Nearly 400 attend Ohio Valley Flooring convention
September 2/9 2013; Volume 27/number 10
By Louis Iannaco
Belterra, Ind.—With almost 400 people in attendance—an approximate 25% increase over last year’s show—executives of wholesaler Ohio Valley Flooring (OVF) couldn’t have been happier with the turnout for its annual Flooring Plus convention here Aug. 20 to 21 with a theme called “Catch the next wave.” Networking, educational sessions, product introductions and new programs were on the show’s agenda as Flooring Plus member retailers reveled in OVF’s offerings.
“These Flooring Plus members are our No. 1 source to go to market,” said Jeff Garber, vice president, sales and marketing, OVF. “We have to do everything we can to give them the tools to be successful. If they trust us and give us a part of their showroom, we want to make sure we deliver with products and programs that sell and allow them to make money.”
Garber’s enthusiasm about the show and the overall sediment was evident, as he noted OVF/Flooring Plus “is moving. Our sales are up over the last three years, and our members’ purchases are up.”
According to OVF president Al Hurt, Flooring Plus is an integral part of what OVF does. “The Flooring Plus dealers/members are special to us. We are always trying to come up with special programs and promotions for them. The volume of their business with us is up substantially. They are a very dedicated group of dealers as we are dedicated to them.”
Garber highlighted three growth areas for the company. “The most growth we’ve experienced in 2012 and so far in 2013 have been in the LVT, hardwood and ceramic tile categories. About 40% of our business comes from hardwood. We believe the lines we carry answer the trends going on today.” OVF has a total of nine hardwood or hardwood-related vendors, including Bruce/ Armstrong, Mirage, Indusparquet, Kahrs, Teragren, WE Cork, house brand Bella Cerra and its newest supplier, Stoehr.
Hurt reiterated Garber’s sentiments, saying OVF’s wood business has been “really good for us. We asked the members to take a look around during the product showcase and check out Armstrong’s American Scrape products as well as our private label Bella Cerra products. They are key.”
In other categories OVF experienced strong introductions in LVT with Armstrong’s Alterna, Metroflor’s Konecto and FreeFit’s floating LVT product. And, after carrying the Marazzi ceramic line for years, OVF has now added Laufen ceramic tile.
Members were also informed of updates to OVF’s website and the introduction of iPads to its sales force. “Even during the tough times, we feel technology is a large part of what we do, internally and externally,” Hurt said. “We spend an abnormal amount of money on this, both inside and outside, and did so even during the difficult years.”
Explaining the importance of technology, Hurt said, “If you get behind in technology, you can never catch up. The technology we’ve given to our dealer members—whether it’s our website, our Décor 24 program or their individual web pages—is important. We work hard with our dealers to make sure they have what they need. They’ve got to have current, accurate information. And our entire sales force now has iPads, which are well equipped and updated with accurate information from our main frame.”
The general session included Invista’s Pami Bhullar explaining how the consumer is really looking for quality and value. “And the real value is in long-term performance. People buy carpet and then three years later wish they would’ve spent more money and purchased something good.
“The economic downturn has permanently changed the way we behave,” he explained, “the way we buy, the way we sell. Today’s consumer wants to go to a place where she feels she can make a safe choice. She wants to control the sale. But the old school way of selling is ‘control the customer.’ What retailers have to do is give the customer the perception of control.”
Scott and Julie Roach of JC Carpet & Flooring in Pataskala, Ohio, who became affiliated with Flooring Plus/OVF in the past year, extolled the benefits of being members. Both were very impressed with the speakers, particularly Sam Allman and Bhullar, and appreciated the industry experience and humor each injected into their presentations. “I loved the way they gave us different ways to compete, the emphasis they placed on treating the customers well, getting to their heart and not acting as if customers are just a number,” Julie Roach said.
“We are the owners and operators of our business,” she added. “I’m the salesperson and my husband is a 35-year installer, so to hear things that will help take us the extra mile as far as going one-on-one with the customer means a lot to us. We also value the one-on-one help we get on our website. If you have a problem and aren’t really secure about the way the website’s working, OVF will take that time out with you.”
During the convention’s showcase event, Scott Roach was inspired by the new introductions from WE Cork. “WE Cork is coming out with more wood grain looks. They are really catching my interest. In addition to our business, we’re also thinking about it for our own home remodeling project. So far, this show gets a thumbs up from us all the way around.”
Jennifer Beauch, operations manager for Carpets by Otto in Toledo, Ohio, was eager to learn how OVF could help her company’s website. “We used to have someone who ran our site, but she left our company. Right now it’s just sitting there. So to learn more about how to do new things online would be really awesome.”
Roger and Gwendolyn Fissel of Fissel Floor Covering in Bellefontaine, Ohio, said help with their website is an important benefit of being a Flooring Plus member. “For people who are not technologically savvy—or at least we weren’t before joining Flooring Plus—they worked with our son to get our website up and running,” said Gwendolyn Fissel. “I feel we now have one of the best ones in our area.”
Ann Wicander, president of WE Cork, was just one of the vendors who enjoyed non-stop traffic during the product showcase. “It’s been a very strong show for us. OVF is the first distributor to launch some of our display products. The reaction in the booth has been phenomenal. Everybody wants cork but they can’t always make that step to buying it, even with all its features and benefits. But now they have visuals that are pushing them over. We have products that look like hardwood and others that look like ceramic. The Flooring Plus members love it.”
Ray Pina, the new Northeastern regional sales manager for FloorFit, said he was amazed at the amount of people at the show. “It’s busy here. There’s no gloom and doom talk, either. Since the opening of the product showcase, we’ve been going non-stop for two-and-a-half hours. And we’re getting a lot of positive feedback on our product.”
Harold Hall, district sales manager for Mirage Prefinished Hardwood Floors, said Flooring Plus members are ideal partners. “We have specials people are buying, and they seem to be enthused. Our Imagine series is doing very well here, as is our Sweet Memories line. They love our new display and products.”