Some flooring industry executives recommend specialty retailers put more emphasis on new technologies to enhance their day-to-day operations. Others suggest store owners focus on more traditional means of growing the business, i.e., treating customers like royalty so they tell their friends about the amazing shopping experience you provided—and so on and so on. Still others advise floor covering retailers to leverage the attributes that make them stand out among their competitors in the market.
In this special feature, dozens of industry leaders spanning retail, distribution, manufacturing and consulting share their insights and anecdotes to help retailers plot a path forward as the flooring industry navigates through these challenging times.
- Perfect your sales presentation
Excellence in sales is achieved by practicing three simple steps: repeat, improve and perfect. These steps allow you to customize them to adapt to your way of selling: 1) Build a rapport with the consumer. Create a technique to use the customer’s name in your sales presentation. 2) Understanding the customer’s needs/wants. Devise a list of questions that will help you determine the right product for the job. 3) Ask for commitment. Without using a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ format, ask the customer to agree to the purchase. 4) Keep your word on all you have promised, and touch base with the customer to ensure all has been delivered as outlined.
VP, business development, TDG
- Scout out new market opportunities
Industry data is showing consumers are turning to specialty retailers to purchase more flooring. Don’t miss out on selling to those parts of the economy that continue to do well. And if you currently don’t participate meaningfully in commercial sales, you might consider expanding your focus in 2023.
chairman and CEO, Mohawk
- Kill ’em with kindness
Keep service at the forefront of your store offering. The moment the homeowner chooses your store over the ‘big box,’ the most important factor in their selection process is not price. What are you doing to create a personalized experience with each sale—one that will not only create an opportunity to increase margin but also a future referral?
- Focus on fashion
The customer is buying carpet one room at a time, and they are willing to spend a little more for a higher end product that really complements the hard surface flooring running through most of the home. Carpet has never been more beautiful with amazing styles, designs and patterns. And with today’s room visualizers, it is easy to show the customers what products will look like in their own homes. Focus on the fashion and durability of a beautiful nylon carpet to create higher tickets, greater margins and more satisfied customers.
—T.M. Nuckols, president
residential division, The Dixie Group
- Concentrate on remodel business
The new home construction market is expected to soften in 2023, but retailers can still take advantage of opportunities in the residential replacement market. Half of all home in America today are more than 50 years old—another 20 million of those homes are between 20 and 40 years old. The finishes in these houses all need to be updated. This subset of consumers have low debt and high credit scores, and they have multiple ways to pay for home improvement projects.
president & CEO, AHF Products
- Focus on high-margin products
Amid a slowing construction market and increased interest rates, consumers will re-invest in their homes rather than looking to move. There is still a tremendous amount of opportunity for retailers to educate the consumer about why they should choose real wood vs the imitations.
CEO/managing director, Bauwerk Group/Boen
- Develop a vision—and get your team to buy in
It is imperative for your success and the confidence of those who look to your for leadership that you have a focused vision—one that your team understands and is willing to follow. Your vision must not only be one that your team buys into; it must become one that they own. Without a specific vision and purpose, you aren’t in control of where you’re going.
- Practice (and more practice) makes perfect
Very few trainees will ever make full use of the knowledge and techniques they acquire, and that’s due to one very simple reason: they fail to practice. Somehow they feel if they witness a particular skill being demonstrated, then they know it. Only repetition will allow you to perfect any skill. Rehearse your sales presentations with co-workers, managers, in the mirror or at home with the kids—or anyone who will give you an audience. One area where you can rehearse is in front of the customer. Make sure you are well rehearsed when they arrive.
