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Lessons learned: A business’ most renewable resource

March 19/26, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 20

By Tom Jennings

 

Today’s consumer is undoubtedly aware of the multitude of sustainable products available in virtually every product category. From cars to carpet, many of these new products are truly revolutionary. While it’s nearly impossible to have not heard about the upcoming car models, is the flooring industry getting its fair share of the attention? If not, then why not?

Recently I decided to spend a couple of weeks paying particular attention to all of the information I came across pertaining to renewably resourced products in general. My goal was to attempt to see what was new in the “green” world through our customers’ eyes. My observations were gleaned from both local and national sources. Simultaneously, I also paid special attention to all advertising that pertained to the retail flooring business. I would love to report my findings regarding flooring promotion to be new and refreshing, as exciting of many of the new more earth-friendly products our industry has to offer. Unfortunately, what I discovered could best be described as this week’s version of the same old song.

Here’s an example: While reading an article in a national magazine regarding the automakers’ progress on electric cars, a commercial came on the television for a flooring store promoting “the greatest sale in our history!” The only thing memorable to me was the tag line, “It all ends Saturday night!” I was left wondering if he meant the sale, the business or the world as we know it. Have you noticed that when advertising the new hybrid and electric cars the automakers don’t find it necessary to talk rapidly or scream? They emphasize the value, newness and uniqueness of their products. Price is rarely mentioned, but improved mileage and lower cost of operation is always promoted. They understand how to sell the difference between initial cost and long-term value. The flooring industry has its equivalents of the hybrid car, but do your customers know they exist?

As the sage philosopher Pogo famously stated, “I have seen the enemy and it is us.” It is no small wonder that our industry has a creditability problem. It seems as though we are always screaming at the customer. Must our industry always sink to the lowest common denominator, i.e., an unbelievable price? Are there not other options for a customer to consider? There is obviously a continually building interest within the marketplace for products with a more eco-friendly story. Our industry’s manufacturing and design communities are offering truly exciting and revolutionary products to sell. It is the retailers’ job to be the bridge between manufacturers and consumers.

Savvy dealers seeking to separate themselves from the pack are actively pursuing the goal of being the first choice in the flooring market for the smart shopper who has done her homework. It is important to remember there is a difference between a “value-driven” customer and a “values-driven” customer. If your company is walking the walk, then by all means convey that information to the customer. Remind them of steps our industry is taking to be a better steward of our resources. Incorporating compelling displays that convey this message will differentiate your store from all others. The result will be a company that more customers feel they can trust.

Tom Jennings is vice president of professional development for the World Floor Covering Association (WFCA). Jennings, a retail sales training guru, has served in various capacities within the WFCA.