The power of ‘and’ reads between the lines

Home Inside FCNews The power of ‘and’ reads between the lines

GRAPEVINE, TEXAS—The principle that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, a holistic world view founded thousands of years ago, rang true once again, this time in retail floor covering. Highlighting its strength in solidarity, Carpet One focused on an often forgotten element of that combination: The “and.” The buying group’s convention here, themed “The power of &,” motivated members to do more with their business by filling in the gaps in business in 2011.

“Today’s new reality is driven by consumers who have more access to information than ever before,” said Eric Demaree, president, Carpet One. “She distrusts Wall Street and Washington, is looking for the best prices she can, and caution and uncertainty have become a way of life.”

Scott Wheeler, COO, Carpet One, agreed with the numbers to back that up. “They distrust before they trust. 88% of shoppers are somewhat bargain hunters. 74% take pleasure in looking for good deals. 73% feel it is irresponsible to pay full price.”

At the core of it all, Carpet One members were asked to commit to three things:

  • a fresh look at marketing
  • help share best practices and implement creative ideas
  • make the needed investments in exclusive products and merchandising systems.

Regarding the latter, Carpet One reintroduced Laminate for Life with the tagline, “The healthy flooring choice.” The company believes there is still money to be made in the category despite a declining price per foot. “We’re dealing in a world of nickels and dimes, but that’s not where you’re going to win when you compete with someone willing to live on lower gross profit,” said Charlie Dilks, COO, CCA Global.

Instead, Carpet One will focus on the features that make its buyer’s life better, said Theresa Fisher, vice president, brand management and visual merchandising. “We brought back the Laminate for Life name because ‘for life’ indicates longevity and integrity. It speaks to what the consumer wants from her floor: a better lifestyle,” she explained. “She doesn’t know the difference between paper on a 6mm or 12mm plank. She wants visuals, and in the consumer’s mind there is no reason for her to pay $3 [when she could pay less], so she needs to know what she gets out of the floor. This is how we are adding value to the category as a whole.”

Dilks called out several of the performance benefits of the product such as durability, ease of maintenance, and improved scratch and dent resistance. “She can get an exotic look in a $3 laminate that she can’t get in a $3 wood. The aesthetics will sell themselves.”

With that, a good-better-best system was put together to create logical trade-ups in the department. The Invincible name will go on the best performing laminates under the Laminate for Life umbrella in a three-size, interchangeable, Infinity merchandising system. The progression of products moves left to right, with the shopper’s eye starting at the small-sample 7mil goods and ending at the largest, and higher end 12mil samples.

“Our showrooms will take a step up in appearance and professionalism,” said Adam Joss, vice president, The Vertical Connection Carpet One, Columbia, Md. “Carpet One made an effort to focus less on price competition and more on service and products, bringing us back to our roots. The brand name [Laminate for Life] elicits emotion and that is how we sell. We don’t sell on price.”

Attention was also paid to the wood department, with the second phase of improvements that began last summer. “We look at the consumer buying wood in four categories: performance, with our Invincible from Armstrong [rolled out in the summer]; rustics for character; exotic looks that include cork and bamboo, and classics,” Dilks said. Carpet One is building a hardwood program that makes sense to the consumer so she can shop different looks in the same way. “The system is built so members can take one part of each system and it won’t look incomplete. We have a continuation of the hardwood flooring department that has the same point of view.”

Shaw and Mohawk supply Rustic River, the second phase of the program, a collection of character looks to meet consumer demand for handscraped rustics. “We tried to build a line that appeals across the entire membership,” Dilks said. In the North, about 40% of the market is engineered construction while it dominates at 100% in the South.

Connection

The co-op also introduced some new things internally with the launch of Carpet One Connect, a protected, online platform to share best practices. Leveraging research on the smartness of groups, Bob Hutter, vice president of training, noted Carpet One had been through some tough times but proved members were better off together. “Our goal is to leverage the best ideas and make this a resource to improve your business on a regular basis: the principles of success available to you 24/7.”

Members seemed to be pleased with Connect. “I’m excited Carpet One is focused on member feedback and translated that to effective solutions,” said Patrice Hanson Case of Florcraft Carpet One Floor & Home in Fairbanks, Alaska. “Connect will be successful for us. What’s most appealing is they did all the work. Dealers do not have that kind of time, and that opportunity gives us the edge.”

Known across the board as crowdsourcing, the tactic is a legitimate business practice utilized by companies like Sam’s Club. “Last year, Sam’s picked up $89 million in revenue using one idea from crowdsourcing,” Hutter said. “The best thing is it doesn’t cost anything to share ideas, and we have some of the smartest people in the retail industry.”

Improvements are being made to the Carpet One website overall. “When a consumer gets a shopping experience from one site, they expect it from everyone else,” said Andy Valeriani, marketing director, CCA Global. “That’s why we are working on our website. We’ve developed strategies and tools that will result in a world-class system.”

-Emily Hooper

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