Aligned groups strive to give retailers a competitive edge

January 16, 2018

January 8/15, 2018, Volume 33, Issue 15

By Lindsay Baillie

 

Differentiation is key for the success of an independent flooring retailer. While this is often no simple task, flooring retailers do not have to do it alone. Various flooring organizations from distributors, manufacturers and buying groups are available to help retailers not only survive but thrive in an increasingly competitive marketplace.

Distributor group
Haines Loyalty Club (HLC) aims to help smaller, independent and unaligned dealers compete in the competitive world of flooring. Dealers who wish to be part of HLC and receive the benefits pay $2,700 annually and are entitled to all program elements.

“We give them access to exclusive partners who offer tools and services to help them in their business but at a discount,” said Mike Barrett, president and CEO. “We also invite them all to attend, at no additional charge, our marquee summits each year where they can network with fellow members, get face time with the Haines selling and executive teams as well as our supplier partners.”

Member benefits include: attendance at annual summits; rebates on most purchases (1-2%); $700 in merchandising funds to be used on displays, updates, sample boards, etc.; Haines’ exclusive web services program, which features a dealer locator listing only HLC members; and individual dealer sites, which are fully customizable and managed/maintained by a dedicated team. In addition, HLC partners with vendors that offer discounts or special pricing to HLC dealers. This list includes Synchrony Financial, NWFA, HomeAdvisor, RFMS and CardConnect.

Manufacturer groups
Mohawk’s Floorscapes and ColorCenter Elite programs were created 25 years ago with a focus on differentiating the retail community with the in-store shopping area. Today these programs also include the ability to utilize Omnify, the manufacturer’s online program that aims to integrate the customer’s digital and physical experiences.

“We look for retailers who are supporting the Mohawk brand with a certain amount of sales, because we aim to drive traffic to those stores,” said Seth Arnold, vice president of residential marketing. “We also look for dealers who are predominantly focused on the retail channel rather than commercial, Main Street or builder/multi-family.”

As part of the program, Mohawk structures national sales and drives awareness to the retail community. The manufacturer also has the capability and resources to completely restructure a member’s store.

“The first thing we do is a complete survey of the showroom,” Arnold explained. “Then we update all of the merchandising to make sure it is consistent and has the most up-to-date graphics that connect with what we’re doing online.”

These programs also offer other benefits for members including improved rates with business partners such as Synchrony Financial to offer credit programs to their customers.

 

The qualities that set the Shaw Flooring Network (SFN) apart from other groups, according to the company, include its people, products and service. Through membership in SFN, dealer partners receive all the benefits of independence while profiting from the collective knowledge, expertise and experience of their fellow members. In addition, Shaw provides members with digital marketing assistance and lead-generation tools.

“We’re committed to building the genuine relationships that make our retailers know we value them,” said Danny Crutchfield, director, SFN. “We want our members to be successful, and we want them to know we’re committed to helping them in every facet of their business. Through back-end business solutions, vendor partner programs, consumer financing opportunities, merchandising, advertising solutions, digital marketing services and more, we help our retailers run their businesses more efficiently and profitably.”

Membership in SFN is seen as a three-way commitment. As Crutchfield explained, “SFN members commit to Shaw in the form of floor space, core products and participation in various programs. Shaw commits to members via exclusive programs, benefits and service levels. Lastly, members commit to each other by learning, growing and sharing together.”

 

Buying groups
Carpet One Floor & Home describes itself as a “retailers for retailers” group, where everything is driven by the membership to help retailers sustain profitable growth. To become a member of the group and a stockholder in the parent company, CCA Global Partners, a flooring retailer must be financially sound, have a good reputation in his or her market, be respected and valued by the supplier community and have core values that mirror the cooperative.

“From the very beginning over 35 years ago, the founders of the Carpet Cooperative of America—now CCA Global Partners—wanted a business model that supported independent business owners with buying, merchandising, marketing, brand management and management services,” said Eric Demaree, president, Carpet One Floor & Home. “Belonging to Carpet One Floor & Home gives an independent retailer tremendous scale that enables him or her to get exclusive brands at better prices; world-class marketing assets across every traditional and digital media channel; an award-winning university to train, hire and retain salespeople; and access to leading technology to support their store operations.”

