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Havwoods International takes Manhattan

Grand opening of New York-based designer showroom welcomes A&D community

 

By Reginald Tucker

IMAG1226New York—UK-based Havwoods International, a supplier of custom-crafted, mid- to upper-end hardwood flooring, officially opened its first showroom here in the trendy Flatiron section of New York City. The move follows its previously announced plans to expand the brand to the U.S. market.

The new, 3,000-square-foot-plus showroom—located at 155W 18th Street—enables specifiers to browse through the space freely, even if they don’t have an appointment. The design, which boasts accent lighting in a streamlined, uncluttered space, is in keeping with the layout of Havwoods’ showrooms in Europe and other parts of the world in which it maintains a presence.

“With this showroom we are trying to take the pain out of selecting a hardwood floor,” said Anthony Scott, head of business development, Havwoods International. “The space is easy to navigate, highlights our signature products and allows customers to roam the space and view samples. They can pull the boards out of the drawers or select samples from the designated areas.”

At every turn, visitors to the showroom have the opportunity to sample signature Havwoods collections. For example, boards from the upper-end Hand Grade line (approximately Screen Shot 2017-09-22 at 12.12.38 PM$25 per square foot) are installed on the floor throughout the space, while medium-sized sample boards from the Henley, PurePlank and Relik lines, to name a few, can be lifted from strategically placed, waist-high sample stands. Along the perimeter of the space, visitors may also select from smaller swatches.

Other eye-catching amenities include large-screen video monitors featuring “loops” of some of the company’s marquee installations from around the globe. “The videos showcase installations we have done around the world, including here in the U.S.,” said Allan Singh, Havwoods general manager, North America. “This gives designers various ideas while showcasing our extensive product portfolio and our brand.”

The showroom also features a quiet space where Havwoods representatives can meet privately with potential clients to hash out additional details of a particular job. The consultation room is also equipped with video conferencing capabilities to allow more people to participate in project discussions remotely.

Expansion on the horizon
As Havwoods expands its footprint here in the U.S., the company is working to ensure it maintains adequate inventory to meet any anticipated needs. To that end, it is looking to establish additional warehousing space beyond what it already operates in Maryland.

“We service the U.S. market primarily through our distribution center in Belcamp, but we are outgrowing that facility,” Scott said. “Havwoods has an advantage in that we hold real estate interests around the world, and we have plans in place to boost our warehousing operations. This might entail locations on the East Coast or even on the West Coast to service our clients in that part of the country.”

(For more on this story, look for the upcoming edition of GO magazine, our sister publication.)

 

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Dear David: First impressions of your showroom count

August 14/21: Volume 32, Issue 5

By David Romano

Dear David:
Screen Shot 2017-03-06 at 10.37.51 AMI have tried just about everything to get my sales associates to better organize the floor but nothing seems to work. I know we need to look better, but there is only so much I can do myself and I cannot afford to hire a cleaning company to come each night to clean and organize the showroom. Any thoughts?

Dear Fed Up Owner,
I am sorry to hear that your sales staff is giving you such fits when it comes to cleaning and organizing the showroom floor. The first thing I suggest you do is make them aware that keeping the showroom in good working order is their job. Many times they push back and say they are paid to sell and not clean; I push back and say if they are not clean they wouldn’t sell anything. Here are common situations to avoid when organizing your showrooms.

