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Coverings opens online registration for 2018 show

Screen Shot 2017-09-29 at 4.53.20 PMArlington, Va.—Coverings, the largest international tile and stone show in North America, has opened online registration for its 2018 show, taking place in Atlanta, May 8-11. Coverings provides a stage for the most innovative tile and stone products from around the world and delivers critical information about the industry’s latest trends through the show’s annual CEU-accredited conference program—all free of charge. Attendees can now register and reserve housing.

Taking place in Atlanta for the first time in five years, the 2018 show will feature 1,100 exhibitors representing more than 40 countries and take over 450,000 square feet of exhibition space at the Georgia World Congress Center. Programming for Coverings 2018 will offer sessions for every category of tile and stone professionals featuring more than 60 CEUs for attendees. Along with networking opportunities, the 2018 show will feature the latest in products, innovations and live demonstrations.

“Coverings aims to not only highlight the inherent value of tile and stone materials—their adaptability, durability, low environmental impact and beauty—but also foster connections between industry professionals, to grow businesses and build lasting professional relationships,” said Alena Capra, Coverings industry ambassador. “We’re thrilled to make our return to Atlanta in May and to engage with the vibrant community of industry professionals that comprise this market.”

Coverings offers attendees the opportunity to register through their social channels and easily invite their network to participate in the show. Benefits of early registration include notice of key programs and access to conference information, promotions and other exclusive opportunities, as well as discounted hotel and travel through our hotel, airline and other partners.

For more information, visit coverings.com.

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NeoCon East opens registration, presents keynotes

NeoConEastPhiladelphia, Pa.—Registration is now open for NeoCon East. Held Nov. 15-16 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, NeoCon East will feature nearly 200 companies with products across vertical markets such as workplace, healthcare, education, public space, hospitality, retail and government. Programming will include more than 25 CEU accredited seminars, as well as a group of keynotes.

The keynotes slated for this year include: Alex Gilliam, founder and director, Public Workshop; David Insinga, AIA, chief architect, U.S. General Services Administration’s Public Buildings Service; Suzette Subance Ferrier, IIDA, studio design director at TPG Architecture; and Zena Howard, managing director at Perkins & Will, AIA, LEED AP.

“From varied backgrounds, the 2017 NeoCon East keynotes all share a common thread of inclusive, human-centered design for the greater good,” said Monica DeBartolo, director of programming, NeoCon East. “We are thrilled to showcase these inspirational thought leaders—four influencers over two days—at the 15th annual edition.”

Online registration is free and now available at neoconeast.com. CEU seminar registration will be available online Sept. 6.

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Marketing Online: Turning negative reviews into positive outcomes

July 31/Aug. 7: Volume 31, Issue 4

By Ken Ryan

 

Screen Shot 2017-08-07 at 11.34.03 AM

The above exchange between a would-be customer and specialty flooring retailer appeared on Yelp in June. While the complaint was relatively benign it nonetheless resulted in two dissatisfied customers walking away from a potential purchase.

The flooring retailer in question usually receives favorable reviews on Yelp, so the complaint was out of character. Still, even the best flooring dealers can receive negative online reviews no matter how great their intentions.

In this case, many social media experts say, the retailer responded appropriately.

“Nobody likes getting negative reviews,” said Taylor Cutler, demand-gen specialist for Podium, a company that specializes in social media and online marketing. “In fact, it can be hard to not get upset when a customer leaves a bad review. That being said, a small number of negative reviews adds to the authenticity of all your reviews. Consumers know that no business is going to be perfect, so they will be understanding when they see one pop up from time to time.”

The key to dealing with negative reviews, Cutler explains, is to view them as an opportunity to improve your business. “When responding to negative reviews the first thing you should do is remain calm. Lashing out at customers is never going to end well, even if you think the review is unwarranted.”

Here are a few tips from social media experts on dealing with negative reviews.

