Carpet One Floor & Home’s summer convention theme focused on ‘Impact Performance’ and set a different tone than typical conventions as the buying group put a strong emphasis for members to embrace their creativity and not hesitate when being inventive and original.

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In fact, thinking outside of the box was essential during the meeting, such as when presenter, Eric Wahl of Unthink, stressed to members how crucial it is to let go and truly create something that stands out.

Eric Demaree, Carpet One’s president, said while the group always looks for third-party experts to present proven ideas to the members, when putting the summer convention together, officials made a concerted effort to bring in speakers that would get retailers to “step out of their comfort zone. So we did just that. We had Dennis Snow, who used to work for Walt Disney, and Wahl to really talk about how members can do things that are new and different and also ‘impact’ their performance.”

Utilizing a multi-sensory experience, Wahl emphasized how important it is for retailers to open up their minds to the endless possibilities they possess and broaden their horizons in many different ways, from embracing their artistic side when helping customers to redesigning and transforming their stores and its prominent displays along with revamping their social media and marketing efforts to highlight their companies’ best qualities, including innovation, originality and a voice that not only speaks to its customer, but convinces them to come back.

Part of that strategy was unveiled in a new mission to make Carpet One “the most trusted store for flooring.” Janice Jacobs, Carpet One’s vice president of marketing, noted one simple way of doing this, is changing the salesperson’s “title” from sales professional to floor and home consultant.

She said today’s consumers want to be “helped” not “told” and want stores to “empower us; don’t sell us.” This, Jacobs said, is a key reason behind the group’s overall direction.

Even though product introductions in general weren’t necessarily the main focus this summer, that’s not to say they weren’t highlighted when necessary, especially when it came to showing members why they need to diversify beyond just floorings and into product categories that can help attract and keep customers for an entire renovation project, such as when doing a kitchen or bathroom, or even expanding into offering closet organizing systems.

Beyond the non-typical flooring items, Jim Aaron, vice president of CCA Global Partners, Carpet One’s parent company, noted “we launched a few hardwood and LVT programs that will help our members compete even more effectively in their market. Carpet One University announced a new SelectAFloor Training System that approaches the act of consulting with customers more holistically, while keeping all our products in mind.”

He added in marketing, the group unveiled new partnerships and programs that will allow members to be at the forefront of the consumer’s digital experience as she does her research before coming to the actual store.

Though it is not a flooring product itself, Carpet One officially unveiled the updated SelectAFloor display system. The 15-year-old merchandising unit is still considered by most members—and vendors—to be a workhorse in the dealer’s showroom. Utilizing consumer, member and third-party feedback, the system was redesigned to appeal to retailers and consumers alike by simplifying both the selling and buying processes by helping to narrow choices down to the things consumers care about most—style, performance and value.

“We took our Select-AFloor system,” Demaree explained, “which has been out there for 15 years, and enhanced it by redesigning all the cards and simplifying the selections into three major categories—so whether you’re a budget, a performance or a high fashion customer you can easily navigate the display. We also integrated our brands throughout the showrom into a total system so it makes it really enjoyable for the customer to find the product she wants.”

The exclusive selling system works by first determining the customer’s needs and wants through a series of easily identifiable and understandable prompts. Once that has been established, the customer can begin the process by selecting the flooring she desires from one of the three categories determined to best meet her needs and wants.

From that point on is where it gets really interesting because Carpet One has revamped the system so a customer can really get specific with her selection and easily choose whether she prefers flooring characteristics that are green, cost-effective, pet friendly, water resistant, etc. Furthermore, each flooring sample is conveniently marked with an icon symbolizing what characteristic it entails—for example, a dog paw icon tells a customer that the product is pet friendly.

“I am so excited [about the updated] SelectAFloor display, which will make the shopping experience easier for today’s busy consumer,” said Catherine Buchanan, personnel manager, Independent Carpet One Floor & Home in Westland, Mich. “It’s clean, the icons will definitely be a direction for the consumer to shop, plus it really did need a freshening up. It’s the greatest [selling] tool at our stores—our library of products.”

Mickey and Flooring

One of the key presentations that members were talking about was ‘Lessons from the Mouse,’ by former Disney employee, Snow, as he concentrated not just on the customer but the “customer experience” as the most important element to any transaction. The key is to keep it simple and remember, “everything speaks” to her.

Snow highlighted five key aspects when it comes to perfecting customer service as well as their overall experience: See your operation through the eyes of your customer, perform with an experienced mindset—not a task mindset—ensure your organization’s “backstage environment” never impacts the “onstage” customer experience, create consistent moments of “wow” for customers and make personal accountability a part of your organization’s culture.

“The speakers were excellent,” said Mike Gallagher, owner, Gallagher Carpet One Floor & Home, Lockhaven, Pa. “Dennis Snow speaking about customer service is the most important thing I brought home. Customer loyalty is a powerful benefit for our stores. His point about, ‘standing back and looking at your store through the customers eyes’ is something that can get lost when we get too busy. We need to show every day that our Carpet One stores care about people and our communities.”

Speaking of Carpet One and its members’ involvement with their surrounding communities the organization stressed to the membership not only the importance of “cause marketing” in helping to reach today’s socially conscious consumer but the aspect of doing it with an honest, heartfelt approach and to not be ashamed to promote their actions.

