Floor Covering Weekly July 1, 2013 : Page 1
Vol. 62 No. 13 A Hearst Business Publication July 1, 2013 $4 F LOOR C OVERING W EEKLY The Industry’s Business News & Information Resource Getting LVT installation right 7 Group strength personal stamp Flooring America dealer packs power By Janet Herlihy Mari and Rob Menefee and their daughter Alina build new traditions. Flooring America new vision, voice By Amy Joyce Rush Keith Spano, president of Flooring America and Floor-ing Canada, is understandably enthusiastic. Just weeks before convention, the company has come o of its “Friends Send Friends” mobile tour which allows Spano and his team the opportunity to engage one-on-one with members and their customers across Keith Spano the country. And he has a lot of exciting initiatives to talk about with his members both in the U.S. and Canada. Spano, who came to Flooring America after a stint at Avalon Carpet, said, “Over the last two years, we’ve changed the voice of Flooring America and Flooring Canada. It’s about being the most recommended flooring store across America. It’s where friends send friends. Everyone can talk about being the best, the best selection, the cheapest.” What he wants is for the expe-rience to be so positive that customers not only tell their friends about it but actu-ally refer them to Flooring America stores. Part of his strategy includes changes in the team running the co-op. e newest member of Flooring America manage-ment is Je Schwalb, previ-ously with a large retailer in St. Louis. Schwalb started mid-June and holds the post of vice president of merchandising. “We’ve changed a lot of our team through natural progression. It’s a di erent vibe now,” said Spano. “ e word is getting out that we are di erent, even within (parent company) CCA.” In fact, Spano considers Flooring Amer-ica a marketing/merchandising group. “Our job is to protect our members and give them the ability to increase their prof-itability and close rates and give them the tools to do that.” over the business. He built the third location in Fairfax, Va., in 2003. It is still a family endeavor as Rob Menefee’s [W, V.] Rob Menefee grew up in the ooring business. Now CEO of Flooring wife, Mari, is a co-owner, working on business America and FA Design Build, based here, development and accounting functions. Menefee is using that heritage as a spring board Finding the format that fits to launch new and creative operations. e business experimented with various His father, Ed Menefee, was a ooring manufacturer’s rep, who opened a ooring groups, rst joining CarpetMax in the early store with his wife Shirley in White Plains, 1990s and then moving to Abbey. “We Md., in 1979. Rob Menefee began his ooring switched to Flooring America in 2007,” education the re as an installer and working Menefee explained. Vinnie Virga, former president of Flooring in the warehouse on weekends and during vacations. In 1992, a er earning a degree in America, recruited Menefee. “I had a great business at the University of Mary Washing-relationship with him and now Keith (Spano) has been tremendous. He listens and has ton, Va., he began working in sales. e Menefees added a second location great ideas that he brings to the members.” Keith Spano, president of Flooring America, in Woodbridge, Va., in 1985 and, when his parents retired in 2001, Rob was ready to take Continued on page 16 Bentley: Back to its roots By Janet Herlihy [C] It’s been almost a year since Interface sold Bentley Prince Street to Domi-nus Capital and the company, which has returned to its Bentley name, is on track to reach its goals, according to Ralph Grogan, president and CEO. Grogan came on board in January a er former president Anthony Minite stepped down. In May, the company announced a rebranding strategy, returning to the name Bentley and what that name was most known for — product design and innovation. Bentley showed o its new brand at NeoCon in a showroom inside the Merchandise Mart as well as its new agship Chicago showroom — a 3,500 square foot lo -style space located at the Kinzie Design Center across the street from the Mart. Designed by tsvdesign, the new showroom provides a sophisticated stage for Bentley’s stylish products. Grogan was happy with the reception of Bentley’s broadloom and carpet tile at NeoCon, even as he is dealing with a few Continued on page 21 NeoCon: Back to business By Janet Herlihy and Amy Joyce Rush [C] By all accounts, this year’s NeoCon, held here last month, was a success — energy was good, product was innovative and ooring suppliers continued to grow their business in the commercial segment. “ e industry is in a great mood and it shows. at speaks across all product cate-gories. e economy is recovering,” noted Byron Morton, vice president of leasing for Merchandise Mart Properties (MMPI). “There is a big step change this year from last year,” asserted David Vida, executive vice president of Boylu, the commercial arm of Beaulieu. Je West, vice president of marketing and product development at Patcra , agreed optimism was back at NeoCon adding, “ is show is more about connection than orders but you will nd out about a project here.” Added Kent Clauson, vice president of Glen Hussmann and Tom Ellis of Tandus Continued on page 18 brand at Mohawk, “Commercial has been very strong and great growth year over year. We’ve done disproportionately well because of investments that we’ve made.” Jack Ganley, president of Mannington Commercial, said, “ ere is more of a sense of optimism and people are taking samples of products with them for projects. Corpo-rate is starting to break loose and, to a lesser degree, retail. ose segments were waiting to see how business would be in the rst P e r i o d i c a l For breaking news updated each business day, visit us online at www.fcw1.com Continued on page 21
Group strength personal stamp
Flooring America dealer packs power
Rob Menefee grew up in the flooring business. Now CEO of Flooring America and FA Design Build, based here, Menefee is using that heritage as a spring board to launch new and creative operations.
