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Guest column: Why going ‘mobile’ in your flooring business makes sense

March 5/12, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 19

By Kurt Wilson

 

With the explosion of mobile devices in the last few years, many new software programs and apps have come on the market that are designed to be used by flooring professionals. That begs the question: Why should you get onboard the mobile train?

Answer: Mobility enables your sales, estimating and installation team members to be more productive. For example, sales professionals can use their cell phone or tablet to look up product pricing and availability from the showroom floor and even give their clients a proposal document before she leaves the showroom floor. Using a mobile application, sales professionals can create a quote with product quantities after they have used the app to draw the floor plan and estimate these quantities.

If your business employs dedicated estimators, they can use mobile applications to receive project assignments from the sales staff or management, then send the estimated project back to the salesperson within a work period. Consider the Measure Mobile and Mobile Order Entry programs from RFMS, for example. Tim Blanchard, district manager, Design Source Flooring, Lenexa, Kan., can attest. “Measure Mobile and Mobile Order Entry have significantly empowered our sales team to independently and professionally close sales calls without relying on office staff or after-hours legwork. We have also seen a substantial increase of greater accuracy in regard to floorplan layouts, providing an increased cost savings on material and labor charges to our clients.”

Blanchard is not alone. Andy Coomer, account manager at ProSource, Nashville, is also a believer. “After using Mobile Order Entry for several months, I am 100% on board. In my opinion, this is the best thing to come along since I have been at ProSource. I’m able to hand my customers a written estimate and email them a copy before they leave the showroom floor. I’m even able to check inventory on the showroom floor. That’s efficiency.”

As technology improves, the costs of deployment have significantly gone down. This means flooring dealers no longer need to pay large sums to purchase hardware and software. Today’s mobile devices are affordable, and many apps either have free versions or can be used on a cost-effective subscription basis.

Must-have tools
When deciding on what software or apps you use, consider the way the apps work together with your main business management system. This is important to prevent duplicate entries. Check to see if the software has features that allow remote access to your main database, real-time inventory checking, payment acceptance and posting, along with attachment of signed documents. In addition, the software should sync to your main database back at the office.

Mobile apps should also have the ability to use cell phone camera technologies to improve the way orders and quotes are created. For instance, many dealers use the camera feature to put together a project in the software and take photos of the product to attach to the quote to give to the customer. The warehouse can also use the attached photos to immediately confirm the receipt of the correct product when it arrives.

Bottom line: In today’s competitive business environment, it is vital that we take advantage of technology and use it to make us more professional and profitable. Mobile devices are here to stay. With our economy and business sector enjoying a very healthy and busy climate, it is critical that your business can keep up. By utilizing time-saving devices and apps, you can improve your profits and keep your staff current with their technology skills.

 

Kurt Wilson is the apps product manager for Measure by RFMS. His role entails working with RFMS’ mobile applications and their integration with the RFMS Business Management System. He can be reached at kwilson@rfms.com.

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Guest column: Managing a workforce across generations

January 22/29, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 6

By Matt Beaudreau

 

Many businesses today—including the flooring industry—have as many as five generations working together. That’s a phenomenon unprecedented in the history of the U.S. workforce. This presents both an opportunity and a challenge as businesses look for ways to improve communication and work processes across generational lines.

The first thing an owner needs to do is acknowledge there are fundamental differences in the way people learn, work and interact—something we think about in our heads but don’t always verbalize. Every generation has factors, whether it’s social, political, economic, etc., that shape or define who they are. It’s important to remember that generations don’t always fit into a box just because you were born into a certain age bracket. But there are clues and insights into behaviors we can glean from our experience in working with different generations.

Managing a multi-generation workforce begins with a paradigm shift. Owners who come from an older generation often feel their way of doing things is the “right way” and that all others are off base. That’s no longer acceptable. Managers have to understand that people see the world through different lenses. Instead of looking at those perceived differences as being a hinderance, I would suggest that owners shift their thinking to acknowledge all the strengths they have on their team. Once you embrace that mindset, you can begin to have open dialogues within your ranks and among your employees.

