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Consumer trends in paint, stains

BY Ken Ryan

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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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Kamco maintains New York state of mind

BY HBSDEALER Staff

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Brooklyn, N.Y. — When David Kovacs talks about some of the building projects in and around his city, his eyes light up.

For starters, there’s a $15 billion Hudson Yards project on the west side of Manhattan. There’s the redevelopment of the famous South Street Seaport. In Queens, developers have huge plans for Willets Point surrounding the new Citi Field, home of baseball’s New York Mets. And there’s still a lot of work yet to be done at the World Trade Center site.

“When you look around New York City, you see some large, mega projects in the works,” said Kovacs, VP of Brooklyn-based Kamco Supply, a four-unit full-line distributor of commercial and residential building products. But there are no guarantees in the highly competitive New York market. For Kamco, one way to make it here, Kovacs says, is through dependable deliveries and quality service. “Our philosophy is to become the easiest distributor to do business with, and they’ll come back,” he said.

Another strategy is to keep the new products coming. “A lot of times when a vendor comes out with something new, they come to our door pretty quickly,” Kovacs said. “And we think it’s important to have new products to deliver to our customer on a regular basis.”

Some of those new products were on display at Kamco’s second annual Customer Appreciation & Vendor Showcase event. One of the highlight booths was a display of an innovative service called Kamco Drywall Forms. With specialized drywall saws and machinery, the service creates soffits, light coves, column enclosures and other complex shapes — and it creates them seamlessly.

“It’s a big hit,” said Kovacs. “It saves a lot of time, a lot of labor. And it comes out a lot more professional looking then if you did it by hand.”

Kamco’s product mix also features Armstorn and USG Acoustical Ceiling Systems, light gauge steel framing, drywall, lumber, insulation and many other products.

While the opportunities for business in the biggest city in the United States are enormous, operating in the urban jungle can be challenging.

“It’s doing all the little things that make us better,” Kovacs said. 

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Triple Threat

BY HBSDEALER Staff

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People of a certain age may remember the memorable scene in the 1984 mockumentary “This Is Spinal Tap,” when the daft rocker Nigel Tufnel thinks his guitar amp is louder than anyone else’s because his dials go up to 11, not 10.

It’s tempting to ponder “Spinal Tap” when you think of triple-glazed windows, the newfangled technology that’s seen as the future of energy-efficient glass openings. But are the windows just another version of a dial that goes to 11?

Triple-glazed windows feature three panes of glass and have all the other well-known, high-performance attributes and features: low-E, gas insulation, warm-edge spacers and films. The windows are said to be ideal for cold climates because of their resistance to heat loss, but some manufacturers claim the products are also effective in warm regions.

Now making in-roads in the U.S. market, triple-glazed windows will soon become the norm. The EPA just upped the standards for 2013 windows that want the Energy Star certification, so products will have to meet new performance criteria for U-factor — the rate of a window’s heat loss — and solar heat gain coefficient (a.k.a. SHGC) — which measures how well they block heat from the sun.

But triple-pane windows are pricey, costing about 25% more than double-pane units, and some wonder if they are worth the premium. Fortunately, window performance is relatively easy to measure and to calculate for return on investment.

“Adding a second or third pane of glass has substantial effects on window performance,” said Florian Speier, founder of Zola Windows in Boulder, Colo.  “For example, using Zola Windows’ U-values, triple-glazed units have twice the performance of double-glazed units. Whereas double-pane offers about a five-fold performance increase over single-pane.”

Said John Lewis, head of code and regulatory affairs for Simonton Windows in Columbus, Ohio: “If the consumer is after the very best thermal performance, then triple-glazed units are the clear choice.”  

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