The definitive example of location, location, location, the Billingsleys found customers will travel great lengths to buy from them because they have driven by the store thousands of times over the years and remember it when they are ready to purchase new flooring.
“Many of our customers come from as far as three hours away to buy flooring from us just because they’ve passed by and seen us for more than 30 years,” says Carlton Billingsley, general manager and vice president of operations, and the second generation to lead the family business.
The customer comfort level that comes from the company’s longevity in a single location notwithstanding, the true test Floors and More has passed over the years is its commitment to providing a great guest services.
“We’re a service-oriented company,” notes Corey Clayton, project specialist, and sales and project manager. “We do whatever we can to ensure our customers are satisfied and do whatever we can to accommodate them.”
That focus, combined with a zeal for continually evolving its product offerings to meet changing customer needs, has allowed the company to remain at the forefront of flooring sales in its marketplace despite heavy competition from big box retailers The Home Depot and Lowe’s, as well as specialty players from some of the industry’s major buying groups.
In that spirit of constant evolution, Carlton says the company also offers a floor care service to its customers.
“It’s a natural niche which allows us to keep our customers with us [after the sale] rather than find someone else to do maintenance who might also sell flooring,” he explains.
“We strive to make sure our customers know we take care of anything they need,” he adds, “that’s the ‘more’ part of our name—on the residential and commercial side. Because of that, I have had the good fortune of being able to work with kids whose parents I worked with 20 years ago. We have even been able to work with some third generation clients.”
As the second generation to lead the company since its inception 35 years ago, Carlton grew up in the business which now sells everything from floors to counters to window treatments and “more.”
“I worked my way through college here at the offices,” he says. “When I graduated, I knew I enjoyed it and flooring was part of my life so I stayed.”
Over the course of those years, there were many lessons to be learned, not the least of which was bigger is not always better.
As the company grew over the decades, Billingsley remembers how it expanded its commercial business into new regional markets along the East Coast, increasing revenues to at least four times their current level. The growth, however, brought along a lot of headaches, such as sourcing local crews or increased expenses with supporting the jobs from its home base in Benton, Ark., as well as other logistical issues.
In the end, he says managing a smaller business has actually proved to be more profitable for the company and himself.
“We learned we were able to be better businesspeople by staying local,” Billingsley explains. “Today we don’t go outside Arkansas as we have found we can do just as well with our sales by managing our projects better.”
That is not to say, though, Floors and More is not involved in multi-state commercial jobs. As part of the Starnet network, the company works with other members of the commercial buying group to service national accounts locally.
“The more we found out who Starnet was and what it stood for,” he says, “the more we found it was a good fit. They really screen and make sure they have good quality members so it’s not just about paying an enrollment fee and you’re part of it.”
The team approach has been a successful one for Billingsley. In addition to being part of the Starnet team, he sits on the dealer advisory board of the specialty retail buying group Floor Covering Associates (FCA) Network, of which his company has been a member for 15 years.
“FCA is one of the best kept secrets in the industry,” Billingsley notes. Like Starnet, “FCA does not just sign anyone up. They want people who want to grow their business. It’s a smaller group with a very low cost to join and is very powerful in pricing and programs.”
Another key to the company’s success has been to remain “multidimensional” on numerous fronts. In addition to offering a variety of product lines and types, the focus on multiple market segments has allowed the Floors and More to better weather market shifts as they happen.
“One of our biggest positives over the years,” he explains, “is that we have always been multidimensional. When one segment is a little soft, one of the other segments usually picks up a little stronger to balance.”
To ensure the company is ready for any market shift, Billingsley continually updates the showroom elements with a complete change-out of the 3,500-sq.-ft. sales floor every 18 months. Along with hard surface mini installations which are easy to swap out, a major the effort is made to give customers visuals on how they would want the floors to be installed in their homes.
The attention to detail has paid off. Annual sales for the company are over $5 million, with close to 40% of those revenues on the residential side.
In addition to partnering with Starnet on the commercial side and FCA on the residential side, he has teamed with FloorForce to provide Floors and More’s website service.
Floors and More’s website is “like our highway presence,” he says. “We make an investment through our online presence. I don’t know how much we will ever sell in an Amazon-type environment, but a lot of our customers—both commercial and residential—want to review product online. The more people see us there, the more business we’ll see from that.”
Although he does not expect to sell much flooring directly from the Internet site and the company’s social media presence, Billingsley can directly see their ability to bring in customers. In addition to coupons customers can print off the website to remit in-store, clients are making appointments through the site, and referring directly to Floors and More’s online product catalog to see it “in person.”
Another aspect of the company’s Internet presence has been to provide consumers with accurate product and design information through a series of videos hosted by nationally known home fashion and interior designer Marc Thee, co-founder and principal of Marc Michaels Interior Design.
“A lot of people have enjoyed those videos,” Billingsley says. “[Our site] has helped customers by giving them expert advice whether or not they buy from us. Nowadays’ people are going to get information off the Internet; what we’re trying to do is to make it a little less confusing.”
All in all, a multifaceted retail approach from bricks-and-mortar to online sales, in a family business environment focused on helping the customer first, has proven itself the formula to success for Floors and More. By adding a clear vision for the business and managing its growth, Billingsley has taken what the family business has learned over the years to realize better margins by choosing substance over size.