In Floor Trends’ new series, we’re meeting rising leaders who are making a big impact in flooring. Vylett Cross, business manager, Ed’s Flooring America in Hooksett, New Hampshire, tells us how she got into flooring, what she’s involved in now, and advice for others in the industry.

FT: How did you get into flooring?

Vylett Cross: We have a family company in flooring. My dad grew up installing flooring and then when I was young, he started selling flooring at the flea market. At home, we would be receiving the products and storing them in our garage, so we were always around it. He opened his first retail store when I was young, and then I started working there when I was 11. I just did cleaning in the showrooms, but that’s how I got started in the business. Later, I went and helped out in sales, and then worked in the warehouse before moving into the office full-time. Then, I just moved up from there.

FT: Did you always have an idea that you were going to be in the industry?

Cross: I didn't really have an idea I was going to be in the industry. I had always been involved in it, so that was the direction available. I actually did go to school and worked in the food industry. I have a couple college degrees that are non-flooring related. I was still working in the flooring industry while doing that. Eventually it transitioned to only having one job in flooring.

FT: What's your outlook on flooring as a career path and also being a woman in the industry?

Cross: I think that flooring for a career path is certainly very bright, especially for women. For a very long time, the flooring industry was more male dominated and wasn’t, per se, a career path that younger people would choose to go in. It was more something that was already available. I think that has changed now with different products and technology and now the career path, especially in sales and ownership, is a very enticing one.

I think that women in the industry have certainly started coming out. There are a lot more women involved as far as owners or co-owners or managers. 

FT: Do you network in the industry beyond your store?  

Cross: I am part of the Flooring America Advisory Council. That involvement is very beneficial on a couple of different levels. As a storeowner, I'm helping project the future of the cooperative and changes or new things to bring into it. I also think it's really important to be involved with the cooperative because a successful cooperative is made up when members are successful as well. So, I am part of the advisory council and I represent the other storeowners throughout the U.S. as well and I’m an in for them to the leadership team with feedback on what's going on in the industry, changes that they would like to see, or feedback on new changes.

I am also on the Advisory Council for the NEX40. NEX40 is a CCA group that is representative of a couple of different divisions, Flooring America, Flooring Canada, Carpet One, and Floor Trader. The group consists of different members that are in the flooring industry and part of those different cooperative branches that are all under the age of 40. When they first brought it into existence, the goal was to help bridge some of the gap between young professionals or younger owners coming into the industry and the older owners and personnel that tend to occupy the industry. There was a bigger gap between the two and it was also for younger professionals to feel like they have a say at things like conventions. It’s also to have different people to communicate with as it has been in the past a more of a middle to older age group. Being on the advisory council for them, I help plan roundtable discussions, plan different events, plan our events at convention, or trips down to different mills. 

As somebody who is under 40, it's been great to be able to network with other young professionals throughout the U.S. I also benefited from it with going to visit mills. We've been down to visit Engineer Floors and Mohawk as the NEX40 groups, we usually go down with about 25 of us from all over the U.S. and Canada. I’m looking forward to our trip to Shaw Industries this October as a group. I’m also part of the Woman of CCA Group, which is a group for managers and owners of the different Flooring America, Flooring Canada and Carpet One cooperatives. It's a group that consists of all women. It's a great time for us to be able to network as a group of women and work together in the industry, and have support from each other in it and help to embrace and make change in the industry as well.

FT: What advice do you have for others in the industry?

Cross: My advice for others in the industry would be to embrace change of how customers are searching for flooring or wanting to purchase flooring. Also, embrace the younger professionals that are coming into the industry and their input. I think that being part of the Flooring America Cooperative is one of the best decisions as a company that we have made. I would advise other stores that cooperatives are a great way to be a successful small business owner while still maintaining your individual identity.

FT: Can you give us some background on your two Flooring America locations?

Cross: We have two locations. Our main location and original showroom is in Plaistow, New Hampshire. We've been doing business in that area for 40 years now. 15 years ago, we opened up a second location in Hooksett and have been doing business at the both locations for the past 15 years. Business has been good. COVID obviously had a huge influx of businesses in the home remodeling sector of it. We have noticed, even since then, that business is still doing well. We have seen customers coming in and wanting to still continue to put money into updating their homes, their flooring, different design trends. A lot of people are coming and looking for comfort in their flooring and natural ambience.

FT: What challenges are you seeing?

Cross: One of the big challenges I'm seeing right now, which is affecting backordered products, is the Labor Trade Act law that went into place the beginning of the year. That has really put a damper on getting products. The other challenge I can see is in employees. It's a very tight labor market in New Hampshire, we have one of the lowest unemployment rates in the U.S., and that certainly has made hiring additional staff to continue to grow more of a challenge. I continue to see that as a challenge as an economy. 

FT: What product trends are you seeing in the store?

Cross: I definitely have seen people wanting to do carpet in their homes in bigger areas. Often, people are looking for a really cushiony, soft and plush carpet. Also, the luxury vinyl product industry is still certainly booming, and I see that continuing to grow in the market as well as they continue to improve the graphics and the products and the looks of that of luxury vinyl. I certainly have seen that people are looking to create more natural-feeling spaces. Natural colors, are trending, grays are still in, but certainly have seen some of the taupes and grays coming in that people are looking to have it be a little bit warmer. I still see the blues are trending and continue to have a call in the flooring industry, specifically in the tile industry.