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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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TISE changes day format for 2018

TISElogoDallas—The International Surface Event (TISE) dates have shifted to a new day format for 2018. Next year’s event will run Tuesday through Thursday (Jan. 30-Feb. 1), with the education program occurring Monday through Thursday (Jan. 29-Feb. 1). The exposition will feature the latest industry products, materials, equipment and services, including a wide variety of hardwood and laminate flooring, carpet, tools and equipment, natural stone and machinery, all types of tile and much more.

TISE is the largest North American event serving the floor covering, stone and tile industries. Comprising three world-class tradeshows Surfaces | StonExpo/Marmomac | Screen Shot 2017-07-25 at 1.20.49 PMTileExpo, TISE features four days of the newest products, hands-on demos, inspiring trends, key manufacturers, industry suppliers, along with unmatched education and networking. Held annually each year in Las Vegas at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center, TISE is the industry marketplace that brings together distributors, retailers, architects, designers, installers, fabricators, contractors and homebuilders, and many other industry professionals from all over the world with the manufacturers and suppliers needed to do business.

TISE 2017 was a banner event for the industry—an incredible 34,000 square foot increase in exhibits and over 800 presenting brands—drawing an attendance growth from the industry of 7% over the already successful 2016 event. Attendees experienced technical installation demonstrations in the Installation Showcase, viewed product demonstrations and award winning technology from Best of Product & Event Winners, discovered trends in the Speed Trending Breakfast and the Trends Hub, heard first-hand techniques and knowledge from over 100 industry experts and influencers in the Ignite Education program and across the event floor, and were even honored with a presentation from the acclaimed architect, Art Gensler Jr., founder of Gensler.

For additional information about TISE 2018 visit TISEwest.com.

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Aspecta by Metroflor launched new products, initiatives at Neocon

ASPECTA-BM_CMYK_1000pxNorwalk, Conn.—Aspecta by Metroflor is expected to tell a multi-faceted story at the upcoming NeoCon trade show at The Merchandise Mart in Chicago, June 12-14, according to Russ Rogg, president and CEO, Metroflor Corp. “We are taking a 360-degree approach to our presence with a mix of sponsorships and activities that will communicate our new technologies, products and themes in a dynamic way.”

Adjacent to the first-floor registration area in The Mart, Aspecta by Metroflor invites NeoCon attendees to discover how Aspecta is shaking up flooring with ISOCORE technology. The revolutionary core layer makes Aspecta Ten strong, rigid, quiet, lightweight, 100% waterproof and inherently safe—all in an LVT product known for its outstanding aesthetics.

Aspecta by Metroflor is also sponsoring the show’s keynote address by Jessica Green, a world-renowned scientist inspiring people to think about bacteria in entirely new ways. The presentation will take place June 13, 8:30 a.m. in The NeoCon Theater.

The company will also introduce its Aspecta One Ornamental LVT collection. Building upon the existing Aspecta One design portfolio, the collection contains three overlay motifs—Damask, Masquerade and Malta—and is ideal for commercial and healthcare settings.

The Aspecta One Ornamental range expresses Metroflor’s immersion in biophilic design as an influence in the creation of its products moving forward. The philosophy stems from the notion of biophilia: humankind’s innate biological connection with the natural world. When applied to the built environment, biophilia defines aspects of nature that most impact and advance occupants’ health, fitness and wellbeing.

NeoCon attendees are invited to a cocktail reception in the Aspecta by Metroflor booth to meet Sonja Bochart, IIDA, LEED AP BD&C, WELL AP, a noted expert in biophilia with the design firm Shepley Bulfinch, on June 13 from 3-5 p.m. Bochart will be signing a limited-edition booklet produced by Metroflor especially for NeoCon.

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Haines retains its laser focus on the customer

May 8/15, 2017: Volume 31, Issue 24

By Ken Ryan

 

Screen Shot 2017-05-15 at 9.43.24 AM Oxon Hill, Md.—In the first 100 days of the Mike Barrett administration, the new Haines president and CEO, along with Chris Pratt, chief sales and marketing officer, and Hoy Lanning, special CEO advisor, set out to personally visit customers, mostly retailers but suppliers as well—including one- and two-person dealer operations.

