Retail education: The new green frontier

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by Kelly Kramer

After spending an entire career of selling away from cork flooring, I’m starting to lean in the other direction. Because I write training manuals and this column, I have studied every flooring and wall tile product like few ever have, and I’ve focused on the durability, toughness and longevity of each product category.

Quite frankly, I had never put cork in a very high standing for a floor that was tough enough to meet a standard I wanted to present. My style of selling had always been explaining to a buyer how each floor would look in 10 or 15 years and after that I left it up to my customer to make her own choice.

So, my former explanation meant I sold almost no cork, even though some cork floors have withstood almost 100 years of use. But in the last couple of years I’ve seen such an interest in corks that I thought I should give it another look. Plus, I have seen cork put in some very high traffic areas like a few bistros and other commercial stores. To my surprise, it looked awesome and employees loved how they felt after a long day on their feet.

Market share

Way back in the days when Pergo introduced laminate flooring to dealers in America we were skeptical of that “fake flooring.” Even though the representative would light a cigarette and let it burn out on its surface and try to scratch it with a key, we still waited a few years before the demand became too big to ignore.

Today, you can see the market share it took. I’m a big fan of laminate flooring, mainly because it is so tough and has great longevity for my buyers.

Even though cork has been around much longer than laminate, I see that same scenario taking place now. You just might be well advised to study up more on this product and see if you can get behind it. In Part 2 of this column, I will give more specific product knowledge that I have recently learned to help you form your own opinion. But first I must give the source of my education proper dues.

My company recently went to the Floors To Go convention in Reno, Nev. While I did not go myself, the president of this store, Tom, did. When he came back he was excited about this new cork display he had ordered for our showroom. Just the other day it came in and I had some learning to do.

Much to my pleasure, the display from APC Cork had a very large and informative educational book about cork’s uses and positive applications. This book was not very promotional or one-sided, but highly informative.

For example, “There are about 5.4 million acres of cork forests worldwide.” The cork oak is a medium-sized tree that is grown about 25 years before the first cork bark is harvested. It is then harvested about every nine years and when done correctly, the tree will live for approximately 200 years.

Real green

In this day of green everything, greenwashing is everywhere but cork is about as green a product as it gets. Keeping a tree alive for 200 years adds new meaning to the word sustainability; harvest every nine years means it will produce for about 20 cycles. That’s sustainability to the max. As to how tough it is you might be surprised.

Thanks for reading.

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