From A to Z: Problem-Solving Primers With Zinsser

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From A to Z: Problem-Solving Primers With Zinsser

On a recent episode of the “Taking Care of Business” podcast, NHPA’s Melanie Moul talked to Frank Glowacki, director of product management for primers at Rust-Oleum. Learn from Frank about the long history of the Zinsser line of primers and how Rust-Oleum sets up retailers for success with resources, training and knowledgeable staff. Click here to listen to the full episode.

Melanie Moul (MM): I’d love to hear a brief history of the Zinsser product line and the brand.

Frank Glowacki (FG): The Zinsser brand is actually celebrating its 175th year, so it’s been around for quite some time. I am pretty confident that most of your members are aware of our brand and they probably carry them in their stores. We are a part of Rust-Oleum, so we’re very fortunate to have the assets that Rust-Oleum has, but we cherish the heritage of our brands, including Zinsser and other really strong brands. 

MM: 175 years is a really long time. The North American Hardware and Paint Association has been around for 124 years this year, so a similar longevity. What does that kind of longevity offer the independent channel?

FG: I think it’s very similar to what your organization offers, and that’s confidence, stability and trust. The Zinsser brand is trusted, certainly by retailers, but also by their customers. So whether their customer is a professional who’s painting or doing restoration after a fire or water main break, or they’re a DIYer who wants to get a paint job done with professional results, Zinsser is just the confident brand, the confident product they can trust.

MM: What do you think the independent channel might not know about the Zinsser brand?

FG: We have the widest array of primers of any major brand, and that likely includes even their own paint brands that certainly have primers as well. We have problem-solving products, and I would think that most of your members have our key primers in their stores.

But I’d like them to know that we have special circumstance ones. Suppose you have outside wood siding that looks awful and there’s peeling paint. Well, we have a very high-viscous product called Peel Stop Triple Thick. Suppose you have severe odors from nicotine on the walls or there’s a pet odor. There’s mold that, unfortunately, happened because you didn’t realize you had a water leak. We’ve got a primer for everything.

MM: One thing we love to talk about with our members is the support that partners like Rust-Oleum and Zinsser offer the independent channel. The independent channel represents about 50% of the market share of the home improvement industry. What kind of benefit or what kind of resources, do independent retailers get from working with a brand like yours?

FG: That’s a great question. We pride ourselves on the “350 feet on the street” that we have. So while I wish I could say that every one of your members has had a Rust-Oleum representative visit their store, I would think most have. I know some have without a doubt. And then if they did not visit on their turf, then certainly when they go to buying shows, certainly we’re there in force. At those events, we can customize things specifically for them. For example, we have our own category management and planogram department. So if one of your members says they’re not happy with their primer selections or spray paint selection or interior wood care, we will give them a planogram that optimizes based on not just our products, but even competitors’ products as well. We want to be sure retailers have the best opportunity. We think that’s a very unique benefit we have that perhaps many of your members just don’t know is available to them.

MM: Especially in the paint channel, having knowledgeable people on the sales floor is a priority for our members. What kind of training or product knowledge resources do retailers get when they work with you?

FG: We probably have the most literature that’s both for their customers as well as to train staff,  whether it is hard-copy literature or online resources. We also have a vast video library that is product and project-specific. Those things are available that can teach and explain. Then, of course, we all get those questions that make us say, “Hey, I’ve never had that one before.” So in those cases, retailers can pick up the phone or send an email to our customer service team. These are people who are not just taking orders, but they are specifically trained in our product support group on Zinsser products. And I think that’s a big value.

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MM: What are some unique capabilities or features of Zinsser primers? How can retailers showcase what these products are capable of in their stores?

FG: First of all, to help retailers showcase what our products do and what makes them different, we have some excellent point-of-purchase that can be understood by a professional painter as well as a DIYer who does not have the familiarity with priming and painting.

From a product standpoint, our roots, going back 175 years, were built on shellac. And so they’ll find it in a product called B-I-N, which is a white-pigmented version. And then probably a little bit further down the aisle, along with woodcare products, is our original clear shellac. That makes us very unique.

