Howard Olansky
April's Industry Perspectives column, entitled "Live by Price, Die by Price, Live By Fashion, Thrive By Fashion," drew a heavy response from all segments of the industry. It is important to note that there is a strong and growing desire to put the emphasis on fashion and take it off of price. Here are some of the comments from our readers.

I am in complete agreement with your sentiments. We recently remodeled our store, and have dedicated a large section of our main selling space to large club chairs, a sofa and two side chairs, and a beautiful heavy-textured carpet on the floor. Our flooring store now looks more like a living room, and less like a selling machine. The message to our customers: We are in the fashion business, we can make your home as beautiful as this; we are in the comfort business, we can make your home comfortable, too.

We do a complete interview with our customers before allowing them to look at a stitch of carpet. We offer them soft drinks, and persuade them to sit down and tell us about their project, what they want to achieve, what feel do they want to create, what wear issues concern them. We ask them where they have been shopping (so we know what disinformation they may have brought with them). After this process, we go get the proper fashions for their application, while they stay seated in comfort.

Wow, what a change: from a flooring store to a fashionable/beautiful/comfortable place to come and get the help they need to make their home a great place to live. Try getting that at a Big Box!

Message to our Industry: Forget about the price, offer the customer value and fashion, and you will be leading the pack, not following! -- Dan Hussey, B&L Flooring America, Prescott Valley, Ariz.

You wrote what so many in this industry needed to hear. This dialogue should continue. We are quarriers and producers of natural stone products. We produce only the best quality. It's the things that we do that add vast value to the purchaser and end users that price buyers have no concept of in terms of quality. Education is also a part of fashion. -- Michael Nafziger, vice president of Market Development, World Wide Stone Corp., Phoenix.

I just read your article in the April National Floor Trends magazine. It was great, and we are trying to do just that this fall. In November, we are having a color trends dinner meeting. Can I use the article in my July 2004 newsletter? -- Peggy McCarthy, Arizona Floor Covering Association executive director.

Yes, we live in a price-driven flooring market. My company has for the past 10 years emphasized service as our distinguishing attribute and has seen growth every year. The past four years in particular have seen awesome growth. The fashion and service aspect is our secret to success. We live in the "lowest prices guaranteed" backyard of the big-box store battlegrounds.

It's an incredible feeling to know that you earned a project for reputation in knowledge, design, service and quality installation, not price. Clients do realize the value of service, and are willing to pay a fair price for it. Our slogan is "Doing right the first time" -- you CANNOT put a price on that!

It's a tough battle changing minds to think fashion and service. Thank you for your article. Hopefully, some of my fellow retailers will take note. -- Rich Swoboda, Northwest Tile and Floors CEO, Coeur d'Alene, Idaho.

I would love to have your permission to reprint your editorial for all of our some 110 stocking distributors and 1,700-plus dealers throughout the U.S.A. and Canada. -- Spencer Cunningham, World Wide Stone Corp. executive vice president and treasurer, Scottsdale, Ariz.

The "sale by price" philosophy is rooted in the fact that we no longer have professional sales forces to assist the consumers. Today, we have too many order takers who worked in things other than floor coverings and really do not have a clue about the products they represent. Management is too often forced to put together plans that enable them to incorporate any fresh body into a sales force to man the showroom. Thus evolved the situation we now face. Heck, you can train a monkey to quote prices! Until we return to manning the showrooms with professional consultants who can assist customers/clients select the proper products for their needs, we will be stuck with the lowball sales philosophy. -- Pat Fell, L. Fishman & Son, Baltimore.