FAIRFIELD, N.J.—In a year that saw one of its major suppliers exit the flooring industry and another opt to go direct to retailers, Apollo Distributing, one of the country’s top 10 flooring wholesalers, has found the proverbial silver lining that promises to contribute to a stronger 2011: the launch of InterfaceStroll carpet tiles.
At a Stroll sales training session here Dec. 7, Keith Slobodien, president of Apollo, couldn’t have been more pleased with the initial thrust. Display placement has been “excellent,” he said. “We have exceeded our initial estimate and are confident we will be able to place an additional 25% to 30%. We can count on one hand the number of dealers that have turned down the program.”
To what does he attribute this success of this line targeted toward Main Street commercial? “Customers immediately see the value and opportunity of InterfaceStroll, and we are helping them build a business from scratch.” He is admittedly a bit surprised, given “the economy has not given us any help and it’s always tough to sell a premium product in a challenging economy.”
Then again, Slobodien calls InterfaceStroll the right product at the right time. “It’s the perfect balance of quality, styling, value and sustainability. This is like a greatest hits collection. [The Bravo distributors] looked at the thousands of Interface SKUs and took the best of the best.” The collection offers 11 designs, each in an array of colors.
Apollo is also doing all it can to ensure dealer success with InterfaceStroll. As an example, the aforementioned sales training session—conducted by Apollo’s Carl Embrey, commercial sales manager, and Interface’s John Reilley, Northeast regional vice president, and David Gerson, director of customer relations—attracted 50 retailers as well as Interface personnel. “It was targeted toward dealers who already purchased the display,” Slobodien said. “We wanted this to be a training meeting and follow-up to initial placement. Our job only starts when we place the display. We have to make sure everyone is comfortable with the product. And retail sales training is one of our most important jobs.”
While carpet tiles are one of the industry’s few growth categories, InterfaceStroll offers a number of key differentiators:
- Backing: Interface is the only company making a free-floating carpet tile. The moisture-impermeable, dimensionally stable, soft backing is embedded with the biostat Intercept, which prevents mold, mildew and bacteria from growing on the back of the carpet.
- Face construction: Its premium-branded solution-dyed nylon is manufactured by Universal and Aquafil, companies known for making high-performance fibers.
- Installation: Over 50% of Interface carpet is installed with the Tactile system, which basically entails a 3 x 3 film that attaches the carpet tiles to each other. The tiles are immovable horizontally after four hours but can be moved during installation. The tiles do allow for vertical release when replacement is needed.
- Aesthetics: The i2 system, which accounts for 45% of Interface sales, allows for every tile to be unique, slightly different in pattern. Advantages include random installation and the ability to merge dye lots.
You don’t have to sell Slobodien. “Interface is just a great company to do business with. It’s not often you get to partner with the industry leader in a category. And Interface is clearly the industry leader in modular carpet.”