Second, business owners need to understand that different people respond differently when it comes to criticism, praise and so forth. Following my presentations to various groups I often get the questions: “What’s the best way for business owners to manage different age groups? Or is a certain amount of friction good for a multi-generational workforce?”

When we use the term friction, we automatically assume it means there’s going to be some problem. Or you can look at these situations as being beneficial, i.e., we’re a collection of individuals working toward the same goal. The key is honoring the individuality of the employee. It’s no longer acceptable to say, “Look, this is how we do it here; you’re essentially all robots, etc.” It’s about managing everyone differently but equally, but at the same time realizing that equal does not mean the same. For example, for some people to have a good work environment they need constant feedback and reassurance, and they need someone to check on them on a daily basis.

On the other side of the spectrum, you have people who basically want to be left alone. This is the group that says, “If you’re checking on me too frequently then I’m doing something wrong.” That’s how the older generation feels. But if you’re part of the younger generation, you feel you’re doing something wrong if the boss is not talking to you frequently.

But there’s also unhealthy conflict. In my business, I tell my people if you can’t get along with others on the staff then you have to go. Harmony in an organization only occurs when people are allowed to be themselves, when they’re working together toward the same goals and are allowed to have open communications about what’s working vs. what’s not working.

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Guest column: Is millennial marketing overrated today?

January 8/15, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 15

By Matt Beaudreau

 

The big question on the minds of many businesses today, whether you’re selling laminate flooring or Lamborghinis, is how do we reach this group that everyone is talking about—the millennials? For the purposes of this conversation, we define millennials as follows: those born between 1977 and 1995.

The long and short answer is retailers first need to look beyond the “category” of potential buyers—although millennials are emerging as a key demographic with increasing buying power. A recent Forbes article stated millennials in the U.S. alone spent $200 billion last year. By 2018, they will have the most spending power of any generation. Furthermore, the article stated social media is playing a huge role with 62% of millennials acknowledging that if a brand engages with them through various networks, they are more likely to become a loyal customer.

Beyond just targeting millennials, retailers also need to change the way consumers in general are researching and shopping today. I’m a firm believer that technology has changed the science of retailing today, which means successful retail salespeople must adapt accordingly.

This is especially important when you’re talking about multi-generational businesses. The older generation says, “This is how we do it. The family does it this way, the business looks like this.” There’s so much of that mentality out there, but that doesn’t work anymore. Ten or 11 years ago, Facebook did not exist; YouTube did not exist. When you think about the cultural impact of those platforms alone, it’s astounding. The reality is more has changed in the last 10 years in retail than the previous 50 years.

Looking back over the years, retailers went from making sure they had a functional website to updating that site with content more frequently. That was followed by blogging. But in today’s world that’s still not enough to deliver customers to your doorstep on a daily basis. To be successful, retailers need to be targeting customers on various platforms with new tools such as video, podcasts, etc. The only way to survive is to adapt and never get too nostalgic or romantic about any specific way of doing business. You have to become a practitioner of what is working right now. For example, if your goal is to incorporate Facebook ads but nobody on your staff uses Facebook in that way, good luck with that approach. Same with Instagram. If you’re targeting people age 45 or under—and we’re finding a lot of people buying homes are falling in that age range—Instagram is where they are. But like Facebook, you better have someone on your staff who uses Instagram to understand how it works.

Salespeople will always require the knowledge of connecting with people on a one-on-one basis. While that’s still true, it’s more important to the growth of the industry to be getting the attention of the end consumer in the first place. In other words, where are their eyeballs? Right now social media has a greater impact with the consumer than a billboard or a traditional TV commercial.

 

Matt Beaudreau is a certified keynote speaker at The Center for Generational Kinetics, headquartered in Austin, Texas. He is a millennial who has a reputation as a thought leader amongst his generation.

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Guest column: Retailers, are you ready to service the shopper of the future?