Barrett presided over his first Haines Loyalty Club Summit here May 4-5. The venue, the Gaylord National Resort, sits on the Potomac River, a mere 11 miles from the White House, where another new occupant recently marked his first 100 days in office.

Barrett, who took over as president and CEO of Haines on Jan. 1, said the road trip with the senior leadership team was about staying connected to their constituents. “It is, and will be, a critical part of what we have to do,” he told FCNews.

The Haines executive team, led by Barrett and Chris Pratt, also includes Doug Drew, chief logistics officer, who started in January after previously serving in logistics for Dollar Tree Stores.

Haines may be the largest flooring distributor in the industry but it is not too big to take time out to greet its base. As Lanning put it, “without them, we’re nothing.”

Lanning, a holdover from the CMH acquisition, will serve Haines in an advisory capacity through the end of the year. He said the distributor visited about 100 customers since the beginning of the year. “We were welcomed by the retailers. They really appreciated the commitment Mike has made to being with his customers and listening to their concerns. In our industry there are not that many businesses that would go around to their customers to the extent we have and ask what we can do for them. I think it makes us unique. It is about the customer, after all. They are our livelihood.”

Screen Shot 2017-05-15 at 9.43.07 AMSuppliers and retailers in attendance were impressed with the steps Haines has taken to solidify existing relationships, some of which have lasted for more than a century—as in the case of Armstrong. “I’d say the last six months we have had regular meetings, positive meetings, with the new management to plan the business moving forward,” said Joe Bondi, senior vice president, chief product officer, Armstrong.

Joe Cole, owner of DeHart Tile Co., a Christiansburg, Va., dealer, added, “It was good to be with the new management and hear what they had to say. The partnership they want to build—the bridge they want to build to their dealer base—will help all of us be successful.”

Record turnout
Haines’ Loyalty Club Northern Summit drew a record attendance of nearly 600, including 184 retailers. Now in its 11th year, HLC membership has experienced “straight-line” growth, Pratt said, to where 400 retailers are now HLC members. According to Haines, HLC retailers who take full advantage of Haines’ resources—including special pricing, $700 rebate and exclusive product offers—perform several percentage points better than non-HLC members.

Screen Shot 2017-05-15 at 9.43.12 AMWhile maintaining close ties with customers was a theme at the Summit, perhaps the bigger story was the distributor’s push for improved logistics and service, or what Barrett called “a leveraged differentiated service model. We want to create a model that services customers like no one else can.”

To that end, Haines announced a transportation deal with J.B. Hunt, a $7 billion Fortune 500 transportation company that specializes in supply chain logistics. Haines will outsource its route deliveries to Hunt, which is known for connecting shippers and carriers using data to match freight with capacity to create efficiency and cost savings. “We felt this was a great cultural fit,” Barrett said. “We are not a trucking company; we sell flooring—that’s what we do. Hunt will provide the logistical and transportation excellence to support us. We are a month into this relationship and the accuracy and flexibility that Hunt provides is amazing; they hit the ground running. We are also getting good intelligence back from them. This is one of the smoothest transitions in logistics transportation that I have been a part of in my career.”

 

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Starnet conference marks ‘silver’ milestone

May 8/15, 2017: Volume 31, Issue 24

By Reginald Tucker

 

Screen Shot 2017-05-15 at 9.31.12 AMCarlsbad, Calif.—Starnet kicked off its 25th anniversary conference in a big way earlier this month, drawing a record number of members and manufacturer reps alike. The event also marked a key turning point in the evolution of the organization.

“We have more than 700 people here—that’s the most we’ve ever had,” said Jeanne Matson, president and CEO. “The mills and vendors are bringing more people than they used to. And our members are bringing more people, which is the byproduct of a good, strong economy.”

