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My take: A different take on Einstein’s definition of insanity

May 13/20, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 25

By Steven Feldman

Every so often something comes across my desk that resonates with me. One such piece comes courtesy of Sam Page, founder and CEO of NeuroTriggers Group, a boutique business consultancy that specializes in new customer acquisition, conversion, retention and profit optimization.

The firm was founded on the premise that the ability to get more customers is a function of how well a person grasps the underlying principles of human nature. Neuromarketing, as Page calls it, is taking the latest findings from psychological science/behavioral economics and applying it to real-world marketing and sales processes. People are driven entirely by their psychological makeup, and how we think (cognition) triggers how we feel (emotion), which triggers how we buy (behavior). Bottom line: We can influence the buying behavior of our prospects.

Anyway, Page was writing about a conversation he had with a very frustrated, disappointed and unhappy man in the midst of his sixth divorce. He was, as you might imagine, very down on women and on marriage. Page suggested poor luck of the draw might deliver one, two, maybe even three insane and evil wives. But six? It had not occurred to the man that he was the common denominator in those relationships.

The same thing holds true of the per- son whose every strategic alliance, client relationship or opportunity is either dead on arrival or goes south at some point down the line. Or the sales professional who finds himself engaged in fierce battles with unreasonably cheap prospects time and time again. Or the person who loses weight but gains it all back, going from diet to diet, eventually claiming all diets to be frauds. Or the employee who goes from job to job, at each one finding an awful boss and nasty, spiteful co-workers.

Of course, you can’t assume all trouble is of your doing. After all, the world is filled with challenging individuals. But if you smartly de-personalize situations and detect a pattern of unsatisfactory outcomes, you should stop and question your modus operandi. Not your self worth—your strategy.

Let’s assume you determine your methodology is the common denominator in a “Groundhog Day-esque” series of repetitive nightmares, and for whatever reason or excuse you are unwilling to change your behavior. At that point, you need to fire yourself from that position and either get somebody in there who can do that job well or find a way to be free of it altogether. Most people do neither, and instead just continue down the same path of insanity.

Here are five steps you might recognize in yourself and/or others:

1. Walk down a street and fall into a hole.

2. Walk down the same street, fall into the same hole, and be surprised and pissed off at the hole.

3. Walk down the same street and try to speed up and jump over the hole but fall in anyway and now be really pissed off at the hole.

4. Carry ropes, a flashlight, a ladder, walk down the same street, fall into the same hole but get out—filthy with a sprained ankle and still pissed off at the hole.

5. Walk down a different street.

This all reminds me of an old joke: Two construction workers are sitting on a beam opening their lunch boxes. Worker No. 1 says, “Damn. Cheese sandwiches again!” Worker No. 2 asks, “Why don’t you ask your wife to fix you some- thing different?” Worker No. 1 replies, “I live alone and pack my own lunch.”

It is hard to accept the fact how little control we have over the holes which appear before us. But to always have things fit your way is profoundly limiting. Maybe it’s just time for new ways.

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My take: What you need to know about Generation Z

April 29/May 6, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 24

By Steven Feldman

 

Everybody is talking about millennials. That’s your customer of tomorrow. But for the longest time I’ve been advising against losing sight of your customer of today—the baby boomer, who still controls the lion’s share (roughly 70%) of all the disposable income in this country.

But since so many of us like to look ahead, while you are doing all that research on millennials and their shopping habits, you may want to get yourself acquainted with another important demographic: Generation Z.

This is the year Generation Z becomes the biggest consumer cohort globally, displacing millennials as a top obsession for people trying to figure out how to cash in on their unique shopping, eating and media habits. They make up 26% of the population. Nearly 50% identify themselves as non-white compared to 28% of boomers. While they might still be in school, they have spending power to the tune of $143 billion in the U.S. alone.

