X close FCA Network: Member's benefit

Published in Floor Covering Weekly, April 2008

Joe O'Grady (left), territory manager for Karastan/Ralph Lauren, with Jay Caisar of Metro Floors.
By Kimberly Gavin
[Chicago] Floor Covering Associates' (FCA) success as a specialty retailer helped to lay the groundwork for the success of the FCA Network. "It's a successful retail operation and we have a group that's successful because of that," explained Don Lovato, Carpet Source of Albuquerque, N.M. "We have real value for being members."

The group's new proprietary business software, Allegro, is just one example of that kind of value. FCA developed the software for its retail business over several years, according to Bob Hill, chairman. The initial system, expected to launch May 1, will be a point-of-sale tool to help retailers expedite orders and gather financial data. Phase II will unite Allegro with an accounting system to capture that data. The final phase will integrate electronic commerce. The best part: there's no cost to existing members.

Ted Kuderko, principal, Classic Carpet and Floor Covering, Howell, Mich., said Allegro is the kind of thing FCA Network does for its members. "This will save some steps and eventually [interface] with the mills," he said. "I think it will be terrific."

Daryl Ciokiewicz, principal, Check's Floorcrafters, Onalaska, Wis., has been using flooring specific software, but with business conditions like they are, will likely switch to Allegro. His current system cost him close to $2,000 a year for user license and updates. "That's a lot of money to us," he said. "We are really scrutinizing costs."

Going upscale

2007 was a tough year for Network members, said Olga Robertson, COO, FCA Network. Nonetheless, many dealers were able to profit thanks to an improvement in product mix. "The middle is vacated when times are tough," Robertson explained. Luxury retailers are doing well as are discounters like Target and Kohl's. "Consumers can have quality without the price," she added. That concept led her to launch Signature Extra Values carpet collection, featuring products that offer a lot of value for the money. Luxury goods are also doing well. Robertson said the Network's upscale Taylor Wirth line saw a 37-percent jump last year.

This year, Robertson added the Ralph Lauren studio program, where carpets range in suggested retail price from $2.99 to $7.99 per square foot. Her goal was to place five or six at convention.

The network's membership is close to 60 now. Robertson and Barth Getto, CEO, believe the ideal number of members will settle somewhere between 200 and 250.

The key for members is to take advantage of what the group has to offer, Robertson said. Beyond products, FCA Network members benefit because the FCA staff supports them. "They do a lot of intervention," Lovato explained. If there is a price or claim issue, Robertson or her staff will call the supplier, most of the time resolving the issue. "They get us orders sooner," he added.

Bob Zahn, principal, Zahn's Floor Covering, Crawfordsville, Ind., said, "We like the simplicity of it; the freedom of it." He likes that he gets to choose what to buy at conventions. "Stuff just doesn't show up," he said. And he likes the personal care he gets from the staff. "FCA Network cares about what everyone thinks, no matter how big or small." Gavin, K. (2008, April) "FCA Network: Member's benefit."

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