The assessment was dead on: “We can’t cut or save our way out of a recession,” said Manny Llerena, Mohawk’s vp retail marketing during a meeting with the press last month at the company’s Floorscapes convention. He maintained that a much better approach is to inspire consumers and tap into the passion they feel for their homes. People are staying in (or cocooning). Also, thanks in large part to the bevy of home improvement shows now seen on cable TV, they are far more aware of their interior design options. Marry those two unmistakable trends and a savvy retailer can move to higher ground. The focus shifts from cutting prices to creating someone’s dream house.
This is where
Taniya Nayak comes in. An accomplished designer who can be seen on the HGTV
Sell, Taniya is one of
the many talented TV personalities who are reminding consumers what’s possible
in the home. Mohawk recruited her to promote a new store-within-a-store
boutique concept built around the reintroduction of its CustomWeave line. The
idea is to use about 350 sq. ft. of showroom space to shine a spotlight on
premium product (which is literally true given the dramatic new lighting
scheme). The concept, described by Mohawk as “livable luxury,”
is designed to capitalize on the relative strength of the higher end at a time
of slumping sales. Mohawk calculated that if just one consumer a week moves up
to CustomWeave, the dealer’s annual bottom line increases by $41,600.
The use of pinpoint figures like that
one was a constant at the mid-December meeting, which marked the 10th
anniversary of the Floorscapes retail program. The theme adopted said it all:“Solutions: Today’s Challenges.
Tomorrow’s Success.”For Mohawk’s top brass, the meeting was a delicate
balancing act: address the gravity of a global economic crisis and the changes
needed; and at the same time reinforce the strength and vitality of a powerhouse
retail group as it enters its second decade. Their task was to celebrate
success while confronting a bitter reality.
Mohawk CEO Jeff Lorberbaum’s presentation did just that. It began with a
bit of stagecraft to capture the somber mood. There was no introduction; only
an eerily dark stage. Mock headlines chronicling all manner of economic gloom
were flashed on screens. Finally, a fog machine sent misty clouds swirling as
the sound of a heartbeat filled the silent ballroom. When Lorberbaum emerged
from the shadows he spoke with confidence and compassion in a reassuring yet
urgent tone. His message to the 347 retailers assembled before him: you are not
facing these tough times alone.
“Even Superman needed help with Kryptonite,” said
Lorberbaum with a slight smile. After carefully explaining the causes and
effects of a lousy economy, he said, “We in flooring have to act.” Recalling
that the Floorscapes program was launched 10 years ago amid concern that big
box retailers would overwhelm the smaller showrooms, he reminded retailers they
have stared down adversaries before.
Lorberbaum assured the dealers that help would
go well beyond the CustomWeave effort. The product lines this year will boast
more colors, softer fibers, advanced Scotchgard protection, and unbelievably
realistic looking laminates. On top of that, a new easy-to-navigate web site is
aimed at driving store traffic. Additionally, an in-store kiosk lets people get
instant credit as easily (and privately) as withdrawing money from an ATM. It
is all backed by a high profile consumer ad effort.
Then of course there’s Taniya: a friendly face that women can
relate to. It is a marketing tact that has worked well in the past.
Perhaps most notably, Kathy Ireland has put a warm and friendly face on
products marketed by Shaw for a number of years. Similarly, Taniya’s mission is
to emphasize value over cost. She reminds consumers that flooring is a personal
decision that should reflect their taste and lifestyle as well as their dreams.
Naturally this message is lost on people struggling to pay their bills. But
realistically, those consumers are not about to buy any type of flooring in
Even those dealers not aligned with Floorscapes
would do well to take a cue from Mohawk and its new spokeswoman. Granted there
are few of us who can duplicate Taniya Nayak’s winning smile and interior
design savvy, so let’s all of us in flooring be glad she’s on our team as we
mount our comeback.
Taniya to the Rescue
January 19, 2009