Generation Z, roughly between the ages of 8 and 22, were born after the Internet went mainstream and occupy a world where marijuana is going legal in several states. Anything and everything can be delivered to their front door with a swipe of a finger, and they grew up on platforms like Snapchat and Instagram, where the influencer culture has taken hold. Fifty percent say they are connected online at least 10 hours a day, and 70% say they watch more than two hours of YouTube each day.

Here are some broad trends you may want to consider when targeting the Generation Z shopper in the years ahead:

1. They can be influenced. While older millennials graduated college before the rise of Facebook, or even mobile phones, these new consumers live on Instagram and other platforms. In fact, 52% said they primarily find out about new products from social media, a jump of 10 percentage points from millennials and double the rate for their Generation X parents, according to a recent survey by Bloomberg News and Morning Consult.

That means influencers—celebrities or everyday people with big social media followings who are paid to promote products—can have an outsized impact with this group where nearly six out of 10 self-diagnose spending too much time on their phones.

2. They have different vices. Younger consumers are wary of nasty hangovers and eager to wake up on the weekends feeling fresh so they can get outdoors and capture selfies. Beer in particular is going through a slump as Americans cut back on alcohol.

Marijuana, meanwhile, is going mainstream. It’s perceived as healthier than alcohol by many Gen Z consumers and is now legal for adult use in 10 U.S. states. Gen Z consumers are coming of age in a time when the decades of stigma around weed are fading away as more states legalize marijuana. Gen Z in the U.S. is twice as likely to use cannabis than the national average.

3. They don’t have to go to stores. Gen Z could be the first generation to truly embrace online grocery shopping—though maybe not yet. Just 83% of them said they primarily purchase groceries at a physical store compared to 95% of baby boomers. Surveys have also indicated that Amazon is one of the favorite brands of Gen Z consumers, who’ve never lived in a time without the e-commerce giant.

4. They choose their brand loyal- ties carefully. The rise of Gen Z could be bad news for traditional clothing retailers like The Gap and Macy’s, already battered by the shift to buying clothing online. The next generation is also embracing second-hand apparel, which will be bigger than fast fashion within the decade, according to Thredup’s 2019 Resale Report. Thredup, a fashion resale website, says more than one in three Gen Z shoppers will buy used clothing this year vs. less than one in five boomers or Gen X consumers.

They may not be your customer just yet, but they are coming in the next five years.

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My take: Issues and answers from the Fuse Alliance conference

April 15/22, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 23

By Steven Feldman

 

Last month I had the opportunity to attend the Fuse convention in Orlando. This group of commercial flooring contractors, under the auspices of executive director Geoff Gordon, continues to grow and become more professional and profitable by the day. One of the highlights at general session was a segment that Gordon had initiated where members were asked about some of their pain points—the responses to which could have been the same for many factions of our industry.

When asked about their biggest challenge today, five topics were most cited:

1. A shrinking and aging labor force. On the union side there is INSTALL, which is a proactive group. Gordon said they may fallen a little short on the recruiting side but their training is excellent. On the non-union side there is CFI, which has partnered with Fuse on an initiative to bring younger generations into the industry.

2. Cash flowwithout it a business simply won’t survive. Thus, Gordon told members they must be all over their receivables.

3. Moisture. The consensus is vendors are rolling out solutions that some members don’t consider to be reliable.

4. Reclamation. It is becoming harder to completely recycle all carpet materials, multiple members said. Broadloom is more difficult than it was 10 years ago, mainly attributed to PET taking so much share from nylon. A lot of recyclers are gone. And it is also less expensive to make new material than to recycle.

5. Pollution control, with mold fungus being the No. 1 culprit.

Members were also asked what they were doing to engage younger people. Among the responses:

1. With Generation Z, 24-26 months is typical retention. The idea is to ensure they have a path. They want a plan. Outline it for them. Give them some skin in the game and an opportunity to earn more.

