Carpet: Suppliers strive to help dealers achieve greater profits

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November 9/16; Volume 30/Number 11

By Ken Ryan

Carpet manufacturers have a vested interest in helping their retail partners’ success, whether that means offering higher-end goods, online training programs or effective merchandising systems.

“It’s simple,” said Mike Sanderson, vice president of marketing, Engineered Floors. “If our customers are not successful, neither are we.”

Manufacturers and retailers often talk about the importance of trading up customers. To that end, Mike Lindbergh, executive vice president at Marquis Industries/Best Buy, said those in the carpet business could learn a few things from other industries. “The automotive industry has done a great job getting consumers into their dealerships and selling them upgrades and features that the customer did not initially have in mind. But they leave excited with their new vehicle and all the bells and whistles that added thousands of dollars to the transaction.”

Two years ago Marquis Industries made a commitment to add more fashionable products of higher quality to its lineup. The addition was successful, Lindbergh said. “We came out with three new series of 45 oz. to 65 oz. products that were well constructed. Soft hands, which are a must with consumers, and a high twist gave our products a great visual and superior performance.”

He added that with the updated offerings Marquis’ dealers learned that consumers are willing to spend extra if they are convinced the added benefits of buying luxurious carpet are worth it in the long run.

Engineered Floors and its Dream Weaver brand offer several comprehensive collections of various constructions, fiber types and price points that have allowed its retail customers to remain profitable in an increasingly competitive market. “By maintaining this commitment to our customers we have all remained successful year after year,” Sanderson said.

Phenix is another mill that puts success of its dealer base—which includes 90% of the National Floorcovering Alliance (NFA)—at the forefront of its strategic planning. As such, Phenix focuses on two key components: extreme value and unparalleled service. “We offer exceptional products to dealers at a price that helps them move the merchandise and enjoy profit,” said Susan Curtis, vice president of marketing and product development. “However, stellar products at an affordable cost do not offer our customers success if the products are not available when required.”

Phenix uses high quality yarns in their respective categories—SureSoft, SureSoftSD (PET) and SuperiaSD type 6,6 nylon, which is branded as PetProtect by Stainmaster.

Karastan helps retailers become more profitable simply because it is one of the most prestigious names in soft surface luxury. “Not just anyone can be a Karastan dealer,” noted Seth Arnold, residential brand director for Mohawk, owner of the Karastan brand. “It is an exclusive opportunity.”

Similarly, Shaw’s luxury Tuftex brand provides dealers with a high-end product not easily found or replicated. The Tuftex product team is accustomed to designing carpet constructions that aren’t always typical or easy to manufacture by blending unique yarn combinations.

Selling systems

Invista offers several programs designed to help retailers be more successful. The Stainmaster selling system is one such display featuring special product collections that allow RSAs to trade up consumers to better quality goods that generate higher margins. “Shoppers are more likely to spend money on brands they are familiar with or hold places in their minds as offering better quality,” said Gary Johnston, senior marketing manager. “As such, we have spent millions of dollars creating the industry’s most recognized and trusted brand in Stainmaster.”

Beyond product innovations, Shaw Floors has developed numerous methods for making the shopping experience easier and more enjoyable for customers.

Awesome Happens, for example, is a Shaw branding and marketing platform meant to support retail sales. “Today’s consumers are researching their flooring options online,” said Trey Thames, vice president, residential marketing and product management, Shaw Industries. “In addition, design trends have changed, making it possible to replace flooring in one room, which is actually a benefit to sales. In previous decades the preference was for one color and one type of flooring throughout the entire home. Today there’s more variety. You can mix and match different colors and surfaces to create distinctive looks in each room. That is much less daunting than updating an entire home at one time and can result in more frequent flooring purchases by being able to take on smaller, more manageable projects.”

Awesome Happens plays into these trends by providing what Thames called “a compelling, emotional message for human connection” and leveraging relatively affordable online channels where potential purchasers are already looking, such as Houzz and Pinterest, while still offering a suite of dealer materials that can be customized to fit their marketing needs.

Similarly, Shaw’s Floorvana app was introduced to help customer selection and to provide dealers with a tool to facilitate product choice. “It puts the showroom in their pocket via a mobile device or tablet,” Thames said. “A consumer can upload a photo of the room in which the flooring would go or another inspirational image” that coordinates with her tastes or home designs.

The Floorvana app can be customized for dealers to use in their showrooms or during a home consultation to showcase only those products available from their stores.

Training and programs

Major mills continue to devote time and money to updated training programs to help keep their staffs and dealer partners on the cutting edge of sales methods. Mohawk’s investment in lead generation, for example, helps its retailers garner business they typically would not. “We’re meeting that carpet consumer out where she is—online,” Arnold said. “All of our digital efforts are focused on finding her online and bringing her into the store. Today’s consumer who walks into a store already knows what color and style she is looking for.”

Shaw’s Total Business Transformation (TBT) provides a customized approach to help dealers achieve their goals. Through TBT the company provides an executive coach to support its retailer customers in the areas of leadership, people management, strategy, vision and producing better results. “The dealers who have gone through this program have seen their margins and sales increase as a result,” Thames said. “Our TBT needs assessment helps them define what is most important for their businesses and we provide tailored solutions as a result. That could mean a strategic planning workshop or series of workshops to initiate a culture change. Or it could be as simple as providing tools for financial benchmarking.”

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