November 6/13, 2017: Volume 32, Issue 11

By Wes Dillingham

 

Screen Shot 2017-11-13 at 10.24.38 AMI recently learned about a company called Enjoy, a 100% online reseller of consumer electronic products such as Apple TV, GoPro, etc. I know what you are thinking: another Amazon, right? The difference is Enjoy—which currently operates in New York and San Francisco—takes online retailing to the next level. When you buy a product from the company, they have someone deliver it in person, set it up for you (if necessary) and teach you how to use it. All this for the same price as buying the product on Amazon or at Best Buy.

Love it or hate it, this is a glimpse into the future of retail. Now, don’t stop reading because you think you aren’t ready. That’s OK—no one is entirely prepared for the future. But while no one can say with any certainty what the future will bring, there are things we can do to prepare and plan for the future.

Here is what we know about the future for sure: First, the population is changing; therefore, the way people shop and buy is changing. In illustration: millennials (those born between 1980-2000) will soon account for 30% of consumer spending. In recent months, millennials became the largest generation in the U.S., surpassing Baby Boomers and becoming a major force on the future of our economy.

Second, technology is changing the way consumers shop and buy as well as how businesses operate. This means having more mobile-friendly websites and a strong social media presence.

As a retailer you need to ask: Does my business accommodate for the technology expectations, shopping behaviors and communication needs of millennials? If not, it’s time to retool and learn more about this powerful demographic and how they will change the future of retail.

Following are some trends you can count on to change your business in the future followed by advice on how to “future proof” your business.

Adopt an omnichannel strategy. In essence this means combining all of the shopping channels your customers use into one integrated experience. For example, if they shop on your website they may want to buy online and pick up at the store. Or they may decide to research online, come into the store to purchase and then have the product shipped to their house. This means your online, mobile and in-store experience must be seamless for the consumer.

Data is king. Thanks to the Internet and the cloud there are numerous technologies capturing real-time, consumer and business data. Lucky for you, this information is more and more accessible to small businesses. More important, this information can assist small- to medium-sized businesses in making educated, real-time, strategic decisions the same way large companies have been doing for years. It used to be you had to buy this information from large research companies, but now you can get information from Google Analytics and other software programs right inside your store.

These programs capture valuable data to help you evaluate your business. A good customer relationship management system (CRM) will capture and provide valuable business data. This will allow you to monitor your business from anywhere and make key business decisions. Those who capitalize on this data have the ability to adjust to market conditions quicker than their competitors.

I suggest spending an hour or two each week Googling trends and learning about different business resources. This research will uncover key trends that will keep you in the know in terms of what is coming and give you ideas on a few things to implement into your business. Lastly, reach out to cutting-edge operations and leaders you admire, not only in your industry but in other sectors.

 

Wes Dillingham is vice president of customer success at Stock Systems a Cincinnati-based CRM startup. He writes frequently on matters related to online marketing and retailing.

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Guest column: The golden rule of software implementation

August 28/September 4: Volume 32, Issue 6

By Wes Dillingham

 

(First of two parts)

One of the biggest mistakes companies make when buying and implementing software is not approaching it as change first. It’s important to keep in mind that any software you plan to implement at your company is likely to present a major change to the day-to-day routine of your employees.

In other words, if you are implementing any type of software or any other type of change to your company, you need to first recognize it for what it is—not just new software or a new process but a new way of thinking and working.

When you are changing up the routine of your employees and asking them to implement any change that includes but is not limited to a new software program, you are likely going to experience resistance and you can expect your most tenured employees to fight the hardest, even though this may seem counterintuitive. They will also have the most ammunition in their arsenal. All of their experience and history with the company will likely be used to defend their position, especially if they have a proven track record of getting successful results.

