Mark My Words—December, 2018

By Mark Lipton,

  Filed under: Departments, Mark My Words

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MARK LIPTON
Contributing Writer

Write On? Right On!

My fiancée has a strange habit. She marks the passage of time by noting the closest holiday to the current spot on the calendar and declaring “I can’t believe it’s Valentines Day already: I can’t believe it’s Tax Day already, I can’t believe it’s July 4th already!” and so on through the year. As I sit to write this, she’s laying on the couch doing her Black Friday shopping mumbling “I can’t believe Thanksgiving is over already! I can’t believe it’s Christmas already!”

Neither can I! And I’m grateful for the reminder to do a year-end column. This year was a good one for our industry (mostly: see more below) and independents. I participated in that success and know that many of you did as well. My stores did well. We saw increased sales (slightly) and increased profit margins (nicely higher) while labor costs stayed fairly stable. I did more consulting this year than usual with less travel, also making for a good 2018.

But 2018 is not the only thing we are saying goodbye to. The issue of The Paint Dealer that you hold in your hands will be the last.

Goodbyes are hardest when goodbye is not what we want to say! After a 26-year run, The Paint Dealer magazine is no more. It is time to say goodbye to a publication that has given great voice to our struggles. For decades, The Paint Dealer has been the chronicler of our lives as independent paint retailers.

And I don’t want to say goodbye!

My time with The Paint Dealer lasted longer than my marriage! I don’t even recognize the young man in the pictures of me from back then—he had far too much hair and was much too skinny for my taste. I was 30 years old and just two years in a paint store when I began writing here. At the time, my view of the paint business was that of the few blocks around my store.

Blink forward a few decades and here we are, forced to say goodbye. When TPD first began, there were just a few places to get industry news tailored to the independent paint retailer. As TPD leaves the stage, that is still the case. The PDRA does a nice job with its magazine and there are a few other outlets, but the truth is that publishing is a troubled industry and it seems unlikely that new magazines will pop up to cover independent retailers. Though we are a multi-billion dollar segment of a large industrial segment of the economy, we are too small a collection of people to profitably make a publication just for independents.

But we have not changed all that much! Yes, there are fewer independents now than there were a few decades ago, but not that significantly. What did bring on the end of TPD were the costs of publishing and physically distributing a paper magazine in a time when most information gets distributed at a very low cost via the ether. Consolidation at the manufacturer level also caused problems for TPD: fewer companies mean fewer advertisers.

Still though, independent paint retailers are significant enough in number that we warrant coverage: and a voice! I have a plan to provide that.

About the time my fiancée started saying “I can’t believe it’s Halloween already” I set up a new website: MarkLiptonPaint.com. Going forward, I will continue my writing and will publish it there. But I plan more than just posting my own writing. I have already spoken to other dealers, as well as people from other planets in our orbit, whom I think dealers would be interested in hearing from. My hope is to create a space for dealers and others in our industry to share what they have learned, directly with you. I hope to post podcasts so that people who are important to all of us can reach us in that easy to use medium.

I’m excited and hope to deliver some great content, curated by me: tailored to you. But to make it work, I’ll need followers—and that’s where you come in. Please go to MarkLiptonPaint.com and enter your email address. After you do, you can click on the word “blog” on that page to go see what’s already there. The only thing else that is required after that is to read what I send you. I will not be pounding your in-box nor will I be selling your email addresses. Just content specific to independent paint retailers, delivered directly to your email. I hope to see you there.

Thank you as always, for reading my work. It means a lot to me. Please join me in wishing the best of luck to my Paint Dealer family as they too move on to new chapters in their lives.

Mark Lipton is the 4th generation owner of Tremont Paint in New York City as well as a consultant to the coatings industry. mdlipton@me.com