CarpetsPlus convened at the Starr Pass Resort in Tucson, Ariz., for its annual convention with leadership and retailers sharing messages about how to grow talent and expand market share.

Founded in January of 1997, CarpetsPlus began with a philosophy that emphasizes the power of networking best practices while protecting the important entrepreneurial dynamics of independent store ownership. Today, that spirit is alive and well with 373 members in 418 locations. The group announced 18 new store signings over the past year, seven new members signing in the first quarter of 2018, and four prospective members attending convention.

Business is looking bright thanks to builder, multifamily, millennials and remodeling, according to Jon Logue, co-CEO of CarpetsPlus, who presented the State of the Industry. He said remodeling is estimated at $340 billion and continued restoration efforts, increased wealth and increased consumer confidence will create a boon for flooring retailers in 2018: "It's going to be great, and I want you to be prepared."

"We are very optimistic for 2018; It started out exceptional," said Kelly Wilson of Compass Flooring Distributors in Orlando. "As far as the show, there is a lot of optimism with customers. Anytime they are looking for new stuff it's because they have customers coming in and they are excited about their business sand they are looking to improve it."

Hard surface is a boon for the group, which has grown 8 percent in sales over the last year. When the group bought ColorTile in 2002, carpet accounted for 80 percent of the group's shipments. "A lot of us got into hard surface because of the ColorTile acquisition," Logue said. "You could see the industry was changing. Through the years, for the first time ever, our shipments [for carpet] are over 40% because of our fantastic growth of hard surfaces. It doesn't mean we're not growing carpet, it means we're growing faster in hard surface, just like the industry."

To support the growth of hard surface, the group introduced 48 SKUs as part of the Waterproof Flooring Destination display featuring Shaw's Floorté luxury vinyl plank. "Pretty is what sells, and they perform, and they look great," said Kevin Logue, co-COO and vice president of marketing for CarpetsPlus.

Another new program, the Your Luxury Destination, features Coretec Stone—luxury vinyl tile with a solid polymer core. “We are offering Coretec Stone, and that is a perfect product for someone who has installation challenges and limited access to qualified tile installers,” Logue said. "People have been talking for years about shortage of carpet installers and now there is a shortage of tile installers, and it's becoming a huge issue.”

To support the soft-surface business, the group introduced a Your Performance Destination is a new display featuring Shaw's Bellera line of high-performance polyester. "With the economy getting better, consumers are really trading up—there’s a trend toward higher performance products, solution-dyed products and multicolor and tonal looks," Logue said.

CEO Ron Dunn kicked off the business development portion of the meeting with the "Power of 10", in which he talked about how the shortcomings of new hires usually fall on the owner, adding to their list of responsibilities. "Now you know why the kids don't want to buy your business," he said. "What do you do to build into your people? … Everyone has the potential to be a 10-plus."

Dunn suggested areas of their business that owners should consider when developing talent: skills, how do you flame so that talent blossoms, what kind of training to implement, and how to create a family culture that resonates among employees and customers.

Chick Herbert, senior vice president at Wells Fargo, encouraged retailers to develop a sound succession plan to develop their team's critical thinking skills by using question-centric coaching, always connecting an employee’s role to the organization's mission.

To help retailers find and develop the right talent, Randy Ross, CEO of Remarkable!, a business assessment and advisory firm based in Johns Creek, Ga., said: "A good hire will help crystallize the culture you created. Hire for a culture match. Hire for character." He noted that people today usually interview well, but it takes time to peel the onion back to reveal a new hire's true character.

The group added a number of new suppliers this year, including Phenix, a custom rug program by Nourison, Duchateau, Compass Distributors, Hemisphere Flooring Lockwood and Tacony Vacuum Sales, which could be a nice add on business for retailers.

"They sell carpet and bare flooring for people's homes and their customers are walking out, going down the street and buying a vacuum cleaner somewhere else," said Saul Esparza, sales manager, Tacony. "Why aren't these carpet people selling vacuums?"