Retail’s best practices during dire times

Home COVID-19 Retail's best practices during dire times

Retailers are finding success utilizing new technologies to remain viable during the pandemic.

By Ken Ryan

As flooring retailers navigate through unchartered waters during this coronavirus outbreak, they have increasingly tapped into their enterprising skills to keep business going. After all, there is no playbook for operating amid a pandemic, what with showrooms shut in many cases and customers sequestered in their homes.

Against that backdrop, flooring retailers have improvised to stay connected with customers while continuing to conduct business wherever possible and preparing for when business does return.

“Our entire sales team operates with iPads, so they are comfortable with technology. We offer virtual showroom visits via Facetime, Skype or Zoom. We provide private showroom visits to allow customers to visit a clean showroom with a very limited number of people in the showroom and strictly honoring social distancing standards. We can select products via virtual visits, use our website or vendor websites to select products or bring a mobile showroom with our core products to the customer’s house to complete the entire transaction electronically. We are also utilizing the digital tools provided by Flooring America, which gives us the ability to chat with customers online, allow them to schedule showroom or home visits online as well as utilizing room visualizer/virtual design technology.”

– Kelby Frederick, co-CEO, My Flooring America Texas
Denton, Texas

“We invested in Surface Pro tablets for our entire sales and design team and many of our support staff. That enabled us the flexibility to convert to a remote workforce immediately and provided our team the tools to virtually connect with clients. We also use multiple software to conduct consultations depending on client requirements or preferences. Our team’s flexibility and positive attitude have enabled us to pivot quickly into the virtual design space—implementation that prior to COVID-19 would have taken us a year. Now, it has just taken us a month.”

– Lauren Voit, owner, Great Western Flooring
Naperville, Ill.

“We’ve tasked our sales staff to reach out to our customer base via phone, text, Facetime, social media, etc. They are contacting all existing leads to inquire about their project status. They’re also contacting past customers to check in on them and simply say hi, as well as contacting recent customers to ask if they’d be kind enough to leave an online review or offer a referral. Frankly, these are things we always should have been doing, but it’s now more important than ever.”

– Eric Langan, owner, Carpetland USA (The Langan Group)
Davenport, Iowa

“We have divided our entire staff into two ‘shifts.’ One benefit is if someone contracts the virus, our entire staff will not have to be quarantined, so we could still operate for the 14 days or however long it would be. We are hitting social media hard right now with posts and ads that highlight our free shop-at-home service where ‘we bring the showroom to you.’ Other posts or ads highlight that we are open and that we are an essential business, with no interest financing for long periods. We believe even if you do not advertise as much as normal during this time, you still have to advertise and market yourself, so when things open up you are still as relevant as before.”

– Ted Gregerson, owner, Ted’s Abbey Flooring
Anniston, Ala.

“We took advantage of the shelter in place order and replaced the flooring in our Rockford location. It created excitement and a positive attitude from the team. They enjoyed seeing that we are looking forward to the end of all this and staying positive as a company.” 

– Kevin Rose, president/owner, Carpetland USA & America’s Flooring Store
Rockford, Ill.

“When this all started, it was pretty easy to look at all the bad things and sit and worry about the what-ifs. I decided to only think of the positives. Management is now taking this time to update our samples, clean up some of the clutter in our stores and make sure that when this is over we will be putting are best foot forward. We are improving our paperwork and training so we can do a better job with our customers while improving communication from sales to installation. Some of the minor details that you forget about when you are busy is now what we are focusing on that will make a great contribution to how we serve our customers. If you focus on improving the little things through times like this you will be so much ahead of those that don’t. Sometimes, we forget that today is not the hardest part of all of this; it is when we are back and open that we all need to make sure we are ready to go.”

– Tom Urban, general manager, Great Lakes Flooring,
Wildwood, Fla.

“We were on our weekly radio show and explained that if a customer needs window treatments, they can still come into the showroom and look at samples. We can’t measure or install but we can get the ball rolling by choosing the product. If they are in the middle of a build that needs interior finishes done, we can still have the customer come in and make their selection and get the product ordered so we will be ready to go as soon as we can.”

– Don Cantor, Lake Interiors
Chelan, Wash.

“We have kept all employees on the payroll, which includes all installers and helpers, bringing our total employee count to 50. We asked the salespeople to cover the store with two RSAs at all times; however, they want to do it. We also gave all salespeople their customers’ A/R, so they can contact them to get any past due payments. When they are not selling, they can be collecting. We are still receiving deliveries and getting crews out.”

– Jerry Butler, owner, Fred’s CarpetsPlus
Torrance, Calif.

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