By Jenna Lippin
Dallas—As the economy continues to improve with forecasts for growth through at least 2017, Mohawk is arming its aligned retailers with the products, programs and merchandising they need to not only close the sale, but more importantly, to drive more consumers to their front doors. And, this time around, Mohawk’s Solutions convention, held here Dec. 12-15 for Floorscapes and ColorCenter dealers, there was an enormous focus on the latter.
One of the most popular areas in the Solutions showroom was dubbed the “Cloud,” which highlighted Mohawk’s new 5-Star Retailer Reputation Management program for aligned dealers. This innovative, web-based system provides assistance in digital and physical presence, online reputation and lead generation.
“The 5-Star program includes digital tools that work to drive consumers onto the Mohawk site and to our retailers, particularly our aligned partners,” explained Kent Clauson, vice president of brand management. “We are ensuring that Mohawk aligned retailers aren’t missing out on local customers searching the web for flooring.”
With the help of Mohawk’s 5-Star system, retailers will be provided with the tools needed to manage and receive ratings and reviews, publish product information on social media sites and capture promising leads.
With digital presence, Mohawk is highlighting its own website, which has been optimized for mobile usage. “We created an integrated interface here that we think focuses on the right things,” Clauson explained. “We know in 2014 Internet usage on a mobile device will surpass Internet usage on a desktop, so this is critical. We’ve created a site that provides inspiration with product information and images, but primarily it will help consumers find a store. When they look for flooring, they want to find a local retailer and get there quick.”
The coming year will also bring a new online sample program, starting in January, with SmartStrand Silk and Armormax products. The sample offer will come at a reasonable cost for consumers, proving they are ready to purchase. Each sample will have a retailer’s information on it, helping drive that consumer to a Mohawk aligned retailer as those dealers have the largest commitment to Mohawk. Floorscapes members will have priority, followed by ColorCenter Elite, ColorCenter Select and further down to all retailers.
These concepts connect to the lead generation element of the 5-Star program, which helps drive in-market, qualified consumers to Mohawk’s aligned partners. According to Clauson, a variety of options will be available, including a friends and family program that helps connect Mohawk’s corporate partners with employee discounts to Floorscapes and ColorCenter Elite dealers. More customizable lead programs will become available.
Google+ is also part of the digital initiative, as Mohawk offers aligned dealers the opportunity to purchase a package to help them optimize their business listings on the site. “A lot of dealers don’t know about Google+,” Clauson said, “but it really helps them position themselves in the market.”
The online reputation tool is another key element of the 5-Star system, allowing aligned dealers to garner and evaluate ratings and reviews. “Online reputation is becoming critical today,” Clauson noted. “If you look at how people shop, nine out of 10 consumers conduct online research before visiting a store.”
Furthering that point, the ratings and reviews package allows Mohawk to work with aligned dealers, at a marginal quarterly cost, to gather consumer names, allowing the company to create content on its website with information from those customers. The retailers must provide the customer’s information, and then Mohawk handles the process from there.
“If we don’t provide this service, if we don’t provide this opportunity and actively solicit reviews, complainers will put things out there about our retailers and even about Mohawk,” Clauson explained. “If we don’t create overall reviews and get customers who are highly satisfied to give feedback and drown out complainers, we will be victim to the few people giving negative reviews. We feel overall our customers are happy, satisfied and deal with the best retailers. We have the means to get their businesses promoted.”
Social media is also part of the online initiative, allowing retailers to re-publish content from Mohawk’s Facebook, Twitter and other sites at no cost. Another option, at a reasonable cost to dealers, offers an automated process that routinely posts Mohawk content to those retailers’ social media sites.
Retailers’ confidence in Mohawk’s online initiatives has been made clear. “This whole 5-Star system is a game changer,” said Gregg Karas, owner of Floor Covering Warehouse in Stamford, Conn., and a ColorCenter Elite dealer for over seven years. “They’ve brought everything we need together in one area. The instruments they bring in for us with the websites, Google+, promotions— these items are going to help us. As dealers, our time is limited. There is some input on our part, but the fact that [Mohawk] sends out the information for us is huge.”
To many retailers, the 5-Star program is proof that Mohawk goes the extra mile for its aligned dealers. As noted by Deb DeGraaf, co-owner of DeGraaf Interiors, a Mohawk ColorCenter Elite dealer with three Michigan locations, “Mohawk is looking at specialty retailers and giving back to them. There are so many customers that funnel through the Internet to local stores. It’s an investment, but it’s a valuable investment. Mohawk is trying to weed out retailers that aren’t showing the commitment and helping those who are committed develop further.”
The big push on the carpet side for Mohawk is to expand its leadership in the soft category through a growing range of colors, styles and constructions.
Tom Lape, Mohawk’s president of market development, summed up the mega-mill’s initiatives that are illustrated through 2014’s launches. “Conceptually, we are broadening out with Silk, but you will see us expanding things with bulk and value on the SmartStrand side. At the same time, you will see us increasing what we can do with certain looks and price points with polyester. You will find a lot more step-up values in polyester and stepping down a little on the SmartStrand side—still protecting Silk.”
