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Abbey Carpet & Floor: New programs for optimizing RSAs, web-savvy shoppers

February 29/March 7, 2016; Volume 30, Number 18

By Jenna Lippin

IMG_7240Las Vegas—Against the backdrop of a positive outlook for 2016, Abbey Carpet & Floor saw the highest percentage of membership attending last month’s annual convention since 2008. And to help dealers ride this wave of optimism, the group presented several new strategies and programs to cater to today’s consumer, which ranges from millennial to baby boomer.

“To stay ahead we must work smarter in order to take market share,” said Steve Silverman, Abbey’s president and COO. “Your customer continues to change. You must target marketing and advertising to focus on different needs. To win you must deliver value to every customer.”

Keynote speaker Joe Bondi, vice president of Armstrong residential flooring, North America, explained the changing consumer. “Arguably the most critical [market trend] is keeping pace with the consumer of today. There are different ways of shopping and purchasing flooring, which have really changed and continue to evolve.”

Part of this evolution is the focal shift to millennials, or Generation Y—those consumers who range in age from 19 to 35. Today the largest consumer demographic is Generation X, ages 36 to 51, but by 2017 Generation Y will surpass them in terms of buying power. To further the point, in 2021 millennials will be the largest consumer group and by 2025 will account for 46.6% of the nation’s income.

How does Abbey help its members address this sea change of shoppers? Helping to arm its members with the best RSAs in the business is one major weapon, because quality salespeople lead to happy customers, which results in positive online feedback via social media and review sites, driving new and repeat customers.

To that end, Abbey’s new RSA Training and Learning Center—available to members via Abbey InfoNet—features a plethora of tools to help the busy dealer train his sales staff. Topics include best practices and sales training along with product knowledge and detailed information on Abbey private-label brands. Both videos and written guides are available from customer service guru Pami Bhullar, director of retail development for Invista/Stainmaster, and renowned business coach Joe Calloway, a regular speaker at Abbey events.

“In our industry, training means a number of things,” Silverman noted. “It’s more than just selling; it’s knowledge and when to use that knowledge. There are so many components that make up our industry in terms of different types of flooring. Consumers today go on the Internet and learn about products before they are going to spend $10,000 to $15,000. They compare and know differences of products. All that information needs to be in the hands of salespeople. If they fumble on giving an answer [to a customer] it may mean she is going to a competitor.”

Ted Gregerson, owner of Ted’s Abbey Carpet & Floor with two locations in the Birmingham, Ala., area, had been anticipating a full-service training program from the group. “Now you are able to take someone you’ve just hired who knows nothing about flooring and have them sit down at the computer, watch videos and get basic flooring knowledge without having someone else on your staff take the time to train them. That will be a huge savings for us. And even veteran or seasoned sales personnel can now [easily] be educated on Abbey programs, Abbey brands and even sales 101 as reminders. We do a great job with education and training ourselves; this will go really well with what we’re already doing.”

In conjunction with its new training initiative, Abbey launched Performance Plus Rewards at convention, an incentives program for RSAs designed to encourage sales of private-label products.

“The basic concept is to provide a reward for salespeople to sell the brands you have the best opportunity to make more money on,” David Hardy, executive vice president, merchandising and member services, told members. “These products are really not ‘shop-able.’ Suppliers that create products in exclusive brands and private labels prevent people from going on the Internet and shopping prices.”

Any product under Abbey’s umbrella of exclusive brands earns points for salespeople. Points earned go toward electronics like iPads, DVD and Blu-ray players, desktop computers and more.

Abbey launched Performance Plus Rewards and the RSA training program in sync so members can educate and motivate their sales staff at the same time. IMG_7230With all information in one place on Abbey’s InfoNet portal, the initiatives work together seamlessly. “I have a small team of five and plan on using the training and rewards,” said Leon Wink, COO, Wolde Flooring, Madison, Ala. “Often a company sends just one representative or the store owner to learn more, but to grow your company you really have to delegate and everyone has to come up to speed. You want your entire staff to be knowledgeable, not just one person. This system simplifies the process.”

While customer service is a top priority for Abbey members, driving shoppers to that top-notch in-store experience is the first step. With that, the group has boosted its focus on members’ digital footprints to help bring consumers to Abbey member sites and ultimately their stores.

Abbey’s digital marketing program has been designed to guide flooring dealers through their social media efforts on all platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Houzz, Google+ and more. Email marketing is another major component, helping send store messages, news and promotions via Constant Contact.

