In the floor covering business – and especially in hardwood flooring – merchandising will most likely be your biggest marketing investment. Your greatest challenge is to create a “Silent Salesman,” a merchandising system worth its weight in gold that exudes real pizzazz! So the task for you marketers out there is to create an in-store merchandiser that grabs the buyer by the throat, stops them in their tracks and virtually closes the sale on its own.


There’s a lot more to it than meets the eye. When done right, it’s the most powerful weapon in your marketing arsenal. If it misses the mark, it becomes a dust trap wasting valuable retail floor space. So don’t take it for granted! Do it right and you will reap the rewards of success; cut corners, and you’ll lose a heck of a lot more than what you invested in the first place.

Paramount in your quest to achieve real pizzazz is to understand that hardwood flooring is a visual product. It has to be seen, touched, and correlated to various fabrics, paint colors and textures selected to decorate the home before a purchase decision is made.

Over the years I’ve witnessed a great number of consumers searching for just the right hardwood flooring look to complement their decorating achievement. More and more, these are the clients who appreciate a good merchandising system that shows the product, color, grain variation, and radiant room scene that confirms their vision.

Being linked to a virtual palette of colors, hardwood is always a critical product selection. So here’s a savvy spin on how to add pizzazz to your hardwood flooring merchandising program.


Start With the Wood

First and foremost, you start with the actual hardwood flooring; the cornerstone of any hardwood merchandiser is to design and produce just the right sample board. So here are a few pointers:

• The wood glued to the display board requires a great deal of attention to detail. Nicks, scratches, saw-blade remains, exposed adhesive, or machining defects are all absolute no-no’s.

• Make sure the tongues and grooves are properly engaged, and that the end joints are spaced out accordingly. Sounds simple, but you would be amazed at what you see out there when you pick up a sample board. Take nothing for granted!

• Show a good representation of the natural color variation inherent to each specie and color. Remember, there is natural color variation, so don’t cull it out. It’s important that the buyer knows what he or she is getting.


Photography That Says “Wow!”

Room scene décor is your biggest opportunity to show some real pizzazz! But make it believable. The vast majority of all room scenes are shot in a studio; the good ones really convince the customer they were shot in an actual home. Accomplishing this is a true art. Here are some helpful tips:

• While the sample board certainly can’t show every variation to the look and color, the room scene can. It must provide a true and fair representation of what the floor will actually look like when installed on the jobsite. A smart play is to have a wood flooring technical adviser on hand during the photo shoot, someone who will take the extra time and effort during the room scene set-up to “rack-out” the floor exactly as you want portrayed. Don’t leave this up to the artsy whim of a set director who has little firsthand knowledge of a proper hardwood flooring installation.

• Be sure you provide an attractive, colorful room scene on the reverse side of the sample board. This will also allow you space to include valuable sales information such as product dimensions, style or model numbers, color names and numbers, warranty information, and other sell copy.

• Lighting is critical. If you have a hand-scraped product to shoot, it’s an art director’s dream. The lighting can really show off the depth and texture of this unique look.

• In certain instances you may be forced to photograph an actual jobsite installation and “sell the sizzle, not the steak.”So for live photo shoots, be wary of the glare and gloss from natural reflecting sunlight and direct lighting. This is especially challenging with a smooth and shiny surface in a medium-toned hardwood floor. It’s much easier to manage lighting in a professional studio environment to show the flooring at its best,but a good professional photographer can do the job done right on a live shoot.


In-store Signage

To really achieve a jaw-dropping visual impact, in-store signage is your best shot. It must be really eye grabbing, visually pleasing and capable of hammering home a must-buy message all in a fleeting moment. Seize this opportunity to make a real splash by carefully selecting the font style and size, make it readable, and most certainly make it eye-catching.

Size Matters

Everyone thinks a big display is the secret to gaining the most attention. Perhaps, but that’s not always the case. I believe the best looking and most functional displays produce the best results. One thing is certain in floor covering in-store retailing: space is always limited, and it’s at a premium to the retailer.

So design your Silent Salesman with built-in flexibility. Make it available with either one or several rack units that can accommodate any number of plan-o-grams. At the onset you may be lucky to get just enough space to accommodate a narrow unit. When successful you can work your way up by adding more units and product samples as time goes on.


Do Something Unique

Don’t employ a “me-too” rack. Create your own special look; one that sets you apart from the rest. When I was with Robbins Hardwood Flooring years ago, our crowning achievement was the “Premium Product Showcase.” It was truly groundbreaking. Aside from its eye popping aesthetics, it had a real kicker: a small built-in counter top affixed to the display at a 90° angle. It had just enough room to layout a few sample boards alongside a palette of color swatches, perhaps laid on top of a rolled-out a set of drawings.

It became the focal point of the showroom; regardless of what flooring type was under consideration. Talk about pizzazz!

So to get the biggest bang out of your merchandising dollar my advice is to be creative, plan something new and unique, and do it right! When your Silent Salesman has real pizzazz, your customers will recognize it the moment they walk in the door. 


Rick Brian is President of R. B. Brian and Associates, Inc. (, a management and marketing consulting company he founded in 1997.  His clients are primarily manufacturers and distributors in the hardwood flooring and building products industries. Rick is a former president of Robbins Hardwood Flooring and past board member of the NWFA, MFMA, and NOFMA. He is currently a member of the NAFCD and NWFA. RBBA is headquartered in Southern Pines, NC..