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CCA Global Conventions: Carpet One dealers welcome new supplier, push digital, training

February 5/12, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 17

By Ken Ryan

 

Grapevine, Texas—Fresh off a year in which it achieved its highest purchase volume in 11 years, Carpet One Floor & Home convened its winter convention here with a strong tailwind that portends an even stronger 2018.

“You translate purchase volume into sales,” Eric Demaree, president of Carpet One, told FCNews. “We have strong economic indicators. Our overall performance was two times higher than the industry average, and a lot of that is coming from LVT and ceramic.”

In 2017, CCA members generated $250 million in LVT sales (including WPC and rigid core products), and the category continues to grow at unprecedented rates, according to Charlie Dilks, chief product officer for the co-op. Ceramic and wood are healthy as well while laminate now represents less than 3% of the business.

Overall, carpet shrank in 2017 although the rate of decline slowed to 45% compared to 55% hard surface. Residential carpet volume improved in the fourth quarter for members, Dilks said, and will likely get a boost now that Engineered Floors and its DreamWeaver brand is part of the group. EF’s acquisition of Beaulieu’s assets served as an entree for Bob Shaw’s company to join the co-op.

Demaree referred to EF as “the bright new shiny penny.” However, Carpet One dealers see dollar signs. “The color, style, design and price of the DreamWeaver brand is excellent—there is perceived value there,” said Heather Gollihur, owner, Carpet Master Carpet One, Champaign, Ill., who noted that EF’s emergence “will make all the other mills sharpen their pencils.”

Craig Dunn, manager at Miller’s Carpet One, Seaside, Calif., said he is “thrilled to death” that EF has been added as a vendor. “There is a niche they are in that we weren’t getting anywhere else. They’ll fit in well with this group. They always have plenty of stock—as a lot of their product is stocked on the West Coast, which is a big deal for us because of our location and for the fact people want product now.”

Palmer Johnson, manager at Johnson Carpet One Floor & Home, Tulsa, Okla., added, “with Beaulieu out [EF] is filling a void. You have a vertically integrated company that is very competitive.”

EF’s DreamWeaver brand is a strong player in PET, which is now over 50% of the residential replacement market, according to industry observers. What’s more, EF is a leader in cost efficiencies, another reason for their desirability among retailers. To no one’s surprise, the EF booth was the busiest during the two-day trade show portion of Carpet One, and executives appreciated the retail love. “We are incredibly excited to be here,” said Mike Sanderson, vice president of product marketing. Told that many Carpet One members urged the CCA executive team to bring on EF, Will Young, director of national accounts, said, “grassroots efforts usually work. It just takes time. We have a product line that can be sold to just about anyone who walks into a flooring store.”

DreamWeaver introduced its Resista line to Carpet One dealers. Available in 30 styles, Resista makes up half of the group’s polyester offerings.

Online leads and follow-up

The question was asked during the convention: Why does CCA continue to focus on digital marketing even though store traffic is trending down? As executives pointed out, people don’t shop like they used to, and they certainly don’t browse flooring stores. To attract consumers, Carpet One has invested significantly in digital media—including paid search, SEO and SEM. “Our website presence is amazing,” Demaree said. “Our members, when they get the opportunity to engage with a customer, are pretty good at getting the business.”

The fact is, however, few companies (across all industries) are good at following up on online leads, and studies show these lapses are costly. Harvard Business Review audited 2,241 U.S. companies to measure how long each took to respond to a web-generated lead. The results:  37% responded to their lead within one hour; 16% responded between one and 24 hours; 24% took more than 24 hours, and 23% of the companies never responded at all.

These results are especially shocking given how quickly online leads go cold—a phenomenon it explored in a separate study that involved 1.25 million sales leads received by 29 B2C and 13 B2B companies in the U.S. Companies that tried to contact potential customers within an hour of receiving a query were nearly seven times as likely to qualify the lead (defined as having a meaningful conversation with a key decision maker) as those that tried to contact the customer even an hour later—and more than 60 times as likely as companies that waited 24 hours or longer.

Similarly, a paper written and published by MIT professor James Oldroyd found that the chance of qualifying a lead drops to 10% after the first hour, and that no leads were qualified past the 10-hour mark.

To increase its conversion rate Carpet One emphasizes training and encourages owners to certify their sales professionals. Certification entails an annual knowledge assessment that RSAs must pass to earn professional development hours leading to certification. “I highly encourage every one of our flooring dealers to take the exam and to put the accreditation on their business card,” Demaree said. “I don’t give my taxes to someone whose card doesn’t say ‘CPA,’ so why would consumers buy from a sales associate who doesn’t have the proper credentials.”