Be responsive. The age-old retort, “I am not even going to dignify that with a response,” might be a way to handle certain situations but not online complaints, experts say. It may be tempting to delete negative feedback. However, responding well to negatives can actually turn into a positive when other customers see a thoughtful and respectful response. “Typically when people come to social media with a complaint it is a result of some sort of miscommunication,” said Frank Chiera, senior vice president of marketing and advertising, Flooring America/Flooring Canada. He recommends flooring retailers reply as quickly as possible and do whatever they can to help the customer out. “Good service and a prompt response can go a long way to make that customer happy. In most cases, his members have already worked directly with the customers to resolve the issue they are experiencing, and they are a result of things outside of our store’s control—like subfloor problems or issues with independent contractors who installed our product. If you’ve done everything you can already to please the customer, we recommend you briefly recap the steps you’ve taken in your response and invite the person to get in touch directly if she would like to discuss it further.”

Screen Shot 2017-08-07 at 11.34.22 AMFlooring America’s F.A.S.T. (Flooring America Social Tools) program, for example, provides comprehensive monitoring across all social media platforms so the buying group is able to find and address these complaints quickly as they come in. The My Floor Story creates a place for reviews to live on all member microsites.

Don’t wait too long to act. Numerous surveys have found that a high proportion of customers regard online reviews as credible. While negative reviews still make up a relatively small portion of all reviews posted— according to the White House Office of Consumer Affairs, only one in 26 customers will take the time to complain publicly—when you do get a bad review you should take it very seriously.

Research the incident. If necessary, speak to your staff to get their side of the story, and communicate privately with the reviewer to find out more details. If you’ve joined a review site, you should be able to message reviewers privately. If you haven’t joined, you can post a public message asking the reviewer to contact you offline (i.e., by phone or email) to discuss her concern. If the negative comment is on a blog, Facebook page or Twitter, you may have to respond publicly and ask the writer to contact you privately. The last thing you want is a public he-said-she-said argument. You can respond to inaccurate reviews to set the record straight about facts without getting into a tit-for-tat conversation.

Learn from it. Successful business people learn from negative reviews, improve their business—if need be—and then move on.

Offer a solution. According to Podium’s Cutler, apologizing to your customers is great but what they really want is a solution. He recommends including a detailed plan of action to remediate the problem as part of your response.

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Karndean Designflooring updates Floorstyle tool

Consumer Floorstyle CaptureExport, Pa.—Karndean Designflooring has released an updated version of its Floorstyle online design tool to include additional designflooring capabilities.

Floorstyle is an interactive room viewer containing the company’s full product portfolio of wood and stone designs in a variety of room settings. The latest update to the tool allows retailers and consumers to insert design strips between both tiles and planks, and offers users the ability to blend up to four products into one floor layout. Floorstyle’s split-screen capability allows homeowners to compare different products and/or layouts side-by-side. With this tool, consumers and retailers can work together to bring their design ideas to life.

“Our components based system allows for ultimate personalization, whether it’s blending multiple designs or adding a design strip for a ship lap effect,” said Larry Browder, CEO. “With Floorstyle’s latest capabilities, retailers can digitally demonstrate the possibilities of designflooring with customers, and homeowners can experiment with designflooring from the comfort of their home in a user-friendly format.”

In addition to creating the perfect floor, homeowners may request samples, find a local retailer and save, print or share their favorite layouts with their friends, family, designer or retailer.

To access Floorstyle, visit karndean.com/floorstyle.

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Dancik sells new ERP system to Premier Tile

Screen Shot 2017-06-01 at 9.49.39 AMCary, N.C.—Dancik has sold a 35-user SaaS license for Navigator, DNav-BI, DNav-Online, and DNav-EDI to Premier Tile—a distributor of tile, stone, LVP/LVT, brick and related accessories that serves retailers throughout the Midwest.

Premier Tile has been utilizing its current ERP system since 2005, but concerns with hardware infrastructure, lack of future scalability and limited hosting options lead them to select a new business management solution.

“Premier Tile chose Dancik for its ERP solution for a number of reasons,” said Kerry Reiss, controller at Premier Tile Corp. “They are the industry leader for floor covering distribution companies, 100% cloud based and offer customer access immediately. Also, they are scalable, allowing us to not only meet the needs of today but to easily scale to the needs of tomorrow.”

DNav is a fully integrated enterprise management solution designed specifically for flooring retailers, manufacturers and distributors. Sales processing, mobile data access, inventory management, business intelligence and accounting are easy to use and fully integrated. DNav’s modern architecture and comprehensive industry-specific functionality make it the easy choice for flooring companies looking to take their business to the next level.

