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National Floorcovering Alliance: Opportunities lie in diversification beyond flooring

April 30/May 7, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 23

By Steven Feldman

Cancun, Mexico—As the National Floorcovering Alliance (NFA) embarked on its spring meeting here last month, Dave Snedeker, president of the group and division merchandise manager, Nebraska Furniture Mart (NFM), set forth one mission: get a feel from each member as to how the NFA board can add value to the membership. At the end of the day, the answer was, in a word, diversification.

As successful as NFA members may be—after all, they comprise some of the biggest and best independent flooring retailers in the country—many have not ventured beyond their core business into products like window treatments, countertops and cabinets. “Some members are looking at [diversification],” Snedeker said. “Some are just starting in it. Some aren’t doing it at all. So we’re just trying to make the connections easier so they can decide if that’s the route they want to take.”

NFA will facilitate this by bringing these types of companies to their meetings and opening up the communication lines. “I can’t think of a better way given the format of our meetings than to bring in somebody like a countertop, cabinet or window coverings supplier,” said Deb DeGraaf, co-owner, DeGraaf Interiors, Grand Rapids, Mich. “We’re amongst a group of people we trust and value their input.”

DeGraaf sells window treatments and countertops. “We’ve grown our window treatment business quite a bit, but I would like to do more with it.”

Macco’s Floor Covering Center in Green Bay, Wis., sells neither cabinets, countertops nor window treatments, so there is plenty of opportunity to grow in these non-flooring categories. “There are a lot of sand boxes we’re not playing in right now that we need to explore,” said Jim Walters, president.

Likewise, diversification into non-flooring products is uncharted waters for Flooring 101 in Ventura County, Calif. “Like many in the group, we’re definitely looking at those avenues where we don’t participate now,” said Ian Newton, president. “The beauty of the group is sharing ideas. There are a lot of people out there making those first mistakes along the road that we can learn from. They can tell us what worked, what didn’t work and how to get there. It’s really an educational process for us all. With more hard surfaces being sold, we’re getting less frequency of that return customer. So we have to diversify the products we offer.”

Ambassador Floor Co. in St. Louis is another NFA member that currently sells only flooring. “In the past we’ve done other things; the recession knocked some of them down,” said Kelly Taylor, president. “But it’s time to take another look at it. As you talk to the rest of the group, I was surprised at the success some are having with window treatments.”

Nebraska Furniture Mart is, of course, involved in all categories as the retailer sells everything from furnishings to electronics. “We’re just on the cutting edge of the cabinet business, but we’ve done countertops for several years now,” Snedeker explained. “It’s a very big category for us.”

Paint is one relatively new category that might be of interest to NFA members. “We’ve talked about paint in the past,” Snedeker noted. “We have one member who’s very good at it. That’s the winning part of this group; if somebody is already doing it and doing it well, you can visit his store and see whether or not you can do it.”

Metroflor joins vendor ranks

With the demise of companies like Beaulieu and Royalty, the meeting marked the debut of Metroflor as a core vendor. “Metroflor does a decent business with a lot of our members,” Snedeker said. “They have a pretty solid line. They do good business in multifamily, and that’s where a lot of the business is going right now.”

Metroflor also has the ability to service everyone in the group. “That’s one thing we have to look at; people have to be able to cross the border into Canada and also be able to service the [entire] U.S. market,” Snedeker explained.

Metroflor had previously been a specialty vendor for a number of years, exhibiting at the afternoon showcase on Surfaces eve. “It’s almost like a vetting process,” DeGraaf said. “How did they perform and rate as a specialty vendor? If many of us believe a company is disorganized, they are not going to move up to the next level.”

Speaking of the Specialty Vendor Showcase, Cali Bamboo and Xintory were two companies that scored well with members. Cali Bamboo manufactures green building materials made primarily of bamboo and offered something unique to the group. Company president Doug Jackson has a good relationship with the group from his Tuftex days, Newton said.

Xintory is billed as the flooring industry’s first online marketplace to buy and sell drops, seconds and overstocked inventory. “I can see the concept being very valuable whether you want to get rid of something or find something,” DeGraaf said.

Installation issues

The one challenge NFA members continue to face is the same for all flooring retailers across the board: installation. The one variable is how NFA members attack the issue.

Nebraska Furniture Mart, for example, collaborated with the local community college for a training course. “We just graduated our first class; there were six who took the class and four of them are going to start with us,” Snedeker said. The class is taught by Nebraska Furniture Mart’s installation manager along with some installation experts employed by the retailer.

Flooring 101 is finding installation to be more of a challenge on the soft surface side, especially with the more intricate patterns. “We have a lot of good crews for hard surface,” Newton said. “You have to pay a lot more money. The challenge on the soft surface side is the jobs are smaller. You’re looking at 50-, 70-, 80-yard jobs now because carpet has gone to the bedrooms and the rest of the house is hard surface. A crew can’t make a living on 70 yards, so they end up doing two jobs in a day. The challenge now is servicing the customer between scheduling. So, we see a lot of challenges both on getting it installed correctly and making enough money for them.”



