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Dealers seek non-flooring opportunities

January 19/26, 2015; Volume 28/Number 15

By Ken Ryan

Screen Shot 2015-01-19 at 3.05.57 PMIt is estimated that 40% of specialty retail stores carry non-flooring products in their showrooms. In many cases, these assortments include blinds, window treatments, cabinets, furniture and vacuum cleaners—so-called “complementary” pieces that complete a flooring project.

Joel McDonald, president at Carpet Masters Carpet One Floor & Home in Yakima, Wash., said his store carries custom and semi-custom cabinetry, window treatments and interior paint. “We started as a paint and glass store that also sold cabinetry 40 years ago and expanded into flooring shortly after. Most of our non-flooring products were carried prior to flooring products. However, we’ve had a renaissance in the cabinet business over the past 10 years, dedicating more showroom space and focusing advertising efforts on that category.”

McDonald said flooring, cabinetry and window treatments go hand-in-hand on most any project, particularly new construction in which all of these products are going to be purchased from someone at some point. “The presentation of a comprehensive offering makes the process easier for the homeowner or builder, increases the average ticket for the salesperson—leading to larger commissions—and adds to the bottom line.”

Steven Lewis, president, Lewis Floor & Home in Northbrook, Ill., added window treatments 10 years ago, and countertops and cabinets approximately eight years ago. His goal was to offer customers as many home furnishings products as he could. “One-stop shopping is good for our customers and it provides the opportunity for an add-on sale. Additionally, it keeps customers out of other stores. Cabinets, window treatments and countertops account for over 10% of our business and complements our other offerings.”

Jim Farrell, owner of ProSource 180 in Baltimore, said his goal is to complete the full project for the customer; to that end, he stocks flooring as well as cabinets and countertops. “Now we can do a complete remodel in kitchens and baths [in addition to flooring]—expand showers, cabinets, countertops, plumbing, lighting, mirrors, backsplashes and small contracting work.”

Flooring is a recent add-on for HOM Furniture, which has nine locations in the upper Midwest. In the first quarter of 2015 the company plans to open a new furniture, flooring and area rug retail complex all under one roof. “We are just starting with cabinets as we expand our builder contract efforts,” said Kelly Cosgrove, floor buyer for HOM Furniture, Coon Rapids, Minn. “We recently opened a contractor outlet center with a builder selection showroom, but we don’t really have a track record on cabinets yet. With regard to window treatments, we are partnering with a local window treatment company on a cross-referral basis. We may expand into selling our own treatments at some point, but this business is most effectively done in the home, and we are not ready to make that commitment yet.”

HOM has proved to be successful in more than one product arena. “2015 will be our fourth full year in flooring and if we reach our goals we should break into the top 100 U.S. flooring and rug retailers,” Cosgrove said. “We are currently in the top 35 in furniture sales, targeting $250 million next year.”

Also providing a helpful product mix is Dan Place, owner of PH Flooring in McConnellsburg, Pa. According to Place, the Hunter Douglas blinds he sells are very profitable, which, in turn, leads to other options that complement the total sale. “Being a complete store makes it easy for our customers to shop here. We have done church windows, for example, which led to other jobs. We have replaced carpet there since then.”

Kevin Murray, owner of Murray Floor & Window Coverings in Billings, Mont., is an exclusive Hunter Douglas gallery dealer. His store began carrying window treatments 15 years ago as a way to diversify his business. “We sell flooring because of our window treatments, and window treatments because of flooring. Our sales volume is approximately two-thirds flooring and one-third window treatments.”

Place said specialty flooring dealers need to be open minded the way big box stores are when it comes to stocking non-flooring products. “I’m not saying I like the big boxes, but they are here to stay, so you just have to outsell them with what your store has to offer. For example, we make custom moldings for a lot of jobs that other retailers don’t provide. This makes for a complete job.”

Some flooring dealers have dabbled in non-flooring categories or contemplated such a move only to stick to their expertise. Scott Junkins, owner of Harris Carpets Flooring America in Anderson, S.C., said he does not currently carry non-flooring products but is looking into cabinets and granite counter tops as a possible ancillary business.

Scott Walker, president of Walkers Carpet One Floor & Home in Bellingham, Wash., said from his personal experience, window coverings and countertops could be very complementary pieces to a flooring business. However, when he inherited a cabinets business through a 2008 acquisition, he soon saw warning signs. “Cabinets are so dependent on new construction, so when new construction slows you better look out. In our case, when [new construction] slowed during the recession, cabinets were no longer a profit center for us, so we shut it down.”