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Technology: Houzz programs support retailers, suppliers

May 22/29, 2017: Volume 31, Issue 25

By Lindsay Baillie

Screen Shot 2017-05-30 at 10.30.44 AMHouzz, a visual-based, online platform focused on home renovation and design, is working to provide flooring retailers a space to develop name recognition in their local markets. The goal is to help retailers reach new customers and network with other flooring/home remodeling professionals.

“Houzz is the largest platform for home remodeling and design,” said Kathleen Hegedus, industry marketing representative for Houzz. “We have more than 40 million people using this site and app every month to get inspiration, get smart about home improvement and ultimately find the right professionals for their projects. Whether that’s a small or large project, we have something for everyone.”

The company offers free and easy-to-use profiles to flooring professionals. It also provides additional local advertising programs that flooring retailers can use to drive extra exposure in their local markets and also gain new business. “We’re happy to talk with any local installer or retailer about the options that are available to them,” Hegedus said.

Houzz also has several co-op programs with manufacturers, including Armstrong, Mohawk and Shaw. In fact, Houzz acknowledges manufacturers and retailers with its “Best of Houzz” awards, which celebrate the best design, customer service and photography on the website.

Houzz strives to add value for its partners by regularly creating new features and enhancements. One example is Idea Books, which allows retailers to connect and communicate with prospective clients. “It also keeps a lot of that inspiration and communication in a single place, which can be beneficial for flooring professionals to stay organized as they share those ideas with their prospective clients,” Hegedus explained.

Looking to the future, Hegedus said Houzz is focused on making improvements by testing new features with its customer base. “We look forward to even more co-op and national partnerships down the road.”

Flooring professionals interested in opening an account can go to Houzz.com/pro to sign up.

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WFCA revamps online presence to streamline communications, expand member benefits

WFCADalton, Ga.—The World Floor Covering Association (WFCA) has unveiled its new website, which is part of the association’s overall initiative to expand benefits for members and enhance communications. Along with an extensive line-up of carefully curated content presented in an easy-to-navigate user interface, the site incorporates many of the features previously available at the association’s separate retailer- and consumer-oriented sites. The new consolidated web address is wfca.org.

The website offers a suite of tools and resources specifically tailored to meet the needs of the WFCA’s primary member base, the independent flooring retailer. It has marketing insights, growth and expansion guidance, and thoughtful advice for addressing key issues affecting the flooring industry. The site also provides answers and links retailers need to ensure they are running their companies at full capacity.

In addition, the site offers links to online learning through WFCA University, proprietary research, scholarship forms, an industry calendar, legislative updates from the WFCA’s own public affairs team in Washington, DC, staffing and consulting services, insurance options, extensive savings programs for members and other references and tools.

To facilitate and streamline access to member forms and documents, an extensive library of association materials is available through the site. Members can also access primers and handbooks, renew membership online, learn about the Floor Covering Industry Foundation as well as obtain details and access points to the Certified Floorcovering Installation Association.

The consumer component of wfca.org provides all the resources and information necessary for consumers to make informed flooring decisions. Wfca.org provides practical tips, pros and cons and other details on every flooring category available. An overview of each category provides varieties and styles available, manufacturing details, things to consider before buying and how to prepare for installation. When consumers are ready to buy floors, wfca.org offers a searchable database of WFCA retail members across the country. All users need to do is enter their zip code and they will receive a list of dedicated and knowledgeable suppliers in their area. This tool allows WFCA retailer members access to consumer leads that are generated through the WFCA website each month.

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Marketing Online: 10 tips to help you create an effective social media strategy

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

By Lindsay Baillie

 

Screen Shot 2017-03-31 at 11.31.34 AMFor many retailers, jumping into social media is similar to exploring uncharted territory. It is unfamiliar, time consuming and poses the risk of failure/getting lost. However, now more than ever, social media has become a crucial part of the consumer’s search for products and services. If you are not maintaining your presence on social media, you run the risk of being buried by your competition, experts say.

FCNews recently spoke with three social media marketing experts to gather tips on how to create a social media strategy.

