Best Practices: O’Briens Carpet One Floor & Home – Oct 2023

By Jessica Chevalier

John and Beth Hughes moved to Colorado Springs, Colorado in 1985 to start a flooring business. At the time, their twins, Lisa and Brenda, were headed to college, daughter Nancy was a sophomore in high school and son Ryan was in sixth grade.Today, those children are all part of the family flooring business, as are some of John and Beth’s grandchildren. In total, 11 family members work across the family’s five operations, which include two Carpet Ones, a Floor Trader, a ProSource and PrS Flooring Supplies & Distribution.

TAKING A CHANCE
Both John and Beth were raised in Shenandoah, Iowa in farming families. There, the couple opened a flooring, furniture and paint business, which served a large radius of small towns in an area largely based on farming. The early ’80s were a difficult time for local farmers, and that took a toll on their business.

The couple decided that they needed to move to a growing area, so they packed their life up and started afresh in Colorado Springs. The business that they started was, at that time, mostly carpet, and though they had had relationships with the carpet mills through their Iowa operation, getting up and running in Colorado Springs was like starting from scratch, Beth recalls. They had to establish new partnerships with the mill reps in Colorado, and, until they did, that meant making the 19-hour drive back and forth to Dalton, Georgia to buy carpet by the truckload.

In spite of the challenges, the couple were able to find success. “John is the epitome of a salesperson. That’s how we got on our feet and grew,” says Beth. “I’m more on the back end. I purchase inventory, oversee the books and banking. We’ve had bumps along the way, but it has worked out really well.”

As of 2023, the Hugheses’ children have been working in the business for more than 30 years, and, today, the second generation is actively involved in management. Ryan manages the ProSource location. Brenda is sales manager, and Lisa is marketing director. Nancy manages mainstreet sales. In addition, one grandson runs the Floor Trader, and a son-in-law, granddaughter and grandson are in sales.

In 1991, the Hugheses joined Carpet One. “We were early into Carpet One, and that was a fabulous decision,” says Beth. “We have traveled so extensively and have so much support from the team as well as CCA’s professional advertising. Because we aren’t competitors with the other members, we all help each other.”

OFFERING
As all the Hugheses’ stores are in relatively close proximity, they try not to compete with one another. The Carpet One stores have a full portfolio of flooring materials and also sell Hunter Douglas window treatments. The stores seek to cater to customers at all price levels but do a lot of high-end work in their Karastan, Masland and Fabrica offerings.

Beth notes that one of the Carpet One locations recently installed and implemented CCA’s Retail 2.0 system, and the other store will do so in November. Of Retail 2.0, Beth says, “It’s really beautiful and has upgraded our store.” She adds that it has helped steer customers toward upper-end products

O’Briens Carpet One’s hard surface sales have grown tremendously over the last few years and now account for 40% to 45% of business, estimates Beth. “But we also sell a lot of carpet,” she notes. The company is a stocking dealer for both carpet and LVT, and Beth reports that it has one of the largest selections in the area.

The Carpet One locations do a fair amount of mainstreet work, particularly in churches, with Nancy heading up this aspect of the business. O’Briens Carpet One does not engage in any negotiated commercial work.

As the ProSource location has cabinets and countertops, Beth doesn’t see a need for the Carpet One stores to carry those offerings. Floor Trader, of course, is a stocking store with a more warehouse-y feel. And PrS Supplies carries a broad selection of tools and other products needed for flooring installation.

ADVERTISING STRATEGY
The Hugheses do a lot of TV advertising, using Carpet One-produced TV content. In addition, O’Briens Carpet One does radio promotion and posts ads in a local Catholic newspaper.

The company’s website is through Carpet One, and it also leans on the organization for social media content used on its Facebook and Instagram pages. It also employs pay-per-click marketing.

For years, O’Briens Carpet One has held special-invitation events, such as its upcoming fall three-day sale. The company’s customers are invited, as are residents within a certain zip code area. These events get a large turnout and generate a lot of sales.

O’Briens Carpet One also participates in charity work through a number of different organizations. One near and dear to the Hughes family’s heart is the National Downs Syndrome Association, as Brenda’s daughter has Downs syndrome. The business also supports faith communities of all denominations. Ultimately, says Beth, “Our reputation is probably our best advertisement.”

A FAMILY AFFAIR
The enjoyment of working in the business alongside their progeny is what keeps John and Beth reporting for duty on a daily basis. “If I were home, I’d have nobody. They’re all here,” Beth laughs.

The pair takes great pride in their family-oriented operation. “I don’t know anyone that has as much family in a business-and all get along,” says Beth. “We even have great-grandchildren running around here.”

When John and Beth need to add to their ranks and don’t have a family member to step in, things become challenging. Beth says, “We use the Carpet One Acquire program, which places ads for us at no charge. That’s helpful. At times, we’ve turned to Indeed and other big sites like that. Sometimes we’ll use Craigslist and word-of-mouth. I’m always surprised how many people will schedule and interview and not show up. I had a guy recently that I was really excited about. He had flooring experience but just never showed.”

Another challenge that the business faces is that the “big mills are changing how they are doing business,” Beth explains. “They are taking away cash discounts, which is huge to us. How do we gain that back? If you lose 5% on a couple hundred thousand dollars, that’s a lot of money. This is a big challenge for businesses like ours.” Beth adds that, in selecting products, she tries to align with Carpet One as much as possible due to the financial benefits.

Regardless of how long she’s been in the business, Beth still has her eyes on the prize. “We want to continue growing the business, to continue excelling in customer service, and, ultimately, to transfer the business to the second and third generations. We haven’t made any firm decision to leave, and our kids don’t want us to-the things we are doing have to be done. Of course, we are training others to take over some aspects.”

FIRST IMPRESSIONS
This summer, O’Briens Carpet One hosted the CCA conference for its region; this event and others like it were held in place of a national summer convention. “Ours was one of the first in the nation to be scheduled, so we were sort of the guinea pig,” Beth explains. Beth and CCA’s regional manager for the area coordinated the conference, which welcomed around 100 individuals. Several Carpet One executives traveled from New Hampshire to attend, and Beth reports that it was a “very exciting and successful” affair.


Copyright 2023 Floor Focus 


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