Jan 18/25; Volume 30/Number 15
By Nadia Ramlakhan
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.”
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.”