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Greenleaf talks Royalty intros and initiatives

Moves in 2014 shed positive light on year to come

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

By Jana Pollack

Screen Shot 2015-01-19 at 3.45.03 PMIt’s been 18 months since Andrea Greenleaf became president of Royalty Carpet Mills, and much has changed at the mill, and that goes way beyond a complete remodeling of the company’s Irvine, Calif., headquarters. Changes include the acquisition of new equipment, the launch of more than 50 new styles and the development of new, valuable relationships.

“2014 has been exciting at Royalty,” Greenleaf said. “With new branding, a new display and a group of great product introductions, the company hit the ground running. Although all of those initiatives were challenging and took a while to put in place, the company is now seeing the investments pay off in the form of improved sales, and we believe the toughest parts of the transition are behind us. Going forward our main focus will be on making sure our dealers are familiar with everything that was introduced.”

In addition, Royalty recently introduced a new merchandising system called Genesis. Greenleaf described the Genesis display as a high quality, high performance fixture that incorporates a video screen. “The concept, signage and flexibility of the screen, as well as the photographs, are new to our industry.” She reported a positive reception to Genesis with more than 1,000 displays placed across the U.S. and Canada. “As fashion forward as our display fixture is, I believe the many new style introductions have made it an effective sales tool.”

Royalty also purchased three new state-of-the-art machines this past year, which have been fully utilized in production. “Our design team has developed, and continues to develop, styling that takes full advantage of everything these machines have to offer,” she noted.

The introductions that Greenleaf referred to are vast: More than 50 new styles have been launched over the last year. However, she continues to look to the future, adding that Royalty’s introductions at Surfaces will be both mainstream and uniquely styled. Pet Protect, a carpet with built-in stain resistance that provides a breathable moisture barrier while using proprietary technologies and chemistries to reduce the force of attraction between pet hair and the carpet, will be an additional launch at the show.

Another significant change that occurred during 2014 for Royalty was a decision to part ways with Home Depot. When asked about the choice to walk away from the retailer, Greenleaf stressed that it was an amicable split. “There are times when two companies do not meet one another’s current goals, but that is always changing.” She went on to say that while Royalty has not yet ceased doing business with Home Depot, it is not currently implementing any new combined programs.

The family of brands

Royalty currently markets three brands: Royalty, Camelot and Moda. According to Greenleaf, Royalty is the “mother ship. It’s the brand that can meet our customers’ needs, from multi-family to sophisticated patterns. In addition, Royalty has a history of offering up-to-date styling, unequaled quality and superior service that our dealers can count on.”

Camelot, which was acquired in 1999, serves as the upper-end line. The brand primarily features Stainmaster fiber, aesthetically appealing patterns, higher-end cut piles and a family of multi-tone loop patterns. Mademoiselle was recently introduced to the line, which incorporates various yarn sizes, and luster and dye levels into a high-end TruSoft style. This offers a pallet of 36 colors, including many jewel tones.

While Camelot and Royalty have operated in conjunction for 15 years, Moda was acquired this past October. Greenleaf said she did not anticipate the purchase, but it seemed like the perfect opportunity when it arose. “The Kazarians, who owned Moda, have always been close with my family. As it happens, there was a change in ownership with Moda’s manufacturing partner, and the Kazarians and I happened to have lunch around that time. We pretty much decided that selling Moda to Royalty was in the best interest of everyone involved.”

She went on to praise Moda, saying it has been a leader in carpet styling since its inception. She also spoke highly of its people. “While the Moda brand does bring growing sales and a beautiful product line, I also consider its people to be its greatest strength.”

Greenleaf added that she intends to remain invested in all three brands. “My plan includes further definition and growth for each brand within the marketplace.”

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Fiber update: Nylon remains the major player

Volume 27/Number 24; March 31/April 7, 2014

By Louis Iannaco

Screen Shot 2014-04-22 at 11.03.03 AMThe last few years have seen words like PET, polyester and triexta dominating the fiber headlines. But that does not mean nylon is any less relevant. In fact, as the economy continues to improve, more manufacturers are stepping up their nylon introductions.

The consensus among carpet mill executives is that nylon’s most dominant value proposition continues to be its durability. And with the trend toward soft carpet showing no signs of slowing down, nylon’s attributes offer a strong selling story. Continue reading Fiber update: Nylon remains the major player

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What happens in Vegas shouldn’t stay in Vegas

by Celia Payne

Las Vegas—Surfaces 2012 presented the opportunity to shine—even brighter than the Vegas strip. The successful protagonists at the show know you must set yourself apart among a sea of introductions. Continue reading What happens in Vegas shouldn’t stay in Vegas