Part 1 of 2
Sandy Mishkin, president of CCA Global Partners, likes to say Mannington Mills is a company that answers “Yes” to initial queries whereas other suppliers respond in the negative.
That ‘can-do’ attitude endears Mannington to retailers like Sam O’Krent, president of O’Krent’s Abbey Flooring Center, San Antonio. Despite the 1,724 miles that separate their respective businesses, O’Krent and Mannington share a kinship. O’Krent’s store was founded by his dad the same year Salem, N.J.-based Mannington opened—1915. But the two companies share more than just a birth date; they share a way of doing business the right way, O’Krent said.
Posed with the question, “How does a quality retailer make money with Mannington?” O’Krent replied, “How does a quality retailer ‘not’ make money with Mannington? If a retailer truly wants to distinguish himself from the world of ‘also-rans,’ they need look no further than Mannington.”
Ed Duncan, senior vice president, residential marketing, put it in perspective. “We never want a retailer to feel he has to do business with Mannington. We want retailers who want to do business with us.”
Mannington’s mission statement—to be a company of integrity that others would want to do business with—has held true for decades. “They are like dealing with a family business; they are very interested in the relationship,” said Alan Braunstein, president, Worldwide Wholesale Carpet, Edison, N.J. Worldwide has been in business for 20 years and a Mannington customer since the beginning.
John Parrish, vice president of Midwest Floor Coverings, a Salt Lake City distributor, said one reason Mannington “is the best in the industry” to do business with “is the fact it views our relationship as a partnership. Mannington approaches all transactions between us with a win-win or win-neutral perspective. It also has a genuine interest and concern about our profitability. With this approach, all the attributes like integrity, pricing, Internet policy and claims support fall in line.”
Declaration of independents
The company made a decision long ago to not sell Mannington-branded products to the home centers and instead support the specialty floor covering dealer. “We protect the independent retailer. We continue to enforce that,” said Kim
Holm, president, residential business, Mannington. “For the specialty independent dealer to compete directly with the home centers is too big a challenge to overcome. That is where we will win or lose. The retailers appreciate that.”
Indeed, they do.
“Its big box attitude is a significant attribute to its selling policy in maintaining its commitment to the specialty store,” Braunstein said. “It’s not an easy thing to do in today’s economy to maintain your ‘no big-box’ policy. That is a feather in Mannington’s cap.”
Sean O’Rourke, vice president of hard surfaces, Avalon Carpet Tile and Flooring with 14 stores in three Mid-Atlantic states, noted that the big box margins run about 26% to 30%, which “would be a tough margin for an independent. We really appreciate what Mannington does for us.”
O’Krent said Mannington has proven itself time and again that it believes in “partnering” with its customers by offering quality products at a fair price and standing behind its name with integrity. “If it sounds like I’m on the payroll, in a way I am. Our customers supply our income and Mannington is a manufacturer that allows us to offer products that represent the quality and integrity our company believes in.”
Most flooring companies have Internet policies but few, if any, enforce it like Mannington. For the specialty retailer, the biggest concern is not losing a sale. The value conscious consumer today, in many cases, once she has made a choice will opt to look for the same product at a lesser price, whether at a home center or the Internet. “We have provided insurance to that retailer that he will not be embarrassed,” Holm said. “Our minimum advertised price is a price any retailer can work with.”
When customers encounter a defective product or shoddy installation job, they most likely call the retailer. The ensuing discussion puts the dealer in an awkward spot. Mannington’s “Claims Express” lets consumers bypass that step. The program debuted in 1995 following a nightmarish claims period for Mannington, which introduced a product, Mannington Gold, that turned out to be defective. It cost the company more than $100 million in claims. Mannington owned up to it and put in motion a new program that would put the burden on itself, not the dealer. “We try to take the pain away from the retailer,” Holm said. Retailers provide the consumer with Mannington’s 800 number and the company takes care of it.
Out of a bad situation came something great, O’Krent said. “The unfortunate circumstances surrounding Mannington Gold and subsequently how Mannington took care of the problem has endeared it as a supplier to our company.
Braunstein added, “Claims are not an issue with Mannington Mills.”
Style, design and products
Mannington is deservedly proud of its legacy:
• being a good company to do business with
• its refusal to sell to the big boxes
• claims support
• policing its Internet policy regarding minimum pricing.
That said, none of that matters if a company doesn’t have great product. “If we don’t have great products, we are not meaningful to anyone,” Holm said. Great products are the ultimate winning ticket in retail.”
Braunstein agreed. “Mannington is a very for- ward-thinking company with its new styles. It is a very progressive supplier in the pre-finished wood flooring category and a leader in the area of new product development.”
Avalon’s O’Rourke loves that Mannington’s product portfolio spreads across all categories. He is also enamored with Mannington’s display system, which can be retrofitted to suit the needs of retailers who may want to showcase the top selling product in each category, or mix and match.
O’Krent added, “In a sea of manufacturers that continue to shoot themselves in the foot by seeing how inexpensively a product can be made, Mannington stands above the crowd by manufacturing domestically and continually innovating. It is the leader that everyone else at- tempts to copy, produce for less money and run away when the product fails to live up to its hype.”
That also resonates at distribution. “Its successful efforts to be the industry leader in style, design and quality gives distribution a huge competitive advantage because we can build a profitable business model around something besides having the lowest price.”
(Editor’s note: The second part of this series, which will appear in the next issue, will look at how recent Mannington introductions have been performing in the field.)