March 16/23, 2015; Volume 28/Number 19
By Steven Feldman
Reno, Nev.—Proprietary brands and private-label products have always been a cornerstone of the Abbey Carpet & Floor proposition, and that could not have been better illustrated than at the group’s 2015 convention held earlier this month here.
Steve Silverman, president and COO, acknowledged the product-driven nature of this convention, stating that he couldn’t remember a year where there were more introductions. “I think suppliers feel optimistic. We have more positive indicators going into 2015 than we have had in several years. If you look at the capital investments and acquisitions being made by certain manufacturers, coupled with the economy, all the stars seem to have aligned.” He cited the plethora of broadloom and LVT introductions, plus a good number of new hardwood products.
Dave Hardy, executive vice president of merchandising, believes additions to Abbey’s two exclusive nylon programs—Softique under the Alexander Smith brand and Infinity under the American Showcase brand—will further differentiate members in the marketplace. “These two platforms have been highly successful, so we continue to expand them.” Specifically, the 17 new Softique styles and 34 new Infinity styles focus on innovative patterns that utilize new tufting technology.
Hardy traces the acceptance of Softique and Infinity nylon to a number of product characteristics. “Both offer superior performance characteristics along with all the features and benefits that resonate with the consumer—fashion, superior warranties, 60-day satisfaction guarantee. Plus, salespeople want to sell products they have confidence in, know will perform and offer margin.”
Aside from additions to the exclusive nylon collections, the other focus, which was also evident throughout the Surfaces show floor in January, was on Invista’s PetProtect franchise. “PetProtect resonates with the consumer,” Hardy said. “There are more households in the U.S. with pets than children.”
All told, Abbey introduced 45 products within four PetProtect collections from Tuftex, Dixie, Godfrey Hirst and Stanton. “There is no redundancy in those new collections,” Hardy noted. “These 45 visuals are diverse and complementary to each other in all types of constructions, mostly high-fashion products.”
PetProtect offerings have been an extremely successful segment for Abbey. Hardy cited new merchandising introduced at convention created specifically for PetProtect that speaks to the consumer at point of sale. “We have features and benefits of PetProtect staring the consumer in the face. We are using the graphic images that Invista is utilizing in its advertising campaign and bringing them into our member stores. It speaks to the features and benefits in written form, and instills credibility in the product and what it can do for the consumer.”
In the value arena, four new collections were introduced:
- Beaulieu showcased 13 soft polyester styles
- Lexmark unveiled 10 styles utilizing its new pattern LCL machine
- Alexander Smith Living showed 19 PET styles in textures, tonals, flecks, LCLs and loops
- Shaw rolled out 22 new products with unique styling and color play from 25 to 70 ounces (classic and new visuals) in solids and flecks, patterns and loops
On the hard surface side, it came as no surprise that LVT introductions took center stage, particularly composite products. Fueled by Abbey’s success with USFloors’ COREtec and COREtec Plus, a new private-label product from Shaw—Revolutionary Resilient—utilizing similar construction was unveiled. The product, called Floorté for open line retailers, played to rave reviews at the Shaw Flooring Network convention in January (FCNews, Jan. 19/26). Hardy cited the line’s imaging and the fact it can be installed with very little floor prep as primary advantages. Twenty-seven options are available measuring 6 x 48 with a 6.5mm thickness and both 12 mil and 20 mil wear layers.
In hardwood, Hardy was most excited about some wide-width, oil-finished visuals from USFloors. “The collection offers both contemporary (Contempo) and traditional (Rustique) styling that go from smooth modern to more rustic, traditional looks at price points that open up a wider audience.” Planks are 7½ inches wide x 6¼ feet long.
One year after launching an online initiative as part of Abbey Connect, a key component of which is the Google AdWords pay-per-click service, Silverman said about 20% of members are utilizing the program with 20% more expected to have signed up at convention. AdWords pay-per-click (PPC) is designed to help local businesses advertise on the Internet. Each dealer can target specific geographic areas and ZIP codes where he wants to advertise, and when consumers search Google for flooring in that region, that dealer’s text ad will appear on the results page. When that ad/link is clicked, the user is directed to a promotional advertisement on that retailer’s Abbey website.
“We know 80% of consumers begin the shopping process on the Internet, and 64% use pay-per-click in some form or fashion,” Silverman said. “We are saying that PPC should supplement other forms of advertising—print, TV, etc. The difference between the two forms of medium is with PPC we can tell our members how many clicks they got on their keywords, what the click-through rate was, how long the consumer stayed on the site, etc. And then we can tell them, for example, of 11,000 clicks, 2,300 went into pay-per-clicks, the average stay was 7 minutes, and the average cost was $4 a click. Did you see an increase in business? The answer is always yes.
“Also what it does is deal with the consumer in the market for flooring today. With PPC, we give [members] the demographics and income of the ZIP codes they are interested in. Say you want to advertise in six particular ZIP codes. We give them the number of families, average income, etc. Then they may say, ‘Maybe we shouldn’t be advertising in that ZIP code.’ A newspaper can’t do that. It’s a rifle approach vs. a shotgun approach. Members who have participated in the program have not only seen an increase in website traffic, but also an increase in business.”
Abbey experts help dealers plan their PPC strategies—what they seek to accomplish and their monthly budgets. The group will also help determine which categories to advertise. “Each category has specific keywords that need to be selected,” said Fred Kotynski, director, information systems. Abbey will manage the hundreds, or thousands, of keywords. Each keyword must be bid on to achieve the best performance for the lowest cost. “We may not be able to be at the top or the right-hand side, but you will receive benefit.”
Chuck McMechen of Abbey Carpet of San Francisco said Abbey goes “so far beyond what we’ve been doing in the past with pay-per-click. The prices are right, and you can know immediately when people click and look at your ad.”
John Kopas, Abbey Carpet of Mounds View, Minn., started utilizing Abbey Connect in May. “Our website traffic increased about 20%, and at the same time business also increased 20%. We close about 90% of our customers. If they come in we sell them.” He added that since starting the PPC program with Abbey, increases have been greater with each month. “I’ve tried PPC with other companies and didn’t get good results. Abbey seems to know the right words to use.”
Replenishing the ranks
Phil Gutierrez, Abbey chairman and CEO, noted that as much as 30% to 35% of floor covering stores shut their doors over the last five years due to the recessionary economy. Abbey as a group was not immune, although its rank and file decreased by a much lesser percentage, say 15%. “We have 90 fewer members today than in 2007.”
But with business stabilizing in 2013 and increasing in 2014, Gutierrez said Abbey is investing for the future with a concerted attempt to increase membership across the U.S. Six people have already been hired with five more on the way covering 95% of the country. “We already have gotten 25 new members; the hope is to get another 70 each year for the next couple of years.”
Aside from recruiting new members, the 11 Abbey field reps have a secondary function: visit existing members to see if they can help communicate some of the initiatives of which they may not be aware.
Why the focus on growth? “If we are able to get coverage in 100% of the country, and our volume is bigger, our programs become wider,” Gutierrez told members. “That gives us more money to invest in websites, merchandising, advertising, etc. The more we help you do more business, the more we all benefit.”