Floor Covering Weekly May 8, 2017 : Page 1

MAY 8, 2017 NO. 9 • $4 VOL. 66 | FLOOR COVERING WEEKLY Style & Design reveals the latest and greatest in hard & soft surfaces and total home trends. Coverage begins on page 29. Shown here is Karndean’s new Korlok. THE INDUSTRY’S BUSINESS NEWS & INFORMATION RESOURCE Building on a legacy AVALON INVESTS IN SYSTEMS & SPACE AS IT PREPARES FOR THE FUTURE BY AMY RUSH-IMBER [Cherry Hill, N.J.] Nearly 60 years in business and 14 stores in three states, Avalon Flooring, based here, is on a mission to keep its legacy strong well into the future. President and CEO Maryanne Adams has been with the company for 29 years and stands firm on keeping founder John Millar’s vision alive as she guides the stores into its seventh decade of retailing. Avalon is employee-owned by Millar’s design, Ad-ams told FCW . “He wanted people to love, nurture and keep it going,” she said. “People want to be a part of something bigger.” Today, Avalon has taken a holistic approach to pre-paring for its future, and that includes a rebranding of the stores; moving to a 100,000 square-foot ware-house here in Cherry Hill; adding corporate office space for HR, purchasing, accounting and operations; and, creating a new software system with its partner Dancik. As well, it turned its focus on its 360 associ-ates — two-thirds of whom have worked for Avalon for more than 10 years — to make sure that company culture continues for decades to come. Continued on page 8 Begins on page 10 Maryanne Adams

Building On A Legacy

Amy Rush-Imber

AVALON INVESTS IN SYSTEMS & SPACE AS IT PREPARES FOR THE FUTURE

[Cherry Hill, N.J.] Nearly 60 years in business and 14 stores in three states, Avalon Flooring, based here, is on a mission to keep its legacy strong well into the future.

President and CEO Maryanne Adams has been with the company for 29 years and stands firm on keeping founder John Millar’s vision alive as she guides the stores into its seventh decade of retailing.

Avalon is employee-owned by Millar’s design, Adams told FCW. “He wanted people to love, nurture and keep it going,” she said. “People want to be a part of something bigger.”

Today, Avalon has taken a holistic approach to preparing for its future, and that includes a rebranding of the stores; moving to a 100,000 square-foot warehouse here in Cherry Hill; adding corporate office space for HR, purchasing, accounting and operations; and, creating a new software system with its partner Dancik. As well, it turned its focus on its 360 associates — two-thirds of whom have worked for Avalon for more than 10 years — to make sure that company culture continues for decades to come.

A STUDY IN EFFICIENCY

This spring, Avalon moved into a new warehouse, situated right behind the Cherry Hill store, that is double the old space and includes 10,000 square feet of an open corporate floor plan complete with a kitchen area, counter space, tables, sitting area and even an outside patio. It boasts other amenities such as a wellness room.

According to Adams, the warehouse was designed for high efficiency with inbound shipments at one end and outbound shipments at the other. Some $10 million of inventory has been moved into the space which was, at the time FCW visited, 98 percent complete. Each of the 14 stores has its own mini warehouse and Avalon has a fleet of six trucks with a seventh being added shortly.

The retailer commissioned design and consulting firms from New York City to help achieve its goals. Director of operations Ryan Dunlevy noted, “The consulting firm talked about being ‘swan-like’ — a swan (seems) to glide on top of the water but there is all this work going on underneath. We want to be seamless.”

The warehouse also has space for its in-house carpenters. Noted Adams, “With 14 stores, there are always projects going on.”

Safety comes first at the new warehouse where hard hats and orange vests are required. “We mark things to keep awareness at the highest level,” said Dunlevy.

Added Adams, “We got to start from scratch and think about what would be perfect.”

Working with Dancik, Avalon embarked on a major upgrade to its computer system that would allow it to track material from location to location and department to department. Everything is now on a navigator platform. All sales associates are on iPads, allowing customer selections to be reviewed and monitored.

“Everything is in the system so every store can access a selection,” Adams explained, adding that the iPad allows for full disclosure on how many customers are waited on and how many sales are closed. The selection can be viewed by the estimator who can also help turn the selection into a sale.

“We took the time to stop and see what the process looked like and how we can do it differently — from accounting to purchasing and streamline the process,” Adams said. The process for installation is being rewritten and the warehouse also has a new management system. “We want to do it right one department at a time,” she added, noting that having these efficiencies in place is paramount to the possibility of opening new stores in the future.

KEEPING A LEGACY ALIVE & GROWING

Just as Adams was groomed and mentored for her position by Millar so many years ago, she too keeps an eye on the next generation of leadership. “You have to think of the next layer coming through. It’s always about succession planning.” For example, she said, every department has an executive head to guide product selection and sales. Avalon’s manager training program insures that the larger stores have assistant managers so that there is back-up in every region.

Following Danny Meyer’s Hospitality Quotient mantra, “Happy employees make happy customers,” Adams said the company looked at core company values and how people are being treated. “You have to bring it from the top down,” she said, explaining that one-on-one confidential interviews were done with employees.

“We knew the pain points but now we have the policies and procedures to change,” Adams said, adding, for example, “Every job at every level gets posted with a description,” giving transparency to career development.

There are nine members of Avalon’s management team who meet and communicate regularly, including multi-day sessions several times a year.

“It’s given us a language. You can’t make your problems the customer’s problems — you have to take care of the inside first. We’ve absolutely seen the difference,” Adams explained.

ON THE FLOOR

Not your typical flooring store, Avalon serves builders, contractors and designers for just about every possible space. Area rugs are sold as well as vanities and a full shop of hard surface window treatments from Hunter Douglas.

The store merchandises all hard and soft surface categories, with tile representing a large portion of the business. Similar looks are available across all hard surface categories including wood, vinyl and laminate. “We find the right category for the customer,” said Adams.

Hardwood moved to a full private label program several years ago giving the store exclusivity of product but also a way of better dissecting the numbers.

Soft surface is still important to the store and Adams said that softness along with features like Pet Protect help sell product. She sells better wool products as well.

Read the full article at http://bt.e-ditionsbyfry.com/article/Building+On+A+Legacy/2781846/407413/article.html.

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