Benjamin Moore & Co.
Back in 1883, Benjamin Moore founded his company on a simple business philosophy: Develop and manufacture high-quality products that meet the needs of the marketplace and sell them through independent merchants.
by Christinea Camara
Producing more than 50 million gallons of paint a year, the company still follows the precepts of its founder.
Benjamin Moore, an Irish immigrant, started the company with his brother William in a small loft in Brooklyn. Their original product was Calsom Finish, a calsomine coating for walls and ceilings. The company made its mark for innovative products with Muresco paint, which allowed painters to simply add water to the dry powder rather than assembling and mixing all the ingredients themselves. Muresco, introduced in 1892, became the best-selling paint in the U.S. in the early part of the 20th century. In fact, the word Muresco became so common that it could be found in dictionaries of the day as another term for paint.
New products soon followed, including the durable Alkyd Sani-Flat interior paint, a breakthrough coating which could stand up to repeated washings. Alkyd Sani-Flat, which debuted as a ready-mixed paint in a can in 1907, was still specified throughout the closing years of the 20th century.
So, while much has changed — an explosive growth in products, more than 3,200 independent dealers and a constantly evolving marketplace — much remains constant. The Benjamin Moore brand is available only in the stores of independent paint and decorating dealers. The company works at strengthening the independent channel, a distribution channel that tailors its business efforts directly to the professional contractors, architects and designers who make up the majority of Benjamin Moore’s business.
“Sixty-two percent of the company’s business is commercial,” says Jeff Spillane, Benjamin Moore’s senior marketing manager. “The remainder is do-it-yourselfers.” Twenty years ago, the market was the opposite, he says. “But today the baby boomers are aging, are less eager to do the work themselves, and have the wherewithal to hire skilled professionals.”
The market shift has positioned Benjamin Moore’s attention directly to the needs of paint professionals. The company’s nationwide sales force offers contractors of all sizes a hand in marketing themselves in their local areas. Benjamin Moore also provides direct assistance to facilities managers and painting contractors by offering on-site inspections, warranties and other services. Additionally, the company offers extensive training programs for paint professionals and store owners as well as accredited continuing education programs for architects and designers. Benjamin Moore offers residential contractors all the basics, from quality paint wear and job-site signs to presentation kits to assist them when bidding on a job.
|Yvan Dupuy, Chairman & CEO
|Denis Abrams, President & COO
Benjamin Moore just introduced a computer application on CD, the Personal Color Viewer, which provides all of Benjamin Moore’s 3,000-plus color offerings and allows the contractor to import a digital image of a project and color design it on the computer. It’s a great tool to use with clients to illustrate the difference between what the paint color looks like on a one-square-inch color chip and how it appears on a wall in a room setting or on an exterior, with all the other architectural elements of a building.
Another new concept from Benjamin Moore, designed to support its independent dealer network, is the Signature Store Program. A “signature store” design revamps the store interior, along with Benjamin Moore branded exterior signage. The program emphasizes training for store employees on products, color trends and best business practices. “The Signature Store program was introduced in Florida and is moving up the East Coast,” notes Spillane. “Eventually Signature Stores will be located throughout the country, providing even greater visibility for the Benjamin Moore brand.”
Over the last decade, the coatings industry has experienced rapid consolidation, with approximately 600 manufacturers remaining. The 120+ year-old Benjamin Moore & Co. was acquired by one of the most well-respected businessmen in the world, Warren Buffett, in 2001. “Being a Berkshire Hathaway company has not changed how we go to market,” Spillane says. “Since 1883 we’ve sold our products through independently owned paint stores, and we will continue to do just that as we move ahead.”
Meanwhile, Benjamin Moore & Co. and the coatings industry at large face the challenge of rapidly tightening environmental regulations that control the air emission of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), a key thinner in oil-based paint. National standards were established in 1998 when the AIM legislation was passed to reduce the amount of VOCs in paint. Today, individual states, most notably California, are developing their own regulations.
A major thrust of the company’s current research and development efforts focuses on creating lower-VOC latex products, but the challenge is creating a product that has the same high quality at an acceptable price. “The technology just can’t keep pace with the VOC laws,” Spillane says.
The company’s scientists, however, will continue to develop products that will help the independent paint dealer, and the contractor, compete in the marketplace. “Benjamin Moore is focused on the contractor and the contractor’s needs,” Spillane says. “Our goal is to support professional contractors — as the true professionals they are — with great products that perform and valuable programs that offer opportunities to grow their business.”
For more information about Benjamin Moore & Co. and the new Personal Color Viewer, visit the Benjamin Moore & Co. Web site.