Floor Covering Weekly May 12, 2014 : Page 1

Vol. 63 No. 9 A Hearst Business Publication May 12, 2014 $4 Coverings 2014 25th Anniversary 3 F LOOR C OVERING W EEKLY The Industry’s Business News & Information Resource Innovative design, attendance point to economic recovery RC Willey excels at home furnishings By Janet Herlihy [Salt Lake City] RC Willey has been helping people furnish their homes for more than 80 years. With 11 stores located in Utah, California, Nevada and Idaho, served by three distribution centers, the company says it wants to be “the number one place to find exceptional selection, value, superior service and professional associates,” as it opens new stores and closes outdated locations. On April 9, the company opened a new location in Draper, Utah, replacing a store in Taylorsville and a clearance center in West Jordan, Utah. The new RC Willey is about 160,000 square feet on two floors with approximately 130 employees. It is the largest RC Willey yet and is a model for another that is scheduled to open in Orem, Utah, at the University Mall by the fourth quarter. A current location in Orem will close as well as a clearance center in Provo when the new store opens. It is part of the retailer’s plan that locations will include clearance areas within each store, accord-ing to the company. A member of NFA and ranked 12 in FCW ’s 2014 Top 50 Retailer report, flooring is an important part of RC Willey’s opera-Avalon takes strong steps to future growth By Amy Joyce Rush [Cherry Hill, N.J.] She had been carefully groomed and meticulously mentored for this position for years, but when John Millar, the founder of Avalon Flooring, passed away six years ago, Maryanne Adams was about to face some of the most difficult challenges of her professional career. “My greatest concern was that John Millar was larger than life — how would I measure up? And I’m sure vendors and manufacturers were also concerned,” she said. But that was one lesson Adams had learned early on — the importance of strong relationships with manufacturing partners. Today, that remains one of the company’s guiding principles. and CEO, a job she’s held for “That was something that I the past six years. She has been had learned from John Millar with the company for 27 years, — it’s important to align your-starting in Millar’s commercial self with your vendors and installation arm in 1987. She manufacturers. It’s not about also spent two years in the putting everyone’s product in fabrication facility. There were your store but to have solid three total retail stores when relationships. When John did Adams started with Avalon and pass away, because we did have when she took the helm, there good working relationships were 13 stores. The King of with our partners, it made Prussia store was opened three our transition smoother in Maryanne Adams years ago under her direction. the manufacturer’s eyes. They Her most difficult test came early on in her knew the management of the company,” tenure as president and CEO as the country explained Adams. With 14 stores across three states, Avalon in general, and the flooring industry in par-Flooring today is a well-oiled machine and ticular, was in a fight for its life throughout Continued on page 19 Maryanne Adams sits at the helm as president FCW Exclusive Lumber Liquidators enters tile business By Brittany Walsh [Westbury, N.Y.] In 1994, Lumber Liquida-tors set out on its mission to offer high-quality hardwood flooring that is affordable for every-one. Twenty years later, the company, which ranks No. 1 on the FCW Top 50 Retailer listing at $1,000.2 million, has now aimed its mission statement at another product category: tile. Over the past couple of months, Lumber Liquidators has established three locations where it will debut its tile offerings: the first launched last month in Rockville, Md.; the second showroom opened on May 3 in West-bury, N.Y.; and, the third location in Brooklyn, addition to its original location. Different styles of tile are installed through-out the new Westbury showroom, with displays holding LL Tile’s variety of options neatly set up without clutter throughout the space. The walls are lined with decorating inspiration and installation explanations. Tony Venezia, store manager, explained to FCW that each of the new showrooms has a different layout format. While the Rock-Lumber Liquidators added a tile showroom to its Westbury, N.Y. location. ville location was built as a completely new establishment with hardwood and tile on the N.Y., will open by the end of the month. FCW same floor plan, the Westbury showroom was got an exclusive look at the new Westbury tile added to its existing Lumber Liquidators loca-showroom, an impressive 3,500-square-foot Continued on page 19 Continued on page 20 The carpet department at the new RC Willey store in Draper, Utah, offers a wide range of product. 4 Periodical For breaking news updated each business day, visit us online at www.fcw1.com

