Consumer trends in paint, stains

The paint/stain segment of the home improvement market may have slowed since 2009, as findings from a “Money Pit” survey of more than 9,000 callers suggested it did; and yet, despite this economic weakness, homeowners were still actively pursuing ways to update their home decor during that time.

These results merely validate what industry leaders Rob Horton, director of marketing for PPG’s North American Architectural Coatings business, and Erika Woelfel, director of Color Trends at Behr, have been saying — that painting, as the most basic home improvement project, doesn’t have to be costly.

“There are few home improvements that deliver a big result less expensively than a couple of gallons of paint,” Horton said, who noted that “we have seen a slight shift from pro to DIY projects” during the economic downturn. “Paint is still the most economical way to create a significant impact in a room.”

Woelfel’s take: “Paint is the easiest and most cost-effective way to update a room. It is also the ‘key ingredient’ for pulling all of the colors, furnishings and decor elements of a room together.”

Tom Kraeutler, co-host of “The Money Pit,” a nationally syndicated home improvement radio program, said home improvement projects like painting “have a viral quality that, once you get off your duff and get started, you get motivated to keep going, adding more rooms or elements to the project.”


Project education

Based on the results of the radio show’s “Voice of the Consumer” report, which analyzes all of “Money Pit’s” consumer engagement, both online and on air, 8-in-10 respondents said they were interested either in “How to do a project” or “Which type of product is best suited for the job.” Indeed, educating DIYers and others still has a ways to go, according to Kraeutler, who has taken many calls from people who say they painted over a leak stain a half-dozen times and could not understand why it keeps coming though (Answer: chemical reaction between the stain and the paint). “If they’d primed once and then painted, that would have sealed it in,” he said.

Kraeutler added that new formulations require explanations — for example, the recent introduction of paint-and-primer-in-one products. “We are constantly being asked to explain products and help consumers cut through the white noise to figure out what they really need,” he said.

For its part, PPG provides color visualization on its website to give pros and DIYers alike a chance to see what a color would look like even before they buy it. This is important, Horton said, given the sheer breadth of potential color combinations in today’s paint market.

David Hsia, senior marketing manager for brand and product at Behr, said the BehrPro program offers factory tinting services that ensure accurate color matching with timely delivery — “for every color imaginable and is geared toward meeting the specific needs of painting professionals,” he said.

For consumers, the Behr Color Center at The Home Depot offers a bevy of tips. For “color on the go,” Woelfel recommends downloading the ColorSmart by Behr mobile app that lets users visualize a project or property in a multitude of colors.


Color trends

Valspar color strategist Sue Kim said that during the downturn, consumers turned to their home as a “safe haven.” That played a role in recent color trends that, according to Kim, “offer sensory experience of new technology, and leave customers with a simple, yet beautiful, experience, such as uplifting peaches, light-hearted pinks, glowing ambers, dusky blues and transparent greens.”

For Behr, blue is the big color in 2013 — from blue-green turquoise to jeweled sapphire to nautical navy. “Blue is a very relaxing and stable color that reminds us of blue skies and fresh water,” Woelfel said. “The nice thing about color and decor trends is that there’s always a little something for everyone.”


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