By Lindsay Baillie
Properly merchandising product can assist flooring dealers and RSAs in selling their best products while also instilling confidence in the consumer. For example, flooring displayed at the front of a store is guaranteed to catch the consumer’s eyes while a product in the back corner may never get any attention.
Following are several merchandising tips from top flooring retailers across the United States.
Keep your showroom up to date. Savvy retailers say a good-looking showroom with various styles can help build a customer’s trust and push her to see the store as both fashionable and knowledgeable.
“Having a uniform showroom is often a challenge in our industry,” said Missy Montgomery, showroom manager, Montgomery’s CarpetsPlus Color Tile, Venice, Fla. “We can carry many different products, but the key is to not saturate the showroom. We have our showroom laid out in sections such as wood, carpet, tile, LVP, area rugs, commercial, etc.”
Display the right products. As new flooring continues to enter the market, determining which products to display can be taxing. “Every square inch is money,” Montgomeryexplained. “Go through your showroom on a minimum of a semi-annual basis and allocate the dollars to the racks. Not moving the product? It is time to switch it up.”
Nick Freadreacea, president, The Flooring Gallery, Louisville, Ky., urges dealers to remember that in most cases less is more. “The first thing most stores need to do is eliminate all the displays and sampling that are not producing sales for them. Each year, we measure every product and display for their return per square foot. If something is not performing, we move it out. Larger aisles and a comfortable shopping environment are more important than having non-producing displays.”
How these products are displayed are also important. For example, Carlton Billingsley, owner, Floors & More, Benton, Ark., suggested higher-end products should reflect and demand a higher price in merchandising. “FCA Network has cherry wood displays for our higher end products, black metal frames for the mid-level products and stacker/white boards for the builder business,” he explained. “Showcase the product you want to sell in larger samples, room scenes, photos of finished projects, etc., so the consumer knows this product is important to you and maybe it should be to them, too.”
Once a dealer has selected a product and the ideal display vehicle, now it’s time to consider showroom placement. Most dealers suggest focusing on the most important items by featuring them more prominently. “Give those items the largest sample possible and place them in the most visible areas,” Freadreacea said. “Picture your showroom as a store in a mall, and they always put the items they want to feature on endcaps or in the best lighting.”
At Carpet Gallery of Akron and Quality Carpet & Flooring, higher-end products are the stars of the retail floor—and it shows. “Place some of your best products right by the front door so [customers] can see them when they first enter,” said Robert Gaither, owner. “We then like to mix in some better products with the mid-range and economy products after that. I don’t like to lead people to the far corner of the showroom to show them the economy material. Doing that might embarrass them if that is all they can afford.”
Solicit employee input. Beyond stocking stellar product, it’s important to get the opinions of different team members. “A great idea is always developed by a team member who works the floor daily,” Billingsley stated. Designers who frequent the showroom also provide valuable feedback. “We will ask their opinion of a certain merchandise product.”
Join a buying group. Several flooring dealers tout the many benefits of aligning with a buying group—one of which includes assistance with merchandising. “Joining [FCA Network] and listening to them makes merchandising easy and gives me the time to concentrate on other aspects of running the business such as selling, advertising and managing the staff,” said Bill Graybeal, owner, Graybeal’s Carpet Plus, Logansport, Ind.
The ability to private label in a buying group also helps with merchandising. “This helps us to look more uniform and professional,” Montgomery stated. “They see the quality from the moment they enter the door—from the products on the floor, displays a clean showroom and the knowledge and friendliness of the salesperson. If you can give them all those things, they see the value of doing business with you.”
Partner with the right supplier. For many dealers, manufacturers and their sales representatives can help make crucial decisions about what products to display and how they should be merchandised on the floor. “Merchandising products is picking the right manufacturers and using their expertise and choosing their displays,” Graybeal said. “FCA [Network] is also a great resource in helping us merchandise the different categories effectively. Their core product displays also make it easy.”
Retailers believe it’s also crucial to have manufacturers that will stand behind a dealer if a circumstance arises. “You need the best behind you, and if they are not get rid of the product,” Montgomery stated. “Another key is having the sales representatives on your side. I personally invest time and have relationships with them because it takes both of us to sell a product. This can also help when it comes time to order a rack and negotiate a price for the rack.”
Aim high. When it comes to showing a customer product, some retailers it makes sense to accentuate their most expensive flooring options first. “You will never insult anyone by showing them the best,” Carpet Gallery of Akron and Quality Carpet & Floorings’ Gaither said. “By exposing her to the best and explaining why they are the best, the customer may want to upgrade by herself. During our showroom tour she will be exposed to the other products as well and can usually see the difference in the quality/price relationship.”
Visit the competition.Beyond looking at their own showrooms, dealers should take a moment to explore neighboring flooring stores. This way you can see how you stack up against competitors. As Billingsley explains: “Be open to being different and not the same flooring store. If you go to five stores 30 miles from your location, do they all look the same? How will the customer remember your showroom?”