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The Tyranny of Chains!

Updated: Aug 6, 2020

My fiancée Guy is back to working from home last week and this. When her boss heard that she had been to Florida, where your waitress brings your Covid-19 right to your lounge at beachside, they sent Guy home for a two-week quarantine.

Just another reason to love THE Sunshine state!

We are making do of course but with three people home working all day, my soundproof headphones are getting a workout! Here’s a picture of my “desk” for the last few months: my laptop, a full-size keyboard and trackpad (an accommodation to old and slow fingers which like to spread out when they type), a stand to hold my phone for Zoom calls, a bottle of vitamins, my allergy meds, a plant, a panini press and some ham and cheese which Chris just took out.

(He’s about to get pissed when he learns I only left him one slice of American cheese! You snooze you lose dude!)


I was right in thinking that the Covid-19 outbreak would bring a tsunami of changes to our industry and channel! It has brought many and it will bring more in the coming weeks, months and years.

But I was wrong in thinking that the outcomes of those changes would be lower sales.

When I wrote in March about understanding your burn rates and how long you can last without revenue; that was good advice. In a crisis, know your resources! But for most of you, I was still wrong! You weren't going to need that info!

Of course I had no way of knowing that the outbreak would cause homebound consumers to want to paint. I had no way of knowing the government was going to print a quick $4,000,000,000,000 and start handing it out! Who thought “Whoa, look at all those people dying in New York…..must mean we are in for a good exterior season!”

The extreme sales growth which many are experiencing now is a shot in the wallet for most independent paint retailers. While business in the New York metro area is still slow to recover and dealers who are heavily dependent on the professional trade are also still hurting, most retailers are overcoming their Covid related issues with a robust DIY business. Higher profits, no credit, lower service costs make for a great combination and so while still in crisis-mode, many retailers are flush with cash and customers.

Yup……a crisis can look like that too! Crisis means “a time of intense difficulty, trouble, or danger.” That definition doesn’t mention anything about lower paint sales!

But still, our channel is dealing with a crisis: a period of intense difficulty! In-fact in one way, despite the bloated checkbooks, things are significantly worse for independent retailers than they were before the Covid-19 outbreak.

Market Share!

Before the Covid outbreak, independent retailers were losing ground, market share, to the big boxes and the chains. This isn’t news! In fact, it’s accepted as knowledge and verifiable with some easy-to-get data. That fire was already burning.

Covid, only made it burn hotter!

Americans, at least those not among the 40,000,000 unemployed, seem to have plenty of money for decorating! Stuck at home working and educating their kids, separated from their dinners out and theme park vacations, Americans turned to their walls and collectively said “YUCK!”

That’s why your stores are so busy! But while your stores are up; WELL up in some cases….the big box stores and the chains are up even more than you are.

Market share erosion!

It will be hard to fully understand this trend in detail for several months-or maybe longer! Data will be abnormal at best and that will make it all even harder to understand. Until these trends normalize, data will remain interesting, but it may not reveal much about the short-term.

But longer trends have not changed. In-fact, they’ve been highlighted, and gotten more pronounced! And the data does confirm that.

I think that we all agree that for the last decade or so, consumers have shown a desire to do more of their buying online. The consumer’s shift to e-commerce from brick and mortar is not in question! The only thing in questions is: “How much has that trend been sped up by the coronavirus outbreak?”

The answer is: A shit-ton!

So, despite the fact that most of your cash registers are full and you feel great about how things are going, we should all be very concerned. Independent retailers need to make a change and they need to do it quickly. What is that change?

You need e-commerce! It’s an independent dealer’s best weapon to fight back against the tyrannical chains and boxes!

But I got tired of seeing myself write that and anyway, I have never been the type who likes to just point out problems. I prefer working on solutions! And so, I decided to make an e-commerce platform for independent paint retailers.

Lexington! An e-commerce solution for independent paint retailers.

Like the battle which started the American Revolution, I hope that THIS Lexington starts another revolution: The War for Independents!

On Thursday I’ll show it off to some dealers I think of as “friends and family” looking for some final feedback.

Our first site launches on July 15.

And on July 16th we form a militia of independents and go pound on the door of “King Depot” and go get our money back! He's been taking it from us for too long!

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