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Installation: Underlayments = solutions + add-on opportunities

June 10/17, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 26

By Megan Salzano

 

Sundry products such as underlayments and subfloor levelers are often overlooked by the consumer but play a vital role in the successful completion of any flooring installation. Furthermore, they also provide the retailer with upselling opportunities.

As such, it is squarely on the shoulders of the retail sales associate to convey the pivotal role these products play when it comes to the final outcome of a project. “The underlayment is a very important add-on sale,” said Jim Wink, vice president of sales and marketing, Foam Products. “It generates much greater profits with high margins over the low profit margins of the actual flooring.”

Current flooring trends have also made room for upselling opportunities. For example, as hard surface flooring has grown in popularity, the importance of underlayments has grown as well. “Many families who have been accustomed to the benefits of carpet with a separate cushion are now finding out their new hard surface floor isn’t as quiet as what they were used to,” said Erik Kempf, president, Leggett & Platt Flooring Products. “For consumers who are making the switch from soft surface to hard surface, the retailer should explain the reasons why a good quality underlayment is needed. Carpet has an obvious companion product, which provides a profit center. When you move to hard surface flooring, not only are you taking a customer out of the market for a longer period of time but oftentimes no underlayment is used. That is a tremendous profit opportunity for the retailer.”

In order to land that add-on sale, retail owners and their sales associates should first be well informed on the benefits underlayments provide and then relay those benefits to suit the needs of the customer. “It is always essential to assist customers in researching what best fits the needs of any particular installation,” said Wade Verble, vice president of business development – underlayment division, DriTac Flooring Products. “If sound control is the primary concern, the focus should be abatement qualities. If moisture control proves most important, research the moisture mitigation attributes of the underlayment.”

Adam Abell, market manager, tile and stone installation systems, consumer and construction business unit, Bostik, agrees retailers must embrace their role as industry experts. “Stay savvy and educate your customer with the proper techniques, the reasons why conformance with our industry requirements will result in longevity and quality of the completed project.”

However, offering underlayment is not only about making a sale. It can also help add value to a retailer’s customer relationships. “When retailers use underlayments to address subfloor issues, they then become a solution provider—not just a salesperson,” said Shane Jenkins, senior technical coordinator, Schönox, HPS North America. “This is the greatest opportunity for retailers to gain the trust of the consumer as an expert. This added trust can lead to a successful sale without lowering the cost or compromising on the quality of the project.”

For some sales associates, adding underlayments to the final cost can be daunting. However, manufacturers agreed, oftentimes the opportunity to upgrade the customer with an underlayment sale naturally presents itself. “In many situations there is an obvious need for a solution, and just pointing out that there are underlayments that offer a remedy is a path to a better installation for the customer and higher profits for the dealer,” said Ann Wicander, president, We Cork. “So often the dealer rep is afraid to add more cost to a project estimate—they miss the opportunity to upgrade the customer to a better situation.”

Other industry experts agree. Jack Boesch, director of marketing, MP Global, said adding a premium acoustic underlayment is as easy as a fast food restaurant asking if you want to “super-size” your drink. “Consumers look for guidance from sales staff on what to purchase. When the customer service rep explains the benefits of a premium underlayment, the additional cost doesn’t seem unreasonable.”

Manufacturers, likewise, agree that profitable opportunities in today’s market should never be overlooked or underutilized. “There are financial benefits to promoting and upgrading your customer,” Bostik’s Abell said. “If you omit this discussion with said customer you are leaving an opportunity untapped and, in today’s marketplace, your savvy competitors won’t likely pass on similar opportunities they encounter.”

When it comes to merchandising techniques, Leggett & Platt’s Kempf said countertop, point-of-purchase units used at key locations in showrooms are useful. They not only showcase the underlayment but they can also illustrate the key reasons why underlayments are used, he said. “The one mistake some make is having too many choices. There are so many flooring options that consumers may get frustrated. Don’t over complicate the underlayment pitch. Keep it simple.”

In the end, establishing your brand as one of quality installation and service is critical in today’s marketplace, and underlayments can help accomplish this. “If retailers begin with a solid foundation, then finished flooring will look and perform as intended,” Schönox’s Jenkins said. “The end goal is to have a completed project all parties can all be proud of, and that starts with a sound and smooth subfloor.”