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53: On Safe In-Store Shopping Trends with Guardsman

Written by Rob Stott

January 19, 2021

A lot has changed over the past year, and as customers start venturing back into physical stores, special attention must be paid to providing a clean, safe shopping experience. Guardsman, distributors of the COVID killing Monofoil disinfectant, chats about those trends and more.

Rob Stott: All right. We are back on the Independent thinking podcast and excited to be joined right now by Mr. Dan Miller, the regional sales manager for Guardsman. Dan, appreciate you. I don’t know if I appreciate the flag behind you, but I appreciate at least you joining us today for this Independent Thinking podcast.

Dan Miller: You got it. And I thought you’d like that red-win flag.

Rob Stott: Yeah, and being from Philly, early hockey memories and late 90s, I don’t know. It’s just every time, that Eiserman and Fedorov, I can’t, I can’t. Bad memories.

No. Well, I appreciate you joining, like I said. And excited to dive into everything you guys have going on at Guardsman, but I know specifically, we’ll talk about MonoFoil the people that see the headline here. And, but before we get to that, tell us a little bit about you and about Guardsman, and what you guys have going on.

Dan Miller: You got it. Thanks for your time for having me today. So I’ve been with Guardsman almost 10 years. It’ll be 10 years this June. So my whole background is building materials. So I was working right out of college with a company called Black & Decker, and then Stanley as well, and a Yale Locksets out of Norcross, Georgia.

So then 23 years in building materials, 10 here with Guardsman, been in Atlanta, Georgia for 21 years now. So it’s been great. Guardsman, as you know, is really what our claim to fame is. A couple of things. It’s furniture protection plans, which we invented back in the 70s, so we’re really known for that, but we’re also known as a consumer products company.

Our consumer products go back 105 years, believe it or not. We started way back there in Grand Rapids, Michigan. So we’re a very old company and we’re very excited to partner up with MicroGold on this MonoFoil product. MicroGold is out of California and they contacted us back in the spring when the coronavirus was starting to hit and they wanted to gain some distribution into the furniture and electronics and appliance, and some of the hardware dealers through Guardsman’s distribution channel.

And they gave us an exclusive to distribute this product in those channels, if you will, so that’s how it all started. It’s been a great relationship with them and I will go over the product in great detail, but I’m very excited to present it to the Nationwide team.

Rob Stott: No, that’s awesome. And before we dive into it, talk a little bit about, you mentioned some of the products and things there at Guardsman. I mean, it looks like a lot of furniture protection. How in-depth can furniture protection get in terms of products?

Dan Miller: Yeah. So furniture, it’s all of the leather and wood and all the fabrics, even outdoor products are covered. Adjustable bases are covered. We have coverages on mattresses. Boy, really anything. We even have new plans that go over lighting and electric fireplaces now. So we’ve really morphed into what the furniture dealer is carrying in their stores and we’re trying to protect it.

Rob Stott: That’s awesome. And I imagine, you see products today. I feel like I’m waiting for the Alexa sofa, Amazon Alexa sofa, so how that gets covered will be interesting. But you got all these motion things and electronics and chargers in couches and stuff now. So I imagine it’s evolved a little bit.

Dan Miller: It’s a great point and you’re spot on. It has really grown into, and we’ve had to grow as a company. Again, being here almost here 10 years, back in the day you covered rips, cut tears, burns, and stains, and now we’re covering the dog, eating the sofa and we’re covering as you alluded to, all the electronics and USB ports and chargers, and all that stuff inside the furniture. So it’s really morphed into that.

Rob Stott: Stuff you’ve ever thought you’d see in a furniture, in a piece of furniture or no?

Dan Miller: Not really, but not being a furniture expert because my background is power tools. Nothing surprises me at this point.

Rob Stott: If you can build it, people want it. Our phones are attached to us, so they got to be able to attach to the things that we sit on these days. So it makes sense.

Dan Miller: That’s a good point. Absolutely. And back in the day, those would never be covered. But again, we’ve all morphed into covering those now.

