Carpet One: Proprietary products to propel profitability

Carpet One: Proprietary products to propel profitability
August 08, 2011

ANAHEIM, CALIF.—Exclusive products are just one tool with which Carpet One provides members in management’s ongoing quest to differentiate its members from the competition. As such, the group’s recent summer convention focused on no less than three key introductions in the carpet, hardwood and resilient categories designed to not only achieve just that, but also increase members’ profit margins.

First up was Resista ReFresh, the latest brand extension of the highly successful fiber introduced in 2005. Resista Refreshbuilds on that success with both odor-killing and bacteria-combating capabilities. “Everything today is about odor and bacteria fighting,” said Charlie Dilks, chief product officer, CCA Global, parent company of Carpet One. “So we wanted to add that cleanliness to Resista. The repellency and stain story is still the backbone, but we have added ingredients that kills airborne bacteria and odors in the home.”

Manufactured by Beaulieu exclusively for CCA Global, Resista ReFresh addresses consumer concerns via Silver Shield antimicrobial protection, which employs genuine silver particles to kill odor and stain-causing bacteria that can grow in the home, and the odor-neutralizing ActiFresh.

This launch has three key elements:

1.Merchandising: Included are 18 product cards, one informational card, 3-D graphics and POP materials.

2.Training for retail sales associates on the new brand attributes.

3.Marketing: Localized national advertising on major cable networks. Every retailer who offers Resista ReFresh will have the ability to air 60 30-second spots, tagged in local markets to their store. Networks include HGTV, The Food Network, TLC and the Oprah Winfrey Network. Spots will run between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.

“We will have over a short period of time in the fall more than 70,000 TV spots promoting Resista ReFresh that will close the whole loop,” Dilks said. The spots will include a consumer offer that will then be tagged to the local dealer.

Resista ReFresh consists of 24 products, about two-thirds of which are exclusive to CCA Global. “There is something on the rack for every consumer: tight textures, friezes, Saxonies and a lot of multi color in terms of flecking and barber poles,” said Jeff Meadows, chief marketing officer, Beaulieu. The assortment hits the heart of the residential replacement market, Dilks added, with price points ranging anywhere from the mid $1 to mid $3 a square foot.

The mindset and chemistry behind Resista ReFresh has already proven to resonate with consumers. Meadows noted the Silver and odor technologies inherent in certain Beaulieu collections have been successful attributes. “You hear a lot about the environment and sustainability. But our research shows her indoor environment is more important. CCA Global had already tapped into that with the Healthier Living installa- tion package, so this product was a great fit.”

Dilks made it a point to stress that all this in no way suggests carpet is unhealthy. “We’re just saying this carpet helps fight odor and bacteria that already exists in the home.”

Dealer feedback at this convention was extremely positive. Bill Kerns, Kerns Carpet One Floor & Home, Milwaukee, an original Carpet One member, said Resista ReFresh offers plenty of features and benefits. “End users are concerned with indoor air quality and allergies in the home, and this responds to that. We push the Healthier Living installation system, so this really goes with that. It differentiates us from the competition.”

To Meadows’ point about proven success, Kerns told FCNews he recently pitched a job to a nursing home with a product that had Beaulieu’s Magic Fresh technology and won the bid.

Catherine Buchanan, Independent Carpet One Floor & Home, Westland, Mich., embraced the idea of an exclusive from Beaulieu. “It’s good to see a new manufacturer in our core product mix. It rounds us out on the soft surface. We already have Relax…It’s Lees, Tigressa and now the newest Resista, ReFresh. Not every carpet is for everyone, but this intro has a good story to sell.”

Forever Hardwood

Mannington came to the table with an 11-SKU hardwood collection that some believe is the most durable on the market. On top of that Dilks referred to the multiple-specie visuals as “unbelievable.”

The durability comes by virtue of a new surface technology (Pro-Tec), which is a melamine layer on top of real wood. “Mannington showed us this product about eight months ago,” said Eric Demaree, president of Carpet One, noting how the group is always looking for innovative product attributes it can market. “I called it a hybrid because it features a laminate-type structure with a wood veneer as opposed to a paper veneer. The melamine surface means it is probably the most impact-, scratch- and dent-resistant product on the market.”

