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J.J. Haines rockets to new heights

by Emily J. Cappiello

Baltimore—It takes more than a challenging economic climate to slow the Haines Loyalty Club’s momentum. The retail group arm of the nation’s No. 1 flooring distributor saw its membership increase from 272 to its current 288, according to Scott Roy, vice president of sales, marketing and customer service, and those members grew their businesses a collective 4% compared to the distributor’s retailers outside the program, who saw declines of about 5% in overall business.

“The Haines Loyalty Club is something very special to us because during the recession, it  has done nothing but grow,” said Bruce Zwicker, president and CEO, J.J. Haines.

As the distributor kicked off its two-day 2012 summit here April 2 and 3, approximately 500 members and suppliers came to learn how the Loyalty Club could help rocket sales to new heights as the economy begins to slowly and steadily grow. In fact, Zwicker predicted 2012 would show about 3% growth, with 2013 and 2014 showing as much as 5% and 6% growth. “Residential remodel will continue to get stronger, commercial will be slow but still good, and new residential shows promise.”

Haines will continue to ensure Loyalty Club customers are ready to take advantage of this anticipated growth by putting an emphasis on technology in 2012. Next month will see the launch of Haines Connect, an online program that will help connect customers with their own data.

“We are really in the best position to pull and push our customers to become more Internet savvy,” Zwicker said. He noted that with the change in the way the consumer shops, some dealers “need to pick up the pace.”

He added that Haines has uncorked some pent-up demand for technology and web services, and the company has big plans for its members. “We want to upgrade existing websites as well as how they use the web to promote their business.”

Retailers met the news with excitement. According to Christina Zadell of Bradley’s Carpets in Apex, N.C., the new efforts are something for which members have been seeking. “It shows they are listening and that’s really positive.”

Gerry Leaf, co-owner of Malvern, Pa.-based Leaf Floor Covering, the Haines Loyalty Club 2011 Retailer of the Year, said the push in technology will help bring members to the forefront. “It will be easier for the retailer to get back to their clients faster and also give us more control.”

This year, the company is embarking on several new initiatives, including a mystery shopper program intended to help retailers up their game when it comes to showroom layout, product assortment and customer service. This comes on the heels of Haines’ efforts to revamp its logo and website, as well as social media initiatives and the start of a customer efficiency program.

Haines also announced it has terminated its partnership with BrandSource and will be working directly with GE Capital. In addition, the company is now looking for a web services program with which to partner.

But technology is just a piece of what Haines brings to Loyalty Club members. While retailers are feeling better about their businesses, Haines is bringing new products and deals to help along the way.

“The Loyalty Club has many advantages,” Leaf said. “There are price point advantages as well as the ability to participate in the four sales they have each year. That makes us more competitive.”

Suppliers were also able to reap benefits at the summit. Kevin Biedermann, senior vice president of Armstrong Floor Products, residential, said the Haines Loyalty Club Summit serves as a forum for people to exchange information with each other as well as suppliers. “The opportunity to interact with a couple hundred of the best retailers is invaluable,” he said.

Ann Wicander, president of WE Cork, was showing a new LVT underlayment for multi-family buildings dubbed Silently. She said although the reception has been great, the ability to get the feedback of the retailers was what made the show a success for the company.

Steve Wagner, spokesperson for Wellmade Bamboo, echoed her sentiments. “This is one of the best shows in the industry for suppliers to get in front of the retailer.”

The Haines Loyalty Club is a true partnership between Haines, its suppliers and the members, Roy explained, but there is more than just a partnership. “Being with Haines is like being with family,” Leaf said. “We have lots of choices to make, but our choice is Haines.”