We have long charted trends in finishes and colors related to the cabinet and furniture industries, including our annual survey of kitchen cabinet trends. For the most part, I find these trend reports interesting, and the feedback from readers is generally positive. But it wasn’t until I had an extensive discussion with the folks at the Sherwin-Williams Global Color and Design Center in Greensboro, N.C., that I realized how important color and finish are to the marketing of wood products.

Here’s a startling statistic for you: According to Kathy Andersson, the center’s color marketing manager, 85 percent of purchase decisions are made on color. Furthermore, she says, their research shows that if all things were equal, color even trumps quality 85 percent of the time. Think about that. If your customers are so moved by color and finish, what are you doing to take advantage of that?

Follow or lead?

This is a very challenging area for cabinet and furniture manufacturers. Do they base their color offerings on what others in the industry are doing or do they try to step to the front of the pack with potentially trendsetting color and finish offerings of their own?

It’s not just about pleasing customers. It can also be a strategic decision in using color to break into new markets. That’s what Woodmont Cabinetry did when they decided to go after the remodeling market. A big part of that effort was creating a color pallet that would attract remodeling customers. The success of that decision has convinced them of the importance of paying attention to color and finish to boost sales.

And think of the reverse side of the discussion. What if you have the wrong colors and are losing sales because of it? Your customers might not even realize themselves that it was the color choices that tipped the scales in favor of choosing your competitor.

Expert advice

Another thing I got out of the discussion with the folks at Sherwin-Williams was the level of expertise involved in these color and finish choices. When you start talking about all the subtle shades and differences between a selection of finishes, it doesn’t take long to boggle the mind. Then add the secondary issue of even if a particular finish/color will sell, can you process that finish choice efficiently and cost-effectively on your product in your plant?

These are the kinds of things that it certainly behooves you to seek expert consultation through your finishing suppliers. The finish might be the last thing that goes on the product, but you can’t afford to make it an afterthought.

Have something to say? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.