February 4/11, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 18
By Reginald Tucker
Orlando—Of all the issues Shaw Flooring Network dealers need to contend with over the normal course of doing business on a day-to-day basis, fear of commitment is not one of them. That’s because Shaw is giving dealers a slew of reasons to remain loyal to the brand while simultaneously increasing their ownership stake in the network’s success.
Hence the theme of this year’s SFN conference—Commit 2019. As SFN vice president Danny Crutchfield explains, it’s a four-way commitment: “Shaw commits to its SFN members; dealers commit to Shaw; members commit to each other; and dealers commit to the consumer.”
A key aspect of that strategy is encouraging retailers to take control of their own destinies. “We’ve always had a passion for SFN, but we felt we could do more for our retailers and transfer ownership to them,” Crutchfield told FCNews. A big part of that transfer of ownership, he said, was empowering the group’s 18-member dealer council to have much more say in development and direction of SFN’s programs and initiatives. “We wanted this current council to own the network.”
It’s not just lip service. The message of ownership and empowerment was immediately evident from the start of the biennial convention. Rather than having top Shaw Floors executives pontificate about the value of the network to members in attendance, the bulk of the presentations during the general sessions were conducted by SFN dealers—many of which sit on the dealer council.
“The power of the network is the network,” Crutchfield said. “I am honored and grateful to lead this network. Many of the programs and concepts being rolled out at convention were based on ideas and feedback generated directly by the dealer members.”
SFN dealers in attendance welcome the new approach. “We have been more involved in creating the new SFN than I ever thought we would be,” said Jason Jabara, owner of Jabara Carpet Outlet, Wichita, Kan. “The new SFN is truly dealer driven, so what better way to do that than to hear it directly from us. I’ve been a member of the SFN network for 12 years and a member of the dealer council for five years; I am more excited today than I’ve ever been. The reason why is I’ve seen how Shaw is talking to members, listening to us and working with us to build solutions for our business.”
Jabara is not alone. Mark Carr, owner of Conroe, Texas-based Color Interiors, an SFN member since 1999, is also a believer. “Shaw is a true partner in our business. They listen to our needs and concerns better than any manufacturer out there—whether it’s different displays or classes to teach us at convention.”
John Pierce, owner of Pierce Flooring, Billings, Mont., couldn’t agree more. A long-time Shaw Floors partner and a former SFN council member who sat on the board for 10 years, he has noticed a significant change over the years. “Shaw listens to the council members, and they have responded. There’s never been a time in this industry when the culture of caring and commitment has been better. Whether you are a one-store operation or multiple store, we all have challenges in our business. With Shaw, we can pick up the phone and say we need help here. It’s an incredible value.”
Pierce provided a specific instance where Shaw went above and beyond to address his needs and concerns. “Years ago, we found we needed help in running our company better, so we shared our financials with Shaw so they could serve as sort of a consultant. Six executives flew out to our location, dissected our business and came up with valuable input. Shaw also helped us with some of our technical challenges early on. They’re not just a manufacturer; it’s a partner and a resource.”
Shaw also listened closely to its SFN dealers when they said they wanted more exclusive products—something the company was hesitant to do in the past. “We had a blank slate in terms of what we as dealers thought SFN should be, and we immediately asked for exclusive products,” Jabara stated, citing the newly launched COREtec ColorWall as an example. It represents and extension of the soft surface ColorWall, the signature merchandising unit of the Shaw Flooring Network and one of the longest running displays in the industry. “I’m proud to say Shaw now has exclusive products. And it’s an example of what we mean by the term dealer driven. It’s an illustration of the fact that Shaw is listening to us and is willing to build programs that fit our needs and are beneficial to our businesses.”
For Shaw executives, that was precisely the point. As Tim Baucom executive vice president, residential, told attendees during the general session,“We are committed because you are important to us. We’re bringing our best for our best and prioritizing our best product and services. From our first convention, Discovery 98, we sought to create a unique and sustainable bond and balance your independence with the power of being connected to something bigger than yourself. SFN brings scale to your entrepreneurial passion.”
Shaw is looking to leverage that passion by taking the Shaw Flooring Network to a whole new level. “I truly believe this network is a great opportunity to grow, and our ambitious goal is to reach $1 billion by 2022,” Crutchfield shared. (At present, roughly 1,600 SFN members generate more than $800 million in business for Shaw.) “We can get there if we’re committed. But to make that happen, we realize we need to strengthen the value proposition of the network.”