Rob Stott: And two, I mean, coronavirus, it’s permeated in every discussion these days. And it obviously has a big part in why we’re talking today. But as far as protection plans, people are sitting on pieces of furniture more. Outside of MonoFoil, and the partnership there that we’ll dive into, what other ways has it impacted your business and what Guardsman does?

Dan Miller: Yeah, the claims have gone through the roof. They’ve increased well over 20% since this has happened.

Rob Stott: Wow.

Dan Miller: And all of our call center in Grand Rapids, our employees are now remote. So we’ve had to do some changing of the Guard to accommodate their homes, to be able to take all the claims and all that information. We’ve had to add people into different parts of the claims process to make sure we’re accommodating the customer’s needs.

And then the technicians, we’ve had to pivot there a little bit too, making sure that the technicians can get inside their homes and fix and repair their furniture. So you’re seeing a little bit more replacements versus repairs because it’s been difficult to get into some of their homes and stuff, so that has spiked a little bit as well.

Rob Stott: Man, and a company like Guardsman, you think about everything. How do you plan for something like that on your end, to be ready to just handle whether it’s how you work with the employees to just the level of, as you mentioned, claims and things like that, that come in?

Dan Miller: It’s kind of a plug and play. Like I said, we’ve had to rededicate some employees inside the call center into other areas because maybe their one particular area is not as busy as it was when they were live in person in the call center. So we’ve had to bring on more people into the first point of entry when they’re calling in to 1-800 number. So we’ve had to allocate more people on the frontline to accommodate those needs. Like I said, it’s a plug and play.

Rob Stott: That’s great. Hey, every business these days, right? I mean, it feels like that’s what it’s been for whether it’s retail, product protection, you talk about your sports. I see the flag behind, obviously the sports come to mind like what they’ve had to do with adjusting seasons and games and all that sort of stuff.

So every industry has been touched by this. And like we mentioned and like you mentioned, it extends to partnerships that have been developed. And so what’s your first recollection of MonoFoil?

Dan Miller: Yeah. So my first recollection of MonoFoil, at the time we started to sell it, we didn’t have the coronavirus claim that it would kill it. We had to wait for about a month period before we could tell the consumers that, “Yes, this does kill the COVID-19, the coronavirus.”

So when we were first starting to sell it, we were very clear that this is a product that we feel very strongly will kill the virus, but we couldn’t put that claim on. And we got the end listing is it’s an industry term for the chemicals or for the people in the industry, to be able to say that you kill the coronavirus and COVID and all that.

So we got the end listing, Rob, back in late September. Once we got the end listing that it does officially kill the virus and all that, boy, the sales started to get a lot better and stuff like that. So it’s really, and we’ll go over this in great detail, but when we were first starting to sell it, we were starting to sell it more on the odor, and that it was killing the bacteria and the mold and mildew in the showers and stuff like that. But we did not have that COVID claim yet until the September timeframe.

Rob Stott: Which I know obviously is a big deal. The safety of whether it’s shoppers or people in their home, having that kind of designation, I know is obviously a big deal and something that you guys and they are able to celebrate, getting that.

So you’re talking about using this product, not to make comparisons, but is it like a Lysol type solution or what’s really the use cases for MonoFoil?

Dan Miller: Yeah. So it’s a lot different than the Lysol and Clorox and the wipes that are on the market today. What happens with Clorox and Lysol and the wipes is once you wipe down the particular area that you’re wiping down, let’s say it’s a refrigerator door handle. Once you wipe that down with Lysol and Clorox, you’ve killed the bacteria and the germs and the viruses, but once it dries, and once you put your hand back on the refrigerator in this example, the refrigerator door handle, you’ve recontaminated it.

What MonoFoil does is it stays on the surface depending on the surface and depending on the high touch points, it stays on the surface for two to four weeks after you apply it.

Rob Stott: Oh wow.

Dan Miller: So it continues to protect you and your families and your stores, if you will, and your customers for two to three to four weeks even, after you’ve applied it.

