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Flooring America: Times are good, no time to get complacent

February 5/12, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 17

By Ken Ryan

 

Grapevine, Texas—Flooring America’s winter conneXtion, held at the Gaylord Texan Resort, was a celebration of the good times that most members are experiencing. And president Keith Spano’s message to the group: Let the good times roll. “We have to make hay when the sun is shining, and the sun is shining now,” said Spano, who oversees the Flooring America, Flooring Canada, Floor Trader and IDG brands.

Spano told FCNews that 49% of members were up 10% in 2017, while 27% were up 20%. That means 24% had gains in the single digits and lower. “If you are not experiencing the success your peers are, we are here to help,” Spano said. “In fact, we have members who came up to us and mentioned that a couple of members were struggling, and they were like, ‘We want to help them.’ That’s the great thing here; everyone’s on the same team. It is all about unity and staying together.”

Rick Bennet, co-CEO of CCA Global Partners, echoed Spano’s sentiment that the economy is in a good place and 2018 is the time to invest. “If you are not having fun right now you may want to think of something else to do because business is good.”

Flooring America/Flooring Canada retails have aggressively ridden the wave of momentum the LVT category has created. As Cathey Gundlach, vice president of merchandising explained, “Our hard surface to soft mix is higher than CCA and the industry. Very early on our members embraced LVT.” As an example, Flooring America retailers have 66 exclusive SKUs of COREtec, USFloors’ highly acclaimed WPC product. Shaw Floors, another major LVT/WPC member, introduced Galvanite to members at the show. This solid core product features a 9.5mm core and 30 mil wear layer; it is offered in plank sizes of 9 x 72 and 18 x 36.  It will be available to CCA members in April.

However, the biggest vendor news was from soft surface company Engineered Floors, which has joined the co-op. “This is a huge boon for us,” Spano said.

New initiatives
For the first time in several years Flooring America did not unveil any new marketing programs at this convention. This was by design as members absorbed a bevy of new programs. “We decided let’s take inventory of everything that is available to us,” Spano said. “We tried to simplify this convention and not overwhelm members.”

The group did announce a new online visual aid, My Design Finder, which is heralded as a way to connect with consumers searching for floors. According to Frank Chiera, senior vice president, marketing & advertising, “My Design Finder is a visual way that allows a consumer to select her design style based on a project need, with Pinterest-like room scene photography which then identifies her persona based on that preference.”

Flooring America has hired a new advertising agency, Comm Creative, which was selected over six other candidates, including the previous agency that had served FA/FC for the past 18 years. “We are asking our members to change, so we have to lead by example,” Chiera said. Beginning in April Boston-based Comm Creative will launch an all-new creative featuring more customization and personalization to customers’ stores. Intricate details such as the size of a store’s windows and ceiling heights will be factored into the creation of signage for a store. “This is going to be huge for us,” said Bobby Meredith, owner of Flooring America OKC, who sits on the advisory council and was briefed on this move. “Comm Creative is very proactive and that lends itself to our group which is ahead of the curve in digital and social media.”

Chiera noted that Comm Creative “is an agency that clearly thinks with its heart. We realized they understood not only how to tap into the mind of our core customer but also that they would be an incredible strategic partner for us.”

Personalization counts

To stay relevant in a shrinking brick-and-mortar retail world, flooring dealers are often urged to deliver more personalization in their customer interactions. That message rang loud and clear at conneXtion with several executives imploring retailers to treat their customers with more tender loving care, Referencing the spate of retail store closings in 2017, co-CEO and co-founder Howard Brodsky told dealers they should treat customers the way hotels welcome guests.

“It’s about personalization, intimacy, one on one,” he said. “Consumers want to be talked to as individuals, not as a mass. And that person is willing to spend more money.”

Spano closed the convention with an important message to the members in attedance: “When you go home don’t get comfortable. Do something different. Make a change. Control your own destiny—or someone else will.”

