“Fight the ease of looking at a full line and dig into the pieces of a line, too.”
There are telltale signs all around my house that my daughter is home for the summer: the container of mixed nuts is nothing more than a half container of almonds, the sausage and peppers leftovers are just peppers, and my wallet has nothing in it but fives and tens. Let’s just say that these days, when you feel like munching on some party mix in our house, it’s best to open a fresh bag!
I have learned to live with my daughter’s cherry picking. It’s only really annoying when I want a cashew, a piece of sausage, or need to spend more than $19! In this house, like in most, I’m sure, my daughter always got first dibs and generally speaking…the rules on sharing didn’t apply to her. So I guess I understand why she feels it’s OK to eat all the chicken out of the leftover chicken and broccoli.
But there is a lesson from her here—and now my daughter is not the only Lipton who has made cherry picking an art form!
Manufacturers and their reps are always trying to sell full programs to dealers. I get it. They invest a lot of money in developing complete lines or systems and they want a return on that investment. By necessity though, these programs can be fairly large because they want to appeal to a wide range of dealers and end users. But that doesn’t mean large programs appeal to me!
I used to be inclined to take on full lines. When I was younger it felt better for some reason to say, “We stock the full line of X.” Looking back, I can’t say I know why I felt that way. I would look at a line and if the overall line was turning, I stocked it all without a deeper dive into the details. As I’ve gotten older (and more experienced) though, I have become more like my daughter: take what I want and leave the rest.
Measuring turns is crucial for a retailer. But fight the ease of looking at a full line and dig into the pieces of a line, too. You may find that you have a lot of items collecting dust. That dust can be turned into dollars and invested in either more products or more inventory in what is really turning. Or even better yet, you can put it in your pocket.
For years, we used to keep the same selection of brushes and rollers in both stores; despite the fact that each store has a different customer demographic. When we were doing inventory recently I noticed that one store sold next to no seven-inch rollers. I had always looked at my rollers and saw them as a line: and it was turning well. But a deeper dive showed me that that was because my 9 x 3/8 lintless roller, and a few others, was turning 100X a year! When I looked at the items individually, there were some real dogs. It struck me as odd not to stock the seven-inch rollers anymore: they are part of a whole line, I felt. But I opened up a few feet of space by dropping them, and that made room for more specialized tapes which are doing much better than the seven-inch rollers were.
When you have more than one store, it’s easier to buy “programs” rather than be a cherry picker—but it costs you. Now, I’ve empowered my stores to know what they sell and feel free to drop what they don’t. We no longer sell all the colors on the floor paint charts, we skip sizes in brushes where the sales track record said “we don’t need this” and in turn I’m making space for new items. For years we stocked low-end sprayers to compete with Home Depot, but you know what? People go to Home Depot for them, and not to me. So we dropped them and with that space I added a line of dustless sanders. We’ve sold more sanders in two months than we sold sprayers in several years.
It takes a lot of nerve to eat the cream out of the Oreos and put the cookies back (eeewww), so I doubt any of us will ever be as good a cherry picker as my daughter. But still she teaches a good lesson: take what you want and leave the rest for someone else.
Customize! Realize! Revitalize! Fool your eyes (because that’s what faux is supposed to do)! Sure, white walls are useful in plenty of instances, but homeowners, condo dwellers, restaurants, coffee shops, and maybe even the Department of Motor Vehicles often want something unique and memorable. They want that decorated wall that keeps customers coming back, and better yet, coming to you to get materials so they can put their own take on that great look they saw at Aunt Martha’s Halloween Party or at Grounds A-Poppin’ Coffee & Poetry. Here are some decorative coatings you can carry that not only set you apart from your competition, but set your customers apart from each other!
[re]design with Prima
[re]design lets even the “I can’t do that” customer…do that! It’s a collection of high quality home decorating tools and it allows unskilled crafters to accomplish skillful jobs, they tell us. “With these tools, anyone can repurpose their home through any of the hundreds of stencils and moulds that have been predesigned and are ready for customer use,” said Cari Fennell, Home Décor Coordinator with Prima Marketing. “[re]design with Prima is a collection under our main brand, Prima Marketing Inc., which consists of high quality tools for any DIYer interested in repurposing or creating home décor projects to spruce up their living spaces with style—and it’s easy!”
“Easy” is a key word with this brand and will help you move some product—easy! “Our collection gives you the ability to be creative and add beautiful character to your projects…with ease,” said Cari. “What makes it so great is that anyone can use our products, from the beginner to advanced, and achieve a professional look.”
Dress Up Your Wood
You can best display these products by setting them up in such a way as to highlight their cohesiveness, Fennell told us. “Putting everything together in one spot along with samples will tell the customer a story. The sample can show how to use a stencil and add our mould appliques to dress up an ordinary cabinet door or plank of wood.”
Demonstrations can include that ordinary “undressed” cabinet or plank of wood side by side with an “accessorized” twin, to clearly show the customer what they can expect from the product. Plus, adds Fennell, it’ll make it easier for you to sell it once they see just how (here it comes again…) easy it is to use.
She also suggests merchandising it next to other decorative products to make the shopping process more convenient and transparent. That way customers can see all their options—and you can sell more sundries. “Our home decor tools can be used with a variety of products that you already carry, such as paints, glues, paint tools, and more,” said Fennell. “They all go hand in hand. This is where sample boards come in handy because you can show how the other sundries you carry can be used along with the [re]design tools and promote all that you offer. Your customers will appreciate all of the information so that they can go out and make the projects successfully in a one stop shop scenario.”
But wait…is there more? Of course! In addition to walls, [re]design can be used to [re]purpose old furniture and household items. “The sky is the limit on what you can transform to customize your space,” said Fennell. “Our tools can help repurpose old furniture, add decor to your walls, spruce up cabinets, and give your accessories a bit of character.”
If you see a customer hovering over your [re]design display, start asking questions. That will help you help them decide what products in the line will serve them best. “We recommend asking customers where they plan to use the products or what kind of project they are working on. This is great way to open up the conversation and see if they need additional materials or guidance so that they will be successful in accomplishing their project goals.”
Golden Paintworks: Living in Style
Lifestyle Finishes, from Golden Paintworks, offers a convenient way for both DIYers and pro painters to expand their range of finishes, and the company has a wealth of experience behind developing the line. “Golden Paintworks Lifestyle Finishes™ and Golden Pro Finishes are a culmination of more than a decade of manufacturing, research, and servicing the professional decorative painter through studio/training centers, re-imagined for the paint retailer,” said Jim Rogers, the company’s newly appointed director of Paintworks Branded Products. Jim is well known and respected in the faux world, with over 40 years in the biz, so if he’s moving to a new company it certainly says something about his faith in the quality and sales potential of this product line.
