Floor Care: Building Relationships - Apr 2016

By Darius Helm

A lot has changed in America during the last decade—in the economy, in the floorcovering business, in the retail market. It’s been a decade dominated by recession, competition, innovation, diversification and the rise of digital retailing. And it has led retailers to reexamine everything about the selling process.

Traditionally, success was defined as closing a deal on a product—a product, a transaction, a commission. With flooring, once the installation was complete, the relationship also came to a close. But that model’s shortcomings have been exposed in the last decade, as big boxes have taken share from independent retailers, as the Internet has become the de facto portal to the sales experience, as the economy has struggled, forcing everyone to scrutinize old business models and, often, develop new ones.

One of the biggest lessons retailers have learned is that a sale is not enough. To survive, you need a relationship. And they’re also learning that a product is like a living thing. It needs care and maintenance—a process.

While some retailers may mistakenly believe that they can compete effectively and long term by beating everyone on price, the seasoned pro knows that service and quality are the only way to avoid that race to the bottom. In this scenario, the weakest position is the middle ground. So even if a retailer stands to make more money on a product with a faster turnover, the only way to succeed in the long run is to offer products that look good and perform beyond expectations.

That’s why a bottle of spray cleaner isn’t a bottle of spray cleaner; it’s a relationship. If a customer maintains her floor herself using her retailer’s cleaning products, or if she uses its cleaning service, there’s an implicit understanding that the product and service are one, that the success of the product is dependent on the way that product is serviced throughout its functional life. And of course it’s a palpable result. The floors look better and last longer, and investments in cleaning and maintenance are miniscule compared to investments in new flooring and installation.

Most retailers have cleaners for sale in their stores, from independent brands to those private labeled to manufacturers. But for too many retailers, it doesn’t go much further than that. Some will point out that regular cleaning is required to maintain the warranty and perhaps point them to a rack of cleaners, but generally once the installation is complete, the relationship stalls. 

Some retailers, like Independent Carpet One in Westland, Michigan, have embraced cleaners and services as a powerful tool for staying close to the customer. The firm carries all the recommended cleaners, along with a couple of care programs related to Carpet One: a full line of Resista floor care products for both hard surface and carpet, including various spray cleaners and a dry cleaning kit; and the Everguard program, which includes a set of cleaning products and a cleaning and maintenance schedule in exchange for a hefty no-exclusions warranty.

Hardwood specialists, like Raffo’s Hardwood Floors out of Sonoma, California and Moore’s Flooring in California’s Central Valley, make sure their customers walk out the door with professional cleaning kits from prominent brands like Bona. Neither retailer views cleaners as a profit center. Rather, it’s a way of keeping their product, their reputation and their customer relationship in the best possible condition. All that, with just a little cleaner.

For Independent Carpet One, it’s also profitable. Not only does the firm have a 60% margin on the cleaners it sells, but its Everguard program adds 25 cents per square foot to the cost of flooring—building both relationships and revenues.

Copyright 2016 Floor Focus 

Related Topics:Carpet One