SmartStrand Silk boasts six new products for 2014, including:
* two tonal LCL patterns with organic and geometric styles in trendy colors;
* two solid LCLs in stylish small- to medium-scale patterns;
* a textured loop with fleck, and
* a 70-ounce solid texture with 40 color options.
To highlight its patented Continuum process (FCNews, Sept. 16/23), Mohawk unveiled products in its EvertStrand PET, which include line extensions and the all-new EverStrand Soft Appeal, offered at an entry-level price point.
According to Seth Arnold, director of brand, feedback from retailers indicated that Mohawk’s polyesters have a lot of bulk and hand, which help “move up” customers. Adding to that appeal, the Continuum process allows EverStrand products to feature C100 or C50 ratings, which indicate the level of recycled content (up to 100% or up to 50%) in the face fiber of the product.
EverStrand Soft Appeal is being rolled out with six offerings, including three casual texture solids and three casual texture flecks in various color and weights. The EverStrand expansion includes three LCLs, five barber pole textures and three solid textures in a good/better/best platform.
Mohawk will also launch six new soft PET products under the new Wear-Dated Allure brand. All Wear-Dated Allure carpets also result from the Continuum process, featuring ratings like those on EverStrand, providing enhanced cleanability and performance.
Soft surface merchandising, including the stain-free, wear-free and worry-free galleries, has been revamped for 2014, including an update to the Wear-Dated Allure color wall, which features soft Wear-Dated polyester and a new EverStrand display. However, the biggest unveiling in merchandising is the Captivator for SmartStrand Silk.
A revolutionary showroom display piece, the Captivator displays 26 Silk products in an organized, easily navigated space. “When you stand away from the display there are over 100 colors that you can completely see,” Arnold explained. “The idea is to create a premier destination for softness in the store.” Product samples and assortments are easily switched out for updates and color variations. The Captivator is just under 15 feet wide, just under 3 feet deep and comes in three pieces, which will ship mostly assembled.
Hard surface introductions
Aligned retailers were also impressed with the breadth of hard surface introductions and expansions, which stretched across all categories. The focus for each—hardwood, laminate, LVT and ceramic—in 2014 is what Mohawk calls “character wood.” While this theme is interpreted differently in each category, it is all about personality.
“People want something different,” said Roger Farabee, senior vice president of marketing for Mohawk Hard Surfaces. “Once people are comfortable spending, they want to get something they like and they don’t want the same old, same old product. Consumers in general are becoming more comfortable in buying something they like. Decorating shows and HGTV are giving people more confidence about choosing these more unique looks. From a hard surfaces standpoint, with the technology we have, we can create any look; you just have to select the right product for your needs.”
Hardwood: The Antique Artisans collection includes four ½-inch engineered products–Cresson, Deltona, Desccanso and Dennison–in varying widths ranging from 4 to 8 inches. Austin Casual, an extension of the Armormax series launched in 2013, is a 3/8-inch medium wire brushed oak product in 3- and 5-inch planks. Architexture, perhaps the most popular engineered hardwood product unveiled at Solutions, seeks to capitalize on the popular European visual featuring oversized planks—6-feet long and 7-½-inches wide. Chalet Retreat, the one solid introduction, debuted with two oaks and two hickories in traditional 2¼- and 3¼-inch widths and a wide variety of colors with a subtle brush. Finally, the extremely popular soft-scraped Huntsville, an engineered, 5-inch product introduced last year that hits a mid price point, was expanded with two new grays.
Laminate: The headlining intro here is Hutchenson, the first 12mm laminate from Mohawk. The collection is available in planks measuring 5¼ inches wide x 47¼ inches long in 10 designs and colors. Hutchenson is also constructed of at least 74% recycled content and is made in the USA. Mohawk is also refreshing the entry-level, 8mil Cornwall with new character visuals and eight additional color options, bringing to 15 the total number of options for the line.
As Diane Moore, manager at Williams Carpet, a Floorscapes dealer in Michigan, noted, “The new looks will give the laminate category a boost. When they’re on the floor you can hardly tell the difference what’s wood and what’s laminate. Laminate is a good choice, especially for families with children.”
Ceramic: The character wood look continues here with multiple plank looks in a rustic oak, rustic hickory and an exotic. All are a result of Reveal imaging technology. Oversized planks range from 6 x 24 to 9 x 36. On the stone-look side, Aprement, Sagra and Torinetta all use Mohawk’s Reveal Imaging technology, creating realistic and sophisticated visuals. Vannaire mixes travertine, limestone and concrete looks with a granilia finish. Maraval glass and stone mosaic is expanding with a new color and a new deco blend in the line’s six colors. New accent collections have been added with Arbor Metals, Crystal Coves Glass and Dynasty Bamboo Glass.
LVT: Two years ago Mohawk broke into the LVT business with the launch of Noblesse and last year it took the wraps off the entry-level Prequel, a 2 mm product designed for multifamily constructed of virgin vinyl. This year saw the debut of a step-up product in Prequel Plus, a mid-level intro geared toward commercial use in Embrasure, as well as extensions to the Prequel and Noblesse collections. Prequel Plus offers a wearlayer that doubles the thickness (12 mil) of the original product and features a 6 x 48 plank visual. Embrasure continues the character wood theme but has also been augmented to include stone visuals. Noblesse was enhanced with three stone visuals and a 12 x 24 selection.