The collection includes metallic paints, metallic textures, glazes, clear topcoats, and an array of trowel-applied textures and plasters that can reflect any personal taste from Old World to Modern Chic. “All of the products come in bases that can be tinted in-store to a wide range of colors,” Rogers said. “This allows you to service a wide range of design tastes from a very small retail footprint. You can offer categories such as metallic paints and metallic plasters without the heavy commitment of inventorying several pre-mixed colors. For example,” he continued, “our textures and plasters can be tinted to match Benjamin Moore colors and offered as a ‘feature wall’ option to compliment any decor. Another line from our company, Golden Pro Finishes, consists of traditional faux and decorative products that include glazes, tinting dispersions, slow dry fluid acrylic colors, and clear topcoats.”
Display Your Lifestyle
Lifestyle Finishes planograms come with a header card, printed brochures, and a flip chart unit which offers a display of every product in both its natural and tinted state. Application tools are also provided, including Pavan decorative trowels for broad-wall application and small blue-steel blades for detail areas. “Our modular approach to displaying Golden Paintworks products allows you to tailor the line to your customers, be it enthusiastic amateurs or professional decorative painters,” Rogers added.
Faux finishing has been around awhile, so you already have a built-in society ready to roll (or trowel). “Our market is a mature one, so smaller POP displays work well and allow premium shelf space to be utilized for stocking products for resale,” said Rogers. But if you do need help, give a call. “Golden Paintworks offers in-store dealer/customer training by our experienced, professional staff.”
Retique It from Renaissance Furniture Paint
If only you had wood cabinets, the kitchen would be perfect. If only you could afford wood cabinets! “If only” can be right there in your faux products display, thanks to a stainable liquid wood in a can called Retique It, from Renaissance Furniture Paint. And like our other products in this article it’s… (all together now) easy!
The company’s CEO Michelle Corwin introduced us to the concept. “Just paint it, then stain it for a new wood finish,” she said. “Retique it looks and feels like real wood because it is real wood. It is a patented revolutionary new product which makes virtually any hard surface stainable without having to strip off the old finish. It’s a game changer for furniture and house flippers alike—it saves time and money!” And it saves some prep steps, she adds. “Retique It Liquid Wood is the perfect companion to chalk paint because it eliminates the need for sanding and stripping as well, and gives you a high end wood look and feel.”
How easy it is? Three steps: paint it, stain it, seal it. It can also be used in a paint sprayer, said Corwin.
With the right display, you should be able to get your customers’ attention pretty quick. “We have banners and a floor display rack,” said Michelle, “and we also recommend having a video in the store for customers to see.”
Of course! Our question was “what questions do you get?” Here’s her answer, and her questions:
Q. Is Retique It Liquid Wood a paint?
A. No, it is actually a liquid wood coating that is applied just like paint. It comes in a paint can, and in September will also come in a spray can! When it dries, it gives you an unfinished wood surface without heavy sanding or stripping off the old surface layers.
Q. How many shades are there, and which should I use?
A. We have Bleached Wood, Light Wood, Dark Wood, Gray Wood, and Golden Pine. Light wood is the most versatile. Bleached Wood works great with gray stains as well as stains when you don’t want a warm undertone. Dark Wood is great with dark cherry, mahogany or with a graining tool layered over a lighter color of Retique It. Gray Wood is also used for a dark charcoal grain…perfect for duplicating the tiger oak or various heavy grained woods. Golden Pine gives a golden undertone, which works great with most stain colors other than gray.
Q. Does it work with any brand of stain?
A. Yes…just make sure to follow the directions on the can of stain!
Q. What kind of topcoat should I use?
A. Use the appropriate sealer you would for any wood finish, i.e. flooring needs a flooring sealer; furniture and cabinets need a sealer like a polyacrylic or polyurethane. We offer a Retique It polyacrylic as well.
Q. Do I have to use a graining tool to achieve a wood grain?
A. No, you can just apply Retique It Liquid Wood and let it dry for two hours, then apply stain in long even strokes. This will leave a subtle contemporary wood finish. The graining tool will come in handy for a heavy rustic grain or a tiger oak.
Q. Where can I see a demonstration?
A. Check out www.RetiqueIt.tv (We have a graining tool video tutorial there.)
Q. How much does a pint cover?
A. 50 to 80 square feet; about two medium-sized pieces of furniture. A gallon will do an entire kitchen.
Q. How many coats do I need to apply prior to staining?
A. Just one coat will do, but you can apply more if you wish.
Q. Does it work for exterior use?
A. Not yet, but in September we will release a spray can version that will work on exterior surfaces and dry within 30 minutes. Stay tuned!
“You must commit to getting five star reviews every time. Four stars is pretty good, but COMMIT to getting five!”
If you were given just one way to market to your customers, what would it be? Flyers? Newspaper ads? Google adwords? TV, radio, social media? If I only had one option, I would not pick any of those. They are good options—but not if I could pick only one.
A good marketing tactic has to be effective. It has to be inexpensive. It has to affect a lot of people, and it has to work 24/7—you don’t want it going in the trash five minutes after they see it like a newspaper ad or a flyer.
There is a tactic that fits these criteria. When I tell business owners about it, they are waiting for some magical secret that almost no one else has heard of. I sometimes hear, “Oh, that…” from them. However, I am shocked at the number of business owners that don’t milk this tactic for all it’s worth. That said, let me explain the power of this gold nugget.
The tactic I am referring to is…ta daa!…online reviews. Before you roll your eyes or think you are maximizing their effectiveness, consider the following: how often have you searched for something online and used reviews to sway your decision to buy—or not? I do it often. If the business or product I am considering has a great set of reviews, and lots of them, that will usually be the tipping point of me saying “yes” to that business. On the other hand, if they don’t have many reviews or if their reviews are mediocre, I will probably not do business with them. I will look for a business with more and better reviews.
Think of it like this: if you have a lot of reviews that are good, and more and more keep piling up, you have a small army of enthusiastic people telling their friends, acquaintances, and strangers how wonderful it is to do business with you. This army works for you 24/7 without fail. You already know how powerful word-of-mouth is. This is word-of-mouth on steroids. It’s free. (Thank you, Google!) It never goes away. It also has another powerful benefit you might not know about. I’ll explain that shortly.
Time to Review your Reviews
Are you on top of your online reviews? Do you know what your competitors’ reviews look like? Are they beating you by a mile or is it the other way around? I dare you to check yours now and compare it to competitors. Knowing what you know now, you will either be frightened, excited, or both.
