By Megan Salzano—Sarasota, Fla.—When you hear floor covering tradeshow you expect a room full of paradoxically similar product and a dusty pitch touting sales acumen. That’s not what Broadlume delivered with FloorCon 2021, held here last week.
During the two-day event, 400 attendees got a dealer-first approach with a focus on the customer experience rather than product and the unveiling of the company’s unique all-in-one platform—billed as a revolutionary new retail selling system that connects the online website technology to the in-store experience.
The new end-to-end technology platform aims to allow independent flooring dealers to simplify their systems, optimize their marketing investments, increase profits and create the best consumer experience by melding digital technology with in-store technology, including a turnkey merchandising “showroom” and in-store visualizer.
In order to achieve the ground-breaking launch of the all-in-one platform, Broadlume has made several strategic acquisitions over the years, each adding another piece to the puzzle. Those acquisitions include FloorForce (websites), Creating Your Space (websites), Freetail (room visualizer) and Retail Lead Management (CRM). In addition, at the show it was announced that RollMaster, a flooring industry-specific software company, had also been acquired by Broadlume.
“For years, this industry has had a lot of software that didn’t work together—ERP systems and apps that worked in silos,” explained Patrick Ferries, COO, RollMaster. “Now you can have it all—the best websites in the business, married to the best visualization in the business, married to the best ERP in the business.”
In addition to a seamless selling system, one major advancement that comes with the RollMaster acquisition is the ability to track and analyze a business’ digital marketing ROI.
Theril Williams, owner of Floors To Go, Haltom City, Texas, who will be onboarding the entire Broadlume platform, noted the unprecedented boon to business this acquisition alone provides. “You’re going to get data on your ROI in terms of your digital marketing, which is not something that has been possible before this,” he explained. “I probably waste half my money on marketing, but I just don’t know which half it is. This will make that difference.”
However, while Broadlume’s powerhouse technology tools have made a name for themselves in the industry over the last several years, it’s also the new in-store experience that turned heads at the show. For the first time in flooring, the company said, consumers can begin their journey online and follow it directly in-store where Broadlume’s selling system and advanced visualization tools can help the consumer continue her journey.
“We’ve heard from a lot of dealers that consumers are having a great experience online, but it doesn’t match what’s in their showroom,” Todd Saunders, CEO, Broadlume, told FCNews. “We realized that the platform doesn’t stop at the technology; it extends all the way to the store.”
The in-store selling system is twofold: a Broadlume curated and designed merchandising display featuring four private-label brands—Paradiso, Doma, Newton and Proximity Mills—and an advanced product visualizer.
“With the private labeling system, you bring more value to the customer and it helps protect the dealer in terms of margins—to me, that’s the biggest value add to this whole thing,” Floors To Go’s Williams explained. “And it is rewarding both the dealer and the manufacturer because when we can narrow our showroom down to fewer choices, we become more important to those manufacturers we’re doing business with.”
Suppliers in attendance at FloorCon 2021 told FCNews that Broadlume is bringing something new to the industry with a unique approach that benefits all parties. “Their agenda is not to sell product,” said Tyler Geren, CEO, Bella Flooring, one of the first suppliers to sign on for the private-label program. “Their agenda is to build dealers a technology platform that helps them succeed. They are doing just that. And the digital side of things is a differentiator.”
On the supplier relations side, Geren added, “We worked with them and they worked with us. There’s a two-way street that’s been created and that helps all of this run smoothly. Immediately after the samples were out and the onboarding happened, orders started coming in. With the group that they have now, that has expanded tenfold and each month we see increases.”
While Broadlume seemingly aims to connect the shopping experience from point of contact through product purchase, Saunders and the Broadlume team made it clear throughout the show that the platform is not to be confused with other labels. “Broadlume is not a manufacturer, Broadlume is not a supplier and Broadlume is not a buying group. What we are is a technology platform. But we want to be more than just a platform. We want to be a partner for the entire flooring industry. A partner that works with retailers like you and great manufacturers to help the flooring industry thrive in this new digital world that we’re all in.”