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Carpet One Floor & Home welcomes new advisory council members

Screen Shot 2017-10-02 at 3.42.04 PMManchester, N.H.—Carpet One Floor & Home has announced four new members to its advisory council: Kelly McDonald, McDonald Carpet One Floor & Home, Boulder, Colo.; Chris Taylor, Carpet Master Carpet One Floor & Home, Latham, N.Y.; Laura Rosborough, Carpet One Floor & Home, Mentor, Ohio; and Dean Kelly, Carpet Baggers Carpet One Floor & Home, Charleston, S.C. Carpet One Floor & Homes 12-member council meets periodically through the year to advise senior management and help shape the direction of programs developed by the flooring retailer cooperative.

“Our advisory council is essential to make sure our strategy is in line with what our members need,” said Eric Demaree, president of Carpet One Floor & Home. “We depend on them to be the voice of our membership and they are there to challenge us to provide the best service possible to our members.”

Each new advisory member was selected to represent one of four regions previously represented by retiring members Cindy Corbett, John Mazzullo, Scot Hill and Will Dukes.

All new members of the advisory council will take on their official duties at the annual fall advisory council meeting taking place the first week of October in New Orleans, La.

For more information, visit joincarpetone.com or ccaglobalpartners.com/divisions/carpet-one.

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Flooring America dealers challenged to change the paradigm

August 14/21, 2017: Volume 32, Issue 5

Screen Shot 2017-08-22 at 10.16.55 AMSalt Lake City—“Focus on selling the project, not just the product.” That was the advice Keith Spano, president of Flooring America, offered retailer members during his opening day remarks on day one of the convention. It was a theme that would permeate throughout the duration of the three-day event.

“There are many opportunities to add incremental sales while also protecting your core business,” Spano said, citing paint, paint, kitchen and bath, window treatments, chair rails, decorative wall base, etc., as potential new businesses. “These all have the potential to make you stand out from the competition, allowing you to demand a higher price and better margin. When you have the opportunity to deliver a complete project to your customer, you will have a tremendous advantage over the competition.”

The overarching theme behind the event, “Building Buzz,” was designed to engage all ranges of attendees and help them perform at their peak. Conference organizers also put a new spin on the show by adding a sub theme (“Pathfinding”), which was designed to provide specific tracks, or pathways, tailored toward specific job functions.

The goal, according to Spano, was to get members to bring as many of their salespeople as possible. “We want to help the front line—the conduit to our customer—to make sure they have all the information they need. If they are successful, then our members will be more successful. It trickles down.”

In speaking with members at the convention, Spano likes what he’s hearing. “Business is good right now, so it’s much easier for store owners and managers to send more people to convention and invest in their staff. Some of our dealers brought several people to convention—as much as six people in some cases.” (On average, Flooring America tends to draw about 85% of members at convention, with attendance a tad higher at the winter events.)

Members such as Danielle Eckenrode, sales associate with Pro Floors & Cabinets, Naples, Fla., came to convention in search of information and tips to share with her co-workers back home. This is particularly true when it comes to social media initiatives. “There is so much more we could be doing,” she said. “Social media is really driving business.”

That’s why management is putting so much effort into social media. This includes everything from providing members with tips on how to market more effectively online to turning leads into sales opportunities. To their credit, according to Spano, members are embracing the change.

“If you go back six years ago, we gave iPads to all of our members to have access to proprietary digital apps. Some members didn’t even know how to turn them on. Fast forward to today, our members expect us to be innovating and building on to our digital elements. They are incredibly digitally savvy.”

Spano said members have made strides in this regard in just a few short years. Five years ago, Flooring America rolled out its “FAST” program, the first social media syndication platform of its kind for flooring, he said. At the time, many members were not convinced there could be an adequate ROI on social media investment, but that has changed. “Fast forward to today, they embrace it 100%.”

Good vibes
On the whole, sales trends are favorable for many Flooring America dealers. In his address to retail members, Spano cited encouraging consumer purchasing trends and changing demographics. He said April 2017 was the biggest month for the group since 2012.

