Smooth Selling: Listen to Customer Needs to Build Your Category

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Smooth Selling: Listen to Customer Needs to Build Your Category

Starting small with a 4-foot rack of sanding and abrasive products, Chris Read, owner of Urbanik’s Paint in Utica, New York, created a highly successful category thanks to a willingness to listen to the market and his
customers’ needs.

Urbanik’s Paint now has two 24-foot aisles of sanding and abrasive products that serve an audience of both contractors and DIYers.

Many of the store’s contractor customers desire and ask for specific sanding and abrasive tools and require those products in large quantities.

To accommodate those needs, Read ensures he has a variety of each SKU on the salesfloor. He also keeps additional quantities in the store’s warehouse to guarantee he can cover several large orders of any particular SKU on a given day.

“We’ve become the go-to store for contractors and woodworkers because of our expansive variety of products and large quantities of each we offer,” Read says. “Customers appreciate being able to look at and touch products on the salesfloor, and we always try to keep plenty of back-stock on hand to fill large orders.”

Abrasives Know-How: Help customers understand the differences between the various types of sandpaper by downloading the sandpaper shelf talker at

DIY Paradise

When it comes to sanding and abrasive products, Read also listens to his DIY customers, providing not just the products they need, but the know-how to get the job done correctly.

The store has several sanding machines available for rent. Additionally, Read has set up a small demo area in the store where customers can test out products.

“We have customers who come in skeptical about electric handheld sanders,” Read says. “But once they try the sanders, they are convinced and want to take them home.”

Read says there has been an interesting shift among DIYers over the past few years when it comes to attitudes toward sanding products. Customers who often required encouragement from the staff to purchase sanding products and take those additional steps now are readily purchasing sanding materials thanks to the influence of social media.

“It’s an unexpected, but welcome, outcome to see our sanding and abrasive tool sales increase because of social media,” Read says. “Several customers have said they are doing a specific project based on a video they saw on a social media platform and purchase all materials they need from us.”

Read attributes this shift to influencers sharing the step-by-step process of their projects, along with the high-quality final results.

“Because DIYers are watching the entire process from start to finish, they are learning about the importance of sanding to achieve excellent results on each project,” Read says.

Meet the Retailer

Chris Read began working at Meldrim’s Paint when he was 13 years old and has been a part of the operation ever since. Read purchased the business in 2006 and in 2007, he moved it to its current location in Cortland, New York. Following Meldrim’s move, Read purchased Urbanik’s Paint in Utica, New York, in 2013. Then, in 2022, Read expanded Meldrim’s Paint to a second location in Ithaca, New York.