Day at races held for 8th straight year
Vol. 27/number 9 August 19/26
By Steven Feldman
Saratoga Springs, N.Y.—Beaulieu America has used Saratoga Racecourse, the dowager queen of Amer-ican racetracks, for eight years now as a customer appreciation venue as a way to thank some of its Northeast retailers for their business. But when the mill held its 2013 rendition on Aug. 12, the day was about much more than horses, cocktails and handshakes.
As the company opened up its guest list to around 80 customers—its largest tally to date—for the first time the event featured one-day specials as well as the opportunity to take on Indulgence, the soft nylon carpet that rolled out at Surfaces. As well, most in attendance were getting their first look at Bliss LVT, Beaulieu’s first foray into hard surfaces in more than a decade.
According to Al Zumpano, regional manager for New York and New England, this was the largest crowd Beaulieu has hosted since it began hosting its annual Day at the Races. “We had around 150 people; the event gets bigger each year. It encourages dealers to participate in one-on-one time with us, and with the lack of local shows, it’s our day to show off our products to some of our key accounts. They are now in the habit of coming.”
While Beaulieu in the past took the opportunity to review existing product lines with the dealers and reinforce the programs that are in place, this was the first year the company actually sold goods at the racetrack. “We didn’t know what to expect,” Zumpano said, “but the results were beyond our expectations. This is the first time we offered product and displays in addition to special pricing.”
The company could not have been more pleased. Jim Waskin, regional vice president, Northeast, said the buy-in on Indulgence was 100%. “Every retailer here had either purchased Indulgence racks in the preceding months or purchased it at the show. And at least seven people I know of bought the LVT racks on the spot.”
Ralph Boe, co-CEO of Beaulieu America, was not surprised. “Indulgence is a combination of the best qualities in carpet today. Solution-dyed nylon and soft fiber built to perform. Indulgence offers a great deal of twist in the yarn along with a low-profile construction that is more in line with the hard surface products in the home, so it minimizes transitions.”
Boe was equally excited about Bliss LVT, which ships the end of August. The collection offers 24 styles—18 wood looks and six tiles—as well as six entry-level products. Total thickness ranges from 3 mm at the low end to 5 mm. Pricing is comparable with other LVT products with similar properties, he said.
So what makes Bliss LVT different than the bevy of LVT products already saturating the market? In a word, quality, according to Boe. “We have set up a quality control lab in China. We found that’s very important. We are making sure what comes in meets our performance needs.” In addition, Boe said retailers and consumers can have the same confidence in the quality of Bliss LVT as they do in the mill’s carpet products. “We have a certified quality program, and we stand behind it. Many of the imports are going through agents who are not in a position to stand behind the products.”
In addition to the quality control lab, Beaulieu also has a procurement office in China, which has been working with several manufacturers in putting together the optimum program.
Hank Freebern, Four Star Flooring, Queensbury, N.Y., was very impressed with Bliss LVT. “I love it. It’s going to sell well. It’s going to be a simple floor for the DIYers because you can cut it with a sheetrock knife. Plus, it’s much tougher than laminate, looks pretty close to scratch resistant and the price point is excellent, making it very competitive against the other brands. I also feel the visuals are better because it has a matte finish.”
Dan Friedman, owner of Kenny Carpets, an 11-store chain in Buffalo, N.Y., said he will also take on the displays. “I thought the designs and colorations were a little different. I like the way they are embossed.”
And Rob Joles, Lexi Industries, Northvale, N.J., ordered the LVT before he ever set foot on the Saratoga grounds. “The color selection and locking system were the selling points. It’s similar to the Shaw product, but a little less expensive.”
Beaulieu’s return to the hard surface side of the business is obviously in response to its rapid growth rate—particularly LVT—in comparison to carpet. Does that mean products like wood, laminate and tile are on the horizon? “We certainly will look at all categories and make decisions down the road,” Boe said.
On the sun-drenched summer afternoon, in between the races dealers were contemplating their next wager—and singing Indul-gence’s praises. While most only received their racks in the past few months, those who have theirs in-store are reporting solid early activity.
John Carr, owner of Buy Low Flooring, Queensbury, N.Y., was one of the first dealers to take on Indulgence. “I bought rolls at Surfaces and it’s doing great for me. Indulgence is a great value, has a good feel, and the Beaulieu warranty is good. Plus, I’m making good margin.”
Kenny’s Carpet’s Friedman received his Indulgence displays about three weeks ago and told FCNews he has had several orders. “It’s been playing well against the other soft carpets because of the unique designs. It’s not the same old textures. People want patterns these days. And with Indulgence, they like the hand, they like the designs, and they like the pricing compared with some of the other products with the same features.”
Lexi’s Joles received his Indulgence rack in early August and is also expecting big things. “I took it on because I like the patterns, the softness and the twist. It’s similar to some of the Tuftex products but less expensive.”
Finally, Diane Grossman, owner of the startup The Carpet Girl in Springfield, N.J., believes the Indulgence color palette is what will rule the day. “It’s fresh, it’s new. I like that it’s a limited selection. And I like the grays, which are in with designers.”
Grossman is already promoting Indulgence through social media, specifically a recently launched Facebook contest. “We are asking our Facebook followers to upload their ugly carpet pictures and get their friends and family to like them through the end of August. The winner gets free Indulgence carpet for their bedroom.”