Tip #1: Make it mandatory. “The first thing retailers have to realize is social media is no longer just an option—it is a necessity,” said Paul Friederichsen, marketing expert and owner of BrandBiz. Retailers have to “understand it is a part of their overall marketing strategy. It is just as important as advertising and public relations.”

Tip #2: Align your social media efforts with your business strategy. Christine Whittemore, chief simplifier, Simple Marketing Now, encourages dealers to ask themselves a few questions when developing a social media strategy. “Why are you doing this? It takes a lot of time and effort to do social media correctly—just like anything else does—and you want to make sure those resources deliver value to the business.”

Tip #3: Start with your customers. After fitting social media into your business strategy you have to decide what platforms to join. For this, Whittemore suggests talking to your customers. “Find out where they hang out online. Ask them what they do there. Where do they go to find inspiration? That can help guide content and the kind of relationship building you do.” According to Whittemore, the time you spend on digital media is similar to what you would spend networking in person, so you also want to uncover where the majority of your customers look for new products.

Screen Shot 2017-03-31 at 11.29.35 AMTip #4: Learn about each platform. According to Friederichsen, retailers should learn the best roles for each platform and what kinds of social etiquette are required for each. Bottom line: Retailers should have a pretty good understanding of what each platform does and what the environment is on those platforms before joining.

Whittemore calls this understanding the “nature of the network,” so you can show up with the right kind of content and know how to say what you want to say. “It’s not just about sales,” she explained. “It’s about providing helpful information.”

Tip #5: Be selective. After talking with customers and learning about the different platforms, take the time to be selective about which platforms you actually join. Whittemore suggests retailers stay away from joining every social media site. Instead, maintain a presence on heavily populated sites such as Facebook and where your customers hang out such as Pinterest. She also recommends regularly Googling your business to see if any listings—such as Yelp—show up. If they do, make sure to claim them.

Tip #6: Start with one and then add on. If you are worried about maintaining multiple sites, experts advise starting small and concentrating your efforts on one. “Start with one and work on it,” said Lisbeth Calandrino, FCNews columnist and retail industry consultant. “Get a lot of customers on your page so then when you have good sense of that [platform] and people are replying to you, you’re ready to go to the next one.”

After you have successfully grown one social media account, try branching off to another site; however, make sure you do not take on too much to handle. “Retailers should be on as many sites as they can do well,” Friederichsen noted. “It’s better to do a few things well than many things poorly.”

Tip #7: Engage your customer. “This is the age of the consumer, and the consumer needs to talk,” Calandrino said. “What better way to get a referral than to have your customer be online and talk about a job you’ve done? You have to figure out how to engage the customer.”

Along the same vein, Friederichsen explained it’s not the place to push out your message as you would in an advertisement. “It’s the sharing of ideas; it’s an engagement [with others]. A lot of dealers feel like that is really not selling, when in fact it is because it creates a much broader view of your store and your brand so that you can attract the kind of customers you want.”

Screen Shot 2017-03-31 at 11.29.41 AMTip #8: Create a blog. In addition to communicating with your customers, social media helps call attention to your website. While social media platforms provide ample opportunity for customers to visit your site, Calandrino recommends creating and maintaining a blog. “It’s likely that your website is stagnant. If every time I go to your website it’s exactly the same then I am less likely to return. If you have a blog and it is up to date—you decide to post every week or every day—then whoever signs up for [the blog] will see your site.” She recommends retailers build content around their personality and strengths instead of buying posts.

Tip #9: Let social media buffer your other marketing outlets. Social media is an interconnected form of marketing and can easily complement a retailer’s overall marketing campaign. Friederichsen suggest retailers use their social media accounts to share when sales are occurring, when new products come in or when any seasonal promotions are going on in the store, etc. “Like advertising and public relations, social media plays an important role. They don’t all play the same role but they complement one another.”

Calandrino agrees, adding: “A social media strategy doesn’t stand by itself. It is not an isolated strategy. Rather, you need to work it into whatever else you’re doing. If you’re doing a contest you should move it to your social media so people have to respond.”

Tip #10: Be patient. Developing and maintaining a social media strategy requires time, but probably not as much time as you think. In order to maintain a couple of social media sites, experts say retailers should spend anywhere from 30 minutes to one hour every day, as time and effort are equally important.