2. With labor, many subs have a hard time bringing people on because they don’t offer benefits or a 401K. One member said he hires his own installers, trains them and makes sure they have a buddy. This company also has an annual retreat for everyone in the office. Last time the retreat included installers. The result: Installers came out of their shells.

3. Another member said he maps a path for millennials. “We keep them engaged in the culture. You want a culture that is dynamic but it takes work. Create a culture that people want to be a part of, something greater than themselves. Try to create a family.”

4. One member said he goes to the local community college to look for people involved in construction trades. If they have interest in what they are going to school for and thinking long term, he will bring these individuals on board. He will also get them involved in committees within the company, like safety.

5. One member said he simultaneously uses hourly installers and subcontractors. But he puts his core values out there. “Imparting those beliefs in our 1099 installers has returned dividends,” he said. “We try to involve them in the company. They may not be employees, but we can instill that culture in them.”

Sensitive topic: Do you see claims going up or down? Just about everyone said claims are up. Why?

1. Value engineering. “Manufacturers are taking shortcuts,” one member said. “Lightweight carpet tiles are as thin as Kleenex.”

2. Instability in vinyl flooring. “That is a product defect, not an installation issue,” said Lew Migliore, claims resolution guru, who was in attendance. “We are inundated with issues related to LVT/LVP every single day. It’s an epidemic. There is a lot of overselling. There are fewer technical people who know anything about it. In the last two years, anything I’ve looked at is not installation related. People tell you the building is expanding and contracting. It’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard.”

3. The new moisture-resistant adhesives. “They do nothing to stop moisture. You will get blamed. Words don’t change the laws of physics.”

4. Recycled content. “No one knows what’s in that material. Instability is happening on the greener products. We are finding better results with virgin material.”

5. Jobsite conditions. “We encounter condensed schedules for installers, which is unfair. We are the last trade going in.”

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My take: Random ramblings three months into 2019

April 1/8, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 22

By Steven Feldman

 

It’s hard to believe we’ve passed the quarter mark on 2019. Time flies when you’re having fun. Or getting older. So three months into 2019, here’s what’s on my mind, which these days is going in more directions than a 2-year-old after drinking a Red Bull.

I think Brian Carson was the perfect choice to lead AHF Products given his strong manufacturing background... Trust me when I say this: COREtec Stone is the next big thing. Some retailers have said this will replace their entire ceramic department... I attend almost every retail group event, and there’s something different about CarpetsPlus— a different feel, a different level of enthusiasm, a different level of camaraderie... I don’t want to sound like I’m drinking the Kool-Aid, but when just about every NFA member takes on a new vendor in its first year, my antenna goes up. It’s Cali Brands, it’s that Meritage collection, it’s Doug Jackson...

Sad to learn of the passing of former Galaxy, Mohawk and Lexmark executive Ed Williams. Not many details, but word on the street is it was a farm accident. A true gentleman in every sense of the word. Rest in peace... Speaking of Mohawk, Paul De Cock is certainly putting his stamp on Mohawk Flooring. Everyone I speak with is a believer... Happy to hear a couple of Sams are on the mend. Sam Roberts, who suffered an aneurysm a few months back while skiing, will be as good as new, and Sam Ruble, formerly of USFloors and now with Foss, was back in action at the recent NRF event after suffering from a heart ailment. Both seem to have averted more serious fates...

The Domotex USA conversation continues one month following its inaugural edition. Surfaces can rest easy that the success Hannover Fairs enjoys in Germany and China likely won’t be replicated here. The 2020 event will go a long way in determining whether we’ll be talking about it in 2021... No matter the city, you always get a top-notch steak at Mastros... I like that retailers remain optimistic for 2019 following a slow two months to open the year. They’ve been encouraged by a healthy March, which hopefully continues into April... Labor still remains an issue whether you are on the residential or commercial side. Someone better figure something out fast, because the installers we do have aren’t getting any younger...

