Retailers’ Guide to Stone – Merchandising: Positioning stone in the showroom

Home Inside FCNews Retailers' Guide to Stone - Merchandising: Positioning stone in the showroom

Volume 27/Number 27; May 12/19, 2014

(Editor’s note: This is the fifth of a 10-part series on introducing flooring retailers to stone and the opportunities the category presents.)

Sponsored by Emser Tile

The uniqueness of natural stone makes it one of the easiest and most demonstrable flooring products to sell, according to retailers experienced in the category.

Whether stone is merchandised by itself, with tile or interspersed with other products throughout the store, successful flooring dealers say the category’s myriad variations should be prominently displayed and preferably installed.

Grigsby’s Carpet Tile and Rug Gallery, with two Oklahoma locations, features 500 square feet of chiseled travertine installed on its showroom floor with five color variations.

“It is eye grabbing,” said David Stover, vice president of sales. “Every time we put a new product down on the floor and install it, sales go up. Stone is a leader, and we are really pushing the category.”

Because stone is mined and not manufactured, every piece is different. And, because stone is so unique, “you have to merchandise it in some sort of impressive way,” said Tony Greco, vice president of merchandising at CAP Carpet in Wichita, Kan. “You have to have a visual presentation that lets the customer know you are in the stone business. You can’t be a token player in this category.”

CAP Carpet’s stone collection (including travertine, limestone, quartz and slate) is merchandised on 4 x 8-foot Brutus boards housed in the tile section in all five of its ProSource locations, one Carpet One and one Big Bob’s store. Roughly 40% of its tile area has stone installed.

Furthermore, the stone is displayed with similar offerings, as well as ceramic tile and other hard surface products, including wood. “Stone is a great accent to a wood floor,” Greco noted.

Melissa Atkins, assistant buyer at CAP Carpet, said it is important for a merchandising display to show the variation of the product in a size that lets consumers visualize how it would look in their homes. “Go big or go home; that’s the only way to show stone,” she said. “You have to show it in a broad pattern.”

Atkins added that the trend among designers is to mix stone with other products, including glass and porcelain, and to use it in backsplashes, as accent pieces and in vertical applications throughout the home. “Stone is very versatile, and this gives designers an idea of what is possible.”

At Grigsby’s, customers can see chiseled travertine in a Versailles pattern through the showroom window in the parking lot. The stone is displayed near the front entrance on the right, which is the direction most people follow when they enter a store.

“We put the nicest looking, more expensive stuff first,” Stover said. “It shows really well. Unlike ceramic tile, where every tile looks the same, natural stone offers so many looks and variations. We prefer to install multiple pieces and colors in different dimensions, such as 8 x 8 and 16 x 24; otherwise you are not doing the category justice. The more space you can devote to it the better consumers can visualize it in their homes. It also makes our retail store look better.”

For retailers who are seriously committed to the category, stone offers advantages beyond being a fashionable, trendy product. For one, home centers are either not in the business in a big way or don’t possess the level of understanding to sell it effectively. Secondly, and more important, stone is not as competitively purchased as porcelain or ceramic tile, according to dealers, which makes for an easier sell.

Bob Baldocchi, director, marketing and sales support at Emser Tile, said the way stone should be merchandised in a showroom depends on a dealer’s business model and his go-to-market strategy. “Some customers are heavy into design, others are core stocking/material suppliers,” he said. “Merchandising should represent these strategies.”

What’s also important, Baldocchi noted, is to educate consumers on the basics of natural stone, including variation of color and width, proper installation, appropriate applications, and care and maintenance of the specific product selected. “Retailers are unnecessarily intimidated by these basic elements of natural stone,” he said.

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