Best Practices - January 2013

By Sonya Jennings

 

When a company’s core business is focused on servicing the builder sector and a recession hits then decimates that business, the plan becomes to adapt or close the doors. Great Western Flooring Company (GWF) was able to take on the challenge of change and win. “We run lean and wear a lot of hats, and we are always, always trying to improve,” says Lauren Voit, general sales manager of GWF.

With a 70% dip in revenue from 2006 to 2010, Great Western Flooring had to move from a 70% builder market business to a 30% builder market business within a relatively short amount of time. In a climate where many small businesses, particularly those serving the builder market, were going under at an alarming rate, GWF held on and adapted. The company learned to operate with a lean staff and adjust to serving the retail replacement market at a much higher level. Retail now accounts for 70% of the company’s sales, although Voit sees the builder market numbers increasing again, and she believes they will grow further in 2013. 

Paying attention to visual details, GWF has made adjustments to attract the female customer and keep her in the store. GWF’s showroom makeover changed the feel of the store, making retail customers comfortable and cutting down on the confusion that can come with walking into a flooring showroom. The company changed the flow of the store, keeping in mind that most customers enter and start shopping by turning to the right. Instead of grouping different flooring types together, each category has its own section of the store. Tile, hardwood and carpet are not displayed together—each has a specific place separate from the others. Lighting, layout, store signage and furniture all work together to create a warm, consistent and simple space that just feels more inviting and less cluttered. Attention is paid to small details that really matter. For instance, the store keeps the windows uncovered in order to allow lots of natural light to flow into the showroom; this is an important part of an overall look and feel that takes purposeful planning to create. Voit notes, “Our goal was to develop a shopping experience that felt warm—more like a home than a store, keeping in mind that so many choices can be overwhelming, so simpler is better.” 

Keeping up with design trends has helped GWF build retail business and develop trusting relationships with customers. For instance, five years ago, a tile backsplash was a take it or leave it type of feature. Now, Voit’s customers are insisting on not only a backsplash, but also an interesting one with detail and design elements that will make a kitchen unique. Voit says, “Networks like HGTV show beautifully crafted spaces to a wide audience, and those viewers come into our store with different expectations than years ago. This gives us an opportunity to be a design consultant.” The company is design based—the salesperson takes on more of a project manager role. From choosing product to measuring in the home to touching base during installation, there is one person to walk through the entire process with the client.

Always searching for ways to expand its customer base, GWF is jumping into a new adventure, partnering with a big box chain. A kiosk will be placed in seven Costco locations offering GWF products and installation. Online sales have already started pouring in, even though the kiosks are not active until January 2013. In-home consultants from GWF will measure for all clients gained through the Costco locations, and the customer will be treated exactly like a typical store customer. 

There was a stringent process to be chosen as the retail representative by Costco, and the company is very proud to have been accepted as the flooring source for this new program. According to Voit, “This is unchartered territory for us and a bit like taking a drink out of a fire hose, but we are excited about the opportunity to once again learn and grow our business by implementing and executing good ideas.”

Traditional advertising avenues, such as TV and radio, are so expensive in a densely populated market like Chicago that the company sees them as cost prohibitive. Instead, the company relies on word of mouth referrals, community involvement and Internet marketing. Referrals account for nearly 70% of the company’s new business. Marketing via the Internet helps to promote brand awareness on sites like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, as well as the company’s website. Voit states that community involvement is critical to the success of the company adding, “If a baseball team, church group or shelter comes to us and asks for help, we almost always find a way to support the organization.” Local organizations like Jaycees, homebuilder’s associations, and the chambers of commerce are a priority for Great Western Flooring; a GWF representative is involved in each of the stores’ local communities. Steve Chirico, owner and president, is also a city councilman in Naperville, Illinois.

GWF has both Mohawk Floorscapes and Shaw Flooring Gallery stores. The decision to represent both manufacturers’ products was made in order to provide customers with the widest array of product choices possible. According to Voit, “They present very well together and allow a greater selection. We believe in both of their products and see them as the best partners for us as far as merchandising and marketing goes.” Also, the private labeling benefit makes it difficult for customers to shop on price alone. Chicago is a very competitive market, so this is a valuable tool for the company. 

Great Western Flooring Company has showroom locations in three Chicago, Illinois suburbs including Naperville, St. Charles and Oswego. Tile, hardwood, carpet, LVT, laminate, epoxy flooring, blinds and countertops make up the company’s product offering. Approximately 70% of flooring sales come from hard surfaces like tile and hardwood with soft surfaces making up 30%.



