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CCA Global conventions: Carpet One retailers thrive through specialization

February 4/11, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 18

By Ken Ryan

 

Oxon Hill, Md.—It’s a great time to be a flooring dealer in this age of fragmentation in which consumers reward specialization. That was the message John Gilbert, Carpet One Floor & Home’s new president, delivered to members during the co-op’s winter convention here.

Gilbert, who began his 40-year career selling typewriters for IBM, has held major marketing positions for brands that include Dunkin’ Donuts and TGI Friday’s. He has also held CEO positions for the likes of Famous Dave’s, Vermont Teddy Bear and Romano’s Macaroni Grill. Shortly into his opening address, Gilbert quipped, “What do I know about flooring? Not a damn thing ... which may not be such a bad thing. I do know a lot about consumers, though.”

In Gilbert’s view, the business world has become fragmented. He noted there was a time where there were three major TV networks—NBC, ABC and CBS; today there are more than 50. “Once upon a time there were two mattress companies; now there are 20.”

In today’s market, Gilbert said consumers are rewarding the specialist who can do one or two things really well as opposed to a jack of all trades, master of none approach. Carpet One Floor & Home, of course, comprises many hundreds of “specialists,” independent dealers who are in prime position to win in today’s market. “Touch, measure, install—that space is yours. It is custom to you. It is golden, and it is not going away. When Carpet One gets the fusion thing right between physical and digital, we will disrupt the industry again. Working together, we can be the disruptor.”

Google My Business
Among the many digital programs and tools introduced at convention, one that stood out was Google My Business. According to Google, 50% of all mobile consumers searching for a local business will visit that location in the same day, and 18% of them will convert into a sale. What’s more, one out of every three Google searches has local intent, meaning most consumers are searching for small local businesses.

Bevin Andrews, senior vice president of marketing for Carpet One, extolled the benefits of Google My Business to members during a marketing breakout session. She encouraged them to build their business profiles through Google My Business and take advantage of features such as its enhanced search visibility. Searching on Google displays organic searches along with select, local “pack” listings. For example, a flooring retailer may appear in the organic rankings if a customer searches for “carpet store near me” or “waterproof flooring.” However, there are many factors that play into which webpages are listed, including location, review ratings and relevant information on a website. The local pack is deemed a coveted spot on Google as it displays a map view with some of the “best-suited” stores in the area.

New members
Gilbert equated owning a flooring store to the American dream, calling it “a Horatio Alger story” of people who often come from humble backgrounds to achieve lives of middle-class security and comfort through hard work and determination. At winter convention, Carpet One welcomed five new members whose backgrounds and origins (from Celebration, Fla., to North Battleford, Saskatchewan, Canada) are as diverse as the subjects in a Horatio Alger novel.

Jose Chavez, co-owner of Winner Carpet One Floor & Home in Celebration, for example, emigrated from Venezuela in 2004 and worked his way up from contractor to entrepreneur. Terence Caldwell, who along with his wife, Stacey, runs Empress Carpet One Floor & Home in Saskatchewan, began his career as an installer. He said he wasn’t sure Carpet One would want him as a member because his store is different. Among other things, it features a greenhouse and unique furnishings from all over the world.

“Carpet One is pretty discerning about who becomes a member,” he told FCNews. “I am happy to be with this group. We investigated Carpet One for several years and we liked the fact they’re a cooperative. My takeaway here is the industry is changing fast and Carpet One is ahead of the game.”

Tunnel to Towers
Carpet One Floor & Home celebrated its five-year partnership with the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation with much fanfare during its winter convention. Attendees were treated to a multimedia presentation outlining the many ways Carpet One members, vendors and staff have supported the foundation, including installing new floors into each smart home the organization provides for disabled veterans. In five years, Carpet One dealers—with the help of Mohawk, Masterbrand, Hunter Douglas, Serta, Future Foam and, more recently, Leggett & Platt—have constructed 42 homes as part of the foundation and Building for America’s Bravest.