Screen Shot 2017-08-22 at 10.17.22 AM“Things are pretty positive—the stock market is up, consumer confidence is on the rise, the job numbers are good and our members tell us their stores have been busy,” Spano said. “Overall, people are generally investing in their homes again. Millennials, especially, are buying homes and contributing to the home improvement market. If any of our members are not crushing it out there right now, then we have to talk.”

Spano is so optimistic about the potential for members to grow sales in the current economy that he’s raising the bar. “We’re creating this new benchmark of $1 million in sales—that’s where we want everyone to be.”

Dealers like Kevin Wahl, sales manager with R&R Creative Interiors in Lac La Biche, Alberta, Canada, is encouraged by what he’s seeing among the key millennial demographic. “It reconfirms some of what we have known about some of these specific groups of buyers.”

Product, program highlights
While education is always a key draw, members also come to see new products, line extensions and new marketing programs. There was plenty of this to go around as Flooring America unveiled new private-label programs in hot, trendy categories such as LVT, WPC, hardwood and even soft carpet. Highlights included: the new Purstone line from Armstrong; Floorcraft wood from Shaw; exotic-looking offerings from Hemisphere Imports; a new partnership with Stainmaster Pet Protect; and a soon-to-be released WPC program dubbed Galvanite.

In walking the show floor, Joe Perdue, sales manager, Dobson’s Flooring America, Garland, Texas, liked what he saw in Shaw’s Floorte Pro line. “We were really blown away by it. Usually you can pick a good-looking laminate or LVT. But as we cruised through the space we legitimately thought we had a real wood floor here. It’s the best real wood visual we’ve ever seen; it’s going to be a game changer in the product category. Shaw has a real home run here.”

 

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Karndean to present full flooring suite at CCA Global convention

Korlok_RKP8108 WashedButternutExport, Pa.—Karndean Designflooring will showcase its full suite of flooring solutions—including gluedown, loose lay and rigid core—at the CCA Global summer convention in Salt Lake City Aug. 8-10. The company will feature new product introductions and designflooring possibilities as well as engage visitors using interactive kiosks throughout its booth space (#429).

The company’s kiosks will explore the global design inspiration behind Karndean’s two newest product ranges (Korlok and LooseLay Longboard), guide visitors through Floorstyle (the company’s digital floor design tool), showcase actual residential installations, highlight upcoming retail initiatives, and inspire with design and lay pattern ideas.

In addition Karndean’s booth will host installation demonstrations and giveaways, including the company’s “Visit to Win It” event.

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CCA Global’s Brodsky appears on Canadian national television

250284-ScreenShot2-4c037c-medium-1497019638Toronto, Ontario, Canada—Howard Brodsky was interviewed live on Canadian national television at CBC Headquarters in Toronto on June 6. Brodsky appeared on CBC News Network’s “On The Money” program with award-winning journalist Peter Armstrong to promote the cooperative business model. Brodsky shed light on the unique co-op business structure that allows people to share the costs of business as well as the rewards.

“There is so much opportunity,” Brodsky said on the program. “If you really look at any business, it could be a cooperative. And what it does is empower people and distribute income much more equally.”

During his interview, Brodsky focused on the message that cooperatives are successful businesses. He made the point that cooperatives aren’t the opposite of capitalism; they are a kinder form of capitalism or “capitalism with a conscience.”

“Cooperatives are entrepreneurial, but they’re also scalable and profitable,” Brodsky said. “More importantly, the profit goes back to the people that do the work.”
Brodsky also highlighted the ways that cooperatives can help shift the balance of wealth to be more equally distributed. “There’s so much opportunity. You still don’t hear about cooperatives in the press or even in business schools.”

Brodsky was in Toronto to give remarks at the LBMX Accelerate Conference, a meeting of the world’s top buying professionals from North America, Europe and Asia. He was interviewed on the CBC network after his speech.