So it’s immensely different than a Lysol or Clorox that people can’t keep in stock, if you will. This is more of a product that will stay, it will bond to the surface. It will protect your surface. And just as a quick example, like on a cellphone, if you spray it on a clean towel or a cloth or anything like that, you spray your MonoFoil on the cloth, and then you clean your phone with it, you are good to go for at least a week or two.

I personally clean my cellphone once every 10 days, 12 days. But again, if you’re using a Lysol or a Clorox and you’ve wiped down your phone, once you’ve touched it again, you recontaminated it again, and you’re not protected. That’s the biggest difference.

Rob Stott: Gotcha. So from a technical standpoint, a little technical, not super technical, but with those products, does it actually do anything to the texture or feel of it as you’re using it?

Dan Miller: Yeah, no. It’s a great question. It’s a water-based solution. So it’s not affecting any of it. The only times that you don’t want to apply MonoFoil on products that would be in a Nationwide dealer store, would be on Aniline leather and also untreated wood.

Rob Stott: Gotcha

Dan Miller: Everything else in the store, the glass and the fabric and the leather, and the treated wood, all of that, all of those have been tested and we have data and we have data sheets for all the dealers to look at, on what it’s been tested on.

Rob Stott: Okay. And you mentioned using it on your cellphone. So this is something that can be applied to electronics as well?

Dan Miller: Yeah. So all of the electronics and appliance dealers, some of them have already started buying from us. So the product itself comes in a one gallon, a five gallon, a 55 gallon, and also the 16 ounce spray bottles. So it comes in a variety of ways for the stores to purchase it.

Personally, if I owned one of the stores, I would buy two things. I would buy the gallon or the five gallon to spray the store down. And then I would buy the 16 ounce bottles that come 12 to a case, I would buy the 16 ounce bottles with trigger sprays to make sure that you could sell those to your dealers to protect them in their own homes.

Rob Stott: Well, yeah. I know one of the things I wanted to get to is that this is obviously a B2B type of solution where retailers… You talk about customers and making them feel safe shopping in your stores these days, being able to tell them that you’re spraying and applying a solution that protects them and kills this virus specifically, that’s a big deal.

Because with customers, that’s going to be, I think something they look for as we get back to having a somewhat more normal shopping experience. But then too, to be able to turn around and sell it to them, so this is something that they can sell as well to a customer.

Dan Miller: Yeah. In all honesty, and I don’t want to play Joe sales guy on this comment, but every Nationwide dealer, whether you’re electronics, you’re appliance, you’re audio, you’re visual, you’re hardware, obviously furniture, mattress, every one of those dealers is a candidate for this product.

Because at the very least, if you don’t want to spray your store down, at the very least, you should have a case or two on your countertops to be selling to your customers. The key when you bring in the product, is that you give some education on the product and that you know the features and the benefits of the product.

So that way you can parlay that into a conversation with your customers so that they know that they’re buying. MonoFoil D is not a household name. If you and I talked to a 100 people and asked them about MonoFoil D or asked them about Clorox or Lysol, they’re going to know Clorox and Lysol. They’re not going to know MonoFoil D.

MonoFoil D has been around for about eight years. It started out in hospitals. It started out in Elwood, Indiana. And it was created for a couple of things. It was created to kill the odors and eliminate germs and mold and mildew and all that. And then they started morphing it into the hospitals because of the bacteria killing part of the product.

So it really started there. It’s not really a brand name known in the trade circles today. But with that being said, all you got to do is try the product yourself. And more importantly, educate yourself so that the customers know what they’re buying.

Rob Stott: No, that makes a lot of sense. And I know certainly in terms of marketing and education, having the understanding of what that end list means and the fact that it is a COVID killer, I know is important, and a big part of that.

As far as application of the product, you mentioned the different types of containers it comes in. You also mentioned, potentially spraying on a cloth and rubbing on it. So what’s the recommended ways of applying this to a surface or to a product?

