For many dealers, less is more

Home Inside FCNews For many dealers, less is more

In limiting number of suppliers, retailers can sharpen their expertise

January 16/23, 2017: Volume 31, Number 16

By Reginald Tucker

In retail, the natural tendency is to strive to offer as much variety as possible to ensure a diverse product selection for wide-ranging consumer tastes. But as counterintuitive as it may seem, many floor covering dealers are choosing to limit their list of suppliers as a means to streamline their operations.

For dealers like Barbara Clements, owner of Al’s Carpet Flooring & Design Service in Machesney Park, Ill., it was a necessity. “We recently relocated to a smaller space so we are embracing the concept of ‘less is more,’” she said. “You don’t have to display everything you have to prove your capability of selling.”

When Clements first started in the business she had “tons” of vinyl samples in her store. But after looking at the numbers, she did some soul searching. “I realized if I’m not selling that much vinyl, why should I dedicate that much space to it? The less is more concept helps us simplify our buying process.”

Bobby Merideth, Flooring America OKC, Oklahoma City, basically follows the same principle. In fact, he attributes a spike in business and profitability on a major vendor restructuring. “The best move we made was to reduce the number of brands we sell and, therefore, the number of displays occupying our showroom floor. The reduction of displays enables cleaner site lines for our clients with no perceivable reduction in options. In addition, it allows us to drive more business through fewer suppliers, thereby reducing our distribution costs and providing our suppliers with more business.”

Not everyone is scaling back, however. Retailers like Tudor Carpet One Floor & Home, Valparaiso, Ind., is actually adding suppliers. “This year we plan on diversifying our inventory so we can offer a variety of products at a more discounted price that can [undercut] our competition,” said Jan Stump Tudor, owner. “But with a more diverse stock, our inventory will need to stay depleted because you never know what will truly sell. This adds another layer of difficulty because everyone wants their order that same day and box stores have everything immediately available.”

Some dealers are taking a wait-and-see approach. Michael Benjamin, owner of Kerman’s Flooring, Indianapolis, doesn’t expect to add or delete suppliers on a large scale. Rather, he’s looking at possibly making substitutions while keeping the overall supplier count relatively low. “There may not be any major changes, but more of a slight adjustment when it comes to the products we sell,” he explained. “It all depend on the public’s demand.”

For instance, a year ago WPC was not even on Benjamin’s radar. That taught him a valuable lesson. “I did not pay any mind to the WPC product and now it is starting to take over the market. My goal is to keep an open mind and listen to my customers so my store can aim to provide the exact inventory they need.”

Mike May, owner of May’s Lone Star Flooring, with branches in Texas and Atlanta, is pretty much in the same boat. While he expects his inventory will expand this year, he feels it will be more of an upgrade as opposed to a general expansion of brands. “There are always new products being made, and it is our job to offer the best and newest ones.”

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