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Brodsky addresses cooperative business leaders at National Press Club

Screen Shot 2017-05-05 at 9.51.46 AMWashington, D.C.—Howard Brodsky was the keynote speaker at a gathering of the nation’s top cooperative leaders at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., May 3. Brodsky addressed more than 150 executives from multiple industries at the 2017 National Cooperative Issues Forum.

His keynote, “Lead With Our Co-Op Identity,” focused on helping entrepreneurs build successful businesses by providing the scale, resources and innovations needed for small businesses to compete against large-scale corporations that often dominate the business landscape. Brodsky’s speech offered cooperative business strategies that provide small and family businesses a lifeline for success in an increasingly competitive global economy.

“Consumer confidence in corporations has been shaken to the core thanks to the endless stream of stories like the Volkswagen, Wells Fargo and Mylan scandals,” Brodsky said following his keynote address. “Certainly, to succeed, any business needs to be profitable—but not at the expense of its stakeholders and its customers. Cooperatives are democratically run businesses whose members are its owners. That’s one of the key differentiators between publicly held corporations and cooperatives. Simply stated, cooperatives exist to serve the needs of people rather than maximize profits. When you put people’s needs first, the profits will always follow.”

With a spotlight on cooperative power, Brodsky’s speech focused on the co-op business model as a disruptor, differentiator and change agent in the way companies do business. Brodsky shared success stories on ways to leverage the co-op advantage, and outlined the Seven Key Principals for cooperation among cooperatives—voluntary and open membership, democratic member control, member’s economic participation, autonomy and independence, education, training and information, cooperation among cooperatives, and concern for community.

“Cooperatives truly are the better business model,” Brodsky said. “I have dedicated my life to spreading that message. Cooperatives have been the key to my success for many decades and I want it to work for millions of others and the good of their businesses.”

Brodsky and his colleague Alan Greenberg founded CCA Global Partners in 1984, establishing it as a cooperative, and launching Carpet One Floor & Home as its first business.

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CCA Global’s Howard Brodsky addresses international leaders in the UK

Howard Brodsky speaking in the UK.
Howard Brodsky speaking in the UK.

Manchester, N.H.—CCA Global’s Howard Brodsky traveled to the United Kingdom this week to give the keynote address to European business leaders at the annual Co-operative Retail Conference held at Stratford Manor in Stratford-Upon-Avon, UK. Brodsky was the only speaker from the United States to address the conference.

Brodsky’s presentation focused on the cooperative retail powerhouse he co-founded and established in 1984—CCA Global Partners. Through shared insights from over 30 years of successful business, Brodsky helped conference attendees find ways they can grow and improve their own companies.

In addition to sharing his story and perspective with the international attendees, Brodsky discussed his newest initiative, Cooperatives for a Better World, a non-profit which promotes the cooperative business model as a mode of sustainable job and wealth creation. According to the International Cooperative Alliance, the cooperative business model is proven to empower individuals and gives more people ownership in the businesses they use every day.

Brodsky’s presentation this week follows other international speeches he has recently given in Quebec, Panama, and Turkey. He encourages others to use the business model that has been so successful for his own company saying, “As business leaders who want to innovate and empower individuals, it is important for us to share our unique stories.” CCA Global Partners, a $10.8 billion company, has helped thousands of independent businesses thrive.

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Carpet One programs aim to ease the social media learning curve

February 13/20, 2017: Volume 31, Number 18

By Ken Ryan

 

Screen Shot 2017-02-20 at 3.28.13 PMPhoenix—Contrary to marketing hype, millennials are not the quintessential flooring customer today. Not yet at least. In 10 years, statistics show, this demographic group will be making the key decisions and influencing the market in ways that old-school retailers may not be comfortable with.

In an effort to convert old-school thinkers, Carpet One Floor & Home focused its winter convention on the future, which according to group president Eric Demaree, “requires a new mindset and an understanding of how to attract, engage with and convert today’s ever-changing consumer into a lifelong loyal customer.”