Dan Miller: Yeah. So there’s a couple of different ways that you could do it. If you’re the owner of a store and you want to buy a one gallon or a five gallon, what you want to do is you want to either buy a hand pump sprayer, you can get those at Lowe’s or Depot or any of those and you can spray it, or you want to buy a handheld sprayer by Victory.

It’s an electrostatic sprayer, and those are pretty expensive. There’s a handheld. And then there’s a backpack application. So the handheld is $649. The backpack itself which holds, I think about five gallons, that’s $1,450. So they’re both very expensive, but over time, they save you so much money versus a regular sprayer or the trigger spray itself.

Rob Stott: And you get to like Ghostbuster.

Dan Miller: Yep. A little bit about the Ghostbusters, but the benefits of and electrostatic sprayer is it’s about 70% faster than a regular hand pump. So you’re going to be able to spray it so much quicker, but it’s also more efficient and it gives you more coverage versus a pump sprayer, and it saves you on the fluid costs and they have a stat on their website.

It uses about 65% less product on an electrostatic sprayer versus a pump sprayer. So your initial upfront, the pump sprayer is $15, and this is $650. But over time, you will definitely be saving money with the electrostatic sprayer.

Rob Stott: And is it something, you mentioned obviously the types of surfaces that you want to try to avoid.

Dan Miller: Oh, sorry about that.

Rob Stott: No, no-

Dan Miller: I didn’t. I have ADD. I didn’t answer your question.

Rob Stott: You’re good. But is it something where, I mean, knowing the types of products that it can’t go on, can you spray this willy nilly and it lands and be fine? Or do you have to be a little bit more cognizant of what you’re spraying at?

Dan Miller: Yeah. Nope, Nope. Sorry about that. I want to go back to that and answer the question this time. So you actually want to put it on a clean surface. So a couple of quick things. As I’m talking to you right now, my office, I have a glass countertop over all of my… If you’ll remember these, back in the day, you used to get a ticket stub when you go to a sporting event.

Rob Stott: I think I remember what those were like.

Dan Miller: I have all these ticket stubs of the sporting events that I’ve attended on my desk and over it, I have glass. So what I do here is I use glass cleaner about once a month. And then I mist MonoFoil spray right on the glass once a month to kill the viruses and the germs and all of that. And I don’t have to reapply that until another month because it will stay on it for about four weeks.

So on glass, it’s just a clean glass, misting, spraying it right on the surface, let it dry, which takes about 10 to 18 minutes. And you’re good to go. Now on other types of wood and fabric and leather and all that granite countertops, same thing. You want to make sure it’s a clean surface and you want to mist it on a granite countertop as an example, in our own home.

I use the Guardsman daily cleaner on it. I let it dry. Then I put the shine and polish on it. I let that dry. Once those are dry, I get my trigger spray with the MonoFoil and I mist it right on the granite countertop. I let it air dry. It’s done in again, 10 to 18 minutes, and then you’re protected. Same thing with fabric, leather, wood, all that stuff.

Now, what we were talking about earlier on some of the high touch points like a doorknob or refrigerator handle, your remote control, your cellphone, I personally spray that either on a baby wipe or I spray it on a clean cloth and then apply the MonoFoil right on the surface of the door knob, the refrigerator handle, the cellphone, the remote control.

So I don’t spray MonoFoil directly on those high touch points. You could easily spray the doorknobs and the handheld… Your refrigerator door handles and stuff. That’s no problem. But on a cellphone, anything electronically and stuff, it’s better to apply it to a cloth first and then put it on your surface from there.

Rob Stott: No, certainly makes a lot of sense and better to be clear. Hey, good to know how to be clean and get rid of this virus and what better way than with a product that has the type of designation to specifically do that, which is awesome. And even taking the endless, not to set it aside because it is a huge deal, but even to a point where we get beyond the corona, it’s down there somewhere.

Somewhere in the future, there’s going to be a day where this is not as big of a deal as it is now. There’s certainly staying power for a product like this just because of… We’ve already talked about it a little bit, but the way that shopping is going to be approached now by consumers.

