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Floors & More: Members urged to take ‘unconventional’ approach

August 28/September 4: Volume 32, Issue 6

By Lindsay Baillie

 

Screen Shot 2017-09-05 at 11.47.57 AMLeesburg, Va.—Thinking outside the box can help dealers discover new ways to grow their businesses. That was the primary message Floors & More management sought to drive home to members in attendance at its summer convention here.

The message correlated directly to the theme of the conference, “Unconventional.”

The two-day convention provided Floors & More members the opportunity to network, hear best practices from peers, as well as learn about new offerings and rebate opportunities from vendors. The show also provided members with multiple solutions to combat changing consumer buying habits and develop a greater digital footprint.

More importantly, the group stressed the importance of building quality relationships with customers, vendors and other members. To that end, the group’s vendor partners had the opportunity to participate in any of the member events, including the general session, keynote and activities. The goal was to cultivate and continue member/vendor relationships.

“We believe our vendors are our partners and our members are our partners—so we have a three-part relationship,” said Vinnie Virga, founder and CEO, Floors & More. “Our job is to make sure that relationship is incredibly strong so there is great, unfiltered communication between us so we’re helping each other and challenging each other. We believe only by having that kind of relationship between all the parties do we get the best growth, the best ideas and the best participation. This is the ‘Unconventional’ convention.”

Doing things different is at the core of the Floors & More group from its rebates program to its partnerships with Soci, a platform for managing social media, and 919 Marketing, a national marketing agency that provides members with relevant, localized and personalized content that targets all types of consumers. In addition, the group has added new private labels, expanded its vendor lineup and launched new websites for Floor to Ceiling and Big Bob’s stores.

Screen Shot 2017-09-05 at 11.48.17 AMOver the past year the group has worked on fundamental elements to provide members with the tools they need to succeed. Part of this adjustment is how Floors & More members invest in the buying group. “All we did was flip the equation,” Virga explained. “We made it so the members have that upfront. The rebates are paid out and the vast majority of the rebate dollars goes to the members (around 80%). By making that flip it took those members who weren’t really committed to the program or buying from our vendors and it made it so they had to make an investment and commit to the group or they wanted to go—which is exactly what we wanted. We wanted people who were committed—who were going to stay and support the vendors.”

Virga believes a member’s investment should be viewed more as a marketing fee since the group covers social media, websites, commercials and review sites. Floors & More also provides unlimited education through the WFCA education library and the group’s full product library. It also covers convention attendance (excluding room costs) as well as a rare opportunity to meet with executives from the Floors & More corporate team for a consultation.

“Everything else we’re doing with the rebates is really a return on their support of the suppliers,” Virga explained.

Now that these elements are fully in place, the group plans on growing dramatically, according to Virga. “We’re starting to add new members a little at a time. We’ll also be growing through acquisition. You’ll definitely see us make some acquisitions over the next couple of years. We plan on being 700 or 800 stores stronger in the next five years, and we’re very committed to that number.”

New vendors, programs
Floors & More continues to expand its list of vendors, which includes Mannington, Phenix, Armstrong, Stainmaster, Wolf, Graber, USFloors, Nourison and RFMS—to name a few.

“The vendors here are top notch,” said Dave Bradley, vice president of Floor to Ceiling, Ottawa, Ill. “I really think [Virga] is pulling in great people for us on the technology side as well.”

Screen Shot 2017-09-05 at 11.48.11 AMThe group also recently launched an insurance program whereby store owners, installers, builders, remodelers and trade professionals are able to receive life and accident insurance as well as a 401(K) plan. Another key program announced at the convention is the development of an e-commerce system for member websites, which the group plans to launch by winter.

Floors & More management believes e-commerce is a crucial space for retailers today. “You need to be online with your products so consumers can first see it and then pick it,” Virga explained. “[While] our business is still very much tactile, you need to have it there because consumers demand it. It’s the price of admission of being a retailer today.”

Floors & More members like Lowell Matthys, president of Floor to Ceiling in Marshall, Minn., are embracing e-commerce. “Whether you like it or not, that’s the way our technology is moving. We carry more technology in our pockets than ever. That aspect of the business is changing.”

Matthys’ store already has an online presence, and he runs a website and Facebook page in connection with Floors & More. “They’ve set up the web page for us and we’re also going to be doing some postings to Facebook through Soci.”

