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My take: Ten more retailer resolutions for 2019

January 7/14, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 16

By Steven Feldman

 

Let me begin this first column of 2019 by wishing our readers a Happy New Year from all of us at Floor Covering News. Here’s hoping 2019 brings you everything you wish for yourselves both professionally and personally.

As I’ve done the past few years, I thought it would be appropriate to use this first column of 2019 to reprint a portion of something that lands in my email every year from Pami Bhullar, retail trainer extraordinaire from Invista. Bhullar continues his tradition of creating his New Year’s resolutions for flooring professionals. He believes if retailers can implement at least three of the following 10 objectives, they will see improved results. The foundation of this year’s resolutions is the belief the industry will continue to shrink due to the longevity of the hard surface replacement cycle and many other factors. It may be harder for the smaller retailers to strive without alignments. Therefore, the success of retailers may depend on the ability to sell better flooring.

Without further ado…

  1. Vision 2020: Ask yourself where you want to be at 11:59 p.m. on Dec. 31, 2020. Vision 2020 means having a clear vision. Set your goals for the end of 2020 and plan how much you want to accomplish in 2019. This is a great way to inspire your team. You can make your projections monthly or quarterly.
  2. Be organized: Everyone tells you to be organized but very seldom does someone shows you how. Here is a simple process: Create an electronic list of your daily tasks (using a tool such as Microsoft Outlook, Word or PowerPoint). We are wired to do the easy things—we can do more and feel good. Look for the difficult ones that create the most value for you, your company, your customers and for society, and do those first. Take care of the big rocks first; the smaller ones will find their place.
  3. Upgrade three of your favorite products to newer and better ones: Most of us have our favorite products and gravitate toward those. If so, find new favorites that are better and get to know their benefits for customers. Practice your pitch and be comfortable with it.
  4. Avoid five big mistakes: There are five mistakes many sales pros make: No. 1, not making a systematic presentation with a plan; No 2, not asking for permission to ask questions; No. 3, not telling your story detailing your competitive advantage; No. 4, taking the customer to product too quickly without understanding her needs, wants and values; and No. 5, getting into the price discussion too prematurely.
  5. Ask for money the right way: Most salespeople have a hard time asking for money or a deposit. I have heard so many times, “We require a 50% deposit.” Require is a very harsh word. I recommend you talk about all the benefits you have offered and then say, “It comes to $$$$. How would you like to take care (not pay) of it today?” You may be surprised by the outcome.
  6. Partner with manufacturer reps: Your mill and fiber reps are a great source of knowledge. The better the relationships, the higher the odds for success. Get to know them, and ask questions to gain confidence.
  7. Impossible vs. I’m possible: A very small effort changes something from impossible to I’m possible. Nelson Mandela once said, “Everything seems impossible until it’s done.” Figure out different ways of doing it instead of just thinking it can’t be done. You get results when you focus.
  8. Be the change: We all like others to change, which is hard. Why don’t you bring the change in you? The world is changed by your actions and examples, not your opinions. Now change one thing to be a better you in 2019.
  9. Try, try again: We have heard throughout history that winners keep trying until they succeed. Perseverance prevails. Remember if you “FAIL” it is First Attempt In Learning; if you get to an “END” it is Effort Never Dies and if you get a “NO” it means Next Opportunity.
  10. Live a principled life: Honesty, integrity and hard work should be the hallmarks of one’s life. We can always leave more than what we got so this planet becomes better every day. Worry not whose favor the outcome is if you work on your principle. Worry not who gets the credit. The world will know one day all your contributions.
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My take: Another visit from St. Nicholas

December 24/31, 2018: Volume 34, Issue 15

By Steven Feldman

 

Back by popular demand, round 3...

’Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
We were walking on RevWood, which isn’t laminate like Faus.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes our advertisers would give us more share.

The FCNews team all snug in their beds,
Dreaming about 2019 and what lies ahead.
Dustin and Nadia, listing those good and bad
As they were trying to secure just one last ad.

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Followed by Lindsay and Ken, Megan and Reg,
Facing Surfaces deadlines so a bit on edge.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Eight tiny reindeer and a little old driver bellowing “whoa.”
I knew in an instant it must be St. Nick
It was not a BMW so it could not have been Mike Blick.

I walked outside and he began to approach,
He whistled and shouted, and asked for Piet Dossche.
“I need him to reveal who’s been naughty and nice;
“If he’s not here I’ll need your advice.”

