Hardwood sales declined with the subprime crisis and lagging recovery, especially in relation to new home construction. On one hand, hardwood is a statement maker that adds value for the life of the home. On the other, it is an expensive decision complicated by an abundance of options and uncertainties. Further complicating the sale, the proliferation of realistic wood visuals across the laminate and resilient categories gives wood looks at drastically reduced price points.
A Better Homes and Gardens study found consumers will put off buying home furnishings for as long as two years for one reason: Fear of making a mistake. Because they shop for flooring so infrequently, they know very little about it, so the sales associate has the challenge of building the customer’s confidence to the point where she can make the buying decision, said Ben McNabb, brand manager, hard surface, Mohawk.
Value is the key to overcoming this. Retailers can focus on the value presented with the real thing: unmatched durability, time-tested authenticity and peace of mind that comes with making an informed buying decision.
Merchandising can help retail sales associates, and ultimately customers, recognize the benefits of hardwood flooring. “Our merchandising is designed to be easy for salespeople and their customers to utilize and acts as an in-store guide,” said Milton Goodwin, vice president, product management, Armstrong Hardwood. Samples are large with room scene photographs and product details on the back.
Displays are an essential part of merchandising, especially in the wood department, and must be well organized, attractive, consumer-friendly and offer a wide and relevant selection of product in order for the salesperson and consumer to feel comfortable stepping up to the brand and interacting, said Don Finkell, CEO, Anderson Floors. “Sample size and presentation, availability of product information, availability of collateral and product demonstrations all play a factor into engagement with the brand.”
In addition to a long lasting material that takes residential wear in stride, finishes have grown wear strengths exponentially. Mullican’s Aquashield application has mitigated moisture damage in what it calls the industry’s first-ever solid hardwood with a lifetime moisture warranty. “If you use the product correctly it will not warp, buckle or cup. With a patent- pending milling process and Mullican’s moisture map, it will perform very well,” said Brian Greenwell, vice president of sales and marketing.
Buyers no longer need be concerned with the maintenance debate between hardwood and laminate. Finishes now last the life of the floor. “Today’s female consumer is busier than ever and a floor that maintains long-lasting beauty is a key selling feature that adds value,” Finkell explained.
Brand recognition in finishes is also a sale closer with Mohawk hardwoods. Its Scotchgard Protector Advanced Repel Technology stops stains like nail polish, paint, and permanent marker, as well as forms a barrier to prevent dirt and dust from bonding to the floor’s surface, so it’s easier to remove. “Scotchgard is a great way for retailers to differentiate their products from competitors,” McNabb said. “For example, two oak floors may look identical and be comparable in price, but a floor with Scotchgard that is easier to clean will win hands-down with the customer.”
Above all, value is not about numbers. “Value doesn’t only mean the lowest price in many cases,” Finkell said. “Yes, value means the right product at the right price but it also means she is getting the most product and best product for her dollar.”