Jan 4/11; Volume 30/Number 14
By Scott Perron
Now that 2015 is over I imagine some of you are looking back and thinking, “What happened?” The last 12 months cranked by in a flash and based on the activity we saw in our market it’s no wonder. Construction is busy, real estate inventory is low and although the rates are edging up money is still cheap. So, what should we look at as 2016 begins?
History tells us certain industries experience adverse reactions when we are in an election year. Based on all the craziness on both sides of the aisle it would appear we are going to have a very entertaining political race. That being said, barring any unforeseen catastrophe or major world event I believe we will see modest growth in flooring while the baby boomers retire, real estate stays strong and lots of sharks continue to enter our pool of competitors.
Many of our major adversaries are expanding their locations, profit centers and advertising efforts in the hopes of capturing a greater share of the market while trying to punch the independent in the gut. Hard surface specialists like Floor & Decor and others are marching down the field with robust campaigns, lengthy store hours and millions of dollars in stock looking to capitalize on consumers’ needs and competitors’ weaknesses. Several groups have elected to grab more of the pie by diversifying into cabinets, countertops, maintenance and even furniture in an attempt to take your customer.
However, I find a lack of the “serve” mentality across this world of behemoth merchants. This challenge of offering high quality service to customers emerges constantly with this type of retailer as the tasks of properly training staff, understanding customer needs and providing quality installation are very difficult to manage on a mass scale. Our concern is to do what these mass merchants cannot: establish relationships, provide products and services the customer actually wants and effectively build business through referrals.
I’m not so sure it makes sense for most dealers to delve into new segments like kitchens and baths where the exposure is high and the investment far outweighs the ROI one might receive if he worked on his core competencies instead. New ideas always intrigue the retailer but tend to fizzle like New Year’s resolutions when actually attempted.
In short, stick with what you know and be the best. Our goal is to improve on all of our systems by polling our customers, vendors and staffs to find out what they need to make their lives simpler and more efficient. Measuring all results in terms of revenue and marketing performance, establishing a concise sales system that is consistent and hiring or training staff members to hunt for new business is the “serve” philosophy.
When I shop other dealers many are still missing the basics, which include a clean, well-organized showroom; professional web presence that includes social media, SEO, testimonials and video content; and promotions such as long-term financing. In addition, most don’t seize the opportunity to wrap vehicles, work trailers or display yard signs.
More important, employees who represent these dealers generally fall into two categories: seasoned veterans with old school techniques and no real desire to adapt to modern methods or the inexperienced new hire who was probably put into that seat because he has a pulse, was given a few PK sessions and was asked to man the floor. Your single greatest asset is the people you surround yourself with because—just like picking a spouse—they can account for 90% of the happiness or sadness in your life.