Floor Covering Weekly August 25, 2014 : Page 1
Vol. 63 No. 16 A Hearst Business Publication August 25, 2014 $4 F LOOR C OVERING W EEKLY The Industry’s Business News & Information Resource Yarbrough ready to take CRI into future 3 Mobile devices revolutionize selling Apps connect supply chain to consumer By Brittany Walsh Before even walking through the door of a flooring retailer, the modern day consumer has done her research online. According to industry insiders, it is imperative to be proactive in providing a platform for the consumer to access that information wherever she wants it. According to Harriet Ayoade, communications specialist at Mannington, the numbers on mobile usage are growing at an exponential rate. “For Mannington, it was very important for us to provide the modern consumer with a digital platform they Continued on page 23 Technology today encompasses everything from mobile devices and apps, to software (shown here is Mobile Measure from RFMS) to product construction and more. Internet selling alters retail landscape FCW presents 6th annual Presents both opportunities and challenges By Mallory Cruise Technological advancements in comput-ers, tablets and smartphones have created an age of mobility and with it, an entirely new selling format — online shopping. And while the percentage of flooring sold online is still relatively low — including small lots, pallets, DIY and small-scale projects — online purchases have been growing as consumers shop for a specific price rather than a look or style. Most consumers use the internet as a tool to comb through ideas but most execu-tives said it is still imperative that they visit a specialty retailer when it is time to make the purchase. “The practice of ‘show rooming’ is becoming prevalent. This is where consumers will come in and find the product they want in a store, take down all of the information on that product or simply take a picture of the label and go back to purchase the product online. The primary reason for doing so is the ability to bypass the sales tax,” said Scott Humphrey, CEO of WFCA. GreenStep Environmental Awards [Dalton] Floor Covering Weekly (FCW) held its sixth annual GreenStep Awards program, here on August 5, recognizing, promoting and honoring many com-panies in the flooring industry at the forefront of environmental sustainability. “Back in 2009 when we started Green-Step, we looked around at the efforts being taken and investments being made and noticed they weren’t customer-facing initiatives,” said Santiago Montero, pub-Continued on page 22 lisher and editor in chief at Floor Covering Weekly , a division of Hearst Business Media. “There is so much to be proud of Carl Campbell from the Georgia Department of Eco-as an industry on the sustainability front. nomic Development with FCW’s Santiago Montero We recognize the incredible efforts going on that make us proud, promote them to our all you guys do to continue pushing the floor readers and let them know about the wonderful covering industry forward is a legacy to be things going on often behind the scenes.” proud of and you’re building the groundwork Carl Campbell, senior project manager for the industry’s better tomorrow,” he said. for the Georgia Department of Economic Shaw Industries was awarded this year’s Commerce and GreenStep’s guest speaker GreenStep Pinnacle Award for its holistic this year, said the sustainability of the floor approach to sustainability. The company has covering industry here has become integral to reclaimed more than 700 million pounds of Continued on page 4 the fabric of the community. “The work that For breaking news updated each business day, visit us online at www.fcw1.com Periodical
Mobile devices revolutionize selling
Apps connect supply chain to consumer
Before even walking through the door of a flooring retailer, the modern day consumer has done
her research online. According to industry insiders, it is imperative to be proactive in providing a
platform for the consumer to access that information wherever she wants it.
According to Harriet Ayoade, communications specialist at Mannington, the numbers on mobile usage are growing at an exponential rate. “For Mannington, it was very important for us to provide the modern consumer with a digital platform they can access on their mobile devices because it is how they shop,” she said. “Although our target demographic is older, access to our website via a mobile device including tablets is at 33 percent and the numbers continue to trend up and grow.”
Ayoade said having a website where the user experience is fluid from desktop to mobile is crucial, so Mannington Residential and Commercial both have flooring apps available as well.
“When using a mobile device, content is streamlined and formatted to expedite access to information. The residential flooring app’s primary functionality is easy and on-the-go access to product brochures, and within each brochure are links to the website’s product details page,” she said. The app also has portals to a virtual room decorator and the links to the company’s social media channels.
Kent Clauson, vice president of brand and digital marketing at Mohawk, agreed that it’s important to reach the consumer wherever she wants to access her information, noting that is more and more on a mobile device.