According to Nikolay Bulava of Customer Think, the top reasons cited for resisting a CRM software implementation are:

  1. Fear of change
  2. Fear of visibility into one’s daily work
  3. Inconvenience of use

The following is a very simple and logical way to approach change within your organization. There are numerous change management concepts and processes you can Google to learn more, but I have found the “Switch” methodology to be a very simple concept to grasp. This concept comes from Dan and Chip Heath’s New York Times bestseller of the same name. In the book, the authors describe the problem their method helps to solve in the following excerpt: “For things to change, somebody somewhere has to start acting differently. Maybe it’s you, maybe it’s your team…each has an emotional ‘elephant’ side and a rational ‘rider’ side. You’ve got to reach both, and you’ve also got to clear the way or the path for them to succeed. In short, you must do three things to impart the change you want:

  1. Direct the rider — appeal to the logical side.
  2. Motivate the elephant — the emotional side.
  3. Clear the path — the environment around them.”

Jonathan Haidt, a University of Virginia professor who originally proposed the analogy of the rider, elephant and the path in his book, “The Happiness Hypothesis,” describes it this way, “Our emotional side is an elephant and our rational side is its rider. Perched atop the elephant, the rider holds the reins and seems to be the leader. But the rider’s control is precarious because he is so small relative to the elephant. Anytime the six-ton elephant and the rider disagree about which direction to go, the rider is going to lose. He’s completely overmatched.”

In the next installment, I will delve a little deeper into the rider, elephant and path concepts. But in the interim, remember this: The successful adoption of a new software program is 80% preparation and 20% implementation—that’s the golden rule. If you do the pre-work, the actual software itself should be a relatively minor step in the process.

 

Wes Dillingham is vice president of customer success at The Lead Tool, a Cincinnati-based CRM start-up. You can connect with him directly on LinkedIn or via facebook.com/theleadtool

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Guest column: Flooring plays critical role in today’s training facilities

June 5/12, 2017: Volume 31, Issue 26

By Garnet Sofillas

 

Screen Shot 2017-06-09 at 11.28.33 AMToday’s health clubs look drastically different from the traditional gym of 30 years ago. In the 1980s through the early 2000s, mainstream clubs had it all: selectorized machines, cardio equipment, aerobics, group X, massage and tanning. Nowadays, functional training is the focus and many traditional gyms are eliminating equipment to create dedicated, functional training spaces.

“The focus is now on strength and conditioning—jumping, sprinting, throwing, crawling—things you would find in a collegiate or professional strength and conditioning program,” said Jim Launer, managing director of athletic operations at Spooky Nook Sports, Manheim, Pa. Opened in 2012, the $25 million, 700,000-square-foot facility—billed as the largest sports complex in North America—is part of a 14-acre site that features eight hockey pitches, 10 full-length volleyball/basketball courts, a 200m indoor running track and 14 batting cages, among other amenities.

In the past, Launer said, fitness facilities were focused on fitness alone, and the emphasis was on machines and how many owners could cram into a space. Fast forward to the present day where modern fitness facilities focus on training the body for activities performed in daily life. Functional strength tools common in health clubs today include suspension training rigs, racks for squats and pull-ups, battling ropes, kettle bells, medicine balls, sand bags, plyometric boxes and sleds.

Naturally, flooring surfaces have become an integral part in the design of these modern exercise facilities. With a new focus on members using their bodies, surfaces are of paramount importance. To that end, facility/project managers and designers are seeking flooring products that satisfy several basic criteria: safety, comfort and ergonomics. All of these requirements must be taken into consideration when selecting a floor in order to protect members’ bodies, ensure they have an optimal experience and to keep neighbors content. These include those working out in classes in adjoining spaces or tenants situated below the exercise facility.

Of course, any flooring material selected for use in an exercise facility shared by thousands of people on a daily basis must be relatively easy to clean and maintain. “If you are truly going to train on a floor, the surface will need to be cleaned daily,” Launer said.

Durability was another requirement that’s high on the list for the Spooky Nook Sports facility, which not only features a functional weightlifting and training area, but also a turf field, sled lane, running track, infinity spa, three pickleball courts and an “American Ninja Warrior style” course. “The floor needs to be able to handle heavy weight drops, ropes, medicine ball slams and jumping…and still provide a surface that is comfortable.”

