Nashville, Tenn.—The 2023 Abbey Carpet and Floor and Floors To Go convention kicked off here last week under the banner of “Getting down to business.” Ted Dlugokienski, CFO, executive vice president of operations and secretary, tweaked that theme to “Getting down to your business” during day one of the event as the convention was tailored to support each member’s individual needs—a pillar the group has always stood on and represents its goals moving forward.
This year’s convention turned out to be one of the biggest attendance years of late—up about 20% from the year prior. Flooring dealers from near and far converged on Music City Center to take advantage of the vast opportunities provided during the event, which included deep educational opportunities, new product and merchandising and an expanded digital marketing offering.
“Business has been good for the last couple of years,” Dlugokienski told Floor Covering News. “And you can’t discount the venue. Nashville is the hottest convention market. But we really made a conscious effort this year to re-engage with our existing members.”
Phil Gutierrez, CEO and president, noted the group’s steady and successful growth over its decades-long history—from 100 member stores in the 1980s to more than 700 member stores today. Moving forward, Dlugokienski said the group will continue to find opportunities to grow its ranks. “I think the next two years are going to be interesting and maybe that gives us a bigger opportunity,” he said. “Things are going to be a little slower in the store, so maybe it’s a better time for us to sit down and really show them the value-added services and programs we have. That could make a difference for them now during the slow times, as well as hopefully keep them forward facing in their marketplaces.”
For long-time members, the advantages Abbey provides are varied and invaluable. Janice Clifton of Abbey Carpets Unlimited, Napa, Calif., for example, has been with the group for 35 years and still touts the benefits of membership. “I’ve always been very supportive of Abbey membership because I think any store would benefit from it—they make my job so easy,” she told Floor Covering News. “I learned a lot from different members that really helped me with my progress. And Abbey has a great team. Whether you’re calling for a problem, something to do with your showroom or advertising—I think even a store that’s been around a long time can really benefit.”
For Mike Hayes of David’s Abbey Carpet, Knoxville, Tenn., which has been an Abbey member for more than 30 years, Abbey membership is also a no-brainer. “We’ve got backup. Everybody in Bonita Springs is there. You can pick up the phone and call them and 99% of the time you’ll get through. They’re just good people—and they care. This group is definitely more interactive than others in terms of the relationships you build.”
Kelly Brye, owner of Abbey Carpet of Fernley in Fernley, Nev., became an Abbey member in late 2021 without any intention of joining a buying group. “I’m not a generational dealer; I came from corporate America,” he told Floor Covering News. “I was never interested in joining a buying group, but it turned out I was really, really hungry for coaching. All the things you think you don’t want when you work in corporate America I was missing as an independent dealer. I wanted somebody to chew me out. I wanted somebody to kick me in the butt every now and then when I needed it. I just wanted feedback.”
For Brye, that feedback is not just limited to Abbey management. “With Abbey, I’ve met more friends this year that are comfortable to share what’s working or where they’re struggling, and I can call them up throughout the year to talk. So, Abbey, to me, isn’t about the buying power—it’s the friendships and the networking.”
One of the unique aspects of this group is its digital prowess. While most charge its membership for each rung on the digital marketing ladder or point their membership to third-party agencies, Abbey’s members are granted access to its full suite of digital marketing services beginning day one—and the group proactively educates its membership on the value-added benefits of those services.
The big unveiling at this year’s show was the group’s new state-of-the-art, lead-generation program and management tool. “Now our members can have full visibility to a lead all the way through the process—from the time it hits until installation happens,” Bill Wilson, executive vice president of sales and marketing, told Floor Covering News. “And all that coming together is naturally going to help SEO, it’s going to help search. It’s just going to be a one-two punch to really help springboard them and have that visibility.”
The group also made advancements to its FloorHub program. “We announced the FloorHub in 2020 and it was, at that point, just simply a mechanism for members to connect with their marketing specialist to request work to be done and receive that work back. Today, it’s a member-facing tool where they can log on and have access to all the digital marketing services, including our new lead-generation program. And the best part about all of this is it’s really easy for them to use. That’s really exciting and the members already seem to love it.”
Indeed, Abbey members continue to tout the benefits of the group’s digital marketing program. “I’m super excited about the FloorHub,” Clifton said. “Everything I saw was very exciting—all the new programs and the tools they’re providing. We’re taking advantage of everything. Even following leads and being able to track them will be so helpful. And now we know if our money is being well spent [when it comes to advertising.]”
Roy Tokuhama, Abbey Carpet of Hawaii, Honolulu, utilizes the full suite of digital marketing services provided by Abbey and has since its availability in 2014. “Our goal is to be one of the two or three stores consumers will shop, and the Abbey digital services accomplishes that,” he told Floor Covering News. “The benefit for an owner is that everything is online, easily accessible and able to generate reports and results, which will help us in our advertising and marketing decision making. The other advantage is that we will have a history of each consumer to provide better customized service and experience for the consumer. Abbey marketing does the marketing research and program development, too, which will save you time, finances and the headache of trial and error.”
For Brye, digital marketing has become much more important of late as the younger generations begin their purchasing journey. “The younger generations are learning about the product before they see me. They are price conscientious and know whereabout the pricing should be before they see me. They know what they’re doing before they see me. And Abbey does a wonderful job of website, lead generation, digital marketing, social media interactions, blog posting, etc. And that’s super important for the next 10-20 years. My daughter is working for me now, and I need to make sure the digital marketing piece helps us be more successful for her benefit.”
Product and merchandising
Abbey offers its membership a unique private labeling program that has proven to be successful in various markets. For members, it’s about the high style and design that’s available, the flexibility to showcase what works in their own markets and the ability to discover new brands they may have not found otherwise.
“They’re very flexible; nothing is forced on you,” Hayes explained. “You can pick and choose what you want. They also stay updated on colors and displays. If you want to, you could have a new showroom every year. And the private labeling is a big benefit for us.”
For Brye, Abbey opened his eyes to different brands. “Abbey formed relationships with brands that are not the big, bads but that really offer you something unique, trendy and have a ‘wow’ factor,” he explained.
Two of those brands for Brye are SLCC and Karndean. “SLCC has been a huge brand for me since I joined Abbey; I mean it’s became a great partner. And Karndean comes out with European-style colors, trends and designs. They’ve got a different perspective, a different way that they generate, produce and manufacture. So Karndean was really special for us in the last year.”