Framed and Caged

By Jerry Rabushka,

  Filed under: Feature

Rollers find their freedom

Time marches on, or in this case it rolls along, and as always, things change despite our best efforts. Product popularity comes and goes—but what’s up with the roller? Certainly, sales are on the upstroke!

A “small” change, said Roland Kolilias, VP at ArroWorthy, is that mini rollers are growing in popularity. Not that they’re bigger, but even a couple of decades after they were first “rolled out,” many of your customers might be picking them up for the first time. “ArroWorthy has experienced tremendous growth in its Mighty-Mini Roller program over the last five years,” said Roland. Must mean you’re selling more!

Paul Schmitke at agrees that mini rollers are growing in stature as well as gaining in quality. “Mini rollers continue to evolve similar to what we are seeing in the traditional paint roller market,” he observed. “New fabrics and materials are being utilized to create paint tools better suited for today’s coatings.”



Micro in the Mini

Speaking of small, by now most everyone in the trade has heard of and tried out microfiber, which is also moving into minis from biggies. “ArroWorthy was one of the first companies to embrace the microfiber fabric,” said Kolilias. After they introduced it in conventional roller covers, they took it into the minis. “Our leadership and expertise with the microfiber products has led us to develop the Lamdel Weave roller cover series that further satisfies the market needs for a lint-free knit style roller cover,” he said.

The trick here, says Schmitke, is to make sure your microfiber products are good quality. Just like when someone says their paint is low VOC, that doesn’t mean it’s any good. It’s just low VOC. Microfiber is a very broad category, Paul notes, and one isn’t just as good as another. “Consumers are learning the difference between high quality European fabrics as compared to lower grade microfibers that do not perform as well as the premium fabrics,” he said.

Like brushes in last month’s article, Premier and other roller makers are adjusting fabric formulas in tandem with changing coatings. “The success of our Ultra-Micro cover is an indication that blending high quality European microfiber with other materials will continue the evolution of fabrics around the advanced fast dry paints of today,” said Schmtke.


At Corona, company President Ben Waksman pointed out how its popular products provide just the benefits your customers need, depending on their application. “Our two most popular roller series are both woven for clean, fast application,” he said. “The plush white woven acrylic UltraWeave™ is great for fine application and finish. For production painting and speed of coverage, there is nothing like our UltraFast™. This is a unique blend of woven twisted nylon fibers with a feather tip that resembles natural bristles. It is the closest we have seen a synthetic perform to the painter preferred natural lambskin shearling rollers of yesterday.”


Nine This Time

Just like there’s that niche paint that fits in between your main coatings, and then the niche-niche to fit in between that, there are more sizes of rollers than there used to be. Does that mean your roller display is bigger? Hmmmm…maybe, maybe not. But the answer to “I want a roller” has changed from “it’s on that wall over there” to “what size, we have ’em from itty bitty to pretty big.”

If your audience is mainly pro, says Waksman, you’ll lure them in with a wide variety of frames and covers. “In some markets the 18″ roller covers are more popular for walls than the 9″, which historically has been the most popular,” he noted. “We see growth in the sales of the 18″ and 14″ but our strongest size is still the 9″.”

Premier is watching and waiting. “I think the jury is still out on this one,” said Schmitke. “18″ covers continue to be popular, and there are segments of the country responding well to a variety of widths of roller covers.” But since you can’t get a roller without accessories, every new size means a new bag of sundries. “We have seen significant push back from the painting community, as with each new width of roller the painter is forced to purchase the accommodating roller frame, tray, liners, etc. to complete the job,” Paul pointed out. “We continue to see the 4″ and 6″ widths predominate the mini roller market, while we see the 3, 4, 7, 9 and 18″ widths dominate the traditional roller cover market.”

Frame Game

What’s a roller with a bad frame? For every new size roller, someone’s got to find the cage that works just right. Put a car in neutral and it will at least roll, but put a roller in neutral and it’ll skid—all the way down the wall. To avoid this kind of wreck, manufacturers have made strides with frames as well, said Kolilias at ArroWorthy. “Our Barracuda roller fames have caught on with the professional painter,” he said. “They are easy to use and very durable.” If it’s a bigger roller, the barracuda has a model to fit. “The professional contractor is always looking for convenience and the best way he can finish his job task with satisfactory results. Developing and offering the right sizes and naps for the job is a great way to satisfying the needs of the market. Arroworthy’s new Barracuda 14″ and 18″ roller frames are a great example.”

Frames are made specifically to fit the roller that goes on it, he continued, vs. stretching or squishing the technology from another size. “Each size needs different tooling and molds. For our Barracuda series we had to build new molds for 7, 9 and 14″. We also needed to make sure each size had the right balance, feel, and strength as originally intended.”

Also from ArroWorthy is the 12-18″ Adjustable U Frame, which adjusts, as per its name, to rollers from 12-18″—a great help for painters with a wide variety of sizes.


Categorically Mature

This is, however, a well-settled category—it’s not something you have to convince most customers they need, except perhaps a guy who’s 85 and hasn’t painted since 1948. Other than that, the roller category shouldn’t be a surprise

However, and it’s a big however, it’s important to surprise them with just the roller they need, and that everyone can figure out what that roller is. Schmitke has seen his share of out of date roller displays. Ask yourself, as you’re bringing in that new line of coatings, if your applicators are up to date as well. “Pay careful attention to any changes in the coatings you are offering,” he recommends. “It is quite common to find an applicator mix that hasn’t been changed in several years in the same store where new stain lines, paint lines and specialty coatings have been launched. Always remember that paint applicators are a complimentary sale to the coatings offered in your retail location. We find many categories of coatings are underrepresented when it comes to the corresponding applicators to properly apply them.”

That being said, you still might have to wow them with your knowledge and advice. What seems like a no brainer to you might be a head buster even to an experienced painter looking at new choices. “Labels for paint brushes and rollers typically indicate the intended use of the paint tool,” Schmitke said. “However, this can be confusing since paint applicators are a very SKU intensive department to shop. It’s pretty easy to determine the correct sizes and materials in brushes as customers can touch, feel and interact with them prior to making a purchase. Roller covers are a bit different in that consumers need to determine proper width, material, and nap length prior to making a purchase. They should pay careful attention to the texture and/or surface smoothness of the area to be painted, and read the packaging carefully to determine which applicator is best suited to their project.”

We quoted Ben Waksman as saying this last month, but rather than it being something that goes without saying, it’s something that bears repeating!

“Independents do their customers a favor selling them a better-quality brush and roller. Not only will it make the paint go on easier, but once it dries it is evident that the coverage went on more evenly and smoothly.”


The Purdy 9″ Revolution frame is very lightweight and a great choice for use with an extension pole. It has an easy one-handed roller cover release and is acme threaded for fast attachability.