Not only are more people coming to Starnet, but the mix of attendee profiles is shifting. “We’re seeing more regional vice presidents here and more local people, which is really good because we’re getting the message down to the street on how critical the relationship is between the Starnet member and our vendor partners,” said Leah Ledoux, director of strategic accounts.

Indeed, Starnet members have evolved over time, right along with the overall industry. Matson, who has been with Starnet for 10 years, said the group has seen a lot of change over the past quarter century. “I think we are more sophisticated as a group, and the members are doing their businesses in a more technology-based way than they did in the past. The challenges with evolving flooring materials and what that means in terms of installation is changing and causing them to be smarter.”

At the same time, the more things change some lingering issues remain. “Labor continues to be an issue—the members can’t seem to find enough good installers,” Matson said. “But that’s one of the areas where Starnet can really provide assistance.”

For instance, Starnet strives to help members connect with one another. This is not only for the purpose of networking but also problem solving. Matson cited an example where one member, Jeff Lasher (The Rouse Co.), was able to help another member who had an issue with wood and humidity.

Screen Shot 2017-05-15 at 9.31.33 AMStarnet is also working to better serve its members by developing strong educational programs. Members got a glimpse of that objective via the sessions offered at the conference. “We really try to gear the education to some of the issues such as resolving family leadership issues, profitability issues and running a business, because a lot of our members started out on the installation side,” Matson said. “These seminars help them focus on the day-to-day business issues.”

Starnet’s work doesn’t end there. The group’s leadership also works closely with vendors to ensure success for suppliers and contractor members alike. (The price of admission in the group is at least $5 million as members are expected to meet a certain purchasing threshold.) “Our vendor partners are important to us,” Matson said. “We work hard to make sure they are getting value from this group, so there’s more of an emphasis on partnerships.”

While the market shift to hard surface hasn’t necessarily changed Starnet’s vendor lineup, it has changed its purchasing strategies. As Matson explained: “The carpet tile sector was up slightly last year, but broadloom was down. Hard surface continues to be strong, especially ceramic. Many members were not in ceramic 10 years ago, and a lot more are doing it now. LVT is strong as well. End users are demanding one-stop shopping.”

Equally important is the focus on programs, especially as it pertains to cleaning and maintenance, and strategic accounts. “We now have 40 companies in cleaning and maintenance,” Ledoux said. That’s up significantly from 10 years ago. “We have a national network so we can do national accounts now. It’s a profitable business for our members.”

Screen Shot 2017-05-15 at 9.31.21 AMHaving the ability to do turnkey services and installation and then floor care, Ledoux said, gets Starnet members “in the door. We have 100 points where we can service the customer. A lot of clients don’t want to have subcontractors come in who don’t work for them. With our members we have the ability to do that in terms of both installation and floor care. It’s a strong point with end users.”

Key drivers
Starnet leadership cited several key end-use sectors that are driving the business. Healthcare continues to top the list, especially on the assisted-living side. Meanwhile, education has stayed pretty strong. Hospitality, which entails a lot of direct selling, has also grown; corporate has been pretty solid.
“We try to drive specifications through our vendor partners in corporate applications,” Ledoux explained. (Members collectively generate more than $3 billion in sales.) “That’s been a consistent segment for us.”

Screen Shot 2017-05-15 at 9.31.27 AMMany contractor members are reaping the rewards. “We’re in the fortunate position that we’ve had to turn down work,” said Randy Rubenstein, president of the Seattle-based contracting firm that bears his name. “We have more jobs than we can handle. Corporate clients are hiring; Amazon brought in all these workers to the city, and as a result multi-family construction is up. We’ve been getting a lot of that work.”

In keeping with the overall market shift to hard surfaces, Rubenstein’s mix is changing accordingly. “We do a lot of work with terrazzo and LVT,” he said. “In many other commodity categories we find we just compete with our vendors. There’s better margin in terrazzo; it’s just the material and epoxy and we do it on the job site. It has been very profitable for us.”

Mill partners are prospering as well. “Our first quarter was up by single digits, and multifamily is strong,” said Russell Grizzle, president and CEO, Mannington Mills. “The shift from soft surface to hard surface is just unbelievable.”

