Mark My Words—April, 2017

By Mark Lipton,

  Filed under: Departments, Mark My Words


Contributing Writer

Will Your Store Divorce You? Not With These Tips!

Every time I think I understand the women in my life, they find some way to send me a reminder that says, “Mark, you just don’t get it!” In the case of my ex-wife, it was a process server who handed me that reminder! Despite my experiences, I still like to honor tradition, so like the rest of us, I like to refer to beloved items as if they were women. Your boat? “She’s a fine one!” That BMW in your driveway? “She’s got quite a ride!”

What about the paint stores in your life? I have never heard an independent paint retailer refer to his stores as “his ladies,” yet don’t they deserve the respect that we give our wives, daughters, mothers, and sisters? In my travels through the realm of independent paint retailers, I find that we run the gamut in terms of how we treat our “ladies.” Some stores are lovingly cared for and treated with respect while others spend every day feeling like a Sunday afternoon football widow!

There’s a dealer in my market whose store I don’t have need to go into much: I was in there once around 1990. I remember thinking on that last visit: “What a dump!” The store had no sense of organization; minimal effort had been put into properly displaying products, and the displays he did have were mostly empty or not maintained. The store was not even clean! there recently and I was amazed to find out that even at my advanced age, my memory still works perfectly—the store was exactly as I remembered it, right down to the dust on the half empty ready-made mini-blind display. I was not surprised that he told me business had been on a downward slide for the last decade or so.

Paint stores, like everything else in our lives, need maintenance and upkeep. I like to have both short-term and long-term objectives for all significant aspects of my stores including how they are maintained. From a short-term perspective, I give my managers the responsibility for making sure that the stores are clean and that all displays are kept organized as initially designed and well stocked.

By the way, that includes the chip racks, which are the most important display in your store by far!

But how about my long-term objectives of keeping my stores up to date and fresh? Paint stores need to be pleasant shopping experiences. As Sherwin-Williams, Home Depot and other independents in my market continue their efforts to build a pleasant shopping environment for my customers, I must do the same. Though admittedly a different one from retail customers, even professional painters want a pleasant shopping experience. Long-term plans often require capital investment—I try to put something for that in my yearly budget so when I need it, I have funds available for an upgrade.

We are adding a new line right now that will require adding a new display to one of my stores. It is seven feet, which is no small feat by inner city store standards; it will require a lot of moving around to make it fit and maintain or even enhance our shopping environment. These changes lead to conversations and studies of how much sales or value we are getting out of each display or area of the store. Once that is determined, we can make choices on what we want to eliminate and then see where that leaves us in terms of needing to move a counter, install new flooring, paint (nobody enjoys the irony in a poorly painted paint store) or anything else that may be needed.

Any of the fixture companies that service our industry will help you lay out your store if you want to make some changes. They know that store resets will likely involve fixture upgrades or some other need so they generally don’t charge, hoping to make the sale. Some of the paint manufacturers will help lay out your store for you as well and may even have a program in place to help offset some of your costs. Just be careful that they don’t forget to leave room for a competitor’s color rack!

Each of my stores to me are fine ladies each with her own personality and style. But they both have something in common with the real women in my life: the better I treat them, the better they treat me!


Mark Lipton is the 4th generation owner of in New York City as well as a consultant to the coatings industry.