Once Munson was ready step out from the shadow cast by his parents, he took what knowledge he gleaned and, in 1981, decided to move to Mankato, Minn., and take over his godparents’ 18-year-old Floor To Ceiling business. Floor To Ceiling is a national buying group with over 200 retail interior-products stores across the U.S., with its founding dealers dating back to the early 1970s.
Despite his years of experience in the flooring industry, though, Munson jokes, “I was young and dumb,” when he purchased the business.
“It wasn’t necessarily a great business when I bought it,” he explains. “I didn’t know any better [at the time].”
But, he did know enough to keep his eggs in more than one basket. “It was the product categories I bought,” Munson explains.
Through trial and error he took what had been a straight specialty flooring retail business doing only a few hundred thousand dollars a year and grew it into a multifaceted enterprise which, today, is several million dollars strong.
One of the keys to Munson’s growth has been a strong focus on servicing the entire home, as his company’s name says: From floor to ceiling.
“We are not just a flooring store,” he clarifies, “we operate in three different industries. If you’re only in floor coverings [today] you are likely just selling products. What we do is specialize in working with customers on their projects, not just on delivering product.”
With the big box stores extremely close by—The Home Depot is across the street, Menards is within a few blocks, and Lowe’s is also in Mankato, which has a population of approximately 40,000—Munson is regularly challenged to keep his ‘A’ Game up.
It is why Floor To Ceiling – Mankato’s 10,000-sq.-ft. showroom floor is continually updated to reflect current styles and popular brands. Forty percent of the store’s sales floor is dedicated to flooring, with products from Karastan/Mohawk, Shaw and Mannington among the more popular. In conjunction with the window treatments from Hunter Douglas and Kirsch, Cambria countertops and Mid-Continent and Omega cabinets, Munson’s vignettes quickly sell the entire package to customers in an easily approachable way.
Being that the business was already more project focused than product, Munson says, “It was a natural progression for us to do new construction, schools, hospitals and multi-family. We were able to meet the additional needs of our customers in those markets.”
One of the challenges over the years, however, has been the growth of the Internet and the vast amount of misinformation with which clients come into the store.
“The Internet is a great thing,” he points out, “but it is also a dangerous thing for consumers.” It is why Munson lets customers know right on the store’s website that his team of seven dedicated, quality people are there to help decipher their purchase in plain English.
To ensure his team is able to translate everything easily, Munson is quick to take advantage of the many resources offered by vendors.
Brad Altmann, the store’s manager, notes in addition to annual training seminars through Floor To Ceiling, “We try to do as many online Webinars as possible. We also have manufacturers’ reps in on a regular basis because there is always something new.”
With just seven people on his team, most with prior flooring experience, Munson also works diligently to make sure everyone can professionally work with the store’s various product types with training from vendors in those categories, as well.
Because of the strong vendor relationships, he is also an avid supporter of their promotions, utilizing them in conjunction with his own marketing efforts throughout the year.
“Our promotions include National Karastan Month, which is a big one for us,” Munson notes, “as well as those centered around vendor promotions for window treatments from Hunter Douglas and Kirsh, and those of our cabinet suppliers. Much of our success is due to the partnerships we’ve developed with our vendors over the years and [from belonging to] the Floor To Ceiling franchise.
“One good thing about being a multi-category retailer,” he says, “is there is always something to promote and we are always promoting.”
Another area where Munson has continually excelled is claims management.
“Of course,” he says, “mistakes and problems unfortunately happen. The test though isn’t necessarily if you can prevent a mistake; it’s really all in how you address one when it happens.”
Along that line, Munson has gone a long way to ensure his customers are always satisfied.
“We try to treat everyone fairly and come to a resolution,” he says, and, as such, “I can’t believe I have any customers out there who have a negative feeling about us.”
The proof is in the proverbial pudding. He has not only grown the business in dollars over the years, Munson has worked effectively to grow into new markets and keep his business diversified. The focus on maintaining options is what has driven him from when he purchased the business and continues to do so.