For those readers who haven’t noticed, the trade press has improved greatly over the years. I recently came back to Floor Trends after a brief time and for months didn’t receive copies of the magazine. When they were finally delivered, I read 10 copies cover to cover.
The information contained within was startling. Everything from floor prep to best practices, how retailers advertise and stories on famous retailers like Nebraska Furniture Mart and others. This along with features on how to use social media, merchandising groups, improving websites, hiring and training practices and other knowledge every retailer should have but can’t get just from running their business—including listening to reps and especially using the knowledge of prior generations. It’s a whole new world out there. The difference in quality of Floor Trends magazine (and, to be fair, other industry publications) from even a few years ago is remarkable.
For years, I’ve preached that you have to be involved in the industry to become part of it. As a 20-something store owner 50-plus years ago, I couldn’t wait for the next issue of Floor Covering Weekly and Home Furnishings Daily to arrive. Like many small dealers, I was the only one in my store with plenty of time to read them.
I continually hear owners say they don’t have time to read the trade press. What could they be doing with their time? Facebook? Gaming on their mobile devices? The difference between involvement in the industry and remaining uninvolved is the success of your business. As I read these magazines in my youth, many issues motivated me to write letters to the editor, so I became known to the press. This led to them calling me for my assessments in my market, which again led to some publicity.
My competition wondered how I was able to get so much press. “Was it ego?” they would ask. Well, duh! Some of my letters motivated editors to ask me to write articles based on my opinions, one of which won me an award which I still treasure from the late Al Wahnon, industry legend and founder of Floor Covering News.
Reading the trade press was simply learning about the industry: business and fashion trends, new products and what fellow retailers were doing in their business that worked. All of this was invaluable information to me as a very small storeowner. I read them all—Floor Covering Weekly, Modern Flooring, etc. I couldn’t get enough of reading about the industry I love. My advice is that if you don’t love the industry enough to get as much information as possible, then maybe you should do something else instead.
Timing is everything. A few years after running a successful chain of stores in New England, I was walking through the halls of the Atlanta Market when I ran into Al Wahnon. Without hesitation he asked, “Hey Tyler, do you want to write a column for me?” He had just had a disagreement with his publisher and left to form his own newspaper, which he called Floor Covering News.
The timing was perfect. I was just selling my business at the same time Al was starting his new venture. As an example of the power of the press, less than six months later as I was strolling through the Dallas Market Center, dozens of people were recognizing me as a columnist for Floor Covering News, which was flattering.
This exposure led to retailers, manufacturers and groups contacting me to speak and train their people, leading to a whole new and very profitable career—all from my intense interest in the industry. Prior to this time I was on the board of directors of the Retail Floor Covering Institute, an organization I wish we still had. The RFI was a mentoring group and included as members and mentors the greatest names in the industry. No organization compares to the RFI. We would help struggling retailers and successful retailers both improve their businesses, hands on, at no charge. I loved the work and vowed if I ever had the chance I would want to do this for a living.
The difference between the professionalism of trade journals then and now is extraordinary. As I said before, timing is everything. When I started having some conflicts and went looking for another opportunity, Floor Trends (then National Floor Trends) put forth an offer I couldn’t refuse and sadly I left Al after all those years. Another “kerfuffle” and I left Floor Trends (I must be hard to get along with). Then I needed my heart valves replaced and was actually out of the industry for the first time in over 50 years. It was also amazing to me how soon clients and readers forget. As I recovered, I called my friend Matt Spieler and asked about writing a column once again. Luckily, he invited me back.
The point is, the trade press was directly responsible for my success in the industry and it started with just having the interest to want to read and learn more. The only investment is your time. Most trade publications are available on a complimentary basis by going to their respective websites and filling out the appropriate information. I might be biased, but I am convinced that we at Floor Trends are the best. My advice, though, is to read them all.