THIRTY-YEAR ANNIVERSARY

Great Western Flooring Company was founded in 1983 when Steve Chirico, owner and president, was a college student looking for summer work. He put an ad in the local newspaper asking for a job in concrete work. The owner of an apartment building responded to the ad but asked if he knew how to lay tile instead. He decided to give it a try, and after completing one apartment, the owner hired him to tile every unit in the complex. This project ended a college career and began a career in tile flooring that eventually led to a full-service flooring business serving the Chicago area. His two daughters, Dana Chirico and Lauren Voit, help him run the family-owned business.


Copyright 2013 Floor Focus 



Other Archived Articles

Initial Jobless Claims Fall Last Week   Full Article
Washington, DC, Aug. 7, 2014 -- Initial claims for unemployment benefits fell by 14,000 to 289,000 in the week ending Aug. 2, according to the Labor Department.

Investment Firm Takes Significant Stake in Armstrong   Full Article
New York, NY, Aug. 7, 2014 -- San Francisco investment firm ValueAct Capital now owns 16.8% of Armstrong World Industries' common stock.

Surya Breaks Ground on Cartersville Headquarters   Full Article
Cartersville, GA, Aug. 7, 2014 -- Rug company Surya held a groundbreaking ceremony for its $33.5 million, 1-million-square-foot warehouse and headquarters facility in Cartersville.

DFS Green Appoints VP of Business Development   Full Article
Millbrae, CA, Aug. 7, 2014 -- DFS Green, Inc. has named Matthew Tylman vice president of business development in the company’s Phoenix office.

Barclay's Reiterates 'Overweight' Rating on Mohawk   Full Article
New York, NY, Aug. 6, 2014 -- Barclays has reissued an overweight rating on shares of Mohawk Industries.

Small Increases in Price Hurt New Home Market   Full Article
Washington, DC, Aug. 6, 2014 -- Each $1,000 increase in the cost of a new median-priced home price forces 206,000 prospective buyers out of the marketplace, according to a new study by the National Association of Home Builders.

Leonardo Academy Moves to New Office   Full Article
Madison, WI, August 6, 2014 -- Leonardo Academy's Madison, Wisconsin office has moved to a new location at 8401 Excelsior Drive.

Mortgage Application Volume Rises on Refinancing   Full Article
Washington, DC, Aug. 6, 2014 -- Mortgage application volume rose last week as refinancing applications increased, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.

Tarkett Hosts Braungart at NeoCon Event   Full Article
Chagrin Falls, OH, Aug. 6, 2014 -- Tarkett hosted Michael Braungart, scientific director and founder of the Environmental Protection & Encouragement Agency for a seminar during NeoCon.

Flooring Firm Fire Ruled Spontaneous Combustion   Full Article
Chesterfield County, VA, Aug. 5, 2014 -- A July fire at Better Floors has been ruled a "spontaneous combustion" incident by investigators.

Factory Orders Spike in June   Full Article
Washington, DC, Aug. 5, 2014 -- Factory orders surged in June by 1.1%, the Commerce Department said.

Services Sector Growth Fastest in Nine Years   Full Article
Tempe AZ, Aug. 5, 2014 -- The services sector of the economy grew in July at the fastest pace in nine years, according to the Institute for Supply Management.

Kansas City Interiors Icon Bernie Madden Dies   Full Article
Leawood, KS, Aug. 5, 2014 -- William Bernard "Bernie" Madden, owner of Madden McFarland Interiors died Aug. 1.

Flooring America's Rebranded Meeting Underway   Full Article
Dallas, TX, Aug. 5, 2014 -- Flooring America/Flooring Canada, a division of CCA Global Partners, has kicked-off conneXtion, its newly branded bi-annual meeting that connects its more than 500 independent floor covering retailers.

Mullican Flooring in Two 'Flipping Boston' Episodes   Full Article
Johnson City, TN, Aug. 5, 2014 -- Mullican Flooring has provided hardwood flooring for two additional episodes of “Flipping Boston,” a television series on the A&E channel.

Latricrete Acquires Resinous Flooring Firm Spartacote   Full Article
Bethany, CT, Aug. 5, 2014 -- Laticrete International said it has acquired HP Spartacote.

J+J Symposium Focuses on Senior Design Trends   Full Article
Dalton, GA, Aug. 4, 2014 -- J+J Flooring Group recently hosted the first in a series of senior living design symposiums in which experts discussed the driving trends.

Florida Tile Opens Showroom in Boise   Full Article
Boise, ID, Aug. 4, 2014 -- Florida Tile has opened its second tile and stone showroom in four months, this one in Boise on July 15.

GBCI, Bureau Veritas Form Partnership   Full Article
Washington, DC, Aug. 4, 2014 -- The Green Building Certification Institute and Bureau Veritas SA have announced a strategic business partnership.

Berkshire Hathaway Reports Decline in Shaw's Earnings   Full Article
Omaha, NE, Aug. 4, 2014 -- Shaw Industries recorded a pre-tax earnings decline for the second quarter due to lower margins, according to parent company Berkshire Hathaway's quarterly report.