Products, programs galore
Part of Shaw Floors’ plans to grow the business for its dealer partners entails a slew of products, displays, programs and various initiatives. Following is an overview of some of them:
Velocity. Currently in its pilot phase, this sophisticated lead-generation program aims to help SFN dealers not only increase their exposure online but also generate (and convert) genuine leads. To help execute the program, Shaw Floors tapped Mobile Marketing, a full-service digital marketing and social agency focused specifically on flooring. The company has a stellar track record. Over the last five years, it has delivered 158,000 leads in market flooring consumers to its clients—that translates into roughly $8.2 million in business.
“We’ve partnered with SFN to figure out how to put together best-in-class flooring solutions for retailers,” said Carole Cross, Mobile Marketing president and CEO. “The strategy lies in how do we find them, engage them, convert them and manage them through the leads process and ultimately how we get them to tell others and share that information through ratings and reviews process.”
Although the pilot program only launched back in early December, SFN retailers are already seeing positive results. “Just 10 days into the program, the phones were ringing and the emails were coming in,” said Reagan Echols, owner of I.Q. Floors, Colorado Springs, Colo. “These were real, legitimate leads. In the past I’ve tried them all—Porch, Thumbtack, Angie’s List, etc. You hope you get legitimate leads every now and again, but these were solid leads—calls from local churches and restaurants.”
Jeffrey Rohal, owner of A&S Carpets, Tratford, Pa., also had a positive experience after only a short time using Velocity. “We got 900 unique visitors to our website the first week in January and we got 33 new leads in the first 10 days in January. It was a title wave—completely unexpected.”
Rohal encouraged other dealers who might be hesitant to try Velocity for themselves. “I’m 64 years old, and I chose to embark on this journey. Carole [Cross] and her team led us through the entire process.”
Emphasis on Anderson Tuftex. It’s not so much about launching a slew of new products, but rather curating existing hard and soft surface collections. That’s according to Teresa Tran, director of soft surface portfolio management, and Katie Ford, director of brand strategy, Anderson Tuftex.
“Everything we’re doing is about pairing hardwood and carpet,” she said, citing the voluminous, 346-page Art & Play product catalogue the company unveiled at SFN conference. “Everything is combined so customers can see how it looks in the home. The average homeowner has multiple surfaces in their homes. The average homeowner has multiple surfaces in their homes; she doesn’t look at it as one product for that room or this one.”
Ford drew particular attention to carpet collections like Reverie, a super soft product paired with lighter-colored hardwoods in the Anderson Tuftex line. Then there’s Unleashed, Shaw Floors’ biggest collection this year. “Everything is made with PetProtect fiber and we’ve had good success with it,” Ford said.
Eye-catching new hardwood products include Metallics, a white oak that Ford described as having been “been kissed with a little bit of metallic shimmer.”
The line also features Shaw’s naturally oxidized aging process (NOA), which speeds the aging process to render a more natural wood tone. Suggested retail price is $13-$14 per square foot.
Other highlights showcased at convention included the new COREtec Stone line from USFloors, a division of Shaw, as well as Floorte- and Repel-branded hardwood offerings. Previously, these collections were relegated to LVT and laminate products, respectively. Also new is a breathtaking array of ceramic tile and stone imported from Mexico, Spain, Turkey, Italy and China, with some products produced locally in the U.S.
Then there’s Floorigami, a modular, peel-and-stick carpet tile previewed for SFN dealers at the 2017 conference. The product features adhesive that easily releases without leaving any residue on the floor, thereby enabling consumers flexibility in design.
SFN Invoicing 365: Rebates made simple
In keeping with developing programs to make life easier for its dealer partners, Shaw Floors has unveiled Invoicing 365, a new program that dramatically simplifies how dealers track rebates they earn on qualifying products.
As Danny Crutchfield, vice president, SFN, explains: “With all the different products Shaw offers, we would typically send dealers multiple invoices for new displays or new merchandising systems, which have different types of rebates with different percentages based on certain kind of products. For retailers, it was really confusing to get all these invoices and not be able to easily reconcile with the rebates they earn. In keeping with listening to our partners, we felt there was a better way to do it.”
Now, everything is contained in one invoice and retailers get a full 12 months to pay, meaning there's no upfront payment. “Dealers get one rebate and it's a really simple—5% on all qualifying products. The dealer can track that every month, and we send an official quarterly statement that shows them what their initial invoice was along with their remaining balances.”
Brent Zeigler, owner of H&R Carpets, Waunakee, Wis., like the plan. “It gives me one invoice with one year to pay.”
More importantly, the program—which entailed input from members—reflects the fact that Shaw takes dealer feedback seriously. “People can talk about a lot of different things but we've put a lot of talk into action,” Crutchfield stated. “We believe Invoicing 365 is really a big step for us.”