Lastly, the surface needs to be visually appealing and appropriate for the application. In Spooky Nook’s case, the sports flooring product it chose featured bold, blue colors as well as custom logos and pictures. “The right look and color help to motivate and train people,” Launer said. “Our customers expect us to provide them with the best surfaces possible.”

 

Garnet Sofillas is the communications and public relations manager for Centaur, which provides performance flooring solutions for commercial applications. With a background in journalism, she has both agency and corporate PR experience. 

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Guest column: Bridging the gap

June 5/12, 2017: Volume 31, Issue 26

By Laurie Baatz

 

Screen Shot 2017-06-09 at 11.08.31 AMOne of the most common issues plaguing the installation of flooring today is moisture in concrete. Yet, the chronic headache has not helped to change the behavior of the teams involved. Sound familiar?

The architect or interior designer writes the project’s flooring specifications. The construction documents state that moisture testing be conducted following ASTM F2170. Specifications also state the contractor follow the manufacturer’s installation methods for the flooring specified. This should be enough information for the contractor to bid the job for a successful installation, right?

Fast forward to the contractor preparing his bid. He knows to bid the cost of conducting the moisture testing; this has been included in the specifications. However, he cannot accurately predict what those readings will be. How will he bid a moisture mitigation system that may be needed and still compete with the other flooring service providers?

Keep in mind that neither party has control of:

  • When the concrete is poured.
  • When the building is “buttoned up.”
  • If the HVAC is running and maintaining a consistent ambient building temperature of 68-72 degrees for a minimum of 28 days.

Industry standard flooring adhesives are now water based and will not perform well in high moisture environments. These circumstances will not change, and most of the new build projects are on a fast track schedule. Isn’t it time to bridge the gap between the specification community and the flooring experts during the planning stages for a project, create a plan together and execute based on the collective expertise of the teams?

It is imperative that flooring be designed as a system from the substrate up just as the building is designed as a system. Architects and engineers collaborate to design the architectural, mechanical, electrical and control systems in an effort to create one cohesive building. Each person has a particular building expertise and, as a result, brings value to the design and function of the building. The interior finishes are dependent on the proper construction and system operations of that structure. The same can be said for the flooring “system.” The substrate, its design and condition, dictate the necessary system specification to provide for the finished floor covering. Without this system design, many problems can (and do) occur regularly. What preventative measures can be taken to eliminate these challenges?

Consulting with the flooring contractor and manufacturer experts early on in the design process is a must. These consultants must understand the flooring goals of the project including budget, functional and aesthetic desires. Working together to create a solution that can be specified and competitively bid to support those goals is ideal. The design team’s vision becomes reality, the contractor doesn’t have to guess at what to quote or how to compete and, more importantly, the owner gets the end result he invested in.

Engaging with your flooring experts early on in the design process will help to establish a clear and concise plan in creating your desired solution and minimize problems down the road. Working together provides the opportunity to enhance and improve the overall experience of what the finished floor should look like without compromise.

Raise the bar of expectation by working together. It will do wonders for the industry brand along with satisfied customers. Satisfied customers become repeat customers which brings more business opportunities for everyone.

 

Laurie Baatz is the director of market development for HPS Schönox  North America.

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Guest column: Lack of action is the No. 1 impediment to success

April 24/May 1, 2017: Volume 31, Issue 23

By Vinnie Virga

 

Screen Shot 2017-03-06 at 10.51.13 AMIf you were able to ask Tony Robbins, Zig Ziglar, Jim Rohn or any other world-class personal performance speaker to identify the greatest inhibitor to success, they would probably say “fear of acting.” I would agree. When it comes to establishing and growing a successful business, every decision counts – even if you procrastinate and don’t take action, that is in its own way a decision.

