by Emily Cappiello
Chicago—While the road to recovery has been rocky, FCA Network is giving its members a map on how to navigate the path ahead. “We are here to help you prepare,” Olga Robertson, president of FCA Network, told members at its annual convention held here from March 25 to 27.
Robertson and her team did just that. The group went with a retro theme, she said, because “sometimes it’s good to remember the past so you don’t make the same mistakes and sometimes it’s good to remember the past because you can remember something that worked and do it again.”
But that was the last link to the past. FCA Network kicked off the event with a state of the industry address and a prediction of where each of the flooring categories are heading. Industry expert Jonathan Trivers spoke to the group about the new consumer, as well as those who are shopping. Trivers pointed to baby boomers as the consumer who will give retailers the most business now that their children are growing and they are making their house their forever home. He told retailers to begin rebuilding the ladder of good/better/best collections, so they are fully prepared for consumers of all price points, although they should still focus on better and best lines.
As such, Robertson put together a list of must-have products for retailers to display in their showroom as the economy begins its uptick. “If you have a category that is really hot, you need to over-merchandise your showroom,” she said. Robertson added that to position for growth, retailers should continue to offer in-depth sales and installation training; continue to recruit salespeople with a magnetic personality and change out the showroom floor. “We all need to step up our game when it comes to [competition]. I’ve never been an advocate of change just for the sake of changing, but if you are in the floor covering industry you must change.”
FCA Network welcomed two new vendors—distributors Ohio Valley Flooring and Florstar—as well as a new contractor program for 2012 and a forum on its website in which members can ask questions of other members, get answers and share best practices.
The summit and trade show not only helped prepare members for what is to come, but it also helped invigorate them for the coming year.
Christian Meier, owner of Christian’s Floor Covering in North Liberty, Iowa, is a new FCA member who joined at the urging of a sales rep. He told FCNews he was impressed by the summit and was glad he chose to join. “At this convention, they get down and dirty to get us what we need to become a better retailer and the new products have been great.” Meier added that FCA Network is able to “take out a lot of the legwork for us. We can spend more time selling and focusing on what we should.”
Tony Rieffenberger, president of Watertown, S.D.-based Hometown Building Center, said business is booming in his area, but FCA Network helps him stay competitive. “Being a part of FCA Network gives us more buying power. They get us very good products and bend over backwards to help you.”
Retailers Tommy and Larry Murphy, owners of Kelly’s Flooring in the St. Louis area and who have been coming for three years, said being part of the FCA Network makes a big difference in their business. The buying power, private labeling, networking with other members and product knowledge help them stay up to date and educated in a time where the consumer is more educated then ever.
Judy Paulson of Brandon, S.D.-based Dakota Flooring, a three-year member, said, “FCA Network really gives you the tools to succeed and the tools they give you are invaluable.”
In addition, Norman Wyman, a regional sales manager from Dal-Tile, said FCA Net-work has become a critical partner for the company. “We’ve had a long-term relationship that’s been crucial. They are good negotiating partners. Their members are very open when it comes to ceramic and they understand the value of our marketing tools and how it can help drive their business.”
Linda Tayon of USFloors explained that the network is also a good partner for the company because of its emphasis on green products. “The network really believes in green, and we have a great deal of new technology that we process products that make them [eco-friendly].”
As for Robertson, she told FCNews that FCA Network members went home with new systems of which to take advantage, but she also hopes the new initiatives give the members a burst of enthusiasm. “It’s time for the members to recharge. It’s been a rough five years. They’ve hung in there and now it’s time for them to update.”