Members benefit from relationships, technology, more
By Jenna Lippin
Volume 26/Number 24; April 15/22, 2013
Alexandria, Va.—With a record crowd of approximately 400 people from across the Eastern seaboard, the 2013 Haines Loyalty Club (HLC) Summit was held here April 8 and 9 for the first time after outgrowing its previous venues in Baltimore. The group now boasts 275 members, up from 268 in 2012 and a total increase of approximately 160% since 2006.
Scott Roy, Haines’ vice president of sales, marketing and customer service, introduced the 2013 Summit motto “One Block at a Time,” explaining to members that each individual “block” helps build success. Thanks to the October meeting of the HLC advisory council, the Haines network decided changes needed to be made to help provide the greatest benefits to members, drive business to their stores and deliver valuable resources to facilitate dealers’ success.
The highlighted HLC benefits for 2013 include Rewards-4-Business, a program that compensates members for buying Haines’ products. Last year, $400,000 in rebates was paid to participating dealers. Another rewarding feature for this year is the Merchandising Fund, in which members have $700 to use as they wish, from new displays and co-op advertising to funds toward Haines’ annual corporate trip (a Mediterranean cruise in 2014). Also offered are several 60-day sale events featuring exclusive sale pricing and products for Loyalty Club dealers that will run four times per year from February through December.
The Summit itself exemplifies the benefit of continual education, which helps train members on the program and products offered, facilitates networking with other dealers, and, among other things, have fun.
The last and perhaps most important benefit is working with HLC partners, especially those who collaborate with Haines on the technological front.
•Marketing Gold brings access to a full library of images and themes that allow members to create their own promotions.
•GE Finance offers programs that help consumers manage their flooring purchases with monthly payments.
•Business Evaluations Services works with Haines to bring secret shoppers to members’ stores, helping them evaluate what works and what fails in individual retail locations.
•Constant Contact provides discounted email marketing services for dealers.
•Enterprise and National rental car companies offer corporate rates to Haines members for all vehicle rentals.
•Borcz Dixon, Haines’ newest HLC partner, specializes in online integrated advertising, a major part of the group’s newest initiatives. Dixon is collaborating with Haines to help drive leads for members and assist with search engine optimization (SEO). With Borcz’ assistance, consumers are being driven to an exclusive Loyalty Club web portal, and, in turn, HLC members.
•Flooring-Professionals.com, HLC’s portal, was launched at the beginning of this year and has already attracted over 50,000 site visitors. From the portal, consumers are directed to members’ sites that best suit their needs and geographic regions. The portal coupon, first introduced in mid-January, has had 427 downloads since it first appeared on the site.
“I would say the biggest and most recent benefit is the web services program, where we have partnered with [Borcz Dixon] to drive leads to members,” Roy said. “When consumers search for flooring, we pay for SEO for that site so our portal is the first page. This really will take our members to the next level in technology.”
While Haines previously helped members develop websites, the executive team knew dealers needed more guidance when it comes to utilizing Internet-based services and marketing. “Over the last five years we’ve provided every member with his own website—created it, posted it, helped build it,” Roy said. “The problem was our lack of marketing around the sites. We changed that by creating a more integrated marketing program that drives consumers to our members’ web pages.”
Haines Connect, launched in April 2012, is the other large piece in HLC’s technology package. Haines Connect is “a simple, secure service that is a slightly revamped version of Haines Online,” said John Coakley, CFO.
Seventy percent of loyalty members are signed up for Haines Connect, which allows dealers to review inventory, complete orders, view invoices and make online payments. New features on the portal were introduced in March, including extensive product information, display details and training materials.
Both Roy and Bruce Zwicker, president and CEO, realize the mom-and-pop retailers that are a large part of HLC’s membership may be hesitant to utilize the new technology, despite its many benefits. “There is a reluctance, a fear,” Zwicker noted. “However, my guess is next year we’ll be expanding the Haines Connect program again as our customers who are using the system love it. The 24/7 access and ability to run your business more efficiently with a reduction in errors are so helpful. There are no hand-offs of data like with a phone call or fax, so orders and communication are much more accurate. Time [and money] is saved from not having to correct errors, whether your own or suppliers’/distributors’. Also, mill claims that once required a seven-step process, can now be addressed in one easy report.”
Along with its strides in technology, Haines’ strong membership, expansive product portfolio and an imminent upturn in the economy and housing market all helped create a positive sentiment among Summit attendees and a booming show overall. Both dealers and suppliers found success at this year’s show across the board.
Rick Knowles, vice president of sales for Anderson Hardwood, a Haines supplier, expressed his appreciation for HLC and its events. “I think Haines is one of the best floor covering distributors in the country. They’re willing to invest in the people, the technology and the operational excellence required to continue to take business to the next level. They also understand that over the long haul, if they help retailers be more successful that will benefit them, too.”
Like Knowles, Doug Leigh, vice president, U.S., Triangulo, believes the relationship among dealers and suppliers is paramount in the Haines network. “The way Haines ties together their suppliers and customers is the greatest benefit. The relationship it has with their customers brings together their suppliers and retailers. They make suppliers available to their retailers and vice versa.”
With events like the HLC Summit, members and manufacturers come together to help further develop their relationships, which facilitates not only sales but also a trusting, longstanding connection. Kevin Biedermann, Armstrong’s senior vice president, residential flooring products, agrees. “Having all their retailers in one place means being able to share best practices, talking with them about new products and getting engaged. Being able to do these things for a couple of days is one of the many things Haines does to make our business terrific.”
Dealers agree. Guest speaker Jeff Shipe, owner of At Your Door Floor Store, Derwood, Md., and member of the Haines advisory council, has found great help with Haines Connect and the group’s various online resources. “I use Haines Connect most for online ordering. The program helps close my sales. I can tell [customers] right then and there if the product is available and when they can have it.”
Wayne Staley and Scott Wiles, owners of Potomac Tile and Carpet in Frederick, Md., cite convenient location and efficient service as why their relationship with Haines remains strong. “The Haines network allows us to have more product coming in at one time, which helps with shipping costs. We don’t have a long wait time, and product is available more quickly,” Staley said.
Retailer of the Year winners Gary Hurst and Elmer Stolzfus, owners of Heritage Floors in Ronks, Pa., said the combination of stellar customer service, extensive product offering and Haines Connect, has helped the store’s success. “I would say the biggest factor is excellence in customer service,” Hurst said. “Reliable vendors and distributors help us deliver to our customers. Having that support is huge for us.”
Stolzfus pointed to Haines’ sizeable network of products as an advantage. “And they have a very strong support group behind the products. If there’s a question, we can call the rep. If we have an issue, we can get to the bottom of it pretty quickly. We use the web service as well as online ordering and payment. They have very strong support on that, too; it’s very helpful.
“Above all, it’s a great camaraderie thing,” he concluded. “You get together, hang out. It’s kind of like we’re all friends—we really are.”
In conclusion, Zwicker commented, “We believe it is our job to help our customers succeed by providing them with great products, great service, technology tools and capabilities to compete with anyone in the flooring industry.”