“You asked me that last year,” I said with a smile;
“It’s just that judging people is not my style.
Instead I will give you much to construe
As I will now provide the year in review.”

The first bit of big news that would have occurred
Was Armstrong parting ways with William M. Bird.
The manufacturer decided it was time to switch gears;
So much for a relationship that spanned 82 years.

Later in the year it would unload its wood;
Don Maier cited low profits despite doing all he could.
The company now sells only vinyl floors;
LVT, sheet, VCT and, of course, rigid cores.

Domotex announced plans for an East Coast show;
Others have failed so “why” I don’t know.
Challenging Surfaces may be just plain crazy;
I’ll put my money on Gilmore, Teague and Swayze.

Congoleum launched Cleo, a whole new brand
Hitting the streets took longer than planned.
It’s a new type of flooring the company will assert;
Kudos to the braintrust—Chris and Kurt.

The faces at Abbey bore nothing but smiles
With suppliers unveiling new designs and styles.
There was no smell in the air of anything rotten;
The man who caused angst all but forgotten.

Often things happen in one fell swoop
Like Haines pulling out of the Bravo Group.
The company said it was not worth the time and expense
So it decided to save the dollars and cents.

Later in the year Haines made more news
Just when Hanukkah was being celebrated by the Jews.
We’re not sure how long the board was planning
To replace Mike Barrett with our friend Hoy Lanning.

Shaw’s Bellera was one of the year’s biggest hits
Carpet loaded with features and benefits.
Retailers continue to sing its praises
With a high-performance story that truly amazes.

Industry icons would gain acclaim
Like Harold Chapman called to WFCA’s Hall of Fame.
A few months later it was Rite Rug’s Goldberg’s turn
As FCNews’ Lifetime Achievement he would earn.

QEP made another purchase, this time Kraus,
Adding to its portfolio which includes Harris Wood and Faus.
This may be the company’s 20th brand;
Marketing them, however, is something they don’t understand.

Ashlie Butler did something really smart,
Poaching Dave Snedeker from Nebraska Furniture Mart.
We saw both of them at her Christmas gala;
Hopefully they’re done expanding to Ocala.

Alliance’s deal with Nationwide was a home run;
Gotta give credit to Teams Logue and Dunn.
The group keeps growing; members are zealous
Despite poor advertising decisions from one Dave Ellis.

Tariffs forced some prices to jump,
It evens the playing field, said President Trump.
Domestic manufacturers came out in favor;
Comments from importers were of a different flavor.

Despite our balanced coverage, one went into a rage
So with this magazine he chose to disengage.
He had someone else email rather than pick up the phone;
Asking for a meeting was like talking to a stone.

While the industry homed in on millennial homebuyers
It had to contend with devastating hurricanes and fires.
These tragedies leave us anything but thrilled
But at least there’s a silver lining when it comes time to rebuild.

Mohawk replaced Carson with a man named DeCock
He’s charged with boosting sales and, with that, the stock.
To be retailers’ best partner the company would allege
Through its new go-to-market strategy they’re calling Edge.

We went to convention to see the big fuss
Among which were Pergo and RevWood Plus.
The marketing programs were anything but random
Led by the Omnify and Five Star tandem.

My last trip of the year was a farewell to a friend;
Ed Duncan’s 40-year career has come to an end.
Early on he withstood the Mannington Gold storm;
More recently he marketed Adura and NatureForm.

St. Nick then thanked me and said with a laugh,
“Tell me a few things about your FCNews staff
You’ve given me so many reviews;
Now tell me a few things about Floor Covering News.”

Well, Dustin Aaronson is our advertising predator;
Reggie Tucker happens to be the best managing editor.
When it comes to what we do online daily
There’s no one better than Lindsay Baillie.

Megan Salzano is our newest star
She’s worked for the Weekly but never Kemp Harr.
Ken Ryan is about as professional as it gets
Nadia Ramlakhan and Frank N. are two great assets.

When it comes to us I feel quite blessed
To be considered by many to be the best.
Our competitors also work hard, most are friends
Like Dave Madonia and Tanja Kern, who head up Floor Trends.

As for our readers, I wish continued health,
And anything we can do to improve their wealth.
Whether it’s a manufacturer of flooring or those who own stores,
Our goal in the end is to help sell more floors.

