Paint Grows Greener And More Sophisticated


Whether it’s a remodel or new construction, paint is one of a retailer’s most essential and cost-effective design tools. Chain Store Age spoke with Jim Gorman, of Benjamin Moore & Co., about how paint is being affected by technology and environmental concerns. The company, founded in 1883, manufactures its own resins and colorants, and has more than 3,400 colors in its collection.

What is the most common mistake retailers make when it comes to painting?

Buying paint on price and attempting to match colors by computer to save money. I say this because paint technology has changed dramatically over the last five years, and today’s newer technology is not available everywhere.

The new high-performing zero- and low-VOC products are ideal for occupied spaces with quick turnaround and getting retail space back to service — in some cases, in half the time normal paint would take.

How about choosing a color — any recommendations for retailers?

The answer is connected to the one above. With today’s paint choices and new colorant technology, retailers today can be far more adventurous with color without the penalties often associated with deeper colors.

Working with a manufacturer’s representative, a retailer can select bold colors and not have to worry about numerous coats, poor hide, touch-up or washability. It comes down to selecting the right product for the selected color and project.

Is there an easy way retailers can stay updated as to the latest color trends?

Yes, many paint manufacturers have designer representatives who will provide "lunch and learn" seminars with a client’s design staff. Manufacturer’s websites also can provide updates on trends. One of the best ways is to meet with paint manufacturers who belong to key retail associations, develop a relationship and connect with their color specialists.

Is technology impacting your business?

Tremendously! With the continued emphasis on VOC regulations, Benjamin Moore has developed a patented technology that provides industry-leading, high-performing zero- and low-VOC products.

These products clearly outperform any of the conventional paints manufactured over the last 25 years. This has placed Benjamin Moore at the forefront of green paint technology that many cannot replicate.

How have environmental concerns affected paints?

As environmental regulations tightened within the paint industry, manufacturers were forced to revise formulas to meet the regulations.

For some, this caused their products to lose some key performance attributes, especially in application and dry film performance. For Benjamin Moore, which invests heavily in R&D and manufactures its own patented colorant and resins, this became a break-through opportunity to develop our best products ever.

How can Benjamin Moore help retailers with regard to their green strategies?

All of our new products identified as "Green Promise" products meet or exceed every local and state VOC regulation. The best step a retailer can take is to meet with a Benjamin Moore representative to review their current specification and convert any of the older products to the new Green Promise products. Every aspect of their paint projects will benefit, especially the quick turnaround, low odor and back to service, all designed to save the client time and money.

The second step is to work closely with Benjamin Moore’s national account team to assure the retailer that the products and colors they selected are actually used on the job. Paint is one category where the paint contractor can, and at times will, substitute products on the job site for a variety of reasons. Colors may be a "close match" and VOC levels may be higher — you never know unless you are stringent with the contractor following the specification. Benjamin Moore has a project management team that can help assure our clients the right colors and products are used every time.

What makes Benjamin Moore’s "green" paints so green?

The secret is in the colorant. Being the only North American paint manufacturer to develop a patented zero-VOC colorant allowing our clients to choose any color and still have a zero-VOC product was an industry first. Conventional colorants, called universal tinting colorants, are very high in VOC levels. The other benefits listed above all add up to a unique benefit to our clients: high-performing zero-VOC products that do not cost more, but perform better than classic paints.


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More Effective Procurement

BY Victor Wulc

The U.S. retail and wholesale establishments make up one of the largest sectors of electricity consumption in the nation. And they’re likely to use even more within the next few years, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, whose recent annual report indicates that commercial and industrial entities will lead domestic growth in primary energy usage through 2040.

With consumption — and costs — on the rise for many chain store locations, building an effective energy management strategy today will play a critical role in maintaining productivity and profitability in the future. But is there a way for large retail sector electricity consumers to go beyond traditional procurement approaches to reduce expenses and consumption, while generating an entirely new revenue stream?

Good news. There is. And it’s a win-win for the retail store industry and the energy sector alike.

Through a unique approach that leverages load management strategies, retailers can earn profits while decreasing demands on the electric grid, reducing prices and consumption, and saving on charges that are typically passed from the utility to the supplier to the consumer.

Let’s start with the most appealing part of the equation — generating profits. Changes in electric utility regulation have empowered retailers in many markets to purchase their power from suppliers other than the traditional utility. Chain stores now have a wider range of products to choose from and more opportunities to tailor energy contracts to meet unique operating requirements.

Many retailers have responded by selecting product structures with a fixed price for all or part of the electricity spend. These structures are appealing because they add some certainty to the overall monthly cost. But that certainty comes at a price.

To enhance pricing and supply flexibility, consumers could benefit from the revenue-generating potential of load management programs.

The premise is simple: Utilities in most markets throughout the United States need consumers to cut back, especially in times of high electricity demand, in order to maintain grid reliability. As a result, various products are available that actually pay consumers to reduce their electricity consumption during such times.

