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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Meet Kim Gavin, Editor, Floor Covering Weekly

I consider Kimberly Gavin, Editor, Floor Covering Weekly, a true champion of the floor covering industry. Not only does she understand the business [she is "a 21-plus year observer of the flooring industry"], but she never loses sight that the better the industry satisfies our coveted woman consumer, the more successful we will be.

I first met Kim when she interviewed me about marketing to women and the retail experience for FCW online in June 2005 and the printed edition of Floor Covering Weekly in October 2005. I was immediately taken with her quiet enthusiasm for my favorite topics. Ever since, I've considered her a kindred spirit.

CB: Kim, how did you get started in the floor covering business?
I stumbled into the industry - the way I'm sure many people do. I moved to Dalton, GA from having worked in the technical documentation world of mortgage banking. An opening at the local newspaper as editor of the "Dalton Carpet Journal" provided my entree into the industry and paved the way for me to join FCW, first as Dalton Correspondent, then as Dalton Editor, then Senior Editor, then Editor in 2000.

CB: What do you like most about the flooring business?
What I like most about the business are the people in it. We have some amazingly smart, talented, creative people and most of them happen to also be extremely nice. It's trying to be a fashion industry (and some are succeeding); I like that. I also like that it's about making interiors more beautiful, comfortable and practical for people. It's at the forefront of the sustainability movement.

CB: What do you like least?
What I don't like is that some view flooring as a commodity and they market accordingly. Manufacturers and retailers who take this view do the consumer a disservice. Sheet rock is a commodity. Flooring is a personal extension of my creativity in a home. [When we sell flooring as a commodity], consumers reward us by being mostly motivated by price, which hurts margins all along the chain. It doesn't have to be this way. Also, I think with industry consolidation we have lost some of the creativity and entrepreneurial spirit the industry used to have.

CB: What do you like most about carpet?
What's not to like about carpet? It's warm, soft, comfortable to the touch. It's safer than hard surface when it comes to slip and fall - and we're not getting any younger. It has the advantage of trapping airborne particles until they can be vacuumed away. I have hard and soft surface, but really love the way carpet doesn't show dust, dirt and cat hair the way wood or tile will do. And stylistically you can do so much with it. It's a great product.

CB: Kim, what five things would you do differently to create a better retail experience in flooring?
To create a better retail experience:

1. Pay attention to the outside of the store. The inside and the outside should match and that often doesn't happen. Both should be as upscale as possible given the retailer's target demographic. If you're going after the Tiffany's shopper, there's your role model.

2. Do your own merchandising or join a group. Stop taking every display rack known to man. Most flooring stores look like a hodgepodge. And update those displays. Some stores are still carrying racks from long-defunct companies.

3. Hire more women, especially on the sales floor. I'm instantly skeptical that a guy can help me with interior selections. Unless he's gay, he's got a lot of proving to do to me. I'm just more comfortable that a woman can empathize with me. That's not to say there aren't some great sales men, but I think your odds are better with women selling to women.

4. Listen to the customer. Hear what she's saying and not what you think she's saying.

5. Don't be afraid to steer her in the right direction. She's coming to you for advice. Give it to her. If she's making a mistake, tell her so. Do it nicely, but do it.

CB: Kim, how do you see traditional and digital media working together for the flooring industry?
I have no idea how traditional and digital media will ultimately work together. What I think you'll see are the baby boomers will stick with traditional media while the younger generations will embrace digital on a much broader scale. How that plays out should be interesting to watch.

CB: Which blogs or news sites do you follow?
Honestly, I spend most of my time on news. I subscribe to The New York Times and The Wall St. Journal online and a local newspaper that I have delivered. I still like reading a newspaper each day.

CB: Thank you, Kim!

[The photos above are of Kim with Ann Hurley, caught in deep discussion.]

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Reminder: Please, no self-promotional or SPAM comments. Don't bother if you're simply trying to build inauthentic link juice. Finally, don't be anonymous: it's too hard to have a conversation. Thanks, CB

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