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Friday, February 15, 2008

The Flooring Display Challenge - Part II

Design Center interior:
The Flooring Display Challenge continues!

What started with
The Flooring Display Challenge - Part I, continues here with a response from the flooring industry's and Floor Talk!'s Shannon Bilby.

She shares the following
:

I could not agree more that customers are looking for an experience. This is not a trip to the grocery store; this is an emotional investment that will remain in the home for a very long time!

In my experience, customers feel more comfortable and purchase more in a “home” environment where they can really appreciate the experience being created. This is especially true for major purchases like flooring. Creating a “home” experience sets the tone, helps create a safe yet inspirational environment in which to make flooring selections and other important selections for the home. It’s just as much about how they are treated and the environment they are in as the quality of the products you are providing.

Clients need a relationship with their floorcovering consultant. They don’t want to be sold by a stranger. When selecting a material like carpet -- that will remain on the floor for many years, that children will play on, Christmas presents will be opened on -- they want that warm fuzzy feeling that comes with an experience, not just a trip to the flooring store.

One frequently missed link is that floor covering is not a stand alone purchase. The floorcovering you choose ties into: your lifestyle, the walls, the furniture, the cabinets, the foundation and many other areas.

From a product perspective, it’s hard enough for sales consultants to keep the product selection straight. Can you imagine how the consumer feels when they walk in and see what appears to be the same sample over and over with different labels on them? At the rate the floorcovering industry changes, it’s too overwhelming for the consumer to be responsible for keeping up with the latest fiber, stain protection, etc.
Retail interior:
I was fortunate enough to have worked in an environment where half of the business was walk-in retail and the other half was a design center -- by appointment only. We tried different approaches.

On the retail side, the show room was laid out with manufacturer’s wing racks and 27x18 loose sample racks. On the design center side, it was laid out by level. [Part III will describe design centers.]

On the retail side, even though clients were guided by well trained sales consultants, the decision process took longer. Customers had to go back and forth between carpet racks trying to compare like products while keeping the budget clear in their mind. The consistent glaze in their eyes while they tried to absorb all the information and balance the budget numbers at the same time played a large part in the decision to find a different way to present product to the consumer.

In one location, we grouped like products together with no regard to the different manufacturers. We wanted to group them from the least expensive to the most, but because of the different styles, sizes and colors of the wing rack cards that method ended up looking too messy. We then took uniform wing racks with the store’s logo only and placed all of the berbers together in one rack (grouped by manufacturer to look neater), all of the patterned berbers together, all of the wools together, and so on.

That method worked extremely well in a retail situation because we also had a back-up spreadsheet/cheat sheet to complement the system. If a client came in looking for a beige small looped berber, we could take her over to one area and show her everything we had to offer. It was so much easier on her rather than dragging her all over the store to different racks. Most of the time, she didn’t care what brand, she wanted what she wanted regardless of who made it.

Seeing how well this process worked made our decision about displaying carpet in uniform racks with large loose samples, by level and color in the Design Studio very clear.

The approach was not only extremely efficient, but it resulted in quicker closings and happier clients. Too often, I think, store managers lay out a store that is easier for manufacturer sales reps to just come in and put up displays rather than for the sales consultants and clients to use as a shopping tool. It was entertaining to watch the reps wander all over the store like an Easter egg hunt looking for their drops. They didn’t like it, but the clients did – and that’s what was important.

We also tried a separate rack at the front for featured products or most popular products, but found that most people needed to see more choices. It worked ok to have the rack up front and a duplicate sample in the correct “category,” but in the end we changed it because the space didn’t generate enough return for the square footage invested.

Let’s face it, sometimes going to the flooring store can be as exciting as going to pick out a new car battery. BUT it doesn’t have to be. It can be so much more than that.

Part III of The Flooring Display Challenge will look at how design centers showcase flooring products.

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