And with that St. Nick sprang to his sleigh
And away he flew to be on his way.
But I heard him exclaim, as he drove out of sight,
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night.”

In all seriousness, our heartfelt gratitude to all of you for reading and supporting FCNews throughout the year. We couldn’t do what we do without you. The friendships I have with many are you are invaluable. Happy holidays to everyone, and we’ll catch you on the other side in 2019.

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My take: Journalists who paid the ultimate price get their due

December 10/17, 2018: Volume 34, Issue 14

By Steven Feldman

 

I’ve been thinking a lot about Time magazine’s choice for 2018 Person of the Year. Titled “The Guardians and the War on Truth,” the magazine feted multiple members of the press—all of whom have either been killed or imprisoned in service of telling hard truths. As journalists ourselves here at FCNews, the announcement led me to reflect on what we aim to do every single day and the challenges we face and repercussions with which we are forced to deal. Of course, what we do here pales in comparison to the sacrifices others have made and will make, but in some small way you feel a kinship. They are our brothers and sisters in our chosen career paths.

For those who may have been orbiting the planet for the past week or so, “The Guardians” includes a Washington Post columnist who was brutally murdered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October; the staff of Maryland’s Capital Gazette, which lost five of its small staff after someone shot up the newsroom in July, but it kept publishing through their grief; a legal target in the Philippines for championing democracy under the rule of an increasingly authoritarian regime; and a pair of journalists imprisoned in Myanmar for almost a year now for exposing the slaughter of Rohingya Muslims.

Journalists are not perfect. We all don’t look to save the world, but we do endeavor to make a difference in our own ways. We type up stories and columns every day, and we do important work, whether it’s reporting on a new product, covering a trade show or revealing the latest trends. The work we do is important for our little corner of the world, which just happens to be the flooring world. Others may pen an expose´ of shady spending at charter schools or review the new local restaurant. These stories have real value in our communities.

But the people Time honored, well, that’s the heavy lifting. What they do allows us to do what we do. They clear the way for us. They dare to describe what’s going on in front of them, often risking their lives in the process.

Here at FCNews we never have to worry about risking our lives when we report a news story. We never burn a bridge or anger someone to the point where they take matters to the extreme. Controversial stories are few and far between. But when those do occur, we seek fairness and balance on both sides equitably.

Unfortunately, that may result in us paying the price. Literally. Take the tariff situation. While the industry at large applauded us for balanced coverage, one company that will remain nameless took offense and chose to disengage with the magazine. The price we paid? Nothing close to our lives but rather significant advertising revenue. Years ago another company expressed its displeasure with our choice for a Lifetime Achievement Award recipient and has boycotted the magazine ever since. I could go on.

As well, what happened at the Capital Gazette could unfortunately happen to any journalist sitting at his desk at any magazine at any time where someone becomes consumed by anger and enacts revenge by taking lives. That’s the world we live in.

These people, these journalists, have made sacrifices. All of us—not just journalists, but everyone who values a free society—would be poorer without them. Were these “Guardians” the right choice for Person of the Year? Trump? Putin? Mueller? Markle? Coogler? Moon Jae-in? Separated families? March for Our Lives activists? I guess you could make a case for all of them. But I’m glad a few of our own—those who have paid the ultimate price—received their well-deserved recognition.

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My take: DuChâteau—Daring to be different

November 26/December 3, 2018: Volume 34, Issue 12

By Steven Feldman

 

It’s been 10 years since DuChâteau pioneered that wide-plank, long-length, oil-finished hardwood flooring that remains so popular today. If it’s true what they say about imitation being the sincerest form of flattery, then co-owner Mitch Tagle must feel like the belle of the ball. I recently caught up with Tagle, and after a few beers and glasses of wine we got to talking about how DuChâteau has not only evolved but also provides value to the flooring retailer.

With a reputation built on a high-end product portfolio featuring European oak, Tagle believes DuChâteau has evolved from a wood flooring supplier into a lifestyle company rooted in fashion and design. He defines lifestyle as the entire look and feel of the room. It’s about bringing life and energy to a home. It’s about participating in a way of life. It’s not just providing a floor—it’s the look, the feel, the energy, the emotion that it brings to the space.

Truth be told, DuChâteau has been forced to evolve, given the plethora of companies that have capitalized on that European oil-finished visual, and in many instances offering product at much lower price points than the original. The response to this point has been innovative looks and styles. “We create; they copy,” Tagle told me. “People are always looking at what we are doing.”

