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Business is truly a family affair at Alliance Flooring

March 5/12, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 19

By Ken Ryan

 

Tucson, Ariz.—Not since the heady pre-recession days has Alliance Flooring and its dealers been in such a sweet spot: an improving economy; a growing, contented membership; exciting programs coming of age and a supplier network that treats the annual convention as if it were a family reunion.

The 2018 annual convention held here last month amplified those good vibes—from co-CEO Ron Dunn’s opening Power of 10 talk to the Oscars-like awards dinner to close the show.

Suppliers were uniform in their support and appreciation of Alliance Flooring—which comprises CarpetsPlus/Color Tile and Carpetland USA—and its membership. “Alliance Flooring is an extended family; they treat suppliers as partners and appreciate all of our efforts,” said Kelly Oberschlake, senior director, residential sales, for Mohawk, which won Supplier of the Year (see page 27).

Tim Hanno, vice president of retail sales, Karndean Designflooring, said Karndean has a great relationship with all the buying groups, but “this one just takes it to another level entirely. We love this group and the family atmosphere that exists here. It’s like you’re going to a family picnic. This business is about relationship sales, and this is a great relationship.”

Ann McDermott, vice president, national accounts, Shaw Industries, agreed. “It’s not like coming to a convention; it’s more like coming to a family reunion. This group is special.”

In the past year, Alliance Flooring has added 18 members, bringing to 370 the number of retailer members, which represents well over 400 storefronts. About one-third is part of the Destination program, which was launched in 2015 and is now in its fourth phase. What started as a carpet boutique within the showroom has expanded into hard surface and continues to evolve. “It is the most successful program ever for CarpetsPlus,” said Kevin Logue, co-COO and vice president of marketing. “We will continue to expand the program, especially in hard surfaces.”

In 2018, CarpetsPlus will add 12 new private-label programs to Destination, which is offered to members on an a la carte basis. Members don’t have to take on any elements but are encouraged to do so as research shows the average selling price of products within a Destination showroom goes up $1 to $2 per yard. “Destination has definitely created a buzz, and more suppliers want in on the program,” said Ryan Dunn, co-COO and vice president of sales.

Before convention there were 116 stores in the program. By the end of the second day, there were 121 members in the program—and that number is expected to rise.

“We have some progressive plans to grow this company,” Logue explained. “We’re adding new vendors; we have suppliers coming to us now. As for retailer members, we have to be very selective who we let in. We have spent a lot of time researching the industry and we are not just trying to sign up anyone. They have to be open and willing to share their best practices.”

That willingness to share best practices, to help each other in need, is one of the hallmarks of the Alliance Flooring group that stands out for retailers like Ben Case, owner of Carpet Collection, Lockport, N.Y. “We can have open-book discussions with almost any member we want. This allows growth for my business in avoiding the pitfalls others have experienced. Other members are just a phone call away, and most look forward to helping another member; I know I do.”

Bob Dauenhauer, owner, Carpet World, Bismarck, N.D., concurred. “If you have any questions you could go to any one of the dealers and they will help you out. It’s the friendliest group you could be with.”

It’s not just a cliché with Alliance Flooring—the group really does work with each other and can serve as a supplier/distributor when necessary. One example is the relationship between Montgomery’s CarpetsPlus Color Tile in Venice, Fla., and Gainesville CarpetsPlus Color Tile, located roughly 200 miles apart—not exactly around the corner. Still, when Montgomery’s was out of stock on a particular product that it needed, it turned not to a supplier but to Josh Elder, who runs the Gainesville store. He delivered the goods in a timely manner and sent them the invoice. Scores of these examples were retold at convention.

New offerings
Alliance Flooring has added 40 LVT-type products since September, and the combined LVT/WPC/SPC category now represents 20% of its mill shipments; resilient sheet makes up another 10%. Carpet is now at 39%, down from 80% in 2002. “I never thought in my days that I would see carpet at 39% for our group,” Logue said. “Meanwhile, LVT is going off. My phone is ringing once, maybe twice a week from people who say, ‘Hey, you want to see my rigid core line?’”

Rather than take them all in, Alliance chooses roughly five “winning” lines for its members, with WPC and SPC commanding equal time. As Logue explained, “We are never going to be the group that has 35 suppliers in one category. We pick the right ones. We boiled down our LVT business to five lines because we need to put our members in a position to be as competitive as they can be in their own markets.”

