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What keeps top executives awake in 2018?

January 8/15, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 15

By Ken Ryan

 

There is no rest for the wicked or—it would seem—for the flooring executive with so much to consider: How the next big launch will fare in the market? How to keep your talented staff engaged and motivated? How best to navigate the digital landscape? Indeed, the daily grind can be daunting, especially when the decisions you render can have such great consequences.

Larry Browder
chief sales and marketing officer, Karndean
“Making sure we continue to have a forward-thinking, aggressive strategy that continues to keep us ahead of our competition.”

Jeff Fenwick
president/COO, Tarkett
“Keeping our employees engaged and energized, especially in the environment we live in today where there is so much white noise. It’s tough to keep people focused and engaged in this kind of world. For us we’re really disciplined about measuring our employee engagement and making sure our folks have a voice.”

Paul Murfin
president, Mohawk resilient
“As evolving as the category is, it’s [about] staying in front of the curve so we continue to keep our product line relevant in the marketplace.”

Don Maier
CEO, Armstrong Flooring
“My biggest concern is also our greatest asset—our people. I believe deeply that it all begins with talent. To support our growth, Armstrong Flooring needs to attract, develop and retain the highest level of talent in each and every position. I tell my team all the time I do not just want to have a winning season; I want to win the Super Bowl. To do this, we do not just need a great team, we need the best team. I see the most important part of my job is to ensure we win this war for talent.”

T.M. Nuckols
president, Dixie Residential
“With the growth in hard surfaces, I am concerned with the replacement cycle of flooring in the future. Consumers will replace their flooring less frequently than they have in the past, which presents volume and profitability dilemmas for the entire value chain.”

Piet Dossche
CEO, USFloors
“How can I continue to lead and educate our industry to not fall into the trap of commoditization and price erosion of this exciting new product category: Composite Core Waterproof Flooring?”

Chris O’Connor
president/COO, Congoleum
The industry is changing at an unprecedented pace. Our continued success lies in our ability to stay ahead of the competition by not only understanding the needs of the market but also by leveraging our nimble size to respond to those needs faster and more completely than anyone else.

Michael Raskin
CEO, Raskin Industries
“Executing all of the ideas that I have and choosing which ones to go with. No matter who you are, everyone is spread very thin today; the market is moving fast and the economy is good, and I think it’s making sure everyone is following up and taking care of your customers’ needs.”

Don Finkell
president/CEO, American OEM
“The big question is the impact of tax cuts and a reduced regulatory environment on the housing market. The risk is Congress might not be able to get all of these things passed—along with a disappointed stock market. But I am optimistic that the strength of the economy and the pent-up demand for housing will overcome the dysfunction in our political system.”

Drew Hash
VP, hard surface product portfolio, Shaw Floors
“In laminate, the broad range of products available within the market can create misconceptions for this product category, making it increasingly important for manufacturers and flooring retailers to be able to effectively communicate the benefits and attributes of each product line.”

Brad Williams
VP, sales and marketing, Boa-Franc (Mirage)
“While politics dominated  2016, weather led the way [in 2017] with the most active hurricane season since 2005. This major flooding coupled with heat and dryness on the West Coast fueled some of the largest fires we have seen. These catastrophes will lead to new construction and renovation. seems to put things on hold in the short term.”

Derek Welbourn
CEO, Inhaus
“Competition is often the most challenging; however, in the bigger picture I think it helps keep everyone focused and ultimately results in creating better products and service. This helps the categories overall and results in more business for everyone. With new product developments, there is more competition across product categories than ever before.”

Wade Bondrowski
director, U.S. sales, Mercier Wood Flooring
“Our challenges come from quantifying what is a hardwood floor vs. imported stained plywood or cheap rotary peeled products, along with the pricing pressures they bring. The others are the wood knock-offs—LVT, WPC, ceramic, etc. All have wood lookalikes that are good in styling and design with a lower price. But I wonder why our industry is so concerned with going to the basement and trading dollar down. per square foot.”

Paul Rezuke
director of sales, U.S., Wickham Hardwood Flooring
“The market remains strong and most economists believe that barring any unforeseen issues things look solid right through 2019. What concerns me is the uncertainty regarding potential trade regulatory restraints.”

