by Steven Feldman
Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands—Phil Koufidakis, president of Phoenix area retailer Baker Bros., on Oct. 3 was elected president of the National Floorcovering Alliance (NFA). Koufidakis will succeed Jim Mudd, president of Sam Kinnairds in Louisville, Ky., at the end of the year and will serve a two-year term.
In addition, Darren Braunstein, vice president, Worldwide Wholesale Flooring in Edison, N.J., and Penny Carnino, general manager, Grigsby’s Carpets in Tulsa, Okla., were re-elected vice president and secretary, respectively. Jason McSwain, president of McSwain’s Carpets in Cincinnati, was elected treasurer, succeeding the retiring Tom Hadinger.
Koufidakis brings a unique perspective to NFA leadership as his seven years in retail follow 20-plus years on the manufacturer side of the business with Philadelphia Carpets, Evans and Black, and World Carpets before becoming vice president of sales for Stanton Carpets.
It wasn’t until 2005 that Koufidakis made the switch to retail when the owner of Baker Bros. asked him to relocate from New York and run the business. “He basically handed me the keys. Two years later he was given the opportunity to buy into the business. “It’s been a tremendous trial and error experience–and far more satisfying and creative than the manufacturing side. I tell people I switched sides of the industry and the country in one shot.”
Koufidakis, who previously served on the NFA board from 2009 to 2011, told FCNews he embraces the opportunity to lead the group for the next two years. In fact, he likens it to a call of duty. “When I came on board, Sam Roberts was the NFA president, and he told me this was a group run by the group, and we all have to take turns and serve. He was absolutely right. I always felt whatever the group wanted me to do, I would do. If the group thinks I can do a good job as president, then I serve. It’s an honor they think that way.”
Among Koufidakis’ immediate goals as will be to get more NFA members to participate at a higher level. “We have so many great people in the group, so if I have to recruit them to become more involved, that’s a big part of it for me.”
Generally speaking, Koufidakis said his M.O. is to take a more long-term view than short term. “I believe you have to look at all opportunities and determine whether we are taking short-term gain for long-term pain. The industry continues to change and we have to remain at the forefront. The group needs to be aligning with the right partners, and we have to bring even more value for our partners. I’ve been on the manufacturer side longer than the retail side, so I have an appreciation for what both sides need.”
Another area Koufidakis may explore is group branding. “I think there’s a private label somewhere. I think it would be nice to have equity on a brand we own. As the industry changes, you never know what brands will still be available. I believe we need to do the things of which we have better control. I think there is an opportunity to merchandise the right way. We can’t do it big to start, but I think we can find opportunities like Lifetime Luxury wood from Armstrong.”
Over the years, there has been much debate within the NFA as to its size, raising the $10 million threshold for membership and how to handle members that fall below that threshold, and the process by which any member can block any potential new member. Of those four, Koufidakis is most passionate about the block.
“I’m a big advocate of the block. Once the proprietary nature of a trading market disappears, the exchanging of ideas disappears. It’s important that everyone in the room has the confidence to share their ideas, because once that confidence is gone the ideas go with it. That is one of the major forces of the group.”
He said he has no desire to increase the size of the group just to get bigger. “Once the downturn came, we may have thought of it more quantitatively than qualitatively. But we are not going to add just to say we got bigger. We will continue to look at markets where we don’t have members. There are still a lot of strong unaligned retailers out there.”
Koufidakis does not envision raising the minimum criteria for inclusion in the NFA, but said if a member falls below that sales level, he is not supporting the group, the group’s vendors and what the group is doing. “I’m not going to be afraid to call people out when I see members not buying from the core vendors.”
He is also not afraid to tackle sensitive issues, like Dreamweavers/Engineered Floors’ bid to become a Tier 1 vendor. The carpet committee has already endorsed the move, noting Dreamweavers is already Tier 2 and many NFA members are already doing business with it. They also acknowledge this could breed disappointment from some existing vendors. Ultimately, the issue will be decided by the NFA board of directors.
“It’s the same for every vendor,” Koufidakis said. “If they can bring to the group something over and above what the individual members can get on their own, then we will review it. We are here to do what’s best for the group, and if XYZ company can bring out a great program, we have to consider it.”
The other industry hot button right now is Invista’s foray into polyester with the Stainmaster brand. As such, the Invista team outlined the program to NFA members. “I feel Invista needed something to compete,” Koufidakis said. “Invista polyester is not positioned to compete against unbranded polyester. It is positioned to compete against the basic branded product. The idea is to sell a heavier basic product with the same warranty for less money. It’s like Mercedes going down to the $25,000 model. There are people who just want the brand.”
In other NFA news…
* The group announced another carpet roll buy in 2013. This time around, however, no fiber will be excluded. It will be open to all fiber producers and carpet mills. “This won’t just be a Stainamster roll buy. All members will be asked to submit their most preferred specs, and then we will approach our vendors and ask for the best value.”
* On the laminate side, the NFA is up double digits this year with Shaw and Mannington. The group has been trying to put a laminate truckload program together for some timerying to put a truckload program together for some time. Maybe combination with LVT and wood because it has been hard laminate only.
Hardwood – Armstrong has designed an exclusive Lifetime Luxury website for the NFA with dealer locator. Can we buy hardwood as a group the way we do the carpet roll buy?
Tile – MSI is a new supplier. Strong in marble and granite, also competitive in lower end of the business. Emser wants to grow business with NFA. Group is up 12% this year. Came up with new display.