As the publisher of this magazine, I am always interested in ways a company can help retailers make money. I asked Tagle. He first cited the branding: It’s upper end, sounds nice, the gold shields. However, he also believes the company offers retailers something special—something unique and interesting. The word he used was “prestige.” That transcends to its San Diego headquarters with a look and feel that epitomizes the DuChâteau product offering. If you can discern the difference between a Kia and Mercedes dealership, then this is the Bentley of flooring nerve centers.

Another way DuChâteau is helping retailers is through its website. Rather than offering a dealer locator, the consumer is connected to one of 40 DuChâteau representatives located throughout the U.S. who act as a pseudo personal shopper. That rep will eventually guide her to the appropriate dealer, where they meet. That retailer now has a strong chance of getting the sale because someone is now bringing a qualified consumer to his doorstep predisposed to purchasing a DuChâteau floor.

DuChâteau is also somewhat unique in how it has handled the tariff situation to this point. Rather than raising prices 10% in response to the first wave of tariffs—as most others have—DuChâteau has actually cut prices. How? Why? Tagle cited the strategic alliance it has with its suppliers. It has been able to source product at a better price point and in doing so pass those savings to the retailer and consumer.

While DuChâteau products remain at the higher end of the spectrum, today a portion of its portfolio is a little bit more affordable to the masses, or “affordable luxury” as Tagle calls it. How does that happen? “We look at exactly the type of product our competitors are selling and at what price point. Then we ask ourselves what we can do to get us within those ranges and provide product that is superior within that price point.”

DuChâteau also branched out into resilient with a unique twist. Given it has some of the best wood visuals on the market, DuChâteau took those high-end designs and replicated them in LVT. Tagle noted how many companies actually buy designs from the same film houses even though they’re manufacturing in different factories around the world. DuChâteau created its own print films from its hardwood offerings, and then those print films are turned into the canisters that actually create the requisite embossing.

Then there’s the wall covering business, where Tagle claims DuChâteau was the first company to mass market 3-D types of designs on the wall with dedicated displays and marketing to wood flooring retailers. The company is now starting to play with other materials, such as acrylic, stone and metals with plans to venture into new materials.

Tagle admits DuChâteau floors might not be for everyone, but in a world permeated by a sea of sameness, the company gives retailers a story to tell and ways to make money.

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My take: Best of Surfaces call for entries, judges

November 12/19, 2018: Volume 34, Issue 11
By Steven Feldman

I know many of you are wrapped up in your Thanksgiving Day plans as you read this, and some are focused on putting up their Christmas trees on Black Friday. But it’s also time to start thinking about Surfaces, because—believe it or not— we’re only two months away from the flooring industry’s premier event.

Future columns will focus on the most comprehensive education program (co-sponsored by FCNews) and exhibitor lineup that can’t be experienced anywhere but Surfaces. But for now I want to concentrate on Best of Surfaces, the competition we co-sponsor with Informa, owners and operators of the show. Now in its eighth year, Best of Surfaces has become a benchmark for product and program excellence. But the success of the contest cannot be achieved without the help of our readers—both our suppliers and retailers.

A little background for those new to the industry or in a coma for the past eight years: The Best of Surfaces awards recognizes those companies whose product, program, service, business practice or booth design are considered to be “best” in their class. But unlike other awards, which are typically handed out by product category, the Best of Surfaces awards are handled a bit differently. Winners are announced in four categories: Innovation, Sustainability, Style & Design and Technology. In addition, there will be two awards for exhibit space: Booth Design (under 1,200 square feet and over 1,200 square feet). The criteria is simple: Products must make their debuts at Surfaces. What’s more, there is absolutely no charge for entering.

For exhibitors, consider this a call for entries. Please enter a product, program, service, business practice or booth in the category you believe to be most reflective of the product’s primary attribute. Suppliers can have one entry per category; they cannot have multiple entries in one particular category. Best thing to do is contact Michelle Swayze at Informa at 972.536.6449 or michelle.swayze@informa.com for more information or to enter.

