Product quality (90%) and complaint resolution (84%) topped the service areas distributors identified as very important in working with wood floor manufacturers, according to a just-completed study undertaken byNational Floor Trendsin partnership with the National Wood Flooring Association (NWFA).

Our findings are based on responses from distributor members of NWFA who participated in a study designed and conducted by the market research staff of Business News Publishing Co. in conjunction with the NFT editorial staff. A survey sample of 500 active qualified wood distributors was culled from the distributor membership list of NWFA. The study had a 28% response rate.

Breaking down the results by category, the survey found that prefinished wood flooring manufacturers need to improve most in complaint resolution, display updates/product samples and advertising marketing support. For unfinished solid wood flooring manufacturers, product quality needed the most improvement followed - in descending order - by price, and complaint resolution, incentives/promotions and display updates/product samples, which all tied in terms of importance.

Engineered wood flooring manufacturers, according to the survey results, need to improve advertising/market support followed by product quality and complaint resolution/sales training. Incentives/promotions is the service area deemed most in need of improvement by installation supplies manufacturers. Sales training and advertising/marketing support tied for the service area wood flooring equipment manufacturers need to improve most, followed by incentives/promotions and technical support/price.

Our survey respondents are still not likely to purchase products online (see chart). A full 50% indicated that they were "not at all likely" to purchase via the Internet. Comparatively, a combined 20% (7% saying they were "very likely" and 13% saying they were "likely") said they were open to buying products online. To increase their use of online purchasing, distributors said they would need to have current inventory, availability and price information.

According to the survey, manufacturers can assist distributors through consumer advertising that focuses on wood flooring's beauty and ease of care. In addition, product quality and on-time delivery were key areas for distributors, along with more product information as well as sales training at the distributor and retail levels.

The percentage of survey respondents who said they currently supply various floor-related products broke out as follows: prefinished wood, 89%; unfinished solid wood flooring, 87%; other wood products, 84%; wood flooring installation supplies, 81%; engineered wood flooring, 80%; flooring maintenance supplies, 70%; and wood flooring equipment, 69%. Interestingly, laminate flooring is carried by 53% of the respondents. In addition, 19% said that they handle vinyl flooring, 16% carry ceramic tile and 14% deal in carpet/area rugs.

Editor's Note: National Floor Trends commissioned another in our ongoing series of market studies to help floor covering industry members enhance the success and profitability of their businesses. Identifying current product/sales trends, and projecting the industry's future direction, is imperative to making strategic decisions that ensure growth and prosperity. The complete wood flooring distributor survey is available for $225 each or $195 each per multiple copies.

Topics covered include: the rating of wood floor manufacturer's services; floor-related product mix; service areas manufacturers need to improve; on-line purchasing; the function of the manufacturer's outside salesperson; and more.