“We are gearing our digital products toward both the consumer and the retailer by providing an educational site that leads them to choose Mohawk at our nearest aligned dealer,” he explained. “Mobile is a piece of that puzzle, and that presence is broken down two ways: How we help capture consumers and drive them to retail partners, and how to create tools for the retailer to be more effective.”
This year, Mohawk is ramping up its focus on digital initiatives and the ability to create in-store conversions from digital leads. “A cohesive digital experience from desktop to mobile device is extremely important for the consumer’s comfort and sense of control,” noted Clauson. “We’ve launched specific lead generation through SEO and SEM, driving more consumers to our partners. And they have seen a tremendous amount of success, but some still have issues following up in this type of digital landscape. That makes an easy user experience even more important.”
Flooring America offers its retail members in-store apps as well as consumer-facing apps, aiming to not only engage that customer but to capture more customer information and provide a higher level of service. It’s app CASH (customer assessment sales helper) has been out for about 18 months now.
“CASH is the interface we provide dealers as their customer management database, but one thing we’ve added that is brand new is called the Home Estimator,” said Andy Valeriani, Flooring America’s senior director of online marketing. “When a customer walks into a store, the sales associate can find out their address or an approximate neighborhood of where they live, and we have a partnership with Zillow (a leading online real estate data base) to allow for API (application programming interface) integration. This allows us to pull back the Zillow information for that customer, so the sales associate can check how much the homes around the area are worth. This app can not only show the consumer how much value can be added by increasing their flooring purchase, but acts as a way for the sales person to instantly gauge to purchasing power a customer has.”
Flooring America also provides the apps My Floor Story, a consumer-facing app after the point of sale, and My Floor Guide, an in-store app that guides a consumer on her purchasing journey. My Floor Guide is geared at the point of sale and aids in updating product prices in real time, provides product information, photos and videos, and even has capabilities like a project calculator.
Misty Hodge, digital marketing manager at Shaw, agreed that ratings and reviews from other users are extremely helpful tools online that people trust. And, she explained, that in the modern flooring marketplace it is important to use content in every way possible.
“The truth is that consumers are still confused about their flooring choices,” she said. “We are launching an app for ratings and reviews that consumers who come into a dealer will utilize and share their experiences. Of course many dealer partners were skeptical and scared at first to be exposed in that way, but it’s gotten a great response and has created many more leads.”
While industry insiders reported that they have instilled online initiatives as important parts of their business, retailer participation is necessary for success.
“There’s always hesitance in change, but our retailers trust us and we’re able to work and learn together,” said Mohawk’s Clauson.
Read the full article at http://bt.e-ditionsbyfry.com/article/Mobile+devices+revolutionize+selling/1789698/222174/article.html.
Internet selling alters retail landscape
Presents both opportunities and challenges
Technological advancements in computers, tablets and smartphones have created an age of mobility and with it, an entirely new selling format — online shopping. And while the percentage of flooring sold online is still relatively low — including small lots, pallets, DIY and small-scale projects — online purchases have been growing as consumers shop for a specific price rather than a look or style.
Most consumers use the internet as a tool to comb through ideas but most executives said it is still imperative that they visit a specialty retailer when it is time to make the purchase.
“The practice of ‘show rooming’ is becoming prevalent. This is where consumers will come in and find the product they want in a store, take down all of the information on that product or simply take a picture of the label and go back to purchase the product online. The primary reason for doing so is the ability to bypass the sales tax,” said Scott Humphrey, CEO of WFCA.
He said that Internet sales, while marginal now, continue to grow. “We fully support the use of the Internet to help educate, inform and direct consumers to the best retailer to meet their needs. We have strong concerns about those who sell solely on the Internet with no brick and mortar showroom to provide expertise and face to face guidance,” he said.
Brick and mortars can win with service
While it’s true that Internet-only sellers often have unfair advantages of selling lowend, cheaply priced product under the guise of a high-end brand and having less overhead costs, suppliers said that, at the end of the day, brick and mortar offers many things that Internet sellers can’t or won’t.