Friederichsen warned retailers that building followers on social media doesn’t happen overnight and followers should never be purchased. His recommendation: “Build a following over time with good content and consistent posts—with proper etiquette.”

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Marketing mastery: The power of social proof

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

By Jim Augustus Armstrong

 

Screen Shot 2017-03-06 at 10.45.16 AM“Wow,” I thought to myself. “If I ever need tax help I’m calling this guy.” I was in the waiting room of a local CPA, looking through a very plain, white binder filled with letters from his clients thanking him for getting them out of tax trouble. They raved about how he got their tax bills cut by 90% or more, in some cases; how he saved their businesses; how he gave them their lives back. This was more than 12 years ago, and the impact of those letters was such that I still remember it clearly. Since then I’ve referred a number of people to him.

That’s the power of social proof. Many times during my live speaking events I’ve polled attendees in the room and asked the dealers if walk-ins are more distrusting than they were 15 years ago. At least 90% of the hands always go up. Consumers have been lied to by the government, spied on by the NSA, had their financial world rocked by Wall Street corruption, etc. What you and I think about these things is irrelevant; it’s what consumers at large think, and they are more skeptical and distrusting than ever. The good news is dealers who get very good at providing social proof can gain a big advantage over competitors who can’t or won’t. Here’s a list of social proof strategies that will help you be a “beacon of trustworthiness” in your market.

Written testimonials. Train your salespeople to ask for testimonials after every completed installation. These serve as multi-purpose social proofs that can be used everywhere—your website, in your showroom, a binder (like the CPA), your printed advertising, social media, etc.

Photos. Train your sales team to take photos during the post-installation follow-up visit. Get photos of your client standing on her new floors. Do before and after shots.

Videos. When you get a raving fan, ask her if you can do a quick 3-minute interview about her experience. Interview questions should include: What made you choose Jimbo’s Floors? What did you like about working with us? How do you like your new floors? Would you recommend Jimbo’s Floors to a friend? Post videos on your website, Facebook page, YouTube channel or any other social media you’re using.

Online reviews. My last two columns (FCNews, Feb. 27/March 6 and Feb. 13/20) went into this topic in depth, so I won’t repeat it here except to say reviews are extremely important for dealers. Positive reviews can be repurposed in all your marketing vehicles, both online and in print.

Monitors on your closing table. Your best testimonials and photos can be edited into a video or built into a PowerPoint presentation. Have a monitor on your closing table that faces the client with the video or PowerPoint playing in a continuous loop.

Testimonial brag wall. Install a large corkboard on a wall in your showroom where every walk-in will see it. Cover it with testimonials, reviews, letters from clients and photos.

Review booklet. Hire a graphic designer to compile your best reviews, testimonials and photos into a full-color booklet. Make sure every walk-in gets a copy.

Quotes. When you’re bidding on a commercial job or putting together a quote for a residential remodel, be sure to include testimonials with the quote.

Links. Build a “review” page on your website that has testimonials, photos and videos of raving clients. Post links to this page in your email signature line, e-newsletters, quotes, Facebook, YouTube channel and any other social media platform you use.

 

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Technology: Xintory links buyers and sellers of overstock goods

February 27/March 6, 2017: Volume 31, Issue 19

By Reginald Tucker

 

Screen Shot 2017-03-06 at 10.17.20 AMOf the many challenges facing the flooring industry, dealing with excess inventory, seconds, drops and outdated samples is high on the list. This should come as no surprise given the relatively high rate of product turnover in flooring. However, one company has developed an innovative, high-tech solution to this perennial problem. Brooklandville, Md.-based Xintory (short for “inventory exchange”) earlier this month rolled out what it believes is the industry’s first online, universal, B2B marketplace designed strictly for manufacturers, distributors, dealers and installers to sell and buy overstocks, drops and specials.

Founded by Larry Feldman, a 30-year veteran of the floor covering industry who once served as president of Mid-Atlantic distributor Superior Products, the objective of the new portal—Xintory.com—is to provide a marketplace where sellers and buyers in the trade can reliably and securely get together to solve an issue that impacts virtually everyone across the supply chain.

