August 6/13, 2018: Volume 34, Issue 4
By Lindsay Baillie
Montreal, Canada—Keep it simple. That was one of the main themes to emerge from the Flooring America/Flooring Canada convention held here last month. To that end, management adopted a streamlined exhibition area to drive home the benefits and effectiveness of a simpler retail showroom layout.
Keith Spano, president of Flooring America and Flooring Canada, discussed the logic behind the new format. “Our stores tend to be over merchandised,” he told FCNews. “There are so many products in there and so much duplication. For the first time we are just going to show our core, proprietary products on the show floor—that way we are cutting out the clutter.”
Retail members like what they are seeing. “We need a simplistic approach to our showroom,” said Gayle Maestri, co-owner, Noel Maestri’s Flooring America, Covington, La. “Flooring America does a lot of homework, which makes it easier.”
Abe Drissi, president, Flooring America, Ashburn, Va., agreed. “The focus on streamlining and decluttering the showroom is very nice,” he said. “I like the fact they just want to focus on the vendors who support us.”
The streamlined merchandising approach dovetails nicely with the group’s focus on core brands and high-growth categories. According to Cathey Gundlach, vice president of merchandising, the group’s overall success is being driven by luxury vinyl in the multilayer product segment. “We are up double digits in that category, and that is of course trending across all of our hard surface products,” she said. “We are outpacing the industry in hard surfaces overall, and that is taking share from our soft surface.”
Flooring America/Flooring Canada’s new product line extensions reflect this trend. One of the group’s major product launches is another phase of exclusive luxury vinyl tile. According to Gundlach, management has converted 12-foot laminate section displays to now feature the new luxury vinyl products.
Despite hard surface’s domination across the industry, Flooring America/Flooring Canada is not turning its back on carpet. Quite the contrary—the group unveiled an exciting soft goods program that utilizes the latest manufacturing technology. “On this introduction, the mill we have partnered with has [identified the main objections to carpet] and reverse engineered a fiber to answer those objections,” Gundlach explained.
What’s more, the new carpet introduction will use repurposed displays, which helps save members money. “We made a commitment to our members that we are going to create a display system where there will be no more throwing out displays and buying new ones,” Spano explained. The repurposing of carpet and laminate displays, he noted, are steps toward fulfilling that commitment.
“Building Buzz,” a driving and recurring theme of the Flooring America/Flooring Canada summer conventions, is not just about showcasing new core products and enhancing the showroom experience for consumers. It is also about highlighting the group’s latest digital marketing programs. At convention the group unveiled a host of updated and new initiatives, including digital visualization tools, geo-fencing and automated marketing.
“It is our job to create programs that members could not do on their own, because it is too expensive to do alone,” Spano explained. “At the end of the day, we want to create a legacy for our members and show them how to work on their business and not so much in their business.”
During the general session, Spano explained the development of these digital programs are meant to help bridge the gap between a member’s digital space and his or her physical retail showroom. Since more consumers are starting their journey online, it is important for members to focus on the “phygital” space (a combination of both their physical and digital experience), Spano explained.
Echoing Spano’s sentiments was guest speaker Brad Grossman, founder and CEO, Zeitguide, who talked to members about the changing consumer landscape, how the workforce is evolving and how dealers must adapt to stay relevant. During his conversation with Spano, Grossman referenced the growing importance of digital and a need to embrace the phygital space.
One of the tools to help members thrive in this area is Drive, a completely automated marketing platform that combines everything from the group’s CRM system and old marketing platform to social media into one program. In addition to presenting members with measureable marketing, Drive has the capabilities to send highly personalized messages to leads across the purchasing journey. “Our new Drive system allows us to really get to know our customer,” Spano explained.
Flooring America and Flooring Canada members will also have the option to participate in two other initiatives: Updater and Rug.Shop. Updater is an app that helps consumers who are in the process of moving. How it works: By participating in this program, Flooring America and Flooring Canada members will have multiple opportunities to put their businesses in front of people who are likely to purchase flooring before or after fully moving into their new homes.
Meanwhile, Rug.Shop provides members with an e-commerce platform that is integrated into the dealer’s website. Members who participate in this program do not have to worry about stocking inventory, updating product information online or dealing with returns, according to Carole Cross, founder and CEO of Mobile Marketing, which developed the program.
In addition to the Drive, Updater and Rug.Shop, members are able to take full advantage of Comm Creative, the group’s new marketing agency, which has the ability to create a complete, comprehensive marketing program for members. As Spano explained: “It is a complete program for members whereby the agency goes in on a local level and helps them understand where they should target customers.”
Flooring America dealers are excited about the new initiatives. “The digital and marketing programs look great,” Drissi said. “Drive looks great, and I like the Updater and Rug.Shop programs as well. I tried to do [rug e-commerce] on my own a few years ago and ran into major problems. This makes it easier.”
Kevin Pomeroy, co-owner, D&M Interiors, Appleton, Wis., also sees value in the digital and marketing programs. “I want to use them all. It is going to make things easier and make us better, and it will also make us stand out.”
That, of course, is the name of the game. According to Spano, nearly a third of members are up 22% in 2018. What’s more, he believes the group on the whole will be seeing mid- to high-single digit growth by the end of the year. “It has actually been a relatively strong year so far,” Spano stated. “The Northeast struggled a little bit during the winter, because we had a couple of rough months, but in general I think everyone is happy.”