Fill the gaps in your caulk display
Hey all, I hope your holiday season was great, and here’s to the best in 2018. I would have told you all a lot sooner (about a month sooner) but I was over at The Paint Contractor doing a cool story about hand tools, since with my bum wrist, ergonomics are my thing. I know what I’m supposed to talk about is caulk, but really what I’m wanting to talk about is space. For most independent retailers, it’s something we don’t have a ton of to spare.
I recently hunkered down and reorganized most of the guitar shop where I work, and I took note on which accessories and strings were selling well and what had been sitting there for a long time. I started phasing out lines and product that wasn’t moving and started bringing in new lines that had a better chance of getting along. Now with strings especially, there are so many different types thicknesses, styles, and of course sounds, it’s easy to get carried away and try to just have the most variety, but that variety might shoot you in the foot when you want to try something new but you’ve had some product that hasn’t turned over in months!
What About Me?
This is a trap that you can just as easily fall into with caulk. See, I did bring it back to topic! Now I know that we’ve done a lot of stories on caulk in the past, but we thought shooting at this from a different angle might help it stick better, so here we are. There’s a reason that we run so many stories on caulk and adhesives—it’s because they’re always changing! There has been so much development in caulk over the last 20 years (as we’ll learn) that one of the only similarities is that it still comes in a tube! I wanted to take this time to understand what would make a painter look for one specific caulk over the other and what you as dealers need to know to be able to provide the best products and service for your clients to keep them within your doors and to make sure your shelves have the necessities.
As always, I love to get ideas from the minds of the industry and this month we’ve got some great ones to talk to. We asked Darci Kunard, brand manager at Sashco, Morton Jones, director of R&D for caulks and adhesives at Gardner-Gibson, and Michael Provenzano, marketing manager of adhesives and sealants for PPG. Without further ado, let’s get cocked and loaded!
The Benefits of Quality
First of all, it’s important to know and understand the differences between caulks for different applications and luckily, one of our experts had a lot to say about this one! Darci Kunard of Sashco stepped up to the plate. “The differences are three-fold: technology, benefits, and quality, with the last being the most important,” she said. “Most caulking manufacturers confuse their dealers and consumers with technology and use that as a selling feature, but the benefits and the quality of the caulk is much more important than the technology.”
These benefits are what help you sell, she continued. “Benefits can include elasticity, paintabilty, adhesion, warranty, freeze-thaw stability, etc. Keep in mind none of these are equal, which is where quality comes into play. If a product touts elasticity above its competition, one has to wonder what it is giving up in order to gain that excessive elasticity. Moreover, once it stretches, does it have memory to come back? This is vital in applications where there is joint movement—and that would be all applications.”
For example, she noted, if a caulk has elasticity without memory, once it stretches out it might not hold its seal over time, and will eventually fail. “This is what we mean by quality,” she explained. “Benefits have to work together in order to deliver a high-quality caulking product. Furthermore, the quality of ingredients matters; this is what sets apart the high-performance caulks from the rest.” Now that we know where we are, let’s see how we got here.
Especially for You
Caulk, like I mentioned before, is always changing, so companies are always trying to get the best formulas to fit the needs of paint pros and DIYers all over the world in all different conditions and needs. We asked our friends about the R&D that goes into their product and how they know they’re offering you the best caulks and sealants they can. Morton Jones of Gardner-Gibson starts us off. “Market and field research tells us the performance properties that our customers value most. This is important because in developing a new product to better address a targeted application, it is just as important that we include the attributes that our customers love, such as ease of application,” he said.
Adding to that, PPG’s Michael Provenzano says they’re on the lookout for new applications. “If a technology doesn’t currently exist, we set out to develop it. Developing new formulations and specialized products starts with evaluating consumer needs and insights. Interacting regularly with pros and DIYers provides knowledge regarding what product features would help make their jobs easier and more efficient. We then identify and present a targeted list of performance attributes to our research and development team, who perform stringent testing and work with our customers to ensure that our products are meeting performance requirements.”
Finally, Darci Kunard of Sashco clues us in on their process. “From the packaging to the box, and all the attributes and benefits of the caulking products—we care about what goes into our products in order to deliver—as our slogan says—a Product that Works,” she said. “We want to exceed customer expectations, and that means a caulking product that works right the first time, every time. In an industry where failure of caulking is the norm—we want to change that. Caulking doesn’t have to fail.”
Too Late for Phthalate
With all of the R&D and advancement that goes into contemporary caulking and sealants, let’s not forget what caulks were like and see how far we’ve come.
In the past 20 years, caulks have advanced quite a bit, for example they are environmentally friendly, along with countless other attributes that these folks recall developing! Michael Provenzano started us off with his thoughts: “Today’s caulks and sealants have come a long way in the last 20 years, starting with the types of raw materials from which the products are formulated. One example of this is the move away from phthalate plasticizers.” From what? you may ask… “Plasticizers were traditionally needed to help caulks maintain their flexibility, but today’s formulators have alternative solutions that also provide better performance,” he explained. “Caulk formulators spend time during product development to ensure the product is compatible with many different types of interior and exterior paints with various sheens. Easy application is just as important as the long-term performance. Today, air-free tubes are a must have to avoid air pops and material run-on.”
Morton Jones of Gardner-Gibson gave us his take on the changing scene. “Acrylic latex caulks are now much more environmentally benign than they were 20 years ago because they contain a much lower volume of volatile organic compounds (VOC) and air pollutants. Also, our acrylic latex caulks are much less toxic than most other caulk chemistries in use today.”
I, for one am grateful that these companies are so dedicated to improving their product so we can have our world so perfectly held together! (I had to make that joke, don’t judge.)
The Race for Space
Finally, as always, we’ve got to get the information we need to sell these products and make sure you have what it is that the customer will need. Like our talk mentioned, space is at a premium, so getting the right stuff is crucial so you don’t have precious shelf space taken up by product that doesn’t move.
Here is what Darci Kunard suggests, of course mentioning Sashco’s methodology: “Dealers need to know that there IS a difference in caulking. You can offer your customers a range of products: good, better, best—which is what most caulking manufacturers offer. Or, you can offer your customers only high-performance. Your customers count on their caulking to work and they know the pain of replacing it again and again. Sashco makes it easy to find and recommend a caulk to your customers—we offer one brand for each application. We don’t confuse with technology or numbers.”
Morton Jones adds Gardner-Gibson’s approach, which shares some with Darci’s. “Dealers should stock a Good, Better, Best line of caulks and familiarize themselves with the features listed on the label of each product. If more information is needed, check out our website for technical and safety data. The informed dealer can then confidently recommend product to a contractor—who can then chose the caulk that best fits his or her project.”
Lastly, Michael Provenzano suggests that in order to recommend the right caulk, make sure you understand how the consumer is going to use it. “Dealers should segment their products into categories and be able to differentiate which product works best for a specific project. It is also important to have clear differentiation of these products on the shelves,” he said.
Now back to my quandary from the beginning of the article. I finally got all of the strings pared down to what we sell the most of with just enough other variety to satisfy most specialty needs that come through the door. It still left me some space to try product from another supplier I really like. Now I’ve got some price variation and I can position the handmade strings as a premium product (without a price increase) and have these others as a workhorse at a lower price—and it’s been working like a dream. When you know what you’re looking at and know what to stock, you just might get stuck in a really good place. Now with what our experts offered up, you’ll be ready for success—no strings attached!