These features include educational insights, new and staple hardwood products and a spotlight featuring one of the Coalition’s members. A new edition of RWC coverage will be available in every print issue of FCNews throughout the year.
DID YOU KNOW
Utilizing all the tools at your disposal to make a favorable impression on the consumer
In life, you often only get one chance to make a first impression—so the expression goes. The same principle, observers say, applies to the in-store merchandising and marketing of hardwood flooring. With all the various options available to the consumer, it’s critical to pique her interest from the get-go.
Merchandising units are often the first opportunity for consumers to interact directly with your flooring products. To that end, experts advise making sure your display systems are clean, organized and fully loaded. (If you’re missing samples, you’re missing sales.) Larg format samples, housed in either cradle or wing displays, maximize valuable real estate on the showroom floor while highlighting natural color variations and grain patterns. Display samples should always include detailed back labels that show a professionally shot, high-resolution room scene, along with features/benefits and important product specifications.
More importantly, retailers should make it easier for consumers to locate and gravitate toward high-margin categories such as hardwood. This, experts said, can be achieved by maintaining clear sightlines across the showroom floor. “We want customers to be able to see where all the product categories are within the showroom,” said Stephen Eckard, owner of Eckard’s Home Improvement, Saint Joseph, Mo.
Providing informative sales aids—including literature and product catalogs—is also helpful, experts say. Make sure sales collateral is readily available and adjacent to applicable product collections. Don’t forget about QR codes. Accessed directly through cell phone technology, QR codes point consumers to essential, web-based product information. What’s more, they are often free to create, easy to set up and provide excellent support to your sales consultations.
Lastly, take-home samples are considered by many to be an essential part of the merchandising experience. Unfortunately, it’s not practical to maintain a comprehensive sample chip library representing all the products in your showroom. In lieu of sample chips, retailers should contact their supplier partners and order builder boards and/or strap sets for customers to borrow while they finalize their flooring purchase.
Making wood the focal point
With so many wood look-alike products competing with genuine top-to-bottom hardwood today, it’s important to help the consumer make a clear (and quick) distinction. While it may seem rudimentary, displaying hardwood separately from other flooring types is a good start.
“We show hardwood in either completely separate rooms or in separate sections next to the [alternative flooring types],” said Nick Freadreacea, president, The Flooring Gallery, Louisville, Ky. This method, he said, not only ensures consumers find the hardwood department more easily, but it also keeps them absorbed in the wood department for a longer period of time.
In keeping with this practice, other retailers position hardwood in an area where it cannot possi- bly be overlooked—at the entrance of the store. Such is the case with McSwain Carpets & Floors, based in Cincinnati. “We dedicated our best showroom frontage to hardwood,” said Jason McSwain, owner.
In order to “wow” both a hardwood-savvy consumer as well as wood neophytes, retailers agree that displaying more colorful, visually appealing products is the key. “Each showroom has multiple different sections of various species and color variations,” Freadreacea said. “Anything that can help a consumer visualize the difference between a monolithic and a highly variegated wood pattern or a wire brush and a hand- scraped floor.”
The size of a display can also make a big difference. The larger the sample, the easier it will be for a consumer to visualize it as their floor. “Our samples are sometimes the size of an average foyer, which gives a shopper a great idea of what the finished product will look like,” said Steve Weisberg, owner of Crest Flooring, Allentown, Pa.
In general, it’s always best to position hardwood in a space that reflects its importance in terms of profit-margin potential. In other words, when it comes to merchandising hardwood, practice the “80/20 rule,” which states: 80% of a dealer’s business generally comes from 20% of its product selections.
“A retailer’s most common mistake is to overwhelm cus- tomers,” said Pamela Danziger, principal partner of the American Marketing Group, Lancaster, Pa. “You could scare your customers away before they even get started.”
TRIED AND TRUE
Wexford collection by Mullican Flooring
The European-inspired Wexford collection combines three traditional North American sawing techniques to create a classic look. The product has a slightly wire-bruhsed surface texture, offering various lengths up to 8 feet. Made of premium white oak, Wexford engineered is 1⁄2 inches thick x 7 inches wide, comes in several trendy colors and features an ultra-low gloss finish. “Our customers love the European-styled wide plank,” said Pat Oakley, vice president of sales and marketing.
NEW AND NOTABLE
Mercier extends Atmosphere line
Mercier Wood Flooring expanded its popular Atmosphere Collection with a new color, Hush, which is available in maple and hickory species. Floors in the Atmosphere collection reflect warm tones and variations of beige and caramel hues in a matte finish.
Indusparquet seeks to change the game
Last year, Indusparquet celebrated its 50th year in the business of bringing rare, tropical hardwood flooring species to the market. As the company embarks on the next five decades of bringing world-class hardwood flooring to the world, it is encouraging users to think about floors and the entire category in a different way altogether.
“When someone mentions the words ‘exotic hardwood flooring,’ typically we hear comments about the trends moving away from red and orange tones—which is true,” said Jodie Doyle, vice president of sales and marketing, U.S. “Then they look at products like our brand-new Largo South Beach or Solido Brazilian oak java and they are blown away that the product could come from the same factories that produce Brazilian cherry and tigerwood.”
Doyle said it’s important to note that there is still a respectable volume of those older, more traditional species being sold today. However, Indusparquet said it has challenged its design team to step out of their comfort zone and try to produce unique new products and species that are going to turn heads in retail showrooms. “People in our industry lament the customer moving from real wood flooring to plastic, porcelain and other options that all try and imitate the real thing,” Doyle added. “Maybe that is because the customer is shown a sea of sameness when they are taken to the hardwood section.”