Preferred Brands: Initiatives have members saying ‘Now is the time’

Home Inside FCNews Preferred Brands: Initiatives have members saying ‘Now is the time’

LAS VEGAS—Super Bowl Weekend in Las Vegas was the time and place to be for Preferred Brands’ annual Showcase convention, and by all accounts everyone left the event feeling “super” about the game plan they were presented. Under the theme, “Now is the time,” Preferred Brands’ two franchise groups—Floor To Ceiling and World of Floors—came together for four days of learning and networking as they put the pieces in place to help ensure they meet the demands of the post-recession economy.

Using the big game as a metaphor, Steve Sindlinger, president and CEO of Preferred Brands, said, “All the team members will rely on each other’s skills, training and years of experience to do their very best and carry them through to triumph.” But, “all other things being equal, the team most focused and willing to take the risk to do things a little differently will prevail.”

In planning for 2011, Sindlinger said each member faces a similar challenge as the Super Bowl contenders. “When we view the year as our ‘game,’ there is both anxiety and hopeful anticipation in the minds of all of us. What lies ahead? Who will be on top when the year is over? Are there any new plays that can elevate us above the rest of the teams?”

From the myriad of new products, programs and services rolled out along with the educational information shared, Preferred Brands not only scored a touchdown but it was also successful on the two-point conversion. “There was not one session that did not offer our attending staff an idea that we plan to further investigate with our managers in the next two quarters,” said Doug Reifsteck, co-owner of Floor To Ceiling in Sycamore, Ill.

Going private

Emil Pedick, vice president of Preferred Brands, said this year marked the culmination of a three-year initiative to create an entire showroom package of private-labeled merchandising units and products. “Going forward, everything is private label.” The concept is to not only create a professional, uniform look among member stores but to give each franchisee the ability to focus on what they do best: Provide quality customer service and assistance. “By taking away her ability to shop around and compare, it allows our members to concentrate on what product works best for her home.”

Rob Manderfeld of McKean’s Floor To Ceiling in Omaha, Neb., is a big cheerleader of the private-label concept as well as the idea of getting each store to look analogous. Over the last two years, the business has “really focused” on the private-label concept. The result? “We’ve truly noticed the difference. In fact, last year we did more with our private-label goods than the branded ones.”

On private labels, he added, “It lets her see we are a Floor To Ceiling store; it shows her all we have to offer and lets us talk about our service and how we can help her instead of having to compete on price.”

As for the concept of having each member store looking the same, Manderfeld believes it’s very important. “Even though we are all independent it gives us a national look. When people walk into the store it looks like a marketing company designed it, yet we did it with Preferred Brands’ help.

“Preferred has created a great package with the right mix of products [and tools]. For example, our carpet department has never looked better.” A big reason for this is the new Fact Finder tool, which, among other things, allows a member to print not just professional-looking price tags for every product, but the size and look of the tag can be customized to coordinate with a specific sale, event and more.

Pedick said the extensive data base program took 18 months to develop but the reception was well worth it. “Fact Finder is a powerful tool that can really help a store be more efficient on the back end and more professional to the general public.”

Face to face

While new products and programs are certainly at the forefront of any convention of this type, members repeatedly commented it is the ability to network with not just their fellow retailers but the vendors as well that really makes the event worthwhile. “The vendor roundtables are my favorite part of the convention,” said Jim Norlander, co-owner of Floor to Ceiling in Virginia, Minn., an original Floor To Ceiling member. “In the roundtables we get the opportunity to talk one-on-one with various suppliers. We learn what is new and discuss any problems we are having. I am also able to visit with other owners and find out what is working or not working for them. From products to salespeople to installers, we can help each other find solutions to problems or find new ways to accomplish our goals.”

Reifsteck complimented executives for understanding the issues facing members and suppliers and going out of their way to gear the convention toward finding solutions. “These issues were always in the foreground of all conversations, whether it was product, advertising, marketing or employees. Preferred Brands correctly anticipated this and used it as the basis for what we saw and heard all weekend.”

Beyond the network opportunities, Reifsteck and others felt the breakout sessions were “outstanding.” Pedick said they were geared to provide information on topics that were both requested by the members and believed to be of importance by Preferred Brands when looking at things from a bird’s eye view, such as social media. “We even hired an agency to help service and monitor social media for each member.”

-Matthew Spieler

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