If your reviews are mediocre, it is time to step up. You have not delivered what your customers expected and you therefore did not meet your own expectations. You must commit to getting five-star reviews every time. Anything less is unacceptable. Four-stars is pretty good, but commit to getting five.
You see, no matter what you do, you will get bad reviews. They come from competitors trying to hurt you, bad apple customers who want their 15 minutes of fame, or even from a good customer you inadvertently rubbed the wrong way The good news is that fraudulent competitor reviews and bad apple consumers aren’t occurring all the time, and while there are proven ways to deal with these, the best policy is committing to getting five-star reviews. Unfortunately, every negative review you get takes at least ten or more positive reviews to offset it. As customers see your overall rating, they can tell instantly if they should do business with you or your competitor. That is both a frightening and exciting thought— it depends on your online rating.
I urge you to set up a system to constantly get customers reviewing your business online. This means that every customer that comes in should be reviewing you. Set up a computer in the store specifically for that purpose. Some will use it to review you, some won’t. Some will use their cell phones to do it, some won’t. Your task is to keep hammering away and keep asking because that is what people will be looking at online.
Keep Five Alive
“I urge you to set up a system to get customers reviewing your business.”
Here is a caveat. You obviously do not want a customer leaving you a bad review. If you ask the customer to leave a review and it’s not at least four-stars, you do not want that exposed to the online world. There are ways to prevent that, including automated systems to handle all this for you behind the scenes.
Some of these systems can even divert a bad review from showing, however, Google recently changed its terms and basically said, “Thou shalt not gate reviews.” This means you are not allowed to keep bad reviews from showing, which Google calls “review gating.” There are those who do it anyway, thinking Google is none the wiser, and those who believe opposite. What would happen if Google figured out you were diverting negative reviews? No one seems to know just yet, but I suspect they will remove many, most or all your good reviews. Wouldn’t that be a shocker!
What I urge you to do is ask the customer in the middle of the sale how they would rate you? If you get an answer of five stars, then be proactive and get their online opinion before they leave. That doesn’t violate Google’s terms and even if it did, they could not possibly know about it.
Earlier, I mentioned there is an extra big benefit to getting lots of good reviews besides the powerful word-of-mouth that comes from it. You see, Google likes to show positive information over non-positive information because people are looking for positive information. The more positive information there is about you, the more visible Google will make you.
This means, all things equal, you will be seen more on the internet than competitors, which translates into more sales. This is yet another great reason to commit to five-star reviews. If your reviews are not as good as your competitors, they have a significant advantage over you as far as the internet goes. Don’t let them. Take charge of your online reputation and create an army of enthusiastic customers who will happily tell the world to do business with you!
Andy Curry, the Cheap-Marketing Champion, is a small business marketing specialist, app developer and entrepreneur. He believes in inexpensive but effective marketing and getting a big bang for your marketing buck. Andy has owned and operated a True Value Hardware store for many years, and has in-the-trenches, first-hand knowledge of the pitfalls of marketing and the best use of advertising dollars.
Just like any industry, issues come and go. Paint companies that were allergic to low VOC regulations found in many instances that following those regs resulted in a superior product. Other issues, like developing paint that works in colder temperatures, took off and now they’re largely taken for granted. The use of strippers with methylene chloride has dogged the industry for quite some time— both “back then” and “still now,” with experts and woodworkers taking strong positions for or against it. An alternative stripping chemical, n-methyl-pyrrolidone (NMP), isn’t faring much better.
Paint stripper has long been a contentious issue in this industry, if the decibel level of many conversations we’ve had is any indication. The people we consulted, all well-respected experts in the field, have very different opinions on the topic and we’re happy to present them all.
Because the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it is about to issue a rule on methylene chloride, and no one’s sure what it’s going to say. The Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, which amended the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), requires EPA to perform risk evaluations on the uses of ten specific chemicals including methylene chloride. EPA is nearing the completion of Problem Formulations for the first ten chemicals.
Here is a timeline of EPA’s recent work on methylene chloride:
• In 2014, EPA addressed the paint stripping uses in its risk assessment.
• In January 2017, EPA proposed prohibiting the consumer and commercial paint stripping uses for methylene chloride.
• In June 2017, EPA announced that it will not re-evaluate the paint stripping uses of methylene chloride.
Based on this work, EPA is announcing three updates:
• EPA intends to finalize the methylene chloride rulemaking.
• EPA is not re-evaluating the paint stripping uses of methylene chloride and is relying on its previous risk assessments.
• EPA is working to send the finalized rulemaking to Office of Management and Budget shortly.
The EPA states it is working diligently to implement the new law get the most modern and safe chemicals to market, and to ensure the safety of existing chemicals.
Our panel of experts includes Bob Flexner, a writer on woodworking and wood finishing; Ed Drazga, president of Chemique; and Mark Monique, president of Savogran.
Bob Flexner Says Keep It
Long-time readers may remember Bob Flexner (photo below) as a writer of a wood refinishing column in our pages years ago, for which we thank him profusely, and he’s still very active in the woodworking industry. Back in the day Bob could rattle some folks with his opinions about products and procedures, and he’s showing no sign of slowing down. Flexner gave us a bit of history on the chemical, noting that it was developed by a chap with the perhaps-you’ve-heard-of-him name of W.M. Barr in 1946. “It quickly took off in the marketplace because it was a huge advance over the existing paint strippers, which were highly flammable,” he said. “This advance was probably the single biggest ever made.” With that development, Barr started the Memphis, Tennessee company that still bears his name and now provides us brands such as Klean-Strip and Armorall.
“Methylene chloride is also an exempt VOC, so it is more environmentally friendly than the flammable solvents,” Flexner continued, “but this was not an issue in 1946.”
First Off, Fast and Furious
The product works quickly, but when used without sufficient ventilation, it can be quite the health hazard. Hence, the EPA has spent the last three or so decades trying to decide if and when the substance needs to be banned. In the meantime, of course, many manufactures have made safer and friendlier—but slower acting—strippers to use in its stead.
Flexner has written and blogged extensively on this topic and allowed us to share some of his thoughts in this article. “Until recently,” he said, “the main argument has been that it causes cancer. The problem with this argument is that all the evidence indicates otherwise. So it appears that now the argument has been expanded to include how many deaths the solvent has caused due to acute exposure.”
This can be a problem: acute exposure happens with this chemical because methylene chloride metabolizes to carbon monoxide in the blood stream, replacing oxygen, which can lead to a heart attack, especially in people with a pre-existing heart condition.
“The number of deaths reported is between 40 and 50 since 1975 or 1980 depending on the source,” said Flexner. “That’s less than 2 a year. Say that again, less than two a year!” Not to make light of anyone’s tragedy, but most of the time he noted, it’s due to people using the product in a closed environment, where concentrates of the chemical build up to toxic levels.
