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Flooring America: ‘Blueprint for the future’

ANAHEIM, CALIF.—The Anaheim Convention center has seen the best of the best. Elvis Presley, Elton John, Johnny Cash, Dionne Warwick. The Harlem Globetrotters and Barnum & Bailey Circus, too. Add Flooring America members to the list, where its convention was held two weeks ago to great enthusiasm. In addition to a product program for which members expressed great excitement, a new style of leadership for Flooring America helped members pass a three-year plan that laid down a “Blueprint for the Future.”

Flooring America/Flooring Canada introduced a plan for co-presidency, first established when sister group Carpet One was formed in 1990, which brings Keith Spano to work with Jim Duff, Flooring Canada president. “Howard [Brodsky] and Rick [Bennett, co-presidents of CCA Global, parent of Flooring America] thought it would be a novel way to lead membership,” Duff said.

“I’m impressed with this organization, your membership and I’m bullish about what we can accomplish this week and in the future,” Spano told members on the first day of convention, adding that he hopes to add his input to member requests. As a third generation member of the flooring industry, he comes to Flooring America with 20 years of experience in retail. “I’ve been where the members are and I understand their concerns,” Spano told FCNews.

Members have high hopes for the new leadership. Mike and Julie Folk, Folk’s Flooring America, Meadville, Pa., said Duff and Spano have different strengths that could provide the right balance. “[Keith] seems like a real straight shooter and tells it like it is,” Mike Folk said.

The Folks were also pleased to be working with Jim Duff, sharing a story how he assisted members with their bags as they de-boarded a boat on a business outing. “It was just a very nice thing he certainly didn’t have to do.”

Duff leads by example and advised members to do go above and beyond what customers expect and deliver the unexpected. He cited JetBlue putting televisions on all its planes, TD Waterhouse opening for business on Sundays. “Imagine being there for your customers when they want to do business: What a novel idea!” Duff said jokingly. “The unexpected delivers pleasure we don’t usually associate and it doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. Flooring America has the ability to deliver the unexpected and we can do that day after day to set your brand and your company apart.” Jody Marshburn of Marshburn’s Flooring America in Humble, Texas, told FCNews he likes the idea of co-presidency. “They are at different ages with different backgrounds and different ideas. It seems like they work really well together.”

Leadership isn’t the only one getting it right. According to Spano, 78% of the membership participated in an extensive 75-question survey to establish Flooring America/Flooring Canada’s three-year plan, the highest participation the co-op has ever seen. Additional input from meetings with members, Neighborhood Networks, Shining Stars and the Advisory Council helped establish guidelines for the blueprint.

Products updated to fanfare

Also exciting members was a product introduction of innovative proportions that met their needs. Up first was a new line of luxury vinyl tiles (LVT) and luxury vinyl planks (LVP) from IVC. “LVT is exploding right now and this is the next step in our relationship,” Spano said. “They’re helping us provide members with a proprietary pro- gram in an exciting and growing category.”

The product features a click system for glueless installation and has a visual repertoire that fits customer demand in the Flooring America markets.

“It took a while with the LVT line, but we have to stay focused on the proprietary products,” said            Maxine Schneider, Schneider’s Flooring America, Vernon, Conn. “We may be scraping along the bottom, but I have a feeling the worst is behind us.”

Members were also pleased with a new hardwood under the Downs brand from Mannington. A wood sliced veneer with an HDF core provides the visuals of hardwood with much improved performance. “This new CCA exclusive program combines the beauty of furniture grade veneer with the durability of laminate,” Duff said. The product will remain exclusive to members for an undetermined period of time.

Members recognize the advantage presented by exclusivity on the new Downs hardwood. “That head start is great because it won’t put pressure on the margins,” Schneider said.

Soft surface also got an update via the next generation of the Resista brand: Resista Refresh featuring Silver Shield silver particles, a natural inhibitor of mildew, mold and bacteria growth, and ActiFresh anti-odor technology, based on developments from Beaulieu of America.

“We have this silver technology and odor technology, and those have been good attributes for Beaulieu,” said Jeff Meadows, chief marketing officer. He found CCA’s proven brand message with Resista provides more solutions for her home, and the Refresh addition provides more options across multiple price points.

Flooring America is supporting its members with marketing programs to enhance these initiatives and get the message in front of consumers. “We have a new program that will help members market their websites to help make them more relevant and customer friendly,” said Deb Binder, senior vice president of marketing for CCA Global. The program is based on extensive studies that looked to find what is most effective, and she reported Flooring America stores’ leads and first page rankings doubled for all tests.

“Over the past two years, the members have made huge strides with technology and they’re using our online programs. Now we’re able to market on their behalf more effectively, more efficiently, driving more qualified leads to their stores.”

All in all, convention energy was overwhelmingly positive and members were empowered by the changes taking place. “It is a new day and a new way,” Duff told FCNews. “Anchors to that are listening to members more than ever and responding more quickly to make decisions with them.”

-Emily Hooper