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Domotex Deutsche Messe to house new creative product showcases

DOMOTEX-HANNOVER-2016Hannover, Germany—In 2018, Domotex will have a stronger focus on interior trends and lifestyle that will frame floor coverings in the broader context of ideas and innovations from the worlds of interior design, furnishing and art. As part of this approach, Deutsche Messe’s Hall 9 will house a Framing Trends display, Jan. 12-25. The new display area will comprise several artistically staged showcases dedicated to the keynote theme, Unique Universe.

The Framing Trends display will be made up of four zones, each with its own distinct perspective on the keynote theme. In the “Flooring Spaces” zone, companies from the floor coverings industry will be able to shine as pioneers and trendsetters by staging highly creative product showcases. In the “Living Spaces” zone, exhibitors will team up with partners from the interior design sector to craft inspiring spaces and innovative lifestyle realms. The “NuThinkers” zone is an opportunity for students, young designers and startups to present their innovative projects catering to product and service individualization. And, the “Art and Interaction” zone will present the keynote theme of Unique Universe in a sensory feast of exhibits from the worlds of art and design.

A limited number of slots are available in the “Flooring Spaces” zone, so an expert panel has been appointed to decide which of the submitting companies will be chosen to have their ideas and designs featured. Internationally renowned architect Peter Ippolito of Ippolito Fleitz Group, Stuttgart, Germany, heads the panel. He will be ably assisted by Hendrik Müller, architect and founder of einszu33 (Munich); Susanne Schmidhuber, founder and partner at Schmidhuber (Munich); and Dr. Susanne Kaufmann, a research associate at the Staatsgalerie Stuttgart art museum.

Companies and manufacturers have until July 20 to submit proposals. For more details, visit: domotex.de/en/registration

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NFA members tackle the issues in unison

April 10/17, 2017: Volume 31, Issue 22

By Steven Feldman

Screen Shot 2017-04-24 at 9.42.07 AMLake Tahoe, Calif.—When the 42 members of the National Floorcovering Alliance (NFA) convene three times each year, the sharing of ideas, listening to relevant speakers and furthering intimate relationships with vendors are the focal points. The spring gathering, held here earlier this month, was no exception.

Digital marketing is on every retailer’s mind these days, and to that end discussions encompassed platforms like Google and Yelp. In fact, Darren Braunstein, Worldwide Wholesale, Edison, N.J., facilitated a speaker from Google who provided members with ideas on how to capitalize on the search engine.

The big takeaway was the advent of mobile devices. “We learned more people who are searching for flooring are actually using their mobile device rather than their desktop,” said Ian Newton, Flooring 101, Ventura County, Calif., with Larry Flick, The Floor Store, Northern California, adding, “And that trend is growing rapidly. With everything going mobile, all of us have to make that move ourselves.”

Ryan Bechtold, Contract Furnishings Mart, Pacific Northwest, found the presentation enlightening. “It not only reconfirmed that people were going online, but how people are going online.”

Aside from digital marketing, a good amount of time was spent on the challenges faced not only by NFA members but all retailers in general. First and foremost is the labor shortage—both on the floor (sales) and in the field (installation). But members are finding creative ways to overcome the challenge.

NFA president Dave Snedeker, Nebraska Furniture Mart, Omaha, said the company has a training program starting at a community college this fall. Jim Walters, Macco’s Flooring Center, Green Bay, Wis., is starting even earlier. “We have had some success reaching out to surrounding communities where there are some smaller high schools. We are trying to reach young people who may not be going off to college and may want to learn the trade.”

Kelly Taylor, Ambassador Flooring, St. Louis, has been using a recruiter to head hunt for leads the last couple of years, while The Floor Store’s Flick actually relies on his own installers. “We have been putting some programs together so we not only retain our own installers, but hopefully they have such a great experience that the word goes out to fellow installers who have not been working for us and we grab them from competitors.”