We are North America’s No. 1 importer of seed lac, which is where shellac comes from. We produce the most shellac in North America. In fact, we have a sister company, part of RPM, that actually sells forms of shellac outside of the coatings industry. It’s used in pharmaceuticals and confectionaries. So, just a fun fact that the next time you eat some Godiva chocolate, it has our shellac on the outside. 

MM: Love that crossover opportunity. You can merchandise your chocolates next to your primers. As big boxes have grown and competition is just more challenging for independents, one of our priorities as a representative of the independent channel is helping retailers differentiate their businesses. So when it comes to stocking a line like Zinsser, how do these products help independent retailers really capture the market in their communities?

FG: With our Zinsser primers, we’re very fortunate. They probably can be found in most of your members’ stores, but they’re also in big-box stores as well. So that’s a two-edged sword, but that also creates opportunities because the brand tends to be very well known because of its distribution. Retailers don’t have to do a lot of hard selling and explanation of the products. At the same time, there are so many primers in our array that still have our proud Zinsser brand on it that are uniquely available to the independent retailers that just are not positioned to be sold in big-box stores or mass merchants. So, they should take those opportunities. When they are at trade shows or pick up the phone to find out what they can get that’s unique to the big guy down the street in terms of assortment. And then we truly believe that they have the edge on education, know-how and point-of-purchase that is available that they can display that just is not part of the DNA of a big-box store.

MM: I think you kind of touched on this throughout our conversation, but I kind of want to kind of bring it all back to why the independent channel is important for your business, for the Zinsser product line.

FG: I started calling on independent paint and hardware stores over 40 years ago in my career, and they listen, they care and there’s a connection with their customer that I think is irreplaceable. And as much as in the 124 years of your organization and the 175 of Zinsser that the world changes, that piece, that intimacy with the customer just can’t be replaced. It can’t be replaced at a big box or a mass merchant, it’s just not their way. And some of the more popular products tend to be of a more premium price, which requires some more education of why this has that price point. And I believe that the customer intimacy that an independent paint and hardware store has, they can express that and they can explain that to their customer and their customer trusts their judgment, and your members can trust the Zinsser brand.

MM: You mentioned a little bit earlier that trade shows are a great place for retailers to get more information, get product resources. So we are in the thick of trade show season for the industry. So tell me a little bit about where retailers might be able to learn a little bit more.

FG: So, certainly is just an excellent resource to be able and that will take you to our various omnichannels, whether we have something posted on YouTube, you can find it at There’s also a specific Zinsser page, and then we break out the primers because we do have a lot of them. So those resources are available. Most of them can be downloaded as well. 

We also have a support site that a retailer can access. They do have to get a password permission. So, if Frank’s Paint and Hardware wanted to be able to download my own images of Zinsser primers because I’m putting circulars together or I have someone doing my website, they can do that. All they have to do is ask somebody and then they can get permission to be able to do that and access that. 

We pride ourselves on having very educated salespeople. We constantly are training them on products, on unique features and benefits of our products, and they do a great job. So they’re the first line that is out there.

MM: Frank, I do want to give you one last opportunity to kind of just give us the pitch. If there’s one thing that you want listeners to know about this product line, what would you tell them?

FG: You’re familiar with Zinsser primers, but we’re more than what you might be carrying. We have a lot more solutions that are there. You can always have faith in Zinsser. Product performance is key to us. And as we say, with Zinsser, we always hit the mark, and they will as well.

About Zinsser

For 175 years, Zinsser has been known for delivering innovative primers, paint and coatings that support professional painters in doing quality paint jobs. Throughout its history, Zinsser has remained committed to providing high-quality coatings and primers tht deliver reliable performance in every can. Zinsser continues to expand its product offerings by introducing specialty primers for specific problems like stain blocking, odor control, mold and mildew resistance and more. Some popular primer products including Zinsser Bullseye 1-2-3, Zinsser B-I-N, Zinsser Cover Stain and Zinsser Mold Killing Primer. Learn more at