Additionally, members have access to an international network of independent retailers to share ideas with and learn from. They are able to consult with CCA Global and third-party experts in product, merchandising, marketing and operations.

 

What sets CarpetsPlus apart from other buying groups, according to ownership, is the level of networking available to its members. Communication is a priority for the group and is accomplished in various ways, the most notable of which is the group’s annual “summits,” where store owners and managers are able to meet and get an inside look at another member’s business.

“Identifying and communicating best practices and proven ways is a high priority,” said Ron Dunn, co-founder and co-CEO of parent company Alliance Flooring. “We know that whatever challenge or opportunity any one of our members is up against, another member has already crossed that bridge and is willing to provide invaluable insight. The smartest person in any room is the combined IQ, so it stands to reason that asking questions and discovering new ideas makes for a growth culture.”

Group members have access to resources such as networking, private-label displays, showroom design, brand recognition, continual promotions, aggressive consumer credit offerings, website support, social media, exclusive specials, training, customer service support, rebates on supplier purchases and member-only conventions and meetings.

 

Flooring America/Flooring Canada (FA/FC) views itself as the most diverse and comprehensive full-service merchandising and marketing group in the industry today. The group contains members of all sizes from $1 million to $70 million in top-line revenue, single- and multiple-location operations and a mix of retail, commercial and builder.

“The FA/FC membership is fiercely independent yet embraces the cooperative model giving each member, regardless of size, an equal say in the management of the company and a natural inclination to help fellow members,” Keith Spano, president, FA/FC, explained. “We provide our members with merchandising, marketing, operational and educational programs that allow them to compete with the big boxes and other large national competitors.”

Group members have access to marketing programs, complete with automated social media, proprietary in-store apps and customizable websites. FA/FC also assists in hiring sales professionals, negotiating rents, succession planning, long-term consumer financing and operational efficiency programs.

 

Floors & More looks to stand out among other buying groups with its embrace of digital advertising as well as the attention and care the group has for each of its members. From website design to Facebook posts, SEO and pay per click, the group offers a plethora of digital resources while providing members with private branding and merchandising programs.

“We work with professionals who specialize in different industries to help members understand how and what they should be doing in digital marketing and social media,” said Vinnie Virga, founder and CEO. “We also run six of our own stores and are a member of the group. We are constantly testing services and products in our own business to make sure they are effective for the whole group. Combining that with our advisory council, made up of our own members, we guide the group in the direction we all want to go. We are dedicated to making our members money, and we treat them like family.”

 

The Floor Trader is a cooperative group of outlet retailers focused on providing value to customers looking for in-stock merchandise. This low-overhead, no-installation, strong-margin, deep-inventory model caters to today’s customers looking for value.

“The group’s buying power is backed by the largest flooring cooperative in North America, and our proprietary merchandising system allows for product and pricing management with ease,” said Keith Spano, president, FA/FC and Floor Trader. “The group has also launched an e-commerce initiative to reach customers who can’t come into the store.”

Members receive a comprehensive marketing and advertising program designed specifically for the outlet business model. Merchandising is fresh and fun while an online learning system provides training on products, design and selling skills. Members also have an opportunity to network with other industry leaders at ConneXtion and Building Buzz.

 

The International Design Guild (IDG) is a luxury flooring alliance that offers programs for showrooms open to the public, open to the trade only and programs for their affiliated interior designers. The group offers networking opportunities and access to industry leaders and their annual winter and summer conferences.

“Although the group caters to the upper echelon, it facilitates tremendous give-back to each community they service through the community-driven Design For A Difference movement,” said Keith Spano, president, FA/FC, Floor Trader and IDG.

Member requirements include an expertise in the luxury flooring segment, a strong following in the design community and a willingness to give back to the community through local Design for a Difference makeovers.

“Members enjoy access to the Louis A. Dabbieri brand of soft and hard surface luxury products in addition to select products made only for IDG members from a variety of suppliers,” Spano said. “Members also have access to continuing education opportunities through training events, webinars and study guides.”

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