The day direct-to-consumer paint brand Lick Home launched in March 2020, the U.K. went into lockdown.
It was a scary time. But for a startup selling paint and self-adhesive wallpapers, things could have been much worse. Lick’s inventory sold out in its first month, while cofounder Lucas London says revenues soared from zero to £500,000 ($690,000) in eight months as shoppers looked for ways to — literally — add a splash of color to the world around them.
Lick’s current best-selling color is a soothing shade of sage green — a trend U.S. paint company Backdrop has noticed too, reporting that similar dusty green shades, plus earthy pinks, are also big hitters right now. In May of this year, Backdrop launched two fun, bright, limited-edition shades in collaboration with Dunkin’ — a pink and an orange — which quickly sold out. Clare says sales of its yellow paints are up 90% compared to pre-pandemic levels, as people gravitate towards more optimistic hues. Coat, in the U.K., says its pink shade Felt Cute (in reference the "felt cute, might delete later" meme, of course) is among its top-sellers.
Paintbrushes at the ready
Lick estimates that before the pandemic, just 4% of paint sales in the U.K. were made online (comparable figures for the U.S. are not available). When lockdowns forced consumers to make these purchases online, brands tried their best to keep up. Following the closure of hardware stores, paint giant Sherwin-Williams made its paint chips available online for the first time, while high-end paint brand Farrow & Ball re-engineered its supply chain in order to accommodate more online sales.
Then there are the likes of Lick, Coat, Backdrop and Clare — plus other digital-first painted competitors such as Pickleson, Tint and Cover Story — set up from day one to help consumers buy paint from the comfort of their own home. Easy-to-install wallpapers are also on these brands’ agendas: Lick has a range of self-adhesive wallpapers, while Astere works with artists to create unique floor-to-ceiling designs.
“The offline experience [of buying paint] is a frustrating one,” London points out. “It’s not supported, there’s a huge amount of product choice, and a lack of clarity over the difference between products.”
The question of color
The direct-to-consumer paint brands follow a similar formula: each has a curated range of shades to choose from, and can also outfit you out with the equipment needed to do a DIY paint job.
But colors rarely look the same on screen as they do in real life — creating one of the biggest challenges for these modern paint brands to overcome. To help customers get a feel of what a certain shade might look like in their home, the brands sell swatches — some of which peel-and-stick on your walls — and go heavy on user-generated content, featuring the paint projects of their customers and encouraging them to tag the brand on social media. Coat has even created a "color visualizer" where customers can test out what different wall colors look like with different styles of furniture.
Seeing the paint in-situ is extremely important, London says, as “we find that people are going for certain looks — not the perfect color shade.”