The popularity of bamboo and cork flooring remains strong despite the intense competition from the deluge of LVP/SPC products. Their visuals stand out from more traditional staples like engineered and solid hardwood. And their environmentally friendly attributes make them a perennial favorite among end users.
“Both cork and bamboo are far more sustainable than timber and can be harvested without any damage to the plant or habitat,” said Doug Jackson, president, Cali. “That benefit speaks to many consumers who are wanting to shop and design more responsibly. Cork is also hypoallergenic, a natural sound insulator for quieter rooms and provides cushioning—which makes it more comfortable underfoot.”
However, despite all these positive attributes, bamboo and cork flooring products cannot sell themselves. Experts say they must be positioned, merchandised and marketed properly and effectively in order to maximize exposure—especially in a retail environment inundated by a bevy of hard surface alternatives.
Following are a few tried-and-true merchandising and marketing tips from the specialists on bamboo and cork flooring.
Position the products appropriately
Joanie Beazley, residential sales manager, Carpet One Floor & Home, Asheville, N.C., positions cork flooring front and center in her location. “Having ur display at the front of the store is a great way to showcase a flooring product that not everyone initially thinks about,” she explained. “With so many flooring types to choose from, it’s imperative that our showroom creates an easy shopping experience for our clients. I love its location because it doesn’t get lost in all the hardwood or laminates and almost all clients have to walk past it.”
For maximum effect, experts encourage retailers to have a sustainable resources section for products like bamboo and cork flooring. “Because cork flooring now crosses over into many different categories of flooring, my recommendation is to put it in an area that features the strongest attributes—in particular cork’s newest features that provide both wood plank and concrete and mosaic tile high-resolution visuals,” said Vern Verkley, president of Opus Floors Canada. “Since end-users are not aware of these new breakthroughs in new, exciting visuals, it’s critical that retail stores showcase these new products in an appropriate area.”
Others recommend a different approach. “Positioning the products close to traditional hardwood is the most effective way within a retail location,” said Derek Brooks, senior vice president, sales and business development, North America, Torlys.
Steve Wagner, director of marketing, Wellmade Performance Flooring, agreed. “I recommend positioning strand-woven bamboo as an exotic hard surface floor—with an eco-friendly edge—right alongside other engineered hard- wood products,” he explained. “Through the years, the structure of bamboo flooring has continued to evolve. With that, Wellmade’s latest HDPC/SPC strand bamboo falls squarely in the hybrid flooring category, making it fully waterproof and dimensionally stable.”
Lay it down
Standard displays and traditional merchandisers aren’t the only way to showcase bamboo and cork flooring, experts note. Highlighting the products in their natural habitat (on the floor!) is the way to go. “Installing a section of bamboo flooring on your showroom floor is a great way to prove the material’s resiliency,” Cali’s Jackson noted.
That same principle applies to cork flooring, suppliers note. “Experiencing the comfort of cork underfoot compared to other surfaces helps a customer feel and hear the difference between cork and other products,” said Tina Crossland, national sales manager, WE Cork. “It definitely helps sell it.”
It’s a practice that others, including Torlys’ Brooks, supports wholeheartedly. “We always promote putting the product on the showroom floor; when consumers walk on a product like cork, they can immediately feel the advantages.”
If retailers are concerned with the additional expense (or floor space) required to highlight products like cork or bamboo showroom floor, suppliers can help ease the burden. “Manufacturers love to have their floors installed and featured in retail showrooms,” Wellmade’s Wagner noted. “In fact, most manufacturers provide allowances designed to offset the cost of installing their top-selling products front and center.”
Use all the tools
Its sounds rudimentary, but age-old selling tools like swatches, board samples, sales catalogues and literature still do the trick. This can be especially helpful and instructional when demonstrating the performance attributes of a product like cork. “Having samples and props handy for users to touch and feel demonstrate to people the incredible sound reduction, comfort and warmth properties that cork flooring naturally exhibits,” Opus Floors’ Verkley stated.
The same can be said for bamboo flooring. Proponents strongly recommend utilizing room scene/lifestyle photographs that can be framed as large-format posters and window dressing for showrooms. In addition, interactive devices such as QR codes are emerging as a popular marketing vehicle. These user-friendly codes can link directly to manufacturer websites where they interface with sophisticated room visualizer technology. “Be sure to take advantage of these tools and technologies,” Wagner added.
But perhaps the most effective educational device entails employing the right narrative when selling green products. “We have clients who come in looking for cork flooring specifically, but others walk in not thinking about it until we explain why it makes such a great floor,” Carpet One’s Beazley said, citing the WE Cork brand specifically. “Not only is it sustainable but it is comfortable underfoot, helps with insulation and has looks that can work in any home.”
While the traditional means of showcasing flooring products can be highly effective in capturing the customer’s attention, it’s certainly not the only way to make a statement. Experts encourage retailers to get creative when highlighting cork and bamboo by utilizing their imagination.
For instance, Opus Floors’ Verkley—who just completed a cross-country tour of key retail customers—noticed how dealers are leveraging audio/visual technology when demonstrating the various attributes of cork flooring. “Creative methods that many dealers are now starting to include are large TV screens or computer monitors to show rotating room scenes of the new high-resolution imagery possible on both wood plank and tile formats,” he explained.
Employ product demonstrations
Show, don’t tell. That’s the approach that some experts advise when demonstrating the features and benefits of products like cork flooring to the shopper. As WE Cork’s Crossland suggested: “Having a piece of bark to show what cork looks like and explaining the cork product life cycle is very important in helping the customers understand how naturally incredible cork is. Touching a cork flooring sample compared to other flooring surfaces shows the warmth it provides. Dropping a coin on a cork floor shows how much quieter it is compared to other floors.”
At the very least, make sure you’re stocked up on free samples that customers can take and test out at home in their everyday environment. “That can help assuage any durability concerns,” Cali’s Jackson said.