FCA Network gives dealers chance to thrive

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March 14/21, 2016; Volume 30, Number 19

By Ken Ryan

Chicago—Richard Quinlan, co-owner of DownRight Floors in Abbotsford, B.C., was in business for only about a year when he realized he needed a lifeline. Quinlan said the store was situated in a competitive retail market and was paying higher prices buying through distribution.

He searched the web for retail groups and found FCA Network 1,700 miles away in Illinois. “We started to have conversations and we quickly realized it would be beneficial for us,” he said during FCA Network’s spring event here. “We have one store and it was difficult for us to compete. Joining FCA Network completely changed all that. Having access to premium accounts that we couldn’t touch in the past and getting better pricing has changed everything for us. We wouldn’t be here without them.”

Don Lovato, owner of Carpet Source in Albuquerque, N.M., shares Quinlan’s sentiment. “We joined 12 years ago, and I wouldn’t be in business if it wasn’t for them, there is no doubt about that,” he said. “I hear from so many people who say, ‘Why did you go with a buying group?’ I tell them it’s about finding the right group that fits your needs because they are not all the same.”

For Carpet Source, gaining access to private label brands and favorable pricing made all the difference. “As an independent you are so exposed if you don’t have a private label line. Otherwise, you can be commoditized and get priced out of the market. FCA has afforded me a way to make a profit and stay in business.”

Other dealers attending the event provided similar endorsements, saying that FCA Network is unique because it is comprised of and led by retailers who understand the issues other dealers encounter.

Bill Graybeal, owner of Graybeal’s Carpet Plus in Logansport, Ind., joined FCA in 1998 as one of the first members. He has seen the group evolve from primarily a Midwestern network to essentially a North American buying group with coverage in Canada as well as the Southeast and Southwest U.S. “It’s gotten better and sharper over the years,” he said. “Olga [Robertson, FCA Network’s president] is a great ambassador for our business. She brings us a great selection of merchandise and goes to bat for us on pricing that a little independent couldn’t possibly get [on its own]. And the caliber of people at this show is a testament to Bob [Hill, founder and owner of FCA] and Olga. When Randy Merritt [president, Shaw Industries] comes up to you, puts his arm around your shoulder and asks, ‘What can we do for you?’ that’s pretty impressive.”

FCA Network welcomed two new members to the group, which now consists of 56 retailers, including two from Canada. “Every year it seems to get better and better,” Robertson said. “2015 was good for our members and 2016 is off to a great start. Purchases are up, rebates and membership are up, and attitudes are positive.”

The theme of the spring event was “Retail Evolution: Then and Now.”

In his keynote speech, Hill read a letter his father-in-law, a businessman, wrote 40 years ago that illustrated how sound business principles really don’t change over time. “Know your product, bring imaginative ideas, be honest; if you don’t know the answer say you will find out the answer. Each day brings with it new opportunities; you need to seize them.”

Keith Campbell, chairman of Mannington, spoke about how small businesses are the lifeblood of the American economy and do a much better job serving customers than larger, publicly traded companies.

He said Mannington has operated under a core set of values for 100 years. “No. 1 is doing the right thing. Doing the right thing is hard but it is the No. 1 multiplier in bringing success to your business and is often what separates a small business from a larger public enterprise. No. 2 is caring for your associates, for your customers, for your community and for your environment. No. 3 is controlling your own destiny; that is important five to 10 years out as well as for the next generation. And No. 4 is to work hard and play hard; have a life beyond work.”

New products and programs

Robertson unveiled several new lines to the group, each with favorable pricing terms. New offerings include:

  • The Cut A Rug program from Tuftex
  • 10 Mohawk SmartStrand “silk style” products
  • A residential line of solution-dyed nylon from Engineered Floors’ DreamWeaver
  • A laminate line from Provenza that mimics hardwood

Two new private label brands introduced were a Happy Feet LVP click display and a Shaw Epic hardwood collection: Brookline Mills. “We want to do more business with Shaw in hard surface; they’re a great partner,” Robertson told members.

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