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Paint By Number

Purchasing a Paint Computer

We once wrote a large purchase order because a part time employee and a paint manufacturer's representative thought we could use the item - a paint computer.

The decision was both difficult and easy. Difficult because it is hard to spend $8,000. to purchase a piece of equipment that, like a new car, will quickly depreciate. Since the date of purchase, we have already seen newer models that are in the $5,000. price range.

At least when you purchase inventory, if it is a poor choice, you can often mark down the item enough to recoup your initial cost. But with the computer, you will live with the decision for a long time. So much that if you financed the purchase, the current cost of a new machine is less than what you owe on the one you bought.

The decision to purchase the computer was easy because the paint representative, Bill Dunham, has shown himself to be a tremendous asset to our store. As compared to many representatives of manufacturer's and wholesalers that retailers often talk about, his first concern has been our store. My father has an old saying which he has applied to Bill.

The saying is, "If he told me in July that it was snowing, I would grab a winter coat before I walked outside." So, when he said that he believed we should have the computer, our opinion was strongly moved to buy. Bill's closing comments were to suggest that if we purchased the color computer, we would be able to build our paint department. And, if we did not purchase the computer then, but waited another two years, we would then be purchasing a computer in an effort to salvage our paint sales.

True to his prediction, our sales for this paint line has nearly tripled within a three year time period. And, we have since expanded the number of lines of paint that we sell for both homeowners and the commercial trade. Our part time paint person, Bob Sheridan, had been with us for only five months. But he showed a strong work ethic, and a lot of initiative. Bob seemed to be able to solve a customer's paint problems very easily. We remember in his solutions, he would often explain how similar problems had been resolved in the past 30 years. These solutions never failed and many customers returned to tell of their pleasure and appreciation. Bob has since decided to work full time in our store, and plays a crucial part in the management of our store.

When we hired Bob, he was able to speak with a paint terminology that was beyond us. We were curious to know just what quality of person we had found. To check him out, we asked Bill to sit with Bob and in their discussion, determine just how good Bob really was. We were so surprised and appreciative when the Bill came back to tell us, "I have been in the paint business for many years, but Bob can tell me things I never knew."

The computer arrived just before Christmas to much planned hoopla and fanfare. We had already selected the location and hung posters to announce our newest tool. Several customers had heard of this new technology, but only those that had shopped at some of the box stores had seen one. During our team meetings, Skyway University, the two team members that had been to the demonstration put on by the manufacturer were quick to tell about the new machine and what it would do for us.

When the computer did arrive, we even took the empty boxes and threw them in the front window with a display to exclaim that the new paint computer had arrived and was in use.

The many paint formula books were relegated to the underside of the mixing table because we wanted everyone to use the machine whenever possible. Even the premix formulas listed on some of the color cards were ignored so that we could demonstrate the new color computer.

A new computer in a store brings many challenges and opportunities. The challenges of the new paint computer came in mastering the many features that were before us. We could now allow a customer to have a custom blended color, take it home, and return for a correction after deciding that the color was "just a shade too dark". This presented a great opportunity for customer goodwill, if we could master the challenge of the many programs of the computer.

Two of the opportunities that our staff has repeatedly worked on came from the training lesson from the paint computer manufacturer. The first dealt with the formulas that were being produced. We saw that most required three pigments added to the base. It was our experience that paints with three pigments were richer looking colors.

The training seminar taught us that many of the chains had their paint computer programmed to know the cost of each of the pigments, and to produce a formula which was the least expensive. Our, to the contrary, was programmed to produce the best color regardless of cost. Obviously, this became a great sales feature to point out to customers as we blended their paint. Another came from a visit to one of the big stores. One of our team members noted that in selecting the type of lighting, that their computer referred to "tube light" while ours referred to "fluorescent". The inference is that we are able to understand a technical term, like fluorescent, while the chain store, ... oh well.

The paint computer, just like the UPS computer that we purchased in 1994, and the pool water analysis computer that we purchased in 1995, have done many things for us, and we have done many things with each of them.

Looking back, we can see that we were able to create a source of pride by being the first hardware store in town to have one of the machines. And knowing today what a talent we have in Bob Sheridan, we know that we have provided him with a challenging job so that he would not look to move to another store. It makes for a great team.

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This article is copyrighted by Tom Shay and Profits Plus Solutions, who can be reached at: PO Box 1577, St. Petersburg, Fl. 33731. Phone 727-464-2182. It may be printed for an individual to read, but not duplicated or distributed without expressed written consent of the copyright owner.

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