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Decorating and the Covid-19 crisis

Listed under Blog, Painting Posted Apr 17 2020

This is a chronological continuation of a trip down memory lane with Traditional Painter articles from 2008. Hopefully they provoke some thoughts about Decorating and the Covid-19 crisis.

A simple referral system for tradesmen

This second ever article published on the Traditional Painter website is a little longer than the first one. It outlines a Personal Recommendations card which influenced the business model behind the Traditional Painter network. 

Remember shabby chic?

In the States shabby chic seemed as simple as scuffing acrylic paint finishes with a sanding block. Annie Sloan chalk paint plus wax offered a more creative approach. Technical advances with durable clear lacquer have since increased the options for distressed finishes with chalk paint. If you can spray, the broken colour world opens up even further. 

Artex to remove lime wash

Old products aren’t always the best. Historically, Artex scarred millions of square feet of ceilings and walls with stippled, swirled cake icing. Further back in time, lime wash was the traditional wall finish of choice long before artex was ever invented. Modern decorators tried to use modern paints over lime wash and its close friend distemper. Not a good combination. Fortunately, back in the late 90’s we learnt that Artex was a decorator’s friend. It was ideal for stripping lime wash so you could apply “normal paint” without fear of flaking. And Artex will cover itself, ridding us of ugly textured ceilings and walls!

Thoughts for decorators and the coronavirus crisis.

While the Covid-19 crisis continues, there is no doubt that our view of normal is going to be challenged. On the upside painters should be used to change! Reading through the above articles you will see that the decorating world is a constant flow of out with the old in with the new. It is a given that colours fall in and out of fashion, as do wall coverings, paint, tools and techniques.

We usually have the choice to adapt in our own time. Occasionally something like the rapid demise of Artex demands more rapid radical action. In that case, the company managed to reinvent itself, still in the same line of work but with a different approach.

It is becoming clearer by the day that we aren’t experiencing normal change. Disruption is fast and deep. Within a few months, the whole decorating trade, along with every other sector, will have to face up to the massive economic and social fallout of the current crisis. To get our heads around the size of the challenge, we would do well to think back to 2008. How did decorating deal with that setback?

Not well.

Neither the banks, the government nor the decorating industry dealt with that crisis particularly well. In decorating, sticking to the same old same old during excessive financial tightening provoked a massive and protracted race to the bottom. When price is the main tool of choice to remain competitive, what other outcome could you expect? Sadly, wage pressure was relentless throughout the economy and it took til Jan 2020 for the UK to get back to pre 2008 wage levels!

GB wages 2008 to 2018

Historically, economic crashes happen very slowly, then very suddenly. This is different to 2008. Businesses large and small aren’t all floundering because the warning signs of economic stress have suddenly surged to crisis point. Even viable businesses have been suddenly floored by a virus that has come out the blue. But whatever the health of businesses before Covid-19 reared its ugly head, what will the demand for goods and services be like when the doors open again? Take note of that graph with the wage dip from 2016. That could just as well be a tracker of consumer confidence.

Consumer confidence post Covid-19

Literally millions are going to be hammered by financial pressures, and confidence about spending on anything but food will be shot for a good while. On the other hand, some people working from home, still on the company payroll could come out of quarantine financially quite well off, even ahead. Having been indoors for weeks, you can see how discretional spending soon drops to an extra bar of chocolate or a drop of your favourite tipple. But how long will it take for general confidence to return, to spend out on decorating projects?

There is much talk about how the world has changed. Health is at the forefront of thinking. That bird song, wildlife, clean air and peace and quiet has made quite an impact, fast.

Decorators and suppliers need to read the mood and work out customers’ revised expectations. Will there still be a drive to return to the pace and intensity of business life before Covid-19? Are priorities going to change in terms of ecological demands? Will the world be putting off big ticket items for another year, or will there be a big reactionary blow out to catch up. One thing is certain, the same old same old won’t wash and everyone in the chain will be looking for value.

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