It’s those same efforts that seem to be endless—local blood drives, helping to find cures for breast cancer, helping soldiers call home, contributing to the Hope Center of Autism and similar local charitable organizations—Carpet One executives showcased to the members how the group makes a difference on the national and local levels by going above and beyond in more ways than one.

A key example of this is Carpet One’s partnership with Building for America’s Bravest and the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation, in which Carpet One members donate their time and resources in the building of  “smart homes” that allow America’s most severely wounded veterans to live dignified lives.

“Since we got involved in Building for America’s Bravest, we’ve done 15 homes over the past 20 months,” said Carpet One’s Jacobs. “And this couldn’t have been done without the generosity of our members.”

Jack Oehm, retired Battalion chief, New York Fire Department, and now a full-time volunteer for the Siller Foundation, took the stage to talk about the heart-warming member involvement for this cause, along with the Shadow Box Tour, where he and other 9/11 first responders have been visiting Carpet One stores to thank the local owner and staff for their support of the Building for America’s Bravest program by presenting them with a shadow box containing hallowed 9/11 steel from Ground Zero.

“There is such a great sense of pride to be a Carpet One member anyway, but to hear about the houses we have played an integral part in through the Building For America’s Bravest program resonates home that we are making a difference in our country for our dedicated service men and women,” added Buchanan. “So many stores are community involved and to hear about what some of them are doing is awesome.”

Demaree emphasized, “The difference is, there are some companies that do cause marketing with total lack of sincerity. They do it because the table stakes today are that they have to be visible with who and what they support. What we and our members are doing has nothing to do with business. We have picked and chosen worthwhile organizations. We’ve been donating millions of dollars toward Race for the Cure through our doormat program. We don’t do that for business, we do it because it’s the right thing to do. It’s like Building for America’s Bravest—that is not a business decision. That is a humanitarian decision where we fully recognized what we needed to do to support these catastrophically wounded veterans who deserve this. And thank God this whole organization said they’ll do it.”

While members were able to take home many aspects from the presentations alone, the trade show portion of the event naturally provided retailers with more of a wide diversification of merchandise and programs to help benefit their individual businesses.

“As a trade association—and not a retailer, which is the main target for this show—our interaction with the group is a little different,” said Anita Howard, COO of the National Wood Flooring Association (NWFA). “Instead of product or machinery, we provide training and resources for the retailer’s sales and installation crews. In that aspect, the group has been a great partner with NWFA. We’ve participated in educational presentations at its shows for a number of years now, and it has brought several groups to our headquarters for training as well. As a result, its members are more knowledgeable about wood flooring, which ultimately leads to happier customers and more sales.”

Randall Sheehe, director of strategic accounts and buying groups for Tarkett, said, “One of our goals at these events is to inspire retailers to think beyond the basic floor. What can they do in their own locations that will inspire the consumers walking in?”

CCA’s Aaron said, “I think what our members enjoy most about conventions is the opportunity to network with other members. Our members are great—not only are they just good people, but you’ll often find Carpet One members are usually [among] the largest players in their own markets. To be able to network with other successful businessowners from around the country is invaluable.”

Right Direction

Both members and vendors reported not only a positive show experience but gave votes of confidence for the way Carpet One is moving forward.

“I like the direction the group is going in,” stated Sam Ruble, vice president, sales for USFloors. “The mood of the membership was positive and business in general was upbeat and cautiously optimistic going forward.”

Fred Giuggio, vice president of sales and marketing for Kronotex USA, maker of the American Concepts brand, couldn’t agree more. “In my opinion, Carpet One continues to give its members the best-of-the-best. From marketing to merchandising, the group zeros in on the member’s needs.” As for business, he added, “The mood at retail is up and the stores are seeing there is light at the end of the tunnel.”

Jon Thierfeld, territory manager for Leggett & Platt, said Carpet One can deliver these types of professional programs to its members because “they are all top professionals themselves. The typical member understands the importance of creating a positive customer experience and they recognize and utilize the tools and resources they have available to achieve it.”

Buchanan emphasized her delight with Carpet One and where it is directing the membership, noting the 16 new members/stores at the convention “is a great sign.”

More so, she said the product diversification is of “utmost importance with [the addition of] cabinets, lighting, closet organizers, etc. This will assist us with margin, longevity and providing for the consumer as a one-stop shop experience. Management is so willing to listen, learn and direct. We have a very cohesive group. Our advertising programs are innovative and fresh and now we have our four consistent national campaigns, which make for an easy transition for presentation within our stores.”

Sheehe added, “There was a lot of energy and excitement throughout the show. We had a strong increase in traffic, which was exciting to see because the convention gives us a chance to reconnect with retailers and gain insight into what is driving business in their area.”

While summer conventions are typically less reserved than their winter counterparts, Aaron said, “The feedback from this one has been phenomenal. Our theme was Impact Performance and we stayed focused on delivering actionable takeaways—things members could go back and implement right away. And I really think we delivered. Members really connected with the theme.”

Gallagher felt the convention was certainly time well spent. “It’s great to see and meet members from all over the country. Everyone I talked with was happy with current business activity.”