BRIAN PAAS, Consumer Marketing Manager, Intertape Polymer Group
Help your contractors turn into…
The 21st Century Painter
The recovery of the real estate market has considerably increased demand for the U.S. painting industry. From 2013-2018, the industry grew at an annual rate of 4.9%, reaching $40.3 billion in total revenue for 2018. Over the next five years to 2023, the industry is expected to have annual growth of 1.6%. General residential painting is the largest segment, accounting for 39.5% of industry revenue. General non-residential painting comes in at 20% and non-building painting slightly higher at 22.4%. (Source: IBISWorld Industry report 23832 Painters in the U.S.)
The U.S. painting industry is made up of nearly 305,510 businesses. With all the competition out there, how can you set yourself apart? It’s time to evolve!
I had the opportunity to listen to a panel of painting professionals talk about all things paint—including how the industry is changing and some of the things contractors can do to stay ahead of the curve and capitalize on opportunities. Feel free to share this with them!
As consumers are researching and continuously becoming more educated, it’s critical to have an online presence to showcase and market your work. Start with joining a professional trade association to increase your audience and give you an extra level of credibility. Create a website that shows prospective customers some of your past work. Highlight some of your best finished jobs by presenting before and after images. Upload videos of you and your crew on the jobsite, showing your prep work, painting, and the finished product.
This will allow potential customers to get comfortable with your work and instill a level of confidence that the same quality prep and craftsmanship will be done at their residence. Post up positive customer testimonials and build a review section where past clients can rate your work. Blog helpful tips and techniques on social media demonstrating your level of expertise and further building trust for future clients.
The “Do it all” Contractor
It used to be a paint contractor was just a paint contractor. Today, paint contractors need to be much more. The days of painting only walls and trim are over. Complement your skills and abilities by expanding into more technical applications—faux finishes, texturing, staining decks, dyeing concrete, sealing walkways, etc. There are endless opportunities to expand into broader areas, increasing your value and generating more business. In the ever increasing world of decorative finishes, the ability to bundle your services will surely set you apart from your competition.
“Time is Money” Redefined
We’ve all heard the old adage “Time is Money,” get in, get out, and cash that check! While listening to the panel of professional contractors, I heard that phrase a lot. But after a while, I got a different sense of what it actually means. You may be the best painter in the world—no need to tape off baseboards or put down floor protection because you’re a pro and have been doing this for years. You can cut corners with the best of ’em (pun intended!).
Here’s my takeaway from the session: take the time to sit down with the customer and explain what you’ll be doing, showing examples of your past work, answering questions and addressing their concerns. Take the time to prep the area before you start. Be sure to tape off the baseboards, or around kitchen cabinets, and apply floor protection. Ease the customer’s mind by being diligent in your preparation efforts. This is what they want to see. From there, job well done—more pictures, more testimonials, more word of mouth, more customers. That’s where the real money is!
Mark Twain once said, “a man who carries a cat by the tail learns something he can learn no other way.” I feel the same about a man who drives round trip from New York to Ohio—with his fiancée!
I’ve been writing for The Paint Dealer and the Mugler family off and on for almost 30 years. As a writer, having a regular outlet to publish my words is a blessing because the truth is writers write! Whether I was publishing my columns in The Paint Dealer or not, the likelihood is that they would still be written, so I’ve always been grateful for the platform.
Much has changed in the paint industry in the years that I’ve been in these pages. Automated tint machines have replaced the manual and point-of-sale computers have replaced receipt pads. The Internet has replaced the volumes of product data and MSDS sheets that used to line the shelves of my office. Text messages and emails have replaced face-to-face customer meetings.
While technology was bringing all these changes to the paint business, it has been wreaking havoc in the publishing field. This doesn’t come as news to anyone reading this. What does come as news is that that havoc has made it into our own backyard: the next issue of The Paint Dealer will be its last publication.
I’ve been writing my whole life. When I was a kid, I used to write stories and read them to my family. I’ve written speeches for people, poetry, and in college even made a few bucks writing term papers. Before I had a phone that could do everything but make my coffee, I had a pad and pen with me at all times because you never knew when an idea would pop up. I’ve worked on writing projects that have lasted from a few hours to a few months, but the longest most consistent writing project I’ve ever had has been the years writing for The Paint Dealer.
The Paint Dealer provided me a platform that did not otherwise exist: a place to advocate for independent paint retailers and speak about “paint injustice.” My fiancée was correct on our way to and from Ohio: it’s fun to point out other people’s problems!The Paint Dealer gave me a way to do that. Over the years, I got to know thousands of you. I learned what you liked and what concerned you for our industry. Your comments became my columns and through the pages of this magazine, manufacturers listened.
I give the Mugler family lots of credit for doing that. It’s not easy to try to sell an ad to a paint manufacturer that just read a column in your magazine about how bad a job they’re doing. But the Muglers understood—that was the risk that they ran if they were going to be the magazine they say they are on the cover: The Voice of the Independent Paint and Sundries Dealer.
And the magazine DID give independents that voice. In addition to their pages here, this company started Paint_Talk, a Yahoo based chat room for paint dealers. It was the first, and for many years the only chat room for independent paint retailers. Through Paint_Talk they allowed dealers’ voices to be heard directly! The paint manufacturers were listening; almost a third of that group was employees of paint and sundry companies that wanted to know what dealers were saying and thinking.