Retailers specifically can benefit by:

1. Selling capacity, which is typically referred to as demand response, where consumers commit to reducing their load at times chosen by the grid operator, typically for a matter of hours during emergency conditions. The compensation earned for providing this service is generally fixed months or even years in advance.

2. Selling energy, where consumers reduce their consumption at times of its own choosing. Through these transactions, a certain amount of energy is sold at a predetermined price during a defined hour or block of hours. If the market price is at least as high as the price specified by the consumer, the offer is accepted and the consumer is paid the market price for providing the promised amount of electricity.

3. Selling synchronized reserves, where the consumer provides energy by curtailing consumption for a brief period on a relatively short notice by the grid operator.

Aside from generating revenues, retailers that participate in these programs benefit by avoiding spikes in wholesale electricity prices and by reducing risk premiums.

Another cost-savings opportunity retailers can leverage through load management strategies is by reducing certain charges known as “pass-through costs,” which originate with the utility or the system operator and are passed to the supplier and then to the customer. These price components vary from region to region and typically include the grid operator’s cost to ensure capacity, transmission and distribution infrastructure maintenance and upgrades, and ratepayer-supported energy-efficiency and renewable energy programs.

The key to reducing these charges is to understand exactly how they are calculated, which varies by market. For example, a charge may be based on the customer’s demand during certain peak hours on the regional power grid or during certain peak hours on the local utility’s distribution grid. By working with your retail electricity provider to understand exactly how these charges are set, retailers can use the load management strategies to reduce those costs or prevent increases.

Retailers that participate in load management programs benefit not only by generating revenue, but by avoiding spikes in wholesale electricity prices and by reducing risk premiums.

Victor Wulc is the sustainability marketing director for GDF Suez Energy Resources, one of the country’s largest competitive retail electricity providers to commercial, industrial and institutional customers.


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Reboot: Familiar Brands, New Looks

BY Marianne Wilson

It could be a smaller-store footprint. Or a design makeover. Or a totally new format. But there comes a time when even the largest and most successful retailers need to freshen up or rethink their store identities. Here’s a look at four brands that are trying on new looks.

Sport Chalet: Sporting goods retailer Sport Chalet has gone urban. The company has unveiled a sleek, streamlined format in downtown Los Angeles, at the renovated FIGat7th center. At 27,000 sq. ft., the new store is considerably smaller than Sport Chalet’s existing concept (42,000 sq. ft.) and carries a targeted selection of goods. But customers can access the chain’s full offering via iPad systems located throughout the space.

The interior design, by Gensler, puts the emphasis on education and training, with a learning and information hub, called the "Expert Center," at the heart of the space.

"The store design emphasizes both aesthetics and function," said Joshua Breeden, project architect, Gensler. "We wanted to create a space that highlights what Sport Chalet offers above any other specialty sporting goods retailer: expert positioning and knowledge."

The Expert Center was designed to facilitate customer interaction with store staffers, and with audio-visual capabilities, reconfigurable seating and display elements that allow for instructional and hands-on events.

RadioShack: RadioShack Corp. has opened the doors of a new concept store that showcases many of the features that will be part of the chain’s new generation of stores to be rolled out in locations over the next several months.

The store, on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, aims to attract — and make the iconic brand more relevant to — tech-hungry shoppers by offering a new level of products, service and excitement that makes the buying experience fun. Touchscreens and apps designed to help shoppers understand the benefit of products are located throughout the space, while newly configured displays highlight in-demand brands.

Other features include stores fixtures that enable shoppers to find and compare products, such as a Speaker Wall allowing customers to compare speakers by playing music from their own Bluetooth-enabled mobile devices.

Pep Boys: It’s not your father’s Pep Boys … not by a long shot. The auto parts and service retailer is testing a new store concept, in Tampa, Fla., designed to extend its appeal beyond its core DIY-car enthusiasts audience to more service-oriented, or "do-it-for-me" drivers, which include many female customers.

Pep Boys worked with EWI Worldwide, Detroit, to execute an entirely new, more appealing environment, on both the exterior and interior. The design plays to the 92-year-old brand’s rich heritage. It has a handsome, modern look, with clean lines, clear signage and good sightlines.

From the new, intuitive navigation to the dealership-like atmosphere of the service lounge, the overall feel is warm and inviting — and adds up to a welcoming brand experience for traditional and new customers alike.

Stride Rite: The venerable children’s footwear brand is kicking up its heels with its "Milestones" store design, which was done in partnership with FRCH Design Worldwide. The new environment is designed to appeal to kids and adults like. The look is clean, modern and bright, with extensive use of white mixed with splashes of color. Rainbow carpeting mirrors the colors in Stride Rite’s logo.

The layout includes a more open store plan so kids and strollers can move around more freely. The shelves are placed at varying heights so the small fry can easily see all of the styles available.

There’s also a new fun fitting area for kids, with a dedicated Fit Station where children can get their feet measured and find out how tall they are by standing against the Fit Totem Pole.

To date, Stride Rite has rolled out the new design in Burlington Mall, Burlington, Mass., and in the new kid-centric section of Easton Town Center, Columbus, Ohio.


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