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CCA Global Partners helps members compete

Manchester, N.H.—During its annual summer conventions, CCA Global Partners businesses’ Carpet One Floor & Home and Flooring America offered members the opportunity to compete more effectively in its area rug business through the e-Commerce platform Rugs.Shop.

The website offers over 35,000 unique area rugs and facilitates the online ordering experience for customers. Rugs.Shop also supports the site with an online and telephone customer service team. Through this new program, members of Carpet One Floor & Home and Flooring America will be able to use the platform, customized to their local store, to offer this online area rug selection to their customers. 

“While customers still prefer to go into the store to purchase installed flooring, the area rug business has greatly shifted towards online sales,” said Charlie Dilks, chief product officer, CCA Global Partners. “Working with Rugs.Shop allows us to help our members compete and increase profits from online sales.

For a local, independent retailer, keeping up with the technology and support systems needed to effectively compete in e-Commerce can be difficult. The recent Supreme Court ruling on the subject of internet sales tax is just one example of risks involved for independent retailers trying to sell online.

The program offered through CCA reduces these risks significantly, if not completely. Participating members will receive a dedicated, branded site to use for their customers, creating a seamless customer experience. Members will also have the support of a customer service team, credit card processing and drop ship logistics services.

As an added marketing opportunity, stores can also provide their customers with a coupon to their rug shop after a hard surface flooring sale. On the sales management side, stores will be able to track sales to a specific sales professional in order to allocate online rug sale commissions.

 

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

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

By Ken Ryan

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Personalization counts

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

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

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

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Flooring America dealers challenged to change the paradigm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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‘Digital’ dominates Flooring America agenda

By Ken Ryan

Grapevine, Texas—If you didn’t know better you may have thought you were attending a technology summit rather than Flooring America’s summer conference with its heavy emphasis on all things digital.

There is a reason for that, according to Keith Spano, president of Flooring America/Flooring Canada, International Design Guild, and The Floor Trader Group. “This is how we communicate today and we need to embrace this,” he told attendees during the conference, whose driving theme was “Building Buzz.”

Indeed, there were plenty of data points offered that suggests the digital evolution is transforming the retail flooring market. For example, research revealed shows the average person now spends more time online than TV, newspapers and radio combined. Snapchat is the No. 1 social media channel followed by millennials, just ahead of Instagram.

Today digital marketing is the conduit through which to tell your story and see it spread exponentially. To that end, Building Buzz was about helping its retailers thrive in this new world order. At the conference, members learned how to supplement the social and digital programs provided through the Co-op, such as FAST, a proprietary local social media syndication platform, and G1, its Google search and SEO platform.

According to Frank Chiera, senior vice president of marketing and advertising, while there may be some “naysayers” questioning the immediate return on social media investment, the statistics bear out how important this medium has become. Chiera and others noted it could be difficult to measure the conversion rate from social media advertising to sales simply because social media is about getting the word out and connecting with community. Through that sustained effort sales are expected to increase—eventually. Research cited at Building Buzz showed that 63% of people who request information from a website will not make a purchase for at least three months.

Moreover, studies have found that sales professionals who use social media as part of their overall strategy outsell those who do not by 78%. Flooring America dealers say they appreciate the forward-looking approach espoused by Messrs. Spano and Chiera.

Keith Spano, president of Flooring America/Flooring Canada, said its retailers trust the co-op will make the right marketing decisions for the group.
Keith Spano, president of Flooring America/Flooring Canada, said its retailers trust the co-op will make the right marketing decisions for the group.

 

“One of the reasons I joined Flooring America was because they always seemed to be one step ahead of the competition,” said Casey Dillabaugh, president of Dillabaugh’s Flooring America in Boise, Idaho. “In regard to Building Buzz in particular, it reinforced that on the marketing side of the business, Flooring America is making a point for the traditional dealer to think differently about their marketing efforts due to the changing consumer, while giving us practical applications that we can begin to use immediately.”

Mike Foulk, president of Foulk’s Flooring America, Meadville, Pa., said he found the conference very enlightening. “Some things are common sense; however, some things are very helpful, especially for those of us who are time strapped and digitally challenged.”