Bob Baldocchi
chief marketing officer/VP business development, Emser
“We have 70-plus locations and five different segments that have their own sets of challenges. I wish I could point to one thing; there is still a lot of business out there to be captured even with the labor shortage.”

Darrell Locke
VP, residential sales, Lexmark Carpet
“Industry consolidation. As the industry continues to narrow, consumers and retailers will continue to feel the pinch with limited suppliers and less fashionable selections. Consumers will be forced to settle.”

John Turner Jr.
president, Dal-Tile
“The changing environment in retail. With the emergence of Floor and Décor or Tile Shop, and with Lowe’s and Home Depot competing with those models, it’s going to create stress on flooring retailers. Those who invest in well-trained RSAs … will win.”

 

 

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How the experts navigate industry’s biggest event

January 16/23, 2017: Volume 31, Number 16

By Ken Ryan

 

Screen Shot 2017-01-16 at 10.37.40 AMIt’s crazy, energizing, fun and tiring. And that’s just the first day. The International Surface Event (TISE), a.k.a. Surfaces, the flooring industry’s largest event, is two and a half days of fast-paced action with executives pounding the pavement from early in the morning until late at night.

“Surfaces is still the best all-round flooring show to attend,” said Sean O’Rourke, vice president of hard surfaces at Avalon Flooring, Cherry Hill, N.J. “To loosely paraphrase Sinatra, ‘If you can’t see it there you won’t see it anywhere.’”

Many flooring retailers and distributors prepare for Surfaces with a well-defined game plan, not unlike a football coach and his staff getting ready for the Super Bowl. In this case, the smallest details can make the difference between a successful show and a frustrating experience.

FCNews spoke to veterans of the trade show to get their thoughts on effective strategies and helpful tips for covering the show. Here are some excerpts.

Best strategies
“We go to Surfaces with a good idea of what we need so we can find the best deals. Prices on things like pad are usually discounted at the show so it’s wise to purchase as much as you can. We also like to find new products we feel will be trending so we stay ahead of the game.”
Mark Presson, Lonnie’s CarpetMax, Rockford, Ill.

“Schedule meetings with your key partners in advance. Allow plenty of time between meetings; manufacturers may be displaying at a hotel or another off-site venue. It can be a logistical issue if appointments are too close together.”
Enos Farnsworth, Denver Hardwood

“I usually take a group of employees with me so they can spread out and visit the booths I am unable to. We usually meet at the end of the day and discuss any areas of interest.”
Eric Mondragon, R.C. Willey Home Furnishings, Salt Lake City

Best thing about Surfaces
“Being able to see the majority of all our vendors under one roof.”
Dan Mandel, Sterling Carpet and Flooring, Anaheim, Calif.

“It’s reconnecting with vendors/business partners we may only see once a year.”
Sean O’Rourke, Avalon Flooring, Cherry Hill, N.J.

Sage Advice
“Leave free time for hidden gems in categories you may need. Study the vendor list to see where those gems may be rather than roaming.”
Phil Koufidakis, Baker Bros., Phoenix

“You will find the most influential people leave the hotel room at 6 a.m. for early meetings and return to the hotel at 9 p.m. following a dinner meeting. If you are hoping to gamble or attend a show, stay a couple days after the event.”
Enos Farnsworth, Denver Hardwood

“Block off at least half of a day to walk the show floor with no appointments to see what is out there that you have not seen or may not know. ”
Richard Cutting, Haines

Tips for newcomers
“Wear comfortable shoes, bring Purell, drink lots of water and get to bed before 1 a.m.”
Sean O’Rourke, Avalon Flooring

“Create a schedule with hour time slots and begin setting appointments ahead of time. Some events will overlap so be sure you are fair and equitable with everyone. And, don’t kill yourself with appointments or meetings from morning to night. Enjoy a little down time if you can.”
Scott Roy, Gilford-Johnson

“Embrace the craziness of it all. Make sure you eat breakfast. You’ll need it.”
Richard Cutting, Haines

Toughest thing about Surfaces
“Time management. With suppliers up and down Las Vegas Boulevard, it’s tough to get from place to place.”
Scott Roy, Gilford-Johnson

“Having enough time to see everybody I am currently conducting business with and still make time to see vendors I am not as familiar with.”
Eric Mondragon, R.C. Willey Home Furnishings

 

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FCNews asks: What’s keeping top executives awake at night?