As such, Carpet One is offering a lifetime warranty on Forever Hardwood, creating the new Titanium Plus category. Retail price point is around $5.99 a foot. “That makes for an incredible value for the consumer with great margins for the dealer,” Demaree said.

CCA has an exclusive on the proprietary product for at least a year. All 940 members will take it on as an automatic.

Ken Burnt, L&K Carpet One, Pocatello, Idaho, is greatly anticipating Forever Hardwood’s arrival in his store. “It is harder than wood, has the performance of laminate and, because it’s a real wood surface, there is no repeat in patterns. It’s the best of three worlds. It’s great for customers with big dogs with big claws. It’s kind of magic.”

Independent Carpet One Floor & Home’s Buchanan, added, “I saw the Forever Hardwood product in Albuquerque in its developmental stages and this is much better than the original concept. It has a compelling story. The exclusivity for the time being is a huge advantage.”

Invincible luxury vinyl tile

It has been a year and a half in the making, but Carpet One now has its proprietary luxury vinyl tile collection with a click locking system. CCA Global tapped IVC, whose fiberglass-backed sheet vinyl has been hugely successful for the group, for the exclusive line that will be branded Invincible.

Stefan Debusschere, IVC’s vice president of sales and marketing, calls this click collection the best on the market. The first reason is a 55mil wearlayer, thicker than the industry standard. That improves durability and performance, allowing Carpet One to offer a 50-year residential warranty and 10-year commercial warranty. Invincible’s construction also includes fiberglass, making it dimensionally stable to avoid peaking and gapping. Finally, the product is 100% waterproof, he said.

Also unique is the Unilin click system on such a wide array of visuals—30 SKUs of 14 woodand 16 tile visuals. The woods are 7 x 49 and mimic species ranging from maple to cherry to mahogany. The tiles are 12 x 24 and include rustic, marble, travertine, even metallic looks. “We adjust the gloss and texture levels for each SKU for extra realism,” Debusschere said.

For the time being, the LVT will be sourced from the Far East. However, IVC is in the process of building an LVT factory at its corporate headquarters in Belgium. “Once that site is up and running, we will switch the program.” Test runs begin in late fall with the factory expected to be fully operational by summer 2012.

Members embraced the collection as enthusiastically as any of the new introductions. “I’m pumped about the LVT,” said Ron Spadcinni, Coakley Carpet One, Canton, N.Y. “I’m happy we finally have a click. I’m tired of turning people away because we didn’t have it. I remember when the first click system was available on laminate and I kick myself for not jumping on it.”

Paul Klein, Tontine Carpet One Floor & Home, West Seneca, N.Y., noted the future of LVT is strong and called Invincible LVT a natural evolution of that category. “It will probably cut into laminate sales. If a pet has an accident on a laminate floor, it leaks through the cracks and causes bubbles in the surface layer. No manufacturer can guarantee against that. LVT answers this problem.”

Etc…

Carpet One at this convention also enhanced and redesigned its lead management system, unveiled a complete overhaul of CarpetOne.com and created a social network platform to aggressively market online.

“We believe CarpetOne.com should be the go-to site for customers who want to research and understand floor covering in every category,” Demaree said. “We will do that through a series of knowledge-based videos and aspirational content. The site will be product focused as opposed to before, when it was more brand focused. That will still be a part of our marketing position, but product will be the driver supported by all the reasons you should buy from Carpet One.”

Adam Joss, vice president, The Vertical Connection Carpet One, Columbia, Md., agrees with the new direction. “Instead of chasing Home Depot and Lowe’s, we are separating ourselves and differentiating. The old website had the catalog and pricing as its core, just as the big boxes do. Now we are providing good content, education and information. That’s really what the consumer is looking for. We are less focused on price and more on being a trusted source.”

This and that

• Invincible Hardwood by Armstrong, introduced at the Summer 2010 convention and shipped to dealers in October, has exceeded both CCA Global and Armstrong’s expectations, according to Jim Aaron, vice president of merchandising.

•Laminate for Life, introduced in January, was delayed because of issues with a third supplier. Mannington has replaced that supplier and come to the table with 12 of its best selling styles, all 12mil and exclusive to Carpet One. The collection will deliver during second week in August.

•After some re-assorting of Rustic River hardwood due to sourcing concerns in anticipation of the ITC ruling, “we now have it right,” Aaron said.

-Steve Feldman

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