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
The key to helping the customer find the right floor
lies in listening first, selling second
Retail sales associates looking to recommend the right hardwood flooring product for the customer when she walks into the store need to ask a series of fact-finding questions to determine her precise wants and needs. For example, where will the new floor be installed? Is it going on, above or below grade? While it may seem counterintuitive to not talk about style, color or design first, this particular question will eliminate some options right away.
“Engineered wood is some of the best flooring for basements, while both solid and engineered wood floors may be installed in any room that is on or above ground,” said Brett Miller, vice president of technical standards, training and certification for the National Wood Flooring Association (NWFA). “Solid wood flooring is made of one piece of wood from top to bottom, while the best engineered wood flooring is made using multiple layers. This construction makes the floor less susceptible to expansion and contraction based on seasonal temperature fluctuations or humidity levels within the home.”
Once the proper construction is chosen for a particular application, the RSA can help the consumer decide on a particular style. Some options may include: strip, plank, parquet or even an end-grain pattern. “Strip flooring is usually less than 3 inches wide and often makes a room appear larger,” Miller explained. “Plank flooring is 4 inches or wider and often creates a more casual look. Parquet varies in size and generates a geometric, non-linear look. End-grain flooring has a unique visual element as the wood’s grain is visible and upward facing.”
The tone of a particular floor may also factor in heavily during the selection process. Most factory-milled and finished floors come with the stain already applied, but some customers may opt for unfinished flooring, which can then be colored on site. “Finish tones the natural color of the wood up or down, making lighter or darker versions of the wood,” Miller explained. “Typically, light tones make a room look more open and airy, while medium tones make the room feel warm and cozy. Dark tones can make a room appear stately and refined.”
Then there’s the choice of finish material and gloss level. Again, these attributes are typically predetermined with products finished at the factory level but they impact the final visual of the product nonetheless.
Success stories in upselling
When it comes to upselling the consumer from entry-level, wood-look-alike products to the real thing, retailers may already have an advantage. That’s because most consumers naturally expect real hardwood to cost more money than some competing hard surfaces. Sealing the deal, then, just becomes a matter of explaining how hardwood’s attributes outshine those found in some other categories.
For dealers like Jill Tower, president of Hampton Flooring Center, Easthampton, Mass., the best policy is being straightforward. “We are always honest with our customers about the materials they want,” she said. “When we ask about pets, children, walkers, high heels, etc., it is because we want to find a floor that will not only look great the day it’s installed but will also continue to impress her after years of being lived on. When we recommend a higher-end product or a better underlayment, it’s because we honestly believe it’s the best fit for that customer’s specific needs.”
Specialty dealers can really help themselves sell more customers on wood, experts say, by resisting the temptation to “sell down.” In other words, don’t feel the need to lower your prices to better compete with big-box, loss-leader advertising practices. More importantly, don’t be afraid to talk a customer out of buying an imitation wood product that she may have seen on TV or on the internet, just to close a quick sale. The key to successful upselling, dealers say, lies in knowing your clientele before recommending a specific flooring product.
“We really get to know what our customers like, what their tastes are, what kind of budget they have and their lifestyles, etc.,” said Jimmy Poulos, owner of Oxnard, Calif.-based Flooring 101, where hardwood jobs can run into the tens of thousands of dollars. “Most of our customers are affluent. Once you really get to know what they like, you can charge them double.”
TRIED AND TRUE
Astoria from Mullican
Inspired by the neighborhoods of New York, the Astoria collection exudes laid-back elegance with modern-day charm. Available in a sawn-face, low-gloss, wire-brushed finish, Astoria showcases the natural character of ½-inch-thick, engineered hardwood flooring in white oak planks ranging in width from 5 to 7 inches and random board lengths up to 7 feet. The line features beveled ends and edges for a classic, linear look. “We continue to see a lot of demand for white oak,” said Pat Oakley, vice president of sales and marketing, Mullican.
NEW AND NOTABLE
Somerset Wide Planks
Homeowners and commercial end users can make a bold statement with the latest additions to Somerset’s Wide Plank collection. Constructed with a 3mm-thick solid sawn face, the line gives customers the same beautiful appearance as traditional solid flooring.
Torlys continues to break ground
In keeping with its track record of innovative product offerings, Torlys reports continued interest with its XP Hardwood and Corkwood XP lines. The six-layer XP Hardwood line (“XP” stands for exceptional performance) features a real hardwood layer protected by Torlys’ Maxx4 finish. At the core is a water-resistant substrate (Smart Core) married to a real wood balancing layer and backed by an attached CorkPlus Blue underlayment. “It’s waterproof, wear resistant and transition-free for 2,500 square feet,” said Peter Barretto, CEO of Torlys.
Corkwood XP, which comprises five layers, offers a hard-wearing, visually appealing waterproof hardwood flooring product that also includes an attached backing. And like XP Hardwood, Corkwood XP is also transition-free for 2,500 square feet. Options include a 7-inch-wide x 6-foot-long plank as well as a tile format.
A key feature of both product lines is the CorkPlus Blue backing, which boasts Microban technology designed to inhibit the growth of mold. “One of the biggest challenges the industry faces with waterproof is when water gets underneath the floor you get mold and mildew problems,” Barretto explained. “If any water gets under our floors, we’re going to be able to protect it. You’re going to see us doubling down on antimicrobial technology moving forward.”