“The Power of Partnership” theme was seen throughout the two-day summer convention which had the energy that said business has been improving in general for both retailers and suppliers, as each not only pointed to a better climate but better overall atmosphere as well.
Fred Giuggio, vice president of Formica, noted for a summer show, “there are a lot of people here. The response overall has been very positive. We love being a supplier to CCA; it’s great exposure and their members are key customers for us so it’s a great partnership.”
John Godwin, executive vice president of sales for Shaw Industries, echoed Giuggio’s sentiments, saying the traffic was both “good and positive,” noting members were stocking up as they see their business steadily improving.
Jonathan Cohen, COO of Stanton Carpet, added, “It’s actually been steadier overall than the last few years. But best of all, everyone coming in is very positive about businesses whereas in the last five years by the time we got to summer the momentum that started each year was lost. So this is a very good sign.”
David Smith of Skaff Furniture Carpet One Floor & Home in Flint, Mich., which has been a member since 1987, told the membership, “Through the power of partnership we have built the most powerful group in the industry.”
Roland Thomspon of Kehnes Carpet in Frederick, Md., said “everyone—the members and the Carpet One staff—seems more upbeat. Things are getting better overall. That alone has made for a good convention.”
He admits the economy is still “tender” but overall “traffic is up and they are purchasing better goods. People are being more cautious with their money so they are buying better goods knowing they will last longer.”
Along those lines, Howard Brodsky, CCA’s chairman, co-founder and -CEO, said members should not be afraid of both selling better goods and selling them at prices that allow them a profitable margin. “Margins are at the heart of what we do—they drive the bottom line.” And because floor covering is purchased once every seven to 10 years and can be confusing to the consumer, retailers can either choose to be the low-cost supplier like Walmart or find ways to get higher margins like Apple.
He said for flooring dealers the latter is a better solution in the long run, noting how “we are living in a world of a blind product [when it comes to price], yet we think a customer is better than us in knowing the cost.”
Brodsky pointed to a member study that was done to prove when it comes to simply looking at a product sample no matter how long one has been in the industry, the aspect of price is still confusing. “It’s like tires. We don’t really know the difference between them by looking at them; we rely on the salesperson to explain why one costs more than another. And we should be doing the same thing with flooring.”
He added how, many times, the industry “prices for the exception.” That is, the one customer in a thousand who actually “knows” what something is worth. “But generally, there is a great deal of room in the industry to drive margin.” Brodsky suggested retailers can raise their margins and then take a percentage of that to use toward marketing. This way they would still be making more money while also promoting themselves more, which means more visibility and traffic.
He told members one of the best places to begin when it comes to changing the price structure is with new products. “It’s a great place to get extra margins because there are no pre-conceived notions on price.”
Beyond just raising margins, he and Eric Demaree, Carpet One’s president, gave members 10 ways to engage the consumer and close more sales, noting if just one item got implemented it can help add significant dollars to the bottom line.
While many of the items retailers can do by themselves, Demaree added, some of them are better done in the scope of partnerships, and by utilizing the resources and tools given the collective group grows stronger. “Partnerships are so important and this convention is about using the partnerships we have with each other and with our vendors to grow. The power we as a group have when we support the programs offered is a tremendous force that can be beneficial to all involved.”
Jessica Correa, Carpet One’s vice president of marketing, pointed out how “some of the most successful people [in business and throughout history] have had partners. And they say without them they would not have gotten to where they got.”
She added when it comes to these partnerships there is usually the visionary and the builder, or the person in the public eye and the one behind the scenes. Carpet One can act as both, Correa explained as it can provide the items that get members noticed—from professionally designed showrooms and displays to national marketing initiatives—and it can be the builder, or backbone, such as helping members with their websites and other technologies along with providing a solid infrastructure that allows members to concentrate on helping their customers achieve the home of their dreams.
To help demonstrate how powerful partnerships can be, keynote speaker Jim Davidson, author of the best-selling book “The Ledge,” which was also the subject of the TV show, “I Shouldn’t Be Alive,” described how in business or life having a trusted partner can be the difference between failure and success—or in his case life and death.
“Partners make us stronger, safer and more successful than we can be by doing it alone,” he said. “We need partners to take care of each other and help us reach those high altitudes. Sometimes you will face challenges with people or equipment but you have to figure it out and persevere—you have to keep grinding; think of who and what gives you strength. But remember, we frontline climbers (i.e., retailers) would not go anywhere without all the people in the chain behind us.”
While winter conventions are normally the time when buying groups roll out their major programs, to emphasize the power of partnering with Carpet One the organization unveiled a host of initiatives and exclusive product offerings designed to not just differentiate members in their local markets but allow them to compete against the low-cost merchandisers and box stores. And, on top of that, use the summer convention to gauge member thoughts on certain products in order to have them ready for the next winter convention in January.
On the product side, one of the big introductions was an exclusive collection of groutable LVT products called Veo¯Stone. Made with 75% real stone, the products and display are being made exclusively for Carpet One by longtime partner Armstrong World Industries.
Charlie Dilks, chief product officer for CCA, said Armstrong invested over $1 million to make the cylinders for this product and that it is made in America in Illinois in the same place where the mill’s popular Alterna product is produced.
Theresa Fisher, Carpet One’s vice president of store design and visual merchandising, said, “This product gives us a great opportunity—it speaks for itself in its beauty so will allow you to speak about its performance and value.”
Another CCA exclusive that Carpet One members were just starting to get their hands on is the Just Shorn program of carpets made with 100% New Zealand wool. Fisher said, “There has never been such a huge emotional response from the members. Many who never sold wool now do, and those who did have increased their sales.”
Ken Bernt of L&K Carpet One in Pocatello, Idaho, and a member for 22 years said, “This is the first time I’m selling wool. It’s a beautiful display, the products make a great fashion statement, there is a strong green/environmental story behind it and I think the time is right for wool.”
Demaree said the Just Shorn program has “exceeded our expectations” in terms of how many members gravitated to it. “We went from 250 to over 400 between conventions, and many more members are signing up for the program at this convention.”
Speaking of environmental stories, Carpet One also launched a partnership with the Carpet America Recovery Effort (CARE) at the convention. CARE is a non-profit organization with the mission of finding solutions for the reuse and recycling of post-consumer carpet. Bob Peoples, CARE’s executive director, was on hand to present an opportunity for all members to register to become supporting members of CARE and help in its efforts to divert carpet from landfills.
“Our partnership with CARE is just another way that we are helping our members to be more environmentally conscious.” said Demaree.
For Peoples, he said the partnership is a “win-win for the industry” if the membership gets involved as it “will help with the collection of post-consumer carpet and allow the industry to divert more away from landfills in a manner in which the materials can be reused.”
It was not just product and programs members could touch that were unveiled during convention, as Carpet One announced many new digital tools for members such as the Stain First Aid app for consumers which is available on both Apple and Android platforms. It allows the user to quickly pull up cleaning instructions for over 50 carpet stains. Some stains also have video instructions on how to clean them.
Another app was launched for owners and their sales staff to help them engage with customers in-store and also collect email addresses more easily.
Correa noted, “The digital world changes quickly, so we are constantly looking for ways to improve our digital assets to better engage our customers.”
For example, she said in January, Carpet One launched its One Stop Digital program. Now it includes local listings management, reputation management, local website customizations, Google+ customizations and social media content management. “Members enrolled in the One Stop Digital program have already seen significant increases in their organic rankings.