Retailer Profile: Oshawa Carpet One Floor & Home
The small Canadian town of Oshawa, Ontario, has brought in big rewards for local Carpet One members, Guy and Michelle Pylypiw, thanks to a strong focus on installation.
A bedroom community that sends its residents to nearby Toronto to earn their daily bread, this piece of suburbia has proven the age-old ideology of “location, location, location” for the small shop, Oshawa Carpet One Floor & Home. But location is not everything. At the end of the day, it comes down to hard work, getting customers in the door—and nailing down a strategy that gets projects installed with a high degree of quality.
While customers may have gone the big box route for one flooring installation and purchase in the past, they rarely repeat it once they work with the Pylypiw’s business. The bigger challenge, they say, comes from independents working out of the backs of their vans. These sellers, working for cash, undercut traditional flooring stores and continue to associate the industry with the carpet baggers of old with no ability to track them after the sale.
To avoid that issue, the couple works with select subcontracted installers with whom they have longstanding relationships. In addition, all their subcontractors must prove liability insurance and proper local regulatory certifications.
“We’re pretty strict and have done everything on our end even though we don’t face the same issues as in the States,” Guy said. “The underlying foundation is I have to maintain and watch out for the business.”
Longer term, they are in the early stages of developing a recruitment, training and apprenticeship program to bring the next generation of installers in-house.
“When you are looking at primarily guys in their 50s and 60s still installing, it’s time to look for young blood and make the work appealing,” Michelle said. “It’s hard work and not sitting behind a desk, but we let them know how much installers can make with an honest day’s work.”
“Most installers look at it as a job and not necessarily their business,” Guy added. “We make sure they have access to training to our [high] level, and help them find the resources to get what they need.” Those resources include everything from access to installation training opportunities to connecting them with ways to better manage their businesses.
They note better trained and certified installers get paid accordingly. Since the Pylypiws are more than willing to help subsidize that training, they ask for guarantees to offset the expense. In addition, they ask their subcontracted installers to vest a portion of the cost in their training themselves to ensure they appreciate its value.
“People ask what happens if we pour money into training someone and they leave?” Michelle said. “The more important question is what happens if you don’t?”
Similarly, they ensure training opportunities are available for everyone on their team and they operate with an open book policy so everybody in their store understands what costs are involved, which helps them feel like an integral part of the business. The policy allows the Pylypiws to feel comfortable empowering their team to make final decisions to satisfy a customer.
“Our team knows as long as they stay true to our mission and our vision we will back them up 100 percent,” Guy said. “Even when there might have been a better option, we will back them with the customer and then go over the better options.”
The customers seem to agree. The relationships the Pylypiws have built with their clients in every segment of the market from retail to commercial to institutional have grown the company into a small powerhouse garnering referrals to grow beyond its small hamlet. When a local builder was recently purchased by a bigger firm from nearby Toronto, the new company sought out Oshawa Carpet One for a request for proposal on its jobs in the city.
What’s more? In the three years since the Pylypiws purchased the store, they have grown the business threefold to $2.5 million in annual revenues, been recognized with Carpet One’s Wally Hileman Award for outstanding commitment, and have earned a place on the cooperative’s Advisory Council.
They credit much of their growth to the support they have received from Carpet One and its members. In addition to having grown its offerings in Canada to be more comparable with its domestic stores, the ability to share ideas has been integral.
“Every single member of the cooperative we’ve had the pleasure of dealing with is open to sharing ideas and moving as one,” Guy said. “And the amount of product knowledge and the programs Carpet One has to offer have been hugely helpful.”
Rather than rely on the usual price-based advertising to stay top-of-mind with customers, the pair focuses their efforts on maintaining brand recognition in the community. Whether that be online, on the radio or in any other media—or even by donating to a variety of community efforts—the focus is on keeping the brand out there so customers remember their store first when the time comes to update interiors.
Guy says staying away from price-specific marketing allows the company to maintain its margins and it helps to keep the conversation on quality and service so consumers remain comfortable with their purchasing decision.
Even when promoting sales, he says, “We don’t do a lot of pricing online, we show more percentages like ‘Up to 50% Off’ and instead focus on providing tools. Our website is more informational and educational, and with our floor visualizer tools, more inspirational.”
The couple prefers to put information on the site in the form of expert videos that helps guide their consumer through their product selection process.
“We share the information with customers with no sales pressure,” Guy said. “We want to make the sale, but at the end of the day we are not going to sell solid hardwood for a basement, for example. It’s our reputation on the line.”
“It may be a tiny room this week, but for some customers that may just be the test for a bigger project down the road,” Michelle added. “You need to nurture your customers a little to build them for life.”
Unwilling to rest on any laurels, the Pylypiws are planning to renovate in the near term and maximize their showroom space by focusing their displays and whittling them down by 20 percent. They continue to give back to the community by supporting local schools, school programs and youth sports teams.
Annual Sales: $2.5 million
Product Mix: Carpet, Vinyl, Wood, LVT, Cork, Ceramic; Window Coverings and Nest Home Automation products
Stock inventory: Builder products, otherwise JIT