As a company, Flooring America felt it needed to get ahead of the curve in terms of anticipating trends, according to Chiera. One objective of Building Buzz was to help independent retailers understand what they can do to make their brands be seen and heard in local markets. Increasingly that is done by digital means.

“Our members know they need to embrace our program and invest in it because this where they need to be,” Spano explained. “They all are the best buyers for their markets but when it comes to marketing they trust us to make the best decisions for them.”

Building Buzz was also a coming out show for Floor Trader, the division that is now under the auspices of Flooring America. Spano said Floor Trader is enjoying a breakout year with 50 showrooms expected by year’s end, up from 35 at the start of 2016. “We have new visuals, new merchandising and an e-commerce platform for Floor Trader. We are driving that outlet value proposition. At this conference Floor Trader is going from ‘herd to heard’ in the market.”

 

 

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Made in the USA: Flooring America leverages the product quality angle

April 25/May 2, 2016; Volume 30, Number 22

By Ken Ryan

Screen Shot 2016-04-28 at 12.48.42 PMShortly after the “60 Minutes” expose on Lumber Liquidators that charged the retailer with selling laminate flooring from China containing high levels of formaldehyde, Flooring America sprung into action by purchasing Made in the USA point-of-purchase (POP) kits for all of its members to display in the stores. A variety of formats are available to retailers to accommodate different configurations.

“I’m pleased to say the investment we made in sending these Made in the USA kits to all of our members certainly paid off,” said Keith Spano, president of Flooring America. “Our members were very appreciative of our quick reaction and it certainly helped differentiate Flooring America from other flooring retailers.”

Spano said the “60 Minutes” report accomplished two things: it soured consumers on certain imported flooring products and it elevated the stature of Made in the USA products.

“As Benjamin Franklin famously said, ‘The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten.’” In order to instill confidence in the consumer, Flooring America marked all of its domestically made products accordingly and provided members with letters from the vendor partners stating their CARB 2 compliance. “This gives our customers peace of mind they are buying a quality product furthered by the fact that Flooring America provides a lifetime installation guarantee to give her additional assurance she’ll be happy with her decisions for the life of the product,” Spano stated.

In addition, Flooring America updated its Product Gateway database to include country of origin on all products so retailers can keep consumers informed.

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CCA teams up with WFCA, CFI to tackle installation shortage

cca logoManchester, N.H.—CCA Global Partners has partnered with the World Floor Covering Association (WFCA) after its recent purchase of the International Certified Flooring Installers Association (CFI) to help address the shortage of qualified flooring installers. Through this new partnership, members of CCA’s floor covering divisions will be provided with incentives to bring new hires to the industry and the CFI will have them qualified and up-to-speed quickly.

“CFI is well-respected for providing quality installation training,” said Charlie Dilks, chief product officer, CCA Global Partners. “CCA members have been asking for help in recruiting and training more installers and we feel this program will help them meet the challenge.”

Through this new partnership, members of Carpet One Floor & Home, Flooring America/Flooring Canada and International Design Guild will benefit from tuition credits and discounts from both CCA and WFCA.

“It’s exciting to see CCA making a significant investment to help resolve an industry-wide problem,” said Scott Humphrey, CEO of WFCA “We are happy to do our part in encouraging CCA’s members to provide installation training through CFI.”

CCA will provide its members a discount toward the cost of tuition when the installer completes one of CFI’s installation training classes for carpet and hard surface classes.

“This is a huge step helping alleviate some of the challenges our members have faced with the current installer shortage,” Dilks added. “Quality installers are essential to our members’ success.”

The CFI schools introduce installers to many types of flooring and the tools of the trade with an emphasis on efficiency and craftsmanship. Courses cover hands-on installation techniques, customer service training and OSHA and EPA standards training. Graduates would leave a five-week residential carpet class with the skill sets and confidence to go into the field and have the ability to install an average 3 bedroom home. They also receive CFI Certification.