Future Focus, as the convention was themed, put digital marketing and social media front and center for the nearly 1,000 Carpet One Floor & Home members attending. Focus on the future requires investing in areas that are growing, such as digital marketing. Gary Redmond, digital director of marketing for Carpet One Floor & Home, convened a panel on the subject with member retailers Guy Pylypiw, Oshawa Carpet One Floor & Home, Oshawa, Ontario, Canada; Zack Allen, Buddy Allen Carpet One Floor & Home, Nashville, Tenn; and Kevin Frazier, Frazier’s Carpet One Floor & Home, Knoxville, Tenn.

These retail leaders have already embraced the digital world and encouraged their brethren to follow suit. Allen implored members to stop delaying the inevitable. “It is the future. It is where people are going to shop. Jump in there, do it and give it some time.”

Screen Shot 2017-02-20 at 3.28.31 PMFrazier, who still spends 85% of his advertising budget on traditional mediums (i.e., radio, TV), told members they have to first invest in this space before they see a return. “At the same time we are not just marketing for the sake of marketing—we are looking for measurables.” Frazier told the audience that four days before he conducted a large private sale at his store, he did a “digital drop” to spread the word through all online platforms. He said he got six requests for pre-measures that led to closings at the private sale. “This was a perfect snapshot of what can be accomplished. [Digital] is a great way to amplify and accelerate your traditional marketing.”

Social media
Virtually every Carpet One Floor & Home dealer understands the importance of digital marketing. How to effectively use social media, however, is still an area of exploration for many dealers.

Terri Daniels, vice president of corporate communications, hosted a panel discussion on the most effective ways to use social media. Michelle Pylypiw, Oshawa Carpet One; Andrew Wiebe, Carpet One Floor & Home, Red Deer, Alberta, Canada; and Bonnie Fenwick, Carpet N’ Drapes, Carpet One Floor & Home, Jacksonville, Fla., conveyed this message to members: You don’t have to be on every social media platform; just choose what works best in your market.

Wiebe suggested members start with Facebook, which he called a “dream market platform.” He discussed how his installer used a camera to film a time-lapse installation of a two-story fireplace. “The response from that video was incredible. We had customers coming into the store saying, ‘I want that fireplace.’”

NEX<40
Screen Shot 2017-02-20 at 3.28.24 PMCarpet One is looking at the future internally as well as externally. Its NEX<40 Generational Leadership Program was established as a way to engage the next generation of Carpet One shareholders. “The group has two major focus areas at this time,” said Palmer Johnson, director of merchandising and general counsel, Carpet One Floor & Home, Tulsa, Okla. “We want to help younger/next generation business owners within the co-op access the tools they need to be successful. We are also placing some focus on influencing the direction Carpet One takes with its online presence. Specifically, the mix of products shown online, brand identity and how that translates to a customer’s in-store experience.”

Lauren Allwein-Andrews, manager at Allwein Carpet One Floor & Home, Annville, Pa., said second- and third-generation owners such as herself never had the opportunity to meet people her own age at these gatherings until now. “Of the 85% of Carpet One membership who attended the convention, nearly 20% are under 40. Those numbers will continue to grow, and now is the time to get this group engaged so we can steer the co-op in the direction we want and need it to go for the future.

“We know millennial buyers—our fellow consumers—are the future, and the best way to reach them is through digital advertising and social media. Traditional forms of advertising are a thing of the past, and one’s money is better spent online.”

 

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Brodsky, Lorberbaum to be honored at T2T Footsteps to the Future Gala

T2T_ColorNew York—Industry leaders Howard Brodsky, co-founder, chairman and co-CEO, CCA Global Partners, and Jeff Lorberbaum, chairman and CEO, Mohawk Industries, will be honored by the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation (T2T) at its Inaugural Footsteps to the Future Gala on April 20 at the One World Observatory in New York.

At the event the non-profit organization will recognize the contributions and support of those who have helped T2T make a lasting impact in the lives of veterans, first responders, children and neighbors in need. The contributions made by individuals such as Brodsky and Lorberbaum play an integral role in enabling T2T to accomplish its objectives.

