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retailer2retailer: Time to get in the game

Volume 28/Number 3; July 21/28, 2014

(First of two parts)

Screen Shot 2014-07-30 at 9.41.20 AMBy Scott Perron

Remember, my friends, that spectators don’t have a win-loss record, and Lumber Liquidators, Empire Carpet, Floor & Décor and other formidable competitors have entered the game while we all work to compete with each of these companies on a daily basis. Some are privately held, some have public money, and each is focused on expanding their niches in markets across the nation, adding to the list of big box players we have come to reckon with such as Home Depot, Lowes and Menards.

Now one would think that flooring has become the most profitable business in over the last decade, or that these relatively new arrivals to the scene were all selling the cure for a catastrophic disease with the way they are taking over the industry. Well, guess what? They have, and that disease is indifference. Indifference in providing to the customer what is required to win and retain business.

For every new store the aforementioned players erect in your market, a sizable portion of business is taken away from you, the independent retailer, which begs the question: why are they able to accomplish this in such a fast and furious manner? The answers, in my opinion, are many, so let’s examine what gives these players the edge and what we can do to learn and adjust our ways.

You will notice that brick and mortar retailers have stepped up their game tremendously in the quality, functionality and appeal of their showrooms. Lumber Liquidators had some of the worst looking displays until a few short years ago, and every other large-format competitor has answered the call by designing a well laid out, super clean, clearly marked showroom with attractive displays that educate, inspire and demonstrate to the consumer what is possible in their homes with the use of vignettes, photographs, video and lifestyle scenes. Sales associates sport uniformed garb and in most cases have only the most basic of training to know a fraction more than the customer knows about their product.

The goal is to simplify the buying process while allowing the consumer to participate in some of the work. Their systems allow for the consumer to self-shop in-store or online while being asked periodically if they have any further needs or questions. Is this the way our customers want to buy? Is this how you like to buy? I would submit that Gen X, Gen Y and the Millennials have a different way, and we need to learn it pronto.

Online image matching in-store presence is a crucial part of marketing and branding. It provides consumers the tools necessary to design their projects and create a workbook for future reference. When satisfied, they are given the option to request more information, request samples or receive a quote or design assistance on their terms. Women spend more and more time researching their purchases online with the youngest ladies now lurking right around the home-spending corner.

Each of these large companies promotes their niche or perception of value relentlessly. The home centers drive the consumer to in-store credit and one-stop shopping for the home. Lumber Liquidators promotes large selection, price perception and is aggressively selling accessories. Floor & Décor demonstrates a large-format hard surfaces warehouse selling primarily decorative and standard flooring options with all accessories and sundries as well. Empire Carpet focuses on fast sale and installation through the use of subcontract lead chasers that promote immediate gratification with next-day installation possibilities.

Now that we have established a baseline for what your competitors are doing, in part 2 we will examine what you can do to compete and impress the customer that walks into your door.