Ask Eric Demaree, president of Carpet One, what he is most excited about for 2012, and he cites no specific new product or program. Rather, he is enthused about the fact he believes Carpet One members are taking market share. “Our members will probably grow this year two to three times the independent channel as a whole.”
Why? Demaree said it’s a combination of four things:
1. Quality of dealer. “We have the best retailers in this industry and they have a tremendous amount of repeat and referral business. Plus, our average owner has been in business 42 years. That goes a long way in the community as the preferred brand.”
2. Products and pricing. “You have to have the best, and we do. We have a strong good/ better/ best selection organized by lifestyle.”
3. Added value. “No one has the added values we provide, such as the Beautiful Guarantee, SelectAFloor selling system and Healthier Living installation.”
4. Promotions. “The big challenge for our dealers is how do I get more traffic. How do I get more customers. So the theme this year is how to help them to do that. We have huge national promotions this spring designed to drive more traffic. Our website redesign, coupled with a social media strategy, has resulted in the first 30 days of 2012 about a 60% increase in qualified leads through carpetone .com. We just hired an expert in digital marketing, which is already having a huge impact on our business.”
The best thing about Carpet One’s social media strategy? “We are doing it for them,” Demaree said. “We have shown them how to set things up. We have showed them how to set up a corporate Facebook page and how to back link through social sites. We have blogs, we have a national newsletter site. If they want to go in and customize it, they can.
As far as the Facebook strategy goes, without getting into specifics, Demaree said it’s all about relevant content directed at a well-defined, targeted audience. “You have to know your exact demographic, who the target customer is and what she is interested in. We want to be the problem solver and give her a solution she can enjoy. Also, convey the added-value services that can differentiate us like the Beautiful Guarantee, SelectA-Floor and Healthier Living Installation.”
The focus on tools to help members grow their business and take market share is the result of a survey where 37% of members cited this as their top priority. Demaree said this can be achieved by flawlessly executing three steps:
1. Aggressively managing leads.
2. Being a hunter. “How do you prospect by phone, by target segment, by cold calling?”
3. Continuously marketing and advertising. “We have an entire digital strategy, we have a promotion strategy. We also show members how they can become more involved in their community through these efforts—Better Business Bureau, chamber of commerce, sponsoring charities, church, women’s club. You have to be on all eight cylinders in today’s world; there are no shortcuts.”
One way in which Carpet One intends to capture more market share is through diversification—the new Core Elements main street flooring program is one example. The idea is to capitalize on the 31% of commercial business that goes through the specialty channel. “Based on the market share we have in the specialty category, this represents a $100 million opportunity,” said Charlie Dilks, chief product officer.
The initial Core Elements rollout is a hard surface offering from Mannington. “Commercial is the fastest growing segment in the flooring industry,” said Jay Koppelson, vice president of national accounts. “And main street is the fastest growing segment in commercial. We have been working on perfecting our main street business for the last five years. The beauty salons, the churches, the doctor’s offices, the local restuarants. And we believe this is the expertise of the independent retailer.”
Zach Zehner, vice president, commercial hard surfaces, said Core Elements allows retailers to leverage the position they have in their local communities as it targets walk-in, negotiated business.
How it works: Mannington has put together a system that focuses on targeting the end use and providing the right flooring option. “It makes selling as easy at 1-2-3,” Zehner said. First, the customer selects the space—education, retail, worship, of-fice, etc. Second, he or she selects one of the multiple coordinated color options targeted at that space. Each of the 42 boards has the end use and particular color options within that segment. Third, he or she picks the product: VCT, LVT, walk-off carpet, rubber tile and cove base, and commercial sheet. “Extended warranties are also offered so the dealer can drive the performance story.”
The boards are housed in a wing display that takes up 3½ feet of floor space. The display also contains a recommended usage chart tied to each of the seven end uses as well as information on which adhesives match each product. “We have found that 30% to 40% of all main street business is done off displays in the store,” Zehner said.
In addition, Mannington has created a set of architectural folders as tools with which dealers can take out in the field. The folders follow the same theme, all color coordinated along the seven main end uses.
Koppelson said Mannington is the right partner for Carpet One’s first formalized main street business. “We think we know the business. It’s not just about product; it’s about flooring solutions. We have done a lot of interviews with these people and asked what their needs were. It’s all about solutions. It’s about sustainability. It’s about styling. It’s about performance. It’s about service. They want to work with a local retailer and not a contractor. They want training. They want an easy way to start designing their space. They are not looking to add the cost of hiring a designer. They want to keep things simple.”
In other news…
The introduction of the Voyager Collection represents the third of Carpet One’s four-phase versatile hardwood system following the Invincible Hardwood and the Rustic River collections. Voyager features exotic hardwoods, cork and bamboo products in an Infinity sustainable island display.
“There are still a number of consumers who want to make a statement with their flooring,” said Jim Aaron, vice president of merchandising. “Exotic goes beyond exotic species, like strand bamboo, Corboo and a eucalyptus/bamboo mix. And today’s cork and bamboo offerings are light years ahead of where they were three years ago.”
Recognizing there is only so much wall space in any given store, Carpet One developed an island merchandising system. The display unit eliminates clutter and its sustainable attributes allow it to be retrofitted in many ways.
Resista SoftStyle received an update with 19 new styles. Resista, which was launched in 2005, was extended into super soft carpet in 2008. But the fiber had a few styling and design limitations. However, style and design has now been dramatically elevated. “In developing the new products, the Shaw team and our buying team have attempted to emulate the styling that has made Tigressa so successful, but at a much lower price point,” Dilks said. “It is positioned as a value-oriented lineup.”
What’s more, the 19 new styles utilize the existing display.