March 2/9, 2015; Volume 28/Number 18
By Nadia Ramlakhan
Atlanta—After “driving” for five years, Alliance Flooring has finally arrived at its destination.
At its annual convention held here Feb. 21-24, the group introduced a plethora of programs to help dealers upgrade their showrooms while staying true to this year’s theme: “Renew. Recharge. Refresh.” One such initiative, dubbed Destination, was the star of the show and is expected to be a “game-changing” selling system, according to Kevin Logue, vice president of marketing and co-COO.
Seventy solid colors comprise a new colorwall in the color destination, while a focus on geometric, small-scale and random patterns is included in the pattern destination, officially called Inspired Living. Each is designed as a statement piece to immediately attract customers in the showroom and serve as a new flagship for the company. In addition to offering upscale fashion and design to today’s modern customer, the group’s goal is to provide superior functionality with its performance destination, SpillStop with LifeGuard, which highlights a waterproof backing.
“We see it as the next logical step for this group,” Logue said. “For the first time we had our CarpetsPlus buying committee in Chattanooga going through products with us, helping us make decisions in terms of merchandising and displays. The Destination idea arose from that meeting; dealers were expressing an interest in doing something bolder, modern and more dramatic—something that would make a statement on the floor, set our group apart and take it to the next level.”
Among a total of 10 introductions, other highlights include ColorTile Enhanced Vinyl Plank, featuring a LifeGuard waterproof core and Fold-n-Tap installation system; two groutable ColorTile LVTs, and ColorTile Premium Values Laminate with ArmorMax Finish.
With carpet upping the ante to include added performance benefits and new features such as SpillStop’s revolutionary waterproof backing and Stainmaster PetProtect’s ability to reduce pet odors and release pet hairs, dealers and executives alike are expecting a major comeback. “People with pets would never buy a carpet because they didn’t want to maintain it, but now [manufacturers] are making them pet-friendly,” said Katira Hurst, assistant manager at Floorco in Mandeville, La. “I often had people come in and I was very limited on carpets, but now I have a wider range to sell to my customers.”
Retailers were especially impressed with the new colorwall and feel confident the updated system is the best way to stand out amongst the competition. “For our business in particular, having a tool like that in your store makes the process of helping your customers that much easier,” said Todd Ramsey, co-owner of 3 Kings CarpetsPlus ColorTile in Fort Wayne, Ind. “It’s above and beyond anything we have in our showroom right now. It’s very user-friendly; [customers] can interact with it, touch it, feel it and we can eliminate four or five displays because it encapsulates them all in one.”
Part of the reason Alliance Flooring decided to take the plunge into bolder colors and more striking patterns is an effort to attract the growing number of millennial consumers. Members and executives felt it was time for a change, and in order to appeal to this younger generation of buyers, products had to be designed with high fashion and style in mind to really make a statement while also incorporating a wide array of options to please the older consumer base.
“What we’re seeing with this millennial generation is they’re not afraid to choose a bolder design,” Logue said. “They’re not afraid to express themselves with colors and patterns.”
What had most people talking at the show was not necessarily products or the selling system themselves, but rather the process through which they were developed. Scott Melkonian of Karen’s Advance Floors in Clarkston, Mich., noted that although Alliance Flooring has always encouraged its members to get involved in the decision-making process, this year’s intros relied heavily on their input. “One of the things we’ve always pushed as board members is to be involved,” he said. “Alliance Flooring, good as it is at what it does, isn’t a retailer. [The group] doesn’t live in the day-to-day retail environment and understand the challenges business owners face with sales staff, etc. Our input as retailers is extremely important, and this is the first stepping stone to making that more common.”
Brad Coty of Carpet Brokers of Missoula in Missoula, Mo., was also pleased to learn that Alliance is getting input from members across the country. “The U.S. is such a large, vast area that each region is totally different. My [neighboring town] is Bozeman and next is Billings, and even in that little area those markets are completely different. There was someone from Colorado on that committee thinking in one direction and people from the East Coast thinking in another direction; it works out great.”
Things to come
Improving social media integration and web presence for retailers is another important initiative on the forefront for Alliance. “The way social media is run now is such an important factor of how we’re moving forward with business as a whole,” said Ryan Dunn, vice president of sales and co-COO. “Recycled content doesn’t work anymore. Everything is changing very fast, so we need to stay on the cutting edge of what’s happening.”
After 18 months of researching and planning, the group is ready to take on an updated version of its web program, Alliance Pro Plus, which will deliver ideas as well as content in the form of photos, promotions and more. Another major feature of the new site is its ability to accommodate mobile and tablet devices. As more and more consumers are researching and educating themselves online, Dunn believes being mobile and tablet friendly are priorities for the business.
Alliance recently gained six members and 10 suppliers, but the No. 1 difference between the 2014 and 2015 conventions is the optimism, according to Jon Logue, co-CEO. “The main difference I see is the dealers are upbeat. They are all talking about the great year they’re having, no matter where they are or the weather situation. They see business turning up better than last year. They’re optimistic—about the economy, the business, the group, networking and growing.”