Gotta find it interesting how no one wants to call a laminate a laminate anymore. It’s almost like years ago when people ran away from words like linoleum and vinyl. It’s gotten to the point where the NWFA had to launch the “Real Wood. Real Life” campaign to
address all the confusion in the market
today... Also find it intriguing how many are getting away from the traditional 5-ply engineered wood construction and replacing that with non-traditional wood cores topped with thinner veneers. Better or worse? The consumer will decide... People who need to use the restroom more than twice per flight should not purchase window seats when they fly. Just sayin’... Is there any limit to how expansive this rigid core category can become? At what point does the momentum begin to wane? Hopefully commoditization doesn’t set in anytime soon...

Check out Raskin Industries’ Brooklyn Reserve collection ad on page 27 in our March 18/25 issue. One of the more creative ads I’ve seen in awhile... Retirement has called Jeanne Matson of Starnet and Deborah Hardin of USFloors. Matson has been running Starnet since Lori Dowling stepped down in 2006; the May convention will be her last. Hardin has been a vice president at USFloors pre-COREtec... Awaiting the forthcoming launch of Karastan hardwood. If it lives up to the reputation of Karastan carpet and rugs, it will be a home run... Only about six weeks until the Award of Excellence winners are announced. I wonder who Russia wants to win.

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My Take: The NFA—The best of the best

March 18/25, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 21

By Steven Feldman

 

So I just got back from Whistler, a ski resort town nestled in the foothills of the Coast Mountains in British Columbia. It’s two hours north of Vancouver, a place where tranquility serves as a juxtaposition from the bustling city life. It also served as the backdrop for the National Floorcovering Alliance’s spring meeting.

On the third day of the gathering, inside the Westin hotel in a large ballroom, the NFA held what has become its legendary vendor meeting. Think speed dating on steroids. The 26 core vendors pay good money to get 18 minutes with each of the 42 members—dealers who collectively do more than $1 billion in business. It’s money well spent. Here is where these suppliers seek to get a larger slice of that pie. They attempt to entice members with proprietary product, sharp pricing and anything else that may give both sides an edge on their respective competition.

Deals may not get consummated in those 18 minutes, but the groundwork is laid. I sat in on a few presentations, and here were some takeaways:

1. USFloors is up 23% with the entire group and 34% with the NFA’s proprietary Lifetime Luxury brand, which is being expanded with nice SKUs. Piet Dossche, USFloors CEO, stressed that while everyone is talking about waterproof, COREtec has great looks, which is the No. 1 driver—oh, and by the way it also happens to be waterproof.

2. Shaw Hard Surface was up 26% with the NFA in 2018, better than two times the growth it experienced with the rest of the universe. The key? Variety in waterproof products compared to others.

3. Emser presented a porcelain program that includes polished and matte wall panels into the proprietary Lifetime Luxury brand. The highlight? Normally a retailer will buy polished for 50 cents to a dollar more than matte; this program nearly equalizes the cost.

4. Cali, a relatively new core vendor, is justifying its spot at the table. It closed 92% of the members at the last meeting with its Meritage engineered hardwood line. The product competes with DuChâteau at a more aggressive price point.

5. AHF Products made its NFA debut as the new hardwood company that was pared from Armstrong after the AIP purchase. Longtime Armstronger Steve Staikos, who is no stranger to NFA, told members the game plan is for Bruce to be the umbrella brand, Armstrong products will eventually migrate to Hartco and will be exclusive to the specialty retailer, and Robbins will be the direct-to-the-customer brand. Brings back memories of Triangle Pacific.

So, what were members saying after the meeting? Who impressed them? A few companies bore mention, but the resounding winner was Cali. So many members cited the disrupting company spearheaded by Doug Jackson as the one that came to NFA with opportunity.

To that point, Mark Lewis, DeGraaf Interiors, Grand Rapids, Mich., told me Cali is “hitting it out of the park with some price points at 20-mil.” He cited GeoWood as a great product at a great price. But he believes the “big hitter” will be its entry point into the rigid core category geared toward builders. He believes at that price point it’s going to be a home run with the whole group.