For the record, winning a Best of Surfaces award can truly drive product success on the retail floor. Winners will receive:

•Recognition on the Surfaces and FCNews websites through July
•A customized Best of Surfaces 2019 logo for placement on all advertising
•An exquisite, custom-engraved award presented at the booth by members of show management and FCNews staff
•Booth signage acknowledging the company was voted Best of Surfaces
•Coverage in FCNews

That takes care of the entry part. The next thing we need are retailer panel judges who will determine the 2019 winners. It’s a job you don’t want to take lightly because there’s a lot at stake for the manufacturers. If you are a flooring dealer—past or present—who has an understanding of what constitutes excellence in the Best of Surfaces’ four categories, we want to hear from you.

Some criteria: First, you have to attend Surfaces. Second, you must be willing to evaluate some of the submissions in the weeks leading up to the show. Third, you are required to share your thoughts with other members of the panel. After we decide the category for which you will be judging, you and your peers will be given some criteria on what to look for. You will then receive information on each of the entries. In some cases, it will be a description of the entry. The respective panels will then come up with their five finalists, which they will view on site on day one at Surfaces. By the end of the show’s first day, they will have informed FCNews of their choice.

Those interested in judging Best of Surfaces can contact me via e-mail at steve@fcnews.net.

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My take: Distributors don’t have it easy, that’s for sure

October 29/November 5, 2018: Volume 34, Issue 10

By Steven Feldman

 

I have always admired floor covering wholesale distributors, and not because I count many of them as good friends. For the most part, they are regular guys; they like to eat, have a few beers and go to sporting events. They don’t take themselves too seriously. They work hard. They are accessible. And yet, their role in the supply chain is probably the most difficult of any channel partner.

For starters, some work on razor-thin margins, and those who don’t are doing only slightly better. Second, they are constantly getting hammered from both ends of the spectrum as middlemen. They have to meet the demands of two sets of customers—their suppliers and their retailer accounts. They require a keen and varied focus because both have different sets of needs to satisfy.

On top of tight margins, it seems distributors are always facing price pressures. In the current job market, the cost of labor has increased. Especially considering many truckers have left the industry over the past five years. As well, when the cost of fuel doubles in a relatively short period of time, who do you think feels it the most? Those who own the trucks, of course. Warehousing costs have increased. And then you have the issue of ELDs, where drivers are now monitored—actually their engines are—and cannot go beyond the limits of the law. If it is mandated that a driver can only drive 11 hours a day, he can no longer drive 14. That means deliveries can take longer. We won’t even get into the subject of the litany of price increases distributors receive from their suppliers, not all of which can be passed on in their entirety. What about rising healthcare costs? Old news.

I recently came across an article that outlined six challenges most often cited by wholesale distributors across an array of industries. They include:

  1. Increasing competition from manufacturers.Increasingly efficient logistics systems allow manufacturers to sell more goods directly to end users, thereby bypassing distributors. Plus, consolidation in many manufacturing sectors has produced large manufacturers with national distribution systems. In our industry, think Shaw and Mohawk.
  2. Retailers demanding faster delivery.As big-box retailers such as Walmart and Target expand their product offerings, they are tightening delivery deadlines and imposing stiffer penalties on distributors for late shipments. Wholesalers may also be fined for providing inaccurate product information. Many companies have invested in technology upgrades and additional employee training to meet the new standards.
  3. Dependence on fuel prices.Wholesaling is the business of transporting products, and fuel prices play an important role in a company’s overall profitability. The cost of diesel fuel can represent a significant portion of total wholesale operating costs. Many distributors pass this cost on to customers in the form of fuel surcharges, but some smaller companies might not have this leverage.
  4. Vulnerability to changing prices.Rapid changes in costs leave distributors vulnerable to changes in inventory values. Although distributors try to limit their cost exposure by pricing products according to a percentage mark-up on costs, competition may make it impossible to mark up expensive inventory when prices are falling.
  5. Worker safety concerns.There are significant hazards associated with the storage, handling and transportation of many products. Companies must therefore implement tight safety standards to avoid system failures and maintain preparedness for potential issues that may arise.
  6. Supplier and retailer consolidation.Wholesalers are losing buying power due to increasing consolidation among manufacturers. Regional distributors have become easy acquisition targets as they struggle to compete with national players. The top chains are increasing their market share and continuing to take advantage of manufacturer discounts for large purchases, giving them additional leverage with distributors that are unable to offer similar terms.

At the end of the day, it is quite the challenge that so many of our floor covering distributors have figured out how to overcome all of this. Kudos to them.

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My take: What all the money in the world won’t buy

October 15/22, 2018: Volume 34, Issue 9

By Steven Feldman

 

We all work hard for a living. Hard could mean long hours. Hard may mean physically grueling or mentally taxing. Hard could mean responsibility. You get the point.