  • Dirty bathrooms. Restrooms should always be sparkling clean, whether they are open for public use or not. Make sure to stock the bathrooms with plenty of paper products, soap, trash receptacles and clean it daily
  • Bad quality of the floors. If you sell flooring and your floors are dirty, worn, scratched, missing transitions or outdated, how in the world do you expect people to want to buy from you?
  • Loud music. Playing music in a retail store can help create a certain atmosphere for your shoppers. However, music that is too loud, inappropriate or of poor quality can ruin a positive shopping experience
  • Handwritten signs. In this era of technology, there is no excuse for displaying handwritten signage and price tags. Printed versions simply look more professional, and hard-to-read handwriting can be a customer turn-off.
  • Stained ceiling tiles. Ugly ceiling tiles can turn off many shoppers. Who wants to buy products for their home from a company that cannot even clean their ceiling?
  • Poor lighting. Replace any burned out light bulbs as soon as possible. Make sure all customer areas of the store have ample lighting and take into consideration shoppers with aging or less than perfect eyesight.
  • Offensive odors. Shoppers don’t want to smell an employee’s lunch drifting across the store or musty carpet that should have been replaced 10 years ago. Use neutralizers to combat any offensive odors or remove the source of the aroma altogether.
  • Crowded aisles. Consumers like a wide selection, but not if it means sacrificing comfort while shopping. Be sure your store is designed to allow adequate space between aisles and keep walkways free of merchandise.
  • Poorly maintained parking lot or exterior. Overgrown bushes and grass, old signage, litter or a poorly maintained façade is sure to send folks back to their cars before entering the store. Send out the warehouse guy every morning to take care of the exterior and hire professionals to maintain the building appearance.

To avoid the above scenarios, I recommend you create a “zoned” maintenance plan where you split the showroom up into regions and assign certain duties to your sales and reception staff. Each morning assign a zone to at least one member of the team outlining the areas to be maintained and provide a checklist to ensure everything is in good condition and well organized. More importantly, be sure to be consistent in the execution. At first it might seem like a lot of work but over time it will be very easy for employees to maintain. Remember, you pay them to clean up after themselves.

 

David Romano is the founder of Romano Consulting Group and Benchmarkinc, a group that provides consulting, benchmarking,
recruiting and software solutions to the flooring, home improvement and restoration industries.

 

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Dealers get creative in their positioning

FCNews Ultimate Guide to WPC: July 17/24, 2017

By Ken Ryan

 

Screen Shot 2017-07-31 at 9.44.50 AMFlooring retailers often talk about the persuasive effect a good story has on selling a product. With WPC/rigid core, they not only have a good story to tell, they have a means to demonstrate its waterproof properties.

As the product category evolves, the way flooring dealers treat these products in their stores will change accordingly. Most certainly they will add more space. That is already occurring at Independent Carpet One Floor & Home in Westland, Mich., which has transformed its showroom into a large selection of WPC and rigid core products.

“We’ve installed a number of products on our floor to present the many different directions a client can present in her home,” said Cathy Buchanan, owner. “Customers need to see, feel and hear the many different applications. It is a selling feature for sure.”

Most consumers who walk into a retail showroom these days know very little about WPC or rigid core. But that hardly matters, according to Nick Freadreacea, president of The Flooring Gallery in Louisville, Ky., who said most customers come in looking for hardwood anyway. It is during the ensuing conversation that customers are eventually brought to the LVT/WPC/rigid core area where they can witness the waterproof properties that have made these products so popular.

Still, it’s not as though WPC/rigid core sells itself. To be successful, retailers need to articulate the differences, and that is not always easy. “What is getting a little confusing is how to separate the WPC category and rigid core category,” said Sean O’Rourke, vice president of hard surfaces at Avalon Flooring, Cherry Hill, N.J. “Manufacturers are keen to distinguish between the two categories, touting advantages of one over the other but it may not be as easy on the showroom floor.”

How to position
Marjorie Benson, owner of Friendly Floors in Port Charlotte, Fla., positions WPC as the waterproof alternative to laminate. “The waterproof factor is the key,” she said. “Since the majority of our customers are middle-aged or older, [they] are concerned about water from their swimming pools, washing machines, dishwashers, pets, and increasingly from aging in place, making spills is another factor in their floor buying decisions. Physically, it’s positioned next to the laminate in the showroom.”

Montgomery’s CarpetsPlus in Venice, Fla., has installed several 8 x 8 sections in its laminate and LVP sections to showcase WPC/rigid core in a better light. “We actually have it installed next to higher-end laminate sections as well to show the consumer how far LVP has come as far as look/durability,” said Mike Montgomery, co-owner.

Flooring America OKC in Oklahoma City, meanwhile, displays its WPC/rigid core brands with its hardwood collections. “Doing so expands the size and scope of our hardwood department and allows the client to introduce herself to WPC without being referred to as vinyl,” said Bobby Merideth, president and director of business development. “It also exemplifies the realism of the WPC products when placed next to hardwood.”

