Carpet One at 30: Group stays true to core values on which it was founded

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January 19/26, 2015; Volume 28/Number 15

By Amanda Haskin

National Harbor, Md.—Carpet One’s annual winter convention took place earlier this month here, and the event can only be described as one big family reunion—without the drama.

“The walk from the hotel check-in to the elevator took me a half hour because I ran into 10 people I know,” said John Taylor of Taylor Carpet One in Fort Myers, Fla. “We’re always so happy to see one another. It really is the people that make this organization great.”

But this wasn’t just any convention—it marked the co-op’s 30th anniversary. The organization, with an original business plan written on the back of an envelope back in 1985, started out with only 13 members and has seen seismic growth in the past three decades. Today, Carpet One members in the aggregate make up the largest retail group in the industry with nearly 1,000 locations in every U.S. state, Canada, New Zealand and Australia.

Despite Carpet One’s impressive expansion, the core values upon which the company was founded are still very much present, which is arguably what makes it the success it has been.

“What resonates with most people is how much we still care about each of our members,” noted Howard Brodsky, co-founder, chairman and co-CEO of CCA Global Partners. “We were a small family; now we’re just a bigger family. I went from having two kids to 20, but at the end of the day I still love all my kids.”

Sandy Mishkin, president of CCA Global Partners, echoed Brodsky’s sentiment. “The thing that has always stayed the same and the reason we’ve been successful is we always put our members first. If the members are successful, we’re going to be successful. That was always the cornerstone and we’ve never wavered from it.”

When asked how things have changed in 30 years, he answered, “Size slows you down. You lose the ability to be nimble, but we always try to keep that sense of intimacy. I took in the first 200 members personally. Now we have a membership director. The professionalism is better now, of course, as is the ability to accomplish big things. But there was something about being down in the trenches with your friends. No one had ever heard of a co-op, so there was that risk factor. But we’ve proven that we’re very good at what we do. How can 2,000 people be wrong, and how can they be wrong for 30 years?”

This sense of longevity is not lost on the members. “There are so many people who have been here practically since the group’s inception,” said Marty Cohen, owner of Valley Carpet One in Van Nuys, Calif., and a member since 1990. “I think that says a lot. You can see that mentality trickling down into our stores. I have an installation crew that has been with us for 25 years. You don’t see that a lot, so to have that steadiness, especially in this industry, is something of an enigma.”

Joel Schreier, president of Home Carpet One in Chicago, has been coming to these conventions for 12 years with one exception—the one he missed because he was in the hospital. “I almost ripped the IV out to get out of the hospital to come here,” he joked. “The best thing about Carpet One is the intimacy. Management is always so accessible and responsive, and they give us the same service we try to give our customers. The programs are buffet-style, so you choose what works for you. The beauty of the group is the individualism that allows. We own the co-op; the co-op doesn’t own us.”

The a la carte menu of programs, along with its exclusive brands, has long been a part of what makes Carpet One stand out. One such program, the SelectAFloor system, got a makeover this year and was unveiled at convention. Some changes include redesigned cards featuring an icon system for product attributes and new easy-to-carry handles; six lifestyle categories including Eclectic, Stylish, Tried & True, Work Spaces, Inspired and Confident; and style banners and graphic trend stories brought to life by new fashion photography.

Theresa Fisher, senior vice president of visual merchandising, said the attributes of the revamped SelectAFloor system received several rounds of applause and a room full of seemingly relieved members.

The reason that these changes seem to speak directly to the members’ wants and needs is no coincidence. In the year leading up to this unveiling, Carpet One polled many of its members to find out what was working and what was not.

“We were polled at two different conventions about the SelectAFloor system,” explained Charles Whitt, owner of Whitt Carpet One in Salem, Va., “and so these changes came out of what we wanted. Carpet One cherishes what we think and doesn’t just decide what we need. The changes refresh the entire system and maintain its value while eliminating redundancy. They did a great job and we’re really excited about it.”

The makeover was in the works for about a year and a half. Fisher explained how the changes came about. “We monitor our programs constantly. Different members were using the SelectAFloor system in different ways; some were using it as a library and others as a selling system. We really wanted to create consistency in the way it was being used and also keep it relevant. So we started holding meetings with our members at the advisory councils and RNG [Regional Network Group] coordinator meetings, and we also hired a firm to do in-depth interviews with our members to find out what they liked and what they didn’t.

“We also worked with a fashion stylist and photographer on our trend graphics,” she continued. “Emily Morrow from Shaw [the company’s director of styling] gave us insight into emerging trends she sees, and out of those trends we built these stories.”

The new designs were a big hit at the convention, sparking a good deal of chatter and praise. “These are great improvements,” Cohen said. “The designs are very current, eye-catching and fresh. There’s now a sense of ease to the presentation. It helps the consumer spark an idea and say, ‘You know what? That’s what I was thinking of doing.’ Anything that helps the customer get ideas puts us in a positive light.”

Another new product introduced at convention was Tigressa carpet with H2O technology, which features carpet backing that is not latexed to tufted carpet fibers, which means liquids, included pet urine, cannot soak through to the cushion or subfloor. The fusion-bonded backing also creates a tuft bind that stands up to pet claws. In addition, new technology makes it resistant to stains and odors, and both the carpet and backing are 100% recyclable.

The impenetrability of Tigressa with H2O was demonstrated at Thursday’s general session, where CCA Global’s chief product officer, Charlie Dilks, ended up drenched by standing under the wrong carpet. Sandy Mishkin fared much better under the H2O-backed carpet, coming out without a drop of water on him.

“The new technology is fascinating,” said Catherine Buchanan, showroom manager at Independent Carpet One in Westland, Mich. “We don’t typically talk technology with our consumers, but the visual presentations of the new programs allow us to make it simple for our customers.”

Other introductions at this year’s convention include new LVT products within Carpet One’s Invincible line, and a new high-bulk triexta fiber going into the group’s Innovia line.

Carpet One president Eric Demaree summed up the group’s general message, both at convention and beyond. “Providing tools that help small independents compete more effectively and sustain profitable growth is what motivates us. You can’t do that by just being a buying group—you have to provide marketing, management, technology, operational excellence and training. It was the whole bundle of packages that accelerated the growth of the company. But at the core of it is the members themselves—the networking, the sharing of best practices and ideas, the camaraderie, the family. That hasn’t changed a bit.”

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