Lauren Coles, Coles Fine Flooring, San Diego, among others, raved about Cali’s Meritage. “The colors are good, and the price is right.”

But Cali’s newest introduction, Cali Longboard, is what turned heads at this meeting. The LVP is 6 feet long and 9 inches wide and was merchandised encased in a surfboard to illustrate the size. Jeff Macco, Macco’s Flooring Center, Green Bay, Wis., said he loved the marketing approach. Ian Newton, Flooring 101, Ventura County, Calif., thought it was unique to have planks that long. Phil Koufidakis, Baker Bros., Phoenix, felt it offered some of the best colors on the market.

Other products that drew rave reviews were Mannington’s Loft, a parquet-look LVT. Newton called it “really unique, outside the box at a decent price point. When you get a unique product like that, it’s not so much about price point.”

Then there was USFloors’ tile collection, Karastan Wood, which will be launched later this year, and The Dixie Group’s new carpet. “Dixie always has the best carpet, price point, style, quality, across the board,” Coles said.

That’s the thing about the NFA—it’s the best of the best—product, people, places.

 

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My take: The Domotex USA post mortem

March 4/11, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 20

By Steven Feldman

 

I awoke on the morning of Feb. 28 to a torrential downpour. I took a peek out my downtown Atlanta hotel room window and watched as traffic began to build. It was the morning of Domotex USA’s much anticipated debut. Was this going to prove an ominous harbinger of things to come at the Georgia World Congress Center?

Two and a half days later, the jury was still out. Was Domotex USA a success? In a word, depends. Depends on the true expectations of show management. If expectations were that this would be a competitor to Surfaces, a show that would attract a throng of East Coast retailers, then Informa has nothing to worry about. If the goal was to connect manufacturers with manufacturers and manufacturers with distributors—that may be another story.

Many in this industry have been asking for my takeaways. Based on conversations I had with attendees and the exhibitors who gave the upstart show a shot, here’s what I gleaned…

1. The sentiment from exhibitors was the show was much too late. Domotex had no choice. Atlanta this year played host to the Super Bowl, rendering earlier dates impossible due to a scarcity of hotel accommodations. Next year’s show dates are Feb. 5-7, smack on the heels of Surfaces. Some told me they thought Domotex should have waited until 2020 to launch.

2. Basically every exhibitor told me they saw precious few retailers, and those they did see were local with maybe a scattering from Florida. Conversely, they were seeing small and mid-sized distributors and manufacturers. They called it a manufacturer networking show. It didn’t come as the greatest surprise given Domotex approached FCNews, the most influential publication for retailers, with a pittance of a budget compared to other shows that attempted to launch an East Coast event to promote to you—retailers. That didn’t inspire much confidence on our part. One manufacturer who requested anonymity said they brought more people to the show than retailers they saw.

3. I did see some high-profile retailers walking around. Floor & Décor had a contingent of about five people, and there was Jason McSwain, president of the National Floorcovering Alliance. Then again, Floor & Décor is based in nearby Smyrna, Ga.

4. Many manufacturers that passed on exhibiting chose to walk the show, taking the proverbial “wait-and-see” approach. Each and every one I spoke with told me attendance, or lack thereof, justified their decision—a decision that will not change for next year’s event.

5. On the other hand, most companies that did exhibit said they will return next year, believing they need to give Domotex USA a couple of years to prove its worth. And then there are companies like The Dixie Group, which will return because the Dalton-based company wants to support Georgia.

6. Many exhibitors said the impetus for exhibiting this year was their strong relationship with Domotex by virtue of its Germany and China events. Others cited the fact it is much less expensive than Surfaces. That’s why you saw some exhibitors in Atlanta that otherwise sneak suites or hold off-site events during Surfaces.