All in all, NFA members report positivity in the marketplace, particularly since the election last November. “The overall sentiment within the group is that things are pretty good,” Bechtold said. “Usually in politics, the post-election cycle may throw things off, but it seems like people are less concerned [this time].”

Zac Akin, Akin Bros, which operates Floor World and Budget Floor Store in Oklahoma City, noted, “In a state that has gone red for the last eight elections, consumer confidence has increased in my market. Good, bad or indifferent, unrelated [to the Trump presidency] or not, everyone seems to be positive.”

Except maybe in The Floor Store’s neck of the woods. “It’s hurting us because Silicon Valley has gotten so much money from the Democrats for so long that people are very nervous,” Flick said. “I remember at Surfaces everyone was saying business is good, consumer confidence is up, attitudes are great, but it’s just the opposite in San Francisco.”

Vendors step up
The all-day member-vendor “round-robin” meetings, where each member gets approximately 20 minutes with each core vendor, was again a beneficial experience all around. While most suppliers step up their game at each meeting, NFA members cited Armstrong, MSI, USFloors and Tarkett as four companies that came to the table in a big way.

“Armstrong put together a great package on a stocking opportunity they gave us,” Flooring 101’s Newton said. “The merchandising and pricing across all categories was impressive.”

Others cited MSI for “great product at a great price. They get out in front of trends,” Taylor said. “Manny [Llerena] gets people excited and on board.”

Snedeker called his meeting with USFloors “time well spent” as Piet Dossche spent much of the time explaining the differences between WPC and rigid core.

And Tarkett came to the table with a new product that intrigued the group. “This show was one of the best NFA shows we participated in in the three years I’ve been responsible for the NFA,” said Randall Sheehe, director of strategic accounts. “We launched a brand new program under our new technology in luxury vinyl floors called Transcend Sureset. Transcend is a new technology—not a click, not a glue down or loose lay. It has a unique, proprietary backing that we developed and just introduced to the NFA at this convention. It was very well received.”

Tarkett has been making big strides with the NFA. “In the past two years we have had double-digit growth with the NFA,” Sheehe said. “And it all starts with relationships. We work with each individual member as well as the NFA board to bring solutions that meet members’ needs. We collaborate with new products, new technologies and new ways of marketing those products that will help them grow their business.”

In other NFA news…

  • Many members are expanding into categories such as walls, countertops and cabinets as they seek new profit centers.
  • The group is vetting one potential new member, who may attend the fall meeting in Newport, R.I.
  • The board is reviewing a potential change or two to the Specialty Vendor Showcase held the day before Surfaces in Las Vegas.
  • A couple of suppliers are standing in line to become core vendors should an opening occur, Snedeker said.
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Coverings 2017: What’s old is new again

April 10/17, 2017: Volume 31, Issue 22

By Nadia Ramlakhan

 

Screen Shot 2017-04-24 at 9.33.33 AMOrlando—Coverings, the largest tile and stone exhibition in North America, returned to a familiar location earlier this month after being hosted in Chicago in 2016. Roughly 1,100 exhibitors from 40 countries showcased the latest trends, technologies and styling techniques in their respective categories across 400,000 square feet of exhibition space.

According to many show veterans, Orlando is an attraction unto itself. “You see a lot of international people,” said Lindsey Waldrep, vice president of marketing, Crossville. “They make it a family trip; everyone comes for the house of [Mickey Mouse].”

Alena Capra, Coverings industry ambassador, noted the difference in introductions on the show floor due to the surrounding areas. “It’s a big draw—people from all over the country and globe come here. But a lot of what we’re seeing is appealing to the markets here. We’re so close to the Bahamas and all of the islands that exhibitors are showing some pinks and blues with that tropical feel. You also see a lot of terrazzo, and that’s because people in South Florida restore terrazzo all day long. It’s original to a lot of the older homes.”

The location of the show wasn’t the only thing that made a comeback this year. Exhibitors and attendees alike agreed that some familiar looks were coming back into play on the show floor, albeit with a few new twists.

