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Flooring America dealers challenged to change the paradigm

August 14/21, 2017: Volume 32, Issue 5

Screen Shot 2017-08-22 at 10.16.55 AMSalt Lake City—“Focus on selling the project, not just the product.” That was the advice Keith Spano, president of Flooring America, offered retailer members during his opening day remarks on day one of the convention. It was a theme that would permeate throughout the duration of the three-day event.

“There are many opportunities to add incremental sales while also protecting your core business,” Spano said, citing paint, paint, kitchen and bath, window treatments, chair rails, decorative wall base, etc., as potential new businesses. “These all have the potential to make you stand out from the competition, allowing you to demand a higher price and better margin. When you have the opportunity to deliver a complete project to your customer, you will have a tremendous advantage over the competition.”

The overarching theme behind the event, “Building Buzz,” was designed to engage all ranges of attendees and help them perform at their peak. Conference organizers also put a new spin on the show by adding a sub theme (“Pathfinding”), which was designed to provide specific tracks, or pathways, tailored toward specific job functions.

The goal, according to Spano, was to get members to bring as many of their salespeople as possible. “We want to help the front line—the conduit to our customer—to make sure they have all the information they need. If they are successful, then our members will be more successful. It trickles down.”

In speaking with members at the convention, Spano likes what he’s hearing. “Business is good right now, so it’s much easier for store owners and managers to send more people to convention and invest in their staff. Some of our dealers brought several people to convention—as much as six people in some cases.” (On average, Flooring America tends to draw about 85% of members at convention, with attendance a tad higher at the winter events.)

Members such as Danielle Eckenrode, sales associate with Pro Floors & Cabinets, Naples, Fla., came to convention in search of information and tips to share with her co-workers back home. This is particularly true when it comes to social media initiatives. “There is so much more we could be doing,” she said. “Social media is really driving business.”

That’s why management is putting so much effort into social media. This includes everything from providing members with tips on how to market more effectively online to turning leads into sales opportunities. To their credit, according to Spano, members are embracing the change.

“If you go back six years ago, we gave iPads to all of our members to have access to proprietary digital apps. Some members didn’t even know how to turn them on. Fast forward to today, our members expect us to be innovating and building on to our digital elements. They are incredibly digitally savvy.”

Spano said members have made strides in this regard in just a few short years. Five years ago, Flooring America rolled out its “FAST” program, the first social media syndication platform of its kind for flooring, he said. At the time, many members were not convinced there could be an adequate ROI on social media investment, but that has changed. “Fast forward to today, they embrace it 100%.”

Good vibes
On the whole, sales trends are favorable for many Flooring America dealers. In his address to retail members, Spano cited encouraging consumer purchasing trends and changing demographics. He said April 2017 was the biggest month for the group since 2012.

Screen Shot 2017-08-22 at 10.17.22 AM“Things are pretty positive—the stock market is up, consumer confidence is on the rise, the job numbers are good and our members tell us their stores have been busy,” Spano said. “Overall, people are generally investing in their homes again. Millennials, especially, are buying homes and contributing to the home improvement market. If any of our members are not crushing it out there right now, then we have to talk.”

Spano is so optimistic about the potential for members to grow sales in the current economy that he’s raising the bar. “We’re creating this new benchmark of $1 million in sales—that’s where we want everyone to be.”

Dealers like Kevin Wahl, sales manager with R&R Creative Interiors in Lac La Biche, Alberta, Canada, is encouraged by what he’s seeing among the key millennial demographic. “It reconfirms some of what we have known about some of these specific groups of buyers.”

Product, program highlights
While education is always a key draw, members also come to see new products, line extensions and new marketing programs. There was plenty of this to go around as Flooring America unveiled new private-label programs in hot, trendy categories such as LVT, WPC, hardwood and even soft carpet. Highlights included: the new Purstone line from Armstrong; Floorcraft wood from Shaw; exotic-looking offerings from Hemisphere Imports; a new partnership with Stainmaster Pet Protect; and a soon-to-be released WPC program dubbed Galvanite.

In walking the show floor, Joe Perdue, sales manager, Dobson’s Flooring America, Garland, Texas, liked what he saw in Shaw’s Floorte Pro line. “We were really blown away by it. Usually you can pick a good-looking laminate or LVT. But as we cruised through the space we legitimately thought we had a real wood floor here. It’s the best real wood visual we’ve ever seen; it’s going to be a game changer in the product category. Shaw has a real home run here.”