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Who’s helping retailers? Everyone from mills to groups to associations

Part 2

By Matthew Spieler

FCNews Volume 27/Number 12, October 22/29, 2012

Retailers can use all the help they can get when it comes to driving traffic to their stores and providing tools and resources to grow their businesses.

Last issue, Floor Covering News looked at what some of the major manufacturers, suppliers and buying groups are doing to help specialty dealers succeed. This time we surveyed the industry’s national associations and trade shows to find out what they are doing to help retailers be more successful.

Associations

From national organizations to local clubs, associations have always been a great resource to help dealers as they provide a wide range of services depending on their size and scope— from learning opportunities via networking and expert seminars to insurance programs and benchmarking surveys.

Because all associations provide some type of benefit, FCNews focused on the industry’s national groups as they provide the broadest amount of services to the biggest audiences and, in some cases, actually assist the local organizations.

CARE’s Certified Collector map on its website helps retailers find companies they can be assured will properly gather and process post-consumer carpet rather than having it discarded in a landfill.

Carpet America Recovery Effort (CARE). Anthony Cline, operations manager, said the organization continues its efforts to educate the value chain, including retailers, noting CARE has a special membership tier for dealers. “This membership is [less expensive than] a typical membership for other stakeholders.” He said membership brings a number of benefits including serving on committees and voting for board members. “Retailers who join CARE may use the CARE logo, access CARE presentations and distribute printable brochures about CARE to their customers. Members may also have their company’s name posted on the CARE website.”

Recently, CARE’s retailer educational efforts focused on dealers in California, Cline said, as the organization has “gone to great lengths” to help retailers understand and be ready for the state’s carpet recycling initiative, AB 2398. “During the implementation of AB 2398, CARE distributed brochures and other marketing materials for retailers that explain the program to their customers. CARE’s members have also contacted retailers to assist in setting up recycling programs in the state.”

For the country as a whole, Cline said the association developed the Certified Collectors Program in 2011 to recognize recyclers who have agreed to comply with CARE standards and good business practices. “This strategic platform brings additional resources, reduces business costs, creates better marketing opportunities and helps move more product through the entire network. The new map that accompanies the program, which is also located on the CARE website, carpetrecovery.org, assists retailers in finding legitimate, CARE-approved collectors who can gather and process their waste carpet.”

Lastly, he said, “CARE continues to update its website with news and entrepreneurial resources. Retailers can use the site to make sure they are buying their carpet from a CARE member, and it is a great vehicle to direct consumers who are interested in sustainability.

To learn more, visit, carpetrecovery.org.

•Carpet & Rug Institute (CRI). While technically a manufacturer’s association, Werner Braun, president, said CRI provides a number of resources for the retailer.

“Our Carpet Cleaning Tips for Dummies booklets are very popular,” he noted, “with more than 80,000 in print.” Retailers purchase them from CRI at a special below-price cost of $150 for a case of 300. “It’s good information, and leads consumers to the CRI website, where we have lists of our Seal of Approval vacuum cleaners, spot removers and certified cleaning systems and service providers.”

CRI also provides online fact sheets for retailers. “They’re easy, downloadable information in an 81⁄2 x 11-inch format,” Braun said. Topics include indoor air quality, carpet use with asthma and allergy, cleaning and maintenance, environment/sustainability, CRI’s Green Label Plus standard and what it means, and the Seal of Approval program.

There is also CRI’s blog at criblog.org, he said, which is ranked by Simple Marketing Now’s Social Flooring Index as the industry’s most influential blog. “It has hundreds of articles—many of them consumer- focused—that are well-written, with relevant links and supporting information, ready for retailers to link to their Facebook pages. Articles include how to choose a carpet cleaning professional, asthma and allergy information, how often to clean your carpets, how to remove spots and stains, carpet design trends, installation tips, etc. It’s a potentially invaluable resource for retailers active in social media.”

To learn more, visit carpet-rug.org.

•North American Laminate Flooring Association (NALFA). Like CRI, NALFA is primarily a manufacturer’s association, but Bill Dearing, president, pointed out the organization “provides interactive training and certification sessions for installers, inspectors, tradespeople and subcontractors. These sessions include installation techniques, tips and tricks, replacement techniques, and tool and molding best practices. Sales teams also benefit with periodic product information sessions.”

He also pointed out how NALFA’s member companies “stand out in the industry by offering extensive training sessions, design trend events, rewards programs and mobile information sites. For example, one partners with a celebrity designer to show the latest decorating trends, color selection and overall design ideas. The designer will work with consumers during these events— typically hosted in a retailer’s store—helping those attending with floor and paint selection to match existing décor.”