RC Willey excels at home furnishings

Janet Herlihy


[Salt Lake City] RC Willey has been helping people furnish their homes for more than 80 years. With 11 stores located in Utah, California, Nevada and Idaho, served by three distribution centers, the company says it wants to be “the number one place to find exceptional selection, value, superior service and professional associates,” as it opens new stores and closes outdated locations.

On April 9, the company opened a new location in Draper, Utah, replacing a store in Taylorsville and a clearance center in West Jordan, Utah. The new RC Willey is about 160,000 square feet on two floors with approximately 130 employees. It is the largest RC Willey yet and is a model for another that is scheduled to open in Orem, Utah, at the University Mall by the fourth quarter. A current location in Orem will close as well as a clearance center in Provo when the new store opens. It is part of the retailer’s plan that locations will include clearance areas within each store, according to the company.

A member of NFA and ranked 12 in FCW’s 2014 Top 50 Retailer report, flooring is an important part of RC Willey’s operation, which also offers furniture, electronics, mattresses and outdoor products (patio, grills, lawn and garden). The company added carpet in the mid-1960s and became a full range flooring retailer in the 1970s, according to Steve Hendricks, carpet buyer for RC Willey.

The company sells carpet, laminate, vinyl, engineered wood and ceramic tile as well as area rugs in departments that average 3,500 to 4,000 square feet and account for 10 percent of the company’s total sales. “We stock more than three million square feet of flooring,” Hendricks said. “We like to show large samples because that is best for customers.”

RC Willey leans to the softer side of flooring with about 80 percent of the product mix being carpet, Hendricks explained. “We go from economy carpet products all the way to high end and we stock the whole range as well,” he said.

Currently, the most popular carpet style is soft with a fleck. “We cover a range of products and are doing especially well at the upper end with 60 ounce styles in Silk (Mohawk’s SmartStrand Silk with DuPont Sorona), Caress (from Shaw) and Stainmaster TruSoft,” Hendricks reported.

Because the weather conditions are so dry in the company’s market area, RC Willey does not offer solid hardwood, according to Eric Mondragon, hard surface flooring buyer for the retailer. “Laminate is the strongest hard surface category with more than 40 percent of hard flooring sales. Consumers turn to laminate for the handscraped and exotic wood looks they want,” Mondragon said.

When it comes to its retail sales associates (RSAs), “We like to say we have the best of the best,” said Mondragon. “We provide training on all levels with general sales and with specific information about each product. We also advise our RSAs to take the initiative and find out more about what the consumer is likely to be asking for.”

The company handles flooring installations through sub contractors that field approximately 75 to 100 crews across the company’s locations servicing residential projects. “But RC Willey is not finished with the customer after their flooring is installed,” stressed Mondragon. “We provide cleaners and vacuums as well as cleaning products and want to educate the customer on how to keep their floors looking great. It’s ongoing,” he noted.

Holding onto its well-trained RSA’s is another strength for RC Willey, according to Mondragon. “Many have worked here for 20 or 30 years. The stores are open from 10:00 am to 9:00 pm, six days a week but closed on Sundays. It is a conscious effort to give people a day with their families,” he stressed.

Hendricks, who has worked for the company for 13 years, is a good example of a long-term employee. He started in the warehouse during college. “I moved to the flooring sales floor and then managed the department, and then moved to the buying office in 2010,” he said.

Mondragon too is a long-term employee. He joined RC Willey in 2000 as a RSA with 15 years experience in flooring as a sales rep for a distributor. He became a manager and then moved to the buyers’ office in 2006.

