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Farrow and Ball trade day

I was invited down to Farrow and Ball’s factory in Dorset, to spend a day with a dozen or so decorators and a couple of suppliers, looking round and asking questions. I am a bit of a critic of their paints, but after seeing what they are about and getting more insight into their marketing, I was very impressed, I have to say.

Generally the trade do give them a tough time, and F&B do need to sharpen up if they are to win the hearts and minds. But I think there is a communication break down - the trade is a sector that they really don’t talk to in trade terms, and the trade don’t always specify F&B paints for what they actually were intended to do. There were / are lots of areas for improvement still to go!!

This is a link to the background of the Farrow and Ball report and a link goes to the report posted in our newsletter.

If you have been behind the scenes, what did you think?

Yes I enjoyed their first trade day held in Jan, and concur with Andy’s fuller report.
Andy’s more articulate then me but if i could add a few notes of my impressions…

I use F&B regularly and am fortunate to have a very good working relationship with Bristol showroom who refer me to many of their clients,(no, still no discount whatsover!!)

I found them engaging, fascinatingly wrapped up in their own world (Andy’s comparison to Morgan cars was so apt!)and they really do believe they make the best paint on the planet. The techie paint chemist guys showed us examples of F&B emulsion’s superior opacity,when asked what the other brands were they were comparing with they said they make their own version of what they think competitors make! They don’t actually open competitors tins to find out!
They view their paint either through a petro-chemists eyes or as a colour to be marketed and have little regard or knowledge for application

At the day in January they had a ‘practical’ session to show us how to apply acrylic eggshell. Six of us had the most spine tingling embarrassing session watching a guy load up their awful F&B brushes (made by Harris) and proceed to apply as if it were oil. It was acutely uncomfortable to be in a room of excellent painters being shown NVQ level 1 techniques!Maybe they’ve dropped that part?! hope so

The group I was with on the day were united in our unanswered questions about their primers. e.g, what purpose does the wallprimer serve. How is it better than contract matt for new plaster and if there’s a problem to be solved why use it as it’s not a stain blocker (Cover Stain) or better for adhesion (123)
Same for their wood primers.

What is impressive is the consistency of their colours. If you buy a tin of F&B colour it will always match another tin of the same if you buy it 6 months later from a different shop. Dulux cant even get the same accuracy from a 1 litre to a 5 litre tin in the same branch on the same day! So much to be said for F&B accuracy

I will happily use F&B products - If a client wants it then thats what I deliver. The ex retailer in me gets what Andy was saying about clients buying into it 'emotionally’
They have amazing brand loyalty - each year showrooms have a cocktail evening to ‘launch’ five new colours, and the showroom is packed. San you imagine the turnout at a DDC !! But what interests me is how customers go along and then proceed to tell F&B staff how good their paint is! Its like the brand loyalty my ex employers at John Lewis have - and F&B have nailed it very successfully.

re trade comms I recently wrote to F&B suggesting a more streamlined way for trade accounts including paying monthly accounts in store but the response was ‘our systems don’t allow it’ (!) note to F&B - change the system then!

For me F&B is a brand I will happily use when asked and I wouldn’t switch sell a client specifying F&B. But I wouldn’t recommend it from choice when I feel there are other quality brands which are superior e.g.Little Greene, Fired Earth and Mylands also offer excellent colour palettes and the ‘chalky’ emulsion finish but these brands are hard wearing and practical in family homes, don’t require the type of primer F&B specify and can be touched in too.

Nice resume yourself, Dave!

It sounds like they have evolved their trade day.

They said that your group reported back that you would have liked some colour info, so they added that for us and it was very good session.

The time with Wayne in the paint area was fine, we could use any paint we wanted (I tried the Dead Flat and it doesnt seem to be a direct replacement for flat oil) and there was a bit of chat about the gloss and getting a number 10 finish and their floor paint. The brushes were Purdys this time.

Primers, they were openly saying they have no issue with Zinsser, they use their kit around the factory, but cant recommend it as they dont control the formulations. They also claim they aren’t all things to all people, which is fair enough. However, doesnt, as you say, answer the questions about what do we use then, if we want to be covered.

The 3 coat system is a constant in their range, one primer two tops, on walls it seems to be to achieve depth of colour, on woodwork the same, with a bit of problem-solving thrown in. Whether that is the best way to go on wall colours is debatable. On deep changes, an obliterating base coat is certainly an approach we would all take at times, but as an obligatory step on heavily pigmented superflat colour, their stance does seem a stretch.

If F&B dont provide a solution, the correct way to proceed is - dont use their product, but we know that presents an ongoing dilemma for the trade because your clients want F&B and you want to do a job with no comeback, so you try get around the shortcomings and then you are on your own if you use non F&B products…

When specifying systems you have to decide, is this contorted system one I want to be dealing with, isnt there a simpler one? Answer to that is yes there are better systems for wall paints, technically. But F&B sell their 3 coat look and so it goes on…,

About the chemist, I wonder if they gave him more free rein to chat this time round, and not be so coy about what they get up to?because the story highlights I came away with are: they were developing their range from 2006, so the implication is theirs is not exactly a knee jerk move away from oil, and have had a cross-linking primer since 2008 and have rigorously tested competing brands to assess where they are in the tech race, so to speak, and seem happy where they are at, technically.

That is a big leap from the story they told you! that their research is limited to emulating a couple of trade brands. There was a selection of competing brands’ attempts at colour matching, to demo the f&b colour story.

Pick the bones out of that :slight_smile: