By Jacqueline Hinchcliffe—When opening a storefront, the first thing that comes to mind is location. Will it be stand-alone or in a plaza? What other businesses surround it? Will it be in a big city or the suburbs? In the flooring business, location also translates to foot traffic—and foot traffic can mean all the difference between success and failure.
That begs the question: Is it imperative for flooring dealers to open their storefronts in highly populated areas only? While many may feel that’s the case, some floor covering dealers beg to differ.
Ed Smith, the owner of Flooring America Poiema Carpets & Interiors in Kalispell, Mont., is one of them. He finds his store is growing “exponentially” despite being in a lower-populated area. Kalispell is located 45 minutes from Glacier National Park, which boasts 70 miles of picturesque trails among snow-capped mountains. A population of 25,857 may be a challenge for some but not for Smith. He said having good relationships and a good reputation within your community is the biggest secret to succeeding in a lower-populated area. “It is truly about the community and who you know, who knows you,” he told FCNews. “Once you’re in a small town and you’ve been in a small town, it’s just that— family.”
Being located in the valley, Smith told FCNews that the store will often drive up to 60 out of its way miles in order to aid customers with their flooring needs. “I think that’s what we’re all about,” he said. “It’s just our people [and] how we treat other people in the valley.”
Smith is not alone. Eric Buehler, owner of Carpets Plus ColorTile in Thayne, Wyo., doesn’t mind going the extra mile to service people who come into his store. “We travel outside of our area every day to service our customers,” he said. “There are not many stores around and many customers like to travel out of town because they think they will get better service. But that’s where we set ourselves apart—100% customer satisfaction is something we live by. It’s not a choice.”
Word travels fast in the small, tight-knit community of Thayne (pop. 514), and if a company isn’t able to live up to a customer’s standards it’s “business suicide,” according to Buehler. On the plus side, if a business surpasses those standards, it helps the business to thrive. The latter is the case for Buehler. “Our return customer and referral customer statistics are off the charts,” he explained. “We have experienced tremendous growth over recent years with zero advertising. I attribute most of that to always taking care of our customers.”
For some dealers, the secret to generating wealth and staying busy in a small town comes down to one thing—connections. It’s all about forming meaningful relationships with your customers and going above and beyond. Claire McCoy, owner of Rugs, Rolls and More in Plaistow, N.H.(pop. 7,829 as of 2018), for example, makes sure her business does as much as it can with the local chamber, networking groups, town libraries, realtors and other businesses/ organizations within the community. For instance, she donates money to local churches and schools and recently finished a food drive at Plaistow’s local food pantry. “We’ve been fortunate that it’s been family owned and we’ve been here [nearly] 40 years,” McCoy said. “So, we have deep roots in the community, get a lot of multi-generations worth of families and [have] good relationships with the builders.”