Many dealers have created separate sections for their WPC products so customers can see how great they look on the floor. Steve Lipp, owner/manager of Carpet One Fort Wayne in Indiana, said there’s no better way to present the product than to have it installed on the showroom floor. “We have it in front of two wing displays. When we take customers to that section and explain the nuts and bolts of [COREtec] the unmatched colors and styling takes over and the product then sells itself.”

R.C. Willey Home Furnishings, with 13 locations in four Western states, relies on the manufacturers’ merchandising displays. As Eric Mondragon, hard surface buyer, explained, “For me this alone sets it apart from other hard surface products on my showroom floor. [For example,] my laminate and wood programs are all displayed in a universal generic type stacker display centered in pods in the middle of the showroom; the WPC products are wall units that surround the laminate and wood stackers.”

Clearly, there is no one way—or right way—to display these products. Whether installed on the floor, displayed in a wall unit, dropped into a fish tank, or placed in a wing tip rack or elsewhere, the key is to display it prominently in the store.

One issue flooring dealers are facing these days is how many collections to carry. Just as there is no concrete way to merchandise the category, there is no right or wrong answer to how many selections are enough. “I believe it’s not how many you carry but who you carry,” Mondragon said.

 

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Al's Column: Tips on designing a better tile showroom

April 10/17, 2017: Volume 31, Issue 22

By Emily Holle

 

Screen Shot 2016-07-15 at 3.49.34 PMFrom big box stores and expo centers to small town boutiques, I’ve spent the last 15 years planning and designing showrooms across the country. Along the way, I’ve curated tips for designing thriving showrooms, fine-tuning a handful of best practices in my role as director of trend and design for MS International.

A thoughtfully designed showroom does more than increase sales. At its best, it sets the stage for problem solving, supports the decision-making process and shines a light on the things your customers value most. Creating inspirational touch points where all of these factors come into play takes a bit of planning. If you missed my recent talk at Coverings, here are the top five tips to creating a successful showroom.

Evaluate your marketplace strategy. A design won’t resonate if it doesn’t reveal who you are as a brand. As you plan your dream showroom, keep your answers to these questions in mind.

  • What is your strength in the marketplace?
  • What brings people through your door? (Are you best known for low prices or high design?)
  • What separates you from the competition?
  • Are you nimble enough to keep up with market trends?

Conceptualize showroom layout, employ visual merchandising. Study your floor plan to determine how your customers will flow through your showroom. Beginning with an inviting entryway, block out shopping grids—considering zones for soft and hard surfaces, stock items, a design service desk, meeting rooms, etc. In addition to positioning high-margin products for best impact, a strategic layout will allow you to analyze sales by product display and zone.

A well-ordered selection—one that has been carefully curated and decluttered—helps guide customers through the shopping experience with ease. Whether you present your products by color or material, create a plan for organizing products in each grid.

Utilize impact lighting. The best showrooms strike a balance between functional and decorative lighting. To achieve what you need from a practical standpoint while setting an inspirational tone with decorative lighting, I recommend working with a lighting expert. Together you can discuss a variety of considerations such as illuminating products, accessing the natural light throughout the day, creating drama around trending collections, perfecting bulb color combinations, etc.

Create a color story. Never underestimate the power of color in showroom design. Remember, color creates ambiance; it influences how customers feel in a space. It can enhance or play down material. Ask yourself the following questions: Will brand colors play a role in your palette? Have you identified where color can make the most impact in your floor plan? These are the type of questions that bring clarity to your color story.

I prefer working with a neutral palette. Products remain the hero, and lighter shades create the illusion of more space. It also leaves room for using color creatively – whether it’s painting a dramatic shade on an accent wall or choosing a saturated hue on a furniture grouping.

Sell the dream. As the face of your brand, your showroom plays a critical role in shaping your customer’s idea of what’s possible in her own space. Between lifestyle vignettes, mood boards, room scene photography and head-turning product displays, there are dozens of ways to create an immersive and inspirational experience for your customers. I have found modular spaces that are minimally disruptive to flow make the best vignettes. I often use them to help share a product story, introduce a design idea and to add real-life context to headline-making trends.