While many folks have taken a position against continued use and sale of the product, Flexner is opposed to phasing it out. As a long time woodworker, he wants products that work, and he wants products that work safely, and he feels methylene chloride can be used safely when people follow the directions. “I don’t want to be accused of minimizing anyone’s death, but are two a year enough to justify removing this extremely effective solvent from the marketplace?” he asks. “Strippers based on methylene chloride are by far the fastest acting and strongest we have available, and their substitutes all have problems. The question about banning any product always comes down to weighing the benefits against the harmful effects. I don’t think these harmful effects justify the ban in this case.”
Three To Get Ready
In the meantime, three large retail chain stores— Lowes, Home Depot, and Sherwin-Williams—have announced their intention to remove strippers containing both methylene chloride and n-methyl pyrrolidone (NMP) from their stores. “Apparently, the lobbying groups that have been most up front in pressuring these companies to this action have been effective,” Flexner surmises. “They are Safer Chemicals Healthy Families, which claims to be a coalition of 450 organizations comprising 11 million members; the Resources Defense Council, and Mind the Store.”
But Bob, tell us how you really feel. “I want to point out how absurd I think this announcement is of Lowes, Home Depot and Sherwin-Williams.” That’s how he really feels. “All three sell ladders. Three hundred people are killed each year from ladder falls. 164,000 go to emergency rooms. One-and-half people die each year from acute exposure to methylene chloride, most while stripping a bathtub with poor ventilation and their heads stuck down inside the tub. Methylene chloride is heavier than air, so the solvent collects in these tubs.
“Eliminating methylene chloride and NMP strippers will leave the flammable strippers as the only effective alternative,” he continued. “There are a few others, which contain a lot of water, are very slow, and won’t work on high-performance coatings.” For now, he is urging independent paint stores to continue to carry the products. It’s very possible the EPA will ban them, but until then, it’s up to you. “Independent stores are not likely to bow to pressure from the lobbying groups,” he said.
The Perspective from Chemique
Ed Drazga is the president of Chemique, which has been in the chemical products manufacturing business for over 45 years. It produces products for other trades along with paint, for example plumbing, and makes several lines of stone and wood care products.
Drazga is happy to hear that some larger retailers are taking it off their shelves, and he’s ready to turn dealers, woodworkers, and consumers onto safer alternatives such as those available from Chemique. “It’s a good move for consumers, retailers, and manufacturers like us that have already moved away from MC,” he said. “Eliminating access to consumers—at this level of distribution—will greatly reduce consumer exposure. At the end of the year, when Home Depot, Lowe’s and Sherwin-Williams are no longer carrying MC containing removers, there will still be many retail locations that carry it, but eliminating it from the three biggest chains is a great start.”
Drazga adds that if people don’t have the option to buy it readily available, they might just open their minds more towards safer strippers. “Eliminating MC containing removers will open the door further for safer removers and show consumers that safer products work well too—and they don’t come with the skull and crossbones. Not only are these retailers looking out for their customers,” he said, “but they are also eliminating potential lawsuits that could be brought against them.”
He adds the chemical is still prevalent in other industries. “According to EPA statistics,” he reported, “only 25% of yearly methylene chloride usage goes toward paint and coating removal products.
Even with the elimination of removers that contain MC, there’s still a huge requirement for industrial applications.”
Mark Monique says Learn Your Chemistry
Mark Monique, president of Savogran, has been involved in this issue for quite some time, and his company is trying to work with the EPA to find ways to keep the chemical available while warning people of its dangers and educating them on how to use it properly.
For now, he’s waiting to see what the EPA decides to do. “The EPA proposed the ban in the final days of the Obama administration, but by December 2017, the agency had relegated the rule to its list of ‘long-term actions,’ giving no indication about when the rule would be finalized,” he said, noting that now the EPA has changed its mind and is ready to issue a final rule. Until it’s finalized and published in the Federal Register, however, no one will know exactly what’s in it or when it will go into force.
“We have requested a reasonable implementation timeline,” said Monique. “As an industry group, we asked EPA to consider the enhanced labeling that was recently approved by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) in the new rule as a mitigation against improper use. In May we received the first load of cans from our supplier with the enhanced labeling, which includes a pictogram stating the product is not to be used for stripping bath tubs and including strong language not to use the product in enclosed spaces.”
There are times, he notes, where methylene chloride is clearly the best choice, and that there is nothing comparable to replace it at this time. “There will be many instances were professionals will not be able to use the flammable alternatives or the green products because of efficiency,” he said. “In that regard, we asked the EPA to consider an on-line training course be developed in the short term which would train users of MC-based paint strippers in their safe and effective use. After completing the on-line training course, and successfully passing an examination to prove competence, a certificate would be issued and the person buying the product would present it at the point of sale to authorize its purchase.” A similar plan was adopted in United Kingdom, which had banned the substance, but then recanted to allow professionals access to the products.
All that said, however, Savogran will have alternatives at the ready in just a few weeks. “We will be rolling out our methylene chloride (DCM) free line of paint removal products no later than September 1st,” said Mark.
It’s no surprise that customers who depend on this product aren’t excited about this potential proclamation. “Our end users, particularly the professionals, are very troubled that the traditional methylene chloride formulated products might go away,” said Monique. It’s not an environmental issue, for example like VOCs, as Monique related that the EPA proposed regulation states potential environmental impacts are judged to be low.
Still, he’s got to develop products that will work in the face of a possible ban. The challenge is speed—alternative strippers have never worked as fast as MC. “We can successfully reformulate the products with lower weight percentages of methylene chloride,” he said. “The challenge is reformulating the higher weight percentage products, as methylene chloride is so effective, nonflammable and VOC exempt.”
He advises independent dealers to wait until a final ruling is published, but on the other hand, be ready to react. “Although no action is required at this time as we will not know the full impact of the regulation until it is published in the Federal Register, dealers should begin looking at the alternatives. We have products available with similar characteristics and functionality to the methylene chloride formulated products.”
Buying local has become a huge deal. Grocery chains have special displays of local meat and produce, restaurants specialize in “farm to table,” you can get beer from a microbrew down the road, and on a national level the same goes with a growing number of USA-made paints and sundries. The combination of buying domestically manufactured products at a local dealer can make for a very special shopping trip! As Made in USA products are gaining ground, Made in USA labels (and hopefully those labels are made in USA) are getting bigger, sometimes bigger than the product name itself. These manufactures don’t want to miss the customer that values home grown tools.
