Consumers shopping for new flooring agree that four store visits is probably too many, but one is seldom enough. A solid majority of consumers-60%--say they visit two or three stores before pulling the trigger on a flooring purchase. Also, while a store’s reputation, its prices and the level of service it provides are important, shoppers said their No. 1 concern is the quality of the flooring offered and the range of products available.  

Such are the findings of a new consumer study commissioned by the World Floor Covering Association in an effort to determine the shopping habits of today’s floor covering consumer. Included in the study were those who bought from a specialty store, as well as consumers who purchased from a big box store. The survey also offers a breakdown of trends based on the gender and the age of shoppers. In doing so it found, for example, that price and store reputation are far more important to consumers over 65 years old than younger consumers. In terms of gender, the study found that women tend to be more price sensitive than men, while men place a greater premium on product availability.

A major difference between big box stores and specialty stores, the survey found, is the consumer’s motivation for stopping in. Asked “How did you find out about the store that you purchased from?” a clear majority (55%) of big box shoppers said it was location, while about one of five said they were persuaded by a referral from someone they knew. For specialty stores, the equation is almost exactly the opposite: About half of those shoppers say they were spurred by a recommendation while 17% said it was the specialty store’s location that lured them in.

A breakdown of shoppers from each retail class found each has a distinct appeal.  While big box shoppers said convenience and one stop shopping were high on their list, specialty store shopper gave equal prominence to a store’s reputation

The prominent size of their stores may give big boxes an edge in the area of consumer awareness; the survey found that shoppers have a much higher appreciation for the sales staff at specialty stores.  Asked if the sales staff provided “valuable information” in such specific areas as flooring options, product features and “products available that fit my lifestyle,” consumers consistently gave specialty stores higher marks than big boxes.

EDITOR’S NOTE:This is another in a series of reports that explore how consumers shop for flooring. The findings are based on research conducted on behalf of the World Floor Covering Association, which commissioned Clear Seas Research (a sister company to National Floor Trends) to conduct the study. Future reports will look at such areas as “Flooring Products Purchased” and “Flooring Installation Experience.” For additional information contact