May 25/June 1, 2015; Volume 29/Number 4
By Nadia Ramlakhan
Floor covering retailers with years of experience in the business know that when it comes to closing a sale, half the battle is having the right displays. While basic showroom guidelines are still necessary to sell Main Street products, there are some differences that should be noted.
Separate it from residential
Dealers don’t mix their wood products with carpet, so why should Main Street be any different? These products should be set up in a designated area away from offerings suited for residential use. Although homeowners are beginning to buy commercial products like carpet tile for areas such as basements, playrooms or home gyms, small business owners in the market for flooring don’t want to waste their time browsing through products that can’t do the job.
“You need an area that is dedicated to commercial,” said Rick Smith, commercial manager for Watkins Floor Covering in Jacksonville, N.C. “It should be consolidated in one geographic area so customers don’t have to wander all over the store to find various products.”
Create space to work
Unlike residential jobs, putting flooring down in small businesses often involves working with multiple rooms: lobbies, waiting areas, restrooms, break rooms, etc. Consequently, dealers and customers have to work together to find the best product for each room and create a schedule that allows for a timely installation without shutting down the business. Smith suggests creating a workspace where the customer can see various options. “We have a conference table where we can spread everything out,” he said. “It’s centrally located and has plenty of room to move things around. It’s really convenient for the customer to go over a wide array of choices, especially if she wants coordinating colors or looks in different rooms.”
Main Street customers aren’t browsing; chances are if they are in the market for flooring they want the job done as quickly as possible. “People who come in looking for our Main Street products are not browsers,” said Chris Williams, president and owner of OC Floor Gallery in Ocean City, Md. “They say, ‘I have a dentist’s office and I’m looking for something durable.’”
A showroom means little if the customer can’t navigate it, so be sure to offer help every step of the way. Sales associates should lead customers to the best Main Street product to suit their needs and help them make selections. “We walk them through the entire process,” Williams said. “The Main Street customer is usually asking for help, so we’re very hands-on with the selection process. We take them through the pros and cons and if they come in with a designer we show her where everything is.”
Architectural folders are key during the Main Street sales process. While residential customers want to see product down on the floor, feel samples and visualize it in their own homes, commercial customers have more factors to take into consideration. “We use a lot of architectural folders that leave the store and go home with the prospective client,” Smith said. “Doctors, dentists and attorneys in particular want everyone to look at options. Most of them don’t even pick the product themselves; they either have an office manager or a wife who’s more in tune with colors and design.”
Architectural folders usually contain room scenes, which are essential for Main Street customers. It allows them to see the development of the patterns when planning for multiple rooms.
Feature a wide variety
In the past, Main Street customers were more concerned with price and paid very little attention to style and design. Recently, fashion has become more prominent in the industry and is a major influence on the buying decision. With so many styles, colors and patterns available for commercial use today, dealers should offer a wide selection in their stores and not be afraid to offer upgrades.
“Business conditions are improving rapidly,” said Troy Wonnacott, owner of Bassett Carpets in Longmont, Colo. “Shopping for floors used to be, ‘What can we get for the least amount of money?’ The options weren’t very pretty and customers understood the floors would have to be replaced in two to five years. Now, business owners and managers are looking at higher value products for longer terms. They are more willing to spend on the front end for a fashionable product and understand they can get 15 or more years of wear out of it.”