“Just like everything I always relate it to fashion,” Capra explained. “I’ve seen trends come full circle so many times; I think about clothes my mom wore and I’m wearing them today. It comes back but it changes each time. For example, subway tiles have never gone away but they keep changing. The classic shape remains.”

Screen Shot 2017-04-24 at 9.33.27 AMSome of these re-emerging trends include warmer tones and industrial looks. Crossville’s Notorious is just one example. The collection comes in six neutral colors, in a range of sizes from 24 x 36 to 3 x 15, and coordinates with the company’s Surfaces wood-look launch: Nest.

“It’s a neutral industry, but what I like here is it’s a nice mix of warm and cool,” Waldrep said. “There are many rustic, carved-into-concrete looks. Ours is very soft, very uniform. There are a couple of marks in it to really suggest concrete.”

Another resurging trend is the return of the traditional cotto look with a little variation. That was evident in Dal-Tile’s Ragno Epoca collection, which comes in three colors. Micah Hand, brand marketing manager at Marazzi, Ragno’s sister brand, called it the “perfect mix of old and new. We saw a lot of cotto in Cersaie, but we’re mixing it with a lot of modern, sleek designs. That’s where I see this coming back in an updated way.”

Hand added that accessories such as furniture or countertops also play a big role in using cotto. “We want to make sure designers and consumers understand how to utilize tile in different ways to achieve a more modern or urban look.”

Beyond flooring
Crossville’s Laminam for the wall also showcased a similar style. Calce is a new cotto look that comes in five colors while Cava is a new stone look available in three colors. Both are 1m x 3m porcelain tile panels. Waldrep noted that although its large panels have given popularity to the Laminam collection in the past, inkjet technologies have allowed the products to advance in visuals as well.

Screen Shot 2017-04-24 at 9.33.07 AM“It’s just a resurgence of retro, and I think part of it is everything has a cycle. Cotto is a classic look and it’s time for it to raise its head again. As technology moves ahead, we think about how and where we can apply it.”

MS International focused largely on wall offerings as well. “While there is no reason a floor tile can’t go on the wall, there are a lot of cool design elements you can create with a wall tile,” said Emily Holle, director of trend and design, national marketing. The company’s Dymo is an upgraded subway tile and incorporates texture into three all-white patterns: wavy tile, stripes and a flat body tile. The tiles come in 12 x 24 with creative 3-D effects. “So if you weren’t so risky and you just want to do a strip of accents you could. However, you can always do a full accent wall of one of these three-dimensional looks.”

Larger formats prevail
In keeping with the trend toward bigger sizes, Marazzi introduced a number of large format collections including Classentino Marble and Château Reserve. Classentino Marble features five natural marble looks in 12 x 24, 24 x 24 and 24 x 48. The polished collection coordinates with a classic weave mosaic while an elongated hexagon mosaic accents the matte finish. Château Reserve is a wood look series that comes in 6 x 48, 8 x 48 and 12 x 48 planks in five colors, with printing technologies being used to target glossy areas for a real wood look.

Outdoor applications
Many exhibitors at the show turned their focus to outdoor flooring options. Ragno introduced Real Stone Quartzite, a drastic, rustic stone look that comes in Screen Shot 2017-04-24 at 9.33.38 AMtwo colors and gives consumers the ability to achieve a natural stone look outside with the durability, cleanability and easy maintenance of porcelain tile. Hand explained that more and more outdoor hospitality commercial spaces are using the 2cm thick paper because it’s easy to install in different areas. On the other hand, it can be used to transition straight from inside to a patio, backyard, etc.

Del Conca USA’s Due2 is also a 2cm thick porcelain tile, with anti-slip and weather-resistant features. Its natural, curved edges are made for quick and easy installations over grass, sand and gravel. It is also suitable for terraces or rooftops because it allows rainwater to flow below the flooring where it is collected on a waterproof membrane.

“Outdoor flooring is a big trend we’re starting to see in the industry,” said Melissa Weisberg, representative for Ceramics of Italy. “We’re seeing flooring not just around pools, but also flooring systems that allow for installation over grass, pebbles or rocks. It allows for more of an authentic feel.”