His father, Ed Menefee, was a flooring manufacturer's rep, who opened a flooring store with his wife Shirley in White Plains, Md., in 1979. Rob Menefee began his flooring education there as an installer and working in the warehouse on weekends and during vacations. In 1992, after earning a degree in business at the University of Mary Washington, Va., he began working in sales.
The Menefees added a second location in Woodbridge, Va., in 1985 and, when his parents retired in 2001, Rob was ready to take over the business. He built the third location in Fairfax, Va., in 2003.
It is still a family endeavor as Rob Menefee's wife, Mari, is a co-owner, working on business development and accounting functions.
Finding the format that fits The business experimented with various groups, first joining CarpetMax in the early 1990s and then moving to Abbey. "We switched to Flooring America in 2007," Menefee explained.
Vinnie Virga, former president of Flooring America, recruited Menefee. "I had a great relationship with him and now Keith (Spano) has been tremendous. He listens and has great ideas that he brings to the members."
Keith Spano, president of Flooring America, noted, "Rob has three beautiful Vision stores. [He] helps other members as well as helps us with membership."
Recession teaches vital lessons
Menefee's business survived the recession by taking action to reduce costs early. "In 2009, we made a major reduction in staff, going from about 80 employees to about 40. We are now at 50," Menefee said.
As painful as the layoffs were, there was a positive effect. "The staff now has been through hard times and is being rewarded for their loyalty. I spend a lot of time with mid-level managers, because I found that the personal side is as important as the business side in maintaining relationships. The staff now is better rounded and stronger and when we hire, now we look for the same type of strong people."
Flooring America helped Menefee survive a 50 percent layoff and end up with a strong, loyal team by recommending Romano Consulting Group, a retail support service that is a strategic partner of CCA Global. "David Romano helped me find ways to build morale for the remaining staff," Menefee recalled. "One way was to devise an incentive plan for every employee, from sales, to warehouse, to accounting. We have quarterly reviews for everybody where we talk about strengths and how we can improve. It worked during the recession and we are continuing it now. For example, the warehousemen receive half the money generated by recycling pad. We save money on disposal and are paid by the recycler and share those profits. That encourages them to do a good job with the pad." Menefee explained.
Finding new business opportunities
Menefee looks to find more ways to serve his customers. Wanting to get more of remodeling projects than the flooring, he setup FA Design Build in 2004. It is a full service remodeling and contracting firm. "We are a licensed and insured Class A general contractor and focus on remodels of kitchens, bathrooms and basements," Menefee said. In 2006, FA Design added tenant multi-family commercial projects.
"We hired an interior architect, who had worked at a Home Expo. She meets with customers and creates a new plan. We have estimators, who then sell the projects. We now get the floor plus the rest of the work." About one third of each retail showroom is devoted to kitchen and bath remodels with vignettes set up and a designated staff of designers.
Right now, flooring is about 75 percent of the business but Menefee expects that to switch at some point to Design Build generating 75 percent. "Two out of three of our flooring customers are doing more than floors. We want the whole project."
Flooring America launched a partnership with Stanley Steemer this year in January that Menefee accepted. "As retailers, we usually don't complete the cycle to maintain the carpet we install. The partnership helps us help our customers maintain their warranties," Menefee said.
