HOUSTON—Carpet One members received the tools here at convention to capture market share with new strategies and products that included a hard surface program, a showroom merchandising system and a Carpet One brand enhancement.
Themed “Carpe diem: Seize the day,” the summer meeting set up members with a host of new product programs, one of which is a new hardwood selection from Armstrong called Invincible. The proprietary selection provides members an updated product line that is competitively priced for the new market. While the wood category admittedly struggled, Eric Demaree, president, Carpet One, said the new offering was developed based on authentic pricing that is most competitive from our core vendors; making sure pricing is competitive with other products; competitive pricing for inventory buyers and competitive merchandising. “We can beat the competition in price but it means nothing if our competitors are willing to work on lower margin,” he explained. “We need to make our product more valuable to consumers.”
This was achieved with a 50-year warranty on titanium products in the Performance line with Intensity surface shield, which independent testing found provides resistance to scratches and scuffs better than competitive products. The surface finish is not compromising to visuals thanks to the TruGrain infusion process that maintains clarity of the wood’s grain and tone. Made in USA with wood from responsibly managed forests, an opening price point of slightly more than $2.50 a foot keeps the product accessible to the discerning buyer. “The one brand we can relate to is Invincible, our carpet brand crossing over into wood,” Demaree said. “This is the type of merchandising that will allow you to make more money in the category than you did in the past.”
Members voiced satisfaction with a product they could get behind. “Carpet One customers will be buying better product with the [50-year warranty] backing,” said Greg Gibbert, of Carpet One in San Ramone, Calif. “We don’t charge buyers more for it.”
The new hardwood collection is the first byproduct of the CCA Global/Armstrong direct selling arrangement (FCNews, Jan. 11/18). “In broad terms, these are some of the first initiatives we are working on with CCA,” said Paul Murfin, vice president, sales and distribution, Armstrong.
In addition to the hardwood program, Armstrong is in the process of revamping its sheet vinyl offering that represents the biggest introduction of new products in this area. “Sixty new products and 187 new SKUs is a complete overhaul,” he noted, “and this is the first opportunity we’ve had to show off what we’re doing.”
A new, all-in-one merchandiser shows off Armstrong’s felt, fiberglass and loose-lay Strata- max in much larger samples. “We think we are ahead of the curve,” Murfin said. “We are going where we think the market will be as the only manufacturer that can offer the different structures we offer— felt, fiber- glass and the only true loose-lay product, StrataMax.”
The new hardwood comes complete with a brand new merchandising system dubbed the Infinity Showroom System, exclusive for Carpet One dealers. Invincible serves as an update to the Select-A-Floor system, which had gone without an update for five years. “The Invincible system is a highly adaptable, highly flexible display system comprised of six parts to help you regain control of your showroom,” said Theresa Fisher, vice president of brand management and visual merchandising. “It lets you choose the products you show and how you show them.”
As the first phase of building a hardwood department, the Invincible system will become the cornerstone of Carpet One showrooms using components that include a base module of 2-, 3- or 7- feet to be joined in any combination with a choice of lighting. A track system also allows legs to be spaced any distance apart.
“The new system is like night and day from the current Select-A-Floor,” said Adam Joss, vice president of The Vertical Connection Carpet One in Columbia, Md. “This is better organized with larger samples that are more attractive. The signage really communicates a message.”
First Floors Carpet One in Dallas was a pilot for the program and has had the system in place for several months. “The merchandising system gives the power to retailers because we own the rack,” said Richard Dobson, owner. The new system is adaptable for products in all categories.
Promoting Carpet One
Keeping consistent with the message of the past few years, online marketing was a key focus at convention. “Internet and online marketing is really the way forward,” said Jessica Correa, vice president of marketing. “It is the biggest program that will help your business. Effective marketing with a national message that can be customized locally is the best form.”
She continued that consistency was the key to developing a relationship with consumers. “In this environment, it is very important that as much as we can, we talk about the same thing at the same time in every medium. The more we can get the members on board, using our offerings at the same time, the more it resonates with the customer. If I see an ad on TV and it is not on online, it is a total disconnect.”
What exactly is that message? Correa said a story for the brand based on emotional and credible evidence was essential. “What resonates with a female consumer is an emotional connection to a brand. We don’t sell flooring. We sell beautiful rooms. That is emotional. If we can capture that and figure out how to market that, it will be more impactful in the long term.
“At Carpet One, intrinsically within our company, we have a very clear brand,” Correa said. “We just hadn’t done a good job of putting a story around the brand and telling the customer in a way it makes sense.”
The first step in creating that brand story came as a new tag line, “Beautiful made affordable,” encompassing what Carpet One stands for. Beautiful gives an emotional connection that appeals to the co-op’s primarily female audience and ties to its Beautiful Guarantee (if the customer doesn’t like the floor after 60 days, Carpet One will replace it for free.) “It provides peace of mind for the customer that after she sees the floor installed, if it doesn’t work she can put something else in,” Correa explained.
“‘Made’ speaks to our power as the world’s largest floor covering buyer,” she continued. Carpet One works directly with manufacturers to provide exclusive, high-quality brands as a distinctive point of differentiation.
“Affordable” speaks to the current economic climate. “Times have changed permanently,” Correa finished. “Customers have changed permanently. They are looking for value. They have the ability to price- shop on the Internet without driving to 50 stores. They are looking for a number they can afford.”
To outline its message for customers, the marketing team also developed a new, Carpet One brand box. A simple, easy- to-understand brand message, applicable to all stores, will be included in all possible advertising to build the brand and credibility with consumers.
“The slogan hits the market for those who want to buy but are too afraid,” said Carpet One of San Ramon’s Gibbert. “There is a lot of heavy competition out there and the tag line gives us an edge.”
To see our full collection of convention photos, visit the FCNews’ Flickr page.