RC Willey began when Rufus Call Willey started selling appliances door-to-door off a truck in 1932. Willey opened his first store in 1950 in Syracuse, Utah. In 1954, he retired and his son-in-law, William H. Child, took over and added furniture. In 1995, Berkshire Hathaway acquired the business, but the family continues to operate the stores.

Read the full article at http://bt.e-ditionsbyfry.com/article/RC+Willey+excels+at+home+furnishings/1708240/208739/article.html.

Avalon takes strong steps to future growth

Amy Joyce Rush


[Cherry Hill, N.J.] She had been carefully groomed and meticulously mentored for this position for years, but when John Millar, the founder of Avalon Flooring, passed away six years ago, Maryanne Adams was about to face some of the most difficult challenges of her professional career.

“My greatest concern was that John Millar was larger than life — how would I measure up? And I’m sure vendors and manufacturers were also concerned,” she said.

But that was one lesson Adams had learned early on — the importance of strong relationships with manufacturing partners. Today, that remains one of the company’s guiding principles.

“That was something that I had learned from John Millar — it’s important to align yourself with your vendors and manufacturers. It’s not about putting everyone’s product in your store but to have solid relationships. When John did pass away, because we did have good working relationships with our partners, it made our transition smoother in the manufacturer’s eyes. They knew the management of the company,” explained Adams.

With 14 stores across three states, Avalon Flooring today is a well-oiled machine and Maryanne Adams sits at the helm as president and CEO, a job she’s held for the past six years. She has been with the company for 27 years, starting in Millar’s commercial installation arm in 1987. She also spent two years in the fabrication facility. There were three total retail stores when Adams started with Avalon and when she took the helm, there were 13 stores. The King of Prussia store was opened three years ago under her direction.

Her most difficult test came early on in her tenure as president and CEO as the country in general, and the flooring industry in particular, was in a fight for its life throughout The Great Recession. Adams kept Avalon on task; she made the necessary cuts and kept her eye on the future.

“We needed to be very aggressive. We never touched advertising,” said Adams, adding that they cut just about every other line item to reduce overhead costs. Meanwhile Avalon continued to use direct mail and network T.V. for its advertising. The company also launched its new website just a couple of months ago.

Avalon has moved four of its stores in the last two years. “Because of the economy, it really made us look at our overhead and make hard decisions,” said Adams. “There were two stores not in good locations. It was a good business decision.”

Adams said they also became more aggressive in sales. “We have 150 sales associates. We do training quarterly — it might be product, it might be sales training.” Avalon takes advantage of its ties to Mohawk and relies on Mohawk University for help. The stores also offer advanced training in each product category with the executive in charge of the product leading the class.

Another smart move the company made was to look at manufacturing discounts. Adams said this was an issue for smaller stores surviving the upturn because their credit was damaged. “That was never a problem for us,” she stated.

Weathering the ‘storms’
Just as we seemed to be getting our footing back, Superstorm Sandy hit in October of 2012, ravaging the Northeast.

The storm presented both obstacles and opportunity for Avalon. While its own Ocean City store ended up under four feet of water (the retailer emptied the store earlier in the day to protect its contents), renovation and some construction business came to the 14 stores — many of which are located on the shoreline in New Jersey. The Ocean City store was back up and running in five weeks.

The last few years have been busy ones. In addition to navigating everything facing the industry from weather to economics, Avalon undertook a number of major projects that would set them up for future growth.

In addition to moving the four stores, there is a store renovation underway. Currently, the flagship store here, which measures 50,000 square feet (the typical store is 20,000 to 24,000 square feet) is in the midst of the redo which includes new interior and exterior signage as well as signage for its fleet of eight trucks.

Adams’ goal right now is to continue working on the brand. There are two stores left to be renovated. The effort is significant, she said, and an investment in finances and resources.

Avalon also just completed private labeling the entire wood category. The goal: to better face market competition in what Adams said is “the largest shopped item.” The typical store will have 400 hardwood SKUs. In Cherry Hill, the wood selection is even broader.