 

Screen Shot 2017-04-27 at 11.17.48 AMEmily Holle is director of trend and design for MS International. An expert tile designer and astute trend spotter, she possesses experience in design, color and trends forecasting, brand development, visual merchandising and product development.

 

 

 

 

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MSI updates, expands Bay Area showroom, distribution capabilities

IMG_0049Hayward, Calif. —M S International (MSI) has updated and doubled the size its Bay Area showroom and distribution center. Today, the company boasts more than 500 surfacing products displayed and inventoried throughout 5,600 square feet of showroom space and approximately 160,000 square feet of total warehousing space.

Underscoring MSI’s commitment to customer service, the redesigned showroom includes new seating areas and work tables, as well as hosting space for seminars and various industry events. A spacious conference room provides a comfortable space for designers, fabricators and staff to meet with customers.

IMG_0038In addition to the showroom, the warehouse received substantial upgrades. “We doubled the warehouse size, thereby significantly increasing our overall stocking capacity for all of our product lines including flooring, countertops and hardscaping,” Raj Shah, president of MSI, explained. “In addition, we installed four more cranes—bringing the total number to eight—to improve operational functionality and fill orders more efficiently.”

An open house is scheduled for March 16. The public is encouraged to stop by and learn about all the new products MSI has to offer. For an immediate introduction to the updated facility, they’re invited to take a Google Tour. These advanced, 360-degree interactive virtual tours make it possible for consumers to browse the tile showroom, slab warehouse, Q Premium Natural Quartz Slab Gallery, and more—right from the comfort of their homes.

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WFCA presents winners of 2017 Gold Standard Awards

WFCADalton—World Floor Covering Association (WFCA) announced the annual winners of its Gold Standard Award which recognizes stores that have created an outstanding consumer retail experience. In the category including retailers with sales over $10-million, Sergenian’s Floor Covering based in Madison, Wis. took home the honors. In the under $10-million category, Classique Floors & Tile based in Portland, Ore. was recognized.

Sergenian’s Floor Covering received a choice of one of the following: two-day on-site custom CFI carpet seaming class; two-day on-site custom sales training; or one-year online WFCA University tuition. Classique Floors & Tile received the same options as above but only a single day of classes.

Each award category also recognized 2nd and 3rd place recipients. Second place winners in both categories received six-months online WFCA University tuition while the 3rd place winners in both categories were honored with three-months tuition to WFCA University online. Additional winners included:

Over $10-million:

  • 2nd place – Coles Fine Flooring (San Diego, Calf.)
  • 3rd place – Carpetland USA (Davenport, Iowa)

Under $10-million:

  • 2nd place – Independent Carpet One (Westland, Mich.)
  • 3rd place – Brian’s Flooring & Design (Birmingham, Ala.)

To receive the Gold Standard Award in either category, companies are reviewed and judged based on knowledge, customer service, quality of store image and code of conduct. A company also must be a member of the WFCA, have been in business for at least three years and have a clear Better Business Bureau report.

Companies interested in entering or nominating an entrant for the 2018 Gold Standard Awards can visit wfca-pro.org for more details.

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Karndean Designflooring gets a makeover

Newly revamped showroom and warehouse facility support customer, end-user needs.

October10/17, 2016: Volume 31, Number 9
By Lindsay Baillie

screen-shot-2016-10-03-at-5-14-08-pmExport, Pa.—Karndean Designflooring recently invited scores of its retailer, distributor and A&D customers to celebrate the official grand opening of its expanded headquarters and warehouse space here. The special event entailed a tour of the facilities along with installation demonstrations and new product previews.

According to Larry Browder, CEO, the new showroom and expanded warehouse facilities are central to Karndean’s strategy to support the needs of its growing U.S. customer base. “It’s allowing us to really solidify our commitment to the U.S. market, to carrying the type of inventory that we do and be able to service the market within [24 to 48 hours.] It solidifies even further our commitment to our employees here in the Pennsylvania area and as a key partner within the community.”

