Monday, October 11, 2021

Why Sherwin-Williams’ lackluster paint release got so much attention

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For several years, the paint company Sherwin-Williams has unveiled its “Color of the Year,” a paint that embodies a feeling or aesthetic in order to anticipate consumer desires. This year, it was Aurora, a “superb hued[ed]” bright blue and purple semi-precious gemstone paint. Then, according to Flavorpill, it came out with another one last year: Imagine-color, which the company described as “a dreamy, ethereal photo-realistic purple that meshes perfectly with any and all things purple.”

Sherwin-Williams is known for its color trends and their various incarnations, but color trends can also be product trends and the namesake color of an entire paint store. The store that makes the hue “Color of the Year” can require a lot of effort, time and resources, and there can be enormous value in the resulting product for the consumer. One retailer estimates that if it saw “Color of the Year” in all of its stores for a year, it could possibly cause $100 million in revenue.

Sherwin-Williams shares are down over 30 percent in the past year. While the company probably did not expect “Color of the Year” to sell that well, it is possible that the decreased sales was because of the timing of the Color of the Year unveiling, when it coincided with a major market correction and as the company’s sales suffered from consumer uncertainty around tariffs and trade issues. But the stock price points to Sherwin-Williams’ reputation as a brand associated with well-known products and good customer service. One of Sherwin-Williams’ biggest customers is Lowe’s, which, according to USA Today, could see a drop in sales as a result of recent tariff increases and trade disputes.

Last year, according to Mashable, Walgreens stocked a “Color of the Year” paint for $10. That paint would have sold out, however, as Walgreens struggled with a secondary labor issue. The new paint that Sherwin-Williams introduced this year would have sold, but both the brand and its paint would have needed to be resurrected for a brief period if the paint did not get discontinued, according to Mashable. The company likely didn’t want to spend money to reconstitute “Color of the Year” and its best marketing resources on an effort that may never materialize.

This is the third time Sherwin-Williams has introduced an “Essential Color” — a shade considered a must-have when the store sells it. The first was Aqua Blue in 2014, and in 2017 there was Yero Blue. This year, Sherwin-Williams used Canyon Powder as its “Essential Color” for 2019. Sherwin-Williams’ “Color of the Year” was Bright Lantana in 2013.

Meanwhile, the number of customer requests for “Essential Color” paint products, according to Sherwin-Williams, far outstrips what it can give consumers. There were “thousands of Color of the Year” requests from customers this year, which were cataloged in a report from Sherwin-Williams. As a result, it has one thing in common with the company’s competitors: Sherwin-Williams’ online model has remained strong. Every year, Sherwin-Williams records a massive number of color requests. But if that number skyrockets after the release of one Color of the Year, it also shows the upcoming product’s promise.

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