Beyond the Brush: 3 Ways to Sharpen Your Hand Tools, Paint Knives and Blades Category

/, Operations, Sundries/Beyond the Brush: 3 Ways to Sharpen Your Hand Tools, Paint Knives and Blades Category
Beyond the Brush

Beyond the Brush: 3 Ways to Sharpen Your Hand Tools, Paint Knives and Blades Category

When it comes to the hand tools, paint knives and blades category in your operation, curating a collection that resonates with customers’ preferences is crucial.

As you look to improve this department in your operation, two retailers share how emphasizing quality, looking for innovation and stocking trusted brands have served their businesses well and can lead to increased sales in your own operation.

Stick to the Basics

Before joining the Mallory Paint team, Virgil Bowman, manager of the Mallory Paint Store in Ponderay, Idaho, was on the other side of the retail scope, working as a general contractor. Bowman began his painting career in high school and got into residential painting doing damage repair for insurance companies. 

Working all those years as a contractor and frequenting paint stores has served Bowman well in his role with Mallory Paint because he knows what it’s like coming to a store as a customer, not just an employee, and he can serve customers accordingly.

Bowman says many customers are loyal to certain brands for their tools. He says retailers should consider stocking more than two or three categories of hand tools to offer the variety of brands their customers want. He also suggests checking in regularly with customers to see if brand loyalty has changed.

“We couldn’t do our job without talking to our customers,” Bowman says.

Bowman recently attended Mallory Paint’s vendor conference where he was honored with the  2023 Store Manager of the Year award. At the conference, numerous vendors showcased their new tools.

“I see a lot of really great products at these events, but I have to use my experience as a contractor to decide if they are products our customers would actually use,” Bowman says.

Customer-Centric Approach

As Bowman came into his role at Mallory Paint Store, he says the hand tools category was broad and included many products that didn’t sell. As he got to know his customer base and discovered ways of training his employees on how to educate their customers to better stock the category, he tailored his assortment.

When Bowman does bring in a new product, he does a soft launch by setting the new product on the sales counter for customers to see and touch while they check out.

“This strategy worked when we began selling a folding five-in-one paint scraper,” Bowman says. “We ended up selling a lot of the scrapers because we had them at the sales counter and customers had the chance to see how it worked before buying it. It’s a lot of trial and error, but it can be fruitful.”

Jason Schlenker, store manager of Urbanik’s Paint, which has two locations in New York, also utilizes his customers’ input when considering bringing on a new SKU, and will typically only bring in a new item after having repeat customers ask for the same product. When listening to his customers, Schlenker takes into consideration both positive and negative comments.

“We really listen to our customers,” Schlenker says. “Sometimes, when we get frequent complaints about an item, we’ll pull it from our shelves if customers are having concerns about it.”

Know Your Market

Whether your store serves a rural, mostly-contractor population or a suburban, DIY-centric customer base, knowing what items to stock and how to properly merchandise those items is key to having a successful hand tools, paint knives and scraper category.

Schlenker, who manages two Urbanik Paint locations in different geographical areas, tailors the hand tools selection to meet the needs of each location. At his Utica, New York, location where contractors dominate, higher-end items tend to sell better.

“Our hand tools department does fairly well for us,” Schlenker says. “We do pretty well in the professional sector in our Utica store because we don’t have as much competition as we do in the other stores that are in bigger cities.”

Schlenker stocks a specifically curated variety of hand tools and dedicates one aisle to the hand tools, scrapers and knives he knows his customers are looking for.

“In Utica, we have a lot more contractors than we do homeowners, so we tend to carry higher-end items,” Schlenker says. “The products with higher price points tend to sell better there also, and I think it’s fueled by our contractor customer base.”

Tips For New Painters—Knives and Blades

Scrape paint off windows. Utility blades are excellent for cutting paper and plastic and removing old caulk. These blades also work well for scraping dried paint off windows. If you get paint on the glass, let it dry and then use the blade to scrape off the dried paint.

Create tight tape seals. Putty knives go hand-in-hand with putty and wall repair and also create a tight seal when using painter’s tape. After you have the painter’s tape in place, run a clean putty knife over it to seal the edges and provide a clean line.

Protect your floors from paint. Drywall taping knives are used to tape up drywall seams and also work well to protect floors when painting trim. Fit the blade of the knife right between the trim and floor to keep the paint off the floor and catch any drips. It also works great in corners when you transition from one color to another.

4 Best Practices for Merchandising Paint Tools and Accessories

Because paint tools and accessories are a broad category, it’s important to utilize smart merchandising so customers can find the products and information they need and you can better manage inventory. Managing your merchandising also makes your store look fully stocked, which has an impact on the overall perception and quality of your business. 

Use clear signage. Paint tools and accessories have a wide variety of purposes, so signage is an easy way to share information about a particular product and offer clarity to customers. Signage also helps organize tools into smaller subcategories, so they are easier to find and shop. 

Impulse Merchandising. Display paint tools with the items they are intended to go with to boost transaction sizes. Display low-price, commonly used paint tools near service counters or on endcaps. For example, keep a stack of hand-held paint buckets near the paint counter so customers can pick up one when they order their paint. 

Get creative with displays. Some paint tools are better merchandised hanging up on hooks, while others can be stacked on shelves. Use a mix of traditional gondolas and shelving in this section to accommodate the merchandising needs of all the different types of products. Well-organized shelves also make it easy to do inventory when that time comes. 

Promote new products. Display new paint tools and accessories on endcaps to share with customers and draw attention to these items. Endcaps are also an excellent spot to cross-merchandise items together, selling a whole project to customers.