For some months now, NFT has been hosting a mixer of sorts for flooring industry professionals. Although this unique opportunity was established for the retailers, contractors, distributors, manufacturers, and design specialists who form the core of the magazine’s readership, no one has been barred from participating. The conversation is frequently helpful, often insightful, sometimes critical —- and always lively.
You say you were unaware that such a venue —- a place where the floor covering community regularly meets to compare notes and air out controversies —- even existed? Well, consider yourself invited to the party.
To participate, all you need to do is point your Internet web browser to the NFT Online Message Board, at www.ntlfloortrends.com/messageboards, and log in.
Once on board, you’ll encounter a varied population of kindred spirits -— individuals who, like you, are working day-in and day-out to raise the level of our industry. But don’t expect everyone to share only the retailer’s view of the business, because you’re going to meet folks who hail from all segments of the floor covering world.
What level of discourse can you expect? Will it be worth your while to join in? Consider the following excerpts as indicative of the tone you’ll encounter on the NFT Online Message Board.
On the subject of CFI Certification, Daris Mulkin, owner of Davison, Mich.-based Rugs by Design, posts: “Speaking as a CFI installer and senior certifier, what do the retailers think of us? Do you think that we are crazy for trying to turn things around for better quality and education, etc.? Or are we a threat to the retailers?”
In sharing sales techniques and discussing his competitive advantages, Jim McClain of Quincy, Calif.-based JM Floor Covering — California Carpet Brokers says: “The easiest sale is to the educated customer. The hardest is to the misinformed customer. I don’t have to spend a lot of time with a customer for her to see the difference between a big-box store and me.
“Many times the ‘other guy’ has made no attempt to explain the differences in cushion quality, wear layers, trim-out choices, finishes and maintenance requirements. [Big-box] salespeople fail to ask how the area is used, how much sunlight comes through, where the concentrated traffic patterns are, whether they have animals and what their budget considerations might be.
“My sales rate is high compared to other retailers. Of course, price shoppers, who can’t be convinced there are more important variables, are the ones I lose the most, although my material prices are very comparable. (I can beat Home Depot and Lowe’s special order pricing many times, if I can find out what they are actually selling, and often beat their price on sheet vinyl in stock).”
David Hunt of Vermont Custom Rug Co. in Bristol, Vt., expounds on the retailer’s toughest challenge thusly: “As a specialty retailer, the toughest challenge is finding sales agents and installation professionals who have a true understanding of what ‘quality’ actually is. After all, what do specialty retailers offer? Special products — products and services that cannot be found on every corner and in every big box. The specialty retailer has an essential need to distinguish himself from the herd. Quality is the best and most profitable way to accomplish this.”
Frequent poster James Hale expands on Hunt’s comments. “Quality goods and services are exceptionally hard to find,” he writes. “What I find even more challenging is finding your target market, and then getting the customers in your door. Once they come in, I have no problem selling them on quality goods and services. Proper customer care will always [create] cheerleaders.
“The problem with most, but not all, of today’s society is that they believe they must go to the big-box stores or the multi-million-dollar facility to receive [these] services. The irony is, the total opposite is true. For consumers to receive quality service, they must be treated with attentive personalized care. The larger stores simply cannot supply this service; they’re too busy making the sale.”
Certainly, you have experiences and opinions of your own to contribute. So what are you waiting for? Get in there and mix it up with your colleagues throughout the industry. Log on today at www.ntlfloortrends.com/messageboards.
We’re all waiting to hear from you!