January 2/9, 2017: Volume 31, Number 15
By Ken Ryan

new-imageIf you are a CEO or a high-level executive in the flooring industry, there is no shortage of issues on your mind. From government over-regulation to the dearth of installers to the vagaries of consumer buying habits, executives have a lot to think about. Many, however, have learned not to sweat the small stuff or be too concerned about things they can’t control.

FCNews asked a cross section of manufacturer, distributor and retail executives that question.

Neil Poland, president, Mullican Flooringpoland-neilAutomation of our plants is an area of operations I think about a great deal. The wood flooring industry is small, so most of the automation is customized which increases the cost. It is very challenging to find the most efficient equipment, systems and technology at a price that will provide an acceptable return on investment.

Eric Demaree, president, Carpet One Floor & Home
The competitive landscape continues to change, and all independent flooring retailers are facing digital upstarts, channels that do not invest in any assets to support our industry and discounters like warehouse clubs that only compete by gutting the price. As manufacturers continue to make products that cater to the DIY consumer, and as they target millennials, independent retailers are going to need an authentic, compelling, competitive advantage that consumers value and will be willing to pay for. Stand-alone retailers are going to find it more difficult to compete in the years ahead.

Scott Rozmus, president, FlorStar Sales
As we look at the landscape today, I wonder about how the next generation is going to pursue floor covering buying and whether we and our vendor and retailer partners are prepared and best preparing to address that.

Keith Spano, president, Flooring America/Flooring Canada
Retail growth through innovation, both digital and physical, present challenges. We’re in a mature industry and in any retail environment you must continue to reinvent your business every year to stay relevant and top of mind. New product offerings and new approaches to reach more customers through technology that changes by the minute. The Internet has changed everything from how we shop to how we communicate and how we as retailers sell product.

Nick Freadreacea, president, The Flooring Gallery
Being a business owner always means you will lose sleep over the issues of the day. Today’s top three current issues: How do we get salespeople interested in the flooring industry as a career? How do we recruit installers into the industry? How does small business handle the spiraling cost of doing business—i.e., health care, taxes and insurance cost?

Brad Williams, VP sales and marketing, Boa-Franc
What is our competition doing around the world? It used to be about beating local competition, but now we are in a global game and innovation is happening at a high speed. Project choices are crucial to success and being able to not go forward in some projects is just as crucial as the time, effort and investment required to innovate. Losing time, effort and investment on prioritizing a non-successful project in the end really can set you back in the innovation race.

Raj Shah, president, MSI
As the industry grows, staying disciplined is becoming more difficult. Scaling those disciplines in a growth environment is difficult. The tight job market, increased demand and possible immigration reform affects overall installation capabilities.

Roger Farabee, SVP of laminate & hardwood, Mohawk Laminate & Hardwood, N.A.
What keeps me up at night? The economy in general and what impact a Trump administration will have on that. We need an economic environment that provides the confidence needed for consumers to invest in their living spaces at a higher rate than we’ve seen since the recovery began.

Derek Welbourn, CEO, Inhaus
The main issue that keeps me up at night is my son who just turned 1. Besides that I think most executives should be open minded and receptive to new ideas and look to adapt their businesses to reflect constantly changing markets. For example, as a laminate producer, we have been successful and continue to grow our laminate sales; however, it didn’t stop us from investing in a product category that could be considered to be cannibalizing the laminate category. We feel both have a position in the marketplace and future.

Eric Langan, owner, Carpetland USA (The Langan Group)
A couple of the business issues that concern me are e-commerce and the availability of qualified installers. E-commerce has been, and will continue to be, a growing segment of our industry. Organizations need to get educated quickly to determine their approach to this part of the business. Secondly, the availability of quality installers is a concern. The younger generations, for the most part, do not want to work with their hands. Therefore, availability of quality installers will be a concern going forward.

