Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Who merchandises and controls your floor covering showroom?

Merchandising a retail showroom floor may be an owner’s most important responsibility.  The problem is, most retailers permit their reps or buying groups to handle that responsibility which means that it's easy to start looking like every other floor covering showroom.  Let me explain why that might not be a good thing. 

Last week my wife and I visited Sorbaras, our new local grocery store.  We were amazed at the plethora of brands we hadn’t seen for many years, including Utz potato chips, DeLallo and Isaly's chipped ham.  Sorbara’s is exciting to us because their selection is different.  The store is not as large as Publix, the dominant chain; nor does it have as many brands or selection.  None of that matters though, because Sorbara’s has brands and products that are different and we have become fans.

Product differentiation is key to your success. 

Someone recently said to me that shopping at carpet stores was akin to shopping for beer at convenience or smaller grocery stores - the insides of the stores and the products all look the same - unless you go to Trader Joe's where they help you cook rather than just sell you something to eat.  Trader Joe’s proves you can be different in a highly commoditized category.

So ask yourself these questions:   

Who chooses the displays for your floor covering store?  Most floor covering stores are edited by their reps, buying or aligned groups. A cynic might call that manipulation when retailers are shown or not shown products as their rep or group desires.  (This is not a knock against buying groups.  In fact, joining a buying group may be exactly what you need to differentiate yourself).

What products do you show that amaze your customer and can only be purchased at your store? Consider products rather than brands. As an aside, changing the name of a Mohawk or Shaw product doesn't qualify a product as being "different" to a consumer.  Brands have limitations too.

There are few reasons to believe the floor covering industry is going to emerge from the recession any time soon.  This is the new normal.  Can you survive if this is as good as it gets?  Perhaps only if you make changes to the way you do business.  The products on your floor are the engine to your success.  Make it your personal passion to ensure your showroom floor does not mirror your competition’s showroom floor. The key is that you explore your options for products where your competition is too lazy to tread.  Be different.

What do you do that is different? Comment below and let us know.

Chris Ramey is president of Affluent Insights and a member of the Floor Covering Institute.

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