“As products are continually restyled, dealers often pull samples of discontinued products quickly to avoid selling something that may no longer be available,” Feldman explained, adding that many lines are discontinued after just two or three years. And in some cases, dealers and distributors have old inventory stocks for even five or 10 years. That’s where Xintory can help. For sellers, the program provides exposure to buyers throughout the country and, in some cases, internationally. Xintory offers automatic linkages to the product on the manufacturer’s website or catalog sheets to help market their product to buyers, and there is no cost to seller for merely listing products; Xintory charges a modest fee only on products sold.

“We have a lot of powerful tools here to help sellers market their products,” Feldman said. For example, sellers can upload Excel spreadsheets of any number of items. Case in point: Xintory is working closely on a beta test with Conestoga Tile, which uploaded 450 line items of discontinued material.

Jim Vogel, owner of Conestoga Tile, likes what he’s seeing so far. “Rather than sending materials to auction and getting only a few dollars for it, Xintory allows you to take older inventories and sell that material at better prices.”

Vogel also likes the fact the program can be tweaked as necessary. “I am working with Larry [Feldman] on developing tools to help the retailer search for overstock tile by inputting specific criteria such as color, size or manufacturer/brand.”

Likewise, buyers benefit by being able to access specials across a variety of categories as well as tools and accessories—all typically below manufacturer costs. And as is the case with sellers, there is no cost for buyers to shop for products; Xintory charges only on products purchased. More importantly, Xintory offers a buyer protection plan to ensure the integrity of the transaction. Although buyers have to pay in advance when they place an order, Xintory holds the money until the buyer confirms they have received the products in good condition—at which time it forwards the funds to the seller. In the unlikely event there’s a dispute, the company continues to hold the money until it is settled. “We serve as kind of an objective arbiter here,” Feldman stated.

While the Xintory portal has the hallmarks of existing online auctions, Feldman stresses it’s no eBay. Since Xintory strictly sells drops and seconds, it is only open to the floor covering trade—not to consumers. “The reason why we don’t use eBay is simple: When I entered ‘carpet’ in eBay I got 532,000 entries, and most of them looked like retailers trying to sell new product to consumers. Plus, it’s just not set up on a level that’s usable on a B2B basis.”

User-friendly format
Another advantage Xintory offers is its user-friendly design. The product selection menu is organized by range of floor covering categories, including installation accessories such as tools and adhesives. Viewers can sort by manufacturer brand, product name, style, etc. Even used merchandisers and displays can be listed. There are also filters installed that allow buyers and sellers to categorize product by color or style to streamline the search/selection process. There is also a “distance” filter that allows a dealer to search for buyers in close proximity to his store to avoid costly shipping fees.

“We also have proprietary technology that helps sellers market their products,” Feldman said. “For example, if the seller tells us the style, manufacturer, color and, preferably, SKU number, we will search the Internet for a link to that specific product on the manufacturer’s website. This helps the seller communicate to the buyer exactly what it is he is selling while allowing the buyer to check the specifications for the product he is considering.”

There are also built-in options for the seller to set a price based on how many square feet or rolls of product he is willing to sell at a given threshold if, given the worst-case scenario, he is not able to sell the entire inventory of a specific listed product. “This partial quantity price may represent, say, a 20% upcharge over the entire quantity,” Feldman said. “There is also a feature known as ‘automatic price reduction,’ which will take the base price the seller lists down to the lowest floor price in several increments automatically. This gives the seller as much of an opportunity as he can while allowing him to get rid of the inventory as quickly as possible. Sellers can also check off a box that allows the buyer to make counter offers.”

With respect to freight, the buyer will have to pay the charges in most cases, because when the seller lists something he has no idea where the buyer is going to be, Feldman explained. But there’s also an option for the seller to pay in cases where the buyer is close.

While the Xintory launch is only in the initial stages, Feldman believes it’s the wave of the future. “This is inevitable, in my opinion. The B2B overstock marketplace is potentially larger than the consumer overstock marketplace. I have talked to various distributors around the country, and every single person told me they want to use this site to do business.”

Kyle Hunt, product manager for Houston-based T&L Distributing, a top 20 wholesaler, is one of them. “Based on the feedback we’ve received so far, we’re going to be using Xintory a lot more as we go along. It’s a viable options for us.”