To learn more, visit, nalfa.com.

•National Wood Flooring Association (NWFA). Michael Martin, president and CEO, pointed to three areas in particular where the organization is helping retailers succeed.

NWFA’s Las Vegas training center offers easy access for industry personnel from the western part of the country to participate in the association’s latest training programs.

1) “We offer retail sales training through our NWFA Certified Professionals program. We have a Sales Counselor certification program designed specifically for retail sales personnel. It provides product knowledge they need to sell the right products successfully.”

2) NWFA offers custom schools. “We can tailor these to any specific company/sector/ need. We have done these successfully for retail locations and hope to expand the program considerably.”

3) NWFA recently established a retail committee to define members’ educational needs at that level. “It’s a sector have not served before and we realize we need to better serve them. This process has just begun, however, and no program exists at this time. We hope to roll it out next year.”

To learn more, visit nwfa.org.

•World Floor Covering Association (WFCA). As the industry’s leading retailer-led organization, Cammie Weitzel, general manager, said it “provides an array of programs and services for its members” and the industry as a whole. Weitzel provided details on a few key ones.

Industry experts. “We have aligned ourselves with industry experts to give members the knowledge, guidance and tools needed to run a successful business. Our experts provide legislative advocacy, issues analysis, in-store strategies for customers, consumer marketing research, operational management and timely industry issues, just to name a few.”

WFCA’s Gold Standard program helps members differentiate them- selves from the competition.

Among the many experts WFCA utilizes, she pointed to two as examples, Tom Jennings and Jeff King. Jennings is a lifetime veteran of the retail flooring business who has served on many industry boards and councils. He is a past chairman of the WFCA and is currently chairman of WFCA Services. His “Selling More than the Floor” video series is now in its fifth season and is free to WFCA members. “The series provides business-growing, how-to-guidelines that create satisfied customers and expand businesses,” Weitzel explained. “The videos are aimed at showing what really works when it comes to satisfying customers and increasing business.” A few of the episodes for Season 5 include: “Link Knowledge to the Bottom Line,” “Distinguish Your Store,” “Display for Success” and “Establishing Customer Friendships Through Attentiveness.”

King is the organization’s exclusive legal counsel from the Washington, D.C., office of Crowell & Moring. He provides ongoing analysis and updates on key issues affecting the floor covering industry and will be releasing his updated “Green Flooring Primer” in November. “The primer provides the current, relevant green assessment programs so members may better understand which of their products and practices may be characterized as environmentally friendly,” she said. Included in this edition is an update to the International Construction Code and Green Squared— the new standard for ceramic tile sustainability.

Continuing education and training. In addition to its partnership with the University of Pennsylvania for Executive Development and Business Growth program (FCNews, Oct. 1), Weitzel said WFCA is a strong advocate for continuing education. “It is our goal to raise the bar on professionalism in the industry.”

As such, the association offers a trade scholarship program, she noted. “This is a very successful program. It allows members to take advantage of opportunities for training that can be reimbursed by the WFCA”—in some cases up to 100%, up to a maximum of $500 per year, per membership. To date, WFCA has given nearly $2 million in trade scholarship funds.

Finally, there is WFCA’s certification program for flooring executives, sales consultants and cleaners, inspectors or installers. “This program has recently been updated to make it easier to enhance skills and improve customer satisfaction,” Weitzel explained. She added this type of program is important because “in a competitive marketplace, you need a competitive advantage. The industry faces a challenging future fueled by rapid change, increased technological complexity and aggressive competition. These challenges demand increased training and increased professional competence, which will, ultimately, increase customer satisfaction.”

The application fee for members has been reduced from $149 to $99, while non-members pay $249.

To learn more, visit wfcapro.org.

Trade shows

These types of events have historically been valuable resources for retailers to arm themselves with knowledge and tools to help them succeed. Today is no different, especially when it comes to the industry’s biggest shows.

•Coverings. Elena Grant, vice president of marketing for National Trade Productions, which manages Coverings, said the show “provides the most comprehensive educational program in the U.S. for the industry—and it’s all free. Retailers can take advantage of sessions targeted directly to their business and find the ideas and information they need to excel.”

When it comes to the tile and stone industry, no market offers more resources than Coverings. From seminars to hands-on demonstrations, attendees can find a wealth of information to help improve their business. 

While sessions for the 2013 show, April 29 to May 2 in Atlanta, have not been announced yet, recent seminars included such diverse topics as “How to Prosper in the ‘New Normal’—Strategies for Navigating the Terrain During Turbulent Times,” “Reinventing Your Organization—Tools for Leaders/Managers to Develop and Retain Talent in Uncertain Times,” “Driving Profit in the New Economy,” “Practical Marketing for Small Business,” “Market and Sell to Generation Y,” “Showroom Organization and Design,” “What Has Changed in Ceramic Tile Distribution?” and “Change is Not in the Rearview Mirror.”

