The World Floor Covering Association (WFCA) recently conducted a member survey to discuss the challenges retailers are facing. It was no surprise that the lack of technology in the industry was an issue that came up frequently. The fact is, however, there are technology-based programs available to help flooring retailers. A case in point is the Floor Covering Business to Business program (fcB2B). The program—under the auspices of WFCA—has been around for more than a decade. The technology that runs the software management system enables the flooring industry to exchange documents in a fraction of the time it takes when completed manually.
According to Lewis Davis Sr., WFCA’s director of technology and research who manages the fcB2B program, there are approximately 2,000-2,500 retailers using fcB2B on a daily basis—that’s only about 20% of independent retailers in total.
It would not be hyperbole to suggest fcB2B has never been more important to specialty retailers. During this period of persistent price hikes stemming from increases in raw material costs as well as supply chain woes, fcB2B retailers are able to automate their price changes, which in turn reduces keying errors that can occur when a retailer is rushed to enter updated prices manually.
Asked why more retailers haven’t embraced fcB2B, Davis had this to say: “My thinking is the retailers who aren’t using fcB2B are not familiar with what it is, don’t think their suppliers are able to provide fcB2B, feel the software costs are too expensive or just feel they wouldn’t have control of what gets entered into their system.”
During this time of staff shortages and continuous price increases, Lewis said being able to automate pricing should be a priority. “With fcB2B being able to push a button and have your pricing updated seems like an easy reason to begin using fcB2B. The more retailers using fcB2B will help to drive more suppliers to adopt in order to stay competitive.”
Those floor covering retailers who regularly use fcB2B gave the platform a strong endorsement, saying it has cut down on the time needed to update catalog pricing, thus saving money. Sarah Keeney, purchasing assistant for Nonn’s Flooring in Madison, Wis., shared her experiences. “For example, we have a large 100,000-plus SKU catalog that would take weeks to update whenever there was a price increase, but, instead, only takes an hour or so for the file to be downloaded,” she explained. “Also, when sending POs, it really cuts down on the time by—saving about a minute per PO sent vs. creating a PO and emailing it to the vendor. Also, by utilizing the PO function, it allows for fewer errors in the order-creating process. Instead of a person entering in the information into an ordering system—which could lead to typos and other mistakes—having the software create the order for us helps decrease the chance of human error. Web services allows the salespeople the autonomy to check stock and related items, which cuts back on wait time if they’re relying on another person to do it for them.”
Keeney said one of the best ways for the industry to promote fcB2B is to make sure the reps working for the retailers’ distributor partners are aware their company is fcB2B certified, and to educate them so they have at least some knowledge of how the fcB2B world works. “It’s amazing how many reps have no idea their company has these very helpful features, especially the web services, which could free up their time to educate the sales staff at the retail end about their products,” she stated.
Mark Wheat, purchasing agent-product data controller for Central Alabama Flooring, which has five locations, has been using fcB2B since its inception and now has 31 vendors using it. He offered a litany of benefits:
- Electronic documents provide a digital copy of all documents that can be archived and referenced.
- E-commerce eliminates the need for large price books, paper invoices, shipping notices.
- Product updates arrive electronically, eliminating manual updates.
- E-commerce provides drop notices for existing products, adds new products, adds new colors and any cost changes.
- Fewer errors in the product record’s descriptions/cost/packaging, saving on inventory costs by receiving the correct product/price/quantity.
- With product costs increasing/updating more frequently, costs are more accurate, saving profit margins by quoting prices with correct costs.
- Quicker response time means better customer service for scheduling installations/delivery.
- Automatically creates a more accurate and detailed electronic invoice from the supplier.
- Electronic payment of the supplier’s invoices assures any discounts allowed.
- “There is no way the volume of transactions our company creates could take place using our current personnel without fcB2B,” Wheat explained.
He encouraged all flooring manufacturers, distributors and software vendors to embrace fcB2B. In fact, fcB2B has worked especially well for those larger retailers who have to process significant amounts of data and POs. Jennifer Larsen, process coordinator for Green Bay, Wis.-based H.J. Martin & Son, explained, “We use this technology every single day. It’s incredibly good in automating price increases in the case of electronic price tags for the different displays we use. The ease of pulling that in and pushing that out is instantaneous, and you get accurate pricing. It’s invaluable for us.”
(For more information, visit fcB2B.info)