The concept has come to represent more than a label and a product on a shelf—it’s become a rally point and even a fix-it point, in that many of the issues plaguing workers and communities in this country can look to a better future because of pride in that label. People are willing to pay more for it, and it might even be that opportunity to get price shoppers to include more factors than just dollars and cents in their decision-making process.
This combo of a local business selling products Made in the USA is a double whammy that can work to your advantage while helping the community where you live—along with the community where the product is made. This article explores how and why a few companies make their products in this country, and the positive impact this has on its dealers, employees, and also its
The Wooster Brush Company, Wooster, Ohio
“Manufacturing our tools just rooms away from our shipping department means those tools find their way into painters’ hands sooner.”
The Wooster Brush Company has been manufacturing in the USA since its founding in 1851; the city itself dates from 1808. There’s been a lot of history since, of course. Tim Yates, the company’s Communications and Multimedia Manager, points to a recent change in the importance of manufacturing and selling domestic product, especially since the economic downturn a decade back. One thing that just about everyone agrees on in this country—2008 was problematic.
“Making tools in the USA is certainly more important now than it was 20 years ago,” said Yates. “The financial crisis that began in 2008 placed companies who weren’t manufacturing their goods domestically under a microscope.” Buying USA products during those hard times made people feel they were helping their own. “During that downturn, many painters voiced to us that by purchasing an American-made Wooster tool, they knew they were helping other Americans turn around our own financial crisis. As a fitting example, The Wooster Brush Company’s American Contractor® line of roller covers launched during that period has experienced great success as a value-based, made-in-America paint applicator.”
What, No Airport Meals?
No doubt you can make quality products almost anywhere in the world, but if your company is based in this country, it’s harder to maintain oversight when it takes 27 hours and three airports just to get to your city of manufacture. “Domestic manufacturing allows us to control and/or improve the quality of a product at every level from start to finish,” Tim noted, adding that many of the elements that become parts of finished products are also made on site. “Ferrules are produced and inspected rooms away from where brushes will be assembled. Roller cores are made, plastics are molded, trays are stamped out of metal, and even product packaging artwork is created and printed all under Wooster’s roof in Wooster, Ohio,” he said.
This all makes it faster to get to market. No shipping containers to unload, no waiting at port for the latest painting tool. “Manufacturing our tools just rooms away from our shipping department means those tools find their way into painters’ hands sooner,” said Yates.
Yates believes that being a national company in a small town is a big plus, both for Wooster Brush itself and the city of Wooster, Ohio. It’s a big part of the city’s identity, and it puts a lot of people to work. “Much like our company, the city of Wooster continues to grow,” said Yates. “In 2016, the population of our namesake city was a little over 27,000. The Wooster Brush Company’s 600+ employees account for approximately 2% of the local population. Within and beyond our community, the company is viewed as a great employer for people wanting stable employment that can help support area families.” And it is known for keeping people around. “Wooster Brush recently had a 17th employee hit his 50-years of service milestone and the company also hasn’t issued any employee layoffs in 65 years. Wooster Brush is also very involved with city initiatives and area schools,” he concluded.
Occasionally, however, overseas products make sense, and after all we do live here as part of a whole wide world. We can complain that a trip from New York to Hawaii takes a whole day, but in the 19th Century, it could take months, so the world is in many ways smaller than before. “Some customers wish to stock import-level product for maintenance-level painting projects. To stay competitive with products at that cost/quality level, the company produces and/or purchases some tools overseas,” said Yates.
Bringin’ it Home
This is all well and good, but what’s weller and gooder is when it helps your store’s economy too. As pride in home made products grows, it makes more sense to feature them prominently. “Our sales force regularly reports back from visits with store personnel and painters in the field on how they are grateful to have made-in-America tools that provide quality results,” said Yates. “We also hear from stores and painters who went the other way and purchased tools made overseas to save money and then weren’t as satisfied as they’d hoped they’d be.”
While most people see 2008 as a turning point in their lives and economies, it turned people on to the importance of Made in the USA products, even if they cost a bit more. Now a decade later, the concept is still growing in popularity, so let people know you’ve got ’em! “Don’t be afraid to lean into this idea—make a red, white, and blue endcap featuring your location’s favorite Made in USA tools,” Tim urges. “Some of our salesmen have made American flag tags that attach to a peg hook’s scan tag area—this helps customers realize immediately which items in a store are made domestically.” woosterbrush.com
Armstrong-Clark Company, Sonora, California
“People are starting to understand that being made in the USA may cost a little more, but it supports jobs in our towns and cities.”
Armstrong-Clark makes exterior wood stains, and as a coatings manufacturer, producing it here isn’t unusual. But company president Brian Carter believes that there’s a lot more to come out of it than just “making it here.” There’s a sense of community that radiates out from there, and that kind of emotion can carry a long way these days, and quickly. “I think some of why people are looking more at Made in the USA is they are starting to realize the impact that buying non-USA manufactured goods is having on their community,” said Carter. “Twenty or thirty years ago manufacturing was just really starting to move out of the country. As this happened in dribs and drabs, most people didn’t pay much attention when a factory in some other community went south or overseas.”
This slow drip had a big impact, and just like that small unattended faucet drip can turn into a big plumbing problem, many individuals and communities didn’t discern the damage and face the consequences until it was too late.
“People are starting to understand that being made in the USA may cost a little more, but it supports jobs in our towns and cities,” Carter continues. “The incomes from those jobs is used to buy goods in our communities which further perpetuates jobs and tax revenues that we benefit from.” Now, in times of an economic resurgence, Carter notes that many people have money to spend on a quality product rather than getting the cheapest thing they can—which in times of financial hardship might not always be choice as much as necessity. “Products made in the USA have a long-standing history of quality,” he said.
You have a nod on top of all this, because as an independent retailer, you’re that local business selling those domestic products. What’s to lose? Carter himself will give that nod to buying from a locally owned business first, if given a choice. Even if (gasp!) it costs a bit more! “I know that when I buy from them, they are keeping that money here in my community to give jobs to neighbors who purchase from stores throughout our town. This really is important to us,” he said. “If I buy from a large store that profit is going somewhere else.”
There’s no You-S-A Without “You”.
While it’s not surprising that Armstrong-Clark’s product is Made in the USA, there is still a lot of “small and local” that affects his company’s growth, perhaps even your decision to consider stocking products such as this. “There are two major dynamics that are driving our growth that are indirectly a result of the bigger global picture,” said Carter.” The first is that we are still a family owned business. We don’t have stockholders to keep happy and so we don’t have to make decisions on how to continually manufacture a high-quality product based on what our stock price is. We don’t have layers of management that muddy the decision-making process. If our customers call us we answer the phone. We don’t have automated voice menus to surf through to get an answer to a question. Customers love that they can talk to real people, here in the USA. You cannot get that kind of service with a large global company.”