Jeff Striegel, president, Elias Wilf
The continued challenge of evolving alongside the industry as it relates to the ever-changing dealer base and the emergence of new competitors. Then there is the basic product evolution itself as hard surfaces increases share and morphs into high-level excitement with new products like LVT and WPC. The ongoing search for maximum efficiencies required within flooring distribution in today’s competitive environment is another. It is paramount that Elias Wilf doesn’t lose site of our 100-year philosophy of understanding that people buy from people, and the importance of maintaining close relationships with our team and customers is critical to long-term success.

Travis Bass, executive VP, sales and marketing, Swiss Krono
The opportunity for a repeat of an incident such as the “60 Minutes” episode on formaldehyde in laminate flooring causing a very costly stampede of unsubstantiated concern.

Bruce Zwicker, CEO, Haines
The slow growth market, tightening profitability led by margin and the loss of share by independent floor covering dealers in the residential retail remodeling market segment are worries for the industry. I also see opportunities in becoming more efficient in providing service to our customers, in redeploying focus toward winning customer segments and products, and in refining and delivering more powerful value to customers.

Todd Gates, VP residential sales, DuChateau
The responsibility to ownership, the employees and their families to make the best use of available resources in order to sustain the long-term health and prosperity of the company.

 

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FCNews asks…

October 24/31, 2016: Volume 31, Number 10

“What will the retail flooring business look like in five years?”

Marty Schallock
Malkin’s Flooring
Menomonee Falls, Wis.

screen-shot-2016-10-31-at-4-10-40-pmProduct – “In the next five years, I could certainly see our product mix to be 50% hard surface and the balance in carpet. After all, most of the first floors in homes are a hard surface of some sort.”
Labor – “Finding qualified installers is a real problem. The labor force is getting older, and there are no young people coming into the industry. I could very well see our company having its own installation team as employees, therefore doing our own hiring and training. I have already started that with ceramic tile.”
Technology – “Advertising and marketing is a constant moving target. We continue to advertise on the local TV and radio stations along with inserts or direct mailings. I think that will still be the way in five years, but with more dollars and emphasis on social media. Technology will dictate how the showrooms of tomorrow look as well. I envision customers being able to take pictures of their homes, come to a floor covering store and input a specific product into their own room scenes on their phones or tablets.”

 

Olga Robertson
FCANetwork
Shorewood, Ill.

screen-shot-2016-10-31-at-4-10-47-pmLabor – “We’ve been talking about an installation bottleneck for the past year or more. Today there are organizations like the WFCA (World Floor Covering Association) and CFI (International Certified Flooring Installers Association) taking an active role to recruit and train young people in a trade in which they can make six figures. The flooring industry, as a whole, has done nothing to promote the benefits of learning a craft in this industry—that a hardwood installer is a craftsman, a tile installer is a craftsman, etc. We need to elevate that position and treat [installers] with deference. Who knows what the future holds, what or who will be the next big thing, but we do know that installation and installers must be a top priority.”
Technology – “More and more consumers and retailers will use the Internet to process orders, payments, etc. But I don’t think the mills will ever have a universal format for B2B.”

 

Mark Goldstein
Edwards Carpet
St. Louis

screen-shot-2016-10-31-at-4-10-53-pmProduct – “Carpet will continue to take up less market share and hard surface will take up more. I think the changes we’re seeing in LVT and waterproof floors are going to become huge, especially in below-grade installations. Technology will continue to make synthetic floors look more realistic. When It comes to laminate products, the floors are looking more like real wood than ever before.”
Technology – “I think the showroom today will look 1,000% different. With technology, eventually you’re going to see large, flat-screen TVs in every showroom that will exhibit what the flooring will look like in your room. People are going to continually come out with different ways to interact. I think eventually every display will be interactive with some sort of technology that will enable you to put in a product, style and color and view on a screen how it will appear in a room setting.”
Next generation – “All millennials will get jobs and be in the housing market and we will be able to market more heavily to the 25- to 35-year-old age group. There are still a lot of 35-year-old-plus people who will get into home improvement projects and do it themselves, but the millennials are not a DIY generation. When they do have money, they want someone else to put [flooring] down.”

