Behind every successful floor covering retailer is a supplier (or core group of vendors) with a vested interest in the health and vitality of that retailer. That philosophy is the overarching theme behind FCNews’ inaugural edition of “Retailers Reveal the Suppliers They Win With,” a special issue that gives floor covering dealers—along with a few distributors—a platform to recognize and celebrate some of their key manufacturing partners across the supply chain.
Rather than have the manufacturers talk about what makes them different or special, we asked retailers to identify the qualities they look for in a manufacturing partner. While there are many suppliers in the industry, the list of “great suppliers” is few and far between. What exactly makes a particular manufacturer a great supplier? There are several key attributes and essential criteria to consider, including innovative product and response to claims. Exceptional service is also paramount.
“In today’s hectic world, having a sales rep who understands the needs of a retailer and does what he says he will do—when he says he will do it—is priceless,” said Shean Drewry, manager of Carpet Barn North Little Rock, Ark. He was referring specifically to his sales rep from Engineered Floors. “He is very attentive to our needs, and he has the support of a company that allows him to do his job and keep his customers happy.”
The best suppliers, many floor covering retailers agree, are the ones that help them make money and maintain healthy profit margins—especially in an extremely competitive environment inundated with so many me-too products jockeying for market share by utilizing low prices as the hook. After all, it’s not the overall sales a dealer needs to focus on, but rather “profit dollars” that ultimately define success.
“We have a nice advantage over other companies that we don’t always want to broadcast,” Kurt Duitsman, president of Floors for Living, Missouri City, Texas, told FCNews. He cited Daltile in particular as a vendor partner that helps him earn money. “The looks and the quality of their products are great, and we can make the margins to be profitable,” he added.
Matt Wien, director of sales and operations at Marshall Carpet One, Mayfield Heights, Ohio, cited exclusivity as a key differentiator in helping him boost profit margins. He identified vendor partner Provenza as a case in point. “They protect the retailer; they keep the area clean,” he said. “I don’t have to contend with another Provenza dealer for 60 miles.”
We asked manufacturers to identify three to four retailers who might be willing to vouch for their supplier partners. In the end, we contacted more than 50 retailers for this project. We asked retailers the following questions: What makes a supplier different or unique? What does the supplier do better than their competition? Third, and most importantly, how do suppliers help retailers make money?
By asking these critical questions, we felt we could get a pretty good picture as to the value these suppliers provide to the floor covering retail community. Again, we can talk all we want, the suppliers can talk all they want, but, at the end of the day, it’s all about retailers. Dealers put a lot of stock in what their peers have to say about suppliers.
So, why is this relevant now? Today, retailers are more limited in what they choose to display—and how many brands per category—in their showrooms. They realize consumers aren’t spending as much time in a retail store as they have done in the past; they want to be in and out; they want the selection process to be simple. Furthermore, research shows consumers are visiting fewer floor covering stores before they make their final purchasing decision.
What does all this mean for the retailer? When you decide to offer a limited number of suppliers in a particular category, tough choices have to be made. And by having their peers speak to the value of the suppliers, it allows a retailer to really focus on those select brands that check all the key boxes.
What’s in your store?