- Embrace technology
Technology is changing rapidly. It’s easy, as a local store, not to take the steps today to reflect where you have to be two or three years down the road. Status quo is the greatest risk there is in our industry because Home Depot, Lowe’s, Empire and Floor & Decor are putting a lot of resources into technology to better understand the customer.
chairman of the board, CCA Global Partners
- Watch the bottom line
Cut back where you can; don’t make any major investments, be mindful of your resources and continue to spend money on marketing. Simply put: focus on what you can control.
president, FCA Network
- Forget me not
In the flooring industry it’s important to maintain top customer service from the moment the customer walks in your door through the final install—and don’t forget a follow up call for that extra touch.
managing partner, Market Maker Events
- Always look for the silver lining
Opportunity is everywhere. It’s OK to close chapters but don’t close doors—there is so much growth potential regardless of where our economy is or what setbacks we have had in the past. Our industry’s perseverance through these past few years is testament to our tenacity. The future will reward those who carry a positive and growth mindset with them—attitude is everything!
president, Great Western Flooring
- Be an inspiration to the consumer
It’s more important than ever for dealers, sales associates and the entire industry to inspire customers to upgrade their flooring. There are more ways to inspire customers at much lower costs than in the past by targeting the right consumers with the right inspiration. It’s becoming of all of us to use all of these tools that are more accessible than ever. The current economy requires investment in inspiration.
- Use your technical know-how
Consumers often misunderstand or underestimate how flooring will perform or how one can preserve it using proper care. There are opportunities for retailers to set themselves apart by serving as technical resources to past, present and future floor covering customers. Offering online and onsite consulting and assessment to diagnose, address and hopefully solve floor covering performance, care and maintenance issues can create goodwill and positive references yielding significant future business.
president/CEO, FlorStar Sales
- Seize the power of technology
Retailers need to embrace technology. A growing number of consumers utilize social media and the internet to research products and companies. Retailers need a dynamic, creative and informative social media presence to attract consumers.
CFO, Derr Flooring
- Cultivate relationships
In this hybrid/remote work environment, technology can make us more efficient, more flexible, and it can often save money. However, a personal relationship can transform a business. Relationships are one of our most valuable assets, so it’s important to invest time in cultivating them. Consumers who feel valued will not only be return consumers but will tell others about their experiences at your retail location.
- Purpose with a plan
When times get tough, bet on you and those around you. It’s always hard to control the uncontrollable, but you can always take control of yourself and your team if you have a purpose with a plan. Remember that difficult experiences—successfully handled—strengthens character.
- Make adjustments if/when business slows down
Given a slowing economy, retailers are going to have to continue seeing less traffic in their stores during the first half of the year. That means the people who do show up will be ready to buy. When you interact with consumers, introduce them to aspirational flooring products.
- Make a great first impression
When the customer walks into your store, her actions might suggest she’s just “browsing.” But what she’s really saying is, ‘Hey, I really do want to know more.’ If she didn’t want to see your product or hear your story, she probably wouldn’t be there in the first place. Make sure the preliminary encounter with the customer is positive and memorable for all the right reasons. The ideal greeting will present the salesperson as an educator and a professional.
The Dixie Group
- Don’t rest on your laurels
I think it’s easy to try to maintain your status quo and be comfortable, but the successful chains keep reinvesting in their merchandising. They reinvest in their stores. They know if they don’t keep up, customer will eventually leave them. I think we became used to the customer walking in the door. The front door is not what the front door used to be. The front door is the website. The front door is social media.
CCA Global Partners
- Always ask for reviews
Make sure you ask your happy customers to review your business on Google and Yelp. Reviews on retailer sites are skewed only to the positive. Google and Yelp show all reviews. If someone gives you a bad review, make sure you respond in a positive way to each by saying: “Please contact us so we can discuss this issue and make things right.”
Market Maker Events
- Present flooring as an investment
Remind the entire team and customers that home remodeling continues to be a great investment and not an expense. Regardless of the current economy, inflation, etc., home remodeling pays for itself. Not only does it increase the value of the home by more than the amount spent but also provides a space that consumers and their families enjoy even more. It’s a win/win.
- Complement hard surface sales with carpet
There are so many variations of hard surface today. Understand the needs of the customer and the look they want, then recommend the product that best meets their needs. And show the customer the opportunity for a custom size or shape area rug, made from a beautiful broadloom carpet. This is a great way to complement the hard surface flooring and the décor of the home. And you get to sell the same square foot twice.
The Dixie Group
- Leverage your advantages
2023 will be what you make it. Know what you are good at and stay in that lane.
- Look beyond the floor
There are so many surfaces that consumers didn’t know can be upgraded. Walls, counters, patios, etc. The best time to discuss these options with consumers is when they are looking at the floor. They will be open to reviewing and increases the overall close rate as the room will look that much better.