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Flooring America welcomes IDG, Floor Trader to help empower members

Jan 18/25; Volume 30/Number 15

By Nadia Ramlakhan

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Orlando, Fla.—Flooring America took diversification to the next level with the addition of The International Design Guild (IDG) and The Floor Trader to its winter conneXtion, held here Jan. 7-8 at the Orange County Convention Center. With over 700 attendees, the partnering of these three groups is aimed to provide members an opportunity to capture more market share. With Flooring America handling full service retail, The Floor Trader covering the cash-and-carry model and IDG reaching the luxury market, this group is prepared to target consumers at all levels.

“Under one umbrella you have three different platforms where you truly have something for everyone in our market,” said Keith Spano, president of Flooring America. “We’re empowering our members by doing this to augment their businesses, give them new opportunities and grow their businesses to become their own competitors. We always help our members add branches but with these new verticals it’s really an opportunity to diversify into a customer segment that they are not playing in right now.”

Through the recession, the industry lost about 25% of independent stores, resulting in big boxes predominantly servicing many areas. “I encourage members to look for those underserved markets and use a model that will work based on the demographics,” Spano said. Since its launch in June, The Floor Trader has gone from a franchise to a cooperative, with Flooring America dissecting each part and updating it. Dealers can expect to see fresh visual merchandising and a new campaign in the near future. “We didn’t recreate it, but we took it back to its roots as a true outlet,” he continued. “Less samples and more inventory, no installation and more cash-and-carry.”

Krista Eliason, president of IDG, said members can take advantage of the networking opportunities as well. “They really take care of different market segments and different customers but as retailers they have a lot of common things to talk about—the back end and how they run a business is all the same from running a store to motivating salespeople. It gives them a much bigger pool to network with.”

With IDG, Flooring America and The Floor Trader coming together, the main focus for many members is TOP: technology, opportunity and power. The technology aspect focuses on driving leads through proprietary applications, social media and Flooring America’s newly launched website. “We didn’t just put a little lipstick on it,” Spano explained. “We completely overhauled it.” With flat, simple designs and responsive technology, the websites have the ability to be fully customized by members, allowing them to bring focus to other segments they service such as area rugs, kitchen and bath, cabinets or countertops.

“I’ve got a few stores so it’s great to have a fresh look, and being able to customize it makes it your own,” said Harry Harles, Brentwood Carpets Flooring America, Raleigh, N.C. “It helps us keep up with things like social media and stay ahead on the digital forefront.”

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Under the opportunity factor of TOP, members as well as dealers outside of CCA Global, Flooring America’s parent company, have been lining up open new stores. Lastly, power relates to “swinging a bigger stick,” according to Spano. “The aggregate of this group is much stronger than three smaller groups. With more buying power we are able to offer a lot more and be more efficient.”

While the industry is predicted to grow 2% to 3% in 2016, Flooring America saw 5% growth in 2015 and is slated to grow almost 6% this year. Part of its strategy is diversification—not only in targeting different levels of consumers but expanding into other segments to prevent consumers from visiting big box stores during their remodeling projects. In fact, 25% of Flooring America members are involved in kitchen and bath. The latest addition to the lineup is the KILZ Tribute paint program in which a portable color box, training and in-store graphics will be provided with no inventory for dealers.

Because 74% of all consumers who redo their floors also paint their walls at the same time, “the last thing I want to do is push them to the big boxes to buy paint where they have to walk past the flooring department,” Spano said.

Vision 20/20, a specialized showroom layout, will also continue to serve as a point of differentiation for Flooring America dealers. Launched in 2008, Flooring America’s award-winning showroom design program is being updated to adjust to changing consumer tastes with the goal of providing a better customer experience. The new layout will pay particular attention to details such as lighting, temperature and storage space in addition to making sure a customer’s in-store experience is reflective of her online experience. “The flexible approach also allows growth into other categories,” said Theresa Fisher, vice president of store design and visual merchandising, CCA Global. “Maybe today you’re 60% carpet and 40% hard surface. Or maybe you’re thinking about getting into closets. It works for you today and it works for you down the road.”

The adaptable layout of Vision 20/20 appeals to dealers. “It’s going to be a progression,” said Tom Kaser, Molter’s Flooring America, North Royalton, Ohio. “It’s nice because in the past some of those things came abruptly and changed five years later.”

