Best Practices - March 2013

Best Practices From March 2013

By Sonya Jennings

 

Competing for floorcovering consumers in hard hit Florida has not proven easy over the past five years, but Bob’s Carpet Mart (BCM) has developed several ways to stay afloat under difficult circumstances. Launching a targeted core product group called the Ultimate Home Collection and going head to head with big box competitors by developing a creative ad campaign have kept customers coming through the door. We spoke with Ed Keller, general manager, about the details of how BCM is thriving in Florida.

When asked what keeps him up at night, Keller says that he worries about the housing market in Florida. He explains that Bob’s Carpet Mart’s sales increase when houses turn over in the market. Floors are replaced on both sides of a home sale, so the more homes that are sold in his market, the better the sales number for BCM. Home sellers may replace a floor in order to sell the home, and buyers are likely to replace floors after a home purchase for the purpose of updating or replacing damaged floors. He notes that the housing market is getting better, and he hopes to see that trend continue to increase over time. BCM hopes to add three or four additional stores within the next ten years.

Because Florida was hit so hard by the housing crash, Bob’s Carpet Mart encountered serious competition from the discount big box warehouse chains. The company met this challenge head on with the launch of the “Dare to Compare” advertising campaign. While the big box stores were offering “free installation” or “$30 installation,” Bob’s Carpet Mart asked consumers to “Dare to Compare” the final price of the project installed. This advertising campaign was very successful at keeping the store in the ring when customers were shopping around and comparing prices and products. BCM management had also considered offering free installation to compete against the big boxes, but inflating product prices to cover installation was just not an attractive strategy. Offering a competitive price with the added advantage of buying from a full service retailer was the message BCM chose to run. Over and over, the message has hit home—“compare our installed price to their installed price and enjoy the level of attention and quality that comes with buying from a full service retailer.” The “Dare to Compare” logo is seen in every form of store advertising, and it’s comprised of an orange apron featuring the Bob’s Carpet Mart logo and the words “dare to compare” written in a familiar font. 

Comprehensive sales training helps to set BCM apart from its big box competitors. Keller notes, “We strive to do what we do better than anyone else, and training and education are a big part of that.” The store holds monthly sales manager meetings introducing new products and discussing sales techniques. These meetings give store managers tools to train and grow their salespeople. On a quarterly basis, all sales staff members meet for in-depth sales and product training. 

Another strategy used to combat the difficult economic climate in Florida is focusing on fewer products to reduce inventory expenses. The company chose to highlight a core group of products and promote those products with highly competitive pricing and a “guaranteed in stock” designation. This grouping of products is called the Ultimate Home Collection and it accounts for 50% of sales. BCM offers Ultimate Home Collection choices in many product categories such as tile, laminate, carpet, etc. 

Within the collection, the store may feature three or four color choices and offer special discounts on those colors as opposed to offering discounts on every available color. The products are kept in stock at all times and have private labeling to prevent price shopping. These are price sensitive products at varying levels. For instance, an entry level Stainmaster carpet installed with a pad for $1.99 per square foot, an ultra light for $2.99, and a heavier product for $3.49. The sales staff is comfortable and very knowledgeable about this collection of products, making them easier to sell. 

For the consumer, the Ultimate Home Collection offers better pricing on popular products, and for the store, it provides more of a guarantee that these in stock items will be sold and won’t be sitting on warehouse shelves. In company advertising, the message is, “buy today, and enjoy your new floor tomorrow, as all Ultimate Home Collection products are in stock and can be installed the next day.” In the ads, the names of the products are used because they are all private label names and cannot be shopped. Bob’s Carpet Mart sales staff gravitates to these products because margins and commissions are generally better.

Bob’s Carpet Mart offers carpet, hardwood, laminate, ceramic, LVT, cork, bamboo and window treatments. The company is a Stainmaster Flooring Center, Armstrong Elite Dealer and NFA member, and it carries Shaw’s HGTV products as well as other products from Shaw and Mohawk. The breakdown of sales used to be a 60/40 split with approximately 60% of sales consisting of hard surface products and 40% carpet. Recently however, Keller sees a trend of consumers moving back toward carpet, and the current breakdown of sales is more like 50% carpet and 50% hard surfaces. In the West Coast Florida market, the affordability and softness of the new carpet products are allowing carpet to regain some marketshare. 

Another current trend is the popularity of LVT products. According to Keller, visuals are becoming more realistic, and the click system is a popular method of installation. Customers like the low maintenance aspect of the product, especially in wet areas. In addition, the numerous choices and species of wood patterns are helping to drive the product, and the costs are coming down.

Driving store traffic can be difficult at times, so BCM began a “Shop at Home” program about five years ago. This service is designed to offer a convenient shopping experience for those who do not have time to come into the store. Advertising methods like eblast and website promotions highlight the Shop at Home service, prompting customers to call. During the call, a store salesperson asks specific targeted questions over the phone about product type and other competitor bids. Samples are taken to the customer’s home and measurements are taken. This program has been successful for the company, and it is expected to continue to grow. 

BCM draws consumers in using nearly every form of advertising, including television, radio, direct mail, social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, eblasts, and a company website. Television commercials are produced through a local agency or by a television station. BCM uses “sense of urgency” advertising always related to a particular sale or theme. For instance, the store recently promoted a “44th anniversary sale.” A high profile radio personality highlights store events or sales on a popular country radio station. In addition, direct mail and social media are used to promote the same sale or event that is featured in television and radio ads. BCM spends 6% to 7% of sales on advertising to gain a strong media presence on the West Coast of Florida.