Next is where you come in, because this product is sold through independent paint and hardware stores. “In general I think people have learned that if they want a correct answer, with insight and understanding, they need to speak to someone who knows what they are talking about. I think the smaller independent stores are more successful because they are independently owned and therefore have less turnover, at least at a managerial level, than big box stores and global brands,” said Carter.
“I also think independents are more tied into their communities,” he continued. “How does the local store of a global company get involved in a community when the regional manager or director lives two states away and he is taking direction from someone in an office on the other side of the country? Yes the big companies donate materials and money to the local community, but I don’t know that the people in that community have the personal connection they have with the independent store owner or manager that donates as well.” armclark.com
Warner Tool, Plymouth, Minnesota
“Warner’s emphasis on domestic manufacturing allows us to be more responsive and less vulnerable to these fluctuations.”
People are watching, notes Keith Herwig, CEO at Warner Tool. Some of it’s emotional, some of it’s quality control, some of it’s definitely politics, but there are definitely some eyes out looking for a flag on the label. Herwig, whose company makes its tools stateside whenever it can, tells us he’s seen an increased importance put on domestically made products. According to Perception Research Services, he quotes that four out of five shoppers notice ‘Made in the U.S.A.’ claims on packaging, and 76% of those shoppers claim that they are more likely to purchase a product after noticing the ‘Made in the U.S.A’ claim.
Both contactors and end consumers have expressed a greater desire to purchase products made in America, he pointed out. “This provides you a real opportunity to differentiate your offerings and appeal to the desire to support jobs in America.”
With all sorts of issues going on in the world, it helps to just do it here rather than get a whole bunch of countries involved simply in getting a product to the border. If you’ve farmed out your production to the Klingons or the Romulans and an interplanetary conflict starts up yet one more time, then what? “Over the past few years we have seen many issues impact the U.S. economy, from labor strikes in the ports, to shortages of shipping containers, to the more recent efforts to normalize trading through the imposition of tariffs,” said Herwig. “All of these disrupt the supply chains for dealers and other retailers trying to get products for their customers. Warner’s emphasis on domestic manufacturing allows us to be more responsive and less vulnerable to these fluctuations.”
Make it Local, Buy it Local
There is an impact beyond just price that carries over into your store; when you choose to stock products made in this country, your decision is also helping keep jobs in this country. “The local impact is substantial when you consider the immediate Warner team members and their families,” Keith told us. “From there the suppliers of raw materials, equipment, transportation… there are a significant number of people impacted when the entire population of people and companies are considered.”
Plus, the staff at Warner enjoys being part of a company that does this. “We love being close to the customer and being able to take those insights directly into our engineering and manufacturing teams to help our dealers and end users,” said Herwig. “Over our 91+ years in business, we have traveled all around the world and seen many manufacturers in operation, we know that our investments in our capabilities allow us to compete in the global market, while delivering products that excel in helping customers achieve professional results.”
Flag Down Your Customers
Warner’s dealers have reported a positive response when they highlight products that are Made in USA, and Herwig pointed up some easy ways to bring this to your customers’ eyes. “Some dealers will add small flags to the display or find other ways to bring attention to products that are manufactured domestically,” he said. Or customers may just ask. “Some consumers will ask specifically for Made in USA options while other express a sense of pride when they know they have purchased a domestically manufactured product.”
Like most companies, however, including his—and including yours—bottom line matters, so if you can leverage this for more sales, that’s perhaps the most encouraging factor of all. American holidays are often a great time for that extra punch. “In addition to what is mentioned above, some dealers will do special flyers or in-store promotions around specific holidays that naturally bring out patriotic themes such as Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, and Veterans Day. Warner also supports the national campaign to increase the visibility of Made in the USA products by using a mark that is easily identified and licensed by many vendors across industries [pictured above]. See www.madeintheusabrand.com for more information about the program,” said Herwig. “Warner is proud to be a USA manufacturing company that provides jobs and opportunities for its team members.” warnertool.com
Peel-Tek, Bastrop, Texas
“Made in USA is the only way to achieve the quality that we must have for this particular product.”
Peel-Tek 150® is a temporary protective liquid masking surface coating designed to use in place of or in conjunction with painter’s tape. The product is made in America, and as far as they know, not made anywhere else. “This product at this quality is not available outside of USA that we know of,” said Scott Halbert, company owner and president. In fact, he continues, Peel-Tek 150 shows American ingenuity at work. “Peel-Tek is unique in that no one that we know of has ever developed a product like this that can do what it does. Focus has always been on trying to reengineer tape to meet the painter’s need instead of thinking outside the box and using a liquid product, which often makes more sense.”
Making it here makes the difference, he believes. “It is paramount to quality control and performance of the product. We have tried lesser manufacturing companies and they just don’t work, so for us, Made in USA is the only way to achieve the quality that we must have for this particular product. The Made in USA claim is very important in today’s economy, given all of the issues going on in the world regarding trade, etc. I believe it lets people know that we care about our country.” peel-tek.com
Just like low-odor paint was once a novelty, Made in USA is turning the corner. Think of it this way: you might go to a restaurant for “home made pies,” but how often will you take your out of town guests out for frozen pies shipped in? We used to take Made in USA for granted, but now it’s almost got that comfy “home made” feeling. Slowly, our food chain is changing. You might say people are starting to “buy healthier.” peel-tek.com
Corona Brushes, Tampa, Florida
contributed by Ben Waksman
“In an age where these traditions are largely lost or forgotten, we have not forgotten.”
At Corona, “Hand Made In USA” is more than just a phrase. It is a truth that we display proudly and prominently on our packaging on each and every brush and roller. We believe that the combination of the Corona brand and “Hand Made in the USA” on our packaging tells a powerful story. We are a fourth-generation family company. We started in Cuba, but left it all behind in 1961 to escape communist domination and begin anew in Tampa, FL, where we have been ever since.
We are immigrants ourselves and we employ many people who immigrated to this country. We are proud to be Americans and we take equal pride in manufacturing products here in America. We have always featured that aspect in our packaging because we think it is important. We may all come from somewhere else but once here, we are Americans.
In an age where these traditions are largely lost or forgotten, we have not forgotten. We still carefully build our products by hand, using methods and recipes created over four generations.
We do it to create better working tools that provide painters more efficient applicators. Brushes and rollers that, from the first use, provide superior coverage because they pick up more paint and release it evenly and smoothly with every stroke and every roll.