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Bentley: Back to its roots
It's been almost a year since Interface sold Bentley Prince Street to Dominus Capital and the company, which has returned to its Bentley name, is on track to reach its goals, according to Ralph Grogan, president and CEO.
Grogan came on board in January after former president Anthony Minite stepped down. In May, the company announced a rebranding strategy, returning to the name Bentley and what that name was most known for — product design and innovation.
Bentley showed off its new brand at NeoCon in a showroom inside the Merchandise Mart as well as its new flagship Chicago showroom — a 3,500 square foot loft-style space located at the Kinzie Design Center across the street from the Mart. Designed by tsvdesign, the new showroom provides a sophisticated stage for Bentley's stylish products.
Grogan was happy with the reception of Bentley's broadloom and carpet tile at NeoCon, even as he is dealing with a few bumps in the road. "Bentley is a product driven company," Grogan emphasized. "I was surprised that the product pipeline was not as full as I would have thought. It's a major area to work on and get it full again," he said.
With modular carpet continuing to grow in the commercial market, Bentley's carpet tile line is posing another problem. "We have a fantastic cushion carpet tile and I assumed the line (where it is made) was easily convertible from cushion tile to hard back tile, but it's not. We are engineering the cushion line now to be able to run hard back too, because we need to be able to make both."
Despite these few glitches, Grogan stressed, "We are in good shape in five months. I'm pleased with the progress and very happy with our team."
Going forward, Bentley will be about focusing on the areas that characterized the original company. "When they hear Bentley, people think of beautiful products, great quality and great customer service. We are working hard on those areas. We are extremely customer focused and as a smaller company, we are nimble and can react quickly to the market."
Bentley recently achieved gold certification for its facility from the U.S. Green Building Council's (USGBC) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Green Building Rating System for Existing Buildings (LEED-EB.) Bentley was the first carpet manufacturing facility in the country to receive silver rating from the USGBC's LEEDEB in 2007, and remains the only carpet manufacturing facility to receive LEED certification.
Read the full article at http://bt.e-ditionsbyfry.com/article/Bentley%3A+Back+to+its+roots/1442113/165459/article.html.
Flooring America new vision, voice
Amy Joyce Rush
Keith Spano, president of Flooring America and Flooring Canada, is understandably enthusiastic. Just weeks before convention, the company has come off of its "Friends Send Friends" mobile tour which allows Spano and his team the opportunity to engage one-on-one with members and their customers across the country. And he has a lot of exciting initiatives to talk about with his members both in the U.S. and Canada.
Spano, who came to Flooring America after a stint at Avalon Carpet, said, "Over the last two years, we've changed the voice of Flooring America and Flooring Canada. It's about being the most recommended flooring store across America. It's where friends send friends. Everyone can talk about being the best, the best selection, the cheapest." What he wants is for the experience to be so positive that customers not only tell their friends about it but actually refer them to Flooring America stores.
Part of his strategy includes changes in the team running the co-op. The newest member of Flooring America management is Jeff Schwalb, previously with a large retailer in St. Louis. Schwalb started mid- June and holds the post of vice president of merchandising.
"We've changed a lot of our team through natural progression. It's a different vibe now," said Spano. "The word is getting out that we are different, even within (parent company) CCA."
In fact, Spano considers Flooring America a marketing/merchandising group. "Our job is to protect our members and give them the ability to increase their profitability and close rates and give them the tools to do that."
One such tool is a new partnership with Stanley Steemer, a household name in carpet cleaning. The companies cross pollinate by attending each other's conventions and advertising each other's brand to consumers. Noted Spano, "This program is starting to get legs. It's a great strategic partnership, a fantastic relationship. Why not partner with the best name in cleaning?"
Spano said that there are a host of things the company does that aren't product driven. A prime example is the co-op's real estate division that saved members more than $12 million in rent reductions over the past five years. "We have programs in place to significantly reduce dumpster fees, reduced fuel expenses for your vehicles, reduce office supply expenses, phone bills, etc. — saving our members real money on real costs they endure every month."
