What makes the paint color industry unique? (Hint: It’s about product lifespan)

Anyone faced with picking a paint color faces choice overload, but that’s a common feature in many industries. It’s why that choice overload happens in the first place. Reports the NYT:

To avoid confusion, paint companies almost never retire old colors or reuse names. So customers must wade through an ever-expanding universe in which colors multiply and become less distinguishable. Benjamin Moore, for example, offers 3,300 colors. Valspar, which sells its paints through Lowe’s Home Improvement stores, has 3,500.

Imagine if car companies, consumer electronic manufactures, or fashion houses worked this way. Relative to other industries, it’s cheap and easy for paint color creators to keep old products on hand. But you have to believe in the long tail theory to think this is smart.


  • Frankencyb

    Freedom’s just another word for something less to choose.

    You can’t have your cacophony and edit too; and you can’t your your cacophony and edict too.

    As Cole Porter might have quipped about bounded rationality, “Plese fence me in.”

  • Gochrisgo

    Farrow & Ball is an interesting outlier here. They keep all of their colors in stock in their stores, rather than mixing them in the shop. This means that if they retire a color, it’s gone gone gone.

  • Nosybear

    But paint is also an excellent example of Lean production where the customer’s demands are met exactly and the product is finished at the time of order, very quickly and accurately.  This keeps the paint sellers from having to keep a stock of “Windex Blue” on hand in case the customer orders it.  They can simply mix it up on the spot.  Since any color is possible as an order, it’s an excellent system and there is really no need to ever retire a color.

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