 

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FCA Network: Retail members praise industry’s ‘best-kept secret’

March 27/April 3, 2017: Volume 31, Issue 21

By Ken Ryan

 

Screen Shot 2017-03-31 at 10.27.17 AMChicago—Cottonwood, Idaho, is located on the Carnas Prairie (population 910, as per 2010 U.S. Census), 158 miles from Spokane, Wash., the nearest city with more than 100,000 people. It is home to Hoene (pronounced Hay-nee) Hardware Co., a 108-year-old, fourth-generation retailer that sells items including appliances, bedding, furniture and flooring—and is the newest member of the FCA Network.

Gus Hoene, owner, said that after buying out his partner last year he wanted to join a group. He started looking online and came upon the FCA Network and Olga Robertson, its president. Hoene said he dialed an 877 number and Robertson immediately picked up. “I was driving and had to pull over to the side of the road because I didn’t think I would get through, and I wasn’t prepared to talk,” Hoene told FCNews. He spoke with Robertson for 90 minutes and verbally committed to joining the group.

To seal the deal, Robertson personally visited Hoene’s Hardware. She flew to Spokane, traversed rugged mountain ranges and arrived “white as a ghost” from the trip, Hoene said. During the visit, Robertson rearranged the store’s merchandising and collaborated on a new marketing slogan for the store. “Olga bulldozed through my store, which I liked,” Hoene recalled. “She said, ‘Move that,’ ‘Get that crap out of the window,’ ‘Put that here.’ The store has never looked better since she redesigned it.”

The Hoene Hardware scenario is not uncommon at FCA Network (except perhaps for the long and winding road traveled), where Robertson and her team are a mere phone call away. FCA Network is not the largest buying group, but to hear its retail members tell it you would be hard pressed to find a more loyal group of dealers.

“The FCA Network may be the best-kept secret in the industry,” said Carlton Billingsley, owner of Benton, Ark.-based Floors and More, a member for 15 years. “I don’t think they realize how great having a female leadership of a flooring buying group adds to each member’s success from not only a woman’s expertise, but the female perspective of what the customer really wants.”

The majority of FCA’s newest retailers (it has 54 members and 62 storefronts) come via online searches or referrals from existing members. As Robertson explained, “We don’t have people beating the bushes looking for new members.”

FCA Network, which bills itself as the low-cost buying group with high-powered expertise, is unique in that it is the only retail group actually run by retailers (it has its own corporate stores). The group, an offshoot of Floor Covering Associates, a $40 million-plus retailer based in Shorewood, Ill., was launched in 1998 with the goal of assisting independent retailers in expanding opportunities through marketing, merchandising and buying power.

Appropriately, this year’s convention theme was “Opportunity Knocks,” and against a backdrop of an improving economy and more favorable housing numbers, the outlook is indeed bright for the group. “I really believe there are unlimited opportunities for us,” Robertson told members. “We all have to step up our games because the status quo is not a business strategy. Retail is getting more complex every day. Creative thinking, networking and the strength of our product assortment are what are needed. FCA has the muscle to help [members] survive and thrive.”

Screen Shot 2017-03-31 at 10.27.49 AMDennis Thiets, senior vice president of residential sales for Mohawk Industries, a keynote speaker, tapped into Robertson’s positive outlook in his address, saying, “There is once again reason for optimism all around us. If you look at consumer confidence, for example, the most optimistic of all age groups is 35 and under, which is very encouraging for our industry.”

Ninety percent of membership attended the Chicago event, which is par for the course, and yet a rather significant statistic considering the conference is not mandatory. “Our members are here because they want to be here,” Robertson said. “They are committed to this business.” As with everything with this group, no program or product is mandated; retailers remain autonomous in how they want to run their business. FCA Network is there to provide the necessary support through professional assistance.

