Sherwin-Williams builds on pro loyalty

As big boxes aggressively target pro paint customers, Sherwin-Williams says its seeing its market share increase.

"The data results that we've shared with you and the entire investment community would indicate that painting contractors continue to remain remarkably loyal to the dedicated paint store channel," said Sherwin-Williams chairman and CEO Christopher Connor. He was responding to a question from an analyst about the push from the big boxes to attract professional painters. 

During the company's first quarter, consolidated net sales increased 1.4% to $2.17 billion due primarily to higher paint sales volume in our Paint Stores Group.

P.J. Juvekar of Citigroup pointed out that the big boxes haven't had much success with contractors in the past, but they're trying. For example, a new program at Lowe's targets pros with a Valspar Pro line.

Connor said he had "tremendous respect" for the paint departments of the national home center chains. 

"They have compelling product lines and offerings and are continuing to see what we see in the market, which is that the shift toward a professional painting contractor is the primary purchase of architectural paint," Connor said. 

He pointed to market share gains during the downturn, which will help Sherwin-Williams during the upswing. He said 20 of the top 25 home builders "are good Sherwin customers. That's a much stronger position than we were in the last time we went through one of these housing rebounds," he added. 

Home Depot and Lowe's are not sitting still, as evidenced by the Lowe's move with Valspar. 

"We'll take on this next challenge as we have all the other ones over the past 20 years," Connor said.