Abbey Carpet & Floor dealers: Membership has its privileges

Home Inside FCNews Abbey Carpet & Floor dealers: Membership has its privileges

January 6/13, 2014; Volume 27/Number 18

By Jenna Lippin

Believe it or not, there are flooring retailers who are leery about joining a buying group. There can be resistance about product, service and adhering to certain guidelines. However, most dealers can confirm that being a member of a larger entity is, in fact, a very wise decision.

Among the largest retail groups, Abbey Carpet & Floor was the original, now doing business for more than 55 years. Founded by Milt Levinson, the company today is run by Phil Gutierrez, chairman and CEO, and Steve Silverman, president and COO. Nationwide presence, proprietary products that cannot be shopped, and marketing initiatives that most members could never execute as independents are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to benefits.

Ted Gregerson, owner of Ted’s Abbey Carpet & Floor in Anniston, Ala., can certainly speak to the advantages of being an Abbey dealer for the past 17 years. In fact, he likens membership to being a Verizon customer—no matter where he goes, Abbey is there.

“Sometimes you don’t always know the best decision for your business,” Gregerson said. “In those cases, I can just call Abbey corporate myself. They are there to help me, no matter what, because the Abbey team is behind me.”

And while the benefits of Abbey membership are widespread, they are perhaps most noticeable where it counts—in the showroom. Being an Abbey dealer means access to various displays, private-label and big-name products, and merchandising optimization.

“There is absolutely no question that our store is better merchandised, better laid out, because we are an Abbey member,” Gregerson noted. “Our customers can tell we are not just a mom and pop, that we are part of something bigger, just when they walk into the store. Instead of it being a hodgepodge layout, everything just blends together and looks alike. In turn, that gives our customers more confidence. Sometimes we can be $400 or $500 higher than competitors in our bid and still get the sale because of that confidence.”

Assistance in communication is another major advantage to being an Abbey dealer, allowing for easier, more efficient correspondence with mills.

“[Abbey does] all the negotiating with the mills on your behalf, but you still have the ability to negotiate with your own individual rep,” explained Craig Bendele, president of Bendele Abbey Carpet & Floors in Fort Myers, Fla., an Abbey dealer for 20 years. “They set up the programs for us, which makes it very easy without us being out there by ourselves.”


Last year’s highlight

One of the most significant benefits that became available to Abbey members in 2013 was website customization. Basically, Abbey provides a template from its own site that is customizable for each individual member’s store.

“Our members can use our website with their own home pages and add as many custom pages as they want, changing them as frequently as they prefer,” Silverman said. “They can keep their own identity under the Abbey brand.”

Because the average retailer has rarely the time or the resources to design an attractive, full-service website, Abbey decided to provide the easy-to-use service and design template to its members. And, according to participating retailers, the Internet initiative has been a success.

“You can’t make these websites on your own,” said Janice Clifton, owner of Abbey Carpet’s Unlimited Design Center in Napa, Calif., an Abbey dealer for 26 years. “There are additional referrals you get from being online. [Consumers] are able to pull up all product pricing on the website,” allowing them to browse and make informed purchasing decisions before buying in-store.

Gregerson offered feedback similar to Clifton’s. “We had a pretty good [website] before—I think one of the best in the flooring industry,” he said. “But now, we can do anything on our site. All we have to do is give Abbey the pictures, video, etc. I’ve gotten a lot of calls from around the country about our website, about how great it is, and not just from Abbey dealers.”

Websites are just a portion of the assistance Abbey provides its members in terms of marketing and advertising.

Marjorie Benson, owner of Friendly Floors in Port Charlotte, Fla., has been an Abbey Dealer for just over a year. Thanks to the group, Friendly Floors’ business was “way, way ahead in 2013.” And, after reviewing the year’s success, Benson concluded that Abbey’s marketing and advertising proved to be most beneficial to her business.

“[Abbey] can read my mind when I’m trying to get an idea across about what I want to convey to my potential clients,” Benson said. “[Abbey] knows me and my position—where I am in the community. It’s like having my own advertising agency. It saves me so much time. I tell them what I want, and—boom—it’s done.”

While Benson was reluctant to join a buying group, after just over a year of success with Abbey, she is ready to take on the next 12 months. “I am looking forward to the second convention and to continue to learn about and use their programs more and more in 2014.”

Members continue to cite some of the recent initiatives launched by Abbey. For example, Bendele implemented some major changes in 2013, including a revamp of his store’s hardwood presentation. And, according to the retailer, the adjustments were definitely effective. Business was up double digits, and he owes much of that success to being aligned with Abbey. “They make it easier for us to be in the industry. [Abbey is] a very good business partner. 2013 felt like a big transition year. There was a little bit extra, a little more change happening.”


Looking ahead

Riding off of the 2013 high, many Abbey dealers are excited about the coming year. Additional online support is just one anticipated perk.

“In 2014, Abbey is making a big push helping dealers with search engine optimization,” Clifton noted. “They’re being more aggressive with Internet searches. I am in a county of 100,000 [retailers] and there are two or three of us [Abbey dealers], so we own the town, and we don’t need the SEO as much as a dealer would in San Francisco. But all these things—the SEO, pay-for clicks, Facebook, etc.—would be impossible to do by yourself.”

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