Coverings’ exhibit floor also provides a wealth of resources for dealers to better prepare themselves, Grant added. “Beyond being a global marketplace for tile and stone with over 900 exhibitors showcasing the latest products, services and trends from all over the world, one of the most popular features at Coverings is the live demonstrations. These how-to classes offer you an up-close look at how contracting pros handle a variety of challenging tile installations. These interactive sessions are sponsored by the Tile Council of North America and the National Tile Contractors Association.”

There is also the Installation Design Showcase where attendees can interact with and observe designers and installers as they create three custom tile and stone spaces. In addition, guests can meet face-to-face with experts during a roundtable session.

Project: Green lets attendees discover sustainable ideas from selected projects created over the past two years, which will be displayed on the show floor. Speaking of green, Grant said Coverings has a Green Certification program where participants learn the latest in sustainable design and earn a Coverings Green Certificate of Completion.

Lastly, at Coverings Central, social media sessions are provided on the show floor. These 15 minutes sessions offer quick introductions on how to get started and explain the latest developments in social media, Grant noted.

To learn more, visit coverings.com.

•Surfaces. As the industry’s largest all-inclusive trade show, Kelly Cooper, senior marketing manager for Hanley Wood, Surfaces’ owner, said there is an abundance of opportunities for retailers to better them- selves and their companies during the 2013 event, Jan. 28 to 31 in Las Vegas.

When it comes to education, she said Surfaces “will again offer more than 70 seminars, workshops and mini sessions focused on eight targeted tracks—Business, Sales/Marketing, Flooring Installation, Tile Installation, Stone Fabrication/Installation, Building Design & Trends, Care/Maintenance/Restoration and Sustainability.

And, with the co-location of StonExpo/Marmomacc Americas, Cooper noted flooring professionals can expand their learning experience and gain knowledge and expertise in natural stone and the installation and technicalities surrounding the product. Through Nov. 29, the program is complimentary with exhibits admission.

Surfaces is more than just a market for manufacturers to exhibit products, it offers attendees more than 70 educational sessions in various formats featuring expert instructors.

As part of its educational mission, Surfaces offers the S2 Masters Certification program, which awards those who demonstrate their commitment to their professional development by completing at least eight hours of coursework at the 2013 show. “We awarded over 300 certifications at the 2012 show,” she said.

Then there is the activity that takes place on and around the show floor. The S2 Theater will feature daily one-hour demonstrations and educational presentations on various products and the installation surrounding them.

Tool Alley is an area that “drills down to the core of tools and equipment that will help flooring professionals operate leaner and more efficiently,” Cooper said. “Participating exhibitors will deliver live action demos of tools that will amplify skill-sets and proficiency.” Also, Chris Grundy, host of DIY’s “Cool Tools,” will again appear at the show on Jan. 29 to test the tools on display.

The Trends Hub is “a high-traffic area on the show floor featuring a preview of the hottest products, colors and textures for the upcoming year,” she explained. It will also include daily 10-minute discussions on key trends and what customers want for their homes.

Business Enrichment Center (BEC) is new at Surfaces this year. “This area is a conglomeration of education and networking where retailers learn ways to turn their businesses into stand-out successes” Cooper said. “It features an education stage with comfortable seating, a social lounge where participants can learn about the world of social media and its future and an attendee lounge with a bar where guests can network in an informal and more social setting.”

The Connections Pavilion and Demo Stage allows retailers to get “a clear understanding of some of the care and maintenance issues consumers face after the purchase,” Cooper said, “with daily demonstrations of the products that provide solutions for some of the most common problems.”

Flooring Symposium is a two-day program focusing on the care and maintenance of every flooring product, with soft surfaces covered the first day, Jan. 28, and hard surfaces on Jan. 29. Experts in the field of care and maintenance will be delivering advice and technical hands-on training on solutions for the consumer.

Also new this year is the live CFI Carpet Installation Training & Certification. Designed specifically for installers, this two-day program, delivered on the show floor, is limited to 20 participants. “All flooring professionals can benefit from watching these installers as they tackle more of the complex carpet installations,” Cooper noted.

Finally, because distributors play a key role in a retailer’s success, Surfaces will host a Distributor Luncheon. This is a key audience for the show and because they are “busy meeting with exhibitors and retailers during the market, it’s difficult for them to participate in the full education program, so we will offer a ‘lunch and learn’ on Jan 29 from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m.,” she said.

To learn more, visit surfaces.com.