Paint That Lasts

by Katie Lee

Take the ‘pain’ out of interior painting: no more endless repaints and touch-ups.

By James S. Gorman

When it comes to interior painting, the challenge faced by virtually all facility managers is fairly basic: How do you keep the store or restaurant looking as clean and new as possible?

While a simple statement, the reality is that retail and restaurant environments can be quite hectic. The more traffic, the more sales and the more potential for some unsightly marks, scuffs, scrapes and even holes that can negatively affect the store appearance — which, in turn, negatively impacts customer experience and the overall brand. Over the years, retailers have tried countless solutions in an attempt to keep the store or restaurant looking as new as possible. While paint appears to be the easiest solution, it comes down to the right paint available for the right environment. As you all know, the front of the house and the back of the house are two very different playing fields.

While the solution appears simple — time to repaint or touch up! — the reality is that repaint maintenance can be quite costly and disruptive to any business. I am sure everyone reading this article has a great paint challenge story. But there is good news.

Over the last three decades the paint industry has undergone its own set of challenges and changes, most driven by the Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) regulations of the late 1990s in an effort to lower the environmental impact paint products could have on our ozone layer. These regulations resulted in several paint manufacturers seeking new ways to make better paint. Some struggled and the paint quality went down as they strived to make ‘green’ paint. Others relied heavily on internal Research & Development (R & D), challenging their labs to develop breakthrough new products, and they succeeded. The result is, today, as a facility manager, you do have choices and can and should customize your paint specifications to meet your needs and lower your costs. The customizing of your paint products is where you need to seek to build a strong relationship with a national paint manufacturer.

While the paint industry has enjoyed some significant changes, some parts of the construction side still operate in a more general way when specifying paint. By that I mean once all the colors are agreed upon, then the product selection is still, in most cases, based on sheen levels. Virtually every specification we see has eggshell for the walls, semi-gloss for the trim and flat paint for the ceiling. Every paint manufacturer has different brands all on a sliding scale of price, durability and wash ability. There can be too many choices, but there definitely can be the right choices based on knowledge of the challenges faced by facility managers once the store or restaurant opens.

As a facility manager you inherit the products used in the original construction, and in most cases are either repainting or touching up areas before the store even opens. All of us on the paint supply side do see the pain that quickly enters the maintenance world, especially if the best products were not used on the original paint job. So, right out of the gate, the challenge to keep the store and restaurant looking new begins.

The good news? There is a simple way out of this ongoing cycle. By connecting on the corporate level with a quality national paint manufacturer, you will have a far better opportunity to be “ahead of the issues” with your design and planning teams working with the paint manufacturer so they can choose the best products for the demanding areas of a store.

So there are a few key points to share to make the above statement viable.

  1. Not all paint is created equal. Many paint companies use confusing “marketing statements” in an effort to separate themselves from the clutter, hence the issue of “too many choices.”
  1. Selecting paint by price alone is usually the biggest mistake. As facility managers you are well aware that the labor and disruptions far outweigh the cost of the paint. On new construction, the cost of the actual paint is rarely more than 15% of the job. Using lower cost paint may result in more coats of paint and less durability.
  1. There are specialty coatings available that all should be aware of.
  1. With the growing involvement of corporate procurement it is important that the procurement team also be involved in the evaluation and selection of the specific paints.
  1. You are not buying a paint job — it is the “total cost of ownership” that is key. Once the painters are gone, you own whatever was put on the walls.
  1. Once all agree on the right products, the next step is to assure that no substitutes are allowed on the actual project. As the job moves from corporate planning and design to the field, unless there is someone managing the project locally, working with the supplier directly, things can change quickly.
  1. Once the store or restaurant opens, and the fun begins, partner with the national painting companies and facility maintenance service providers that will understand your paint specifications, and also have a relationship with the manufacturer. This will assist you in maintaining the correct products and colors, while decreasing your ongoing paint maintenance needs.
  1. Follow the same process when doing a national remodel rollout.

By following the steps above you are giving yourself the best opportunity to minimize some of the pain as it relates to your main goal of optimum store appearance. Please do invest the time to work on the above approach and take advantage of a quality paint companies resources, knowledge and products. With all the headaches you have every day, if we can minimize one through a problem-solving consultative approach, life should be easier, stores and restaurants should look like new longer, and money will be saved.

— A 40-year veteran of the paint industry, James S. Gorman is the senior strategic account manager–national accounts for Benjamin Moore & Co., a Montvale, New Jersey-based paint manufacturer celebrating its 135th year.

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