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Having spent the majority of my adult life engaged in retailing, I have observed that many store owners and managers have given a great deal of thought as to what results they want to see their respective businesses achieve. They can tell you what products they wish to sell. They know how much margin they wish to gain from the sale and even when they would like to sell them. They decide how they would like their store displays arranged, how the staff should dress and what music they would like to hear playing in the background.

Each time that I enter TISE on opening day, I find myself standing in the display hall for a moment to let some of the beauty soak in. As I reflect, it becomes clear to me that this is a feeling that far too few retailers in our business seem to understand.

As flooring retailers continue the seemingly never-ending task of replacing and upgrading their sales personnel, there will constantly be new hires to blend into our staffs. My experience tells me that many managers put considerable time and resources into the recruitment process. Understandable. What I don’t understand is why when new staff members come on board they are too often viewed as a necessary evil.

As I write this, I have spent the past month attending several industry conventions, trade shows and related meetings. The common question asked of me at all of these gatherings has been, “What are you doing to fix our installation problem? Are you training new blood for our industry?”

My response has typically been, “Let me ask you – what are you doing to fix your installation problem? Are you training new blood for your business’ future?” If I received a reply at all, it typically was something to the effect of “not much.” Sound familiar?

Free. Is there a more misused, misleading and sometimes blatantly dishonest word in the English language? I think not. Its misuse became so prevalent that not long ago the government had to put an end to claims of “free financing”, etc. Logical thinking people would easily recognize that anything of value would obviously have a cost associated, right? Apparently not, as free is to a large percentage of the buying public as cheese is to a mouse – irresistible. Is it any wonder, then, that major retailers are increasingly baiting their customers’ trap with “free cheese”?

Every dealer can offer stunning products on their sales floor. Beautiful products are never in short supply. But at day’s end, it’s what happens with those picture-perfect products when they are in the hands of the dealer’s installation team that matters most to the customer.

In the 1980’s the American Floor Covering Association (AFA), one of the components of today’s World Floor Covering Association (WFCA), offered a five-day traveling university that featured Walter Guinan, Frank Mayfield and Herb Wolk as the instructors. All three were fantastic talents, as is exhibited by their all being in our industry’s Hall of Fame, who volunteered their time with the express purpose of passing along their considerable knowledge to those who were seeking to increase their sales abilities.

I saw this headline while reading the editorial section in a morning newspaper recently. The subject of the article was local politics, but it struck me as defining exactly the position many independent flooring retailers are finding themselves in today. We at the WFCA are seeing far too many dealers who have been too busy and involved in the daily grind of their businesses, that they fail to take a longer term view of what course the flooring industry is taking.

It’s a reality that most local, independent businesses are constantly being pressured by large mass merchants. It matters not if you’re selling toothpaste or televisions, some large firm is bound to have a bigger, faster, cheaper version that they are promoting with yet another barely believable offer. The flooring business certainly falls into this category. However, we have a distinct advantage that those selling toothpaste don’t have in our opportunity to sell both product and our services.

The flooring industry has long been viewed somewhat suspiciously by the buying public. Frankly, I believe this dubious viewpoint has been deserved. I served on the Northeast Kansas Better Business Bureau board of directors for many years and each year we were provided with a list of more than 200 business categories ranked by the number of inquiries received. Please note that these are inquiries and not complaints.Inquiries come before a purchasing decision is reached and complaints are registered afterwards.