Pull some strings and sell some brushes.
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!