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A Chain and its Weakest Links

It’s hard not to notice what the paint business has done to my countenance!

A fully-receded hairline and wrinkled forehead the most visible sign of a three-decades career in paint.

But while the gallons sold have taken their toll on my visage, my vanity has remained intact. Protected, by the fact that most people I know are also in the paint business.

Meaning I still look good, at-least by comparison!

In my blog on September 5th, I shared a picture of Benjamin Moore’s New York sales team, circa 1992. One of the young faces in the now-nearly 30-year-old picture was that of George Brennert, a recent-hire at the time the shutter captured the moment.

George would spend much of the next decade as my Benjamin Moore architectural and industrial coatings representative.

And trusted friend.

When a recent trip to help a paint dealer in Columbia, Tennessee brought me within an hour of George’s current home, I made plans to meet another geek of paint for lunch.

My excitement to see my old friend diminished, and my insecurities heightened when at lunch I realized that I was not the best-preserved paint-geek in the room.

Good for George I guess, for keeping his hair and his youthful expressions through over 30-years in the paint business.

But the next time I have lunch with a aging paint-man it’ll be Dan Calkins!

Speaking of

This week Benjamin Moore CEO Dan Calkins held two virtual “Q & A” sessions where he spoke to dealers regarding issues affected the Montvale-based paint brand and its network of independent paint dealers.

Dan spent an hour with two groups of dealers, first at nine a.m. and again one p.m. The two sessions were viewed by over 500 Ben Moore dealers.

And one paint blogger who had a backup plan, in case someone recognized his email address and blocked his attendance.

Just because you’re paranoid, doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you!

Over the course of an hour, THE man Warren Buffet calls when he’s looking to save a few bucks on Aura, shared his perspective on the considerable issues facing independent paint dealers and customers of the paint brand founded in 1883.

Supply Chain and Inflation

Shortages and price increases dominated the chatter, Dan explaining that raw material shortages and other supply chain issues are likely to effect independent paint dealers for at-least six more months.

As to pricing, dealers should be happy to hear that the value of their Benjamin Moore inventory will be going up 8.5%-10% in February when the company implements its next price increase.

But it was Dan sharing his recognition that THE company needs a network-wide plan to help both Benjamin Moore and Ben Moore dealers retain the several hundred-million dollars in Sherwin-William’s volume which the pandemic and February storms delivered to their store’s sales counters which caught my attention.

Because it sounded so familiar!

Rarely do companies in mature industries get the opportunity to add 30% to their dollar volume in one-year. But with dealer cash registers overflowing from sales to painters pushed to Benjamin Moore dealers by shortages at Sherwin-Williams, that’s exactly the opportunity that Dan and Ben Moore dealers are looking at.

If, they can hold onto this newfound market share when Sherwin-Williams has the shelves full again.

Based on their own reporting, Sherwin-Williams has lost approximately 3% of their architectural sales to an inability to manufacture enough professional products to meet demand.

An amount equal to more than $300,000,000!

Explaining why most Ben Moore dealers I speak with are up over 20% for the year. With most of those increases coming in professional products sold to former customers of Cleveland-based Sherwin-Williams.

A Supply Chain’s Capacity

On his call with dealers Dan shared that over the next 18-months, Benjamin Moore expects to increase their yearly manufacturing capacity by more than 16,000,000 gallons. That’s a good start, you can’t sell what you don’t have!

But to painters who have no more connection to the Ohio-based manufacturing plants of Sherwin-Williams than they will have to the Benjamin Moore plant in Newark, fulfillment starts at the tinting station of the local dealer.

So Dan’s plan needs to include support for local dealers already handling and delivering those gallons.

One dealer I spoke with shared that before the onset of these shortages, they used their soon to be extinct manual Color Preview colorant dispenser a “handful” of times each day. “For the occasional gallon of Satin Impervo or P22,” referring to two of the narrow list of products which can still be tinted on Color Preview.

Fully-automatic high-speed Gennex tinters handling nearly 100% of the store’s tinting volume.

But to meet the price sensitivity of his newfound customers, this dealer has had to offer Color Preview products such as Super Hide and Coronado.

Increasing the volume which the store tints manually each week from perhaps 20-gallons, to a more than 100-fives!

Lacking confidence in sales of these products beyond this period marked by shortages, dealers are and should remain reluctant to invest $25,000 in the automatic Color Preview tint dispensers which would solve their problems.

The Benjamin Moore supply chain is more than just the company’s plants and trucks. If Benjamin Moore plans to push an additional 16,000,000 gallons per-year through their dealer network, #DanCalkinsPlan will need to address the additional tinting capacity needed in the stores as those 16,000,000 gallons take their final step in the purchase process.

That plan should not require dealers to invest in a color platform the company has been speaking of scrapping for over a decade.

And Then Deliver It

Home Depot recently announced that it has partnered with Walmart to deliver the last mile for paint and other (small in size) items purchased on their web site. The company’s goal; to offer same-day delivery to as many customers as possible.

Partnering with Walmart is a good start! More than 90% of Americans live within 10-miles of a Walmart.

Dealers should not be asked to foot the bill to bring this paint its final mile. With job markets around the country tighter than the seal on a plastic gallon can, and trucks nearly impossible to find due to chip shortages, dealers will need support if they are to deliver the 16,000,000 gallons #DanDreamsOf.

By relying on technology and partnerships with companies designed to manage the last mile, Benjamin Moore can significantly increase the capability of its network to deliver these additional gallons.

And of-course, a complete reform of the company’s opaque patchwork of policies and software which they call a discount structure.

All put in place before Sherwin-Williams CEO can get his hands on a few train-loads of resin.

It's no wonder Dan is aging so fast!


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