October10/17, 2016: Volume 31, Number 9
By Ken Ryan
Pittsburgh—All buying groups use networking opportunities and best practices to educate their members. CarpetsPlus Colortile is going one step further with its biennial summit meetings where one member retailer hosts other floor covering dealers in a show-and-tell format.
This year SP Floors & Design Gallery of Canonsburg, Pa. unveiled the group’s first fully furnished Destination showroom. Introduced in 2015, Destination started as a carpet boutique within the showroom and expanded to include hard surfaces and displays that emphasize fashion and color.
Stacey Pape, owner of SP Floors, reflected on the implementation of the Destination format. In building her store—a former Ethan Allen showroom—she wanted to create an environment that was more fun and enjoyable for customers. “We wanted something different, something people would talk about—a showroom that was off the wall and bizarre but when put together it is pretty neat.”
SP Floors spans 12,000 square feet, including warehouse space. The Destination portfolio includes 10 displays featuring banners such as Color Destination, Performance Destination, Fashion Destination and Design Destination. CarpetsPlus dealers have the option of taking on as many displays as they choose or none at all—it is up to them. In creating a more fun environment for customers, SP Floors cordoned off an area just off the entrance where customers can sit, have a drink or snack, watch television, pet Aspen (the company’s mascot) or discuss their needs with sales associates.
Another focal point is the 400-square-foot builder selection center. Two-thirds of Pape’s business, or $4 million a year, is generated from the builder trade. Several years ago, SP Floors partnered with Maronda Homes, a large builder in western Pennsylvania, to create the new department. Maronda Home buyers can make an appointment to visit the showroom and select new carpeting, flooring, countertop and cabinetry options through a spreadsheet program with drop-down menu options.
“What’s really nice about it is we’re able to help the homeowner pull it all together in one place,” Pape said. While the initial set-up for the builder selection center took some time, she said it all works seamlessly in the end. In all, SP Floors works with 10 builders that service the local market.
Pape started SP Floors from scratch in 2009, at a time when the builder business was in the tank. Today hers is a $6 million enterprise. “Stacey built an amazing business in seven years out of nothing,” said Ron Dunn, co-CEO of Alliance Flooring, which oversees CarpetsPlus Colortile.
Dealers react favorably
CarpetsPlus Colortile dealers who attended the event applaud the new Destination format. Josh Elder, owner of Gainesville CarpetsPlus Colortile, who is on the buying committee that has been developing this program, said he loves the 56-pin carpet displays because they free up so much room. “It’s like I told one of my reps: ‘Every inch of my showroom has a cost associated with it, and I want the biggest bang for my buck.’ What I am seeing is the manufacturers are also embracing this concept and coming out with new private-labeled products, which is one of the big reasons for being in a group. Plus, it was time for an overhaul of our old displays that are now 10-plus years old.”
Elder is not alone. Paul Schallberg, co-owner of Star Flooring & Design, Boulder, Colo., says the seamless layout of SP Floors makes it easy to move from one department to another. “The Destination concept is something we are excited about. It is bringing the best products from the premier carpet mills and hard surface manufacturers in an easy-to-use, easy-to-sell private- labeled display program. We are definitely all in.”
The Destination program will be fully launched at the group’s annual convention in Atlanta. In the meantime, CarpetsPlus is seeking input from members on what elements—i.e., marketing tools, upgraded website, private-labeled merchandising programs—are important in driving the Destination program. “Our goal is to get everyone who has been here to this summit to get on board,” Dunn said.
During the Summit, members got a sneak peek at Web Pro 3.0, the group’s new online digital marketing program offering search engine optimization, a monthly Google Analytics report and other tools that can be customized for members. “We’ve gotten nothing but positive reviews,” said David Ellis, advertising and public relations manager for CarpetsPlus Colortile, who gave a demo of the program during the summit. “They really love the update, they think it’s fantastic.”
From fresh merchandising concepts to selling aids and tools, it’s all designed to boost sales and profits for members. “The purpose of a summit is for members to leave with a few things they can take away for their businesses,” Dunn explained.