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Salesmanship: Flooring products and service

by Warren Tyler

Regular readers are well aware of my areas of expertise: sales, service, management, motivation. Rarely do I touch on actual flooring products. That’s because attitude is the foundation of all effective training.

However, this column is different. Making the rounds of industry shows, I’ve been pleasantly surprised at the quality, innovation and choice of flooring products—a major reason to attend Surfaces and Coverings.

Like it or not, consumers are becoming obsessed with so-called “green” products. Popping as many corks as I have during my lifetime, cork always seemed to me to be a warm and soft material. The actual product, however, is as hard as VCT. Nevertheless, consumers as well as purchasing agents will ask for cork, and once so obsessed will insist upon it. Therefore, retailers need to show it.

A new trend in wood is strand-woven bamboo, which besides bamboo that actually looks like bamboo, is being manufactured to resemble other types of wood flooring. However, all wood is renewable and the real deal is usually less expensive and performs better. But these facts are not important to consumers obsessed with green. Therefore, as a retailer you must display these products. In fact, retailers are well advised to have a green story for all products.

For style and beauty the resilient manufacturers have come a long way. From fiber glass-backed vinyl to luxury vinyl tiles, these are beautiful, practical and salable products. My wife makes a fortune because her competition, which must not attend trade shows, doesn’t display these products in any depth. They are also among the few products showing sales increases during the slow economy.

Tile and stone is green, lasts forever and is fashionable, being shown in all their glory at Coverings this month. No flooring dealer should be without a display of granite and other stone- like countertops, which are enjoying unprecedented popularity.

Carpet manufacturers have been lauded throughout the economy for their green efforts. One of the greatest improvements has been the introduction of solution-dyed products that really work, as opposed to the problems of stain-resist treatments. Years ago, when I was in retail, we were very successful in selling J&J Industries’ commercial products because the solution-dyed nylon story was so compelling. Today, even builder grade carpet, which I viewed at Phoenix Carpet, is available with solution-dyed yarn. Woe be to those retailers who carry on with this insane anti-polyester campaign as most solution-dyed products are made from polyester. And, the new “color-infused” products are supposed to perform similarly.

I had always been leery of soft products because previous efforts to make soft yarn perform had been unsuccessful. But consumers love these products at point of purchase.

Four years ago, we had the latest soft, stain-resist nylon at $45 per yard installed in our great room. After one year the carpet “uglied out.” Of course, the dealer would have nothing to do with the complaint, so I called the fiber company, which insisted on wet cleaning to solve the problem, which was soft yarn. Of course, the cleaning made no difference and the carpet was replaced with something more suitable. But the new soft products look terrific and even after 20-plus years of disappointment, I’m willing to give them a chance.

The point is that our flooring products are more creative, beautiful and durable than ever and every dealer has to display them, which means getting to the shows and getting these products on your sales floor.