We opt for the best materials. Many are sourced in the U.S. For example, the DuPont solid, round, tapered synthetic filaments, our stainless-steel ferrules, and most of our roller fabrics, tubes, and more are all sourced in the USA. We do go overseas for materials when we need to, for example, the natural hog bristles from China or some of our roller fabrics. But the important thing is that all the materials undergo a special Corona process in our Tampa plant to become efficient painting tools for the professional the discerning DIY painter.
In the end, painters are looking for tools that work. If a good brush or roller is made overseas, the painter will buy that. Our job at Corona is to continue to work hard and create tools that make a painter’s work easier to do better in less time, so the painter will continue to count on Corona. coronabrushes.com
Independent We Stand, an advocacy organization for independent retailers, has named Bridge Street Ashtabula in Ashtabula, OH as the $25,000 winner of its “America’s Main Streets” contest. A top ten finalist two years in a row, voters rallied this year to push Ashtabula—population 18,311—to the top of 303 entrants. More than 200,000 total votes were cast by the public nationwide in the third annual contest.
With a lift bridge at the center of Bridge Street’s livelihood, the Ashtabula Lift Bridge Community Association (LBCA) formed in response to a planned closure of the bridge for repairs in 2008. To combat the negative economic impact of the bridge closure and to counter the recession, LBCA established traffic-generating events like fairs, festivals and open houses to draw patrons to Bridge Street businesses despite disruptive construction. The organization, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, also began promoting and developing the Historic Ashtabula Harbor as a major regional destination for tourism, recreation, and entertainment.
“Time and time again, we see America’s Main Streets not only surviving hardship but showing innovation and ingenuity in the way they do it,” said Bill Brunelle, co-founder of Independent We Stand. “This port community reinvented itself in 2008 when faced with serious economic challenges. We look forward to awarding the grand prize to this motivated group and seeing how they further impact local independent businesses and the people who support them.” A celebratory event was held in the city July 28.
The presenting sponsor of this contest is Stihl, Inc., with supporting sponsors PPG, Do it Best, and the North American Retail Hardware Assn.
Golden Paintworks®, a division of Golden Artist Colors, Inc., has hired Jim Rogers as its new Director of Paintworks Branded Products. Rogers will lead the development, marketing, and sales of the Paintworks branded products, currently including Lifestyle Finishes™, Pro Finishes, and the new Theme Paint line. Rogers is well known throughout the industry, having spent 40 years developing Modern Masters, Inc., a leader in decorative coatings. As president there, he was responsible for overall performance in all areas of the business. Rogers resides in Valencia, CA with his wife and son, where they are active in their local youth hockey organization.
Custom Equipment LLChas hired Norman Waterman as its Northeast U.S. territory manager. Waterman is focusing on bringing the productivity, ease of use, and safety benefits of the company’s lightweight low-level scissor lifts to more rental centers and contractors in the area. Waterman has more than 20 years of construction sales experience, including five years with National Equipment Services.
Intertape Acquires Polyair
Intertape Polymer Group has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire 100% of the outstanding equity value in Polyair Inter Pack Inc.
Polyair, a private company, is a significant industry player in the protective packaging business, with seven manufacturing facilities and a distribution center in North America. Its primary products consist of bubble cushioning, foam, mailers, and air pillow systems, which are complementary to IPG’s existing product offering.
Summers in St. Louis can be scorching hot and extremely humid, which is weather not very conducive to painting outdoors or even painting indoors in a place with no fans or AC. Yet as I drive around the Lou on my daily adventures, I’m stunned at the people I witness painting in 100 degree weather, in direct sunlight, on wood and even metal substrates! Yes, I want to get out of my car and instruct them that they shouldn’t be doing that, or they should be painting earlier or later in the day when the temps are lower, substrates are cooler, and paint won’t bubble or blister, but it’s not my place. It shouldn’t bother me, but it does, because I expect painters to know better. It’s not good for the paint or the painter.
Recently, to escape the summer heat, my wife dragged me off to the cineplex to catch the latest Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson movie, Skyscraper. We both like action adventure movies, but I’m more of an Antman and the Wasp or the new Jurassic Park movie kind of guy. No spoiler alerts here, but if you are into the nearly super-human Rock the movie Skyscraper portrays, you are going to like this movie, otherwise, it’s not a lot different than most of his other flicks…but hey, you gotta love a dude who is so strong he can hold two ends of a steel bridge together while his wife crosses it to safety, or The Rock jumping from a moving crane arm some 100 stories above ground to a building that is 30′-40′ away (why is this man NOT competing at the long jump at the Olympics?).
As a paint guy, whenever I’m watching TV or a movie, I’m constantly looking for “paint”, paint messaging, paint references, people painting, and any paint brand names I can see. At Skyscraper, a paint type product had a starring role, and the folks at Shurtape® Technologies seemingly have made out like a bandit! In the movie, Dwayne Johnson needs to rescue his wife and kids from a burning ginormous skyscraper. The wife and kids are near the top of the building while The Rock has to get to them from below.
He decides to climb out a window, about 100 stories above ground, and shimmy along a 3″ ledge to a place he can access that allows him to climb higher to his family. Even The Rock needs a little help with this incredible feat, and he gets it from…wait for it…duct tape! He finds a roll of duct tape laying around and decides to wrap it backwards around his hands and arms so that the sticky side is facing outward. Then, as if he has transformed into Spiderman, he uses his now super sticky hands and arms to hold himself against the glass of the skyscrapers windows on his perilous journey.
I’m assuming regular old duct tape would not be very realistic, but if in fact The Rock was using, say, T-Rex Ferociously Strong Tape®, then I’m a believer…sort of. Heck, we saw a T-Rex brand product lift up about 700 lbs. at the NHS in Vegas in May, so holding a 230-pound man against skyscraper windows is almost believable. And the fact that Johnson mentions the words “duct tape” three or four times during the movie tells me that Shurtape reps really worked hard for the product placement or just got super lucky. Either way, the next time you see your Shurtape rep, you may just want to get their autograph.
PPG has announced plans for a new distribution center in Flower Mound, Texas. The nearly 450,000-square-foot facility, which will be constructed and leased through Duke Realty, will be the largest distribution center for architectural paints and coatings in PPG’s U.S. and Canada network.
The new facility [ceremonial ground-breaking pictured above] will strengthen the company’s distribution model and allow for improved, efficient service to PPG’s independent retailers and other accounts across the U.S. The project is expected to be completed in May 2019.
PPG’s architectural coatings business employs nearly 900 people in Texas, and the company also supports local industry-relevant science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) training and education initiatives through the PPG Foundation. PPG recently partnered with the Regional Hispanic Contractors Association to support the advancement and economic growth of Hispanic contractors in Texas.
