Color and design center keeps up with trends
February 6, 2013 | 6:00 pm CST

Anyone connected with woodworking already knows that color and finish are important to sales, but few probably realize just how really critical they are. According to Kathy Andersson, color marketing manager at the Sherwin-Williams Global Color and Design Center in Greensboro, N.C., color totally dominates consumer purchase decisions.

Research done by the company has determined that “85 percent of purchases are made on color,” she says. “If all things were equal, even considering quality, it would be a color decision 85 percent of the time,” she explains, questioning how many manufacturers in the woodworking industry really understand that impact. As a member since 1996 of the international Color Marketing Group, Andersson is invested in understanding the influences behind what makes people choose certain colors and relating the psychology of color to economics, and then in turn sharing that with manufacturers so they can make informed decisions.

A center for color

Opened in 2002 in the heart of North Carolina’s furniture industry, the Sherwin-Williams Global Color and Design Center, has expanded its reach around the world, helping manufacturers wherever they produce. Although it is intended for larger manufactures, the center also has resources accessible to smaller manufacturers through their Sherwin-Williams representatives.

With a staff of six and a 7,000-square-foot facility, the center includes color stylists and marketing experts. There is a massive showroom with hundreds of samples that can be viewed in controlled lighting. There’s a styling lab, an application area, and a resource room for color design.

“There’s a ‘wow’ factor when they walk in the door,” says Andersson, describing the huge variety of samples on display in the showroom. In addition to full pieces of furniture, there are rows and rows of shelves with samples of doors, hardware, fabrics, and all manner of items to help someone understand color trends and choices.

Colorful services

Andersson says that when a manufacturer decides to take advantage of the center, it usually starts with meetings and an assessment of the current color pallet they offer in their products. “We go over the whole line of offerings, put it in the showroom and evaluate it in proper lighting,” she says. “We discuss what could be omitted, what’s not trending.”

Sometimes the point is to do a strategic evaluation of their color program to determine if the colors and finishes they offer are correctly targeted at the customers they want. “We’re looking at where their pallet is and assessing where it could go for the next 12-14 months,” Andersson says.

A written report follows the assessment, and color center experts work with manufacturer representatives both in-person and remotely as they send feedback. The next step is often sending a substrate so manufacturers can visualize a particular finish on their own product.

Once colors and finishes are decided, sales and tech reps from Sherwin-Williams work with the manufacturer to put the colors into production. That might even include working with overseas factory personnel, as is often the case with furniture makers that have offshore production.

Hands-on training

Of course, no matter how good the color selection is, it doesn’t matter if it can’t be efficiently and reliably produced in the manufacturing plant. That’s why the color center also works to coordinate a variety of training opportunities, including both hands-on and classroom programs.

“Most effective is a combination of hands-on and classroom training,” says Andersson. She notes they have a large applications area with two spray booths that can be used for training. They also can even do remote training at the manufacturer’s facility as necessary.

How it works

To understand how the color and finish consulting process works, consider the example of a major residential door manufacturer who came to the center in 2011. They needed to tap into trends to better match their color offerings to the market.

“We used information from the furniture side to take them from a bland look to a ‘whoa!’ look,” says Andersson. “And it just took one technique change and one extra step (in production).”

She says the proof of the color impact was a 12 percent market growth for the company.
Andersson repeats the motto of the Global Color and Design Center: “Color sells and the right color sells better.”

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About the author
William Sampson

William Sampson is a lifelong woodworker, and he has been an advocate for small-scale entrepreneurs and lean manufacturing since the 1980s. He was the editor of Fine Woodworking magazine in the early 1990s and founded WoodshopBusiness magazine, which he eventually sold and merged with CabinetMaker magazine. He helped found the Cabinet Makers Association in 1998 and was its first executive director. Today, as editorial director of Woodworking Network and FDMC magazine he has more than 20 years experience covering the professional woodworking industry. His popular "In the Shop" tool reviews and videos appear monthly in FDMC.