The issue of The Paint Dealer in your hands is the penultimate issue that Mugler Publications will send out. The dramatic changes in the publishing landscape are literally stopping the presses. The world changes, but I find myself saddened by this particular change. This magazine and column has been a huge part of my professional life and I’ll mourn its passing. I’ll keep writing and I suspect keep publishing, but it won’t feel the same: at least not right away.
On behalf of dealers whom I know have been well served by this magazine, I thank the Mugler family for all it has done for independent paint retailers. I believe that contribution to be immeasurable! I’d also like to thank the editor of the last 13 years (and associate editor for the 14 before that), Jerry Rabushka. Jerry is an outstanding advocate for dealers to whom we also owe our thanks.
Writers write, and so I did. I brought my own voice, but these pages amplified it! For all these years, The Paint Dealer was my microphone; thank you for keeping it on.
The weeks and months immediately following a natural disaster can be a busy time for paint dealers and contractors. After homeowners and businesses clear out damp wood after a flood or bulldoze after a tornado, it’s time to rebuild—and repaint. As a result, disasters can lead to a sudden burst in demand that can bring new and sudden challenges to your business.
You may find that you need to make a large order to replenish your inventory. You may need to hire additional staff or train existing staff to assist customers who are searching for paint during one of the most difficult times of their lives. If customers are located far away, you may want to invest in a delivery truck and driver to make deliveries and make your customers’ lives easier.
While your business experiences this sudden influx, you’ll also want to make sure that you are equipped to maintain sound financial standing for your business, especially in the way you manage the massive paper trail that comes along with the increase of purchase orders, payments, and hiring. The busy and frenetic periods that follow disasters can put a strain on ordinarily efficient and organized businesses, and failing to prepare creates openings for you to make uninformed decisions that could put your business at risk. To avoid this, make sure you’re not operating as if any of the following three myths are true.
Three Post-Disaster Business Myths Dispelled
Myth: An increase in business is always good.
Reality: If you don’t prepare for changes after a natural disaster, you may find some unwelcome surprises. Even though many homeowners and property managers will need paint after a disaster, poorly managing this influx can have a negative impact on your business. If you order inventory with funds you don’t have or hire someone whose payroll you won’t be able to meet, your business will suffer. To weather unexpected increases in demand, make sure your financial and inventory records are always kept up to date so you can easily ramp up after a disaster.
Myth: The only time you need to interact with your accountant or bookkeeper is during tax season.
Reality: Sharing financial records with key stakeholders can help you make decisions faster. If strategic partners have access to the most up-to-date financial records, you won’t have to worry about whether purchasing extra inventory will put your business in the red for the month. When your bookkeeper or accountant is able to access your accounts payable and receivable, you’ll be able to give them a call and ask how much you can afford to invest on inventory in any given month.
Myth: Businesses that help with disaster recovery already know how to recover.
Reality: Your paint business is as likely as any other business to suffer a natural, cyber, or accidental disaster. Even if your business isn’t located in an area prone to natural disasters such as floods, fires, tornadoes, or hurricanes, fluke disasters can happen at any time. Issues such as a break-in or an accidentally spilled glass of water can destroy both physical records and digital backups. For that reason, one of the ways you can help your business prepare for a disaster is to make sure all of your financial records are backed up to a cloud-based accounting tool.
Preparedness Makes the Difference
No matter where your business is located, the best way to minimize the negative impact of a disaster is to prepare. Now is a great time to consider how your business currently manages its financial records—and whether your existing system can handle changes in demand or a natural, cyber, or accidental disaster.
Kevin Miller is CMO of The Neat Company, which focuses on developing powerful, cost effective tools for small business that help with expense management, automated bookkeeping and document organization.
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us”.
These words from the famous writer Charles Dickens could easily sum up life here at Mug Pub Inc. over the last decade or more. We have experienced the best of times when our pages were full to the brim with advertising, and the worst of times when we didn’t know where our next ad dollars were coming from. In the age of wisdom, we felt sure of our ideas and plans that would benefit our readers, and in the age of foolishness, we brought you the very short lived “House Paint” magazine (anybody remember that?).
The epoch of belief was us thinking we could conquer anything we set our minds to, any story, any problem. The epoch of incredulity came from all the broken promises and cancelled schedules from industry manufacturers through the years—especially this year! The season of light shone so bright on us for so many years, but the season of darkness came far too often as well.
Every spring ushered in the “spring of hope,” knowing that we would find great companies and their great products at NHS—products and concepts that would benefit our readers—but the “winter of despair” came earlier each year as more and more small to medium-sized companies disappeared from the landscape or got absorbed by bigger companies who never advertised those companies’ products in our industry again.
When my father, Chris Mugler, started this magazine nearly 28 years ago, and again when I came on board 14 years ago, we seemingly had everything before us, but now, we have nothing before us…and to that end, we have made the exceedingly painful decision to close our doors here for good at the end of this year.
Telling it like it is is what we do, so 2018 has been our worst year to date. While we struggled all year to gain enough ad dollars from industry manufacturers to increase the thickness of our books and keep this little engine that could chugging up the tracks, we simply can’t do it anymore. In an advertising and marketing world full of ad agencies that believe they can reach YOU with their messages through social and digital media, we say to them “good luck!”
