Nowadays, with a fluctuating economy, businesses are becoming more open to the idea of expanding to include Main Street sales. However, from one person to the next, the definition of what Main Street truly is also fluctuates and changes itself.

While the overall description of what Main Street is varies from one retailer to the next, it goes without saying the sector can take a dealer beyond its traditional business and open doors to a different market, including establishments such as the local dress shop, veterinarian office or even a church.

As the economy continues to grow, there is an opportunity for retailers to broaden their horizons beyond just residential replacement and branch out into these Main Street sales where there are multiple opportunities for a dealer to grow its business.

“First, I applaud any dealer who has begun pursuing and expanding their Main Street business,” said Ron Dunn, co-CEO and -president of CarpetsPlusColorTile. “Diversifying in this manner is one of a few core and critically important dimensions in establishing a healthy, well-balanced business that will better withstand the ups and downs of the economy.

“That being said,” he added, “I would also caution [a dealer] to crawl first, then walk, then run. Take it at a pace that is comfortable in minimizing risk and within the scope of ones’ current knowledge.”

In other words, Main Street may not be an easy transition, but it is more than worth expanding your business for in the long run. While Main Street is similar to specialty retail in that it is relation and customer service driven, it is distinctively unlike it in numerous nuances relating to product, installation, warranty, service and payment—all of which determine success or stagnation.

Main Street has its own audience so it’s helpful when businesses cater specifically to these people. Many retailers who have found success in this area find it useful when they have an area set up in their store that is geared specifically toward Main Street products and services.

“It’s a process and you have to really be committed to the process in order to be successful,” said Dave Griggs, owner of Dave Grigg’s Flooring America in Columbia, Mo. “It helps to have a general area. We have a Main Street flooring department located in the back corner of our regular store that is really helpful. In addition to that, Flooring America has a Main Street program called Core Elements, which is comprised of various displays and products that really help the customer.” (Editor’s note: Core Elements is technically a private label name used by Flooring America’s parent company CCA Global Partners for the Main Street program it provides to its buying groups)

Having the resources devoted to help Main Street customers generally tends to set one store apart from others that aren’t necessarily dedicated to that demographic.

“The department helps build that consumer’s confidence when it shows we’re doing exactly what the customer said and catering to them rather than if they went to a normal flooring store and the people there didn’t have access to those tools needed and didn’t have that knowledge,” added Griggs.

Kenny Leviner, director of business development for Mohawk’s Aladdin Commercial division, agrees. “Aladdin is much more than a collection of flooring products. It is a comprehensive Main Street program providing the right flooring solutions for any end use commercial application.

He added, “From innovative design trends in carpet tile, broadloom and LVT, to our performance, sustainability, winning value and service, Aladdin is a leader in being the preferred partner with retailers to expand and grow their [Main Street] businesses.”

It also helps to have a trained sales staff skilled in showing a specific customer what would be needed to start with in regard to various projects. As with any segment or area of the business, experts note it’s always important to train your sales staff to know the products needed to sell Main Street customers.

“Commercial can be a daunting process for some sales professionals, so we created a system whereby products are segregated into categories such as healthcare or schools or retail so that the salesperson picking up the job can put a customer directly into the right product for the right application,” said Keith Spano, president of Flooring America.

Leave the Store

“The other side of that is how do you get those jobs and go after that business, and what we have found is that the people that really own it are the ones who do well,” he added. “Businesses that have a dedicated ‘hunter’ who goes after and gets the business, follows the lead and brings it back are those who are the most successful. Gone are the days where we could wait around for the jobs to come to us. We’ve got to go out and get them.”

Leviner noted, “Mohawk’s most successful Main Street customers are those that have dedicated salespeople who go outside of the store and actively pursue the business. The walk-in, negotiated, transitional commercial opportunities from local and smaller businesses, schools, banks, churches, etc. just don’t happen as often as they once did.”

And once a business succeeds in getting the desired customers, keeping them is the key to success in the long run.

“Service is more important than ever,” said Tony Pizzella, commercial sales representative of Classic Flooring in Maine, who attributes 65% of his sales to Main Street. “If you can help that owner or project manager eliminate or put out just one fire for their day, they will remain loyal.”

Rich Veilleux, operations manager of Floor Systems in Maine, attributes 35% of his sales to Main Street and says knowing the right products for the application is another important aspect. “We’ve got to help them take that picture in their mind and take them beyond imagination and show them what it looks like in reality.”

There are a couple of different yet important things people need to realize when it comes to selling and installing for Main Street.

“In terms of selling, budgets are usually involved and need to be met, supplying accurate information in a timely manner and knowing the commercial products and applications,” said Mike Blanton, president of Dalton Carpet One Floor & Home in Athens, Ga, who attributes 10% of the store’s sales to Main Street. “When it comes to installation, this is a hybrid install because you are doing commercial work but you usually have personal belongings and office furniture to work around. You have to respect the jobsite like you would a home, more than you do on a new commercial jobsite.”

As for getting more Main Street jobs, Carpet One, like many of the buying groups, provides various tools to help its members along the way. “The Core Elements displays have everything from broadloom, modular carpet, LVT, VCT, wall base and much more, which have really helped us out,” said Tyler Brown, preferred client services manager of Carpet One Floor and Home of Springdale, Ark., who attributes 15% of the company’s sales to Main Street. “Not only has Carpet One put together all these selections for us it has made it easy to color coordinate each flooring surface to complete the job.”

Dunn noted, “Self-education is certainly necessary, but the best advice I could give would be to heavily network with other dealers who are already there and have done that. If you aren’t currently part of a national resource group that provides this type of proven-ways networking, join one. The level of business benefits in areas like this is irreplaceable.”