The change-over to purely private label wood offerings was completed a month ago and she said the new format is easier to sell because there is a clear distinction between solid and engineered product as well as domestically made flooring, handscraped and exotics, for example.

With all of these changes in the works, Adams said it will be another year at least before the company will even think about opening another store.

Product mix
While wood is the No. 1 shopped item, tile is the company’s No. 1 category, some 40 percent of the total business. The store imports a wide assortment and it is well showcased in the store here.

All categories are given ample space in the store and the aisles are spacious as well. Avalon is aligned with Mohawk and looked to the supplier initially to help bring some consistency to the feel of the store. “We needed a unified look on the carpet side,” said Adams, noting that the retailer also does good business with other key vendors like Shaw, Beaulieu and Dixie.

The Cherry Hill store also houses the company’s only close out department. That part of the store is being redone as well. Area rugs are also given significant space in the store.

And as with most dealers, LVT is a growing category and Adams said for Avalon stores, sales are going right past laminate. It’s growing, she said, particularly in the shore area. The company may look to private label stocking product in this category in the future.

Read the full article at http://bt.e-ditionsbyfry.com/article/Avalon+takes+strong+steps+to+future+growth/1708241/208739/article.html.

Lumber Liquidators enters tile business

Brittany Walsh


[Westbury, N.Y.] In 1994, Lumber Liquidators set out on its mission to offer high-quality hardwood flooring that is affordable for everyone. Twenty years later, the company, which ranks No. 1 on theFCW Top 50 Retailer listing at $1,000.2 million, has now aimed its mission statement at another product category: tile.

Over the past couple of months, Lumber Liquidators has established three locations where it will debut its tile offerings: the first launched last month in Rockville, Md.; the second showroom opened on May 3 in Westbury, N.Y.; and, the third location in Brooklyn, N.Y., will open by the end of the month. FCW got an exclusive look at the new Westbury tile showroom, an impressive 3,500-square-foot addition to its original location.

Different styles of tile are installed throughout the new Westbury showroom, with displays holding LL Tile’s variety of options neatly set up without clutter throughout the space. The walls are lined with decorating inspiration and installation explanations.

Tony Venezia, store manager, explained to FCW that each of the new showrooms has a different layout format. While the Rockville location was built as a completely new establishment with hardwood and tile on the same floor plan, the Westbury showroom was added to its existing Lumber Liquidators location with a separate entrance and separate signage. The Brooklyn location’s tile showroom, he added, is connected to an existing location with a doorway separating the two different showrooms.

“The layouts might be slightly different, but generally speaking it will be the same looks with the same products,” Venezia explained. “Merchandise is the same, price is the same and eventually you will be able to go on the Internet and everything will be there as well.”

With more than 2,000 SKUs of different styles in natural stone, mosaics, porcelain and ceramics, LL Tile also provides do-it-yourself installation solutions as well as professional installations by its third party partner the Home Service Store.

“It’s different in every market, but our installers are certified for each type of installation we do, so it was a seamless transition for them,” he said.

And since Lumber Liquidators’ recent efforts to label which locations now offer tile, Venezia said that the Westbury location has received a large influx of calls and a decent amount of interest has already been generated.

“We’ve been in communication with the Maryland store, and they had huge sales the first four days they were open,” Venezia noted, adding that while they are optimistic that the Westbury branch will see some attention, it is hard to tell because tile is a completely new category for them. “I’m also not 100 percent sure where Rockville’s closest competing tile stores are, but we have quite a few near us so it will be interesting to see what the impact is.”

Aram Rubinson, managing director for Wolfe Research, commented that while there will be a learning curve for Lumber Liquidators at first, eventually the company will adjust and the results have the potential for serious growth. “Once the company figures out a system that works across all of its platforms, it’s possible that their profits could eventually double,” he said.

Read the full article at http://bt.e-ditionsbyfry.com/article/Lumber+Liquidators+enters+tile+business/1708243/208739/article.html.

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