Merchandising: Sprucing ‘up’ during ‘down’ times
By Leah Gross Whether it’s mandatory shutdowns or local quarantines, the impact of the pandemic was felt by nearly every business around the world. It’s safe to say that feelings of insecurity and doubt have taken their toll. While some flooring store owners say they felt “frozen in time” during the 2020 lockdowns, others say they jumped at the opportunity to rethink, revive and reinvent the way they do business. . First on the list – showrooms, where some major “dusting” took place for various dealers across the country.
Following are some examples of dealers who took the lead and built better during difficult times.
Flint Carpet Company
“I walked in and out of our empty store for days to look at it from our customer’s perspective,” said Tim Look, owner. “While we were in our homes with businesses closed everywhere, the one constant in our lives was the importance of keeping our distance from others and how mask wearing would become the new normal.”
According to Look, these social changes dictated what needed to be done to upgrade his store during the downtime. “I was motivated to find a way to create spacious paths in the showroom. Ensuring the comfort and safety of my customers became my number one priority. I looked at our store like a blank canvas. Prior to the new COVID-19 protocols, I couldn’t see how many displays and items were out of space in the store.”
A space that maximized layout eventually crystallized, Look said, and a new, toned-down and socially distancing showroom began to take shape. “Why do I need a sales counter that separates staff from customers? That area would give way to a customer-driven space resembling a living room with comfortable open seating, work tables, and plants. My wish was to give the space a ‘zen’ feeling. I knew big box stores were open during the pandemic. Those places pack products and make customers feel crowded. Our space is designed to make customers feel at home.”
The lighting in the showroom has also been changed from bright white to soft yellow, making it a 5-star restaurant, according to Look. “We want to make people feel like they are in an art gallery. We believe that the products we sell are works of art, so we display them that way. We played smooth jazz and our new space became a hit with our customers. We have also adopted a policy of no advertising, no posters and no prices anywhere in the showroom, which has only improved our customers’ experience.”
The changes made during Covid have paid off significantly, Look added. “I always ask my customers to post their experiences with us, especially on Google, and we are getting more and more customers through this effort. Doing more with less is our focus. Together with my team, we made our showroom ‘canvas’ our ‘masterpiece!'”
The floor doctors
Des Moines, Iowa
Chris Friest, owner of The Floor Doctors, Des Moines, took a new approach to his store’s closure by finding a way to bring his showroom to the customer. “Of the many improvements and changes we made during the pandemic, one notable part was finding a way to bring our products to our customers’ homes,” he explained. “To support our name, Floor Doctors, we have a fleet of two ambulances and have decided to equip one of the vehicles into a full-service mobile showroom.”
In addition to a mobile option, Friest said it was taking a long time, with operational shortcomings creating the biggest hurdles to growth, and he’s set his sights on tackling those first. “A central focus has been finding a way to differentiate our store from our competitors,” he said. “We have taken a multi-pronged approach to achieve this. First we hired six employees. Our expanded sales force quickly became the driving force behind our pandemic growth. With them on the front line, we worked as a team to identify opportunities previously untapped. Our salespeople were helpful in recognizing the need to expand. They helped us completely reinvent our retail presence by moving from an 800 square meter showroom to a 4500 square meter showroom, complete with new suppliers and a completely new design.”
The new floor plan, Friest noted, makes the store a more pleasant place to shop and work. “The changes made during the lockdown have resulted in higher sales and higher margins. Our employees are happy and really feel like an important part of what we have become.”
Carpet and tile warehouse
Vero Beach, Florida.
When the pandemic first hit the Carpet & Tile Warehouse in Vero Beach, owner Deby Winter anticipated a delay. But like many dealers, she chose to turn a lemon into lemonade. “We decided to turn our downtime into ‘up-time’ and took the opportunity to prioritize updates and renovations that we thought would improve our showroom,” she explained. “We ended up working on these projects little by little, as luckily we were able to stay open through most of the lockdown that hit other parts of the country.”
The kitchen/bathroom of Winter’s store represents the largest profit center, so it was only natural that she prioritized remodeling the displays in that department. She didn’t stop there. “We have also added cabinets, worktops and window treatments to our range in response to customer demand,” explains Winter. “We also replaced all the outdated track and fluorescent lighting in the showroom and installed 4K disc fixtures. That soft lighting enhanced the beauty of our products.”
As part of the store’s effort to draw attention to the highly requested and in-demand products in the store, Winter has moved the sections accordingly.
“We decided to move our hardwood division upstairs and we renovated that space with new wood floors, overlapping ceiling panels, updated lighting, crown molding and paint,” Winter noted. “As far as we can see, our customers are very satisfied with the renovation.”
Going forward, the store’s profits from this redesign will fund the retailer’s future plans, including further floor replacements throughout the rest of the store, new paint and a new sales counter service area.
MDG Flooring America
Steven Walbolt, owner of MDG Flooring America, said showroom updates were on his to-do list before the pandemic hit, but became a central focus to both keep his staff busy and prepare the store for a safe ride. , socially distant re-opening. “We repainted, installed LEDs – which also helped cut costs – added new inventory, including kitchen and bathroom, and rearranged the displays,” explains.
But that led to another concern: supply chain problems. “To ensure that we would be able to order and deliver products to our customers on time, we contacted all of our manufacturer partners to determine which lines and products were in stock and in what stock so that we confidently promote and sell only items we knew we had access to,” noted Walbot.
Popular items that were not or hardly available were taken off the floor and stored for future use. “This extra work with our suppliers has been invaluable to us and has also made our showroom a much more dynamic, ever-changing environment for our customers,” explains Walbot. “Our inventory is updated and swapped – sometimes daily due to increased or decreased inventory – so our store looks different every time our customers come in.”
Walbolt noted that the showroom upgrade was a boon to the store. “I have no doubt that some of the changes we made at the start of the pandemic will be with us indefinitely into the future, as some of the pivots we’ve made have been very good for business .”