Know your products’ worth. Similar to this hypothetical example, figure out which categories are selling the best in your store and put those products front and center. Find ways to bring your lowest-selling products up, too.

If you’ve followed this column or attended my sales seminars, you know I advise you to teach salespeople: “You are not selling flooring. You are selling our honesty, reliability, service, expertise, fair prices, and warranties … as they relate to flooring. Shoppers can buy flooring at other stores, but nowhere else can they buy our combination of integrity, service, and products.”

You can’t ignore the products you offer. Your mix of products can boost (or shrink) sales and profitability. Here’s five ways how a better product mix can increase sales. 

1. A good product mix draws customers.  As you promote product mix, you generate an image in consumers’ minds: “This store carries the tile I want.” Or, “This store has every kind of carpet you can imagine.” Then, when they ask themselves (or are asked by a newcomer in town), “Where can I shop for great wood floors?” They will say about your store: “They carry a nice variety, and they know floors like no one else. They’ll give you a fair deal, too.” A good product mix draws shoppers.

2. A good product mix enriches your showroom’s appeal.When shoppers see harmonic product displays, they feel comfortable and focus on buying. Within each display, mull over which products help sell other products. For example, although most carpet sold is beige, you can increase those sales by displaying other colors near them. When you stock rolls of carpet or pallets of ceramic tile, add some other colors to help sell earth colors. I remember when Horizon Carpet Mills came out with a multi-colored product called Jewel Box. Many retailers told me it wouldn’t sell. However, Jewel Box became a sensation. The reason dealers had not sold multi-colored carpet was that they had not displayed multi-colored carpet.

3. A good product mix assures that you carry the products your consumers want to buy and you can afford to sell.You must, however, know which products are selling well, which not so well, and the gross margin of each. Every month, you should see a report that shows how sales divide among product types, i.e., carpet, hardwood, ceramic, laminate, and vinyl. (See below.) You should also know your “bread and butter” products (NFT November 2008).  “Bread and butter” products generally return 80% of sales and margins. Few retailers can pull such data from financial software. I urge you to put the data in, so you can pull it out readily. Draw the sales and margin data on trend charts so you see profits and losses.    

4. The right product mix encourages salespeople to sell a wider variety of products.  Average salespeople believe in, and sell only half a dozen products. They are product focused instead of customer focused. High-producing salespeople believe in many more products and are product-neutral. As a result, they can sell products that match their customers’ desires. They don’t have to go through customer after customer to find one that likes their preferences. Count the number of different products each salesperson is selling. Ask vendor reps to train sales people in product knowledge.  

5. A better product mix assures that shoppers will find products at every price point.  Profitable retailers grid their showroom floor before they go to a show or market. Make a sheet for every product type (carpet, vinyl, wood, tile, etc.). Within carpet, identify categories, such as textures, velvets, Berbers, and patterns. You may further divide them into yarn types.

In hardwood, the categories may be traditional, exotics and hand scraped. Tile categories may be ceramic, porcelain, metallic, glass, and stone. Write the categories at the head of each column and price-point ranges at the left end of each row. In the squares, write a product and its retail price.

Gridding the showroom reveals price-point holes where you have no product to sell.  

By knowing sales percentages for each product type, you can allocate showroom space consistent with the sales and profits of that item. I have dealers who wonder why they are not selling more ceramic. When we studied the showroom, it was obvious the ceramic tile presentation was mediocre at best. 

Years ago, I attended San Francisco Market without planning the samples we should buy for a proper mix. I bought the samples I liked and thought would sell. When the samples showed up, we realized that we had duplicate or very similar products from different manufacturers at the same price point. My off-the-cuff buying failed. Today, I find most flooring storeowners still pay little attention to product mix. When good retailers go to market, their buying is strategic.

Now that we have covered product mix, here’s a few ways to increase profitability.

First, you can display your products to enhance the appeal of higher-margin products, increasing the average ticket. Most fast food restaurants work hard to sell you more French fries, because that’s where they earn margin. You can do the same. When gridding your floor, ask yourself, “Are the bulk of our products at the high end, low end, or the middle?” My experience is that too many retailers have too many choices at the low end. By increasing choices at high end and narrowing choices at low end, you can increase sales and margin dollars. 

Second, as your improved product mix increases sales in the five ways I’ve discussed, you reap more profit, at every price point.

I hope you still attend flooring markets, for they provide ideal opportunities for the industry to network, learn new developments in flooring and business management, and examine the latest and greatest products. Are you exciting when seeing the new products? I enjoy rubbing my hand over them and examining the colors, yarns, textures.  

To help you re-think your mix profitably, look at its three dimensions: its breadth - number of product lines you carry; its length - number of products in the product line, such as the number of Mohawk products you carry; and its depth - variety of products within the product line. As product manager, you must decide when to add and drop products; evaluate the effects of adding or dropping products on the profitability of other items; and coordinate your marketing strategies with your showroom displays.  

This year, take time to study your product mix, before you go to Coverings or any show. Doing it once a year, however, is not enough. Make it a habit to review your product sales monthly.