Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Sources of Flooring Inspiration & Innovation

Christine B. Whittemore

What are your sources of Flooring Inspiration & Innovation?

Are they local and global? Are they from within or beyond flooring?

In The US, The World & The Floor Covering Industry, Jim Gould explained why he considers it important to go to Domotex for product inspiration and to better understand global sourcing implications.

Flooring is global, although it executes at a local or regional level, as David Wootton reminded us in Flooring May be Global but the Markets are Local. We need awareness of both dimensions.

In my Wear-Dated upholstery fabric days, we successfully established businesses in Canada and Mexico - that despite our business being primarily US based. We ran a trial program in the UK and explored doing business in Germany, Scandinavia, and Brazil. We did so collaborating with customers. As locally focused as our business was, global mattered and we attended shows like Heimtextil and Decosit for inspiration. That in addition to High Point and Tuppelo.

I expected similar global/local dynamics when I entered the flooring world. Imagine my surprise discovering how local and US focused carpet was -- despite that a sophisticated, globally influenced consumer purchases carpet, flooring and other home related products. One who pays attention to fashion, design, and color trends. And, yet, I'm told repeatedly that she only wants to buy beige.

Are we underestimating the sophistication of the flooring consumer? Or, are other industries completely off-base?

Target successfully introduced design to the mass discount market.

Look at how paint companies have transformed the interior living experience through color. It positively affects our well being and productivity, too. I remember being astounded in the late 70s/early 80s when my French cousin Dominique invited me to help paint her Parisian apartement. She had chosen different colors for every room, including the WC. Unheard of in the US then. Not so outlandish today. By the way, are you aware of the Benjamin Moore iPhone app? It's great fun.

What about inspiration and innovation for the flooring retail experience? I love to consider ideas from outside the industry. For example, the Apple Retail Experience is now considered the new Nordstrom. And, what about looking to museums to connect with customers?

I recently uncovered an example of Flooring inspiration from the UK. I describe it in Celebrating Carpet: UK's Fun On the Floor With Style. Take a look at the innnovative uses for carpet. What do you think?

Finally, in doing research for the Social Flooring Index, I came across two non-US examples of flooring companies innovating in how they communicate with customers: BuildDirect from Canada and McKay Flooring in the UK. They both use social media marketing tools.

What about you? What are your sources of inspiration and innovation?

~ Christine


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