SANTA FE SPRINGS, CALIF.—Tuftex, the West Coast carpet division of Shaw Industries, rich in tradition, is strengthening its brand proposition in 2011 with a series of initiatives befitting of what Shaw has anointed its “premier brand.”
According to Tanner Fanello, brand manager for Tuftex, the deep-rooted fundamentals for which Tuftex has been known remain constant. What is changing is a game plan to increase its visibility to the retailer and retail salesperson. “We are continuing to focus on what we have always been known for in the industry: color and styling. This is more of an enhancement as we look for more brand exposure, particularly on the East Coast.”
Fanello said the plan for Tuftex is to elevate its brand with dealers and then assist them in promoting it to consumers. It starts with the new, third-generation Color Coordinates selling system, which is designed to simplify the shopping process for Mrs. Consumer while helping the retail salesperson upgrade her to a premium line. “Higher-end products carry higher margins, and Tuftex products are offered at mid to high-end prices. Through specific market research and positioning, Tuftex offers dealers the ability to market and have increased margin opportunities.”
At first glance, Color Coordinates resembles what other manufacturers market as their color wall. But in this case, that is just the window dressing. “Color Coordinates is a complete selling system,” Fanello said. “It is an all-Stainmaster collection of 14 Luxurelle, Tactesse or ExtraBody products representing all constructions at a mid to high-end price point.”
And that’s one of the main differentiators. Rather than a display of one product in one price range, Color Coordinates offers a wide range of product—velvet, freize, textures, loops and patterns— each in a wide variety of common solid or heathered colors.
The selling system is designed to facilitate the entire process for both retailer and consumer. For the dealer, the merchandiser is sought to be the focal point of the showroom, attracting the consumer by its size and appearance. With a commanding footprint, it creates a presence—and a high-end one at that, complete with crown molding and lighting. Its furniture-like style is designed to resonate with her and her home.
For the consumer, the name of the game is interaction—interaction with the retail salesperson and with the product. Each color on the selling system is shown in oversized 5 x 11 swatches. She is interacting with a larger sample (24 x 36), which displays all colors on the back. And all styles are displayed in blankets, attached by swing arms that are removable for flexibility and function, so she is interacting with the style.
“The salesperson can take the customer here and qualify her lifestyle needs,” said Janet Compton, director of marketing. “So all the customer does it select her color and style and she’s done.”
This is one area where Tuftex believes it has a competitive advantage. “We see a window in the marketplace,” Fanello said. “With Shaw as our parent, we have the opportunity to launch a marketed program in a down economy where others may not be willing to take the risk. Everyone is just introducing products; this is a complete system.”
Dealers with whom FCNews spoke were impressed with the program. Sam Roberts, owner of Roberts Carpet and Fine Floors in Houston, called the fixture “dynamic. I’m a huge proponent of color. And better-end buyers love color and style. Everyone has tried to dumb down fabrics to 25- ounce, commodity stuff. Right now there are no go-to fixtures in better goods. This is a more aggressive, mainstream mill bringing value in high-end goods.”
No program or company is worth the salt without retailer support, and Tuftex is committed to helping dealers make money by backing up products with service and marketing. From a service standpoint, Tuftex has its own, dedicated sales team. “Our team is in touch with the 144 products we offer,” Fanello said. “And because we have a focused dealer base, we can visit them more often and react to their needs more quickly than almost everyone in the industry.” Tuftex is also separating itself via its approach to marketing the brand. “We are looking to elicit the emotional response to sell our product,” Fanello said. “The idea is to make a house a home.” To that end, the focus is on the dealer and sales associate. “We’re going to educate retailers how to market and how to sell the benefits of our carpet—not features. If you have a product, you have a feature. If you have a selling system, you have a benefit, because you can get to her needs.” He noted that much of the sales training will center around understanding customer needs, her lifestyles and finding the right product in one of its displays. “We will also be stepping up our instore retail training where the retail salesperson can become more engaged with the product.”
Tapping into a customer’s emotions is carried through Tuftex’s advertising campaign. Stefan Hoher, director of marketing technology, told FCNews the consumer is not focused on the ounce weight; rather, what she cares about is living in an environment where she feels comfortable. This is illustrated in Tuftex’s new marketing materials, which depart from the typical room scene that does not always resonate with the consumer or represent her home. Instead, they focus on the benefits of carpet.
For example, one Tuftex ad shows a person standing with one foot on Tuftex carpet and the other on a block of ice. “This immediately conveys how carpet warms the home,” he said, using the ice as a juxtaposition. Another ad relates two visuals: The first portrays a baby crawling on a cement driveway and the mother picking it up and placing the child back on the grass. The second visual depicts a similar scenario, only the driveway is replaced with ceramic and the grass with carpet. “This speaks to the softer surface.”
Tuftex will not only allow its dealers to customize the ads with their logos. “We recognize the importance of dealers’ branding,” Hoher said. “Of course, the Tuftex logo has to appear as well. We will do whatever it takes to make their advertising successful. We give them the assets: visuals, ads, text, carpet swatches, even room scenes if that works for them.”
Emotion is also the focal point of the new Tuftex website, which he called a “lifestyle tool” designed to connect the consumer to the dealer. “While other manufacturers may offer something similar, they are basically classifying people into categories like ‘contemporary’ and ‘traditional.’ What we are doing is again tapping into the emotion of the purchase. In the end, we want the consumer to build a relationship with the Tuftex brand, find a carpet she loves and locate a retailer with the intent to purchase.”
Tuftex’s lifestyle tool is a design style quiz designed to match personality and lifestyle with a particular carpet. “We ask questions you wouldn’t expect,” Hoher said. “What is your favorite movie genre? Your favorite holiday? What would your dream date include? What type of shoe most describes your style? The main point is we are eliciting emotion- al responses. This gives the consumer a chance to interact with the brand, first defining her lifestyle, which is not necessarily contemporary or traditional.”
Tuftex is classifying the consumer into eight lifestyles, each with roots in the company’s deep California heritage such as Mesa Chalet or Woodland Retreat.
Then she will have a choice of carpets under her particular category. After selecting a carpet, the site takes her to a product library, where she can order a sample. She can also select a Tuftex dealer close to her home. “This not only delivers an educated consumer to the retailer, but starting in 2011 we will deliver those qualified leads to the dealer the customer chooses,” Hoher concluded.