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Abbey Carpet & Floor: Merchandising, digital initiatives mark group’s 60th

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

By Lindsay Baillie

 

Long Beach, Calif.—Abbey Carpet & Floor celebrated its diamond anniversary here last month, marking the occasion with new partnerships and programs designed to elevate members’ games to the next level.

Coming off what members and executives called a good year in 2017, excitement was high at convention as members learned about the new vendor partners, private label programs and plethora of new digital services available to them in 2018. “We have gotten far away from the slump we had back in 2009 and 2010,” Phil Gutierrez, chairman and CEO, told members during general session. “I hope this year business can be really good and not just good.”

The group aims to support members in this venture with its new merchandising and digital initiatives, which include the addition of Engineered Floors and Phenix Flooring to its list of approved vendors. “Both Engineered Floors and Phenix have their own respective strengths,” said Dave Hardy, executive vice president, merchandising and member services, Abbey Carpet & Floor. “Phenix is a large customer of Stainmaster and we want to expand our Stainmaster assortment. They’re a perfect target to be able to do that. Engineered Floors has a strong presence in the property management/home builder segment. They represent an opportunity for us as well. Between the two manufacturers, they dovetail right into the products we are offering from other carpet suppliers.”

In the exhibit hall both Phenix Flooring and Engineered Floors reported strong booth traffic. The convention gave both manufacturers the opportunity to meet with current and new customers.

“Over the past years we’ve had the opportunity to sell to some of their membership outside the program,” said Mark Clayton, president and CEO, Phenix Flooring. “Now as an approved vendor the opportunity escalates. Our close rate has been very strong. With the exit of some of the other carpet mills I think it made sense for us to work together. We’ve been very pleased with the response so far.”

Both Phenix Flooring and Engineered Floors are also contributing to the pot of private-label products available to members. Phenix is offering specific Stainmaster Pet Protect products, while Engineered Floors has three collections of products under the Abbey Carpet name.

According to Gary Hollowell, vice president of sales, Engineered Floors and Dreamweaver, the manufacturer brings the benefits of styling from solution-dyed carpet to the buying group. “We were surprised at how many members weren’t buying from us till they stopped by our booth. We think we’ve filled a bunch of voids they have in product. They really don’t have a big footprint in residential products in solution-dyed, and I think we answered a need in that area.”

Along with Engineered Floors and Phenix, the group also welcomed Healthier Choice, Heartland, JJ Haines, LW Flooring, Morgan Stanley, Soho Studio and Teka as new partners.

The expansion of Abbey’s lineup did not go unnoticed. Jason O’Krent, flooring consultant, O’Krent Floors, San Antonio, was excited with the offerings from current and new vendors. “There’s a lot more newer collections than we usually see.”

For Tempest Hoover, showroom manager, Gillespie’s Abbey Carpet & Floor, Fairfield, Calif., Mohawk’s RevWood struck a chord. “It was really neat to see,” she said. “It’s interesting to see how all the manufacturers display their waterproof products because we don’t have those [displays] in our store.”

Digital leaps and bounds
In 2017 Abbey Carpet & Floor unveiled a new website at convention. This year the group is supporting its members’ websites with various digital services developed to increase success in the digital space. Some of the new initiatives shown at convention include: digital display ads, remarketing (meant to help to reconnect with consumers); social media engagement (to create the full customer experience); customer reviews (with the help of vendors such as Podium); and Abbey’s partnership with Google.

Bill Wilson, vice president of marketing services, Abbey Carpet & Floor, explained the strategy behind the various digital marketing initiatives. “We are taking the original concepts from our pay-per-click program, which we’ve been running for 40 years, and looking at the expansion into other digital services. There are bundle services available out there, so we’ve expanded into digital display advertising, remarketing and social media engagement. We’re helping the members reach more of their targeted audience.”

Wilson added while digital and social media might not be the be-all and end-all of marketing and advertising, it gives dealers an opportunity to build their reputation. By providing these various digital services, the group hopes to help members engage with consumers online.

Even though Abbey introduced the new website only a year ago, it is already undergoing updates. “We have to stay current,” Wilson stated. “The website really paved the way to open up our extended marketing. Anything you do digitally that brings users to a website requires a well-put-together site.”

Growing with Google
Abbey’s new digital initiatives are all bolstered by its partnership with Google. The group has been partners with Google for about four years and the search engine’s involvement has increased year over year. “Google offers guidance to us—everything from building our own websites for our members to the digital marketing programs we have in place,” Wilson explained. “They play a key role from industry statistics to best practices and how to set things up digitally. It has really helped bring our services up to a top-notch level. Plus, it’s nice having a Google partner we can turn to. They’re really interested in bettering our programs.”

Google’s involvement in the Abbey’s digital services has sparked the interest of many members. As a Premier partner with Abbey, Google works with corporate’s pay-per-click services in hopes of driving more consumers to member websites.

“We used pay per click through Google, but we were also talking about using the other remarketing and display ads with Google,” O’Krent said. “The company is going to do a much better job of targeting the people we need to get. With the way they’re managing our ad words and pay per click we’re seeing results.”

Gillespie’s Abbey Carpet & Floor currently partners with Abbey to create PDFs and flyers. However, the store is looking to do more digitally with the buying group, Hoover explained.

“We understand the value of having somebody like Abbey who knows the industry doing these services for us. The presentation that Google did was also really interesting.”

Levi Wolfe, store manager, Abbey Carpet & Floor of Livermore, Calif., also plans on incorporating more of Abbey’s digital services. Abbey currently maintains the store’s website and has assisted Wolfe in uploading a video he created to promote the store. “The Abbey program is tailored just for us and they know the branding and the products we carry so it’s great to be involved with them digitally.”

Programs galore
Abbey also provides members with additional value-added services beyond online/electronic programs. This includes professional marketing services designed to connect members with their target audience. More importantly, the group makes sure that connection happens at the right time and in the right place. What’s more, Abbey provides marketing solutions for all members regardless of their business strategy.

“Whether they advertise with the most cutting-edge technology or rely on traditional forms of advertising mediums, we have marketing support to capture the attention of the consumer and drive leads into the showroom,” Wilson said.

Then there are the various financial services the group offers members. Historically, Abbey has always been a leader in providing members with consumer financing programs that are not only competitively priced but ones that are also flexible enough to meet their customers’ needs. For instance, Abbey provides shoppers with additional buying power so they can purchase floor coverings while helping them preserve their cash savings and reserve their bank credit lines.

“For years, financing programs have been used by big-ticket home improvement retailers to drive traffic and improve close rates,” said Ted Dlugokienski, CFO. “Abbey recognizes there is no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to financing programs, with consumers looking for both short-term bridges and long-term cash flow management options.”

Through its Credit Connect and Home Solutions credit programs, Abbey provides members with an array of options that are competitively priced and available as needed to meet the requirements of virtually every customer. “With both revolving programs and closed-end financing options available, our members have the tools necessary to increase their average ticket and improve their bottom line by selling more and/or selling a better product mix,” Dlugokienski said.

Beyond that, Abbey offers its members credit card processing relationships that are not only priced below market, but they also aim to eliminate the confusion associated with all the fees and interchange rates charged by the major credit card companies.

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