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My Rant About a Retail Paint Job that Made My Eye Twitch 

Retail clothes store. A good retaiil painting contractor can make or break the feel of a store.

In all my years as a painter here in beautiful Perth, I’ve never seen anything quite like a shop paint job I saw recently. Me and the boys were called out to paint a new store at a shopping centre and we got in there early, talked to the lady, a lovely woman who was living her dream, to have her own store in a major shopping centre. And, all went smoothly. She loved it. We liked having some decent lunch available for a change (let’s not talk about the meals we’ve suffered doing commercial paint jobs out on the Great Northern Highway – what meat was in that pie, don’t tell me that was beef. 100% NOT BEEF.) It’s air conditioned (oh the luxury), it’s conveniently located, identifiable meat in the food court; we love doing a good retail paint in a comfy shopping centre.

As we’re packing up, a woman asked me to pop up to her shop to take a look at something. And she didn’t have to tell me what it was. The minute I walked in, I knew exactly what she was going to say. Now, I’m not particularly fashionable (Ok, not fashionable at all) but this was a high-end boutique and the clothes cost more than my first car. I’ve never seen a painting job so shoddy. In 30+ years in the painting game, I’ve never seen a commercial job like this. Straight away I could see the brush lines where the painter had used rubbish paint and applied it like a drunk kindergartener. My eye twitched. For a professional painter, this is like nails on a blackboard. The store owner told me that her head office had specified the colours, but her store looked “wrong” and she couldn’t figure out why.

Retail clothes store. A good retaiil painting contractor can make or break the feel of a store.

The store had expensive lighting. You can always tell when the owners have invested heavily in shop fitting, and these guys really had. In addition to beautiful (aka expensive) soft, warm lighting, they’d fitted some brighter directional lights for their featured products and branding. The store should have “felt” opulent, inviting, elegant.

But the painter had chosen high gloss paint. I suspect, a cheap high gloss paint. I suspect not actually what the Sydney office had ordered. I suspect they’d shaved a few dollars off the costs of the job. So instead of creating a luxury “feel” in the store, the gloss gave an “assault on the senses” feel. It had made the store’s colour scheme, under a mix of the beautiful in-store lighting and the harsher shopping centre fluorescence, a different tone. She said that she’d ordered the paint colour to the instructions from the Sydney office and it was the right colour, but it just “felt” wrong. It did. It was.

She’d been in the centre for a few months, and as happens with retail, there’d already been a few bumps and scrapes by delivery drivers and workers. In such a short time, the paint job already looked tired. The high gloss paint, the store’s directional lighting and high sheen tile floor, highlighted every divot and bump. The store felt like it could do with an update. Even though the shopfitting was very on trend (look at me using terms like “on trend”) and very new.

That’s the problem with a bad paint job – to the untrained eye, the whole space just “feels wrong”. Wall paint, in a commercial space, or in your loungeroom, creates the “atmosphere”. That’s why a bad paint job makes my eye twitch, it ruins the way a space makes a person feel. And that’s the most important part of any space.

Next, she asked me the question no painter wants to be asked in a retail setting: can we fix it? See, the problem with retail in a big shopping complex is, it’s open 7 days a week. It’s open 360+ days a year. And a bunch of blokes in overalls doesn’t exactly scream fancy fashion for ladies (although we’re all very good looking, so you know…) Fixing a bad retail paint job means working overnight, it means using low-odour, low VOC premium paint (and a painter who knows how to choose the right option for the colour and space), it means completely clearing out the job site by day and removing all our gear (because retail storerooms are notoriously tiny). So, yes, we can fix it, but it ends up costing a bomb compared to getting it right the first time.

I almost asked her who the shopfitter was that delivered this terrible job. But the lighting was excellent, the fittings were impeccable and the details in the store were very well finished. It seems that the shopfitter hired-in a dodgy painter and that let the whole job down. I’d love to have been a fly on the wall when the project manager saw the finished paint job. It’s been a rough time for shopfitters, what happened here is anyone’s guess.

So, my advice to retailers, and to shopfitters, is don’t skimp on the paint work. If you need to bring in a commercial painting contractor, opt for one who knows what they’re doing. Don’t skimp on the paint. Make sure the paint is exactly what the client ordered, and needs. Don’t just “dismiss it as close enough”. Use professional painters. The idea that your mate’s son needs a few extra dollars so he can work on the job, well, that’s a recipe for fine detail disaster. *eye twitch*

To the untrained eye, paint is all but invisible. In fact, the mark of a good paint job is nobody notices the paint job. Instead, they get the right “feeling” when they walk into the space. It makes it so hard for blokes like me to explain why something just doesn’t ‘feel right’ but if you know, you know.

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