Volume 26/Number 17; January 7/14, 2013
In today’s economic climate, retailers have to fight for every piece of the market, no matter how small or large the slice. Buying groups are not only for new products and services, but can also provide retailers with the tools needed to succeed in business.
Two buying groups, FCA Network and Big Bob’s, have unique characteristics that attract retailers to join. FCNews contributing editor Emily Cappiello spoke to several members of both groups to find out what makes the organizations different and why joining was the best decision for their businesses.
Founded in 1997 by Robert Hill, the group is now run by Olga Robertson, a retailer who is still the buyer for Floor Covering Associates. According to dealers, what makes this group unique is the fact it was started and is still run by someone with a retail background. By having such a history, FCA executives know what is important to retailers, how consumers shop, and what products they are seeking.
“Because [Olga] comes from a retail background, she understands the issues we face,” said Dan Standeven of Lincoln, Neb.-based Carpets Direct. “I can spend less time getting on the phone and handling claims and more time selling. If I have a claim, I can call Olga and she helps me resolve it. Even if that claim is $60, she knows it comes out of my bottom line.”
Carlton Billingsley, owner of Benton, Ark.-based Floors & More, added, “If we have an issue of any kind, [FCA] goes to work for you. It makes it easier for us to do business.”
The group also allows retailers to be competitive when it comes to products, members said.
Trent Shutte, manager of Century Floor Space in Grand Rapids, Mich., said one of the key benefits of being in the group is the product mix Robertson provides for members. “Olga has a great eye for displays and gives us private-labeled products at competitive prices.”
“It helps us compete against our local competitors and helps us differentiate ourselves,” Standeven added.
In addition, Shutte said, Robertson helps each individual work on a store setup, ensuring the most benefits. “She comes up with a master plan for traffic flow and puts one together for every showroom that she works with. The individual attention is great. She really got to know us and our business.”
Shutte added FCA Network is open-minded when it comes to creating a product mix and has often looked into those he suggested. “It’s not [Olga’s] way or the highway.”
He also told FCNews Robertson’s carpet pad sales helped to enhance his business because Century Floors is starting to push pad to enhance margins. “Being in FCA Network exposes us to things we weren’t doing but should be, which we are doing now,” he added.
Billingsly added the merchandising that FCA Network does for all its retailers makes it easier to do business on a day-to-day basis. “We don’t have to take time to meet with all our individual vendors. They regulate your pricing, get samples, etc. FCA Network knows the needs of its members and are quick to react. The people involved are just fantastic. There is a lot of information shared that is very valuable to us.”
Started by David Elyachar (Big Bob himself), the group offers something different, said franchisee and FCNews columnist Vinnie Virga, and that is a hands-off approach. “Big Bob’s gives you the tools to be successful and then gets out of your way.” These tools include strong marketing that is ready to use, core products with ag- gressive pricing, and a vehicle to communicate with other mem- bers and share best practices.
“For me, it’s been great to be part of this group,” said Virga, who has three locations. “They help me when I ask for help, but other than that, they aren’t asking us to get involved in areas in which we don’t do business. They get what we do and it just works.”
Virga added that the product mix and pricing have also helped him increase sales and visibility to consumers. “One of the key things that brings in consumers is value items, and with Big Bob’s I can give them value.”
Tom Garvey, a Big Bob’s franchisee in Pennsylvania, joined the group because he was looking to get into the mid-market, and the model worked for his store. “Big Bob’s fits us personally. They don’t tell me what to do; they just said, ‘Here are our guidelines.’ The model that we’ve created is very easy shopping for the customer and priced to sell.”
Garvey added that Big Bob’s allows him to quickly react to special buys because of the model. Also, if there is a product in which he is interested, he lets Big Bob’s know and they do the research for him. “For people who are looking to branch out, Big Bob’s gives you an awful lot for your money.”