Dealers weigh in
It’s safe to say, the dealer community that was present at FloorCon 2021 is more than ready to embrace the Broadlume platform and the forward momentum—plus, increased sales—it represents in the industry.
“This platform will transform my business,” Floors To Go’s Williams said. “It’ll transform the industry and will make those who don’t adapt sit up and take notice that they’re getting left behind. [Broadlume is the first company] that has actually provided active leads, made my phone ring and helped people walk in the door, and that’s all I’ve asked any marketing company to do. That’s a huge deal.”
For LG Kramer, Lakewood Ranch, Fla., which will be taking on the entire Broadlume platform in its current showroom as well as a new store it plans to open in 2022, the digital assets alone are a big draw. “It’s made our lives so much easier,” Lance Kramer, owner, told FCNews. “It’s one hell of an idea. Last year was the first year we broke $1 million, and we would not have done as well—especially through COVID-19—with our old system. We probably would not have survived if we had used our old system with our old routine. Now, we’re taking everything—the whole [Broadlume] package. That’s how much we believe in it.”
Denise Heath, co-owner, Heath Flooring Concepts, Dallas, Ga., said she saw Broadlume’s momentum years ago and was excited to be at FloorCon 2021 to see the platform come together firsthand. “Flooring is something that, for the most part, people still need to see, touch, feel. But I think because of the pandemic and with the younger generations coming into the market, we need to make that transition online. This is helping us to bridge that gap for the new consumer—for the next generation. I think you’ll see that the dealers who are willing to go with this platform really just soar past the competition. It’s going to make a huge difference for those of us who are willing to go the next step.”
For Sally Perron, co-owner, 24-7 Floors, Sarasota, Fla., which is also onboarding the entire Broadlume platform, it’s not just what the comprehensive package can offer the business, but how it can make the business itself more attractive. “What is being talked about a lot in this industry is the difficulty everybody is having hiring. This is definitely a leg up. I love the fact that it’s going to attract a whole new space for us—hiring and inspiring new young college students coming out of school because it’s making it exciting to be in flooring.”
Perron added that the platform can also easily lend itself to expansion, and help the industry begin to grow its dealer base once again. “I feel that if we follow the system to the best of our abilities and train our employees on that system, in the future it’s going to be much easier for an owner like me to put a second store in. Then, I think it’ll be easier to duplicate and keep duplicating.”
For Jason Potts, owner of RIC Flooring in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, which will be taking on the entire Broadlume program, the platform is a true difference maker. “To run a business, you need a lot. One of those things is the products. The reps in my area are 60-70 years old and they don’t want to give me a line to compete with their best friend down the street. I will have the whole Broadlume kit and kaboodle by Jan. 1, and I’ll be the top dog in my area soon enough. This is 100% what is going to get me there.”
The show must go on, and Broadlume expects next year’s event to be even more poignant than this year’s edition. If dealer sentiment is anything to judge by, 2022 will continue to see success for FloorCon. Most dealers agreed, FloorCon 2021 was a refreshing evolution of the trade show where the focus was put decidedly on the business of flooring.
“Other shows are rather repetitive,” RIC Flooring’s Potts told FCNews. “Some have no real agenda other than to sell product. And they’re all sales pitches from suppliers who have been doing this for 30 years in the same building. Nothing has changed. I want new. I’m very happy that FloorCon came about. I’m very excited that this event was more about education and networking, which is huge. This was a big learning experience.”
Rachel Berlin, sales manager at Precision Floors & Décor, Sheboygan, Wis., agreed that FloorCon 2021 brought a little something extra to the table. “It’s like a private invitation to something that’s bigger than the rest of the industry. You can go to other shows, but this is something special.”
Dealers also agreed that it was the first event that put forward-thinking dealers with an eye on the future in the same room together and allowed them to not only embrace technology but use it to improve their businesses. “You have to be forward thinking to bring yourself here,” explained Michelle Winters, co-owner of Texas-based New Braunfels Flooring. “To be immersed with that caliber of person is inspiring—a lot of the people who are here are going to be the next big leaders. I think this event is going to mark a distinct ‘before and after’ in the industry.”