Best Practices - May 2006

By Lisbeth Calandrino

Designing a new home or remodeling can be a dreaded task for many homeowners, say Ken and Brenda Barber, owners of Barber’s Floors and More, a thriving flooring business in St. Johns, Michigan. Their passion, they say, is to make the experience enjoyable. 

In 1997, Ken, who had worked as a flooring installer for his mother-in law’s interior design business, and Brenda, who had worked as a bookkeeper, decided to open their own full service flooring store. The couple started in a 2,500 square foot showroom space in downtown St. Johns in May of 1998. They added the Carpet Warehouse, which houses remnants, padding, and stock flooring, in 2002.

Last April, Ken and Brenda bought a 13,000 square foot space, with an eye to expand their offerings, and most importantly, to fulfill their vision of opening a designer-oriented showroom.  Brenda knew exactly what she wanted it to look like.

When Ken and Brenda were invited to be one of the first Shaw Design Centers, they found just what they needed to execute their plans. With their ideas and Shaw’s design help, lighting, signage and marketing tools, the 13,000 square foot space became a home away from home for their customers. The “homey” atmosphere, they say, is what keeps bringing customers back again and again. 

Shaw has been a tremendous help in the Barber’s success. “With Shaw, we always felt we were important, even when we were very small. So I felt this was the way to go,” says Brenda. Shaw’s merchandising programs, private labeling of samples, and continued product education have helped them run a more successful business than ever before. 

The new showroom features vignettes of bathrooms, kitchens, and living areas, all with different types of flooring. The vignettes have been a great selling tool, so customers can see what a product will look like before they buy it. One of the most popular vignettes is a kicky 50’s style room with a glass block counter (see page 17), an antique gas pump and a movie theater-style popcorn machine that actually serves bags of popcorn, where customers can sit and relax. There’s also a play area for children and a big screen TV for the men to help keep them occupied while the women shop. 

“Remember,” the Barbers say, “they can make or break a sale.”

So what advice would the Barbers give to other retailers to help them grow and thrive?

1.  “We’re always on the lookout for new ideas.” With styles and trends constantly changing, Barber’s Floors and More offers the latest in flooring and design. The staff includes two interior designers, who, along with the sales staff, put their customers’ visions and ideas into unique designs that work for them.

2.  “Pay attention to your marketing.” The Barbers take pictures of their best jobs and has them blown up and displayed on the outside of the building so customers can see what the Barbers can do. 

3.  “Go out and look for business.” Ken spends a lot of time in the community getting new clients and business from thriving builders. Sometimes the best type of marketing is a personable face to face approach.

4.  “Make your showroom designer-friendly.” The showroom has work stations equipped with paint chips and samples for interior design clients.

5.  “Be educated and informed about your products and market trends.” Use continuing education that’s offered through the industry. Attend flooring shows, and make it a point to share ideas and advice with other retailers.

6.  “Be involved in your community.”  Brenda and Ken belong to the local Chamber of Commerce as well as a business networking group. When the Barbers first opened the new showroom, they hosted an open house for the Chamber of Commerce, as well as a private sale for loyal customers.

Ken and Brenda Barber have made many decisions that have lead to their success. Despite the difficult Michigan economy, their sales are up for the year and they expect to do about 15% to 20% more next year. It takes a lot to make a business thrive, but through Shaw’s Design Center program, a great design staff, continuing education, and a lot of hard work, Barber’s Floors and More has a bright future and hopes to continue helping people around mid-Michigan make their house a home.

Copyright 2006 Floor Focus Inc

Related Topics:Floors and More, Shaw Industries Group, Inc.