Steve Weisberg has come a long way from his preteen days when his father would wake up to find him waiting in the car to go to work at his company, Crest Carpet Distributors. He knew early on helping people create comfortable homes was in his blood.
When he graduated college, it was not long before he came back to the then 20-year-old family business he loved since childhood. Within a decade, his dad decided to ease up on the reins and he began to helm the company and navigate through multiple recessions, the introduction of new product categories and continually shifting consumer views.
Forty-four years later, Weisberg has melded a staunchly independent perspective and company. Over the course of those years, the firm has changed its name a few times to better reflect its offerings and direct to consumer sales. The most recent change was to Crest Flooring as the company partnered with Shaw and HGTV to offer customers a unique blend of service and products.
Part of his success is founded upon the loyalty he endears from his team of 24 people, as evidenced by their tenure. With two people with him for almost all of his 44 years in the business, another four for more than 30 years, and eight for more than 20 years, his customers have a wealth of experience available to guide them in their design choices.
Even his installers, who are subcontracted, have worked with his company for many years, giving Weisberg a comfort level knowing the service and knowledge base is consistent all the way to job completion.
Another element helping him to grow over the years has been the loyalty he engenders from his client base by keeping the focus squarely on them. Creating in-store elements like his Visual Reality studio helps Weisberg’s customers with a select assortment designed to meet their design perspectives across a range of budgets in a clear, concise and user-friendly way.
He counts himself lucky to have the size and diversity of his team. Recounting a conversation with Shaw’s Randy Merritt about the resources available to so many retailers, Weisberg notes, “The hardest or biggest challenge in the flooring industry—and it [significantly] affects the success rate of the smaller dealer, 90% of whom only have six or seven employees—is the vast majority wear five or six different hats and don’t have the time or people to find out what they need to do to keep growing.
“Unfortunately,” he continues, “it means the bigger stores are going to continue to get bigger and the smaller guys are going to go away, and that’s a shame.”
Weisberg’s Crest Flooring is growing. With sales high into the seven digits, the 63-year-old business has seen growth of 10% over the past few years. That growth has come in no small part from a continued focus on non-digital marketing, as well as maintaining a strong identity across all marketing mediums.
“It’s short-sighted to think digital works for everything,” he explains. “Although Yellow Pages and newspapers are a waste, things like television and radio at the right time are very important.”
The key with advertising across multiple platforms is to find a hook that resonates.
“Way back in 1973 when we did our first commercial,” Weisberg remembers, “we always had the feeling that for every 1,000 people we reached really only one or two might need floor covering at that moment. We wanted to do it in such a way that the other 998 will remember us when they do need our product.”
He does it by “franchising the mind” with a theme that has carried through all of his consumer messaging. It has kept Crest top of mind for more than 40 years in the community, even with evolutionary name changes which might have otherwise forced some attrition over the years.
“When the choice comes down to two or three companies,” Weisberg explains, “customers remember Crest and say ‘Let’s go there; they have been around for a long time.’”
Also helping to guide customers to Crest has been its affiliation with HGTV.
“It was great when Shaw took on HGTV, as there has never been to me a better brand in the floor covering industry.”
With two-thirds of the company’s soft surface sales coming from the brand, his belief has been more than validated. A large benefit offered by HGTV has been its affiliation with St. Jude and the cause marketing helping customers to make a choice that benefits more than just their homes.
“One of the better parts of the entire program is the good feeling it gives,” he adds.
In the store’s Visual Reality section, displays are either set up as vignettes or on giant A-frames, helping clients truly envision how the product may look when installed. Weisberg also categorizes the lines into good, better, best by style and flooring type, but not by brand—creating an environment of trust where customers do not feel they are being pushed toward any particular brand.
“We make it easier for the customer by not offering everything,” he adds. “We are more concerned with selling the right product for somebody’s needs and uses, and for the budget they have.” Customers have responded well as evidenced by Crest’s 92% closing rate for all customers who walk through the doors.
Another successful endeavor for the company has been its use of consumer financing. In addition to his usual offer of 12-, 18- or 24-month financing options based on product tier, in key promotions Crest makes available 0%, no money down, 36-month financing for the better and best offerings.
With respect to the cost of such a program, he compares the financing company to a large client: “People ask if you sell 180 jobs and financing costs you 10% or 12%, is it really worth it? I counter by asking if a client gave you 180 extra jobs, would you give them 10% off? Of course you would.”
Weisberg adds the extended financing option does not necessarily get customers to upgrade their purchases. It does that only 10% of the time. Most of the customers are new business that would not have otherwise made a large purchase as “the vast majority were people who did not have cash on hand. It is so much easier and palatable to plan a budget over 36 months.”
With over 40 years in the industry already in the rear view mirror, you might think Weisberg would be considering an exit strategy. But the business is strong and growing. Even when he flies his plane down to North Carolina to relax with his family, today’s technology allows him to maintain a hands-on approach—one that will allow him to continue managing even when the time comes for him to retire at some indeterminate date.
“If I run my business and not let my business run me, I can afford to get away,” he quips. Of course, it helps that Weisberg has a strong supporting team, ready and capable to grow the company for years to come.