All About the Ridges!

In July of 1640, Captain Turner of the New Haven Colony purchased the city of Stamford, called Rippowom at the time, from Chief Ponus of the Siwanoy tribe.

For the 52 square miles that made up the city of Stamford, Captain Turner paid: 12 coats, 12 hoes, 12 rachets, 12 glasses, 12 knives, four kettles and four fathums of white wampum. For those not expert in wampum, that’s about 24 feet of white shells on a string. In 1640, wampum was handy for measuring the depth of water. I don’t think that Chief Ponus got enough in the deal.

Unless those were 12 really fine hoes!

Oh come on….you were THINKING it!

Stamford stretches from the Long Island sound in the east to Pound Ridge, NY in the west. But Pound Ridge is not the only “Ridge” in or around Stamford. In-fact, you can’t throw a dozen hoe’s in Stamford without hitting a “Ridge.” A search through town records would show countless roads with the word “Ridge” in the name: Pepper Ridge, Rock Ridge, Shadow Ridge; the list goes on!

But it’s Long Ridge and High Ridge which are Stamford’s main arteries. These two, 10+ mile four-lane roads carry the load for this city of 130,000+ people. Stamford’s motto is “The City that Works!” Long and High Ridge Roads carry most of those workers. The car volume on these roads during rush hour, usually leave this new Stamford resident feeling that he needs to learn the back roads better!

Yesterday Guy and I walked to her parent’s house. Under normal circumstances you would have to drive: The 2.5-mile stretch of Long Ridge Road between our house and her parents doesn't even have a sidewalk! It's no place for pedestrians.

Until the coronavirus forced everyone to stay indoors and so now the cars are gone.


Visually, it’s an adjustment.

Adjustments are something we are all making plenty of these days! And that includes independent paint retailers! Rules concerning social distancing and cleaning have made keeping the front door opened to customers nearly impossible for most dealers I know.

But that doesn’t mean that dealers are not taking care of their customers.

I got a text earlier today from a dealer who set up a new “counter”. A “virtual” new way to greet his customers BEFORE they can violate the rules of social distancing. Using Facebook Portal-one at the counter and one in the back-staff are alerted when a customer approaches the newly designed counter and the customer is immediately engaged. Using this virtual connection, staff can help customers through the paint-selling process in much the same way that they normally would.

Of course, there are challenges.

And using a video link to greet and service customers is only part of this dealer’s story.

The Facebook Portal device that they use inside the store, is bolted onto a dolly. So when a customer wants a brush to go with their paint…..staff can wheel the dolly over to the brush aisle and the customer can “virtually” select the brush they want.

Brings new meaning to point and click!

This setup is particularly useful with painters who know brush they want but perhaps only by how it looks like but maybe don’t know the name!

This retailer tells me that their sales are off about 50% from this same time last year, but believes that it would be off even more had he not taken these steps.

I believe they’re right!

As I am speaking to dealers around the country and Canada, one of the things I am hearing most frequently is regarding the reduced sales AND profits specifically from the loss of sundry sales. This seems to be having a the biggest effect on the traditional “paint & decorating” stores (versus design stores and paint & hardware stores).

From what I am hearing, as a percentage profits are off EVEN MORE than sales. That makes sense! I remember in my stores paint was a much lower margin than the sundries we sold with the paint. So just selling paint without the sundries WILL significantly affect your bottom line.

I’m really impressed with how creative this dealer got in resolving (or at least attempting to resolve) the issues their stores are dealing with.

Adjustments.

Marketing is another area where dealers are going to have bring about some swift change if they want to survive the next few months.

Many independent paint retailers have spent the last number of years focusing their marketing efforts on the residential re-paint contractor. These efforts were wise. And they were aligned national efforts to gain market share in that segment from the manufacturers we represent.

But Covid-19 has changed all of that!

From the dealers and contractors that I’m speaking with, it seems that the residential re-paint segment of the market has been badly damaged. Rules for social distancing, the economic effects of this outbreak, the mood of customers stuck in their houses and countless other macroeconomic issues that I’m not smart enough to understand, will likely keep this segment down for the next six-months at least.

So, don’t let all your marketing efforts fall on deaf ears! Change your focus RIGHT AWAY to make sure that your web site and social media show how “retail friendly” your stores are! Hands-free pickup, free delivery, retail hours and other services you can still offer retail customers should be the focus of your marketing and social media efforts at this time.

I wouldn’t blame you for thinking “didn’t Mark say that same thing just LAST WEEK?”

I did!

But most retailers are still “just thinking about it.” And this is a window which is closing. There are still some customers retail customers buying paint and they will be back in the market before the painters will be! Nice will help you now AND when the restrictions associated with this outbreak begin to loosen up.

Those who do best when responding to a crisis are those that respond fastest.

You are in a crisis! Don’t think about it anymore: DO IT!





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© Mark Lipton 2020