Ace applies its first coat of Valspar

NEW ORLEANS — The recent marriage of Valspar and Ace Hardware Corp. was by far the most colorful product story at Ace's Spring Convention and Exhibits held here.

Not only were dealers eager to see Ace's paint department vision of the future, they were hungry for details on the incentives in place to retrofit their stores.

One retailer suggested that the Valspar topic boosted attendance at the show. Others on the floor ran the gamut from dealers who embrace the change enthusiastically, to those who want to stay with their existing brands, notably Benjamin Moore.

Valspar and Ace employees were busy answering questions, showing colors and generally promoting the new program, which is expected to deploy in October. The vision includes a pair of endcaps and 8-ft. color displays featuring Clark & Kensington on one side and Valspar on the other. In between rests a counter, mixing equipment and an overhead "Color comes home" message.

They also spread the word of Clark & Kensington's No. 1 ranking in the recent Consumer Reports article on interior paint.

"Clark & Kensington coming out No. 1 in Consumer Reports — that was huge," said Drew Conant, of Lakeland Ace Hardware in Pinckney, Mich.

Still, he wasn't entirely ready to take the plunge with the new Valspar program. "We're a smaller store, so bringing in all of that — I don't know yet," Conant said.

Michael Chulyak, the owner of Ace Hardware in Big Timber, Mont., who was an early adopter of Ace's Clark & Kensington brand, said the store was gearing up for Valspar. "I think it's a good thing," he said. "We were Coast to Coast a few years ago, so we know the Valspar brand."

With the Valspar alliance, as Valspar becomes the manufacturer of Ace paints, margins will automatically increase 10% on store sales. Other incentives include 18 months to sell the paint before they pay for it, and free store resets that include tinters, racks, decor and signage. On top of that, there's national marketing in the works, including plans for a paint grand opening event that Ace VP paint John Surane said will be "our biggest national event ever."

Dale Miller, of Miller Supply Ace Hardware in Northampton, Pa., is a longtime Benjamin Moore dealer, a subset of Ace dealers most likely to resist making a swap for Valspar.

"It's a tough decision," he said. "The incentives make it pretty attractive. Plus, down the road it will be a problem [if we don't have Valspar], because the advertising and marketing will be geared toward Valspar."

Ace says that with Valspar it will have a national brand partner with all of the national marketing support that comes with it. It will also allow stores to operate with a single tint machine.

"We as a team recognize that there are a thousand scenarios out there in your paint department," said John Surane, speaking at the convention's general session. "We're ready to work with you on that."

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