April 1/8, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 22
By Lindsay Baillie
Chattanooga, Tenn.—The momentum of FCA Network’s 20th anniversary conference in Puerta Vallarta, Mexico, last year seemed to spill over into the group’s annual meeting this year as enthusiastic members gathered to network, share best practices and learn about new products and programs.
According to Olga Robertson, president, FCA Network, roughly 80% of members were in attendance. “We have come off a very successful 2018,” she told members during the general session. “In the next three days we hope to inspire confidence for what’s in store in the coming year.”
To that end, the three-day convention, themed “Get on Board…Your Destination is Clear,” kicked off with a keynote from Piet Dossche, CEO of USFloors and executive vice president of hard surfaces, Shaw Industries, who urged members to become disrupters in their markets. The event also featured an interactive presentation from Bob Phibbs, owner of The Retail Doctor, a retail consulting company. In his spirited talk, he shared ways the group can compete in today’s aggressive landscape.
One of the main highlights of the conference actually took place off-site. FCA Network arranged mill tours to Shaw Industries’ LVP plant and Engineered Floors’ Dreamweaver carpet manufacturing facility—hence the selection of Chattanooga as a conference site, given its proximity to the major carpet mills. “For many of the members this is their first time visiting a mill,” Robertson explained. “And because of the tours, we have some members who brought their sales team with them.”
Patrick Ginley, partner, J & P Custom Floor Covering, Ridgeville, Ohio, and a member of FCA Network for 16 years, told FCNews this was his first opportunity to see a mill. “After 40 years in the business I was excited to go,” he said. “It was pretty neat, and I learned more about the products.”
Buddy Mitchell, owner, Simply Floors, Wheat Ridge, Colo., and a FCA Network member for four years, shared in Ginley’s enthusiasm. “I’m excited about the mill tours. I’ve never been to one before.”New vendors, products
Members also had the opportunity to spend time with the network’s key vendor partners during the product showcase. Here, FCA Network dealers were given approximately 20 minutes to discuss new products and deals with exhibitors in a round-robin format.
“We got such great response from members in Puerto Vallarta that we decided to do the round-robin format again,” Robertson said. “It gives the members an opportunity to see everyone, and the vendors do more business in this format.”
Several products caught members’ eyes. Two of which were new COREtec introductions from USFloors. Dan Billingsley, president, Billingsley Floors & More, Benton, Ark., and one of the biggest COREtec dealers in Arkansas, loved the new Stone and Wood products. So much so that he’s allocating half of his showroom to COREtec. “We decided COREtec was moving so fast that we thought we should make it our main source when you walk in,” he explained. “It’s easier to install and maintain. A lot of people don’t like the grout. I see COREtec Tile going in showers before long.”
Simply Floors’ Mitchell believes Shaw’s latest waterproof product, Repel Hardwood, will be the next big thing. “I think that is going to be as big as WPC is—I really do,” he said. “If they can keep that wood from peeling off and warping, it will be as big or even bigger than COREtec.”
New to the vendor showcase this year is Wallace Baxter, a subsidiary of FCA that was created by Bob Hill, FCA founder, as a way to provide digital marketing solutions to the flooring retailer as well as FCA Network members. The company offers flooring dealers customized websites that reflect their stores’ local identity. What’s more, it assists dealers with digital marketing, lead generation, growing reviews and maintaining social media sites.
“Just as there is synergy between FCA and FCA Network, and the members benefit from our buying power, the same accrues with Wallace Baxter,” Robertson told FCNews. “Wallace Baxter already does lead generation and marketing on websites for FCA. What they do is already proven. From that standpoint, the members should have the same confidence they have in us on the buying and merchandising side with marketing to the consumer in a digital platform provided by Wallace Baxter. They have access to all of that talent, and the price of admission is fairly inexpensive.”
Members welcomed the new vendor. “After having a conversation with Wallace Baxter about our challenges with Google, they were able to tell me what I needed to hear,” said Gary Battaglia, owner of Holland, Mich.-based Michigan Tile. “We already have a website, but we’re looking to build on it. We also are looking to get advertising information that will make us grow.”Membership has its privileges
FCA Network constantly looks for ways to provide value to its members not only during convention but throughout the year as well. “One of the network’s greatest advantages and differentiators is we are successful retailers helping other retailers,” Robertson explained.
Interestingly, many members start their journey to FCA Network with a Google search. This is true for Simply Floors’ Mitchell, who Googled “flooring buying groups” and saw a video of Robertson roughly four years ago. “I looked at the video and called and she answered the phone,” Mitchell told FCNews. “Olga is so hands on and it’s such a close-knit family. I don’t know what it’s like to run a flooring business that is not part of a buying group. Networking is a big key. You can ask dealers who have been in the business for 30 to 40 years how they do things and what has worked.”
Matt Pratt, president of Plymouth, Ind.-based Pratt’s Floor Covering, a member for the past four years, heard of FCA Network through word of mouth from another member. “I was talking to him and he said how great this organization was for him and his business. It has made us more competitive with all the competition and box stores. It also helped increase our margins. Instead of trying to sell volume at a low price we are able to increase our margins. The fact that they negotiate as a group with the mills helps.”
When Floors & More’s Billingsley was asked to join the group 15 years ago, he took into account the friendly atmosphere as well as the cost of entry. “Everyone was super nice, warm, friendly and we just felt that was the group we wanted to go with. Everyone was going with buying groups and we had a decision to make. The cost factor was a big part, too. You can get with FCA Network for a reasonable price.”
Twenty years ago, Robert Gaither, president, Quality Carpet & Flooring, Akron, Ohio, joined FCA Network with the hopes of gaining some direction and help in organizing his business. Now he’s working fewer hours and making more money. “The business is more organized,” he said. “They give us the tools to succeed. It’s a nice group of people.”
For dealers like David Turner, owner of Buy Floors Direct—which operates three locations in Tennessee—FCA Network provides useful knowledge and valuable marketing expertise. “Based on our research and being in the industry for years and knowing a lot of the opportunities and options, we sought out FCA Network,” he told FCNews. “We do so much hard surface on a large scale, but for our soft surface products I still needed someone to take the time to research the market and breakdown everyone’s products to find out what made sense for us. What we needed was someone to do the matrix to fit the right products in the right places, and we also needed a systematic selling system. They’re lean and they’re good, and there’s just not a lot of fluff and waste. It is a very efficient, effective selling system.”