Bob’s Carpet Mart was founded 44 years ago in St. Petersburg, Florida by Bob Butler. He is now retired, but three of his children are active in the business. The company began as a warehouse operation serving the retail market and specializing in carpet and vinyl. Today the company targets the middle price point consumer, and sales are 95% residential and 5% mainstreet commercial.

Copyright 2013 Floor Focus 


 

 



Other Archived Articles

Builder Sentiment Falls, but Conditions Still Seen as Favorable   Full Article
Washington, DC, March 16, 2015—U.S. homebuilder sentiment declined for a third straight month in March, but more builders still view market conditions as favorable, says the National Association of Home Builders.

Factory Production Declines for Third Consecutive Month   Full Article
New York, NY, March 16, 2015—Factory production in the U.S. declined 0.2% in February for a third consecutive month, says Bloomberg News.

Sale of HUD Loans Helps Over 16K Avoid Foreclosure   Full Article
Washington, DC, March 16, 2015—The sale of $16.7 billion in nonperforming loans by the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Department helped the owners of about 16,700 homes avoid foreclosure, reports Bloomberg Business.

Altro Safety Flooring Introduces Tape Installation System   Full Article
Wilmington, MA, March 16, 2015—Altro Safety Flooring has introduced a new adhesive free, tape installation system for resilient flooring called Altro XpressLay, which minimizes installation downtime.

Gerflor Expands Sales Team to Cover Entire U.S.   Full Article
Bensenville, IL, March 16, 2015—Gerflor USA has added 14 reps to its Gerflor USA sales team to cover the entire United States and provide additional reach in major markets.

Wholesale Prices Slid in February   Full Article
Washington, DC, March 13, 2015—Wholesale prices fell 0.5% in February, says the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The unexpected drop represents the fourth consecutive down month, as measured by the Labor Department’s producer price index.

Interface's Claims New Microsfera Has Lowest Carbon Footprint Ever   Full Article
LaGrange, GA, March 13, 2015—Interface has unveiled its latest product, Microsfera, which the firm says has the smallest carbon footprint of any carpet tile in history.

Ecore Revamps Business Structure   Full Article
Lancaster, PA, March 13, 2015—Ecore is making changes to its business structure in conjunction with IHRSA 2015 by launching a new category of sports and fitness flooring called Ecore Athletic.

J+J Flooring Video Wins Gold in AVA Digital Awards   Full Article
Dalton, GA, March 13, 2015—J+J Flooring Group video was named gold winner in the corporate image category of the AVA Digital Awards.

Average Mortgage Rates Rising, Buoyed by Strong Jobs Report   Full Article
McLean, VA, March 13, 2015—Average fixed rate mortgage rates are moving higher amid a strong jobs report and bringing mortgage rates back to where they were at the start of 2015, according to the results of Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey.

Trade Sales & Manufacturer Shipments Edge Down in January   Full Article
Washington, DC, March 12, 2015—The combined value of distributive trade sales and manufacturers’ shipments for January was estimated at $1,302.5 billion, down 2.0% from December 2014 and down 0.3% from January 2014, says the Commerce Department.

Retail Trade Sales Down from Previous Month But Up YOY   Full Article
Washington, DC, March 12, 2015—Retail trade sales were down 0.6% (±0.5%) from January 2015 but up 1.0% (±0.9%) over 2014, says the Commerce Department.

LL's Free Air Quality Testing Won't Meet CARB Standards   Full Article
New York, NY, March 12, 2015—Lumber Liquidators will offer free indoor air quality testing for its consumers--conducted to workplace standards,-- but OSHA's thresholds for formaldehyde in the workplace are not as stringent as CARB's for the home.

Parterre's Vertu Resilient Plank Wins ADEX Recognition   Full Article
Wilmington, MA, March 12, 2015—Parterre’s Vertu Resilient Plank won two ADEX awards.

Consumer Survey Reveals Optimism about Housing Market   Full Article
Washington, DC, March 12, 2015—Consumer optimism toward the economy is growing and appears to be contributing to further improvement in overall housing sentiment, according to results from Fannie Mae's February 2015 National Housing Survey.

Millennials Account for Largest Share of Home Buyers, Says NAR   Full Article
Washington, DC, March 12, 2015—The millennial generation represented the largest share of recent buyers, according to the 2015 National Association of Realtors Home Buyer and Seller Generational Trends study.

Three Tarkett Rubber Textures Win ADEX Platinum   Full Article
Chagrin Falls, OH, March 12, 2015—Tarkett received the Platinum Award for Design Excellence (ADEX) for its new range of rubber textures: Brushed, Concrete and Leather.

Fuse Alliance Focuses on Digital Marketing to Raise Awareness   Full Article
Laguna Niguel, CA, March 12, 2015—Fuse Alliance, a member-owned organization of professional, commercial flooring contractors, unveiled a next generation public facing website that clarifies the group's target audience and services offered.

U.S. Container Imports Down Over 5% in 2015   Full Article
Minneapolis, MN, March 12, 2015—Total U.S. container imports are down over 5% this year, compared to January and February of 2014, reports Zepol. Nearly the entire decline in imports is attributed to the West Coast ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

Armstrong Top Execs Offered Retention Award to Stay Through Spinoff   Full Article
Lancaster, PA, March 11, 2015—Armstrong World Industries is giving three of its top executives an incentive to stay at the company through the spinoff of its flooring business into a new, independent company next year, reports Lancaster Online.