February 5/12, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 17
By Ken Ryan
Grapevine, Texas—Fresh off a year in which it achieved its highest purchase volume in 11 years, Carpet One Floor & Home convened its winter convention here with a strong tailwind that portends an even stronger 2018.
“You translate purchase volume into sales,” Eric Demaree, president of Carpet One, told FCNews. “We have strong economic indicators. Our overall performance was two times higher than the industry average, and a lot of that is coming from LVT and ceramic.”
In 2017, CCA members generated $250 million in LVT sales (including WPC and rigid core products), and the category continues to grow at unprecedented rates, according to Charlie Dilks, chief product officer for the co-op. Ceramic and wood are healthy as well while laminate now represents less than 3% of the business.
Overall, carpet shrank in 2017 although the rate of decline slowed to 45% compared to 55% hard surface. Residential carpet volume improved in the fourth quarter for members, Dilks said, and will likely get a boost now that Engineered Floors and its DreamWeaver brand is part of the group. EF’s acquisition of Beaulieu’s assets served as an entree for Bob Shaw’s company to join the co-op.
Demaree referred to EF as “the bright new shiny penny.” However, Carpet One dealers see dollar signs. “The color, style, design and price of the DreamWeaver brand is excellent—there is perceived value there,” said Heather Gollihur, owner, Carpet Master Carpet One, Champaign, Ill., who noted that EF’s emergence “will make all the other mills sharpen their pencils.”
Craig Dunn, manager at Miller’s Carpet One, Seaside, Calif., said he is “thrilled to death” that EF has been added as a vendor. “There is a niche they are in that we weren’t getting anywhere else. They’ll fit in well with this group. They always have plenty of stock—as a lot of their product is stocked on the West Coast, which is a big deal for us because of our location and for the fact people want product now.”
Palmer Johnson, manager at Johnson Carpet One Floor & Home, Tulsa, Okla., added, “with Beaulieu out [EF] is filling a void. You have a vertically integrated company that is very competitive.”
EF’s DreamWeaver brand is a strong player in PET, which is now over 50% of the residential replacement market, according to industry observers. What’s more, EF is a leader in cost efficiencies, another reason for their desirability among retailers. To no one’s surprise, the EF booth was the busiest during the two-day trade show portion of Carpet One, and executives appreciated the retail love. “We are incredibly excited to be here,” said Mike Sanderson, vice president of product marketing. Told that many Carpet One members urged the CCA executive team to bring on EF, Will Young, director of national accounts, said, “grassroots efforts usually work. It just takes time. We have a product line that can be sold to just about anyone who walks into a flooring store.”
DreamWeaver introduced its Resista line to Carpet One dealers. Available in 30 styles, Resista makes up half of the group’s polyester offerings.
Online leads and follow-up
The question was asked during the convention: Why does CCA continue to focus on digital marketing even though store traffic is trending down? As executives pointed out, people don’t shop like they used to, and they certainly don’t browse flooring stores. To attract consumers, Carpet One has invested significantly in digital media—including paid search, SEO and SEM. “Our website presence is amazing,” Demaree said. “Our members, when they get the opportunity to engage with a customer, are pretty good at getting the business.”
The fact is, however, few companies (across all industries) are good at following up on online leads, and studies show these lapses are costly. Harvard Business Review audited 2,241 U.S. companies to measure how long each took to respond to a web-generated lead. The results: 37% responded to their lead within one hour; 16% responded between one and 24 hours; 24% took more than 24 hours, and 23% of the companies never responded at all.
These results are especially shocking given how quickly online leads go cold—a phenomenon it explored in a separate study that involved 1.25 million sales leads received by 29 B2C and 13 B2B companies in the U.S. Companies that tried to contact potential customers within an hour of receiving a query were nearly seven times as likely to qualify the lead (defined as having a meaningful conversation with a key decision maker) as those that tried to contact the customer even an hour later—and more than 60 times as likely as companies that waited 24 hours or longer.
Similarly, a paper written and published by MIT professor James Oldroyd found that the chance of qualifying a lead drops to 10% after the first hour, and that no leads were qualified past the 10-hour mark.
To increase its conversion rate Carpet One emphasizes training and encourages owners to certify their sales professionals. Certification entails an annual knowledge assessment that RSAs must pass to earn professional development hours leading to certification. “I highly encourage every one of our flooring dealers to take the exam and to put the accreditation on their business card,” Demaree said. “I don’t give my taxes to someone whose card doesn’t say ‘CPA,’ so why would consumers buy from a sales associate who doesn’t have the proper credentials.”
Beyond flooring initiative
Carpet One announced a partnership with Serta Simmons Bedding. The “Sleep Boutique” program is being tested with eight members. The upside: higher profit margins, no inventory in member stores and no installation worries. The downside: it takes up showroom space. Chris Taylor, owner of CarpetMaster, Latham, N.Y., has mattresses in two locations and has enjoyed success. “Be fully committed before you begin,” he told members.