By Ken Ryan Aurora, Colo.—It took 18 months to complete, but the first in-person meeting of CCA Global floor salespeople was well worth the wait.
To say that the three-day CCA convention here in the Gaylord Rockies was a welcome break from the daily grind of retailing would be a gross understatement. Business is thriving for the group and the mood here reflected that. Rick Bennet, CCA’s co-CEO, even called the current conditions “the best venture” in 20-25 years for the cooperative.
Things weren’t looking so promising in March 2020, Bennet noted. At the time, as the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic took hold, the cooperative was contemplating a 50% drop in sales and a 15% employee turnover. Fast forward to July 2021 and not one store under 1,000 closed, and total sales are up solidly in double digits.
“We’re not Amazon, but we’re not Princess Cruises either,” Bennet said, predicting that the sales increase for flooring dealers would last at least the entire calendar year, maybe longer.
Members basked in the good times shared in the Rockies. “I’ve never been to a convention that radiated such positive energy,” said Kevin Frazier, president of Frazier’s Carpet One Floor & Home in Knoxville, Tennessee. “All three days were buzzing with enthusiasm, optimism and hope.”
Rob Elder, co-owner of Hiller’s Flooring America, Rochester, Minnesota, echoed that sentiment. “Speaking for myself, I thoroughly enjoyed the show. There was a lot of excitement, a lot of action and innovation.”
Rather than split the convention into two parts – Flooring America/Canada, Floor Trader and IDG, followed by Carpet One Floor & Home – CCA presented its first truly integrated convention in at least 15 years (not counting last year’s virtual conference). ).
The integration is likely to be the template for future shows, and especially member programs. Keith Spano, president of Flooring America/Canada, Floor Trader and IDG, said CCA has traditionally worked in silo divisions. In this highly competitive world, we need to work together. Our members deserve the best from both sides of the house.”
John Gilbert, president of Carpet One Floor & Home, said the goal of the cooperative is to create scale, which is exactly what this integration can do for the respective retail members who are not only competing with other independents, but with large chains such as Floor & Decor.
Members seemed to embrace the synergy. “There is so much power behind the integration of Flooring America and Carpet One, not just in terms of convention, but in terms of coordinated leadership on a day-to-day basis,” said Casey Dillabaugh, president of Dillabaugh’s Flooring America, Boise, Idaho. “I believe Flooring America sees the benefits that size and scale can bring from Carpet One, and I believe Carpet One sees the benefits of innovation and growth that Flooring America brings. In most respects this is a win/win proposition.”
Bobby Merideth, president of Flooring America OKC in Oklahoma City, added that the integration between the different brands has gone well. “Dealing with other Carpet One members as friends rather than enemies, while also being able to maintain our own individual brand identity, was key to making it happen.”
At the conference, CCA executives touted the upcoming Retail 2.0 initiative, which officials consider to be one of the most important in CCA’s history as it brings new merchandising, digital tools and other ways to improve the shopping experience.
Selected members of Flooring America and Carpet One are testing Retail 2.0 in their stores. A more robust rollout is planned for the convention in January, with perhaps 150 members taking it on. How quickly it will be fully implemented depends largely on member buy-in. Spano told FCNews that the feedback at the convention was “overwhelmingly positive”, adding: “I wouldn’t be surprised if we didn’t push a little bit of throttle on this [roll out]. A member came up to me and said, ‘Why are you delaying this? We need it now.’”
The Vertical Connection Carpet One Floor & Home, Columbia, Md., is one of the beta testers. “Retail 2.0 is an important initiative,” said Adam Joss, president. “We all recognize that the world has changed and consumers have changed – we need to change too. I believe the best retailers are always refining their approach to engaging with consumers. I’m happy to see CCA leading the way here takes.”
Other members also said they were excited about the potential of Retail 2.0. “Undoubtedly, Retail 2.0 is the most comprehensive program to date,” said Merideth of Flooring America. “It will allow the flooring industry to put its fashion foot forward rather than simply being a utilitarian part of the construction industry.”
CCA retailers have been similarly impressed with the availability of digital price tags, which they said will help them reprice inventory in a fraction of the time compared to the old way. And in an environment of periodic price increases, the program comes at just the right time.
Combining the retail groups at the convention was greeted enthusiastically by suppliers who said the single trade show for Flooring America/Carpet One members was a seamless and more efficient way to do business. Kelly Oberschlake, senior director of national accounts for Mohawk Industries, called the integration “fantastic,” adding, “the power level is high and the turnout has been great. Just the simplification of not having to switch from Flooring America’s displays to Carpet One is so efficient.”
The integration generated many visitors to the stands and sellers were often inundated with questions from retailers. “I didn’t know what to expect, but people came to buy,” said Don Karlin, director of wall-to-wall carpet sales for Nourison. “The turnout was great. I have a bag full of orders; great for ROI.”
- Two years ago, CCA had faded the laminate category to where it was barely relevant. Today, laminate sales among group members has doubled. “The laminate category never died out, it just shifted from independent dealers to home centers,” said Dan Natkin, vice president of hardwoods and laminate for Mannington. “Now it has shifted back to the independents. I wish we could keep up with demand.”
- LVT now represents the largest category at CCA, surpassing residential carpets for the first time.
- Still, the carpet revival is real, Bennet said. “We’re holding on to that business while our competitors move to hard ground. Carpet is our sweet spot.”
- CCA wants to reduce the number of private label brands it offers to members. The research showed that consumers are not so much charmed by private label names as by product aesthetics. Gilbert cited the Kirkland brand at Costco as an example of a one-brand approach that resonates with customers. Carrying everything from food to clothing, the Kirkland brand is practically synonymous with the department store store.
- As to whether the integration of programs will create competition between Flooring America and Carpet One members who have locations in the same market, Gilbert said he was not concerned. “We surveyed our members and while the competition overlaps, it’s not enough to win [the benefits of the integration]. CCA is all about scale, and what the integration does is we get scale.”