 

Penny Carnino
Grigsby’s Carpet,
Tile & Rug Gallery
Tulsa, Okla.

screen-shot-2016-10-31-at-4-10-59-pmTechnology – “I think we will continue to see better and better technology in regards to LVT styling. Sometimes it looks so good it’s hard to tell the difference until you get down there and really look and touch it. Advertising will continue to trend more and more toward the Internet. Social media is becoming more important in branding your store and showing consumers what your company can do.”
Labor – “It is already a challenge to find quality installers. In the next five years, we might see recruiting at job fairs to send people to flooring trade schools with the guarantee to work for that company. Customer service will be even more important to set us apart from the big-box stores, especially if installation becomes an issue.”

 

Steve Lewis
Lewis Floor & Home
Northbrook, Ill.

screen-shot-2016-10-31-at-4-11-07-pmProduct – “Hard surface will continue to gain market share on the first floor of most residences. The technology has come so far, so fast in both the luxury vinyl tile category as well as the porcelain tile category. Tile sizes will continue to grow and I believe there will be more man-made products that replicate natural stone and wood.”
Labor – “I believe there will continue to be a shortage of both quality installers and people in our industry as we have had trouble attracting younger people. Quite frankly, we don’t pay our installers enough and that makes it difficult for retailers to find and keep quality workers. With so much emphasis on price, I believe it will be more important than ever to differentiate ourselves with installation and service, especially with upper-end customers.”
Technology – “The Internet will provide retailers a vehicle to show room designs, various finishes and options in ways that traditional home furnishing magazines cannot. While I’m sure the existing ‘price first, quality second’ companies will still be flooding the airways, I believe the successful companies will showcase design and fashion.”

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FCNews asks: What have you done within the last year or two to breathe new life into your business?

Jan 18/25; Volume 30/Number 15

By Amanda Haskin

Businesses must continuously move with the ebb and flow of the industry as well as individual markets. If a dealer is not adapting, experimenting and changing with the times, he will inevitably get left behind. The following retailers gave FCNews some insight as to how they keep up in the evolving landscape of the flooring world.

Screen Shot 2016-01-18 at 12.30.51 PMJoslyn Fairchild

House of Floors, Albuquerque, N.M.

“We previously had an employee handling our estimates. When he left, we decided to switch back to having Ryan [Fairchild, co-owner] go out to people’s houses to do the estimates and the feedback has been great. People feel there is really a connection when the owner of the business goes out himself and actually measures and puts quotes together. You’re not dealing with just an employee. A lot of people really appreciate him taking the time and interest in them and their homes. Having him gone is tough sometimes, but it works out. We’ve increased the hours of some of our other employees to help [balance] that and we have a really tremendous staff to help us.”

Screen Shot 2016-01-18 at 12.30.57 PMEd Keller

Hadinger Flooring, Naples, Fla.

“We are moving into the kitchen and bathroom cabinet business. We asked ourselves, ‘How do we diversify and what do we need to diversify in?’ After thinking about it, it was decided that we pretty much do everything in kitchens and bathrooms already with the exception of cabinets, so it’s the perfect new product line and opportunity for us. That being said, we had to make room in this building, which meant going through and evaluating our entire product [selection] and eliminating some slices of the pie. We decided to expand our tile and stone business and reduce the number of carpet products sold on the floor. It was a total evaluation of where the business is coming from and what’s most profitable.”

Screen Shot 2016-01-18 at 12.29.43 PMSteve Lewis

Lewis Floor and Home, Northbrook, Ill.

“We’ve diversified our product mix and we’ve done a significant amount of business in window treatments. It’s certainly not just about carpet anymore—carpet is slightly less than half of our business as far as revenue. We’ve been in window treatments for 10 years but it was never the focus. We are currently moving [the category’s] location in the showroom so it’s in a much more prominent place. While the margins in window treatments are not fabulous, the average tickets are pretty good and it is an area that is underserved by our competition. And oftentimes, if [customers] are redoing the floors in a room, they’re redoing other things in the room, and that includes window treatments. So it makes all the sense in the world to try to sell different products at the same time.”

Screen Shot 2016-01-18 at 12.29.53 PMBrian DeOliveira

Diablo Flooring, three locations in California

“One thing that has changed is our Internet presence has become more important. People are looking for you; you have to Google your name and see how you’re rated. We’re also updating our website to make it mobile friendly. It’s about keeping up with the times. People today are ready to shop locally, whether it’s food, restaurants or flooring. I put a picture of my wife and kids on our Facebook page and local ads to show that we’re a part [of the community]. My daughter is on a swim team and my son is on a football team so we also advertise through their team websites and at home games. You have to keep your name out there.”

