NATIONAL HARBOR, MD.—Drawing parallels between the imminent emergence from the recession and the launching of their businesses, Mohawk for the first time brought together all of its aligned dealers—Floorscapes and ColorCenter— earlier this month to celebrate the “Spirit of the Entrepreneur.” The idea was to remind them that the qualities that got them started are the ones that will prepare them for a new period of growth. In other words, success is not beyond their control.
According to Manny Llerena, vice president of retail marketing, many dealers have spent the better part of the last four years buried deep in the trenches, having to cut costs to survive. “Some are so deep they are not seeing the positive economic trends in the country,” he said. “So we wanted to remind them of the qualities they possess that got them started in their business: leadership, ambition, courage, adaptability and passion. The Spirit of the Entrepreneur seemed to tie all that together.”
With more than 750 dealers in attendance, Mohawk urged dealers to focus on the horizon and set a proactive plan. But the key, Llerena said, and the underlying theme for this convention, was taking advantage of all the programs and benefits afforded to them as Mohawk aligned dealers. As such, the focal point of the showroom floor was a huge benefits area. “We asked them to take inventory of what they were using, what they were not using and focus on two or three points they want to take advantage of this year,” Llerena said.
The aligned dealer benefits package has been developed around four major characteristics dealers need to gain success.
1. Increasing sales and profitability. Much of that is done around merchandising, professional retail store layout, a focus on products and the way these products are presented. “Sales and profitability does not happen on its own,” Llerena said. Among the merchandising introduced at this convention was the industry’s first branded PET collection under the WearDated moniker and a brand new ceramic boutique designed to take the confusion out of the most complicated flooring product for which consumers shop.
2. Driving store traffic. “If you are not talking to the female customer through your website or advertising, if you are not getting on page 1 of Google, we can help with that,” Llerena said. To that end, Mohawk unveiled its new web portal that offers all things that help drive more business to aligned dealers’ stores.
3. Managing the business. This is done through Mohawk University training classes, both in Dalton and on the Internet. “Dealers have free access to all online components,” Llerena said. One example is benchmarking tools, where dealers can enter their financials in a TurboTax format and then compare themselves to like-sized dealers to determine what needs to be fixed. Another example is Techniques of Professional Selling (TOPS) led by Don Hutson of U.S. Learning, an online tutorial where every two weeks dealers are sent a 15- or 20-minute video designed to teach salespeople how to increase their sales and profitability. Another core class is the famed 7 Habits of Highly Successful People given by Franklin Covey.
4. Lowering operating expenses. “Those are done with things like the lowest price on consumer financing, periodic credit buydowns and merchandising reinvestment funds we provide on purchases of our products.”
Mohawk introduced the industry’s first branded PET line under the WearDated banner, a brand that until now was reserved for nylon products. Eric Ruppert, product director, noted that the three attributes consumers look for in purchasing carpet are price/value, aesthetics and performance. “When we looked at our polyester line, a performance story was missing from other company’s stories. Our WearDated brand has historically been about performance and durability. But it has been about nylon.”
Ruppert said the collection is softer, cleaner and stronger than traditional polyester products, giving the retailer an edge to sell value over price. “There are better styled, better constructed, better performing products, all with Scotchgard protection specifically designed for polyester. Nine styles in 40 common colors comprise the collection, which includes patterns, freizes, basic textures and a loop. The nine styles in 40 common colors retail between $19.99 and $34.99.
On the hard surface side, the overall theme across all product categories is value, according to Roger Farabee, vice president of marketing, Mohawk Hard Surfaces. “We are loading products with great features, benefits and performance at a value price point. There are no introductions that would fall into that premium category. The market is just not there right now for products we may have priced in the upper tier in the past, so we have had to price more aggressively.” Basically, the name of the game is value engineering. As an example, Mohawk introduced an engineered product at a 3⁄8-inch platform that it may have manufactured at a 1⁄2-inch platform a few years ago.
Farabee was particularly excited about Granvale, a lightly distressed product in three hickories and three maples that responds to the market trend for softer character products. “The thing that initially attracted the customer to the distressed look was low maintenance. The more you dinged it up, the better it looked. But not everyone wants a deep textured product.”
The other hardwood trend is toward domestic exotics. “The availability on imports has decreased, and after you get outside Brazilian cherry and teak, species are not readily available [because of the Lacey Act] or prices have gone up. Also, customers are more conservative and not taking many chances. If they have to sell their home, they want to put something in the next person will like. They are also staying in their homes longer so they are looking for products that they can live with for a long time.”
In laminate, Mohawk introduced Kindrick, a companion product to last year’s introduction Bayview, a strong rustic that employs GenuEdge technology. Kindrick offers a smooth, oil-finish look. “We have gotten a tremendous reception to this product, Farabee said. “We believe just like the engineered product, where customers want an alternative to a strong scrape, customers want an alternative to high-gloss laminate.”
The other big news on the hard surface side was the introduction of a new ceramic selling system designed to facilitate the shopping process for kitchen backsplashes and shower walls. The system includes a boutique, showcases and a design planning center.
While most retailers have had success with the basic floor tile sale, the real margins come in designing intricate backsplashes and bathrooms, shower walls, but they did not have a good feel how to go about it. The idea behind the selling system is no simplify the entire process given the overwhelming number of options in the category. “The female shopper does not know how to get started, and the retailer does not know how to present and sell the more intricate job,” Farabee said. Here, the idea is for the consumer to choose her color, choose her pattern and choose her accents. Once you get the customer in this section, the sale is as good as done.”