7. Everyone questioned Saturday hours. The unanimous sentiment was that two days are more than sufficient.

8. The center stage on the show floor was a good idea. The seminars/ presentations were easily accessible.

At the end of the day, the future of Domotex USA will rest on whether the industry determines the need for an East Coast trade show on the heels of Surfaces. Remember, many East Coast retailers will already have attended Surfaces, the Shaw and Mohawk regionals, Carpet One/Flooring America or some combination thereof before Domotex.

These shows are somewhat symbiotic: If the manufacturers come, retailers will follow. If retailers show up, manufacturers sign on. One doesn’t happen without the other. Or it doesn’t happen at all.

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My take: Dancing for kids with cancer

February 18/25, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 19

By Steven Feldman

 

So, I was talking to my son the other day, which is a miraculous feat in and of itself. It’s not that he isn’t a great kid; he certainly is. But, he’s 20. For those of you who have teenagers or 20-something year-olds, you can probably relate. Life spent with face buried in phone. Selective hearing. Unable to commit to plans more than 30 seconds in advance. Always looking for the BBD (bigger, better deal).

Anyway, I made the mistake of doing the unfathomable—asking what he was doing the weekend on April 5. Yes, nearly two months in advance. A question usually met with a blank stare. Much to my surprise, he immediately parted his face from his phone, risking a case of separation anxiety, and assertively told me he was participating in a dance marathon.

Ummm, huh?

Harris is a junior at Rutgers University, and it turns out his fraternity, Zeta Beta Tau (ZBT), is actively involved in the Rutgers University Dance Marathon (RUDM), which is the largest, student-run philanthropic event in New Jersey. It is a weekend of no-sitting and no-sleeping. The 27-hour event brings together more than 2,000 people, including dancers and volunteers. RUDM’s mission is to provide emotional and financial support for children who are a part of Embrace Kids Foundation. RUDM participants dance to help raise funds and awareness that goes toward Embrace Kids Foundation’s mission to support the non-medical needs of children with cancer, sickle cell and other serious disorders. It addresses the spiritual, emotional and financial needs of patient families in the New York City/New Jersey metropolitan area. More than 3,200 children and families have received assistance over its 27-year history.

Students often dance as part of teams representing their student organizations in a mutual effort to raise funds. RUDM is high energy, filled with activities, games, live bands and food to engage participants. In the finale, patient families join a large dance party on the floor.

RUDM is not limited to one weekend in spring. It is a year-long effort to raise funds and awareness for children with cancer and blood disorders. Children and their families who are a part of Embrace Kids Foundation are paired with fraternities, sororities and organizations across Rutgers University. The pairing ensures children and their families have a support system at the University and feel like they are a part of the Rutgers community. The college students provide comfort, friendly faces and fun during trying times. They visit the children during treatment and engage them with fun activities. Additionally, students and families meet outside of treatment for parties, sporting events and movies. The idea is to make a family’s time through treatment much easier by being a fun escape during a difficult journey.

In 2018, RUDM raised a record-breaking $1,055,468, every penny of which went to Embrace Kids Foundation. In fact, since 1999, RUDM has raised more than $7.9 million for the foundation. The money raised has helped countless families in the tri-state area cope with the numerous challenges of pediatric cancer.

Why am I mentioning it here? Benevolence and helping those in need is a big part of the culture here at FCNews. Whether we are creating awareness for what others are doing, like Shaw’s involvement with St. Jude, volunteering our time or administrating the FCNews Fantasy Football League for a Cause—which has resulted in donations surpassing $130,000 these past few years—we know our role here is about more than flooring. And in the spirit of transparency, I couldn’t be more proud of my son for doing this. And here’s the obligatory shameless plug: Anyone wishing to support the cause can log on to Harris’ page: tinyurl.com/y35o9q3r.

Meantime, no sitting or sleeping for 27 hours? Good luck to each and every one of them. They know they are doing it for a good cause.

