by Steven Feldman
It’s time for me to come clean. I’ve been doing this for more than 15 years, and I’ve visited my share of retailers. On each and every occasion, the purpose has been to write some sort of article. But I never walked into a retail floor covering store as an actual consumer. Until last week.
It’s a bit ironic. We’re constantly writing about products, displays, showrooms, salesperson protocol, Web sites, etc.— all things to help the consumer want to buy. We do it from our ivory tower but we hardly ever experience it first hand on the front lines. It begs the question, “How effective are all these things we constantly write about?”
So here’s my story. I was visiting my mom in Florida and she mentioned she has been considering re-doing her kitchen. She said the same thing last year. So the first thing I got to experience firsthand was yes, when it comes to flooring, the process is postponable.
Next, I experienced why. It’s because many consumers don’t know what they want, all that’s out there and/or where to begin. My mom has a ceramic tile floor. But it’s hard on her feet. She heard about laminate but that’s the extent of it; was hoping not to have to rip up her existing floor because it creates a mess; never heard of LVT; didn’t know cork had use for anything more than a wine bottle stopper, and has a pile of magazines that only led to further confusion.
So it was up to me to push the process along. The first thing I did is tell her she needs to visit a retailer. An independent specialty flooring retailer. She’s apprehensive, like most consumers. She’s afraid she will be “sold.” She doesn’t know which one to visit. I’m beginning to understand everything we are constantly writing about.
I remembered spending time with Jeff Katz, owner of multi-store Dolphin Carpet & Tile in South Florida, at a National Floorcovering Alliance meeting. Googled his company on the Web and easily found his locations. There was one within a few miles of my mom. She was game. Lesson learned: The easier you make it, the more likely a consumer will visit. My mom and I walked in and immediately were made to feel comfortable. We were greeted and then left alone to browse. The well-organized showroom made her feel comfortable and confident. She loved the way product was installed on the showroom floor. She loved the large displays. I watched as she became more confident by the second. She now knew she wanted tile. The installations made her realize she wanted something with multiple colors and highly random shade variation. I now know unequivocally that it’s all in the presentation.
With that, she was attracted to the Mohawk Ceramic dis- play. Why? Selection, simplicity and room scene photography. I watched as the boards gave her ideas for backsplashes and installations, such as a hopscotch pattern. They also clearly identified the available product and trim sizes.
As for the store itself, whenever she had a question, there was always someone close to answer. And there was no unnecessary lingering to make her uncomfortable.
She took home a product catalog and is close to deciding on her products. And she is now considering the bathroom, too.