Beyond flooring initiative

Carpet One announced a partnership with Serta Simmons Bedding. The “Sleep Boutique” program is being tested with eight members. The upside: higher profit margins, no inventory in member stores and no installation worries. The downside: it takes up showroom space.  Chris Taylor, owner of CarpetMaster, Latham, N.Y., has mattresses in two locations and has enjoyed success. “Be fully committed before you begin,” he told members.

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NeoCon East: Vendors showcase broad range of products, designs

November 20/27, 2017: Volume 32, Issue 12

By Lindsay Baillie

 

Screen Shot 2017-11-27 at 10.33.49 AMPhiladelphia—With roughly 5,000 attendees and more than 150 exhibitors, NeoCon East provided the commercial interiors community another opportunity to engage on the East Coast during the fall season. The two-day show, which took place here at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, Nov. 15–16, featured four keynote speeches, more than 25 CEUs and countless opportunities for attendees to network and learn about the latest commercial products.

“Exhibiting companies gained valuable direct contact with key architects, designers and major corporate and government end users, while attending professionals gained insight and access to the latest ideas and innovations in the industry,” said Julie Kohl, vice president, exhibitor sales, NeoCon Shows. “Many exhibitors have already reported strong project leads and business opportunities as a result of the 2017 edition.”

Of the 150 exhibitors, a handful were flooring manufacturers touting their latest and greatest products of 2017. Among them: Altro, Atlas Carpet Mills, Ava by Novalis, Mannington, Patcraft, Shaw Contract and Tarkett. Product introductions ran the gamut from hard to soft surfaces.

For Richard Burn, floors product manager, Altro, NeoCon East provides an important opportunity to show product. “It’s good to be at this show because we get to see customers we do business with and show them the new products.”

Altro highlighted some of its more vibrant products with new concrete, linen, salt and pepper designs. “The market has been very receptive to them,” Burn said. “We’ve had quite a busy year with our LVT and sheet products. We’ve also launched new wood products and expanded our ranges to offer acoustic variances.”

NeoCon East provided Atlas Carpet Mills the opportunity to show off new products and tease new collections currently under development. “We have the Epic collection coming out at the end of this month,” said Sheila Berg, marketing manager. “And our latest collection, Connections, is on the floor today. Our product line now includes broadloom, carpet tile squares, carpet tile planks and area rugs.”

But product is not the only new “news” at Atlas. “We freshened up our logo with a new color and our website has a new look,” Berg added.

Ava by Novalis highlighted its latest introductions, SMPL and SPRK, which are phthalate free and 100% recyclable. SMPL is a high-performance core (HPC) floating floor that has a cork underlayment for improved acoustic performance. SPRK is offered in 38 colorways, has a 20 mil wear layer, 2.5mm overall thickness in an 18 x 18 format. SPRK boasts an antimicrobial coating, increased scratch and scuff resistance and excellent stain and fade resistance. In addition, it is easy to maintain and has a 10-year commercial and lifetime residential warranty.

Screen Shot 2017-11-27 at 10.33.55 AMMannington focused on commercial intros reflecting soft, sophisticated color palettes with products that are useable in multiple applications. Highlights included: the Portland collection—a 12 x 48 carpet plank product—and its Origami collection as well as new visuals from its Amtico line. “All of the products we’re here today are those we showed at NeoCon in June,” said Heather Kane, commercial product design supervisor. “The focus here was toward a corporate marketplace, more broad-based.”

Patcraft’s booth showcased both hard and soft surface products. Its carpet offerings included collections such as Nocturnal, Backlit and Color Filter, which can be used together or separate to create depth, while included Subtractive Layers, a vinyl flooring line, highlighted the hard surface offerings.

“Subtractive Layers is made from our designer Kelly Stewart, who actually took a painting, blended the colors and used a comb to create texture,” Jeff West, vice president of marketing and product development, explained. “Most people want to feel it because it has all of this texture. It is a 5mm thickness—the same as carpet tile—so you can install it right next to carpet tile without having to use a transition strip.”

Shaw Contract took the wraps off Emergence and Off the Grid. The former—which was illustrated using pixelated rose patterns accompanied by larger rose-patterned images—represents a play on traditional patterns, while Off the Grid was inspired by nature and relaxation. To highlight the product, Shaw Contract’s booth included photographs of mountains, caves and rock formations.

