My take: Longing for the good old days of product previews

Home Editorials My take: Longing for the good old days of product previews

Dec. 9/16, 2019: Volume 35, Issue 12

By Steven Feldman

 

I just returned home from Chattanooga, where Shaw Floors recently hosted a media briefing in advance of its national sales meeting. The idea was to give the press some face time with senior leadership along with a sneak peek at some of Shaw’s new products and initiatives for 2020.

This event served as Shaw’s first-ever national sales meeting where the manufacturer brought together all its residential brands: Shaw, Anderson Tuftex and COREtec. You can add Philadelphia Commercial to the mix since it’s a Main Street brand sold through specialty retail. With a realigned sales strategy (see story on page 1), this made all the sense in the world.

This event was special for FCNews, too. It brought us back to the days when all the major flooring manufacturers invited us to their headquarters prior to Surfaces for a product preview and the chance to engage with the high-level executives to whom their busy schedules do not always afford easy access.

I remember how we would often lament about losing a day in the office during a crucial time period, but the value we gleaned more than made up for it. These visits would provide for us an opportunity to get an idea of what was important to each company, what their goals and objectives were for the coming year and to get their perspective on industry-impacting dynamics. Hallway chats would generate enough off-the-record knowledge to make us dangerous. Usually these visits were preceded by a dinner or, at the very least, an onsite lunch that was conducive to breakout conversations.

Back in the day, Armstrong, Mannington, Congoleum and Tarkett were frequent subscribers of this practice. Often the visits were held in conjunction with national sales meetings.

The benefits were invaluable:

1. By understanding a company’s goals and objectives, it made us stronger partners as we could better convey their message to the industry. After all, we are that seamless conduit from manufacturer to retailer.

2. It made us smarter journalists as we could gain perspectives otherwise not afforded to us via an email dialogue or brief encounter at a trade show.

3. It allowed us to build and cultivate relationships. I didn’t develop just relationships; I developed friendships. Roger Marcus. Frank Ready. Ed Duncan. Those names were the first to come to mind. There were plenty of others.

I’m digressing here, but this is why I appreciated the opportunity to spend a couple hours with the Shaw folks. Tim Baucom. Scott Sandlin. Piet Dossche. Carrie Edwards Isaac. Herb Upton. Sure, I’ll see some of them at a the regionals—Dallas, Atlantic City, maybe—or perhaps a buying group convention, but you get more of their time when customers are not around.

So, what did we hear from Shaw? Baucom talked about all the change going on in the industry (“confusion” and “turbulence” are the words he used.) “The economic winds are swirling. And during the time of turbulence and change we have to stay the course in front of us.”

He then outlined Shaw’s four focal points for 2020, which have been in place since 2016:

1. The shift from being a carpet manufacturer to a flooring solutions provider. For 50 years, Shaw made great carpet products and pushed them into the market. Now, the company is as heavily invested in hard surface, some of which it manufactures and some it imports. “We are starting to feel the momentum of that. Our residential business today is balanced between hard and soft surface. We are gaining traction from the core competencies we invested in years ago.”

2. He talked about the importance of brands. “Converting insights into actions quicker means we have to have brands. Brands give that target audience the confidence we are the authoritative source. Shaw is the flagship brand, Anderson Tuftex is a storytelling brand and COREtec is an innovation brand.”

3. The third focus is on its portfolio. “We want to be that beacon in carpet and carpet tile, engineered hardwood and LVT/WPC/SPC. Those three items are so important to our retail customers.”

4. The fourth focus is trying to understand retail installed price points and developing a strategy around that.

I miss the days when these visits were standard practice, but times they are a changin.’

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