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Flooring America, Flooring Canada travel to Thailand

FAFCmembersthailandManchester, N.H.—Over two hundred Flooring America and Flooring Canada members, along with the group’s executive team, recently returned from a trip exploring the bustling city of Bangkok, Thailand. Every 18 to 24 months Flooring America and Flooring Canada members have the opportunity to earn an incentive trip. Past trips included Costa Rica, an Alaskan cruise, Greece and Italy.
“’Epic’ is the word I would use to describe this trip,” said Keith Spano, president of Flooring America and Flooring Canada. “It was a bucket list trip and an incredible opportunity to share this magical journey with our members and one that we will never forget. “

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CCA to host first-ever Building Buzz conference

Screen Shot 2015-09-11 at 3.43.12 PMManchester, N.H.—Key brands from CCA Global Partners including Flooring America, Flooring Canada, International Design Guild and The Floor Trader will host Building Buzz, the first-ever, independent-retailer focused social media and digital conference held Sept. 20-22 at the Tampa Marriot Waterside in Tampa, Fla.

Featuring a powerhouse lineup of leading social media and marketing executives from North America, Building Buzz will focus on helping independent retailers navigate the rapid changes in digital marketing and social media, providing attendees with actionable insights that will help them drive more business through local digital marketing initiatives.

According to Frank Chiera, senior vice president of marketing and advertising for CCA Global Partners and host of the event, “Building Buzz without question will soon be regarded as a key event that business owners, their sales professionals and designers need to attend. We developed Building Buzz with a purpose—to help independent retailers thrive and be more successful at local. It’s really that simple.”

Keynote presentations will be given by marketing and social media gurus who are paving the way in the industry on topics from, “Hug Your Haters: How to Embrace Complaints and Turn Bad News to Good,” to “Capturing the Consumer in a Constant Stream of Content” and much more.

For more information about the event and to register, visit www.buildingbuzzcon.com.

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Flooring America follows direction of diversification

Focus on new dealer opportunities, fashion meeting technology

By Jenna Lippin

From left: Howard Brodsky, co-founder, chairman and co-CEO, CCA Global Partners; Frank Chiera, vice president, marketing and advertising, Flooring America; Steve Feldman, publisher, Floor Covering News; Keith Spano, president, Flooring America; and Rick Bennet, co-CEO, CCA.
The Flooring America and CCA executive team at summer conneXtion.

Dallas—Diversification was the name of the game at the Flooring America summer conneXtion convention, held here July 13-14. With seven new members brought on over the last six months, the group realizes how important it is to continue to attract retailers and keep existing Flooring America dealers happy and enthusiastic.

Opportunities for Flooring America members now stretch beyond flooring to provide consumers with a full service remodel opportunity. Riding on the success of the kitchen and bath program that has had major momentum over the last 18 months, members now have the option to offer window treatments, cabinets, closet systems and soon a major paint supplier will be added to the mix.

“We have to diversify, capture more of Mrs. Smith’s pocketbook, so we need that one-stop design center concept,” said Keith Spano, Flooring America president. “Cabinets, paint, closet systems, etc.—everything for home. She trusts us, knows our legacy, our community involvement. We have to widen our net to stay relevant at retail for the long term.”

While some members may be resistant to taking on these other categories, it helps that numerous Flooring America dealers have already had success with the programs. “We’ve got over 100 members doing cabinets right now,” Spano said. Those getting into expanded opportunities “don’t need to make the same mistakes someone else did just starting out. They can start at the 50-yard line instead of the 20-yard line because they have knowledge from the group. We tell them if they’re not a little afraid, they are not pushing hard enough.”

But plenty of members are making that push. Patrick Flaherty, for example, owner of Flaherty’s Flooring America with two Houston-area locations, is bringing cabinets into his business after he was presented the opportunity at the show. He noted the importance of diversifying to keep up in the industry and how helpful it can be to be the customer’s one-stop shop. “I think if you don’t diversify you’re going to die. We have a great privilege of having great customers that have known us for many years so they trust us. I think if they come back for cabinets, countertops, etc., it’s more logical because they are going to someone they trust.”