The company is at the forefront of technology and works hard to bring its members everything they need to succeed in today's market and beyond. "We need to work smarter, not harder. Our members already work harder than anybody," said Spano.
That philosophy prompted Flooring America to put 300 iPads out in the field last year with the goal of having an iPad in every member's hand. "We've created an iPad app that is awesome. Our members can scan an order right through the iPad," he said. Members are now being urged to bring their devices to convention because that will be paperless.
There is also an app, My Floor Story, which allows consumers to recommend, review and give testimonials. The app is but one way the company ties technology to its overarching goal of being the most recommended flooring store.
Flooring America Social Tools (FAST) is its local social marketing management team. "That's our engagement. We do everything from Facebook, Twitter. LinkedIn — we create content," said Spano.
FAST is in its third iteration. The first step, said Spano, was Tweeting for members, then came Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube. Now the company has added Pinterest which, he said, is going terrific. "The fact that we have a social media platform where we syndicate content for our members and layer on their own hyper-local content is best of both worlds. It allows us to do the heavy lifting for them," said Spano.
Flooring America was among the first to embrace new technology and media so fully. "Our members are very engaged and probably a little more tech savvy than on average," said Spano. "And, even if the store owner didn't understand, the manager or someone in the store did."
Customer Assessment Sales Helper (CASH) is a professional sales tool for the iPad or tablet to help qualify customers and guide sales people to match customers with the right product and help to improve their close rates. CASH integrates with Flooring America's CRM system and helps members to enhance customer satisfaction, he added.
But make no mistake; Flooring America's technology prowess is not about being hip. Spano said that everything the company does is measurable. "We've been able to show (members) cost per lead to the stores and what the marketing ROI is."
Where to next?
One battle the store has taken on aggressively is the fight against the home centers. "We've gone on the offense. People were conservative. Now that things are looking up and we're hearing great things from the members and seeing it in numbers, there is momentum behind us. It's time to go on the offense," he said.
Spano that the co-op is encouraging advertising and remodeling of showrooms. "We are changing the perception of the consumer. What we are hearing is that people want to buy local; they want to buy for the local retailer that supports the little league team. The beauty of the co-op is it keeps money within the community," he said.
He pointed to a growth within the membership as one solid sign of an economic upturn. "Owners are opening new branch locations. Owners opening new branches are a great sign, a great barometer and this year we've seen an incredible wave of locations." Spano explained that in a normal year, there would only be a couple of stores with the wherewithal to expand. This year, he said, it is close to 20 — and that's just current member growth.
Even with some 500 store fronts, Flooring America/Canada is still looking to grow. Again, the company is taking a proactive stance by creating a Flooring America team dedicated to that goal.
"We have plenty of room to grow," said Spano. "We are being selective so that we have the best dealer in every market. We are pretty much everywhere but not in North Dakota and Rhode Island. But we have 50 members in Canada and are always looking for the best retailers," added Spano. The co-op's recruitment website is www.Join.flooringamerica.com
"Our Advisory Council and our neighborhood network coordinators reinforce a compelling difference of Flooring America/ Canada over all other groups and that is: It is a membership run by the members, for the members, and our member's success is why we come to work every day and why we enjoy what we do," he said. "One of the things that separate us is that our members are family — that's a big difference. It's a very personal relationship. Their success is our success. We take that very personally."
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NeoCon: Back to business
Janet Herlihy & Amy Joyce Rush
By all accounts, this year's NeoCon, held here last month, was a success — energy was good, product was innovative and fl ooring suppliers continued to grow their business in the commercial segment.
"The industry is in a great mood and it shows. That speaks across all product categories. The economy is recovering," noted Byron Morton, vice president of leasing for Merchandise Mart Properties (MMPI).
"There is a big step change this year from last year," asserted David Vida, executive vice president of Boylu, the commercial arm of Beaulieu.
Jeff West, vice president of marketing and product development at Patcraft, agreed optimism was back at NeoCon adding, "This show is more about connection than orders but you will find out about a project here."
Added Kent Clauson, vice president of brand at Mohawk, "Commercial has been very strong and great growth year over year. We've done disproportionately well because of investments that we've made."
Jack Ganley, president of Mannington Commercial, said, "There is more of a sense of optimism and people are taking samples of products with them for projects. Corporate is starting to break loose and, to a lesser degree, retail. Those segments were waiting to see how business would be in the first quarter before spending money."