For others, such as Roger Lake, owner of Lake Design & Décor/Floor to Ceiling in Manchester, Iowa, Floors & More not only offers new technology and group buying power but also education. In particular, he cited keynote presenter Mark Sanborn, author, entrepreneur and professional speaker, who conducted a presentation about leadership and ways to drive improvement. The talk provided valuable insights for Lake and his staff. “[Sanborn] was talking about motivating and how to get sales.”

Overall, the convention hit on a couple of key points for members such as Joe Virga, regional manager, Floor to Ceiling, Auburn, Mass. “It opened my eyes to our company’s potential and the importance of embracing change.”

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Floors and More pushes aggressive agenda at convention

By Ken Ryan

Minneapolis, Minn.—Vinnie Virga, group president of Floors and More, which encompasses Big Bob’s Flooring and Floor to Ceiling, has big plans for the organization. During the group’s inaugural meeting recently, he expressed his goal to be among the top three buying groups in the country over the medium to long term.

“This is just the beginning,” said Virga, citing the group’s growth trends. Big Bob’s has 17 members who own 39 showrooms; Floor to Ceiling has 60 members, each with a single showroom. While Big Bob’s is still more so a cash and carry dealer, over 50% of its members offer installation today. Floor to Ceiling, meanwhile, goes to market as a full service retailer that aims to do the entire project for its customer.

The primary aim, according to Virga, is to create a mindset that this group collectively is powerful. “We have great vision. It is about us being together more. We are differentiated to the customer and united behind the scenes.”

Specifically, Floors and More is looking to grow organically and through acquisitions. To that end, Virga is engaged in talks with other groups about joining forces. “In five to seven years we will be right there with the biggest buying groups. We are running faster but that’s what you have to do to be successful. We are looking for people who are like-minded who want to grow. We help our members become more profitable than they would with other buying groups and we will do so in a more efficient way.”

To that end, Virga said the group plans to explore opportunities in the commercial space, as well as multi-family and non-flooring segments including operating stores that offer pure cabinets and countertops as well as stores that also sell paint. “We’re more about home design and we’re going to build out more verticals. The more legs we can put on the stool for our members the easier to withstand the storms that will come.”

“Spark,” the driving theme of the conference, included a “speed-dating” session in which retailers met with each vendor for a few minutes, before rotating to the next table. Another popular activity was a series of breakout brainstorming sessions in which seven groups were selected and assigned topics ranging from marketing, the Internet, education and training, to operations, networking, merchandising and buying. Each group was tasked with coming up with actionable ideas.

David Bradley, a Floor to Ceiling dealer in Ottawa, Ill., appreciated the collaboration that took place at the conference. “It was unique to be able to break into groups and share ideas. If you have skin in the game you need to be involved. Vinnie is the leader and he has skin in the game because he is also a retailer. He has the same headaches we do.”

Mill executives in attendance also saw the value. Rodney Mauter, executive vice president of marketing for Lexmark Carpet Mills, enjoyed the vendor-retailer meetings. He said Lexmark is poised to grow with the Floors and More group. “Their members have been incredibly receptive to our offerings; it fits into their market of affordable luxury. They are here to promote the dealer, and anything that promotes the dealer is a good thing.”

David Bradley, left, owner of Floor to Ceiling, Ottawa, Ill., discusses the latest COREtec features with Sam Ruble and Marc Tinter of USFloors.
David Bradley, left, owner of Floor to Ceiling, Ottawa, Ill., discusses the latest COREtec features with Sam Ruble and Marc Tinter of USFloors.

Digital push

No flooring conference is complete these days without a heavy emphasis on digital marketing and social media. To that end, Floors and More members were offered lead-generation software packages and custom websites. RFMS, the business-to-business software provider for the group, encouraged members to embrace the changes in technology.

“Technology is today’s way of life,” Terry Wheat, CEO of RFMS, told attendees “There is not a single person who comes in your store today who hasn’t been online looking at your store. While the economy is better you must use technology if you expect to survive.”

Several other digital and social media experts spoke during the conference to reinforce how technology is changing the face of flooring retail. To help its dealers, Floors and More is providing customized websites for each of its members. “A professional customized website can cost $10,000 to $20,000,” Virga told members. “Your price? Free. Why are we doing this? Because we have to own this space. We can’t wait any longer.”