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My take: Page 25 from my Surfaces diary

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

By Steven Feldman

 

Dear Diary,

 

So here we are again, adding yet another page to this diary that began 25 years ago. Yes, 25. Silver anniversary. Time does fly. I remember walking around the Sands Convention Center in 1995 like it was yesterday with only two thoughts: Get me the hell out of here, and I can’t go back to the horse racing industry soon enough. Two and a half decades later, you couldn’t pry me from this industry with a crowbar.

Interesting story: The first person I talked to at my Surfaces debut was Michael Raskin. Stumbled upon his booth (it’s a phrase; I was sober) where we got to talking. Turned out the best man at his wedding interned for me at a horse racing magazine in 1986. Totally random. Twenty-five years later Michael was the first person I stumbled upon at Eye Candy the Monday before the show began (not making any sobriety statements this time).

Anyway, it still blows my mind how we prepare for this show for months with such anticipation, and it’s over in a flash. It’s a virtual whirlwind—gym, breakfast meetings, show, cocktail receptions, dinners, late-night meet-ups at Eye Candy. I was even somehow coaxed to exit my comfort zone and go zip-lining. Such are the trials and tribulations of Surfaces week.

So, what were my takeaways from Surfaces, er, TISE? First, SPC, rigid core, SPC, rigid core. Everyone has their own iterations. I saw a bunch putting 1.2mm real wood veneers on top of the core. Many put their own spin on the core. It’s kind of like where we were with laminate in the late 1990s. Hopefully the category will endure and avoid the proverbial race to the bottom.

Next thing: The Surfaces show floor is becoming increasingly populated with Asian companies. Practically all are seeking OEM or private-label business. Many hardly speak English. Here’s a business idea for the Informa folks—provide translators. It can only help business. My business partner, Dustin Aaronson, has been advocating this for years.

What about traffic? Most exhibitors I spoke with felt traffic was off a bit, but the quality of attendee was as good or better than in years past. No one I spoke with felt the impending Domotex USA show had any impact; rather, it was the Shaw Flooring Network event on top of the show and the CCA shows the week before.

As for products, COREtec Stone to me is a home-run product. It may be a category unto itself. It doesn’t compete with anything except stone or ceramic, and it installs at (I’m guessing) half the price and half the time. Piet Dossche, the genius, refuses to rest on his laurels.

For the second year in a row, I was impressed with the Arte Mundi space. Their wood products are truly unique.

The aforementioned Raskin parlayed his fascination with Brooklyn into a namesake collection that drew rave reviews.

Reconnecting: Happy to see old friend Mara Villenueva-Heras, the former VP of marketing at Armstrong, back in the game, taking the same position with Emser just weeks before the show. Along the same lines, good to see another old friend, Jean-Sebastien Roy, stepping in at Preverco, hopefully for the long haul. Last but not least, Keith Wiethe resurfaced at Home Legend; it had been a long time.

Random thoughts: You can always count on Mohawk to make a big splash, and it did not disappoint by closing the show on Thursday with The Band Perry… If Provenza is not on your radar it should be… PR people are an interesting breed—most are assets but some are impediments; just saying... Apologies to Beauflor’s Nick Brown if I harassed him on the treadmill at 6 a.m…. I truly believe Cleo from Congoleum will be a hit… If Eye Candy shut down at midnight I think we’d all be better off… Remember this name: Celeste; no, it’s not a supermodel—it’s a brand you will be hearing about this year… Mannington’s new products always overwhelm... Team Finkell—Don, Allie and Emily Morrow—continue to put their best foot forward with their respective brands… Wickham’s booth was a deserving Best of Surfaces winner… Just when I could tell the difference between Bob Shaw’s identical twin grandkids, Joe and Will Young, they get haircuts… Tip of the week: How do you get through Surfaces in one piece? One word: Prednisone.