Why do we do it? To achieve better lives for us and our families. For some, that could mean financial security. It could be the American Dream, giving your kids more than you had growing up. It could be materialistic: nice homes, maybe even a second home, a nice car, fancy clothes, lavish vacations. More money = a better life. Money can even buy you love, or at least companionship. The one thing money can’t buy? Health.

I met Steve Joss about 20 years ago at a Carpet One convention. Great guy. He owns The Vertical Connection Carpet One in Columbia, Md., although his son, Adam, is now running the show (probably with a bit of unsolicited input from his dad).

Steve and I became friends rather quickly. His roots are in New York, and he used to drag race on the JFK Expressway when he was young, a few miles from where I lived for 25 years. Queens boy. Taxi driver. Wholesale toy salesman. We both can appreciate a great meal, maybe too much.

I always admired Steve and his wife, Kathy, especially the closeness between them and their kids, Adam and Lauren. So close that when I asked Steve what he was doing one New Year’s Eve, he said he and Kathy were spending it with Adam and Lauren. What kids in their 20s with a bevy of friends would prefer to ring in the new year with their parents? I knew when I had children, I would want them to feel the same way about me.

Steve was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in his 40s and became more physically challenged over time. But it never stopped him; I’ve encountered more girlfriends that complained about a chipped finger nail than Steve did about his MS. Whatever hardships he encountered just became his reality. He joined Carpet One, built a nice business and now has a magnificent showroom. He’s active with the Maryland Floor Covering Association, World Floor Covering Association and board of trusties for Howard College. Truth be told, he’s more involved than most people with no physical restrictions.

A few years ago a scan for something else revealed that Steve had kidney cancer; one kidney was removed. No big deal—you really only need one. Unless you’re Steve, and the remaining kidney starts to fail. He now has stage 5 chronic kidney disease. Kathy’s history with cancer eliminates her as a donor. At 68 he is on the wait list, but the list right now is seven years. The only way to get past the wait list is for someone to donate a kidney directly to the person needing one. There are well over 100,000 people in the U.S. like Steve waiting for a kidney transplant, 5,000 in Maryland alone. Many will die waiting. You can have all the money in the world, but it is illegal to buy an organ. Gofundme does not apply here.

So Steve has to go on dialysis three days a week, 52 weeks a year, but you really have no days off in this situation until such time as he is lucky enough to receive a kidney. There are many rules to follow, like no more than 32 ounces of fluid in a 24-hour period. I’ve swilled that much beer in 15 minutes. He gets cold while his blood is being cleaned—because there is no blood in the body.

Despite all that, Steve doesn’t complain. Everything is always great. He has everything. Except a kidney.

So what is my purpose for writing this column? No, I am not expecting anyone to pick up the phone and offer a kidney to Steve. That would take an unbelievably selfless individual. But if you ever have a loved one who finds himself or herself in this unfortunate situation, know that the University of Maryland kidney transplant center, one of the busiest in the country, has made the surgery easier than ever to donate. Surgery is done entirely through the navel. You are home in one to two days, back to work in a couple of weeks—all with the knowledge you saved someone’s life. And if you donate a kidney and ever need one, you move to the top of the list.

Next, we all must be thankful for what we have. It can always be a whole lot worse. Third, it’s OK to work hard to increase the bank account, but remember money doesn’t buy you health. And finally, even in the most adverse situations, try to stay positive. It’s probably been what has gotten Steve Joss this far.

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My take: It’s never too early to be thinking about Surfaces 2019

September 17/24, 2018: Volume 34, Issue 7

By Steven Feldman

For the past seven years, Floor Covering News has sponsored the flooring component of the comprehensive TISE (Surfaces) education program. Once again, we will be a co-sponsor in 2019, this time under the banner Converge. It is inarguably the strongest, most comprehensive package this industry has to offer. And the best part: It’s free if you register by a certain date.

Honestly, the education alone is worth a trip to Surfaces, and that’s even before the doors open for market hours. Which brings me to a thought I had the other day: Now is the time for retailers to start planning to be in Las Vegas the third week in January. Not attending is really not an option.

I know there are many people who not only know right now they will attend, but they already have made their plane and hotel room reservations. Then there are the people who have already decided they will not attend. They may belong to a retail group, some of which implore their members to stay home because they prefer they buy strictly from core vendors. Their stance is their private-label strategy more than offsets any advantages that can be gained by finding differentiated products at Surfaces from new suppliers.