While a remodel project that goes beyond flooring may require some additional effort, the benefits outweigh the added responsibility. “The ticket is bigger,” Flaherty said. “There is more management of the job, but customers won’t nitpick. With just a floor, they are doing a $3,000 kitchen project and they’re nitpicking over 5 cents a foot. With a big kitchen remodel they see the overall big picture and won’t pick on little things.”

Maxine Schneider, co-owner of Schneider’s Flooring America in Vernon, Conn., has been particularly successful with granite countertops, and in the last three months has started an expansion into closet systems. The store increased its showroom space to 5,000 square feet last year, which now includes a design center that features cabinets, countertops and other kitchen elements.

“It’s important to diversify because our customers come in and are usually looking for someone to do the whole project,” Schneider said. “They maybe don’t know we will offer paint, closets and countertops, but those are things they need. We encourage our salespeople to be alert, to sell the tile and carpet, but to also talk about other things we offer.”

After losing business to another neighborhood dealer, Schneider realized it made sense to keep additional opportunity in store. “We’ve been having a lot of people coming in and doing bathrooms and kitchens looking for granite or quartz. They are upgrading, getting rid of laminate and putting in [better products], so why not offer more? We were sending the business down the street and now we’re keeping it for ourselves. We need to keep the customer in our store; if she goes somewhere else, somebody else will sell her.”

Keeping up in digital

Flooring America continues to be a leader in digital, with some of the most advanced web and social media initiatives in the industry. Frank Chiera, senior vice president of marketing and advertising, stresses the importance of remaining ahead of the curve in technology, particularly because of the evolving shopping habits of today’s consumer and the entrance of the millennial generation into the flooring market.

“This group is so much more open to change, so much more open to different things,” he said. “When we started FAST and social media programs they were nervous. Now you don’t see a single member

Kitchen cabinets are a source of additional business for Flooring America members.
Kitchen cabinets are a source of additional business for Flooring America members.

walking around without an iPad. Time lets it happen. An overall survey showed our members are more tech savvy because of everything we’ve been pushing on them over the last four years, more open to change.”

The group will soon relaunch member websites, which will be “cutting edge” thanks to their fully responsive formats, meaning users will have the same experience on an iPhone, tablet or desktop computer. The sites are customizable for each member, whether it is brand driven or a highly promotional store. Search engine optimization (SEO) will also be enhanced to help Flooring America stores to be found organically.

“I think we are seeing an evolution right now in our industry in general,” Spano noted. “We’ve got people retiring and there is a new generation coming up. Everything we do speaks to the millennials. They expect app-based, digital programs, they get it, and I think it positions us well for growth in the future.”

Darrel Black, owner of Flooring America of Milledgeville in Milledgeville, Ga., is one member who appreciates the importance of social media, particularly because of the value it holds for today’s technologically savvy consumer. “It’s not anything new really, but it’s important and seems to be growing. [The group] mentioned one thing that really struck me, which is that people used to go shopping, but now they are constantly shopping—on the Internet, on their mobile phones, it is always there. They are constantly seeing new things and getting ideas. Social media is a monster out there, but it can be a monster for you instead of against you.”

Digital developments help illustrate Flooring America serving as the launch pad for fashion and technology coming together, with the belief that home fashion starts with the floor. “The floor is the canvas with which every room starts,” Spano noted. “When you take a floor out of a room scene and replace it with concrete, it shows its [importance]. We are in the home fashion business. That’s what we do.”

In other news…

*Flooring America is expanding its cause marketing beyond the widely successful Pets for Patriots initiative. Members can now choose which charitable organizations they to which they would like to support, whether it is time, funds or the donation of goods, through the Installing Happiness Project. The group will provide personalized marketing campaigns for each store.

*The Floor Trader franchise will be managed by Flooring America, taking it back to its roots. The group plans to make the co-op a true cash and carry outlet, on par with Flooring America’s structure. The official launch of the new stores will take place Sept. 1.

*Inhabit is the new exclusive hard surface brand for Flooring America members, designed with the goal of providing freedom to select product that’s right for each retailer’s individual market while maintaining a consistent brand message.