By Lindsay Gonzalez—Orlando—A bevy of new digital initiatives, innovative product introductions and a new conference format. These were among the highlights of Abbey Carpet & Floor and Floors to Go’s 62nd annual convention, held here earlier this month.
Putting a different spin on the traditional keynote general session, show management moved the podium off the stage and announced they would take part in a morning show called “Floor Hub.” With Connie Podesta—author, comedian and licensed expert in the psychology of human behavior—as the show’s host, Abbey’s executives spoke candidly about the new digital initiatives and marketing support systems now available to members.
“Our goal is to be more proactive with our members this year,” Ted Dlugokienski, CFO, Abbey Carpet & Floor, told FCNews. “We want to be their marketing solutions. We want to be the ones to help them drive the traffic into their stores through the digital arena. We have put people and processes in place. We have changed out systems to make them more interactive with our membership.”
As part of the buying groups’ new digital initiatives Abbey and Floors to Go have redesigned their member websites to include a sleeker design, more customization and greater ease of use. “What we want to build is something that’s very consumer friendly,” said Bill Wilson, vice president of marketing and advertising, Abbey Carpet & Floor. “Our new site is built to load very quickly, whether it’s on a tablet, phone or desktop. We also wanted more promotional opportunities for members. There is a lot of area where they can add multiple promotions by product category or just have promotions in a specific area.”
The new website also features parallax motion to capture the consumer’s eye as well as a new room visualizer. The groups also have a new relationship with Google’s preferred photography company to do virtual showroom walk-throughs for the members’ websites. “You can click and move around somebody’s store, see displays, departments—kind of get a lay of the land before you go in,” Wilson explained.
In support of these initiatives, Abbey and Floors to Go have created new positions to assist members with all of their marketing needs. “We want to be a better support mechanism for our members and thought it was important to assign specific people so members know who they’re supposed to talk to,” Wilson explained. “Members have always just called in and said, ‘I need this,’ and ‘I need that,’ and they would be transferred to that person. But taking that guess work out of the equation and making it happen a lot easier is what we’ve developed with the marketing specialist role.”
For members such as Sam O’Krent, president and CEO, O’Krent Floors, San Antonio, these new initiatives are a home run. “We are very excited about the new customization features on the website,” he said. “While we have our own advertising agency at home, it’s nice that the marketing specialists can coordinate with them. It just enhances our marketing abilities.”
Over the course of three days, members were encouraged to meet with all of the suppliers, which included: Mohawk, Shaw, Anderson Tuftex, COREtec, Daltile, The Dixie Group, Karndean Design Flooring, Engineered Floors, Congoleum and SLCC—to name just a handful. The buying groups also welcomed several new suppliers to the convention: Floors for Life, Bianco Marmi, Coral Classics, Decorative Concepts and Proflex.
Daltile’s new Revo-Tile, for example, caught the eyes of several dealers, including Ted Gregerson, president and CEO, Ted’s Abbey Carpet & Floor, Anniston, Ala., and O’Krent, who called it “very interesting.” Gregerson was also impressed with the hardwood offerings and fiber technologies on display at the show. “We’ve seen some hardwoods at Shaw’s booth—Mayfair Manor, for example—that we think we’ll be able to do business with. Also, Dreamweaver has their new TwistX technology in an impressive display.”
Kylene Davis, design consultant at Chehalis, Wash.-based Arvid’s Interiors, liked Karndean’s latest LVP tile visuals. “These looks are so realistic,” she said.
More importantly, the exhibitor showcase at convention allows retailers to spend more one-on-one time with their suppliers compared to larger events. “You can really talk about programs that you want to implement in store as well as special deals,” O’Krent said. “It’s time that the manufacturers will really dedicate to you without the high pressure of, ‘Where’s the next guy?’ There are plenty of people here, but it’s not high pressure.”
Following the overwhelming success of last year’s new show format, Abbey and Floors to Go executives decided to hold another joint convention. “People create energy,” Dlugokienski said. “You’re bringing the two groups together so now you’ve increased the amount of energy at the show. It’s really about the information, increase in experiences and the camaraderie that comes out of all of this. It just elevates the whole conference and takes it to another level.”
Similar to last year, most members were excited to have a greater number of dealers to share best practices with. As O’Krent explained, “From our standpoint, you’re doubling the amount of networking opportunities. The two programs are equal, so there’s no reason to have them separated. Everyone likes it; the manufacturers love it. It’s beneficial to all of the members on both sides.”
The annual convention is just one way Abbey and Floors to Go add value for their membership. For many of the members, the buying power, networking and buffet-style of programs are key benefits.
“Abbey makes us more professional as far as a showroom setting is concerned,” Gregerson explained. “We always let the customer know the Abbey story, and I think that gives them confidence in shopping with us. We’re part of something much bigger instead of just our one store location. We also make a lot more money on each sale because we’re Abbey. Phil Gutierrez, [chairman and CEO of Abbey] provides a buffet and understands that what works in New York might not work in Alabama. Or what works in California won’t work in Florida. He allows each store, each member, to be able to go through that buffet line and just pick what they think will work in their market area.”
For Al Floyd, who handles sales with Beasley Floor Covering Charleston, S.C., Abbey’s networking power gives the store a major advantage. “They know all the key players in this industry and they can talk to some of the top manufacturers in seconds as opposed to us going up the ladder trying to find out who we need to talk to, get an issue resolved or find a product, etc.,” he explained.