Brodsky is the recipient of T2T’s Follow the Footsteps Award. “On Sept. 11, in an effort to save others, my brother N.Y. firefighter Stephen Siller—who was off-duty when the World Trade Center was attacked—chose a path that exemplified courage, selflessness and great vision,” said Frank Siller, chairman and CEO, Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation. “In the years since, Howard also has chosen a path that requires him to look far beyond himself to ensure the well-being of veterans and first responders. Acting upon those values that matter most, Howard and, through his leadership, CCA Global Partners have unfailingly demonstrated great vision and commitment in their vital work with the Tunnel to Towers Foundation.”

Lorberbaum will receive the foundation’s Let Us Do Good Award. “Since the fateful events of 9/11, our foundation has made a deliberate choice to rise up from the ashes of destruction and counteract the events of that day by doing good works,” Siller said. “Jeff and Mohawk Industries have played a key role in helping Tunnel to Towers fulfill that mission. In fact, it is through Jeff’s goodness that our program to build customized, high-tech housing for service members catastrophically injured in war has flourished.”

Also being honored is Peter Dunn, president of CBS Television stations, with the Tunnel to Towers Legacy Award.

The Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation’s mission is to honor the sacrifice of firefighter Stephen Siller, who laid down his life to save others on Sept. 11, 2001. Best known for its annual Tunnel to Towers 5K Walk/Run in New York City, which attracts over 25,000 international participants, the Tunnel to Towers Foundation, through its various initiatives and programs, honors and supports our military and first responders who continue to make the supreme sacrifice of life and limb for our country. Its Building for America’s Bravest program builds specially adapted, custom designed “smart homes” for our nation’s most catastrophically injured service members. To date, Tunnel to Towers has given the keys to, is in the process of building or is in the advanced planning stages for 56 “smart homes” throughout the United States. For more information, visit tunnel2towers.org.

The Footsteps to the Future Gala cost $1,500 per person or $3,000 per couple. Journal ad opportunities range from $750 to $1500 and sponsorship options range from $25,000 to $250,000. Reservations and ad buys should be received no later than Wednesday, March 22.

For more information, email Colleen Grace or call (718) 987-1931.

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WFCA teams up with Savings4Members

Dalton—The World Floor Covering Association, WFCA, has formed an alliance with Savings4Members, one of the largest member-owned cooperatives in North America. The aim is to dramatically enhance the purchasing power of WFCA’s independent business owner members, taking away the competitive advantage previously enjoyed by larger conglomerates and big-box stores.

“WFCA is always looking for ways to empower our members and help them enhance their businesses,” said Scott Humphrey, CEO. “Savings4Members is an ideal partner for our members as they work to arm independent business owners with the tools necessary to drive down business costs, save time, streamline communications and increase profitability. The new alliance will empower WFCA members to meet competition of all shapes and sizes, including big box stores.”

Savings4Members, which boasts a 30-year history and is backed by CCA Global, is built on hundreds of partnerships with associations, manufacturers and franchisees across the country. Together, Savings4Members participants offer a combined annual buying clout exceeding $300 billion. Through their network of partners, Savings4Members offers substantial savings to members on business services, products and everyday benefits including: credit card processing, payroll, shipping, wireless services, waste and recycling services, fuel, office supplies, wireless and more. The group’s members routinely save up to $15,000 each year by leveraging the organization’s tools and shared benefits.

The deal with Savings4Members is the latest in a recent string of moves the WFCA has made to benefit members. Earlier this year the organization purchased the Floor Covering Business To Business Association (fcB2B) and all of its assets as a means to help accelerate members’ transition into the digital age. WFCA estimates the fcB2B model could save flooring companies more than $20 million annually.

Prior to that, the WFCA announced a partnership with the North American Association of Floor Covering Distributors (NAFCD) that is focused on increasing participation in WFCA training offerings by leveraging NAFCD members’ local relationships with retailers. WFCA and NAFCD plan to facilitate and streamline industry communications through both associations, expand support for industry advocacy issues and secure potential new members through their respective member bases.