Dan Miller: Yeah. No, you’re exactly right. You’re exactly right. So forget about the coronavirus and COVID and all that other stuff.

Rob Stott: Try for a second.

Dan Miller: Let’s move on from that, but really think about all of the… We’re right in the middle now of the flu season, if you will. So let’s go back to January 2020, if you remember that. Remember we were all traveling. We were all going on the airports and airplanes and hotels and stuff.

So really if you think about this, if you’re going to travel to a hotel, you could literally bring your 16 ounce trigger spray MonoFoil with you and again, you would want to spray that on a cloth and you would want to clean the door handles inside the hotel room. You want to clean the high touch points, the microwave oven, the doorknobs, and obviously your remote control.

So even when this virus goes away, this product is going to be able to kill all of that bacteria and that sort of stuff. That’s the first thing. The second of all is this product is an incredible odor killing product. This product, it was created for the hospitals and then it morphed into, “Oh my goodness, this is an odor killing product as well.”

So what this does is it kills the odors inside trash cans. So quick example, our trash cans at home that we use, we have a recyclable one and a regular one. My wife, Michelle, cleaned out our trash cans maybe three months ago with just regular cleaner if you will, then once that trash can was dry, I sprayed the MonoFoil right in the trash can and let that dry. And she said, “Can you believe how clean and the smell and how it got rid of the odor?”

And I said, “That’s amazing.” So you could put it inside your trash cans. I personally do mine once a week, only because the trash can doesn’t need to be cleaned right away. It’s already clean. So I put it inside a trash can. I also put it inside my shoes at least once a week.

It doesn’t need it once a week, but I do it once a week. If you go to the gym, you got smelly shoes, I spray those twice a week. I will also tell you it’s great to take out if I can say this word, pee stains.

Rob Stott: Hey!

Dan Miller: So if you have a dog, a cat, I will tell you a personal story. In our own home, we have a puppy in our life that tinkled on our daughter’s carpet. We could not get that odor out.

We got the stain out, but we couldn’t get that odor out. So what we did was we sprayed the MonoFoil right on the carpet itself, let it dry for the weekend. We went away for the weekend. We came back and I would tell you about 95 to 98% of that order was gone.

You had to put your nose right into the stain to smell it. So what we did was, we reapplied it two days later and the odor is completely gone.

Rob Stott: Wow.

Dan Miller: So if you have elderly parents that have accidents. I know you have a young child at home.

Rob Stott: You mentioned the trashcan. All I can think about is these diaper trash cans that we have that could really benefit from something like this.

Dan Miller: Yep. A guy that works for us told me one yesterday where he has some water buildup in his basement and he sprays the MonoFoil where the water buildup has been. And he said it has completely annihilated the odor. And that’s been gone as well. It’s an unbelievable odor killing product.

The other thing, when you say the word staying power is, and we don’t even really tout it much, but inside a shower and a bathtub is the mold and mildew. So the mold and the mildew once you’ve cleaned your shower, all you got to do is spray MonoFoil into your shower, your bathtub, your curtains, your drapes, and all that stuff inside the shower, and you spray it on there, you let it dry.

And then you are protected against the mold and the mildew. I’ve had a couple of people that I’ve sent samples to over the last couple of months. The first thing the person did was besides telling me how great it was at the odor killing, he told me how unbelievable his shower got with the MonoFoil.

Rob Stott: Interesting.

Dan Miller: And again, you’re going to be protected against the mold and the mildew. You could use it in humidifiers, you can use it inside your washing machine, that sort of stuff. So when you say staying power, I got a little long-winded. I apologize.

Rob Stott: Yeah, no.

Dan Miller: It has much more staying power than just a corona and a COVID killing product.

Rob Stott: Right. I mean, you talk about all those things, it sounds like what this was developed for and why it exists and the endless designation and the coronavirus killing designation. It really just feels like the cherry on top to a product that was already versatile in what it’s able to do.

