Ask Andy 
Q & A with veteran building material dealer/distributor 
Andy Pace of The Green Design Center.

Q:  Andrew – I own a small independent paint store in Maryland and like many businesses, we're struggling just to make ends meet. All the trade publications and design magazines are focusing on how everybody is going green and there's some “green wave” that is sweeping across the country. In an attempt to improve business, I would like to branch out into these types of products but I have reservations. Quite honestly, we've never had a homeowner come in and ask for eco-friendly paint, nor have any of our professional contractors. There just doesn't seem to be enough interest in green around here. We can't afford to bring in thousands of dollars worth of inventory that just doesn't move. I appreciate any advice you can pass along.
– Herb in Maryland
A:  Thanks for your email, Herb. Your reservations about jumping on the green bandwagon are shared by most independent stores, so don't feel like you're alone on this one. 
First of all, realize that the majority of the green-minded customers in your area already know that you don't carry their favorite green lines, therefore, they don't visit your store. The green-minded consumer of today is well educated and is armed with a lot of facts, figures and opinions about green products. Some of these folks are seeking out stores that specialize in eco-friendly building materials, so they can feel comfortable asking their myriad of questions. They may have to travel quite far or have products shipped across the country, but they think it's worth the effort. However, the majority of these green consumers would rather buy from a local source, if they only knew of one. 
I'm not saying that materials will fly off the shelves by themselves. It will take a concerted effort by your sales staff to learn about these products and how to sell them. But once they are available, you may find that some of your regular customers will start to bend your ear about them and ask what other green materials you carry.
Second, it's about time that common sense becomes common again. If your customers had access to premium quality materials that didn't break the bank, would they be interested? Now, what if I told you that those same products were completely free of health hazards and toxins and they still performed at a superior level? Would that be of any interest to your customers? I would imagine so. I think it would make common sense to purchase and use such magical products. Only, this isn't magic. These products are have been available for years, but under the guise of “green,” which has scared some people away. 
Start slowly, Herb. Do your research and work with knowledgeable, reputable suppliers. Don't jump in head first, but be confident with your decision once you make it. If you build it, they might come. If you don't build it, they won't.
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