Rising printing and postage costs are our biggest line items every month by far, but the fact that so many industry manufacturers are not running print ads has been our undoing. It’s not that these manufacturers are turning their backs on the industry, for the most part they are not, but they do feel there are more effective ways to reach their core audiences (YOU) and they have been pursuing these new strategies this year, and seek to expand and expound on them in 2019.
When Dad started The Paint Dealer, he created a magazine that was unlike any other in the industry, in fact, there was nothing like it in the industry. Dad targeted the independent paint store owners as his readers for TPD. Sure, there was the venerable “decorating” mag from the old National Decorating Products Association (NDPA), now the PDRA, but paint, not decorating, was our target. Paint is what independent paint and hardware stores sold the most of, at least at that time, and many still do. For Dad, it wasn’t about being philanthropic or about raising money for charity or an association. It was all about the needs of the indies and what we could do in our pages to help their success…and by any measure, successful we were.
As the big boxes moved into the landscape, TPD became the “voice for the independents”. With every issue, with every passing month and every article, you, the independents, are the folks we tried to help to be successful at every turn. We strived to bring to you the best business practices, the best industry information, the best products, and the best-case studies and dealer profiles to illustrate to you that you were not alone out there, that someone was fighting for you, and that there were others like you who were having success running their stores. Hopefully you learned from what we wrote about; plenty of you contacted us to say yes, you did.
In hindsight, I probably should have shut this down a year ago. I certainly didn’t have the money to lose that I have lost, but it was more important to me to try and make another go of it, to provide jobs for my employees and income to their families, and to honor my Dad and Mom by keeping their dream alive. Dad and Mom are both gone now, and at the end of this year, so will be this company. While I am glad they were not around to see our demise, I know they would be happy that we fought the good fight and tried as hard as we did to succeed.
Over the years, I have personally spoken with hundreds of store owners in North America. So many of you have been so positive, so complimentary, and so thankful for what we have been able to do for you. All I can say back is thank you to each and every one of you for giving us insight and wisdom into what it takes to run your business.
And the Winner Is…
I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge some outstanding individuals in our industry who have done more than help us along our way…Roland, you were the first person Dad introduced me to in the industry, and your generosity and loyalty will never be forgotten. The late John Lahey was a champion of ours and we still miss him dearly. Spillane from Ben Moore was always a straight shooter to us, someone who could be trusted, someone who still bleeds paint for the industry, and Deb (also at BM) has always been honest and upfront with us. Tom Hardy is just a genuinely great guy. Makowski made a great product line and showed his loyalty to us yearly until he sold his company. Cohen was one of the most difficult negotiators I ever faced, but in the end, he was always fair and above board with us. O’Brien made one of, if not, the best product (Dizzolve) we ever worked with!
Rocky was a good friend to us, and his paint was fantastic! Ben is one of the most remarkable men we ever met, who called it like he saw it, but has always been a champion of ours and the independents! Dick Hardy was a huge supporter—he sold his successful product line to RPM. Pat and Meg from 3M believed in us when many others didn’t. Bruce, the Paint Doctor, always had our back. The late Steve Ellis always made sure his message was in our pages. John Trenta has been thoughtful and open to what we have tried to accomplish. Ward was always a stand-up guy to us. The folks we work with at Shurtech Industries are a collection of some of the best people in the industry. Tony at EVO for believing in us! Dan at Kelly-Moore for working with us as much as he could. Herwig placed a lot of trust in us and we hope we delivered for him.
Lee and the Richard family for always being in our pages. Sarver makes some wonderful products and he stood by us through thick and thin. Tom at Dripless trusted us to carry his message to the indies. Brown and Paas at I-tape were always big supporters and always had some great industry insight to provide our readers. Russo at NHS always treated us with respect and helped us more than he knows. I know I have left some people off this list, for many of them, it was not intentional.
We’ll be back one more time—and yes, we are still accepting advertising for our final issue, December’s PaintPages Directory & Buyers Guide! Thanks to our many friends for their support, trust, advice and good times…and to our loyal readers, THANK YOU FOR ALLOWING US TO HELP YOU STAY ON THE ROAD TO SUCCESS! It’s been a wild ride! Peace Out.
If you want strong opinions, you can either ask people about politics—or in our industry, paint strippers. Methylene chloride, widely hailed as the fastest and most effective paint stripper on the market, has come under about a quarter century of fire because it can be hazardous to your health, if not fatal, if used improperly. While the industry has, over time, spawned a lot of alternative chemistry, some people feel it is important to keep MC on the market. And…some emphatically do not. A couple months ago we had some industry experts weigh in on using or not using this particular remover, and the debate rages on.
On top of this, the EPA is still considering banning the substance altogether. But for now, it’s still available even though at least three major national retailers have announced they’ll be pulling it from their shelves. This leaves you, the independent dealer, with the option to sell it and pick up business from people who can’t get it from those national chains. Now, when they come to you to buy paint stripper, maybe you can show them the latest faux finish or long-handled brush, or “green” products they never knew existed because you had them and the box did not.
Out of Hibernation
Franmar, based in Bloomington, IL and makers of the BLUE BEAR® brand, got its start manufacturing safer products—including alternatives to methylene chloride—by utilizing soybeans and other natural elements. Scott Sarver, the company’s Marketing Coordinator, offers his perspective from that particular window. He points out that this shift in retailers eliminating methylene chloride and n-methyl-pyrrolidone (NMP) products is not at the direction of the EPA, but rather in response to calls from consumers and consumer advocacy groups. “A formalized decision from the EPA has not yet been made though it would seem that at some point MC will end up on a banned list,” he said.