I mean, it’s a nice add-on to be able to talk about. And really, I think just because of the times that we’re in, that’s what gets the focus, but cool to hear that there are so many different applications to think about with this product.

Dan Miller: Yeah, it really is. I talked to the CEO of the company today this morning prior to our call, and he told me a very straight on comment. He said, “Just killing the coronavirus and the COVID-19 in itself should sell millions and millions of bottles for people.”

And he said, “But think about all of the other aspects and the benefits of this product that it brings to the table. Again, you and your wife, you’re going to go this weekend and you’ll get in your car and you’ll have your Lysol wipes and your Clorox wipes, and all your high touch point areas.”

In all honesty, ever since I’ve gotten this product into our own home, I haven’t used a Clorox wipe or any of those wipes because I have a better product. It’s a mindset. It’s a mindset that we need to get people to understand.

Rob Stott: So now you just need to go back and talk to them about travel sizes and getting some… Just a different form. You mentioned spraying it onto a baby wipes. We have boxes of baby wipes lying around. Maybe there’s a MonoFoil wipe that comes out of this too.

So I see a lot of potential future ways that this thing goes and it’s exciting to hear about, and certainly something that is important whether members have heard about it or not, it’s important that they get this information in front of them and understand just what’s possible with this.

Dan Miller: Yep.

Rob Stott: Not just for their customers, but for their own stores as well.

Dan Miller: No, that’s it. And I will tell you, I want to go back to one of the things that you talked about earlier on, and if you don’t mind, I want to add a little bit more to that comment. We talked about Lysol and Clorox and all that.

MonoFoil is really the only dual action disinfected and anti-microbial on the market, and that is EPA approved to kill the corona and the other viruses out there. It’s both. In other words, a lot of the competitors are one or the other, but not both, if that makes sense.

And I want to be real clear on that, because that is a huge plus for MonoFoil D versus the competition. I’m not saying there isn’t any, I’m sure there’ll be some coming, of course, but for right now, this product is both usages.

Rob Stott: No, that’s awesome. And I mean, the timing thing too, I think the long-lasting effects and how this can go for. I think you said two to four weeks is something that you can spray it, and it’s not like you have to do it every day, or you could do it as things pop up where you might need it, might be in a situation where you need it.

But it’s something where on big surfaces and the products that matter to Nationwide dealers in the appliance and furniture space and heck, consumer electronics and bedding, this is something that is just, it’s awesome for them. And I think a big opportunity to not only tap the benefits of the product, but just how they are being safer as retailers in providing just that clean shopping environment for their customers.

And then allowing them too, to take it home and provide a cleaner in-home experience as well. So, a really cool product.

Dan Miller: Yeah, it’s really off the chart. One of the things I didn’t cover in great detail was, there really is no odor to it as far as the product itself. So when they’re spraying it, there’s no harsh chemical odor to it at all. As I said earlier, it’s a hospital grade disinfected.

It’s non-abrasive, it doesn’t leave any hazy residue, contains no phosphates, it’s alcohol free and it’s free of bleach. So it’s got a lot of great aspects of the product as well. And I will tell you the other thing, that if they’re ever selling to some of the schools and the hotels and restaurants through their stores, the Nationwide dealers, this product is ideal for all of those.

We’re starting to get some placements where they’re using the electrostatic sprayer inside hospitals, but also inside gyms and schools. I know the Cleveland, Mississippi school district bought a ton and ton of gallons of MonoFoil to disinfect their school systems, if you will. So again, we just need to get the word out a little bit more about all of the avenues where you could see this product being placed.

Rob Stott: No, that’s awesome. And here to help. So we’re happy to have you on the Independent Thinking podcast and chatting about this. So it’s something I know we’ve got some more things planned, but looking forward to seeing where you guys are able to take this and give it not only the recognition it deserves, but get it into the hands of as many dealers and customers as possible, because it’s got so many benefits to it. Dan, I appreciate you taking the time to chat about it for a little bit.

Dan Miller: Thank you so much, Rob, for your time. And we look forward to working with all the dealers on the product.

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