There is a growing trend among floor covering retailers to expand their product offering to include laminate and solid surface countertops. Several important factors fuel this phenomenon:

One-Stop Shopping. Consumers want choice and simplicity. Increasingly busy lifestyles driven by technology, social commitments, children's activities and other responsibilities have led to a growing population seeking a one-stop shopping alternative. Consumers prefer this alternative to coordinating activities among a wide number of remodeling subcontractors and retail outlets to meet their home remodeling needs.

Margin Enhancement. While consumers are redefining their shopping experience, floor covering retailers are also searching for new products and opportunities to enhance their top and bottom line, with minimal to no inventory and service issues.

Our experience shows that of every 10 individuals replacing their kitchen floors, six are involved in a full kitchen remodel or countertop replacement. It simply makes good sense to explore expanded sales opportunities with these established consumers, while simultaneously attracting new customers through broader services.

While opportunities abound for floor covering retailers, the decision to market and sell solid surface countertops should not be made without a great deal of thought and research. Consider product qualities, pricing, warranties and a fabricator with a proven record of servicing retailers.

Many countertop surface materials are available, along with a seemingly endless number of countertop fabricators. Carefully evaluate your options. Look for a manufacturer that has a countertop program specifically designed to support the floor covering industry. A good countertop program should include a variety of investment options and a list of qualified fabricators with an extensive reference list. Each investment option should include a merchandising package; a training program encompassing hands-on, classroom and in-store elements; sales and marketing support; and msrp.

All indicators point to boundless sales opportunities for floor covering retailers with solid surface and laminate countertops as part of their service offerings. Do your homework and choose the right manufacturer/fabricator partner. Your reputation takes years to build and only hours to tarnish.

Editor's Note: A June 2004 National Floor Trends survey revealed that 36 percent of floor covering retailers currently offer countertops to their clients.