“The knowledge and service offered by an Internet retailer pales in comparison to that of the brick and mortars. Specialty retailers follow up — Internet retailers won’t tend to the needs of the customer after the purchase,” explained Scott Petersen, director of operations, DuChateau, adding that, “not looking at someone in the face and shaking hands is frightening with a purchase of that size.”
Tony Mergreh, vice president of marketing and customer relations at Urban Floor, noted, “The brick and mortar stores can offer a valuable product support services to the customers where the Internet sellers fail to do so,” he said, adding that by not having as high operating expenses such as rent, insurance, employees, Internet sellers drive down business by selling with smaller profit margins.
According to Trey Thames, vice president of marketing services and product development at Shaw, it is also difficult to communicate the variety of textures and colors through an image or the Internet alone.
“Consumers need the individual expertise of retail sales associates and independent dealers to help understand the breadth and depth of flooring categories. However, it is also true that around 90 percent of consumers now shop online before entering the store. So, it is also necessary to consider virtual storefronts as a vital part of the shopping process,” he said.
And, added Mark Casper, western regional manager, Hallmark Hardwoods, the sale, in particular the hardwood sale, can be fraught with obstacles if left unexplained. “This leaves the customer with lower expectations of what their flooring experience should be like. If the retailer is vested in the end user, then the process takes on a trust element not experienced with Internet sales,” he said.
Facing e-selling challenges Some companies have taken on Internet- only sellers head-on by dedicating man-power and hours to keeping their products from being sold on the web. One such company is DuChateau.
“We prohibit all Internet sales of our brand. We do have personnel who are in charge of monitoring. Our pricing is not available online and it’s a daily occurrence getting complaints from retailers that someone is selling our product below market value and it requires us to send out cease and desist letters, unauthorized retailer notifications and those types of thing,”explained Petersen.
Urban Floor and DuChateau will not warranty products sold over the Internet by an unauthorized retailer. “We do not authorize any Internet store to carry or sell our products. Our main goal is to be a profitable brand to our retail partners,” explained Urban Floor’s Mergreh.
Another challenge faced by brick-and-mortar stores is the unfair advantage Internet only sellers have and tout — “No Sales Tax” — according Humphrey of WFCA. But the association is working diligently to push through passage of the Marketplace Fairness Act (MFA).
“These brick and mortar stores are the life blood of America. We have lost by most estimates 25 percent of the independent flooring retailers over the last 7 years. Unfair competition runs the risk of driving even more retailers out of the industry,” he said.
In fact, the MFA has passed the Senate and Humphrey said there good opportunities to see progress on passage of the MFA this year.
Still, some said that, done right, Internet sellers and specialty retailers can co-exist profitably. “With full transparency of what the store has to offer on its website, the better educated their consumer will be. Once the consumer enters the store, the relationship between dealers, retail sales associates and the consumer will quickly help guide the consumer to her best choice in flooring,” said Shaw’s Thames.
In fact, companies like Mohawk work closely with dealers to create a strong online experience. “We work together with the retailer to have consistent messaging, consistent product so the customer feels they can look online, get the info they need and, when they’re ready move to the purchase phase, go to the store feeling as if it’s been a connected experience,” said Kent Clauson, vice president of brand and digital at Mohawk.
Shaw offers Ratings and Reviews to its Shaw Web Studio accounts. “These reviews offer consumers the opportunity to speak transparently about the retailer in both areas so that other consumers know what to expect. This process can improve both experiences online and in store where consumers will get the best flooring experience and expertise,” explained Thames.
Casper at Hallmark added that the Internet can potentially allow retailers to “widen their base of customers.”
FCW presents 6th annual GreenStep Environmental Awards
[Dalton] Floor Covering Weekly (FCW) held its sixth annual GreenStep Awards program, here on August 5, recognizing, promoting and honoring many companies in the flooring industry at the forefront of environmental sustainability.
“Back in 2009 when we started Green- Step, we looked around at the efforts being taken and investments being made and noticed they weren’t customer-facing initiatives,” said Santiago Montero, publisher and editor in chief at Floor Covering Weekly, a division of Hearst Business Media. “There is so much to be proud of as an industry on the sustainability front. We recognize the incredible efforts going on that make us proud, promote them to our readers and let them know about the wonderful things going on often behind the scenes.”
