National Floorcovering Alliance: more member involvement

Home Inside FCNews National Floorcovering Alliance: more member involvement

NEW ORLEANS—It may not be as dramatic as the 1960s anti-establishment rallying cry “Power to the people,” but the National Floorcovering Association board of directors is taking the concept and ceding more power to the membership at large.

According to Jim Mudd, president, a faction of the NFA believed the group needed to bring more of the decision making back to the membership. This would apply to issues such as:

  • a minimum rebate threshold, where each member must achieve a certain level of rebates each year to maintain its membership in the NFA;
  • board member expenses and compensation for their time when they travel to meet with suppliers on behalf of the organization, and
  • changes in vendor agreements.

Decisions will require two-thirds member approval as opposed to two-thirds board approval. “We are more fraternal than most groups; it’s better that all 38 members have the opportunity to talk about key issues instead of having the key decisions rest solely with the board. So we are tightening the bylaws to give the members more power,” Mudd said.

He believes this takes the group in the right direction. “I endorse it in the fact that because we are so fraternal and 38 good friends, we have moved away from having seven board members make decisions about our friends. It takes a lot of pressure off the board.” The only negative he sees is the potential drag on some meetings. “Now key issues will be discussed in the general membership meetings (three times a year) vs. the monthly conference call board meetings.”

Vendor issues

Mudd, in his first year at the NFA helm, said 2011 will be about getting more parity among the suppliers. “I have had discussions with a couple of mills that need to change their attitude toward the NFA. They have to become a partner rather than an adversary. For example, some are focusing on their own fiber, and that is not how the NFA is running things these days. We have to get back to where we were before—sell us what we need and not what you want to sell us.”

He applauded the fact some of the newer NFA vendors who had been selling only four or five members are now doing business with two-thirds of the group. “That’s good for everybody. Members are supporting the vendors, and these vendors are supporting the NFA by selling what the members want.”

Mudd felt many vendors came to the spring meeting more prepared to do business with the NFA. “Some came to the table with really good programs. For example, Mohawk came in with some phenomenal roll buys. It was the first time in awhile it offered products the NFA really wanted to buy. Another example is USFloors. The company now sells two-thirds of the members because it has given us programs we can run with, especially in bamboo and cork. And Royalty came to the plate with some nice styling and colors, and their pricing was more than competitive.”

Down on Main Street

With Beaulieu Canada dropping back to tier 2 status, Bentley Prince Street filled the vacant seat on tier 1 on a one-shot basis bringing a unique opportunity—Main Street commercial—to the group. Member interest will determine if Bentley officially becomes tier 1.

Bentley came to the table with geographic exclusivity for NFA members, as well as a comprehensive program that includes a merchandising system, exclusive pricing, lead generation and rebates. More significantly, Bentley wants to develop the program based on input from NFA members. To that end, the company would like to bring NFA members and/or their salespeople to its California headquarters to fine tune the program, develop best practices and provide education on Bentley products.

Evan Hackel, who is consulting for Bentley given his vast retail experience at CCA Global, told members the company is looking for dealers who are willing to make a commitment to Main Street. “It’s not about placing a display in your store; it’s about a commitment to the segment. If you are going to be successful, it is critical to have an outside person calling on commercial real estate agents, property managers, etc. Main Street is a lot more than selling to doctors and lawyers for their offices.”

Mudd told FCNews that membership has wanted more commercial mills involved in the group, including the vendors already on board, like Shaw and Mohawk. “There are many things we could do if we had a program. We are looking for someone to fill that commercial void.”

He classified Bentley’s participation at the meeting as “introductory. They came to us with a plan, and because we hadn’t done commercial before we were cautious in our approach, and they really didn’t know how to approach us. They showed their products, and I have to say no one else has that type of styling. They can do things not all commercial mills can do, like wools and flatweaves.”

E-marketing campaign

When the NFA awarded Shaw Industries its Stainmaster roll buy for 2011, the winning bid included an exclusive, bi-annual lead generation program, designed to drive sales of Shaw Stainmaster carpet to participating NFA retailers.

According to Steve Abernathy, Shaw’s director of marketing technology, the campaign connects the consumer ready to buy flooring with the local NFA member.

How it works: Shaw acquired a demographically targeted consumer email contact list through third-party source. Those consumers are female, homeowners with a household income over $75,000 and with- in 40 miles of an NFA member location.

Shaw will then send each consumer a limited-time $200 coupon for any Shaw or Tuftex Stainmaster carpet purchase of 50 yards or more, redeemable at their nearest NFA member store.

“This creates a strong call to action, getting them out of their homes and into your stores,” Abernathy said, combined with a sense of urgency because of the short duration offer. Consumers will receive the coupon March 30 for the April 1 to 17 campaign.

Shaw will bear 100% of cost of creative development, target acquisition and coupon distribution to the consumer and will reimburse the NFA member $100 for each coupon redeemed.

Expansion

The fraternal nature of the NFA lends itself to a feeling-out process whenever a retailer is under consideration for membership. As such, Ambassador Floor Co., St. Louis, came to this meeting as a guest to determine if it would be a fit, and all indications suggest it will be.

Ambassador, a Stainmaster Flooring Center, does business with all but two of NFA’s core vendors, according to Kelly Taylor,            second-generation owner and president, and Jeff Schwab, general manager. The 25-year-old company also meets the $10 million threshold.

But most importantly, inclusion in the group would be mutually beneficial, according to Mudd. “A big part of their business is athletic fields— major universities and professional fields. Many of our members are interested in that business, so Ambassador brings something to the NFA no one else brings. On the other hand, they want to increase their retail business and can learn a lot from this group.”

Following the conclusion of the meeting March 17, there exists a 10-day period where any member can block Ambassador from joining.

-Steve Feldman

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