PPG on Night Watch for 2019
Paint is part of the real world. It has to respond to real world problems, real world substrates, and real world trends. We often like to say, “these are the worst of times,” and for your customers going through their own hard times, helping them to the right colors can really make a difference. The folks at PPG have noticed that a lot of people are choosing colors that tie into nature, so to underscore that need, its color experts chose a deep green as their color of the year. PPG has recently been announcing its COTY in June so that designers and retailers can get a good start for when it’s time to swap out the calendar.
The PPG paint brand 2019 Color of the Year is… (ta daaaa)…Night Watch (PPG1145-7). This rich, luxurious, and classic shade of green will be at the forefront of design trends in 2019, and will allow homeowners to emulate the feeling of lush greenery and the healing power of nature as they decorate their spaces.
“The restorative power of nature is important in society now more than ever,” explains Dee Schlotter, PPG senior color marketing manager. “Night Watch is about bringing the healing power from the outdoors into your home through color. The dark green hue pulls our memories of natural environments to the surface to recreate the calming, invigorating euphoria we feel when in nature.”
This color’s versatility will tranlaste the greens of nature to a home or commercial interior. “Night Watch’s ability to invoke a deep connection to nature is universal, which allows the hue to be versatile for a variety of spaces and design segments—from healthcare to commercial and residential design,” said Schlotter. ppgvoiceofcolor.com
I slept really well last night. I didn’t spend the night tossing and turning; I got into bed and fell right to sleep. I didn’t groan or shout out in my sleep (according to my fiancée at least) and didn’t wake up with that jaw pain you get when you spend the whole night in anxiety filled teeth-grinding. No pools of sweat marking the sheets like the chalk-line around the body at a crime scene, I just laid my head down softly on my pillow and fell asleep.
As you try to scrub the image of me in my SpongeBob SquarePants “onesie” pajamas out of your head, I promise you, this is leading somewhere.
Yesterday during the day I wasn’t sure I was going to get much sleep at night. On my way up to see a customer yesterday morning, I passed a big sign on an empty storefront: “Sherwin-Williams Paint Opening Soon!” Right down the street from my main store?! Panic set in. Sherwin Williams! HERE? In New York City, SW stores were never all that common. But over the last few years they’ve been adding more and now you can’t fling a dead rat in this city without hitting an SW store.
I am not generally a worrier by nature. I am not the kind of father that says to my daughter “call me when you get there!” I don’t panic if I see my fiancée talking to another man and when bad months happen in my stores (hey…I’m in retail…bad months happen) I don’t sit around thinking that the sky is falling.
But a Sherwin-Williams store a few blocks away…now the sky WAS falling! The demon that lived in and threatened me from the dark shadows all through my paint career was now out in the light. All this was made worse by the fact that a few months ago I looked at that exact space and thought about renting it and moving my store there. Now, as I stood in front of the store that was soon to belong to my mortal enemy, all my brain will do is recall what I was thinking the day I met the realtor: what a great location…what great parking.
I spent the day worrying. Which of my customers would they call on first? How low would I have to cut my margins to compete? How many of my employees would they steal with offers of riches and a 401k? Would I need to change my store hours? Would I need to significantly increase what I spend on marketing? As I zombie-walked through the rest of my day, I answered all these questions in my head by assigning them all the worst possible outcomes. There was reason for hope though. I became confident that if I cut my margins to 2%, added Sunday hours and gave all my larger customers an extra 120 days terms all while working in the store alone, I would be able to survive.
Then, the long drive home. Not wanting to waste the time, I efficiently spent my commute assigning blame. Why didn’t my father know that this was going to happen to me when he opened this location 50 years ago? How could he risk my future like this? Why hadn’t Benjamin Moore rented that spot (and every other empty space within a mile of me) to protect me from this outcome? This was clearly my father and Benjamin Moore conspiring to cost me a night’s sleep. I managed to get all the blame assigned just as I pulled into my driveway.
At dinner, I broke the news to my family: we had to sell our cars and move to a one-bedroom! I sobbed as I told my daughter that she could not go back to college in the fall and explained why. Then, as usual my kid and fiancée spoiled everything. “Doesn’t Sherwin-Williams already have like eight billion stores?” my daughter asked? “Aren’t some of them really close now? How is this store going to ruin you if all the others haven’t?” she mused.
My fiancée asked “Do they sell Benjamin Moore? Isn’t that the most popular brand?” These two ruin everything: Excuse me, but I’m trying to be miserable here! By the end of dinner, things were starting to look up. A busy mall right up the street will bring more traffic. not less, which means more customers, not fewer…even with a Sherwin-Williams in it. Property values will go up and I own the building! Survival seemed likely.
We finished dinner and I lit a celebratory cigar as we cheered my slaying of the giant!
In 1945 George Orwell published the literary classic Animal Farm, which was required reading in my middle-school English class. I always remembered the line, “All animals are created equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” Someone recently referenced the book and this famous line, and it made me think about how customers are treated.
Are all customers equal? Loyalty programs promote perks, rewards, elite status and more, which might suggest that not all customers are equal. Now, I agree that loyal customers can receive some type of reward or discount for their loyalty. But, what about when it comes to customer service?
Should a frequent or loyal customer be given better service than a casual, once-in-a-while customer, or even a first-time customer?
The short answer is no. We’re not talking about perks, just about the way a customer is treated. Here’s what I recently observed: I was at a restaurant and noticed a guest almost being ignored compared to another guest at the next table. I inquired about who that “special” person was getting the extra attention, and my server said, “He’s in here all the time.”
I notice the same type of behavior happens with airlines and hotels. It’s easy to spot the frequent travelers by the way they are treated by airline and hotel employees. So, it appears that frequency might warrant a better customer experience. The same might go for how much a customer spends.
Here’s my take: Unless you want to send all your new clients to Home Depot, the way a customer is treated should have nothing to do with how much they spend or how often they buy. All customers should be all be treated with dignity, respect, and the attention any human deserves. They should all be treated in a way consistent with your store’s promise and the reputation you wish to be known for. When it comes to the perks you might offer a loyal customer, you can differentiate. That’s different than the way you treat them.
But, isn’t it human nature to treat the regular and more profitable customers a little better? Looks like it! If that is what you believe, there is a solution. If you haven’t already done so, create a minimal standard of customer service. This standard should be so good as to garner high praises regardless of how much—or how little—the customer spends. It’s that simple.
Remind everyone of the standards you want to be known for. Remind them that applies to all customers, not just the ones they see more frequently. Do that and you may start to see more casual customers become repeat customers. You see, all customers are equal, just some are more loyal than others.
Shep Hyken is a customer service expert, keynote speaker, and New York Times bestselling business author. For information, contact 314-692-2200 hyken.com