Best Practices: S&H Flooring and Peek’s Floor Co. - Aug/Sep 19
By Jessica Chevalier
True to its Texas roots, the Stacy family’s flooring operation is big, encompassing over 80,000 square feet of warehouse space supporting its 11 retail locations, which operate under the S&H Flooring/Dallas Flooring Warehouse (five), Peek’s Floor Co. (five), and Houston Flooring Warehouse (one) brands. The company holds inventory worth $9 million (at retail value) and has two high-ranking websites that pull customers into its brick-and-mortar stores. In addition, the operation has a distribution arm, S&H Distributing, as well as a commercial division under the S&H Flooring name. The commercial business specializes in high rise, casino and hotel projects nationally.
S&H stands for Stacy & Hollingsworth, surnames of its founders John R. Stacy and Chester Hollingsworth. The pair started the S&H Distributing business in 1988, and Stacy bought his partner out shortly thereafter. The distributing business focused on serving mom-and-pop retailers as well as installers who couldn’t get a line of credit with the mills.
In 1991, S&H diversified into the apartment turn business, then in 1988, it opened to the public in a warehouse-style format.
The company launched its Dallas Flooring Warehouse website in 2010 and began opening S&H Flooring retail stores in 2012 to help facilitate Internet sales. In 2016, the company acquired local competitor Peek’s Flooring Co. from Tulsa, Oklahoma-based Mill Creek. The business had four locations when it was purchased and, under the Stacy family, expanded to a fifth. Peek’s is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.
Today, the operation is run by John R.; his children John C. (vice president of sales), Matt (vice president of business development) and Rachel Wiebe (president). All three of the second-generation Stacy children began working in the family business in their teens.
A third generation is now stepping in as well. Matt’s son Matt Jr. works in sales. Rachel’s daughter Zara works in customer service, and her son Brody works in accounts payable. And John C.’s children John Christian Jr. and Charles Hunter are in outside sales, while his daughter Britnee oversees social media.
John R. was born in Dalton, Georgia and hired by West Point Pepperell, which was still in the carpet business at the time, soon after returning from Vietnam. He then went on to work for Cabin Craft, Columbus Mills and Coronet Industries before launching S&H Distributing in 1988.
STRIKING A BALANCE
While the business has taken a bold approach with regard to expansion and diversification, it has done so in a financially conservative manner. “My father is against debt completely,” says John C. The company generally operates in a pay-as-you-go style and eschews expensive advertising strategies in favor of a “beat the street” approach
With a laugh, John C. recalls his father’s response to his son’s plan to become a direct importer of porcelain from Europe, “It took a year to get the idea passed with Dad. There is no insurance for containers, so I had to guarantee that I’d pay half the cost if the container fell off the ship.”
In spite of the fact that John R.’s conservative approach sometimes means that new initiatives take longer to enact, the company believes the strategy makes it better able to weather economic downturns than many of its competitors. In fact, John C. reports that business in 2019 has been unexpectedly challenging; though website traffic has remained consistent, store traffic has slowed. And, due to the elections, the family expects 2020 to be off as well. However, S&H is on firm ground due to its low debt overhead, while it reports that several of its local competitors have put buildings up for sale or are vacating leases.
“We care about the consumer and our reputations,” summarizes John C. “We want to pass this business along to our children and grandchildren, and we can’t do that without happy customers and a stable debt-free company. We do things small, not grandiose. We are very conservative.”
John C. reports with a laugh, "We beg for reviews.” He is joking, of course, but the company’s actions reveal the true power of the online reviews in today’s marketplace. The company rewards customers who post online with movie tickets, Starbucks gift cards and other thank-yous. It also incentivizes referrals.
S&H runs its web operations in-house and has since it launched online in 2010. John C. believes this is important in maintaining “unity and a singleness of vision” and credits the SEO success of the company’s websites to “hiring the right individuals.”
The company’s various brands have different online personas. S&H Flooring and Peek’s Floor Co. are refined and informative, while the Dallas Flooring Warehouse and Houston Flooring Warehouse sites are focused on low price primarily. In fact, the slogan for Dallas Flooring Warehouse used to be, “It’s hard to find but worth the time,” and the company informs consumers that if they can be flexible color-wise, they can get deals 40% to 70% off retail prices. “That’s the bread and butter of our business,” says John C. “That’s what keeps the lights on. My father is an excellent buyer.”
Historically, the company’s websites have not offered online buying capability but will launch e-commerce in the first quarter of 2020.
DOWN THE ROAD
Like so many others, S&H has been challenged by labor shortages-in multiple areas of the business. “We are very concerned for the carpet installation business,” notes John C. “Some of our installers today are the children of current or former installers, so we are having to breed our own team. Finding staff is difficult. We would like to franchise our model. I’d like to have ten locations in Fort Worth, but we can’t find the right people-good, honest, motivated self-starters. We have the capital and resources. We just need people who want to make this their career.”
The family has been pleased to see the third generation eager to join the S&H. John C. believes, however, that it is important for his children, nephews and nieces to get experience elsewhere before joining the family business. John C. himself spent ten years working in the security alarm and other industries before coming back to S&H and advises that the next generation spend at least two years doing the same. “We want them to see how tough life is before they come here,” he explains, but he also believes that getting perspective outside the industry generates new strategies to be applied within it.
Ultimately, says John C., “This is a very amicable way to make a living. It’s simple: be honest with people, do a good job, and if you screw up, you fix it. Protect the brand. Most of the time, you win; sometimes you lose. It’s a very nice feeling when a consumer comes in who has saved her money, and you get to make her flooring dreams come true.”
Though Chester Hollingsworth sold his share of S&H in 1990, he continued to work in the business until retiring on October 18, 2018-his 101st birthday. Hollingsworth spent Tuesdays and Thursdays organizing samples of hardwood, carpet, laminate, vinyl plank, tile and other flooring materials at Dallas Flooring Warehouse. Local news station CBS DFW dubbed Hollingsworth “the oldest working man in America.”
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