Screen Shot 2016-01-18 at 12.31.07 PMNancy Haley

Haley’s Flooring and Interiors, Huntsville, Ala.

“The biggest thing that has changed is the way we are marketing our business; we’ve taken a totally different approach to it. We started doing much more targeted and strategic marketing, instead of marketing to the mass media and just hoping someone would see our ad. Two years ago, we did a Dream Kitchen Makeover and gave away a whole kitchen to someone in our community. That was a great experience. We also have a local home and garden show at our civic center. This past year we participated with a few other companies and [designed] The Idea & Inspiration House. The people who came were actually looking for ideas and looking to remodel, so we were able to showcase our products and all the things we offer.”

Screen Shot 2016-01-18 at 12.31.16 PMRobert Borgerson

Arizona Floors, Phoenix

“We’re selling a lot more wood plank tile. It’s the newest craze. We didn’t have much of it before, but now there’s such a broad selection and there are so many new styles. Over the past year, wood plank tile made up about 50% of our tile sales. It’s helped [our overall sales] because we probably have one of the better selections of wood plank tile in Arizona. I’ve dedicated about half of my showroom to different types of wood plank tile. I predict sales continuing to go up as more people become aware of it and how [well] it can [mimic] the look and feel of real wood.”

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FCNews asks: What have you done differently within the past two years to keep your business relevant?

January 19/26, 2015; Volume 28/Number 15

By Nadia Ramlakhan

Over the past two years the flooring industry has seen changes in the economy, advances in technology and even a new generation of customers. In order to keep up with the times and stay relevant, many businesses are expanding, diversifying and simply trying to shake things up. FCNews asked seven retailers from all over the country what they’ve changed within the past two years to stay relevant in the industry today.

Garry Combs

Garry’s Ultimate Flooring, Belvidere, Ill.

Screen Shot 2015-01-19 at 2.00.03 PM“One of the biggest things we’ve done is open a second location a few towns over in Algonquin, Ill. The 1,500-square-foot space is more like a flooring boutique store. We’ve been open now for six months and our numbers are great. We’re doing better than expected.

“We’ve had our main location open for about 12 years and we’re doing [well] so we thought it was a good time to expand. We made it through really hard times, so in order to take it to the next level I felt I had to do something a little bit different.

“To stay relevant, we keep advertising and putting our name out there—I definitely think that has helped. The new location is much more customer oriented so we’re able to give our customers more value and more knowledge compared to the big box stores.”

Todd Ramsey

3 Kings CarpetsPlus Color Tile, Fort Wayne, Ind.

Screen Shot 2015-01-19 at 2.00.09 PM“The biggest thing for us is to focus on hard surface, which is a growing segment of the industry. One major thing we’ve done is add more square footage to our hard surface area. We’ve recently installed six new showers in the showroom with all new tile and we’ve added a listello wall of glass approximately 15 x 10 feet, showing a lot of product.

“What we’ve done with our mock-up showers has given us an edge; it allows our customers to visualize the product in their homes. It takes away the guesswork of what products are going to look like in their homes and shows off our workmanship as opposed to having to convince customers that we do good work—they can see it first hand. When customers look in our showroom they can say, ‘That’s what I want’ and ‘That’s what I like.’ If they want to incorporate or change something, they can.”

Sam Chesher

Carpet Wise Flooring America, Longmont, Colo.

Screen Shot 2015-01-19 at 2.00.31 PM“I think technology is important when it comes to staying relevant today because the consumer is seeing technological changes in other retail industries. At Carpet Wise we don’t measure with our hands anymore. Any [measuring] we do is done with a laptop or laser and is saved for later use.

“We can color code rooms for different floors and attach it to a customer’s file. If she comes back in a year from now we can easily pull up her information. In the old days you might spill a cup of coffee on the measurements or give it to the installers and when she comes back in a year you have to do the measuring all over again.

“When you increase your technological presence customers tend to view you as more competent and more professional. Your measurement mistakes are cut to a minimum and, more important, your customer feels that a thorough job was done with the estimate. I hear a lot of good feedback from customers. It’s about being willing to put a little more money toward the technological changes.”

