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Alliance Flooring uses web, private labeling to ‘drive’ sales

ORLANDO, FLA—Alliance Flooring’s annual convention here was themed with one word: Drive. Commonly used in this industry to facilitate store traffic and sales, close to 450 members of CarpetsPlus, Colortile, Carpetland and Floorco were asked to use the word as a metaphor for the journey of today’s state of business.

“It is a drive because we haven’t yet gotten there,” said Ron Dunn, co-president and CEO. “You have be proactive, not just reactive. Where are we going and how do we get there? What does it take to drive?”

Taking a step back and looking at the bigger picture, Dunn noted tough times are more common throughout history than the good times. “We reminisce about 2005 and 2006 but those were a flash in the pan. What needs to be done is to learn how to survive and drive forward in tough times.”

With that, buying group executives focused on four major areas for 2011 growth:

1.     Keeping consumers on its store websites for as long as 13 minutes

2.     Taking advantage of merchandising offers group executives arrange for members

3.     Enhancing the cleaning program

4.     Concentrating on leadership.

With the web as the primary means of reaching the consumer, Dunn stressed the utmost importance of each storefront’s presence on Google. “In 1997, Colortile was the largest brand in floor covering,” he said. “Now, with 400 stores across the U.S., how is our brand moving forward? You can spend as much as $25,000 per year to get your name in Yellow Pages but it’s not how the next generations get their information. Technology is moving fast and everyone is jumping on board.”

To maximize the Alliance Flooring brands’ web potential, Alliance Web Pro: Internet marketing solutions was introduced to members. With the goal of engaging today’s consumer digitally, both in the home and in the store, the site is designed to be very interactive. It was presented as a great iPad tool, allowing salespeople to walk around the store from product to product with their customers while still providing an understanding of her shopping requirements.

“Everyone shops differently,” Dunn said. “Some people shop by room, some by product, others by brand. With our visual homepage, she can do it any way she wants. We have special offers, layout tools, credit, coupons, shopping by room, directions to your store and email lists. We have over 8,000 product swatches and 1,000 room scenes.” Furthermore, the site automatically updates pricing and stock with Alliance corporate headquarters.

Access is also available through an application developed specially for members so they can carry their personal information at all times on their iPads, iPhones and Blackberries, said Ryan Dunn, COO. “A younger generation is coming into the business and it’s easier to get this going. Our message is if you’re not on Google, you have an unlisted number. We can package [your online pro- file] and advertise together.”

Merchandising was also at the forefront with a refocus on the Colortile brand, according Kevin Logue, vice president of marketing. “In 2002, 18% of Alliance dealers were using the Colortile/CarpetsPlus brand, but in 2010 that number was up to 77%. That’s big for our national brand recognition.”

Brand and products

Brand positioning was backed up with new, private-label programs focused on the buyer’s value proposition. The Colortile Home Values collection of Daltile goods is a 12-product mix in a compact display at the heart of the category’s price point: between $.89 and $1.99. “This is not a six-month, promotional deal. This is nationally negotiated tough pricing,” Logue said.

Addressing the issue of laminate, which his father, Jon Logue, co-president and CEO, reported down 10%, members were offered a smaller rack of 32 SKUs in high glosses, exotics, hand- scraped and traditional visuals from Shaw. The private-labeled collection comes with a 30-year warranty and 30-day replacement guarantee.

Also from Shaw was an LVT collection with a static locking system and enhanced wear layer in 32 SKUs.

Additionally on the resilient front was a co-branded display for Congoleum’s Connections and Ovations lines. With 15 SKUs in each display, it increases the mill’s presence in Alliance showrooms. “Congoleum has really come to bat for us this year,” Logue said.

On the softer side of surfaces, Alliance dealers were told of Beaulieu’s first private-label venture with its Magic Fresh line, coined EnduraFresh for the group. Also, an addition to the Property Essentials line, the collection has a 15-SKU deck board caddy. “We must get into property management,” Logue advised. “Commercial is up 2% but accounts for only 15% of our business. We need to get into that mix.”

Clean up your act

With 49% of Alliance stores’ business in the soft surface category, members were urged to refocus on the maintenance side of the business. One store member was able to raise an additional $200,000 a month from cleaning and maintenance.

“Pent-up demand is huge at this point,” Jon Logue said. “There’s a lot of ugly carpet out there—get into the cleaning business!”

-Emily Hooper