February 13/20, 2017: Volume 31, Number 18
By Ken Ryan
Phoenix—There was no shortage of optimism here at the Phoenix Convention Center last month where retail members of Flooring America/Flooring Canada gathered for their winter convention. The conference, themed conneXtion, took place against a backdrop of improving economic conditions and the perception of a more business-friendly environment in Washington.
“I believe dealers and vendors alike are ready to capitalize on what appears to be an economy more willing to spend,” said Casey Dillabaugh, Dillabaugh’s Flooring America in Boise, Idaho. “I noticed an above-average amount of interaction between dealers and vendors, and a couple of vendors voiced their appreciation for the increased activity.”
As a group, Flooring America/ Canada dealers—more than 600 strong—enjoyed sales growth of 6% on average in 2016, outpacing the industry average pegged at 3%. Notably, 73 retailers in the group grew their business more than 20% last year.
“We have the best of the best in this group, and we are feeling bullish for the next few years,” said Keith Spano, president of Flooring America/Flooring Canada, The International Design Guild and Floor Trader. “Consumers feel they have more money in their pockets. Dealers probably feel the new administration is more business friendly and less restrictive for small business. I love it when our members are in a good mood, and they are in a great mood here.”
The conference reinforced the power of collaboration. Members drove home the point that no matter how good you are as a flooring retailer, you could be even better with the help of your network. “It’s always good to be amongst your peers who are more than willing to share ideas,” said Bill Huss, owner and sales manager of D&M Interiors, Appleton, Wis. “My typical goal is to take two solid ideas from the show and implement them as an everyday business practice.”
While all buying groups and cooperatives stress the importance of digital marketing and social media today, Flooring America has been banging that drum for several years. At each winter and summer gathering it takes steps to place a greater emphasis on this emerging medium. At convention each member received a copy of My Digital, a 32-page guide that outlines all online marketing initiatives facilitated by the Flooring America/ Flooring Canada marketing team. “Flooring America is doing a good job keeping us current,” said Jerry Nicholas, manager of Glendora Floor Store in Glendora, Calif. “We are finally getting dragged into the 21st century with the digital marketing, and that’s a good thing.”
Frank Chiera, senior vice president of marketing and advertising, said Flooring America/Canada members are ahead of the pack in terms of understanding the power of digital because they have been at it longer than other flooring retail groups. “Since we started five years ago, there have been competitors who have tried to emulate what we do—which is the biggest form of flattery. However, we know our offerings are superior and we remain steadfast in our commitment to execute smart digital marketing programs that will work hard for our membership.”
Flooring America/Canada is trying to keep current with the shift in product mix as well. Five years ago the group was 55% soft surface; today they are 55% hard surface. “The shift has been incredible,” Spano said. “At the same time we have to find more ways to engage the consumer with carpet and show the value of the product and find better ways to hold margin with hard surface.”
Management has positioned members to take advantage of the exploding WPC/rigid core category with both branded products from the likes of USFloors and its category-leading COREtec as well as private-label goods sold as Downs H2O. Spano said WPC “has breathed badly needed energy” into the industry, so much so that sales of WPC have surpassed that of hardwood and ceramic tile for most of its members.
Flooring America updated its KILZ Tribute paint program with new display racks showing paint chip samples in large 8 x 10-inch sizes. The samples can be taken off the rack, peeled back and affixed to the wall for convenience. To date, 220 members have signed up for the paint program. The program comes with Flooring America’s Ultimate Confidence Warranty, which allows customers to replace the paint color—no questions asked—if she is not satisfied.
Jim Fink, president of Corter’s Flooring America, Williamsport, Pa., said the satisfaction guarantee is the difference maker. “Flooring America covers the labor and the manufacturer takes care of the product—this is a no brainer for the retailer,” he said.
Other convention highlights:
- Flooring America unveiled a new marketing campaign featuring Jen Bertrand, HGTV’s Design Star winner and company spokesperson. Bertrand will be featured in broadcast, digital and print media ads.
- International Design Guild (IDG) members got their first look at the newly rebranded Louis Dabbieri collection as an independent brand with its own website and customer experience, as well as the newly designed IDG members’ websites. The new responsive websites provide consumers with a seamless experience across multiple devices, including desktop, mobile and tablets.
- The marketing team completed the rebranding of The Floor Trader Group, which includes a new showroom design and social media program. Launching in 2017 will be The Floor Trader channel—FTX, which is dedicated to showing DIY design videos for consumers that can be viewed on YouTube, the websites and in stores.