Since 1866, Sherwin-Williams has supplied paint and coatings to homeowners and professional customers in the residential, commercial and industrial sectors. Today, the company has more than 4,200 neighborhood stores and 2,600 employed representatives in North America. Despite balancing market shifts, economic changes, and product demand, what’s remained consistent over the years is the industry leader’s commitment to integrity, quality, performance, innovation and growth. Jeff Winter, VP of residential marketing for Sherwin-Williams, provided insight on several innovations and shared his thoughts on the future role of paint suppliers.
Q: During the last 10 years, what are the most dramatic changes you’ve seen take place in the industry?
I believe product innovation and product performance have been the most dramatic changes in our industry, including the evolution of acrylic water-based coating technology and the recent introduction of single-based urethane for trim. These products perform better than solvent-based paint, are easier to use, and offer better color and gloss retention.
Today, we’re able to get the same kind of resins in water-based products with equal levels of performance and durability as solvent-based paints. Whenever we can eliminate the solvents in a coating, it’s better for the applicator—and the environment.
Q: What changes do you anticipate for the industry for the next 5 to 10 years and how might they impact the hands-on pro?
Companies such as Sherwin-Williams rely heavily on customer feedback to tailor products, which go through rigorous testing to meet market demands. There is an ongoing investment in the research and development of new resin technologies that will lead to new products as well as enhanced performance in existing products. I expect we will continue to see technology improvements in water-based coatings, including primers, which will evolve and outperform their solvent-based equivalents.
From a business standpoint, we expect to see an increase in the Do It For Me (DIFM) population as opposed to the Do It Yourself (DIY) market, which will continue to remain strong. The DIFM market is a growing trend, supported by research conducted by the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University, especially for individuals in the aging population who are at a place in their lives where they can afford to hire professional contractors for home-improvement jobs.
Q: If you were to start a paint contracting company today, what markets would you pursue and why?
For the last four years, we’ve seen residential repaint remain a strong market and we anticipate that trend will continue as the market improves and home values increase. Today’s homeowners are much less motivated by price than owners and decision makers in other segments. While cost is always a factor, greater motivators include the level of comfort with the contractor, and referrals from other customers. These jobs also mean quicker payment on projects for pros, along with the ability to maintain a more consistent cash flow.
A secondary focus would be on custom home builders, which is like residential repaint because the lowest price is not always the determining factor.
Q: What opportunities do you think pros should be focusing on for the next 2 to 5 years?
When we look at opportunities that are often underutilized, I would recommend pros focus on increasing job size through add-on projects and painting new surfaces. This can be more profitable when bundling together than returning to perform additional services. We’ve found that a lot of homeowners are not always thinking about other projects besides the one in which they are seeking bids.
Pros should actively look at other areas on the site such as exterior fences or sheds that could be protected, renewed or updated. The challenge is that sometimes we get too focused on the owner’s initial job request. While it’s important not to lose sight of that request, contractors who make a concerted effort to include these suggestions in their business are seeing success.
Q: How is the movement toward green coatings going to affect the industry in the future? Is it going to be a big deal or are we seeing the bulk of its impact right now?
We’ve already seen the traditional way we think about green products change. When a homeowner is weighing a decision about a product, they often want to know if it is good for the environment and their family.
While zero- or low-VOC coatings are now common, the green movement is not just unique to paint, but also includes flooring and cabinetry. I think we’ve seen the bulk of the impact and these products are out in the market now.
Our research has shown that homeowners today are making more conscious decisions about the space they live in and are more interested in selecting paints that offer a variety of new or unique technologies, including odor reduction, improved air quality, washability, moisture resistance, antimicrobial, and even microbicidal properties.
Q: How do you see paint manufacturers delivering product or providing services in the future?
When we look toward the future, we don’t believe there will be significant changes to the delivery of products, but rather to the interaction between pros and paint suppliers. While paint stores will still be the preferred outlet for pros, we expect to see online ordering and in-store pickup become more commonplace, which is a service we plan to introduce later this year. This will continue to improve the overall ordering experience and make the process easier for pros. Pros will have the ability to select products, check stock, place orders, and manage their accounts online on their own time, which often occurs at night when the paint store is closed. This gives pros flexibility to effectively manage their business and be successful.
We always strive to be a partner with our customers and act as an extension of the pro’s business so he or she can be more successful. We also provide product and application advice, and offer white-glove service for time-saving benefits.
Jeff Winter has been employed by Sherwin-Williams for 26 years. During that time, Winter has held various roles in sales and management, and now serves as VP of residential marketing. He holds an SSPC QP1 certification and a bachelor’s degree in business administration from The University of Akron in Ohio.