Perhaps the most critical element of Abbey’s digital marketing program is Customer Connect, the group’s customized pay-per-click (PPC) advertising program. “It is a perfect service for small businesses looking for ways to cost effectively reach customers,” said Patricia Toledo, Abbey’s digital marketing coordinator. “You only pay when a consumer clicks on your text ad and is brought to your Abbey website. PPC connects to online shoppers the moment they start looking for flooring.”

As the largest search engine in existence today, Google continues to come up with tools to better utilize its features. The Google Results Page will give higher rankings to Abbey members using PPC, with the Google text ad and corresponding ad on the member website linking to communicate the same message. The Customer Connect dashboard lets Abbey dealers gauge how successful their PPC campaigns have been, showing statistics like clicks, views, click-through rate and costs per click, in addition to seeing from where traffic is actually coming. The best part: Every member can decide how much he or she wants to spend per month on PPC. The Customer Connect team helps determine what programming is best for each budget and monitors results to see what is working and what is not.

One member who can attest to the success generated by Abbey’s Customer Connect PPC program is Barry Lindgren, owner of Abbey Carpet & Floor of Puyallup in Puyallup, Wash. While he was hesitant about the initiative when it first launched in 2014, he soon increased his monthly budget when he saw the jump in his website traffic. One particular promotion he ran in May 2015 featuring a Karastan campaign changed the game for good. “I was extremely surprised at how much it increased our business. We continued to increase our PPC monthly budget and have held it ever since. About 60% to 65% of the traffic on our website is through PPC. I hope to find other ways to use PPC to enhance our traffic even more.”

Another initiative introduced at convention created to attract customers and entice them to buy was its Visions 2016 showroom design that helps members position products to keep on top of what’s trending in the market. The group has partnered with Ron Hodgdon of Creative Arts—who has helped develop member showrooms for over 25 years—to conceptualize this new design. Members who sign up for the redesign work with him directly.

“Unless you have recently joined Abbey or had your showroom redesigned by Ron, members that joined years ago probably haven’t changed their showrooms,” Hardy said. “Displays have been switched out but the flow hasn’t changed. The new, vibrant look is exciting.”

Silverman noted the consistent design amongst Abbey private-label displays, which helps a showroom look organized and inviting. “In a non-member showroom you see different displays. In an Abbey showroom you see displays with the same look; there is a homogenous feel. This design provides an upscale look that will hopefully increase selling price and margin. It’s like inviting guests to your home.”

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Abbey Carpet & Floor: Proprietary brands, products, programs take center stage

March 16/23, 2015; Volume 28/Number 19

By Steven Feldman

Screen Shot 2015-03-24 at 12.38.09 PMReno, 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.”

Screen Shot 2015-03-24 at 12.39.26 PMAll 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.

Abbey Connect

Screen Shot 2015-03-24 at 12.39.13 PMOne 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.”

Screen Shot 2015-03-24 at 12.39.38 PMAbbey 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.”

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Fall promos encourage a fresh start

Volume 28/Number 6; September 1/8, 2014

By Jenna Lippin

Screen Shot 2014-09-11 at 9.46.09 AMWith fall comes an opportunity to take time to start new projects, which, for many, includes new flooring. A number of leading manufacturers and buying groups consider a new season the perfect opportunity to offer incentives that will drive traffic into stores. FCNews spoke with some of these companies about a number of the top promotions to be featured in the coming months.

Abbey Carpet & Floor/Floors to Go

Abbey’s National Gold Tag Flooring Sale and Floors To Go’s National Flooring Extravaganza Sale, which will both run Oct. 1-31, include all the tools to help members plan a successful sale event. A free POP kit is available to participating dealers, which includes signage and sales tags. Options include selecting promotional products (a number of manufacturers are included in the events), re-pricing floors, creating showroom flyers, promoting the sales via member sites and advertising planning. Both groups also offer an option to participate in a direct mail marketing campaign to help promote sales events.

Beaulieu America

Beaulieu America will be continuing its Perfection Is Yours American Express reward card promotion through the fall, with the program concluding Jan. 3, 2015.

Qualifying Beaulieu America dealers will earn a $200 American Express reward card for selling multiples of 200 yards of qualifying Beaulieu America styles during the promotion.

There are a variety of Beaulieu America carpet collections and styles included in the program; among them are Bliss Perfection, Bliss Magic Fresh, Bliss Healthy Touch, Bliss Stainmaster with Magic Fresh, Bliss Indulgence and more.

Dealers should see their Beaulieu representatives for details and how to qualify.

Carpet One Floor & Home

Carpet One Floor & Home’s new collection of pink ribbon welcome mats—available in participating stores Oct. 1—marks the group’s 10th year of supporting breast cancer research. Twenty-five percent of the sale price of each mat is donated to The Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF).

