New retail concept is ‘the ideal flooring experience’
by Steven Feldman
Wichita, Kan.—CAP Carpet, one of the nation’s 15 largest flooring retailers, last week officially opened the doors to its latest retail concept, called The Floor Project, the store is billed as the first floor covering location designed around consumers’ wants and needs—the result of extensive research.
According to Aaron Pirner, co-CEO of the 45-year-old retailer, which already operates seven divisions including Carpet One, ProSource and Big Bob’s, the company felt there was a better way for consumers to purchase flooring. “We conducted focus groups in Topeka and Wichita, Kan., and St. Louis to learn what consumers specifically wanted out of the buying experience. This is more focused than what other companies do.”
He said one of the points consumers mentioned is that shopping for flooring was often overwhelming, confusing and even frustrating. They asked for larger samples, better selection and unique products. They wanted better lighting and flooring experts who could assist them in making the right purchase for their homes. They requested a way to see the floor in their rooms before buying it. “So we took those customer ideas and assembled what we believe to be the ideal flooring experience.”
With that said, The Floor Project’s concept is based on five critical questions the research found matter most to a consumer:
1. What’s it going to look like in my home?
2. Is it right for my lifestyle?
3. How much will I need?
4. How soon can I get it?
5. How much is it going to cost?
In response to the first question, the company came to the conclusion that no sample is large enough for a consumer to determine how it will actually appear in her home. The only answer was to do it digitally. According to Pirner, The Floor Project is the first store in the country where customers can “try before they buy. They can see how every product we sell will appear in a standard room scene, or they can take a picture of the actual room they are looking to remodel in their homes, upload that photo to our website, mask out the floor and add the perspective. They can do it themselves or we can do it for them.”
That’s not all that differentiates The Floor Project. The store features only large samples, another result of the research. “Everything is a face forward sample,” Pirner said. Hard surface is 20 x 30 and carpet is 13.5 x 18. And behind each sample is a mini cabinet that houses large, take-home samples. In addition, behind each carpet sample are mini rolls so customers can view the product on the floor.
Something else unique to The Floor Project is the presence of shopping carts, similar to those found at the local CVS. Consumers can load the carts with the samples they are considering and wheel them to a work table, where an intricate lighting system allows them to see how the flooring will appear in their homes at different times of the day.
Even the pricing strategy was born from research. Consu-mers said they found the litany of price points confusing, often finding it difficult to determine what made one product more expensive than the next. To that end, The Floor Project has only 50 price points in the store. Every sample in the store is numbered, and at the bottom of each merchandising unit is a quick reference code system with the price per square foot for every corresponding number.
Products include carpet, vinyl, hardwood and laminate. Pirner credits his key suppliers for playing a major role in the product assortment planning process and helping it offer customers “the right items at the right color at the right price point.”
Ceramic tile, while a large piece of the hard surface pie, is not among the products offered at this time because of the challenges associated with the room scene visualizer, particularly as it relates to the different sizes and shapes of tile. However, Pirner said The Floor Project is currently testing with a major tile brand on the visualization piece.
While the suppliers helped with the product mix, nowhere in the store does their respective brands appear—or private label brands, for that matter. That’s because The Floor Project research revealed brand is not as important during the search phase as fashion.
“Customers told us they wanted to see color, texture and price,” Pirner said. “And they hate having labels on the front of the samples. One customer, in fact, went so far as to say it ‘junks it up.’” He added once consumers are comfortable with the products they have chosen, that’s when they seek the assurance of the brand.
The way consumers get that information is by snapping a photo of the sample’s QR code, which is located on the display next to the corresponding sample, with their smartphones. The customer is then taken to the website, where she can get all the product details, including the brand information.
While Wichita is one of two Floor Project locations—the other is in Topeka—Pirner said plans are under way to grow the concept. The stores are expected to be 7,500 square feet, 6,000 of which being showroom space. “We have other business units that will be converted to this concept, and we are also looking at sites in potential markets where we can add additional stores. If you look at our growth over the last 15 years, it’s easy to predict where further growth will be.”