This year’s new offerings include denser, more rigid cores; wider and longer planks; and tile and stone visuals in larger formats. The lineup features Shaw’s new Floorte Pro products (48 SKUs) and COREtec Stone. “No other group is showing this right now—we think this product is going to be hot,” Logue said.

The carpet introductions “are pretty short and sweet this year,” Logue noted. Leading the way are Anso Foundations and Bellera from Shaw and Dixie’s PetProtect Destination.

For Color Tile dealers, ProGen from Tarkett and Korlok from Karndean are new offerings in rigid. “This is their foray into the floating arena,” Logue said of Karndean. “They really did their homework and took their time in bringing this to market.” Laminate represents 4% of the group’s sales but has stabilized, Logue said. “We feel the waterproof story is compelling.” To that end, Mohawk’s RevWood, a new waterproof collection, will fill that niche.

Alliance Flooring welcomed several new suppliers. Phenix Flooring is the replacement for Beaulieu, which was acquired by Engineered Floors in 2017. Phenix is expected to help Alliance dealers in the area of solution-dyed products.

Peerless (which is Beaulieu Canada; however, legally the name Beaulieu cannot be used in the U.S.) is a new member with a familiar name running the program—Greg Payne, formerly with Shaw. Also new is DuChateau. “We needed a higher-end line,” Logue noted. “I have been after them for two years. DuChateau is a good pickup for us.”

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Alliance Flooring marks 20 years of growth

February 27/March 6, 2017: Volume 31, Issue 19

By Ken Ryan

 

Atlanta—This year’s Alliance Flooring conference coincided with a significant milestone: 20 years in the business. But the event also provided a glimpse into what’s shaping up to be a promising future for the nearly 400-member group.

Screen Shot 2017-03-06 at 10.39.54 AM“We know who our team is, what our core is,” Ron Dunn, co-founder and co-CEO of Alliance Flooring, told CarpetsPlus, Color Tile and Carpetland members during his keynote speech. “We are going to grow. This room is going to get bigger, and we are going to grab more market share.”

While Ron Dunn and Jon Logue, the co-founders and co-CEOs, are the current leaders, the next generation—Ryan Dunn and Kevin Logue—has been actively involved in running the business for years and is poised to carry the baton in the future.

“Our members can rest assured the future leadership is already in place—no other buying group can say that,” said Ryan Dunn, co-COO and vice president of sales. “We have many second-generation businesses in our group—probably 35% of our members are second generation. Kevin and I are second generation so we have grown up together with many of our members.”

Raising the bar was a major theme at the conference. To illustrate the point, an actual pole vault apparatus was set up on stage. Interestingly, Jon Logue was a pole vaulter in high school and he took the stage to make a mock attempt at clearing the bar. Touching on that theme, Ron Dunn asked members, “We have three choices: We could walk away, we could lower the bar or we could raise the bar. With this group we are going to continue to raise it.”

One important component in raising the bar on retail performance is through the Destination showroom concept. The Destination portfolio includes up to 10 private-label displays offering the best products from the premier carpet mills and hard surface manufacturers in easy-to-use, easy-to-sell formats emphasizing style, design and larger samples. Here’s the best part: Alliance dealers are not forced to take any displays if they don’t want to.

Prior to convention, 28 members had signed up for the Destination program. Alliance Flooring executives hoped to pull in another 20 or so. By the convention’s second day it had already signed 37 members, bringing to 65 the total number of Destination dealers.

“We knocked it out of the park,” said Kevin Logue, co-COO and vice president of marketing. “We don’t tell members what to do; it’s their choice. However, in today’s market you have to keep improving your showroom. Flooring is about fashion and design, and the Destination concept offers the tools to help our retailers evolve their businesses and achieve those goals.”

Josh Elder, co-owner of Gainesville CarpetsPlus Color Tile, sits on the buying committee that helped develop the program. For him, the best part of the Destination program is the 56-pin carpet displays because they free up so much room. “Every inch of my showroom has a cost associated with it, and I want the biggest bang for my buck.”

Eric Langan, president/ owner of Carpetland USA (The Langan Group), Davenport, Iowa, said his main takeaway is the Alliance Flooring group still puts an emphasis on networking and collaboration within the group. “The sense of family was mentioned frequently here. While we have freedom to make whatever decisions we deem best for our business, it is important to know we can get more accomplished more quickly if we march together as a group instead of individual store owners.”