The Carpet One Welcomes Your Support campaign has been raising funds to support organizations and researchers searching for a cure since 2004. This year’s collection includes 15 new designs that make a statement of support in any home.

The collection will also include 12 designs created by interior design experts. These interior designers and stylists have tapped into their design styles and personal inspiration to create the first Designer Series of pink ribbon welcome mats. Each designer collaborated with Carpet One Floor & Home to develop a mat design that represented himself/herself.Screen Shot 2014-09-11 at 9.46.17 AM

Flooring America

Through Sept. 15, consumers can buy select styles of Downs carpet in Flooring America stores at sale prices and receive free installation as part of the Free Installation Event. According to management, the Downs reputation for superior construction, exclusive styling and exceptional performance makes it a go-to brand for consumers, and they can now have it installed without any extra work or any extra costs.

The One Price Covers It All campaign, which will run from Oct. 2 to Nov. 11, will feature sale prices and no charges for extras on select Resista and Resista Soft carpet offered in Flooring America stores. Sale features include free room measure and estimate, free carpet delivery, free carpet and pad rip out and haul away, free furniture moving, and the first Stanley Steemer cleaning at no charge (at participating stores).

Karastan

National Karastan Month, which always occurs during the fall months, will run this year from Sept. 25 through Nov. 10. Mohawk is providing Karastan retailers with extensive resources to showcase the brand’s signature styling and help attract customers, including national advertising, retail advertising—including ready-to-use images, newspaper ads, magazine ads, direct mail inserts, radio scripts and web-based promotions—point-of-sale kits, finance offers, Imagination program and a cushion offer. The sale features consumer rebates and product discounts on the season’s most popular trends.

Mohawk

The upcoming annual Mohawk Anniversary Sale is exclusively available for Floorscapes and ColorCenter retailers. The promotion will run from Sept. 12 through Oct. 27 and offers a number of valuable incentives, including product discounts and cushion offers, cash-back incentives, consumer finance offers and enhanced Mohawk Infinite Reward points. The company is also extending a full mix of national and local advertising support and updated, eye-catching point-of-sale kits to promote in store.

Shaw

Shaw’s annual 30 Days of HGTV Home promotion features special financing and will run through Sept. 30. This year the company is offering 30 months of financing during the 30-day promotion. For retail sales associates, incentives have been added to HGTV Home flooring products by Shaw. Shaw will have social media support with daily giveaways during the promotional period.

Shaw’s second promotion for fall, Floor Now, Pay Later, will take place from Oct. 1 through Nov. 10. Also centered around finance, Shaw will be offering 24-month financing plus a $150 manufacturer’s rebate. This promotion will receive national advertising support and daily giveaways posted on Shaw’s social media sites. Dealers will have complete advertising packages and marketing materials. For the retail sales associate, Shaw has incentivized all Anso nylon products during the promotional period.

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Abbey Connect: Putting together the right pieces

Screen Shot 2014-04-18 at 10.53.11 AM

Volume 27/Number 24; March 31/April 7, 2014

By Jenna Lippin

Orlando—With the overarching goal of selling more product at higher margins, Abbey Carpet & Floor introduced its Abbey Connect initiative to members at its annual convention, held here March 19-23. The four pillars within Abbey Connect—Merchandising Connect, Advertising

Connect, Member Connect and Customer Connect—have all been designed to help members seamlessly boost their businesses.

Boasting its largest convention attendance since 2006, president and COO Steve Silverman told the group that Abbey is coming off its best year since the beginning of the recession. “While floor covering retailers experienced 5% to 7% growth last year, Abbey as a group [exhibited] twice that growth. 2014 will be another good year, and when you leave Orlando you will be as enthusiastic about [Abbey Connect] as I am.” Continue reading Abbey Connect: Putting together the right pieces

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Al's column

by FCNews staff

WE ARE FAMILY: When executives at Shaw say they want their retail customers to feel part of the family, it’s no joke. At its SFN convention in Orlando, Fla., the mill not only hosted dealers from more than 830 retail stores, there were over 725 children in attendance, making it one of the largest of its kind the industry has seen. While the company certainly catered to the needs of its retailers, it looked like executives were having more fun watching the kids run around the exhibit hall and evening receptions interacting with all games and activities set up specifically for their entertainment. As Randy Merritt, president, said, “We loving having the children here. SFN is 14 years old and many of the people now working the floor were once doing the playing. We’ve watched them grow up and get involved in the family business.” Continue reading Al's column