October 13/20, 2014; Volume 28/Number 9
By Ken Ryan
Maui, Hawaii—There’s a changing of the guard atop the National Floorcovering Alliance (NFA) as Dave Snedeker, president-elect of the NFA, prepares to take the baton from outgoing president Phil Koufidakis in January. And while the 42 retail members will notice a change in personalities—from the admittedly “boisterous” Koufidakis to the more soft-spoken Snedeker—in other respects the transition will be virtually seamless.
Snedeker, divisional merchandise manager of flooring at Nebraska Furniture Mart (NFM) who was elected NFA president at the fall conference here, said, “The role of president is more about taking action on what the members want. The members are quick to tell us their wants and needs. I’ve already had three or four conversations at this meeting. That’s great; that is what the group is about. Everybody is equal here. There are very successful people in this group; now it is about how to make it better. That involves us working together and utilizing best practices, calling on each retailer’s expertise.”
Eight of Snedeker’s 21 years at NFM have been spent as an NFA member. He told FCNews that during this time he has learned “how the NFA group moves and what’s best for the team—and that’s sharing best practices.”
To illustrate, Snedeker said some advertising programs he uses at NFM were ideas generated by NFA members.
The goal, according to the incoming president, is to continually engage members and encourage their involvement in a process that makes NFA unique and vibrant; there is tangible evidence that the effort is paying off. Snedeker noted there were “five to six” members vying for each of the board positions voted on during the fall conference. He added that he could not remember that level of engagement in the past.
Koufidakis, whose two-year term as president expires at the end of December, said every member of the NFA has to participate for the association to work. “It’s not the 80/20 rule here. I challenged members to have more participation. Everyone is in this room for a reason and they have things to contribute. No one in here has ever said, ‘No’ when asked to do something for the group, but sometimes we don’t ask.”
With seven Baker Bros. showrooms in the Phoenix area, Koufidakis said the hardest part of the NFA presidency “is giving more than you can possibly give. I’m giving it everything I got. I have a business to run, but I get way more from this group than I give to them.”
When asked if he has any advice for Snedeker on handling the rigors of the job, Koufidakis said, “Dave doesn’t need advice. He is extremely bright and extremely giving and extremely thoughtful. I have become really close to Dave. I nominated Dave for this position and I told him I am honored to nominate him because he is a good guy in the business.
“I am the boisterous, shoot-first, ask-questions-later type. Dave is more thought out, and he will do great.”
Snedeker said he will be “honored” to serve the NFA. “It’s more work but I am already looking forward to it.”
Except for two 10-minute breaks and a one-hour lunch, vendors met with NFA members from 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.—in 20-minute intervals—to discuss products, displays and retail programs.
Eric Mondragon, hard surface buyer for R.C. Willey in Salt Lake City, said he was impressed with the quality of vendor presentations at this particular conference. “They understand the opportunity of seeing the top retailers in the country,” he noted.
And for suppliers such as USFloors, these meetings represent prime opportunities to shine. “To be able to see so many customers in a short time is great,” said Piet Dossche, CEO. “It’s intense, but that’s OK. Where else can you meet face-to-face with 42 of the top retailers in the industry in one day, and in one room?”
But not every meeting went so smoothly. One vendor was roughed up for selling the same product at Home Depot as was offered to specialty dealers, albeit at a slightly different price point. Some retailers were not placated by the small price difference.
Darren Braunstein, vice president at Worldwide Wholesale Floor Coverings, with two New Jersey locations, said some vendors have to go through a learning curve on these issues. “They get all excited about wanting to make a deal with Home Depot and then they get the backlash [from specialty dealers]. Then they try and come up with a separate line. Mannington is not in Home Depot. Armstrong is not in Home Depot; Bruce is, but the two lines are separate. There’s a reason for that.”
In addition to electing Snedeker as the new president, the NFA voted for Jason McSwain of McSwain Flooring in Cincinnati as vice president; Kelly Taylor of Ambassador Floor Co., with locations in Chesterfiled, Mo., and O’Fallon, Ill., as secretary, and Jim Walters of Macco’s Floor Covering Center based in Green Bay, Wis., as treasurer. These two-year terms commence Jan. 1.
In other NFA news…
- The consensus among members is that business is up, on average, 5% to 7% in 2014, with residential replacement the most challenging segment. While it is not the robust growth seen in 2013, 2014 is still showing decent traction.
- The NFA board is taking up the candidacy of The Floor Store, a seven-store operation in Northern California founded by Larry Flick. Flick attended the NFA show as a guest, and The Floor Store will be under consideration for a two-week period. Any member can veto inclusion for any reason. If there are no objections, The Floor Store will become the 43rd member.