Errors in art shop watercolour lists – a rollout nightmare?

St Ives Colouring book

Copyright D Stevens 2017
Montaz Restaurant, St Ives, Cambs


I love watercolours, but can’t buy Winsor & Newton colours I need because my local stockist has not had the correct updated display for a year. The stockist said that they have had to really push to get the manufacturer’s sales rep to call. Their visit will be in a month or so. I have heard other artists being told, “Well, you can order missing colours from our display but we can’t tell you when we can get them.” Then, “New colours WN have introduced? Oh sorry, we can’t get them [either].” The same seems to be true of WN Promarkers and other products from this major manufacturer. 

Is it just this stockist? No! I’ve been doing some research on the internet and of other stockists. I started from a corrected sheet I created for Promarkets, and shared it with a few people. I asked why that other stockists only listed the old colour range. Their answer? “WN had not told them about the new range [listed on the WN website for months]! so they couldn’t update their promotional details and further, [they] couldn’t yet order any either.”  They took the time to reply to me and will probably get my order ahead of my local stockists. Why only ‘probably’? Well I still don’t know when either stockist will receive their goods, and in the meantime, I might start exploring WN many competitors – and quite frankly they are REALLY exceptional quality and cheaper! A company relying on its past reputation to artists is taking a huge risk with its apparent:

  • Lack of communication
Why is it so painful for customers?
  • My end-customer expectations from WN have been raised by the WN website listing the new colours – even placing them in colour order
    [so this website info has been updated twice]. This is ahead of their communication to their immediate customers – their loyal stockists who have already bought from them.
  • I don’t have a schedule for the rollout – not even a rough indication e.g. by summer 2020, or during 2020, or ‘which we aim to complete within a year’. A lauch date schedule would have been even better.
  • Colour list information is out of date or plainly wrong. My local stockist said, “I’m not suprised, we found lots of errors in … also.” There are several concerns here, 
    – the errors in WN shared documents which have not been corrected in almost 2 years. It is just a matter of loading a replacement pdf file. I even sent them a corrected file.
    – conflicts in permanence tables. Permanence refers to how susceptable the pigment is to light. The Cotman student colour lists have N/A not applicable next to them, 
       yet in other WN publications, they do identify these details. 
    – when the stockists reinforce complaints, they may start refusing to stock that range in future. Why have the hastle? Why not make space for the new competitor ranges instead?
    – communication to fellow artists and graphic designers will not give the same positive spin on the WN products they would want – artists get updated info we hope is correct, but of course
       products do change, so the best communication should be with the manufacturers cooperation, pigment replacements because of toxicity fears etc..
  • Rollout plan 
Not working for WN, I don’t know what their rollout plan is, nor even if there is one, or what the contingency arrangements are.  I would hope it includes :
  • what is the change [and limits] WN are really good at communicating reasons after change, e.g. explaining why colours were discontinued
  • personnel heirarchy, decision making, control structure, rewards, escalation agile sprints and internal communication.
  • time limits and go / no go decision and benchmark points for the project right through to maintenance and eventually meeting another change, rollout delay or stop
  • the impact statement: stockist displays, new sets availability, costs of change, schedules of restocking, schedule of rollout, social media comments, listening to feedback, related documents
  • contingency plans: what if the rollout doesn’t have sufficient funding in place? staff are not trained or available? paint manufacture fails? display cabinets are not made [in time]?
    documents impacted are not all listed? your appointed product manager quits or fails? your technical communicator quits or fails? you lose customer data? lose communication channels?
    [PESTLE or similar analysis covers Political, Environmental, Social [all customer and non-customer reputational levels], Technical and Economic analysis areas which must be covered]  
  • communication needs, customer enquiries and response to the separate stakeholders
This is not exhaustive, but rather gives a range of things to think about.
  • Conclusion
Winsor and Newton have not responded to all my concerns, but they have to at least one stockist. During the limbo period of waiting for a rollout to complete, I can only examine which of the colours I have from the complete list, and which I might want to buy. I need a swatch card of all 109 colours including all the cadmium and cadmium free alternatives. I wish the company well with their rollout and hope they find the right staff resources to bring it back on track.

Corrections and downloads

Wherever you are in a rollout project – you can still adjust what is happening;
  • consider handing over control, listening and doing;
  • reset expectations; and
  • communicate.
So firstly, set up the best mechanisms you can afford for:
  • feedback and learning
…and don’t forget to also look inwards to also review what went wrong previously and learn how to move forwards in the best way. Keep looking, listening and reacting appropriately.
Put in place structures, admin, communication and customer relationship, finance, operations and a targetted marketing and sales programme, all with measured targets.
  • download example
Listing all the current WN Artists Watercolours is not enough. The first thing artists do is to swatch colours to understand their pigment characteristics like granularity and staining and to  compare them with other colours in the range and different manufacturers alternatives. Independent social media artists will do these, but there is key information they need:
  • colour name
  • pigments
  • granulation, staining, permanence
  • reference number for the colour
  • …and availability of all the paints

Availability is up to WN, but I can provide a word document with all the other information – to the best of my knowledge in the spirit of helping other artists. 
WandN Artists pans and swatch template. Why a word document?  Well, there may be additional colours added in the future, and as a table, it can be amended fairly easily to include, remove or edit colours. I can also limit it to just the colours I decide to put in my two small palettes I use for outdoor painting … when the weather improves!

If you would like a copy of the full Promarkers List, please email me and quote ‘Artz Workshop’. You can also request sheets to colour with pens or your own watercolours. Happy painting!
Thank you Montaz Bangladeshi Cuisine Restaurant. A waiter and I held ‘portrait paintoffs’ for 5 minutes on fundraising fete days in St Ives. It was our contribution to social community enterprise. You may download the heading drawing and the palette for your own personal painting use. Please enquire if you want to use for any other purpose including sale or fundraising. Who will you paint along with?   

If you want help with a rollout, so you can set aside time to enjoy your own personal hobbies, please contact Clever Resourcing.