May 23/30, 2016; Volume 30, Number 24
By Lisbeth Calandrino
There’s plenty to be said for being an expert in your field. Being an expert makes it easier for you to land bigger jobs and be a formidable competitor in the marketplace. Being an expert can also be limiting; it’s like wearing blinders when it comes to looking outside of your niche to explore other opportunities. For many experts, unless it fits within their scope, they are unable to process another stream of revenue. As fresh competitors move into your marketplace with new ideas, you may find yourself behind the proverbial “eight ball.” Why wait until you find you’re losing market share and are forced to change? There are plenty of additional opportunities in front of you. But before you leap and decide to open a pet store, consider the following:
What needs do your customers have that you’re not filling? Customers who buy flooring also purchase paint, window treatments and need their floors cleaned. Why not consider a franchise in one of these businesses and add it to your repertoire? Floor cleaning is not only restricted to carpet; many companies are also cleaning hard surface, especially bathrooms that have old ceramic tile with dirty grout. And both window treatments and paint rely on labor you already have access to. With new opportunities you can keep your installers busy during slow times and expand their skills.
What expertise do you have that can be applied to other businesses? For example, are your installation crews so large that you can also install flooring for other retailers? Many stores don’t want to install flooring customers don’t buy from them—something I never understood. You never know when a customer will need more flooring and will come back to your showroom instead.
Look for other opportunities that fit your business but might not be so obvious. Many flooring businesses have kitchen vignettes to display floors and backsplashes but don’t offer full kitchen design. Plus, having a working kitchen in your store allows you to host events like cooking classes to draw customers. Cooking classes are quite the rage and provide a venue for people to improve their skills as well as meet others. You might also consider stocking a line of cookware you can sell at these events. They will give you exposure locally and provide photos for your social media pages.
Are you maximizing or marketing your employees with exceptional design skills? Why not host events where prospective customers can come in, enjoy some wine, cheese or exotic coffees and learn about the new color trends and how they might design their new floors? This provides another opportunity to take photos and videos and post them on your social networking profiles.
One of the most obvious “outside” opportunities is offering vacuums, particularly a niche type of vacuum—one that is specifically made for thick, plush piles—which also helps you keep the customer out of the box store. I’ve heard flooring stores are skittish about carrying a product that may have to be serviced, but I’m also told the latest and greatest vacuums don’t have many moving parts and come with great warrantees. Servicing what you sell (think installing) has always been one of the independent retailer’s greatest strengths. Plus, times have changed and new vacuums can be used for both soft and hard surfaces, expanding the opportunity for a sale.
Not sure what will work for you? Get ideas from businesses that are outside our industry—something that has no connection to flooring. This is bound to get your creative juices flowing and lead you to a profitable and fun solution.