Most barometers I’ve seen indicate the economy is growing, which means our businesses should all benefit. The question you must now ask yourself is this: Can you afford NOT to act? Competition is at an all-time high, and when these consumers are ready for remodeling of any kind are you confident they will call you? If you don’t know the answer with absolute certainty then read on.

In today’s ever-changing marketplace, the differentiating factor between businesses that succeed and those that don’t is the willingness to change, try new things and, most importantly, keep up with the times. What worked before won’t work now, and if you want to stay alive you’ve got to accept this notion and pivot accordingly. Consider the difference between McDonald’s and Howard Johnson’s. McDonald’s was willing to change with the times, even if every new product didn’t catch on. (Remember the McHot Dog?) Howard Johnson’s wasn’t willing to change even a modicum and, well, you know how that turned out.

Yesterday’s marketing plan cannot keep up with today’s consumers. If you do not have a plan that is aligned with current marketing methods, and if you are not looking at your plan daily, you are prolonging the inevitability of failure. Managing any successful and thriving business has an element of risk. Every entrepreneur faces the unknown and stumbling blocks along the way, but the successful ones have a support system and an effective strategy and are willing to step up to the plate. Oftentimes their risk is rewarded with increased revenue and a boost in customer acquisition.

Large leaps forward consist of smaller, focused steps. Concentrate your efforts in digital marketing. I have touched on this in the past, but it bears repeating because getting up to speed with your social media and other digital marketing strategies will be the biggest difference maker in attracting customers that traditional media might miss. A well-managed social media program is the most cost-effective marketing for your business, because it gets the right message to the right target consistently and frequently. Content is king and timely responses are vital. Remember, you are your brand. Don’t shy away from collaborating and promoting like-minded content to expand your audience and bolster your overall brand recognition.

Every choice you make is either a hindrance or a help to your business. Remember, failing to take action is still a choice—a costly one. If you want your business to thrive, think about what fears might be inhibiting you from achieving unparalleled success and formulate a plan for tackling them head on.

What’s stopping you from achieving the success for your business and quality of life you deserve? What’s stopping you from contacting Floors & More? Be bold and decisive and turn your dreams into reality. Better yet, let us help you do that.

 

Vinnie Virga is managing partner and president of Big Bob’s Flooring Outlet and Floors & More buying group. His experience includes management of various CCA Global Partner retail groups, including Flooring America.

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Guest Column: When renting space is preferred over buying

March 27/April 3, 2017: Volume 31, Issue 21

By Vinnie Virga

 

(Second of two parts)

In my previous column, “Upgrading your store’s location,” I discussed the advantages—and timing—of upgrading a retail location (FCNews, February 27/March 6). In the second installment, I will review the benefits of renting a space when buying is disadvantageous or not an option.

If you are going to rent, and it isn’t in a strip mall or with other tenants, be sure to arrange the following provisions:

  • First Right of Refusal. If the owner decides to sell and has a bonafide offer, you have 30 days to purchase at the offered price.
  • Option to buy. You have the right to buy, at a pre-agreed upon price (negotiate this sooner rather than later), and a portion of the rent paid goes toward the purchase. A good trick is to also have the purchase and sales agreement decided on in advance by your attorneys to avoid problems later.
  • HVAC service. The equipment must consistently maintain an in-store temperature of 70 degrees or the landlord must fix at their expense.
  • Repairs. Roof replacements, which can be expensive, are the landlord’s responsibility.
  • Upkeep. Determine in advance who is going paint the building, seal coat the parking lot or fix the exterior lights, etc.
  • Review renewal options. Lock in the rent; don’t agree to automatic increases, or negotiate lower hikes. Landlords must pay to retrofit every time the tenant changes and their cost for owning the building doesn’t change. All increases equal more profit from the building for the landlord.
  • Tenant improvement provisions. Most landlords will provide $2 or $3 per square foot toward renovating the space when you first move in. If this isn’t necessary, request the allocation be applied towards 60-120 days of free rent. If you do need changes, have the landlord or owner pay for them. If your changes will cost more than that, negotiate terms that stipulate the landlord or owner pay for them, and for your rent to be slightly higher to offset their higher cost.