People may also choose to bypass the industry’s most important trade show because they attend one or both of the major mills’ regional events. And for 2019, you have the big Shaw Flooring Network convention, which precedes Surfaces with a one-day overlap. Some dealers believe they can’t be away from their businesses for a couple of days three times in the month of January.

Another reason is cost. (But that’s why I’m here.) I don’t think every dealer realizes it is not necessarily cost prohibitive to attend Surfaces. For those who want to attend the show on a shoestring, here’s something to consider:

Take the first flight out from your city on Wednesday morning, Jan. 23. If you’re not on the East Coast, odds are you’ll land in Vegas before the show opens. (By the way, pack light and don’t check a bag; you don’t have time to wait.) Take the short taxi ride to Mandalay Bay. Spend a day at the show and intersperse some educational sessions. At day’s end, walk through the Shoppes at Mandalay Place and check yourself into the Luxor. You’ll get a room for about $100. Eat dinner, not necessarily at a five-star restaurant.

Attend educational sessions the next day. You have options in the morning before the show floor opens, around lunchtime and later in the day. Walk the show floor. Make sure you see exhibitors you never knew existed until you stumbled onto their spaces. Then grab a taxi to the airport and get out of Dodge.

In this scenario, you have attended two days of Surfaces and a number of seminars. At what cost? If you can fly Southwest, you’ll get to Vegas and back for anywhere between $140 and $350. The hotel will run you around $125 with tax. Two taxis, let’s say about $50. (It’s always more expensive coming rather than going.) A few meals? You can do that easily for under $125 in Vegas. Grand total: Anywhere from $450 to $650. Of course, this doesn’t include any activity at the tables, which could net you a profit for the trip if you’re lucky. It also doesn’t include alcohol, which for some can cost more than the hotel room.

And here’s the topper: A major retailer friend of mine once told me, “I make money by coming to Surfaces.” How? He takes advantage of the litany of show specials available to dealers for only three days. And trust me, he doesn’t attend the show on a shoestring.

It’s really a no brainer.

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My take: An achievement well deserved

September 3/10, 2018: Volume 34, Issue 6

By Steven Feldman

 

I rarely devote an entire column to one individual but given this issue of FCNews features our seventh Al Wahnon Lifetime Achievement Award winner, it is both timely and relevant.

Now, no Lifetime Award winner is any more significant than another; each is different in his or her own way and has made unique, significant contributions to the industry, their communities and the world.

Michael Goldberg, owner and CEO of Rite Rug in Columbus, Ohio, is a unique individual. He is also the first retailer to be honored with FCNews’ Lifetime Achievement Award. Every year, we solicit nominations from the industry, either written or verbal. Some suggestions pass the litmus test; most do not. This year, we asked many manufacturer and distributor personnel to throw some retailers’ names in the hat, and the name Michael Goldberg kept coming up.

If you read the story that begins on page 1, you will learn why Michael, someone I have known for 20-plus years, was chosen. He truly checks all the boxes.

I remember my first interaction with Michael back in the mid-1990s as managing editor of Floor Covering Weekly. I was charged with compiling the Top 50 retailer listing, and back then we physically called every retailer on the list. Somehow, I was put through to Michael. “What did you have us down for last year?” he asked, to which I replied: “40 million.” “OK. Put us down for that again,” Michael quipped. Seemed like Rite Rug was doing $40 million every year. Either the company was remarkably consistent, stagnant, or Michael just really didn’t give a flying fork about the accuracy of our list.

Michael soon gained a comfort level with me and invited me to Columbus to do an exclusive article on Rite Rug. He was about as trusting of journalists as Americans would become of Benedict Arnold; but somehow, he saw me as different. I remember meeting him for the first time: the outside-the-box spectacles, the espresso machine, the pasta dish that was apparently ordered multiple times a week.

Michael proceeded to tell me about the history of Rite Rug; his dad, Duke, and conflicts that tore apart his family. Those who know the story know because Michael allows them to know. For the rest of the world, it’s not their business. But anyone this side of Helen Keller, Stevie Wonder or Ray Charles could see it had torn him apart.

Over the years, Michael and I developed a friendship—a bond, if you will. He advised me on my most personal matters. He took an interest in my life to the point where he almost insisted I get divorced; practically implored that I stop dating women that he could see were disingenuous, even when my eyes were blinded.

