All those fancy descriptions you read in our articles spring to life when she talks about them live, and you fully understand about the emotions and feelings that color evokes.
She had to bring her descriptive powers to the forefront because the lightbulb in the overhead projector popped out just when she was ready for her presentation, but she was up to the task. While we couldn’t see the colors, we could imagine them, as Schlotter explained how they played on human emotions and why certain colors trend in certain times. How will this help you? Try to read “colorspeak” in a different way. It has some serious meaning, and the more you learn that language, the better you can sell color and question your customers about how it influences them.
Schlotter spoke about Black Flame, PPG’s 2018 color of the year, pictured above. It might be an odd choice; even some folks at PPG were curious as to how it got top honors. Upon further introspection, most everyone agrees this is the right call.
“Black Flame acts like a black curtain, allowing your other décor elements to take center stage,” Schlotter describes. “It’s a fantastic blend of black and indigo, two classic hues. Black creates the silence we crave in an information-heavy world, while the indigo offers possibility and a deep hopefulness. The blend of two colors makes it incredibly versatile—use it on a statement wall, with a matte finish on a ceiling, with high gloss on a naturally-lit staircase, on cabinets, interior and exterior doors, and in many more places. The versatile hue can also provide strength and a modern luxe vibe to spaces with a lot of whites, blush pinks and soft pastels.”
She paused for questions, and when nobody said anything I spoke up. “Why is the Color of the Year coming out earlier and earlier?” One reason is to help folks like you, along with color experts and designers, who want to know as soon as possible, she explained, so you can get a head start in marketing and display.
Trotting out Trottier
Speaking of Stanley Cups, after the lab visit we went on a tour of the PPG Paints Arena. PPG is the official paint supplier of the Penguins as well as the official paint of the National Hockey League. A surprise guest was NHL star Bryan Trottier, who won four Cups with the New York Islanders and two with the Penguins. He passed around four of his six Stanley Cup rings and spoke in the most humble fashion about his experiences growing up and as a six time champion. It was exciting to hear him talk about being part of something that many of us followed so closely in the ’80s and ’90s.
He’s got nothing to prove—he proved it six times over—so is there a takeaway? Perhaps it’s “let your accomplishments speak for themselves.” There might be a fine line between acknowledging accomplishments and bragging about them, and every supplier and paint retailer has walked it at one time or other. Trottier gave a perfect example, and for a few moments we got to share in the experience of what it felt like to win a national championship.
That is the message/alert I have been waking up to on my phone here in St. Louis for the last few weeks. Welcome to the hot summer months! As hot as Phoenix? Nope, planes are still taking off and landing in STL. Hot enough to fry an egg on concrete? Yup, but my bacon is taking forever to crisp up! To quote the late great Robin Williams character Adrian Cronauer and his “salty” character voice, Roosevelt, from the movie Good Morning Vietnam:
Adrian: Roosevelt, what’s the weather like out there?
Roosevelt: It’s HOT! Damn Hot! Real Hot! It’s so hot in my shorts I could cook things in it! Do a little crotch pot cooking!
Adrian: Can you tell me what it feels like?
Roosevelt: “FOOL! It’s HOT I told you again! Was you born on the Sun? IT’S DAMN HOT! It’s so damn hot I saw a little guy dressed in an orange robe burst into flames, it’s THAT hot, you know what I’m talking about?
Adrian: What do you think it’s going to be like tonight?
Roosevelt: It’s gonna be HOT and WET! That’s nice if you are with your lady, but it ain’t no good if you’re in the jungle!
Adrian: Thank you Roosevelt.
Stating the obvious, much of the U.S. is sweltering from the summer heat. The closer you are to the big cities, the hotter it is because of the heat island effect: all that concrete and glass soaking up and radiating the heat back and kicking numbers up even higher. Today in STL it will be 102° with a 110° Heat Index, and that is NOT a recipe for successful outdoor painting projects…yet.
I still drive by crews painting outdoors…in the direct sun in this weather…and it makes my blood boil! Oh wait, maybe it’s the heat that has me boiling…nope, it’s the painting. Good contractors know when the temp climbs too high that paint will not adhere well, and could boil and bubble and all sorts of trouble! Morning hours and shady areas are the best times and places to paint in this weather.
As a store owner, do you do or sell anything that helps your customers beat the heat during these sweltering months? Do you sell Cool Towels, those small, nylon towels you get wet, snap a few times, and wrap around your neck? They are cheap to buy in bulk, and easy to sell at the counter. Cool Towels are also available as bandanas, they’re a great little add-on and they really do work! Do you have a big ice chest full of ice cold Gatorade, G2, Powerade or even water for sale or for free to your customers? Do you offer vending machines with cold drinks?
If you sell painters wear or shirts in your store, think about stocking water wicking fabric shirts that wick away sweat and water from your body, dry quickly, and offer superior cooling properties versus basic cotton tees, shirts, and pants.
Everybody is trying to beat the heat any way they can, and hopefully you can offer something to your customers that will be of help to them beyond the typical paint and sundries.
July is also a hot month for us to at Mug Pub Inc. The Paint Contractor is celebrating its 10th anniversary this month, so please check it out for the great stories, important ads, and hot deals you will find! TPC reaches tens of thousands of pro painters every single month, and for the most part, we are directing them to your independent stores for their product purchases. Be sure you offer your customers cool savings and cool products when the temps are blistering your neck of the woods.