On the soft surface side, Tarkett showcased Color Knit, a new multi-color soft surface, as well as its Powerbond line. “Powerbond performs and lasts,” said Noelle Omer, public relations and social media manager, Tarkett North America. “It is part of our sustainability story in that it helps with indoor air quality and is recyclable.”

For hard surfaces, Tarkett put the spotlight on Transcend, its new loose lay product, as well as its digital print LVT. “Our digital print LVT is what everyone is coming in to touch,” Omer explained. “We introduced digital print last year at NeoCon. With More than Wood we’re showing all that you can do with wood looks. It’s all made in the States and made to order.”

No NeoCon East for 2018
Show officials announced the cancellation of NeoCon East 2018. Instead, the event will resume in 2019. “The team is currently working with key stakeholders and partners to assess and design a post-NeoCon/fall season show that continues to provide a platform to connect the industry while addressing its most current and relevant topics and opportunities,” Kohl said. “New event details including dates and location will be available in the coming months.”

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NFA vendor showcase: Dealers embrace new partnerships

January 30/February 6, 2017: Volume 31, Number 17

By Ken Ryan

Screen Shot 2017-02-03 at 3.31.37 PMLas Vegas—The National Floorcovering Alliance’s (NFA) specialty member event, held here on the Tuesday before Surfaces, provides a rare moment where suppliers get to spend quality time with some of the most influential flooring dealers in the business while showcasing their wares.

“This is a great event because I get to see vendors here that I won’t see anywhere else,” said Phillip Raby Sr., co-owner of The Raby Co. in Albuquerque, N.M. “The NFA is the greatest retail group in the world.”

According to NFA, more than 40 specialty vendors were in attendance. This includes Metroflor, a new vendor partner. Russ Rogg, president and CEO, said he is familiar with the NFA from his days at Wilsonart, a former NFA vendor. “I’m excited to get back in the fold with this group. NFA is small in numbers but big in scale and historically they are a good group with which to do business.”

The NFA vendor show is not necessarily a buying show as it is a collaborative effort. “It’s more about relationships than product and understanding what [retailers’] needs are,” Rogg said.

Metroflor used the opportunity to showcase its Engage Genesis lineup, which features an expansive array of waterproof designs encompassing four wear layers. Key attributes to Engage Genesis are its Isocore technology, which the company touts as the new standard for quality in multi-layer flooring, and UltraFresh, a microbial growth inhibiter.

Metroflor wasn’t the only vendor turning heads at the show. Inhaus drew the attention of retailers with its new Sono line, an innovative offering created to break new ground in the waterproof category. Sono is being positioned as fundamentally different than WPC because it is a homogenous product made in a one-step process featuring Inhaus’ patented Ceramin technology. The core of Sono is made of ceramic powder and polyolefin, adding to its distinctiveness.

“You have a solid construction made out of ceramic,” Daniel Lang, vice president of sales and marketing, Inhaus, explained. “The overwhelming thing is the look—it just fits.”

The unique construction of Sono had some dealers scratching their heads. Dick Wallet of The Floor Store in Richmond, Calif., said he has been in flooring retail for 45 years and couldn’t quite figure out the make of the product. “It looked like wood; it’s hard to believe it is ceramic,” he said.

It’s new products and programs such as these that continue to compel NFA dealers to attend. Dave Snedeker, NFA president and division merchandise manager-flooring, Nebraska Furniture Mart, can attest. “We had over 40 specialty vendors in attendance and well over 200 NFA members. We are very pleased with the turnout, and the feedback from everyone was that it was the best one yet. We found a couple of new items here that we believe will be a great addition to our lineup and potentially a big seller for us.”

One of those items is cabinets. NFA welcomed U.S. Cabinet Depot to the fold, representing its first non-flooring vendor. Nearly 50% of flooring dealers carry non-flooring products, and that trend is expected to continue.

Raby will serve as the NFA’s category captain for cabinets. He estimated that NFA members collectively could do $50-$60 million in business in countertops and $40 million in cabinets. “I know we can grow our business with countertops and cabinets,” he said.

Snedeker wouldn’t put a number on it, but he does see opportunity for the group. “Retailers today need to think about this because the flooring market is changing. A lot more hard surface is being sold and less carpet. Flooring stores need to be on top of this and keep up with the trends.”

The flooring liaison for U.S. Cabinet Depot is Kathy Tilley, director of business development. She joined the company in the fall after several years with the FEI Group, also known as Floor Expo. Her task is to grow the cabinet business through the retail flooring channel. “There is an inventory commitment here like no one else can do,” she said.