Floors for Living: Best Practices - July 2016
By Jessica Chevalier
The first Floors for Living store opened in Spring, Texas on March 14, 2012. Fifty-two months and 19 locations later, Floors for Living president Kurt Duitsman finds that his biggest challenge isn’t keeping up with his business’ rapid growth but, in fact, implementing his many ideas for setting Floors for Living apart from the pack.
A NEW STORE EVERY THREE MONTHS
Duitsman is a 38-year veteran of the flooring retail world. He spent 25 years at Carpetland USA, serving ultimately as executive vice president before stepping out to launch his own business. Duitsman had what some may characterize as unrealistically high expectations for what he wanted to accomplish when he started Floors for Living.
“I planned to have 20 locations, and that’s what I have,” says Duitsman. “I planned to do it in less than five years, and I’ve accomplished that as well. You don’t open up stores unless you have a desire to—and certainly not 20—because the stress of handling all those permits and build-outs is high. Over the course of the last four years, I opened one store every three months, including two warehouses.”
Ultimately, Duitsman wants to be among the top ten floorcovering retailers in the nation, and he has a timeframe in mind for that as well. “It’s more of a game than anything else,” he explains. And, the fact is, while most people would rather be relaxing in the Bahamas after accomplishing what Duitsman has, the retailer seems to be legitimately having fun—and nowhere near ready to kick back with a margarita.
Floors for Living finances 42% of its sales. “I would like to do 100%, but I just can’t get there,” says Duitsman. “It’s our most profitable product. The first time we did 90 days same as cash, I thought we were going to go broke. ‘We’ll lose 2% of our margin!’ But we raised the product prices, and the people didn’t care. They bought. It’s the American way. Financing is my favorite product. It makes it easier for the customer to buy because they’re not really spending money out of pocket.”
In fact, Duitsman reports that Floors for Living’s average ticket goes up $1,700 every time it offers the 90 days same as cash promotion.
DOING THINGS DIFFERENTLY
For Duitsman, good customer service begins with education. “Mrs. Consumer wants to be educated, and everything we do is about educating her to make the best possible decision.” That process begins before she ever sets foot in a Floors for Living store by going online, where most consumers start their shopping today. “My wife probably does 90% of her shopping online,” says Duitsman. “With flooring, you can’t really sell product online, but you can certainly educate consumers to buy the way you want them to.”
To that end, the Floors for Living website is chock full of videos, created and shot by Duitsman, offering insight into various flooring purchase-related subjects, including the best practices for tile installation and the ins and outs of hardwood flooring selection.
Under the carpet tab, for example, consumers can access a video in which Duitsman explains the value of getting a “true quote” for flooring installation, as opposed to a per-square-foot quote where “extras” like adhesive, floor prep and quarter round molding increase the bottom line value significantly. Duitsman isn’t afraid to call out specific competitors and compare his cost to theirs. In the video, he shares a quote from Lumber Liquidators, which advertised a $2.24 per square foot installation cost, according to Duitsman. With materials, however, the price for the 900 square foot job increased to $6.23/square foot, or a difference of more than $3,500 for the total job.
Duitsman also isn’t afraid to dig into the technical details of flooring installation to demonstrate how Floors for Living does things differently. In one video, he discusses the benefits of using lash clips and wedges, as opposed to spacers, to install ceramic tile to achieve thin grout lines and a finished floor without highs and lows.
One of the keys to Duitsman’s strategy is that he doesn’t offer a base installation method, such as tile installation with spacers, and upsell the customer to a better method. He offers only what he feels is the best with regard to installation, and he guarantees his work for life—lifetime coverage on carpet, hardwood, ceramic tile, laminate and resilient flooring installations, and a 25-year stain warranty on its grout.
Floors for Living spends about $125,000 a month on advertising with the primary goal of pulling customers to its website, which gets approximately 6,000 unique visitors per month. The informational videos Duitsman has created and placed on his website over the last four years have accumulated 24,000 views so far.
With his sights always set on growth, Duitsman knew that he needed to establish an efficient means of training current and new employees on the Floors for Living approach.
Explains Duitsman, “I asked myself, ‘What would it take to run 100 stores?’ I can’t train the employees of 100 stores face to face. I have to have an online tool, so I created floorsforliving.info.”
The password-protected site serves both to educate employees and keep them up to date on Floors for Living’s current promotions and financing offers. Here, Duitsman posts scripts and videos in which he demonstrates how to interact with customers and close a sale—and he is specific. For instance, he instructs his associates never to utter the sentence, “I’ll go get your order written up,” reminding them that the idea of being “written up” has negative associations related to poor behavior in school and speeding tickets.
The website also includes associates’ weekly sales and calls out the top earners, who receive a bonus for their performance.
Floors for Living employees are expected to log onto the site weekly to complete assignments and quizzes.
CUSTOMERS FOR LIFE
“I want to make sure customers are happy and come in frequently,” says Duitsman. “For that reason, I provide free floor cleaner for the first ten years following a sale. Customers can bring their bottle back and get it refilled each and every month. That’s how I get a customer for life.”
The strategy makes good sense for a number of reasons. First and foremost, when a customer enters a store frequently, they become comfortable there, and that increased comfort will effectively make the store their go-to for needs that arise. Second, simply pulling customers into a store and getting product in front of them is likely to get their cogs whirling and initiate flooring sales that might otherwise come to fruition more slowly.
What’s more, an out-of-the-box approach like this one is likely to promote conversation and positive word-of-mouth advertising.
AN ESTABLISHED ADVERTISING STRATEGY
For the year, Floors for Living creates 12 month-long campaigns. Every week of the year, Floors for Living buys a full-page ad promoting that campaign in the Houston Chronicle.
On the first, second and third weeks of the month, he also runs a flier in the Valassis RedPlum grocery insert that comes in the paper. The first week, he runs a full insert to 2,100,000 households—and makes it an inch taller than the other advertisements in the bundle. The second and third weeks, he runs a half ad, each to 1,050,000 households.
He also buys television spots for the second, third and fourth weeks of the month, running on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.
Duitsman emphasizes that advertising must be a set plan, not an emotional decision, and that being able to negotiate full-year rates is key to getting the best placement and bang for advertising buck.
In addition to his traditional advertising mediums, the Floors for Living website includes a reviews tab, under which potential customers can find not a couple or a dozen customer reviews, but hundreds—with specific quotes and even phone numbers, allowing them to reach out directly to former Floors for Living customers if they choose. The list is long and unwieldy, but it drives home a crucial point: a great many customers are pleased with the service that they received from Floors for Living.
Floors for Living’s stores are an average of 4,000 square feet. Duitsman reports that the areas he chooses don’t necessarily have to be high traffic, but they cannot be surrounded by newly built residences. The homes in the area must be at least ten years old. Population density also plays an important role: within a five-mile radius, there must be at least 60,000 homes to which he can send mailings. What’s more, those residences must have annual household incomes of $70,000 or higher.
Floors for Living stores stock no inventory. Duitsman ships orders out through his two warehouses. One warehouse stocks carpet and the other stocks hard surface flooring.
Floors for Living stores have a single branded rack per product section because, according to Duitsman, “customers don’t give a damn about who manufactured their flooring.” Otherwise, he stocks 50% of the products that he offers and keeps a wide-open and “non-threatening”—as he calls it—appearance in the stores.
Duitsman has a silent partner named LeRoy Melcher. Melcher is a lawyer who owns a 50% stake in Floors for Living.
Melcher has owned several businesses, none of which were related to flooring.
A pilot by hobby, Melcher often flies Duitsman to and from business engagements.
Copyright 2016 Floor Focus