Carl Campbell, senior project manager for the Georgia Department of Economic Commerce and GreenStep’s guest speaker this year, said the sustainability of the floor covering industry here has become integral to the fabric of the community. “The work that all you guys do to continue pushing the floor covering industry forward is a legacy to be proud of and you’re building the groundwork for the industry’s better tomorrow,” he said.
Shaw Industries was awarded this year’s GreenStep Pinnacle Award for its holistic approach to sustainability. The company has reclaimed more than 700 million pounds of postconsumer carpet since 2006 through a diverse portfolio of recycling solutions. More than 60 percent of Shaw’s products are Cradle to Cradle certified and by 2030, the company plans to design 100 percent of its products according to Cradle to Cradle protocols.
“Shaw has set ambitious goals and they have made incredible progress in attaining some very strong initiatives,” Montero said. “They really reach out to their associates to be a part of those efforts as well, so it is a reflection of a much broader commitment.”
Paul Murray, vice president of sustainability at Shaw, said, “It adds excitement for our associates to be rewarded for all of their efforts. We’ve still got more to do, but we continuously make valiant improvements every year.”
J+J Flooring Group was awarded the 2014 GreenStep Product Award for its Kinetex textile composite flooring which combines the key attributes of a soft surface floor with the performance characteristics of a hard surface product by fusing knitted polyester fabric with cushioned polyester felt backing. It utilizes at least 55 percent postconsumer recycled content.
Engineered Floors received this year’s GreenStep Process Award for its residential solution dyed carpet production process. In its new facility located in Calhoun, Ga., Engineered Floors’ production cycle is done all under one roof. And by eliminating the traditional aqueous dyeing of carpet with its technique known as solution dyeing, significant energy and water saving is accomplished.
“We’re very excited and honored to get recognition, because we always try to do the right thing for the environment,” said James Lesslie, assistant to the chairman at Engineered Floors. “Some companies will come out with a product or process and say ‘This is our environmental collection,’ but we just do it every day. It’s embedded in our DNA.”
Mannington Commercial took home this year’s GreenStep Promotion award for its “Choices for Good” program, a pay-what-you-can flooring initiative for public schools K-12 across the United States. As a Choices for Good customer, schools can pay more or less than the suggested price as they are financially able.
“It’s awesome to be back here again. We’re always delighted to be a part of GreenStep. Our customers like learning about all of our efforts as well so we appreciate it,” said Jack Ganley, president of Mannington Commercial.
Mohawk Industries was awarded this year’s GreenStep Pinnacle Honorable Mention not only for the introduction of its patented Continuum process, which can contain up to 100 percent recycled content in the yarn, but for the vast sustainable efforts that permeate throughout all aspects of the organization.
This year’s GreenStep Product Honorable Mention went to Crossville for its Hydrotect coating, which is an exterior tile application that interacts with sunlight to purify air, resist dirt and fight bacteria.
J+J Flooring Group also took home the award for GreenStep Process Honorable Mention for its Aquifinity process, the first dyehouse wastewater reuse system in the carpet industry. At GreenStep, the company graciously extended an open policy invitation for any mill interested in seeing the process.
FCW’s Montero said, “That’s one of the great things about this community and this industry, that people do innovative things and they share them and open them up to one another.”
Shaw also received the GreenStep Promotion Honorable Mention for its partnership with St. Jude. In 2013 alone, Shaw’s partnership generated a donation of more than $900 million.
The 2014 GreenStep Award panel of judges consisted of Michael Martin, president and CEO, National Wood Flooring Association (NWFA); Dr. Robert Peoples, director, Carpet America Recovery Effort (CARE); Bill Dearing, president, North American Laminate Flooring Association (NALFA); Bill Griese, standards development and green initiative manager, Tile Council of North America Inc. (TCNA); Scott Humphrey, CEO, World Floor Covering Association (WFCA); and, Dean Thompson, president, Resilient Floor Covering Institute (RFCI).
“FCW does not participate in the selection process. We narrow down the top eight or 10 applicants in each category, submit that to the judges and they choose,” said Montero. “They are the experts and we trust their judgment, and they just really nail it every year.”