He adds that while you as an independent can still offer MC and NMP products, it’s important to make sure you have that alternative for customers looking for safer products.
But he agrees—heck, who can deny it—methylene chloride does perform. “The reality is that MC works well to strip paint, but whether it is the pro or the homeowner using it, the risks are always there,” he points out. “Even professionals using the precautions have succumbed to MC, so we feel that those risks are unnecessary for both the DIYer and the pro.” These safer strippers might even save money! “Because Franmar’s products do not evaporate like MC, an end user ends up using less of our product to do the same amount of work as MC.”
Sales are “Taking Off”
Unfortunately—and this is another “well known fact” of the industry—a lot of the early attempts at replacing MC weren’t very effective; “green” products in general had to prove their mettle after some false starts. Still, as time went by, R&D folks worked their way around the problems, and the Franmar staff tells us they’ve got a winner which will be on the market very soon. “When the green product movement began, often these products suffered from a lack of effectiveness,” Scott said. “When we were developing our new Blue Bear Paint Stripper with Safenol™, we knew that this new product could not be less effective than our other paint strippers. Our final formulation works as well, and in some cases better, than our previous Blue Bear offerings and exceeds other non-NMP paint strippers we have compared it to.”
And it can take it off, even though just like any remover Sarver recommends trying out a test area for evaluation before applying it to the entire surface. This new product removes polyurethanes, enamels, latex, oil based paints, epoxies and just about any other type of paint that one may encounter,” he said. “This paint stripper is very low odor and incredibly safe to use, so it would be appropriate to use indoors, around your family or pets, and even on larger industrial jobs where there are environmental and safety concerns.
“Blue Bear’s New Paint Stripper with Safenol™ will be available for purchase in mid-October at an attractive price to both dealers and customers (MSRP is $12.95 per quart), and dealer inquiries are welcome,” he concluded. franmar.com
An Emcee for MC
We spoke on the subject with Charley “Chas” Wolfson, Executive Vice President of Sales at Samex, and if you know Chas, to start an article off with “he has a lot to say” is pretty much par for the course. But he did, and all the better for us. Samex, makers of Rock Miracle since 1936, manufactures a wide variety of stripping products, so Wolfson came out of the gate saying he has no agenda other than making sure his customers have the paint removal products they want and need.
From there, he tells us, methylene chloride products are still by far the most popular strippers on the market, and with three large players in home improvement taking it off their shelves, it’s sending a lot of people to the independent who have rarely or never been there before. Suddenly there’s a commodity product that they have to get from you!
“It could, in a positive way, affect the independent who is wise enough to capitalize on the three big guys dropping it, because methylene chloride is the most demanded stripper out there,” he said. Mainly because of your pro customers, MC products have been Samex’s biggest sellers at independent paint stores. “The demand for our methylene chloride product versus MC free products is significantly geared, thru the independent, towards the MC product,” said Wolfson. “Independent dealers have only to gain if they go after the customers that were buying it at those three other retailers.”
Wolfson reported that already many of his independent customers have noticed an uptick in MC business since other stores have told their customers they won’t be selling it anymore. “These contractors have walked and are now shopping at the independent,” Chas observed. While you’ve got them, keep them! “Now that they’re in your store buying something they can’t buy elsewhere, they might go you know I need some brushes…some thinner, some…whatever it is…and if you treat these people with great care they’ll buy from you going forward and not just when they need methylene chloride.”
Is NMP “Not My Problem?”
Methylene chloride’s partner in grime, n-methyl-pyrrolidone, is also under some scrutiny. “We make products with NMP as well,” said Wolfson. “MC and NMP are chemicals that have effective paint-removing qualities, and the truth is that in order for paint stripper to work it has to be effective and strong, so if you want something that’s going to work it’s going to have some consequences elsewhere.” All strippers, he noted, have some negative effects on the human body—we’re just not made to handle these types of chemicals. “However,” he added, “with the proper precautions and safety measures they are all safe and effective to use. Or, you can get a a bottle of cola and take some things off with that,” he smiled.
So where does that leave Rock Miracle? Read the directions, then follow them. “When used as directed on the label it’s safe and effective. We will continue to make the product until we are not legally allowed to sell it,” Wolfson assured us.
But there are alternatives, and in fact, Samex has recently come up with a new one from here, which you can conveniently see in their ad on page three in the magazine. And while it will be effective, he still thinks MC products will rule the roost until the EPA rules it out. “To address the needs and desires of some customers, we’ve had an MC free product for 25 years, but it never really sold well,” he said. “Rock Miracle is one of the fastest and most effective paint strippers on the market. It works on 99% of paints out there. That’s the go-to product.”
And while its still up in the air if the EPA will decide to ban the sale of methylene chloride, Samex is playing it “safe” by having a replacement ready to go. “We have been working for well over a year because we saw the handwriting on the wall,” said Wolfson. “We have two new products that are mirror images of the original Rock Miracle, but they are MC free and non-flammable.” Look for them to be introduced in the next few weeks.