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Floors & More acquires 60-store group

Big Bob’s parent continues expansion with Floor to Ceiling purchase

April 11/18, 2016; Volume 30, Number 21

By Ken Ryan

Screen Shot 2016-04-15 at 2.27.25 PMAuburn, Mass.—Floors & More, which operates Big Bob’s Flooring Outlets as well as Floors & Kitchens Today, has acquired the Floor to Ceiling group. This consolidation will add 60 stores to the expanding entity.

Vinnie Virga and Scott Appel, co-CEOs of Floors & More, formally announced the acquisition earlier this month.

“We didn’t have this specific deal in our eyes but we had a desire to have an acquisition this year to get to critical mass,” Virga told FCNews. “It is a very good fit. Our Floors & Kitchen model is almost the same as the Floor to Ceiling model.”

Virga added there “are so many quality flooring dealers in this group and so much untapped potential in the Floor to Ceiling brand. With members’ help and guidance, we are going to make some amazing things happen.”

Appel said the synergy between this group and Big Bob’s “provides us with a wonderful springboard for awesome growth. We know that with this group collectively working together, along with our management team’s commitment to excellence, we will create a tremendous amount of momentum toward continued success.”

The Floor to Ceiling acquisition is the latest in a series of strategic moves taken by Big Bob’s since Virga purchased a controlling interest in Big Bob’s Flooring, effective Jan. 1, 2016.

On March 1, Appel, Bill Hamad and Joe Hamad—current owners of Touch of Color Flooring in Harrisburg, Pa.—announced their involvement in a group that bought controlling interest of Big Bob’s Flooring Outlet stores. The buying group is now Floors & More, under which Big Bob’s, Floors & Kitchens Today and Floor to Ceiling operates.

During a January 2016 interview with FCNews, Virga said within five years Big Bob’s would be “at least” the third-largest buying group for flooring and kitchen design. “By hook or by crook we are going to get there,” he said.

As for the rest of 2016, Virga said the group is “definitely looking” for more acquisitions. “We believe there are another four groups that would make for a great fit in our organization. We’re looking to scale our group so we can bring value to our members.”

He added being able to help members become more profitable or to improve their quality of life “is what motivates our team each and every day.”

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Providing help to retailers: who’s doing what

By  Matthew Spieler

(First of two parts)

When it comes to giving retailers the necessary ammunition to succeed, there are plenty of options from which to choose as just about every segment of the industry provides some type of resource or tool for dealers to allow customers to prosper and grow their business.

These tools are numerous—from educational training to professional marketing services to social media and more. In many cases most are offered at no charge. Even when there is a charge to improve oneself, there are ways for retailers to offset some or all of it depending on their affiliation with an association, buying group or manufacturer. Continue reading Providing help to retailers: who’s doing what

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Preferred Brands delivers value, programs for members

ADAIRSVILLE, GA.—In a retail group arena that boasts divisions of CCA Global Partners, Alliance Flooring and Abbey Carpet, Preferred Brands may not be considered a household name, but what it may lack in brand awareness is more than offset by the services and value it offers to members.

Preferred Brands is comprised of the Floor To Ceiling and World of Floors formats. While the latter is strictly flooring for the most part, Floor To Ceiling dealers, as the name suggests, separate themselves from the Carpet Ones, Flooring Americas and Abbey Carpets of the world via their product mix. A typical Floor To Ceiling dealer does about 50% of his business in flooring, 40% in kitchen and bath, and 10% in decorative products like widow treatments and lighting. Continue reading Preferred Brands delivers value, programs for members

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Checking in: Random thoughts from the ivory tower

by Steven Feldman

This is an exciting month. Maybe not for you, but certainly for me. Even though I’ve been doing whatever it is I do for the better part of 16 years, I can still visit new places, cover events for the first time, and most importantly, learn new things.

I’ll illustrate. A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending the Preferred Brands summit at Barnsley Gardens in Adairsville, Ga. First, if you’ve never been to this place, you’re doing yourself a disservice. Yes, it took me longer to get from the Atlanta airport to this in-the-middle-of-nowhere place in rush hour traffic than it did for me to fly from New York to Atlanta, but once I arrived I never wanted to leave. The resort, owned by former Queen and Shaw head honcho Julian Saul, is picturesque and tranquil. (Saul even made an appearance.) Continue reading Checking in: Random thoughts from the ivory tower