One of the most dramatic improvements is the increase in storage space. With the renovation, Karndean has tripled its warehouse space to 60,000 square feet. While the company has traditionally inventoried sufficient quantities of product, the additional space allows the company to stock even more volume. “We are absolutely adamant about putting stock on the shelves to make sure our customers never have to worry about getting product,” said Emil Mellow, vice president of marketing.

The benefits of the improvements don’t end there. The expansion has created new job opportunities within the company. Nearly 90 people now work at the Export, Pa., office, while Karndean employs nearly 200 workers nationwide. “We have more than doubled the size of our sales team in the past five years,” Browder said. In addition, the expansion and subsequent investment has given Karndean the capability to move production of sample boards and custom cutting from the U.K. to its U.S. headquarters. More importantly, the change brings everyone under one roof, which Browder said has been great for morale.

Karndean’s customers appreciate the company’s efforts. Bill Greene, owner of Affordable Interiors in Indiana, Pa., already features Karndean’s full display system in his store. But he also utilizes Karndean’s showroom when necessary. “We’re within an hour of the showroom and it allows our designers to come in and actually bring clients down here,” he explained.

Beyond the obvious aesthetic and functional improvements to the new showroom and warehouse space, Greene applauds Karndean’s new custom design platform: Kaleidoscope. The program includes six different modular shapes—apex, cubix, hexa, pennon, pyramid and tripoint—that allow customers to create custom chevron designs that are engineered to work together. “I’m really excited about Kaleidoscope because it’s something we can use to create different looks for our clients in commercial and residential.”

User-friendly design

screen-shot-2016-10-03-at-5-14-27-pmThe newly expanded showroom—which features a sample wall, design reference books and tables—gives consumers, retailers, architects and designers the tools and the space to help them bring their concepts to life. Here, customers can look up different designs and patterns and pair them with the many samples provided.

The showroom also features an area that displays the different ways the full array of Karndean products can be displayed within a retail environment. This section also highlights what Karndean calls a ‘Gold dealer’ or ‘Gold package,’ which includes three displays of products from the company’s entry-level 12 mil products all the way up to its 30 mil offerings. It also includes merchandisers that contain the company’s new LooseLay Longboard, which comes in 12 new designs measuring 59 inches long.

The displays include visuals ranging from basic to more advanced designs. Depending on what the customer wants, she can choose a basic straight lay, a diagonal lay or a combination of straight or diagonal with design strips and/or a decorative border. According to Karndean, the displays serve as a silent salesperson of sorts when the customer is browsing.

Positioned across from the Gold package offerings is Karndean’s Platinum dealer display, a traditional wing format that aims to create a destination, “a kind of a showroom within a showroom,” according to Browder. The main feature of this display is the design table, which includes every single SKU Karndean carries. The idea, Browder notes, is to direct the consumer or designer over to the table and start pulling out product and laying it out. Once the customer gets involved in creating her own floor, the sales representative is on her way to sealing the deal.

“This is what [the retailer] would have in her store; it’s a lot of real estate, but when you have a product that’s unique, that can add that type of value and profit proposition, this is what it takes,” Browder explained. “What we try to do here is show this in a way that speaks to Mrs. Jones. The whole idea is this ‘Simply beautiful floors for when life happens,’ which speaks directly to her, to what’s going on in her life every single day. Within that you see the waterproof, kid-friendly, pet-friendly, lifetime warranty and then [the words] ‘since 1973.’ That reinforces to her, even if it’s subliminally, this is a company that has been around for a while.”

The new expansion also includes a new customer service area manned by more than 10 representatives. This visible presence is in line with Karndean’s overall objective to fortify its customer service capabilities. As Mellow explained: “Five years ago, we started 8 a.m. to 8.p.m., in which we put customer service people out in Dallas and in Vegas. We have a rolling 8-to-8 schedule. Here in [Pittsburgh] it’s until 5 p.m., in [Dallas] until 6 p.m. and up to 8 p.m., in Vegas. When they process their orders they pick and pack, and out they go.”

The new showroom and expanded warehousing facilities are not just window dressing. Rather, Browder states, it’s about putting the focus on premium design, quality, service and availability. “Ultimately, its about being partners with our customers.”