“We’ve been testing them for about six months,” he said. “We do not release products until they are fully vetted in the field—not just in the lab. In my view it’s 95% as effective and fast as Rock Miracle without MC or NMP. You will be satisfied. It’ll be a learning procedure since it is slightly different, but like anything else we have to instruct people on how to use the products correctly.” As long as people are happy with what they’re using already, he doesn’t see them changing over until they absolutely have to. But it’s always good to have an alternative and to be able to tell your customers that in most instances it’s just as effective.
“Being clear and fair, we make all these products, so I have no best interest in needing one vs. the other,” said Chas. “It’s our job to support our customers, so I’ll give them whatever they want. It’s the consumer’s choice. The pro or DIYer will determine what will happen in the future until the government, in its ‘finite’ wisdom, will make a determination.” rockmiracle.com
What does EPA say?
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced upcoming actions on methylene chloride, but as of yet has not issued a final rule; manufacturers and the product’s users are both waiting to hear if they will be able to continue buying and selling this product. In 2014, EPA addressed the paint stripping uses in its risk assessment, then in January 2017 it proposed prohibiting the consumer and commercial paint stripping uses for methylene chloride.
From here, EPA intends to finalize the methylene chloride rulemaking and is working to send the finalized rulemaking to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).
I recently went down to the always wonderful Nashville, TN, to the summer trade show for the musical instrument industry, “Summer NAMM” (National Association of Music Merchants). Because my day job is in a vintage guitar shop, for me this is like the National Hardware Show for the music industry. Much like NHS and Lancaster shows, it can be sensory overload, so some pre-planning definitely helps to make the best use of your precious time as a dealer. I wanted to check out a couple of new brands, including a third line of guitar strings. If you remember from my article a few months back (or even if you don’t), I reorganized those strings so they would be more friendly for my customers, and I condensed my offering.
Now I always promise to bring it back to paint and sundries, and this month is no different. Perhaps some of the stocking and display we have learned with strings at the guitar shop will help with bristles at the paint store. The closest approximation in the paint and sundries sphere would be applicators. With certain types of product, like strings or applicators, there are many angles to come from: how many and what subtypes to stock, then what to do to make sure all that inventory moves. Without a good plan, you can stock applicators from floor to ceiling and even out to your warehouse, and you still might not have the right one for a specific task a customer needs.
I checked in with Roland Kolilias, VP of ArroWorthy, as well as Ben Waksman, President of Corona Brushes, to get their take on what you can do to sell more brushes and applicators of all kinds without making your head, or most importantly, your wallet spin!
Varieties, Spices, and Lives
First things first, how much should you stock? Ben Waksman comes right out of the gate with a reminder of how many painters see it. “From a pro painter’s standpoint, there’s no such thing as too many brushes. No matter how many a dealer has, they may be missing that one brush the painter wants.” It’s just like what I go through every day on my retail floor. There’s always going to be that one person that needs the one thing we don’t stock!
Don’t, however, beat yourself up over it. “In general, successful displays should have a good variety presented in a clear and organized fashion to avoid confusing the customer,” Ben continues. “Having a varied and full selection makes you unique and keeps your customers loyal.”
Now you may wonder if you should stick with one monolith of a brand, or have a smaller selection of different brands. For that, Roland Kolilias weighed in. “Most painters seek out what they think will give them the best results for the project on hand, that includes moving from one brand to another.”
Waksman continues: “With one strong brand, you could be successful as long as there is a complete offering. However, one of the things that separates the independent dealer from the chains and mass merchants is being closer to the painter, knowing what the painters need and want and to offer his customers more variety and depth. To achieve that, most independents carry multiple lines in applicators as well as paint.”
It’s true that as an independent you have the freedom to choose between different suppliers because each market has different needs and there will never be a one stop stocking solution. Along with great product, you can add service into that mix. I’ve personally only wanted to do business with people who are easy to get along with and have good service. There was more than one occasion that a company I admired was being difficult when we were trying to get product, so we switched to a supplier that took better care of us—make sure people are switching to you and not from you! Keep a decent stock, and find out how to build that stock by talking to your customers and finding their needs.
Rolling It In
The other concern all of us have is “How am I going to make all of this fit?” but Ben has some basic guidelines to making your display more user-friendly. “Good visibility, lighting, and access are all steps to a successful display. Displays need to be clean and follow logic to make it easy for the painter to select the proper tools,” he said. “Put key items at eye level to promote quality. Don’t use that valuable spot for chip brushes or other throwaway products.”
I do a similar thing on our string wall, where I have the best quality as well as value items in the middle section of the wall, leaving the rest to the edges. It’s really helped customers focus in on things that are a surefire hit for them (and usually a good margin for you!) while leaving the budget lines for those who seek them out.
Remember, though, that there are always some applicators that just work better than others for certain tasks and it’s your job as the expert to steer your customers in the direction that’s going to give them the most success. “The emphasis should always be on what applicators work best for particular coatings,” Waksman says. “One brush or one roller doesn’t cover all the needs. For example, Chinex® brushes work great with high viscosity paints and coatings and we have been successful with our Chinex tools.
But, with thinner viscosity waterborne-alkyd hybrid enamels becoming so popular, we found that our 100% nylon brushes, especially the finer filament Champagne Nylon™ series, work best.” Especially for a DIYer, choosing the wrong applicator can make the difference between the job being a success or them being discouraged and not coming back.
