Sports-themed market, products, pricing plays to rave reviews
Volume 27/Number 24; March 31/April 7, 2014
By Louis Iannaco
Chicago—FCA Network on March 21-22 hosted one of the most successful conventions in its 17-year history. Led by president Olga Robertson, the buying group consists today of 60- plus retailers, the overwhelming majority of which made their way from various points in the Midwest for two days of networking, education and product specials.
The show’s theme, “Market Madness, Hit the Floor Running,” played off the NCAA basketball tournament combined with day one of the event, also known as Vendor Day, in which more than 25 suppliers exhibited their latest products. The ballroom was buzzing with excitement during the sports-themed event, as FCA dealers shopped the show while keeping abreast of the latest tournament action on a big screen TV complete with a grandstand where they could enjoy a courtside view.
“Every year after our convention, we start thinking about how we’re going to make it better the following year,” Robertson said. “The feedback is that [we are achieving that]. And that’s our goal—to make these annual events the best they can be.”
During the event’s day one general session, Robertson cited reports regarding how consumer confidence, as well as builder business, was trending upward, and how both of which would help retailers. “In terms of product, LVT and plank remain hot and continue to grow. Soft fiber carpet sales, nylon and polyester, continue to grow as well. Bamboo and cork are coming on. As current conditions continue to trend upward, the consumer confidence index is at its highest level in almost six years. I’m really optimistic about 2014.”
Companies such as Shaw, Mohawk, Phenix, Invista, USFloors and Dal-Tile were all on hand for Vendor Day as dealers had the opportunity to ask questions and place orders from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.
“There’s been a lot of interest among the dealers who want to learn about the new technologies and product selections we have to offer through our new Marazzi brand,” said Greg Walter, Dal-Tile regional sales manager. “They’re great to interact with, and are always trying to find out what the new value options are.”
Steve Majerczak, divisional vice president for Shaw, noted that the dealers were generally optimistic. “Everyone, especially those in the upper Midwest, has had issues with the weather, and that has delayed some purchases. But overall, the people here are positive and we’re optimistic it’s going to be a good year.”
Robertson also spoke of the positive sentiment at the Chicago event. “Our dealers were very impressed with the vendors here, and our suppliers are very supportive. They always tell me our members are the most [enthusiastic retailers] they encounter when it comes to learning about new products and being engaged.
“I want [our members] to walk away feeling this was the most important two days of their business life. We probably have the best product assortment with the best pricing we’ve ever offered. You’ve got to offer the right products at the right price, and I believe we hit the mark there.”
A break during the afternoon on day one allowed attendees to sit in on a general session with keynote speaker and FCNews columnist Lisbeth Calandrino, associate publisher of Fabulous Floors magazine. Her presentation focused on social media and marketing, and how they can be utilized to create profits. In addition to Calandrino’s discussion, the session featured success stories—including best practices—from several FCA members.
Day two’s general session featured several educational workshops and a hands-on demonstration by Aaron Woodruff and Benjamin Bruce of Schluter Systems, highlighting the company’s Ditra-Heat floor warming system. The informative sessions, along with a vast assortment of product offerings, created the positive feedback Robertson had in mind. Bob Zahn of Zahn’s Floor Covering in Crawfordsville, Ind., one of FCA’s longest-tenured members, said, “I’m excited to see the mills offering so many nylon products. I’m also happy with the hardwood offerings, and I believe CoreTEC LVT from USFloors is a great product.”
A fairly new FCA member, Matt Budler, owner and production manager at Paradigm Interiors in Denver, noted that pricing was one factor that attracted him to FCA. “Being a smaller operation, we’re at a disadvantage going against the larger companies in our area. FCA gives us a leg up. Now we’re competitive with anybody. The pricing is No. 1 with us, as well as the support we receive from the other dealers—a fantastic group of down-to-earth, like-minded, small business owners. Having the ability to tap into their knowledge and experiences, and exchanging ideas has been fantastic for us.”
After being with another group for 17 years, Thomas Manion, owner of Door to Door Flooring in Austin, Texas—one of eight new members to recently join FCA—was on his own for the last two years. “We missed being part of a buying group for the product knowledge and education, as well as the camaraderie and friendships. We looked into several groups, received many referrals on FCA, and after meeting Olga realized it was something that would help our business and we’d enjoy.”
The goal of FCA Network is to keep members competitive by giving them the tools for success. “We support them in any way they need,” Robertson said. “And because I am a retailer, that makes us unique from other buying groups in that we’re in the trenches; we know what our dealers need and how to help them get it.”