Key brands from CCA Global Partners, including Flooring America, Flooring Canada, International Design Guild (IDG) and The Floor Trader, gathered in Phoenix at ConneXtion, a branded annual meeting that connected 550 independent floor covering retailers in attendance.

The two-day conference, held at the Phoenix Convention Center Jan. 23-24, featured a robust lineup of presenters who provided actionable insights that retailers can implement into their businesses and drive growth in 2017.

“We have a lot to be optimistic about,” said Keith Spano, president of Flooring America, Flooring Canada, IDG and The Floor Trader. “Interest rates remain relatively low and housing starts and existing home sales are at all-time highs fueled by consumer confidence numbers we haven’t seen since August of 2001 and surpassing the high-water mark of 2007.”

He reported that the consumer expectations index, which measures consumer outlook for the next six months rose to 105.5, a 13-year high. The stock market has seen record highs in all indexes over the past few month, and remodeling activity is expected to increase another 4.4% in 2017 and 3.3% in 2018. “People are beginning to see more money in their pockets, and tied with the housing market and increases in home products are driving remodeling across the country,” Spano said.

Although he said 2016 was no layup, 73 members of the co-op grew their purchases by 20%. This is a diverse group made up of multi-store operations, single store operations, $2 million stores and $30 million retailers and everyone in between. He also noted that members who regularly attend convention make 20% more net profit than those who don’t. “We’ve studied it over the past 10 years and members who are engaged and attend regular conventions have higher margins, lower operating cost, higher sales per salespeople and a higher rebate margin than those who don’t,” he added.

To strengthen the relationship between members and suppliers, members participated in two interactive programs at the show. CollaborDate (like speed dating), where members had between 5-8 minutes to interact with suppliers on-stage; and Collaboration Nation, a collaborative exercise where members get a passport and participate in challenges throughout the meeting for a chance to win an Amazon Echo.

Management continues to invest in programs that communicate the Flooring America/Flooring Canada message on a local, one-to-one level. “Technology and consumers evolve and we must evolve as retailers to stay ahead of the pack,” said Frank Chiera, senior vp marketing and advertising for Flooring America, Flooring Canada, IDG and The Floor Trader. “Since we started five years ago, there have been competitors who have tried to emulate what we do, which is the biggest form of flattery. However, we know that our offerings are superior and we remain steadfast in our commitment to execute smart digital marketing programs that will work hard for our membership.”

A new marketing campaign featuring HGTV’s Design Star winner and company spokesperson Jennifer Bertrand was unveiled. Members also had the chance to visit the Social Media hub where the marketing team obtain hyper-local content that can be syndicated through the co-op’s F.A.S.T (Flooring America Social Tools) program. Members also received My Digital, a 32-page, comprehensive guide that outlines all online marketing initiatives facilitated by the Flooring America/Flooring Canada marketing team.

New programs were introduced for the membership to expand their businesses, including a new Tribute by KILZ paint program with crack and peel wall samples that’s exclusive to Flooring America, IDG and Floor Trader retailers. “Paint is an important category for us,” Chiera said. “Consumers want an easy experience. They want the differentiation at the point of sale. We have created differentiation.”

Versatile neutrals have been professionally chosen by color experts to coordinate with the co-op’s top hard and soft surfaces to make color selection easy for consumers. They can choose to have the paint shipped to their home or delivered to the store for pickup. So far, Chiera said roughly 220 members have signed up for the program. Every store in the program received a free point- kit and social media content, and CCA has pulled together new marketing materials and training for sales professionals for 2017.

Several initiatives are also in store for International Design Guild members as the company announces the expansion of the successful Design for a Difference movement, with a commitment to 10 corporate transformations in 2017 and a greater investment in assets to support the program.

Design for a Difference truly changes people’s lives,” Chiera said. “We understand the tremendous momentum this program has gained with our members and the huge impact it has had in their communities. This year, we hope to transform more lives through the power of design.”

In addition, IDG members get a first look at the newly rebranded Louis Dabbieri collection as an independent brand with its own website and customer experience, as well as the newly designed IDG members’ websites. The new responsive websites provide consumers with a seamless experience across multiple devices including desktop, mobile and tablets.

Working diligently over the last year, the marketing team completed the rebranding of The Floor Trader Group with its Theory of Outletivity, new showroom design and its recently launched social media program. Launching in 2017 will be The Floor Trader channel—FTX, a channel dedicated to showing DIY design videos for consumers that can be watched on YouTube, the websites and in stores.

“ConneXtion is always an exciting and productive time to engage with our diverse membership to implement and execute new programs that keep our members ahead of the retail pack,” Spano added.