By Ken Ryan
Alliance Flooring retailers praised the buying group’s Connect 2020 virtual buying and networking event that brought members and suppliers together for networking, training and buying opportunities over a two-week period.
Connect 2020 essentially replaced Alliance Flooring’s biennial Summit, which was originally scheduled for August in Lockport, N.Y. However, it was canceled due to coronavirus concerns. “We reached out to several of our core suppliers with the idea of participating in this virtual buying and networking event, and they were very supportive of the concept,” said Kevin Logue, executive vice president of Alliance Flooring.
Logue, who noted that orders began coming in almost as soon as the group started posting video content during the virtual conference, praised his suppliers for making the event a success. “All of our core suppliers stepped up to support Connect 2020 with special inventory buys and product knowledge training videos for our new 2020 merchandising systems.”
Alliance Flooring retail members who took part in the two-week virtual meeting attested to the benefits of attending. Don Cantor, owner of Lake Interiors Paint & Floor Covering in Chelan, Wash., said his team enjoyed some of the vendor training videos compiled by the mills. “They were short and very beneficial—the deals that the manufacturers put together were awesome,” he told FCNews.
Among those taking advantage of deals on stocking pallets was Eric Buehler, owner, CarpetsPlus Wyoming, Thayne, Wyo. “My store is in a remote part of the country; therefore, freight charges and freight times are crazy high sometimes,” he said. “It’s important for me to have product on hand so I can meet the demand of my customers.”
Some of the products Buehler normally stocks were available at a great discount during the event—great timing considering the impending tariff increase on certain categories of product. “That allowed me to stock up and get my orders in at a great price prior to the higher tariff prices.” (A tariff exclusion that had exempted many LVT products from the full 25% tariff expired on Aug. 7.)
Other attendees also took advantage of the opportunity to score good deals. Ben Case, co- owner of The Carpet Collection, Lockport, N.Y., leveraged the on-demand component of Connect 2020 by watching the event during off hours. “I made a couple orders from the special buy portions,” he told FCNews.
Beyond product, the Connect 2020 event also provided a forum for members to share valuable retailing tips. “My son and I were able to be part of a forum with other members of CarpetsPlus ColorTile on what we are doing to drive business, which was very beneficial,” Lake Interiors Paint & Floor Covering’s Cantor said. The same holds true for CarpetsPlus of Wyoming’s Buehler, who also participated in a live Zoom meeting with other dealers to share best practices and retail operations.
In addition, members took part in educational seminars and watched industry speakers such as Invista’s Pami Bhullar discuss topics relevant to today’s changing market. Bhullar, director of retail development, Stainmaster brand, urged retailers in his presentation—titled “Selling brands in today’s environment”—to stay connected with their customers and “tell your story, sell your brand.”
Several industry leaders spoke virtually to Alliance Flooring retailers about the state of the flooring industry, with many giving a thumbs up on business conditions. “Our industry is coming back, and in the next 36 months this is going to be a great industry to be in,” Scott Sandlin, executive vice president, residential, Shaw Industries, told Alliance Flooring dealers. “Housing and remodeling are really the bright spots of the economy, and I think we have some good times ahead of us.”
Jeff Meadows, president of residential sales at Mohawk, concurred, conveying to members that all signs point to a great second half and a strong 2021 for the flooring industry.
Piet Dossche, president, USFloors, and executive vice president of Shaw Industries, added, “We still have the challenges of COVID-19, the upcoming election and unemployment. But at least in our industry we see the benefit of consumers wanting to spend some time and effort in looking at flooring products to improve their homes. We can all benefit from that.”