Paint is one of the quickest and easiest ways for customers to reinvent their space. Investing in your paint and sundries category not only boosts your overall sales but situates your operation as the store customers visit to start their renovation project, which can lead to additional add-on sales in other categories.
Alessandra Conte purchased Total Hardware in Sayreville, New Jersey, in 2015. In 2018, she added Benjamin Moore to the store, and in 2020, she purchased a 3,800-square-foot building and moved the businesses, dedicating half of the new location to paint and sundries.
Staying on Trend: See what paint colors are hot this year to help your customers choose their hues with confidence at CATEGORY hardwareretailing.com/2023-color-roundup.
Concentrating on Customers
Total Hardware had a 24-foot paint and sundries section when it first opened.
“When we made paint and sundries a focal point of the business, it brought in new customers and gave current customers another reason to stop into the store,” Conte says. “We definitely had a boost in business.”
Conte says Total Hardware serves a mix of contractors and DIYers and knowing the intricacies of what paint and sundry products they want and the level of customer service they need is important.
“Knowing your customer base is key,” Conte says. “We serve a lot of homeowners who are constantly redoing their spaces to keep up with the trends and a lot of DIYers who refinish furniture. I keep those customers in mind when I am stocking my paint and sundries categories.”
Conte says pros usually request specific paint and sundry products based on their personal preferences or requests from their customers.
“I honor our pros’ paint and sundry product requests and keep what they normally use in stock,” Conte says. “They usually want quick and efficient service, which we also provide. We propose new paint and sundry products to them when we get a chance, which results in stronger pro relations when that new product performs well.”
DIYers are more easily influenced to try a new paint or sundry product but often need more guidance on using it, Conte says.
“I make a concentrated eff ort to ask questions to understand a customer’s project. Once I understand my customer’s goal, I locate and recommend the products that will give them the best result, even if it is not necessarily what they ask for,” Conte says. “If we don’t already have the right products, I confer with my distributor representatives to find the right items for the customer to complete the project, and then I’ll add it to my product mix.”
Conte says DIYers often need help choosing a paint color, so understanding where the color will be used and what kind of lighting and flooring will be present in the same area is important for employees to know.
“Having paint sample cards and books available for customers to take home and test colors in their space has also really helped with paint sales,” Conte says. “Showcasing color combinations that work well together also helps boost sales.”
Once a color is selected, the work is not over.
“DIYers do not always understand what paint should be used in specific areas like kitchens or bathrooms,” Conte says. “Our first question when helping customers with paint is, ‘Where will this be used?’”
“When we made paint and sundries a focal point of the business, it brought in new customers and gave current customers another reason to stop into the store.”
—Alessandra Conte, Total Hardware
Promoting Paint: Read how another retailer invested in paint and found success as a community hub for generations at hardwareretailing.com/carpenters-paint-hardware.
Top 2023 Trends
Being knowledgeable about what is popular and trending can set your store apart from the competition and establish your operation as a paint and sundries destination. Conte shares some of the trends her customers have been following.
- Grays continue to be a top color choice for many, though more earthy tones have gained popularity.
- Navy blue is a common color for cabinets and furniture.
- Chalked paint is very popular with DIYers, who use it on furniture refinishes.
- When it comes to trim, customers are moving away from semi-gloss finishes to satin.
- Matte finishes are popular for walls, especially with younger customers.
Total Hardware’s paint and sundry selection did not grow to where it is today by chance. Product selection was curated over time with input from customers, Conte says.
“We stocked very basic residential interior and exterior paints in the beginning,” Conte says. “As both owner and manager, I have the unique opportunity to have a lot of face-to-face interactions with customers, and I have taken their product requests to heart to build this category.”
When she recommends a new product to a customer and they end up purchasing it, Conte says she asks them to call her and let her know how the product performed.
“First, I make sure they used the product correctly,” Conte says. “Then I listen to their review of the product and use their feedback to curate my product selection.”
Conte says she has noticed an uptick in demand for more sustainable, eco-friendly and health-conscious paints, such as options with low VOCs or options that have a less negative impact on people with asthma.
“I have brought in new lines of paint recently that follow the sustainability or health-conscious product trends,” Conte says. “They have been on my radar for years, but the demand hasn’t been there until recently. I think COVID-19 brought these ideals to the forefront of customers’ minds and encouraged their popularity.”
Selling Paint Colors: Discover eight tips for driving traffic to your paint department to boost sales and encourage customers to try something new at hardwareretailing.com/selling-color.
All About Advertising
For the past eight years, Conte says she has tried almost every advertisement avenue but has struggled to find sufficient return on her investments.
Conte says she had some customers who posted on their social media accounts about products they bought at Total Hardware, which led to a mass influx of other customers coming to purchase the same items, highlighting the power of social media.
“With people spending large amounts of time on social media, it makes sense to advertise on it. I have personally seen it succeed, so that is where I concentrate my advertising and marketing eff orts,” Conte says. “I still put advertisements in our local newspapers a few times a year when the seasons change for our sizable elderly community and utilize Instagram to target our younger customers. But Facebook is our main source of advertising and marketing.”
Total Hardware sits in the center of three towns that each have their own Facebook page, which Conte uses to make direct contact with her customers.
“I advertise our products, including paint and sundries, on social media daily,” Conte says. “Benjamin Moore has an advertising center with resources we utilize for our social media.”
Messenger, a mobile messaging app linked to Facebook, is a tool customers often use to ask questions about Total Hardware, and Conte highlights the importance of checking those messages and replying fully and promptly as much as possible.
“Customers ask questions about products, delivery and more all the time through Messenger,” Conte says. “It is great for me because if I am helping another customer in the store, I don’t have to stop what I am doing and answer the phone. I just check my phone after and answer whatever question they may have—it makes everything easier.”
Conte also says she takes advantage of Facebook advertising opportunities.
“I had my doubts at the beginning, but I have definitely seen positive results from Facebook ads,” Conte says. “It is a great option because it is easy to do and there are enough price options available for you to find what works best for your budget.”
Conte says social media also helps her find ways to support her community through the business and showcase its support, which grows customer loyalty.
In the end, taking the time to grow relationships with customers is some of the best advertising or marketing an operation can do.
“When you listen and take your time with your customer, they will come back for their next project,” Conte says. “Being cheerful when they walk in and doing the little things—like remembering names and what projects they’ve completed—can make a huge diff erence and set you up for success.”