Masonry Surfaces Take the Floor…and More!
There’s been a trend over the last decade or so where architectural concrete has been creeping its way into homes and commercial spaces and where “exposed brick” has become a buzz phrase in real estate listings. It’s great to have such a durable surface, but maybe it’s not holding up like it should, or maybe your clients want to add a custom look to their space, so…what do you do? If you keep reading, I can tell you (and I promise to keep it short this month). Painting and coating brick, concrete, and other masonry surfaces is becoming almost as popular as the surfaces themselves. I got in touch with Richard Ahlstrom of Abatron, Joe Riggio of Nationwide Protective Coating Manufacturers, and Yvette Rubenzer of Gardner-Gibson about just what you can do to grab this market!
You Might Know More Than You Think
Rubenzer opens by reminding us that you and your painters probably already have the skills and sundries needed! “Contractors are often so focused on traditional applications that they don’t realize how well suited their skills and tools are for the application of natural stone and concrete paver sealers,” she said. They just need to learn it up, and it’s not that hard to do. “The easiest way to avoid application issues is to read a product’s technical data sheets. One or two pages of preparation and application information takes five minutes to read and can save so much time and energy both in preparation and also over the life of the project, with a job well done and no call backs. Manufacturers want contractors to succeed,” she asssured us. After all, that’s their avenue to return business! However, she adds, make sure your supplier is accessible and will answer the phone to address any questions that pop up during application.
Stay on Top of Concrete
So what can you do to stay on top of the newest in masonry coatings? Riggio of Nationwide pointed out some industry trends. “We have noticed with all the spray-crete decks, stamped concrete decks, and troweled decks that there is an increase in refinishing products such as clear coats and clear urethanes,” he said. “With the abundance of pavers in the marketplace, clear paver sealers are becoming a high demand product. Also, with higher concern for aesthetics, we find that more and more customers are staining or clear coating their driveways and walkways.”
He also shared some insight on some of the interior applications we touched on earlier. “Water based, environmental friendly interior epoxies are very prevalent in the market and with the added ease of no harsh fumes,” he added. “By using these products, it is very easy for a DIYer to achieve a professional look.”
Now if you’re a master of Tetris and can squeeze all sorts of products in all sorts of places (just like Sue Moore, the subject of last month’s independent dealer profile), you’ve got your display situation in order. But how do you squeeze these new products and concepts into an already overpopulated display? You know I asked—it’s my job! Rubenzer suggests that end caps and counter signage can help draw attention to the category of proven products and then introduce customers to what’s new. “Highlight these products by asking a question such as, ‘Does this project have pavers that may need to be resealed?’” she suggested.
Plus, share your excitement with customers even before they come to the store! “Do you have a customer email news program or a blog?” she asks. “Use them to share a bit of insight on clear sealers. Painting contractors typically know what they need before they walk in the door, so catch their attention and plant the seed. These are natural opportunities to add sales with proven products for retailers and contractors.”
“Ask if the contractor is working on adding any projects,” adds Riggio at Nationwide. “You can let the clients know that you have urethane products to coat pools, concrete stains for driveways and walkways, and epoxies for garage floors.”
Letting customers know about these products—which they may not yet have heard of—can maximize your sales and get an idea brewing in a consumer’s mind. There may even be some additional things you can do to get paint pros, who we all know aren’t the easily convinced type, to jump in feet first.
For example, Yvette had a great idea to get your foot in the door of their future projects: “Paint contractors are either picking up product from you or getting deliveries from you, so your relationship with them is already there. Introducing the contractor to the sealer category is the first step,” she elaborates, “then ask the manufacturer to bring doughnuts and give a 15-minute intro to sealers. Ask them to come back with more doughnuts and do a product demo. Make sure your chosen manufacturer can provide inventory quickly and conveniently and remains accessible for questions along the way.” (And make sure you find a good doughnut shop, too!)
Conquer The Stoop
If all of that doesn’t work, you can always remind pros and DIYers alike what happens when they neglect their surfaces.
As Abatron’s Richard Ahlstrom says, “Concrete is one of the toughest, most durable, low-maintenance building materials available…except sometimes it’s not.” There’s so much that can go wrong when some of these surfaces are left in their raw state if you get unlucky.
He told us about a porch that some of his clients encountered. “This particular stoop had a combination of common problems. Years of cracking and crumbling on the bull-nosed step edge had left unsightly gaps in the concrete [and] general settling had caused hairline stress cracks that spider-webbed across the entire surface. Replacing the concrete wasn’t really an option because it would have required the removal of the attached portico.” It can be costly if you don’t do the right thing first, or at least have quality repair products for sale (such as the Abatron products shown). With all this in mind, it makes sense to make sure your customers go home with some masonry coatings in their trunk!
Re-Design Your Personality
Our trip to the National Hardware Show brought us into contact with Re-Design from Prima Marketing. What an amazing way for homeowners—or any concrete owner—to add excitement to this surface! Here’s a quick Q&A on how this unique product can make the difference, not only on your sales floor, but in your customers everyday lives. Below, Cari Fennell, the company’s home decor coordinator, answers a few questions that you in turn can answer for your own clients.
Q. How can Re-Design bring excitement and focus to areas where solid colors can’t?
Re-Design tools allow you to add personality and beautiful designs to your living areas. You are able to create beautiful patterns with our high-quality stencils using your choice of color to complement the solid colors, resulting in a high end custom look. They are easy to use and reusable too, making the investment a win-win for any DIYer or paint pro.
Q. What could a paint pro or DIYer do with this product that would make their job stand out?
The options are endless. A paint pro or DIYer could use our tools to add character and charm to a space by choosing from our selection of fabulous designs. They can use any color of paint to complement their projects and color schemes. Our collection also consists of heavy duty 3D stencils that will allow you to use a dimensional substrate so you can add a dimensional design that will give you a gorgeous overall impact in the space where they are applied.
Q. Where would you suggest using the stencils over a textured finish?
On a textured surface, we suggest trying out certain designs to be sure you get the look you are going for. A pattern with a bolder design (rather than a delicate design) would work a lot better over a textured surface. You can use the patterns to create a border or a focal point on the wall [see photo on page 18] or any surface for a high end custom look.
Q. How would you suggest merchandising this new product?
Samples! Create sample boards or a feature wall so your customers can see what the patterns look like once applied to a surface. Customers like to see what they can do with a product. Also, hold DIY workshops or demonstrations—that’s a great way to show customers how to use the product, what they can use it with, and to pass along tips and techniques for using it successfully. Our tools are also great for upselling other goods. Use them along with other media that you wish to showcase to your customers for promotion and education.