Paint by Numbers, and the Numbers are Huge

Posted on Nov 08, 2021. by NTI

As soon as we had to get to grips with 'whispering grey', 'mandolin tongue' and 'empty hollows' when choosing a colour for the spare room we realised that the simple matter of paint had become a complex journey, not confined to 'white', 'blue' and 'yellow'. What we didn't know (but should have guessed) is that the paint industry is a £150 billion global market, resting precariously on precisely the type of raw materials no-one can get hold of at the moment.

Keeping prices as low as possible whilst bearing the brunt of precariously rising costs is a game that many manufacturers of the gloss on the front of your door and in the engine bay of your Tesla are exhausted from playing. Akzo Nobel is Europe's largest paint producer and has put up prices by 15 per cent in 2021, whilst building in to its black and white forecasts numbers that suggest this type of increase will continue well in to next year.

Many of the contents of your average five litre tin can be traced back to oil, natural gas and titanium dioxide. Apparently this isn't the worst of it. Additives which help to make your 'French Grey' 'French Grey Lite' are getting pinched in the supply chain. Some manufacturers are seeking more regional suppliers to lessen the dependence on manufacturers who occupy a different hemisphere of the Earth to them, so building greater reliability into a supply chain that is creaking under the weight of itself.

Of course, there is always someone worse off than you. A company called Kerr's in the States makes and lavishly paints superyachts. They are finding it hard to pass on increases in cost to their clients as (as if I need to tell you ...) the price to paint such a vessel is agreed two years or more in advance. And, I have to tell you, if I am paying $45 million for a yacht I am very reluctant to pay up to $100,000 more to make its azure hull shine in the harbour at Monte Carlo.

To give the rest of us some perspective; Neil pranged his Fiat Punto last week in an incident that fell into the category of 'How Long Have You Been Parked There?'. Apparently paint comprises almost a quarter of the cost to repair a car (especially if you don't want to make a statement about the various different colours of purple your precious four-wheeled pet is made up of). LV motor insurance foots the bill for repairs to 110,000 cars each year, but some others who occupy the same space say price rises don't really matter as the increased cost of paint can help to expand margins without hitting consumer demand.

It may not matter to you, but the half a milimetre of gloss on your pencil is worth £150 billion and rising to those in the industry.

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