While the store’s ownership and name have changed a few times over the years, a great deal of the staff has stayed on through the different iterations lending a strong sense of continuity for consumers who have shopped the many businesses which have occupied the space.
“This location has always been a flooring store,” Gomes says. “Because the continuity has been good and a lot of people don’t even look at what’s on the door, they find the same salesperson that was here when they bought their carpet 15 years ago. The only issue has been when people come in seeking warranty service and we are not the same store.”
When Gomes took over to create her Classic Design showplace, she took from her many lessons over the years and committed to keeping the focus on creating a beautiful space for clients and not on price.
“We don’t ever advertise on price,” she explains. “Whenever an ad or promotion is focused on price, so is the consumer when she comes into the showroom. We want her to be focused on what is going to be best for her home.”
To enable that level of focus, Gomes keeps full-time designers on staff who can work with the customer from concept to execution. As a licensed general contractor, she ensures everything is in place to provide the complete package with “effortless home improvement”—a tagline Gomes has trademarked to reflect one of the company’s core strengths.
Her sales team also meets bi-weekly and utilizes industry journals like Floor Trends, and columnist Kelly Kramer’s articles as a resource to enhance selling and customer service skills.
“The meetings have been really good at keeping our team cohesive as a unit and always on the same page,” she notes. “We also have a quick preproduction meeting with whichever salesperson closed the sale, our production manager and someone from the operations side to make sure all the bases are covered.
“Especially with some of our larger remodels where we may have upwards of 10 trades going in,” Gomes continues, “that communications meeting has helped us immensely.”
The systems have worked well for the company as Gomes has grown the business more than threefold to over $3 million in annual sales since its inception eight years ago—not an easy task considering the Great Recession took place during a part of this time.
She credits much of the growth to expanding the company’s product offerings beyond just floor and window coverings.
“When we first started doing kitchen and bath remodels it represented maybe 20% of our sales,” Gomes notes. “Now, close to 70% of our business is in the category.”
The move into the complementary category was aided in large part by her connection to the Floor to Ceiling buying group.
“Being part of Floor to Ceiling gave us the tools to be able to step into all the other product lines,” she says. “Mistakes can cost tens of thousands of dollars. I don’t know if I would have had the guts to do that without having the support from corporate.”
Another key factor in Gomes’ success lies in her ability to deal at the table. In her past experience working for larger, corporate bodies, when making commercial bids the parent company often comes to the bidding table after the fact to say things will be done differently, frustrating not only Gomes, but the builder accounts they are trying to lock in.
“My favorite part of the business is being able to make the final decision,” she explains. “It has always been very frustrating when dealing with a [parent company] passing down new procedures and processes without knowing the front line.
“I’ve found local builders are happier to sit at the conference table with one person who can make a decision,” Gomes adds. “When there are upwards of 10 people—who often change—at the table, there is a lack of consistency and no culpability because no one knows who is making any of the final decisions.”
She has also covered the basics by networking throughout the community in the form of getting involved with the local chamber of commerce and by volunteering and working with local charities. As with anything else, the benefits are what you make of them. Gomes’ work with area charities earned a volunteer of the year award three years ago. She also just completed a term as chairperson of the Lodi Chamber of Commerce.
Classic Design has also won numerous awards in California’s Central Valley, among them being named Best of Lodi and Best of San Joaquin by local media, as well as receiving a customer satisfaction award from Houzz.com, a website connecting consumers with design and construction professionals.
Earning those distinctions comes in large part from ensuring her customers have all the resources they need before and after the sale is closed.
Renowned flooring retailer Jake Kimmel, who founded the national Floors to Go chain and sold it to Abbey Carpet before his death in 2011, always espoused to his members, “The art of selling is the art of taking away a customer’s fear of making a mistake.”
Gomes removes their fear in a number of ways. When clients first come in, she explains, they are provided a pre-bid package that includes a letter from her thanking them for coming in and provides key elements they should seek out in whatever company they decide to partner with for their purchase. Those elements include everything from client testimonials and awards earned, to copies of the company’s business license and letters of credit.
During the sales process, her mostly female team helps guide them through the process of creating a beautiful home. “Although we’re not female by design, women designers have just been much more successful with our [mostly] women clientele who are really the ones making the decisions.”
At the close of the sale, customers are given an aftercare kit detailing the care and maintenance required to maintain their warranties. They are also given warranty brochures and an invitation to show off their new purchase with Classic Design’s help in hosting a party complete with refreshments and the appropriate cleaning products for their purchase.
“It’s a fun event for our clients and our reps even come out to help,” she says. It also provides great referrals as potential clients can see the quality of the company’s work with easy access to her team for questions about potential projects.
Gwen Borges, sales and designer, has worked with Classic Design for almost five years. With 30 years industry experience, including 18 at Walter’s Carpet where Gomes launched her career, she notes the company’s promotional efforts are spot on.
“[Gomes] really knows her stuff and does a great job in promoting the business,” Borges says. “We are full service for any surface in the house and we have a gorgeous showroom [to highlight our capabilities].”
She adds Gomes provides the team with the ability to deal with every type of customer. “It’s all about relationships. She wants people to be happy and is concerned they love what they have and are excited about what they are getting.”
The retailer has also found success by partnering with other businesses to help clients meet their aftermarket needs.
“We send out a letter to clients a year after installation,” Gomes says. “With it we include a 20% off coupon with a partner cleaning company and remind them about keeping up with the warranty. We also ask for new business with a $100 coupon they can either take advantage of themselves or pass along to a friend.”
With four of those coupons just recently bringing in new business, Classic Design is already poised to grow its business to the next level.