If you’re considering renting in a strip mall here are some tips:

  • Make sure you know the zoning laws, restrictions and easements.
  • Ensure there are no open violations. Check roof, HVAC and other structural issues. Make sure the location is ADA compliant.
  • Try for “Gross Leases” if possible.
  • Good deposit, buyer can terminate for any reason during due diligence.
  • Possession date based on permit.
  • Rent starts based on days after opening.
  • Pre-approved sign, pre-approved changes.
  • Try to get near an anchor, such as the parking lot of a home center.
  • Always try for an end cap nearest the entrance.
  • Assigned parking spaces are vital. Make sure you have enough for your customers to have easy access near the front of the store.

 

Screen Shot 2017-03-06 at 10.51.13 AMVinnie Virga is managing partner and president of Big Bob’s Flooring Outlet and Floors & More buying group. His experience includes management of various CCA Global Partner retail groups, including Flooring America.

 

 

 

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Guest Column: Upgrading your store’s location

February 27/March 6, 2017: Volume 31, Issue 19

By Vinnie Virga

 

(First of two parts)

I have visited hundreds of flooring retailers, and the impression I keep leaving with is location is the difference between a thriving store and one that is flailing. Where you are situated is just as much a factor as inventory, payroll and other line items on your financial statement. With the economic outlook brighter than it has been for years, there is no better time than the present to upgrade your location or to even add new locations.

First, look at your current situation. If you don’t own or have an opportunity to buy your real estate (option to purchase, first right of refusal), you are missing out. You can keep lining your landlord’s pockets all day or you can begin to put your hard-earned profits to work for you. The rents landlords charge represent a multiple of the cost of acquiring the building and keeping it in good condition. His goal is after 15 or 20 years to own the building outright with the tenant having paid not only all the cost associated with buying the building, but also at least a 6% return on the actual cash they had to invest initially. Which begs the question: Why don’t you do it instead?

Owning their own real estate is what sets apart the most successful flooring retailers from the rest and is the primary source of their wealth. It pays to invest some time talking with multiple bankers and your accountant. For example, check out the SBA programs. Big Bob’s Flooring Outlet is preapproved by the SBA nationally and qualifies for special financing programs to acquire real estate. There are great programs the SBA offers, such as the 504 program. If you have been in business for at least two years, the 504 program allows you to purchase with 10% down; SBA will finance 40% at a great fixed rate for 20 years and the 50% balance is financed by a local bank with conventional terms which includes a five-year balloon and a 20-year amortization.

Once you have secured the financing, the next step is to find the best location. There are typically two types of locations that have been shown to perform well repeatedly. The first is a store in close proximity to a town that has a major interstate or highway. It is vital to have visibility to store signage from that highway. What a great way to ensure brand awareness. (For instance, our Auburn location is visible to 220,000 cars per day.) Stand-alone buildings are best, and area required depends on your business model. For example, a sample-only mid to upper satellite store will need around 3,000 square feet, while a satellite stocking store will need around 8,000 and a main store (stocking or warehouse and retail showroom) will require 8,000 to 12,000 depending on your volume or volume potential.

If you are in an area without a major highway, look at the center of town. Major retail centers are a great draw. Ask your realtor for demographic data to make sure you are picking an area that has significant retail traffic. Studies show most retail floor covering stores get 80% of the business from a 12-mile radius. (In rural areas it’s 18 miles and in urban areas it’s about five miles.) You want to be close to people who own their own homes with incomes of $75,000 or more—again, adjust up or down based on your part of the country.

In my next column, I will discuss rental options as an alternative to buying outright.

 

Screen Shot 2017-03-06 at 10.51.13 AMVinnie Virga is managing partner and president of Big Bob’s Flooring Outlet and Floors & More buying group. His experience includes management of various CCA Global Partner retail groups, including Flooring America.