Mike Montgomery, vice president of Montgomery’s CarpetsPlus Color Tile, Venice, Fla., said the beauty of this convention is members are fully invested in the group. “Unlike some groups, they don’t withhold our rebate checks unless we come to convention. Our members genuinely want to be here.”

Alliance Flooring, which welcomed 20 new members in 2016, converted two prospects at this year’s show. The expectation is for at least double-digit member growth in 2017.

Screen Shot 2017-03-06 at 10.40.00 AMObservers attribute Alliance Flooring’s success to its laser focus on members’ success and the close relationship management has with its retail partners. “Their leadership is amazingly approachable not only to their members, but also to vendors and all who are committed to success,” said Scott Humphrey, WFCA chairman and CEO, who also delivered a keynote presentation during the conference. “Ron and Jon bring vast experience to the table. They are not bound by traditional ways of doing business in the flooring industry. By far the greatest trait that makes doing business with CarpetsPlus a pleasure is the fact that their leadership is truly committed to the success of the members. They care at the personal and professional levels. That is rare in the business world today.”

Suppliers’ support

In addition to new retail members, Alliance Flooring announced four more suppliers to the group: Beauflor (LVT, rigid core), Bolyu Commercial (commercial carpet, LVT), Southwind (residential carpet, WPC and dryback LVT) and Tarkett (luxury vinyl plank and tile, resilient sheet and laminate).

Beauflor has received plaudits recently for its Pure Click featuring a patented 360 locking system that allows mechanics to install the product in patterns, boarders or quarter-turn the material from one room to the other without the need for transitions. Kevin Logue sees Beauflor as the next USFloors or another IVC. “In three years they are going to be huge—once they get distribution up and running.”

Likewise, existing vendors attested to their strong partnership with Alliance Flooring dealers. Sam Ruble, vice president of sales for USFloors, called the relationship “refreshing.” It doesn’t hurt that USFloors doubled its business with the CarpetsPlus group in 2016 and is poised for an even bigger 2017. “I am a farm boy from Ohio, and to me these people are so down to earth and genuine, they really make me feel like my neighbors.”

Karndean, a longstanding member with CarpetsPlus, was named Hard Surface Supplier of the Year by the CarpetsPlus membership at the show. Throughout the past year, the prominent LVT supplier has worked closely with CarpetsPlus to produce Design Destinations, a private-label merchandising system that is part of the Destination program. “We love these guys,” said Tim Hanno, vice president of retail sales. “We have a great relationship with this group. They more than meet us halfway. There is a level of trust here.”

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CarpetsPlus names Karndean Designflooring Hard Surface Supplier of the Year

Karndean-Designfloor_logo-2-col-on-white-background-1024x270Export, Pa.—Karndean Designflooring, a market leader in luxury vinyl tile (LVT) flooring was named Hard Surface Supplier of the Year by the CarpetsPlus membership at the group’s annual summit in Atlanta on Feb. 27.

The award recognizes the supplier who has had the best overall performance in the past year. Award recipients were voted on by the CarpetsPlus Color Tile membership, comprised of approximately 400 retailers. More than 50 suppliers were eligible to receive this distinction.

The awards presentation was a culmination of a successful weekend for Karndean at the CarpetsPlus summit. Karndean sponsored the welcome cocktail party for the summit on Saturday night, participated in the Emerald Sponsor luncheon on Monday and was presented with the award Monday evening. Throughout the past year, Karndean has worked with CarpetsPlus to produce “Design Destinations,” a privately labeled display, which made its debut at the summit. Karndean was the only LVT supplier to be included in the Design Destinations program.

Karndean Designflooring joined the CarpetsPlus Color Tile group in 2012. The CarpetsPlus Color Tile group was established in 1996 and provides independent retailers with a menu of professional tools to grow a successful floor covering business, including product and sales training, national pricing and rebates, and member and consumer websites.

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Beaulieu Awarded CarpetsPlus “Supplier of the Year”

Dalton, Ga.—CarpetsPlus, Color Tile and Carpetland stores of Alliance Flooring recognized Beaulieu of America as “Soft Surface Vendor of the Year.” This was the first time for Beaulieu to be so honored by the nationwide chain of over 450 stores. The award was presented at the company’s annual convention at the Orlando Gaylord Hotel in Orlando, Florida. Continue reading Beaulieu Awarded CarpetsPlus “Supplier of the Year”