Mike Breslin

Screen Shot 2015-01-19 at 2.01.07 PMBreslin’s Floor Covering, Galesburg, Ill.

“After our ceiling collapsed last year we moved to another location for nine months and we’re just moving back. We’ve redone the place entirely. It has been completely gutted, and we put in new lighting, new flooring and new windows.

“I’m sure that what we’ve done will make a vast improvement with the business as far as being able to display our products a little bit better. It has a more logical layout from the standpoint of a shopping experience that Mr. and Mrs. Jones would like to have. Our products are better categorized than they were in the past. Previously we had to put the ceramic samples with the wood, and vice versa, whereas now there is a nicer flow for the customer.”

Ben Boss

Boss Carpet One Floor & Home, Dixon, Ill.

Screen Shot 2015-01-19 at 2.01.27 PM“With the economy going up and down we did do something significant—we started diversifying. At the beginning of 2014 we got into the kitchen and bath business, and about two years ago we entered the window treatments business. Now we sell countertops, cabinets, sink faucets and more.

“Since then we’ve had modest increases in our retail business. In our area we’re known for flooring, so if a customer is remodeling [she] will come in for that first. Once she finds out we also offer kitchen and bath products she will feel comfortable purchasing everything from us. Then there are some customers who come in for cabinets and end up purchasing flooring as well. You never know what you’re going to get. We’re going to continue moving along with kitchen and bath and will keep our options open for other segments.”

Kevin Murray

Screen Shot 2015-01-19 at 2.01.57 PMMurray Floor & Window Coverings, Billings, Mont.

“One of the key changes for our business in the past two to three years was adding a Design Center concept to our already successful mobile shop-at-home system. We did this when business was a little soft in hopes of catching the wave on the next upswing in business. We wanted to differentiate ourselves from our competition in the area by offering a mobile store and Design Center solution so we could meet the needs of our clients. Now clients can make the decision of having us come to their homes with our mobile showroom or they can set up appointments for one-on-one meetings in our Design Center. The key to this is to give the customer the choice in how she starts the shopping process.”

David Pirko

Bishops Carpet One Floor & Home, Ithaca, N.Y.

Screen Shot 2015-01-19 at 2.02.16 PM“There’s really been more of a focus on trying to update the showroom with new and current products. We’ve moved displays, added new displays and gotten rid of some of our outdated stuff that wasn’t selling. Our showroom is constantly in flux, but over the last two years we’ve done more and have more planned for the future.

“I think product selection can help you stay ahead of your competition. Obviously when you bring in new products training has to go along with it. Anytime you bring in something new a lot of things change, so you have to keep everyone up to date. Training goes hand in hand with new products but it all starts with having the latest and greatest on your floor.”

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FCNews asks: Are you better off today than you were five years ago?

January 5/12, 2015; Volume 28/Number 14

By Amanda Haskin

The last five years have seen several significant shifts within the floor covering industry, and businesses have undoubtedly felt the effects. After lifting themselves out of the recession and mortgage crisis of 2008, businesses awoke to a new industry landscape that is characterized by an increased dependence on the Internet and social media, and an overall interest in transparency and easily accessible research. To grasp how these changes have affected business trends, FCNews asked retailers from all over the country the seemingly simple question: “Are you better or worse off than you were five years ago?”

Nancy Haley

Owner, Haley’s Flooring and Interiors, Huntsville, Ala.

Screen Shot 2015-01-16 at 11.49.59 AM“My answer would be yes; we are better off today. One aspect is social media and the Internet. While we still do print and TV and radio [advertising], I think we’re better off today because we have different avenues of reaching people. Luckily we have two sons who have stepped up because they know more about it than my husband and I do. It’s such a good way to communicate with our market and keep us exposed. And with so many people going online to do research, it’s really all about customer service. It’s more competitive, so you have to bring your standard higher and step up your game. We have monthly sales meetings to sharpen up our employees and ensure that we’re on top our product knowledge.”

