Selling hardwood flooring against Home Depot, Lowe's, Menards and other large retailers is a discomforting thought for many flooring retailers. Do you even have a fighting chance? Absolutely!

If you've ever walked into one of the major box stores to shop for hardwood flooring, it doesn't take long to realize that, generally speaking, they are understaffed. Furthermore, the staff that is available often isn't that knowledgeable about the true benefits of each type of flooring. Even the product selection is often limited to fast-movers such as oak and maple in natural and earth-tone colors.

What is the average shopper looking for? Based on feedback from consumer experts in the flooring industry, buyers want to be educated about flooring options before they buy. They want a salesperson that listens to their needs and offers them options and recommendations based on their specific situation. Shoppers like to see a broad selection of hardwood flooring so they may determine what floor type, style, wood species, color and finish works best for them. They also want to know what accessories are available, and how they can incorporate these products into their floors to add to their home's appeal. Consumer experts agree that correctly merchandised accessories can have a huge impact on buying decisions.

Accommodating a consumer's needs begins with a good selection of floor types, styles, species and colors in the store, allowing them to see the options available to them. Most flooring manufacturers provide attractive displays that are designed to meet this need. Accessories such as moldings and vents also need to be emphasized and included in every flooring sale, since they are critical to the ultimate look of the room. As with flooring, visual displays of accessories in use with various types of flooring will help shoppers visualize their necessity and function far more effectively than chain-sets.

It is crucial that flooring retailers position themselves as hardwood flooring experts if they want to meet the needs of discriminating buyers and win the sale. This requires salespeople that are well educated on flooring types and styles available, when each should be considered, wood species and finishes available, and the maintenance requirements for each. Successful salespeople are quick to advise buyers on accessories available through the store that may enhance the beauty of the floor. The ability to provide moldings and vents in the same species as the floor, for example, may become a differentiating factor in where they buy.

Of course price is important but discriminating shoppers will purchase their floors from a retailer they trust, even if that means paying a little more. And providing the buyers with the information and product exposure they need to confidently make their decision will serve to enhance their shopping experience. Ultimately, this strategy will win the consumer's trust. Flooring specialty stores are well positioned to give discriminating shoppers the information they need to make more informed decisions.

When it comes to product selection, sales staff knowledge and the overall effectiveness of visual displays, specialty flooring retailers most certainly have the "right stuff" to win the sale.