Make Some Room
I ended up expanding my display area, and I made the flow of product very eye catching to draw the customer in to what we have. The second prong of that process is to consult with people who know the product and its applications, even if they’re not in your everyday wheelhouse. I don’t play death metal, I’m more of a bluesy guy, but you better bet if you come in looking to put together the most earth-shattering, ear-bleeding, metal sludge rig on the planet, I can steer you right.
That’s why people frequent the independent over a big box, where if you’re asking for help with a product or application, you have to go through three people before you get half an answer. Whether it’s trim, radiators, walls, indoor, or out, keep a good working variety of applicators and the knowledge behind them and you’ll be ready to…roll!
The more exact color can get, the more picky people will be. If everyone expects it to be “off” a bit, you won’t hear much complaining. But such isn’t the case these days, so the more tools you’ve got to help make that “exacting” client happy, the more your customer base will grow while your mistint pile will shrink.
The folks at Datacolor have several solutions to help you firm up your position as a color expert, so we asked them to explain “exactly” what those solutions are.
For one, they tell us, these tools will help customers choose and identify the correct color on the first try, because who wants that mistint pile to get so big you can’t get past it to the break room? “Identifying paint color is a challenge for millions who work every day at jobs and on projects that depend on their ability to perceive, manipulate, and communicate paint color,” said Susan Bunting, Director of Marketing, Consumer Solutions.
“In order to successfully sell paint to these individuals and to drive loyal customers back again and again, you need to offer solutions beyond fan decks and paint cans. With
Datacolor’s solutions, you can become the ultimate design center. Thanks to accessible and affordable technology, you and your staff can become paint experts delivering exceptional customer service.”
What, Exactly, Are You Talking About?
Here are a few tools and their benefits as described by the company:
Datacolor 200R: measures color samples using a spectrophotometer to formulate colors. The countertop system provides color measurement, formulation, and correction with the ability to match across any texture. The system utilizes Datacolor’s proprietary SP2000 technology, capturing the true spectral fingerprint of any color at the highest possible accuracy.
Datacolor 20D: portable version of the 200R, providing highly accurate sample measurement in any location.
Datacolor PAINT 2.0: a paint matching software solution which offers best in class formulation accuracy while using an easy-to-learn, easy-to-use interface. The lab-quality matching capabilities enable you to find the right color for your customer faster, but also formulate that color with greater accuracy—improving customer satisfaction and minimizing re-tints.
ColorReader and ColorReaderPRO: ColorReader is a new pro-grade color measurement tool designed to help customers find, coordinate, save, and share colors from their color collections. The device is a low cost, ultra-portable, Bluetooth® connected, color selection device, allowing professionals and DIYers to precisely identify colors of paint and everyday objects across color collections. Independent from a color matching system, it works in conjunction with the free ColorReader mobile app on both Android and iOS devices. With industry-leading performance of greater than 94%, the ColorReader saves time compared to using a traditional color search with a fan deck or color card.
Good point! Why put down a great magazine to go online and get distracted by kittens and politics when there’s information literally at your fingertips? Let’s devote some space to letting Datacolor explain how its ColorReader can help:
“Along with helping consumers as we mentioned previously, it also can help your contractors as well. You can sell ColorReader to your pro-painters to help identify color instantly, on-site, which saves them time and money. The device can help contractors differentiate themselves through the use of professional technology, helping them stand out to their clients. It’s up to you to decide how you want to offer the ColorReader to your customers.
TPD columnist Mark Lipton, President of Tremont Paint in Bronx, NY, is an advocate for ColorReader. “It’s more than just a gadget. It’s a smart device for retailers and contractors that simplifies the color matching process, saving time and money—which is a success story right there,” he said. “When a contractor gets a call to repaint a facility like a school or hospital, a lot of time gets wasted trying to match colors. Cutting out a piece of drywall, fumbling around with color fandecks—these are all time-consuming efforts…and it’s not like I have to ‘sell’ my customers on the ColorReader. I show them how it works, they try it for themselves, and that’s it!”
Plus it’s small and easy to use! “The pocket-sized ColorReader device can be placed against a surface to determine the paint color match from a library of color collections, whether it be an existing paint color you’re looking to match, a pillow, or a piece of fabric that is serving as the inspiration for a new paint job,” said Susan Bunting. “Simply tap the button on the Bluetooth-connected ColorReader mobile app and you’ll see the top three results in seconds for the best match to thousands of colors. The mobile app gives you the ability to change matching color collections, coordinate colors, build palettes, and save and share projects.”
Better yet, she says, it almost always works the first time. “ColorReader sets itself apart with a first shot success rate of greater than or equal to 94%, ensuring you get color right the first time, and eliminates the need for searching through fan decks,” she continued. “Since it is not paint brand-specific, you can use it for whatever brand you carry and even customize it to only show results from the collections your store stocks, in addition to store branding options.
“Successful businesses need to anticipate customer needs and embrace innovations that streamline work and improve efficiency, both for the retailer and its customers. Ensuring contractors have the supplies and tools to keep them at the top of their business is how retailers can set themselves apart and adding ColorReader to your product offerings helps do just that. Additionally, Datacolor’s new reseller program for the ColorReader allows retailers to deliver the latest, best technology to their customers, while reaping the financial benefits,” Bunting concluded.
Get in Touch
To get ColorReader or any of the other products mentioned above you can contact Datacolor directly; these products come directly from the company as opposed to a specific paint company. However, paint companies have the option to co-brand and distribute the ColorReader family of products to their customers and through their sales channels. Each of these tools will work with the major paint brands and their paint collections, allowing you to customize your color matching and formulation to the specific collections you stock. Best of all worlds, tell the company what’s on your shelves, and they’ll find a way to help out.
