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Cork: Retailers position product as environmental option

August 14/21: Volume 32, Issue 5

By Lindsay Baillie

 

Screen Shot 2017-08-22 at 4.20.00 PMCork continues to present itself as an environmentally friendly product with a multitude of benefits and performance characteristics. In addition to being a “green” product, cork provides warmth and comfort underfoot, sound and noise reduction as well as long-term performance. The product’s green story is especially important for retailers looking to position cork as an alternative to other types of flooring.

Where retailers position cork in the showroom varies depending on certain factors including the store’s location and consumer demand. Overall retailers suggest there is no one place for cork; however, they agree selling the product requires it to have significant presence in the showroom.

Linoleum city in Hollywood, Calif., displays cork in multiple places around its showroom. “We have our cork displays set up next to the hardwood, bamboo and linoleum,” said Patricia Walters, sales and office manager. “We figured the best way to feature it is as a natural, sustainable product. We also stock some cork in our store and we have laid cork floors next to the cork displays. We also have an office in our store with cork flooring to show how well it wears in a light commercial application.”

Green Home Solutions in Seattle showcases cork in two separate spaces. “When you walk into our showroom the first floor you walk on is cork,” said Cameron Reith, a partner. “We actually use that as an example to show how durable it can be for commercial traffic. We [also] have a whole section for cork and its about 15-20 feet long.”

MicMar Wood Flooring & Design in Phoenix also displays cork at the main entrance of its showroom. The idea, according to Lenny Blier, sales representative, is to bring “it to our customers’ attention who might not know about cork flooring and its multitude of great qualities.” In addition, the dealer showcases cork on a large wall in the showroom behind some of its cork displays.

For many dealers cork is positioned near other hard surface offerings. Case in point is America’s Carpet Outlet in State College, Pa. “Cork is positioned in its own area in our showroom—near to the sheet vinyl, laminate and the wood displays,” said George McMurtry, owner. “We feel it is a unique and separate product line and should not be integrated into another flooring type or display.”

For Long Leaf Lumber of Cambridge, Mass., cork pairs well with the company’s already established wood business. “It sort of complemented what we did—everything we make is solid wood flooring,” said Alice DeGennaro, owner. “We thought it could be an option for someone looking for a prefinished product.”

Cork’s renewable qualities and easy installation make it an easy product to sell, DeGennaro added.

Emphasizing the attributes
A flooring store’s success with cork is dependent not only on its presence in the showroom, but also how retailers position the product to customers. For many dealers the consumer does not always come in the store looking for cork, which makes its product story and characteristics even more important.

“We feature cork as natural and sustainable flooring,” Walters explained. “The fact that it is sound absorbing and insulating also helps when selling to a customer in a high-rise condo. The green factor is the main selling point. Depending on the brand and construction of the cork, we offer it as a residential to light commercial product.”

Screen Shot 2017-08-22 at 4.20.12 PMThe Vertical Connection Carpet One in Columbia, Md., also utilizes cork’s green story. “As many do, we position it as an environmentally friendly product that has lots of great attributes including softness under foot, warmth and acoustical benefits,” said Adam Joss, co-owner. Joss’ flooring store positions cork at the front of its showroom to help spark conversations about the product’s unique characteristics.

In certain areas consumers are seeking out cork. Retailers say that those looking for the product have usually already done their research online and are interested in its sustainable properties.

“Typically it’s a very small segment of the population that is going to be interested in cork and it’s typically someone who has done research on environmentally friendly products,” said Scott Gaulden, general manager, Designer Showroom of Texas, Austin. “When they come in asking those [types of] questions we take them over to the cork display.”

McMurtry explained customers will occasionally ask for cork if they have looked at sites such as HGTV, Houzz, Better Home and Gardens, etc. The product is often viewed as a trendier flooring option. “We generally will offer cork to the customer as an alternative to other hard-surface products,” he added.

Most, if not all, specialty retailers agree that their main concern is educating the consumer about flooring regardless of whether or not she comes into a store looking for cork. And while it doesn’t happen all of the time, cork—in certain situations—still presents itself as the most viable option.

“Ultimately, all we’re trying to do is help [the consumer] navigate toward what is going to be the best floor,” Reith explained. “We are here to educate the consumer. A lot of the time [with cork] it can be a cost-saving choice.”