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My take: Nine retail trends to consider for 2019

January 21/28, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 17

By Steven Feldman

If you go online and search for “retail trends in 2019,” you will find hundreds of trends and predictions. Since FCNews’ focus is on the retailer, and this second issue of 2019 coincides with Surfaces, the premier retailer event in our industry, I thought it would be timely to highlight nine trends that might be of interest to our readers.

  1. Facebook becomes a retailer. Amazon and Google may have cornered the market on explicit search, but Facebook knows what consumers implicitly want better than they know themselves. After all, consumers tell Facebook far more about themselves—by way of their social media activity—than they tell Amazon and Google. This dynamic is why the rise of social commerce is probably the most important trend that will impact retail over the next several years.
  2. Private label will grow online. Over the last several years, retailers have doubled down on private-label lines to differentiate in a new retail landscape where customers are inundated with an unprecedented number of places and ways to buy the same goods. Sales of private-label products are now three times higher than branded products, according to research firm CB Insights. Building up private-label brands is expected to continue, but if retailers are hoping to get the best bang for their buck, they’ll need to invest in the visibility of those brands online.
  3. Retail as a service to expand. Retailers are exploring options to create a more personalized experience for consumers—and for good reason. Accenture and the Retail Industry Leaders Association released data earlier this month that indicated more consumers than ever want retailers to personalize their shopping experiences. Of consumers surveyed, 63% indicated they were interested in personalized recommendations.
  4. Investments in the retail workforce will grow. The retail employment landscape is shifting, hiring is on the rise and the labor market is tighter and much more competitive. Plus, these days, the role of a retail sales associate calls for more than just sales and store admin—they must evolve from salespeople to consultants and experts. “Retailers that win…will deliver a meaningful human interaction that gives consumers confidence in what to buy,” said Nick Stagge, vice president of marketing at ExpertVoice. “This requires an increased responsibility in hiring, training and empowering sales associates to put the customer interaction first.”
  5. Retailers that offer compelling in-store experiences will flourish. People don’t flock to retail locations because it’s convenient (some still do, but “convenience” usually means shopping online). Modern consumers make the effort to head to physical retail stores because of the experience they get in the store. Some do it because they crave the social component of shopping; others do it because they love the excitement of treasure hunts and product discovery. Then there are those who want to touch and feel products for themselves. Retailers need to be attuned to the reasons why their customers shop offline, and then adjust to fit those needs.
  6. Back-office solutions and innovations will be at the forefront. From warehouse operations to inventory management, more effective logistics to enhanced customer service, consumers are demanding more efficient, more personalized expectations than ever before. Retailers can start to bolster their back-office operations by evaluating their processes and technologies to identify areas for improvement. If you’re unable to offer a seamless shopping experience between digital and brick-and-mortar, then it’s time to integrate your online and offline systems.
  7. Emerging payment options will gain traction. The process of ringing up sales continues to be a critical component of brick-and-mortar retail, and the checkout process is evolving. It may behoove you to explore emerging payment options such as mobile payments, particularly as younger shoppers—millennials and Generation Z—increasingly walk into your store. If your customers want to pay using their mobile device, or if they’re looking for more flexible payment options, look into the different payment types you can offer.
  8. Sustainability will be a major focus. This year more retailers will invest in sustainability as consumers choose to align themselves with businesses that support their values. In 2018, a number of companies expanded their sustainability efforts. For example, REI enforced sustainability standards for its 1,000 vendors, and North Face launched its Renewed line of damaged and refurbished items to further waste reduction. As such, retailers will improve on their practices to ensure they’re selling and delivering products in ways that aren’t harmful to the environment or society.
  9. Mobile messaging will provide a competitive advantage. Mobile messaging adoption has seen an upward trajectory in the last several years and it won’t slow anytime soon. Mobile phone messaging app users are expected to increase from 2.01 billion in 2018 to 2.18 billion in 2019. If you’re looking for a better way to reach your customers, mobile could be just the channel you need. When used correctly, instant messaging apps such as Facebook Messenger can be effective tools in addressing customer questions and sending product updates.
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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.