Corporate appeared to be a major focus here, though hospitality, retail and healthcare were also reported to be strong. "Corporate office is really booming. Designers are saying that is the largest vertical segment they are working on," said Morton.
Corporate renovations are being fueled by the changing work space characterized by open formats and collaboration. "The workspace is so different today because there is a new generation occupying it and doing different things. A couple of years ago the big buzz word was collaboration and now we're adding connectedness. But you still need to address privacy from floor covering to wall covering to furniture and do it in cool ways," noted Morton.
In fact, Mohawk's new Street Thread carpet tile collection is based on new work environments as well as the younger workforce that will inhabit them. Noted Clauson, "Our big message here is around design and the idea of street art — combining what is happening in the outside world with the office." He added that Street Thread has application possibilities for corporate and higher education, for example. Tom Ellis, Vice President of Tandus, noted, "We are up double digits in corporate space with our Powerbond."
Tandus, purchased by Tarkett in September 2012, was recently merged with resilient supplier Centiva. Here at NeoCon, the company showed the integration of its hard and soft surface programs offering designers "Fit for Purpose" strategy.
"It's interesting how our language is starting to come together," Ellis said, adding that the company offers different product and application from the same supplier. The company is working towards developing coordinated product for hard and soft surface. "It's not Garanimals but it's obvious when you put them together."
And technology too is just changing everything, according to Morton. "The integration of technology has been the trend for several years but now we are seeing some companies get into the technology business," he said.
Shaw had a lot to talk about here in addition to new carpet tile and broadloom programs. According to John Stevens, marketing for Shaw Contract Group, "Our focus is on becoming more of a global brand." The company's carpet tile plant in China is due to open this month and a new website for the contract group is also launching. "We are more focused, more committed to clients around the world," he said.
Color is king
"Floor covering is so exciting this year because colors are bright and not only are they playing with textures now they are playing with the actual shape of the product," noted MMPI's Morton.
Crossville's porcelain stone collection Argent includes 12 bold colors and 8 neutrals. "The line is rich, opulent," noted Lindsey Waldrep. "We are all tired of being depressed. It's been a long time."
Johnsonite added rubber sheet to its mix with Arcade, available in 20 colorways. Its linoleum product comes in a wide range of colors, is made of 96 percent renewable resources, Cradle to Cradle Certified and USDA Bio-preferred. ID Freedom is the company's new line of LVT.
"I love this show because it's more than just about product, it's about ideas. And Shaw's hexagon tile idea is great," said Morton.
Shaw showed carpet tile in a hexagon shape while Mannington showed its new custom capabilities with its Amtico acquisition showing hexagon LVT.
"It's been one year since we bought Amtico. At this show, we are highlighting the capabilities, which is a key differentiator. LVT from abroad comes standard, we can make anything," explained David Sheehan, newly named vice president of commercial hard surfaces. "[Designers] are able to get this beautiful offering with a Mannington face — they know and respect that."
Hard surface in the hunt Hard surface products, especially LVT, are making substantial inroads in the commercial market.
While last year, Shaw Hard Surface focused on LVT, this year was all about sheet goods — printed design on sheet that will create an intimate environment in institutional space, according to Allie Finkell, marketing manager for Shaw Hard Surface. The product is anti-microbial and does not need to be polished. "We've had great feedback. When you are putting a floor down for 20 or more years, you want durability and lasting design," she said.
Metroflor showed here for the second time. Russell Rogg noted, "This is a process we embarked on seriously last year. We are in it for the long haul." The company focused mainly on two of its products here in Chicago — Aspire, a floating, groutable tile; and, Intact, which features a treatment on the back of the tile that keeps it in place. With these two products, noted Rogg, Metrofl or has a lot to offer this market.
And while LVT and ceramic tile are obvious leaders, hardwood is also seeing opportunity in the contract arena.
According to wood supplier DeChateau, the company has grown with hospitality and retail installations. One advantage, according to Chicago rep Sarah Collins, is that the company's maintenance procedure allows for small onsite repairs to be made. The company is also in the midst of moving its manufacturing from Amsterdam to San Diego with a targeted July opening.
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