Yes, Michael has his opinions and views. Many suppliers have said he is one of the toughest negotiators they have ever had to deal with. It’s Michael, Marv Berlin, Sandy Mishkin and Olga Robertson—the Mount Rushmore of negotiators. Some say his view on “fair” is having the supplier break even. But all agree Michael lives up to every commitment he ever makes. And every cent he saves on the buy is passed through to the sell. He wants to give his customers the best price possible.

When we asked suppliers for a few quotes on Michael, many wanted to pay tribute with an ad. That speaks volumes— so much so that FCNews decided to donate a portion of the revenue to the Special Operation Warrior Foundation, something Michael supports in a big way.

Michael has taught me success and happiness is impossible without good people. You can’t sit with him for five minutes without him raving about his team. The only thing he values more is his wife, Anita. She is his rock, the person to whom he attributes his success, his happiness. He will always take her call, no matter what. Why? “Because when you love someone, you must make them feel like the most important person in the world. Always.”

We all can learn something here.

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My take: How a brand stands the test of time

August 20/27, 2018: Volume 34, Issue 5

By Steven Feldman

In this day and age, it seems like everyone has a startup idea. In fact, according to Fast Company, “It’s estimated that more than 500,000 new businesses are started every month in the U.S. alone—that’s more than 11 million people starting something on the side or quitting their day jobs to launch the next high-growth startup like Facebook.”

But for every landscape-altering giant such as Facebook, Instagram or Uber, 92% of startups fail within three years. Put another way, the vast majority of companies lack what it takes to scale beyond half a decade, let alone build an enterprise that spans multiple generations. And that’s what makes the world’s oldest companies—some of which have been conducting business for nearly five centuries—so impressive.

The world’s oldest brands can teach us a great deal about forging a successful business; after all, they must have a good idea of dos and don’ts after existing for hundreds of years. By looking at brands such as Heinz, Budweiser, Sotheby’s, Levi’s, Coca-Cola, Barclay’s, Jim Beam, Moët and more, it’s possible to find the keys to their success, including having integrity, staying focused and working as a team.

So, what are some of the secrets that lead a brand to stand the test of time? Here are a few:

1. Reputation is everything. For over 480 years, Cambridge University Press, the world’s oldest publishing house, has been known for publishing esteemed, scholarly works. None other than Henry VIII gave the press permission to print “all manner of books.”

2. Be the best. Coming from the oldest licensed distillery in the world, Bushmills has been winning critical acclaim and international awards since the 1889 Paris Expo.

3. Change with the times. Barclay’s has been brand of many firsts, including launching the first credit card in the U.K. and the world’s first cash machine.

4. Have traditional values and professionalism. Since its inception, Coutts has built an environment of learning and professional development, hoping to better not only itself, but also its employees individually.

5. Focus on quality. Twinnings’ quality is so high, Queen Victoria awarded it a Royal Warrant for its tea in 1837. The company even managed to withstand tea rationing during World War II.

6. Have a pioneering spirit. Moët & Chandon helped bring champagne into the mainstream limelight and make it the staple of celebrations it is today.

7. Don’t be afraid to expand. Sotheby’s, launched in 1744, is the first international auction house with salesrooms in London, Paris, New York and Hong Kong.

8. Have integrity. The Caswell-Massey brand has seen many well-respected buyers in the past 200 years, including presidents Washington, Eisenhower and JFK.

9. Stay focused. Jim Beam’s master distiller, Fred Noe, credits the company’s success to focusing on a goal.

10. Emphasize teamwork. Colgate believes in the power of a diverse workforce.

11. Create trust. Since its creation in 1812, Citibank has prided itself on earning the public’s trust and keeping their interests always top of mind.

12. Focus on the customer. AXA is dedicated to teaching its employees how to best serve their customers.

13. Be recognizable. Cadbury’s iconic purple wrapper and script typeface have been with the company since 1920 and 1921, respectively.

14. Become part of the community. Macy’s has secured its position as a vital member of the New York City community, sponsoring both the Thanksgiving Day Parade and the Fourth of July fireworks.

15. Be available. Recognizing the desirability of its name, Hermes offers products at a range of lower prices making them attainable to a wider market.

16. Be unique. From its branding to its “secret” 23-flavor formula, Dr. Pepper is unlike any other soda on the market.