“Above all else, Datacolor prides itself on manufacturing technology that provides the most accurate first shot color matching on the market,” said Bunting. “Take, for example, Datacolor PAINT 2.0, which provides 30 percent greater efficiency in first shot matching than competitive POS products.”
Got a question? Eventually you might, but you’re afraid to call because who has from 7 am to 10 to sit on the phone listening to how important your call is to people who won’t talk to you? Datacolor promises to deliver first-class customer service and support. “Retailers’ success goes beyond technology, something Datacolor fully understands and delivers with performance monitoring, employee education/training, application support, hardware service and even comprehensive retail services to support your paint department,” said Bunting.
Measure and Control
“Color matching services for retail paint include measuring and controlling, formulation and visual assessment,” Susan told us. We’re sure that’s all great stuff, but sometimes when you get into “terms,” people stop paying attention. So we want to make sure everyone’s on the same page (which means stay on this page for now!).
In a nutshell, these services make it easier for you to provide color help and matching. “These solutions take the guesswork out of color matching and formulation, ensuring accurate, repeatable results that can’t be achieved by simply ‘eyeing up’ a color sample,” said Bunting.
So, here ya go:
Measure: Find the closest or exact color of a sample and generate a digital signature for the color; for example, a customer comes to you with a color sample. You can use the ColorReader or ColorReaderPro to identify the closest color in a fan deck, or using the Datacolor 200R, for an exact color match.
Formulate: Using a color sample’s digital signature, create the “recipe” to recreate the color as paint. For example, once the paint color match is found using the Datacolor 200R, the digital signature for the color is processed by the Datacolor PAINT 2.0 software, which generates the exact measurements and tints required to dispense the corresponding paint.
Direct to dispense: Using Datacolor’s Software Developer’s Kit (SDK), Dispenser or Paint manufacture company can connect their software/electronic formula book directly with the ColorReader. For example, if a store staff member uses the ColorReaderPro to look up a sample’s closest color, then they can connect the device to their Datacolor Paint software or their dispenser software to dispense the corresponding paint without having to manually type in the paint number or formula.
Hold that Line!
From here, the company wants you to know that they’re there to help and they won’t hang up on you if you call after they have your money. “Our relationship with retailers doesn’t end with a completed sale,” Bunting promises. “We pride ourselves on becoming lifelong partners who understand your business. Our products, including the
ColorReader and ColorReaderPRO, come with Datacolor’s industry-renown color technology expertise and support, such as in-store demonstrations, marketing materials and ongoing person-to-person assistance. We’re here to help ensure your success, and that absolutely extends to your bottom line. As such, we’ve created a reseller program that rewards you. Orders of five or more come at a discounted price, helping to bolster your proceeds.” datacolor.com
I’ve gotten used to living my life at the bottom of the food chain. When we go out, my fiancé tells me where we are going and how I am to dress. My daughter tells me where to send my money and how much to send (a process that leaves her much more satisfied than it leaves me). I knew when we lost our beloved dog last month that things would change around the house; I just didn’t know that I would be in charge of eating all the leftovers!
Still though, I don’t like to complain (out loud) because I’m an optimist and know that from the bottom, there’s only one way for me to go now!
Here’s the silver lining to being forced to live my life on the bottom rung: as an independent paint retailer I’ve had 30 years to prepare me for this exigency! And I always have you other dealers to keep me company because while it may be lonely at the top, it’s standing room only here at the bottom!
But why are so many quality independent retailers all crowding into this little spot at the bottom of the paint world? This is not the sort of column where I bore you with a ton of meticulously researched facts but I do know this: the independent paint retailing segment is a multi-billion dollar chunk of business that provides very high margins for the suppliers and manufacturers we buy from. So why the cold shoulder from so many?
There are examples of companies that do a good job focusing on the independent channel. Benjamin Moore of course comes to mind: they’re the biggest player in the space, but there are others. What I’m talking (complaining) about though are the big boys. Where are Sherwin Williams and PPG? These two guys combined manufacture and sell around $30,000,000,000 per year in paint. If PPG and SW were US states, combined they would have the 15th largest budget in the country! They are clearly the industry leaders in all respects but one: they seem to care little about the independent channel.
PPG is in my view the better of the two in terms of how they treat independents. They do sell to independents, but their program is a hodgepodge of ever-changing priorities. In some markets they are supportive of independents (at least the ones that have found a way to coexist with their company owned stores). But for the most part they are absent. I give them credit in that that they still maintain lines for the channel, so they give the appearance of at least catering to the independents.
No, it’s really Sherwin-Williams that I struggle to understand. Despite their excellent choice in monthly columns to sponsor (my sponsor Pratt & Lambert is owned by SW), I don’t see anything in their “go to market” that tells me they’re all that interested in the independent retailers. Since their merger with Valspar, it actually seems to be getting worse based on what I hear and am experiencing!
Their main paint brand in this segment is Pratt & Lambert, which is very low volume. That’s as good as it gets for them. Believe it or not they still have Dutch Boy and Martin Senour but I don’t see either of those two brands even lasting much longer.