Bob Gaither, owner of The Carpet Gallery and Quality Carpet & Flooring, Akron, Ohio, was one of the original members of FCA Network. He said each convention gives him a renewed sense of purpose. “I wouldn’t call it a pep talk, but I think it is a shot in the arm when I come here—and when I get back to the office I am fired up. I remember Bob Hill [FCA Associates founder] saying 15 years ago that if you did things the same way you did them a year ago, then you are doing something wrong. This group is constantly evolving with products and programs, which they have to do because the industry is evolving.”

Supplier executives who took part in the vendor trade show said FCA Network’s can-do spirit starts at the top. “While a lot of groups help out with their buying power, Olga does that and more—she helps them with their merchandising and store layout,” said Ann McDermott, vice president of national accounts for Shaw Industries. “Many of the smaller dealers in this group who may not have known where to turn if they have a problem can count on Olga. She takes care of their needs. She’ll go into their stores and give them a facelift. She really beautifies their stores.”

Joe Ross, regional vice president of sales for the north central region, Phenix, noted, “Olga always tries to create a unique venue to inspire her members in a different way, whether it is product assortment, merchandising or digital platforms.”

Robertson is happy to oblige. “FCA Network is a partner in our members’ success; helping them improver their profitability while maintaining their local identity.”

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For Gilford-Johnson, it’s full steam ahead

March 13/20, 2017: Volume 31, Issue 20

By Ken Ryan

 

Screen Shot 2017-03-17 at 11.35.25 AMFlorence, Ind.—Gilford-Johnson Flooring, a top 20 distributor with a marketing footprint that stretches from the Great Lakes to South Florida, welcomed hundreds of vendors and retailers to its spring meeting here earlier this month. The event covered a range of topics, from the integration of Gilford and Johnson to the spate of new products and programs available to its customers.

The merger of Gilford and Johnson, which created a $90 million wholesale distributor, was completed a year ago. However, the company is still working out the kinks. Scott Roy, president and CEO of Gilford-Johnson, knows about the challenges of integration from his days at Haines, which acquired CMH. At the same time, he allowed that much progress has been made.

“Knowing where we are today in terms of integration to where I thought we would be, we are far ahead,” Roy told FCNews. “Today we are operating the company as one. Jodie [Doyle, vice president of product management] said it best when he told staff: ‘You no longer work for Gilford; you don’t work for Johnson—those companies don’t exist anymore. It’s Gilford-Johnson now.’ We are getting big. Therefore, we need the business processes in place to manage our growth.”

Last month, Gilford-Johnson opened a 12,000-square-foot transportation hub in Nashville to help expedite deliveries between its two main facilities, Louisville and Atlanta. The distributor can now deliver product anywhere in its system within 72 hours.

Delivering great product with winning displays is a key to this effort. To that end, the meeting featured WPC and rigid core products from the likes of EarthWerks and Diamond Living, as well as new suppliers. One of them, Raskin Industries, earned praise for its Acrylx solid surface LVT, which it positions as the next-generation of rigid core. “That product is a game changer,” said Rob Purkins, senior vice president, products and marketing, Gilford-Johnson.

Loyalty program

During his tenure at Haines, Roy helped build the Haines Loyalty Club to more than 600 members. Likewise, Gilford-Johnson is putting a greater emphasis on its program, which is now known as Advantage Partners. The program covers the entire Gilford-Johnson footprint and has 285 members. Reinbrecht Flooring of Haubstadt, Ind., joined Gilford-Johnson less than one year ago and signed up for the Advantage Partners program last month. “We were looking for a distributor that sold EarthWerks, which led us here,” said Kurt Paridaen, sales manager. “We pretty much buy every product display in Gilford-Johnson’s repertoire. This is a great group to be a part of.”

Paridaen was one of dozens of flooring retailers who spent the day visiting with suppliers at the trade show portion of the Gilford-Johnson meeting. Donovan Cullen, owner of Coal Field Flooring in Madisonville, Ky., has been attending this event for the past nine years. He was interested in, among other things, the Elements laminate line from Inhaus. “What they offer in terms of looks and durability from a price point standpoint is outstanding,” Cullen said. “Ease of installation is what you are looking for these days.”