 

Dave Snedeker

Merchandise manager of flooring, Nebraska Furniture Mart, Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa locations

Screen Shot 2015-01-16 at 11.49.51 AM“Business in general is better. The competitive landscape in many places has improved; there’s a better understanding of who you’re up against and how they react to things. People who went through the last six to seven years in business have had to learn to adapt to the new ways things are happening out there. As a result, you’re better for it.

In the last four years we’ve also taken a much more aggressive approach to the Internet, specifically getting involved in social media and, because of it, reaching different customers. It’s about awareness and education.”

Michael Benjamin

President and co-owner, Kermans Flooring Indianapolis, Ind.

Screen Shot 2015-01-16 at 11.49.43 AM“We’re much better off today. We’ve been in business for 93 years, and only in the last five years we’ve doubled in size and expanded from one city to two. We’ve greatly expanded our market share in our main operating area, and that has a lot to do with the downturn in competition. Our cost structure benefited from the downturn because labor is easier to attain. Five years ago our market was saturated with flooring companies and, since then, we’ve lost about half our competition through attrition.

We became much more focused and aggressive five years ago and decided to concentrate our efforts in the new homes business. As we began to grow in that area, we became better at it. Now we’ve reached a point where it’s difficult for people to compete with us.”

Tyler Turner

Sales manager, Lake Murray Floor Covering, Irmo, S.C.

Screen Shot 2015-01-16 at 11.49.31 AM“This area of South Carolina is actually a little down as far as overall building permits, so toward the end of the year the numbers fell off. I’ve got one builder with whom I’ve been doing a lot of work, and it’s been a really slow year for him.

With that being said, we’re certainly a lot better off than during the recession and the housing market crisis. There have been a lot of home renovations going on, and a great thing in our market now is that we’re moving to more hard surfaces. So what customers are coming in to buy now is actually an [upgrade] from the carpet they would have bought four or five years ago. The interest in hard surfaces also leads to increased sales in things like area rugs.”

Rick Myers

Co-owner, Myers Carpet, Dalton, Atlanta and Nashville locations

Screen Shot 2015-01-16 at 11.49.20 AM“2014 was the best year in 56 years of business, up over $1 million from [2013]. We deal mostly with higher-end products, and I think those products were the last to go away when the recession hit and the first to come back. But the best thing we ever did was look outside of Dalton and build big showrooms in Atlanta and Nashville.

Georgia has been successful in attracting the film and TV industries through tax exemptions. Three years ago, the set director for ‘Anchorman 2’ walked into the store and bought a bunch of carpet, and then she kept coming back for other movies she was working on. We did a customized Google rug for the movie ‘The Internship,’ and just within the last two weeks we started working on a new Russell Crowe movie. And our Nashville location has been doing all the sets for the TV show ‘Nashville’ for the past three years. Also in Nashville, we just finished doing a big addition to the Country Music Hall of Fame.”

Gary Parrella

Owner, Waltham Floor Covering, Waltham, Mass.

Screen Shot 2015-01-16 at 11.48.58 AM“2014 was the best year we had in the last six years. The previous five were awful. We did a lot more Main Street commercial and residential last year, and it all came together at once. We’ve cut way down on print ads and hired someone to do our social media campaign. [Consumers are] definitely on the Internet and looking up manufacturers. For every line we carry in the store, it is imperative we are on [that company’s] dealer locator.

We upgraded to being a ‘platinum’ dealer, which has given us better pricing and allows us to be more competitive. It separates you from the other dealers who are carrying the same line. That is one of the major reasons we’re doing so well with those lines. These are lines that were mediocre for us two years ago, and now we’re 24% above 2013.”

Bobby Yates

Owner, Yates Flooring Center, Lubbock, Tex.

Screen Shot 2015-01-16 at 11.48.46 AM“We are better off than we were five years ago. Our business has increased in the last three or four years, with 2014 about 5% above 2013. This is largely because we’re in a good state, and a good part of the state with the oil boom that’s been going on in west Texas for the last year.

Hard surfaces are growing at the expense of carpet. The luxury vinyl plank segment has had our largest growth in the last few years, and we’re also selling a lot of porcelain and ceramic. Wood and tile are the more expensive items, and our ticket prices have increased considerably because of those things. On the other end, our carpet sales seem to go down each year, which I’m not sure if I like because hard surfaces have a much longer lifespan.”