Part of me wants them to stay asleep but I admit: it’s never good to wake a sleeping giant. Since they have all the resources, there’s part of me that would be excited to see what they could do for us! The amount of data they have to share, infrastructure, manufacturing and marketing capabilities, personnel, training capacity, and much more would, if they ever took an interest, make them instantly the most formidable player in the space. They’re selling us brushes, stains, rollers, caulking and more: why not paint?
A presentation given about a year ago to the investment community by the president of their Consumer Brands Division didn’t even MENTION independent retailers and made just a passing mention of the brands they sell us! That tells me all I need to know.
Before you write me saying that we don’t need any more competition, I disagree! My individual stores don’t need any more competition and neither do yours. But more companies selling to the independent retailers creates more competition, and that creates better outcomes for all of us. I may be on the bottom rung on the ladder, but you’re not going to climb up without stepping on me first!
What does a good customer experience look like at your company? What does good customer service look like? Ask everyone on your team and listen to the answers. Will they define both terms the same way or differently? It will be interesting to see if your team recognizes the difference between experience and service.
Many people don’t understand the difference between customer experience and customer service, but does it really matter? That said, experience, when it comes to business, is what the customer perceives from the time they enter your store until the time they leave. While it includes customer service—which is a big part of the overall experience—it is also how your offerings are packaged, your advertising and marketing messages, and more. As mentioned, it’s the entire experience. It’s every interaction, human or otherwise, that you have with the brand.
Then there is the definition of customer service. Sure, it may be the “department” that customers go to when they have a problem (as a store owner, that’s probably you), but it also includes every contact the customer has with anyone they encounter in your company. It’s focused on people interacting with people. There’s more to it than that, but for this conversation, let’s stick with these simplistic definitions.
So, knowing the difference between service and experience really doesn’t matter. What’s important is for everyone to know how they contribute to the customer’s experience. Some employees interact directly with the customer. They help drive customer service, which as mentioned, is a big part of the customer experience. And while some employees don’t have any interaction, what they do behind the scenes impacts the customer’s experience. It is important for every employee to know the role they play in this and how the way someone organizes your shelves and sundries is just as important as the initial greeting and project help.
All of this is leading to the concept of your brand and its reputation. I recently had a chance to sit down with Brian Chaput, the director of Offering Management at IBM, and he made a statement that summarizes all of this. “Your brand is the sum of all your customer interactions.” In just ten words he nailed it! That’s experience and service, all rolled up into one. The outcome is the perception of your brand’s reputation—and everyone has a supporting role in that perception. Everyone has some impact, in some way, on the customer’s experience.
So, does everyone in your organization know how they fit into this experience? Are they on the front line, delivering service directly to the customer? Are they behind the scenes, doing something that impacts that experience? There is customer service and then there is customer experience. Sometimes they are the same, and sometimes they aren’t. To the customer, it doesn’t matter.
Richard’s Paint Mfg. Co., Inc., has announced the appointment of Tom Griffey to the position of Director of Sales. Eric Richard, President, of Richard’s Paint, indicated Griffey’s promotion will serve to propel the strategic sales plans and growth of the Company. Griffey has been with Richard’s paint since 2001, when he joined the company as Operations Manager, Orlando Retail Division. He went on to become Sales Manager-Infiniti Division and in 2003 was promoted to Regional Sales Manager overseeing Florida and the Caribbean. With an impressive career in the coatings industry, Griffey has demonstrated proficiency for staying in tune with this ever changing industry.
Connect with Festool in Las Vegas
Dealers, contractors, and customers interested in Festool products are encouraged to visit Festool Connect, held this year in Las Vegas. The company calls it “our annual celebration of Festool, craftsmanship, and friends.”
It’s a free event, however registration is encouraged so they can arrange for attendees to have the best experience possible. Festool connect will be held Saturday, October 27 from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. at Enclave, 5810 S. Eastern Avenue, Las Vegas, Nevada 89119, where you’ll be able to take advantage of the following:
• Demonstrations and clinics from the Festool training team.
• Demonstrations from Festool partners including SawStop, Shaper Tools, and Tanos.
• Exclusive access to Festool swag—shirts, hats, stickers, etc.—from the upcoming Festool Fanshop.
• Get your tool questions answered.
• Free food and beverages.
• And more to come! festoolusa.com/company/festool-connect
Win the Indie!
Independent We Stand invites both the public and business owners to help promote the importance and strong economic benefits of “buying local” through the eighth annual Indie Award. The contest provides a chance for the winning independent business to reinvest in themselves through a branding, advertising, and public relations makeover valued at $25,000.
Getting involved is as easy as nominating locally owned small businesses that go above and beyond to support their communities through charitable donations and community outreach. The web-driven small business of the year contest also gives supporters the opportunity to acknowledge businesses that exceed customer service expectations and also grow their local economies.
“With small business optimism at a record high, consumers have a chance to boost that positive outlook even more through this contest,” says Bill Brunelle, co-founder of Independent We Stand. “We want to help bolster the efforts to grow small business, just like our members do every day in their communities, by giving customers a platform to recognize their favorite indie businesses. The bottom line: we all win when small businesses succeed and people
Anyone can nominate a small business online starting Sept. 24. Voting begins as soon as a business is nominated. Consumers can vote a maximum of three times per 24 hour period from the same IP address. Any locally owned and operated business in the U.S. is eligible to enter the contest. Nominate and vote at IndieBizAward.com. The nomination phase and initial voting run through Nov. 11.