FCA Network: Dealers boast ‘staying power’ amid adversity

“Big Ideas in the Big Easy” was the theme of the FCA Network spring meeting here, and retail members certainly had their choice of big—and bold—ideas to incorporate into their business.

From tax strategies to a new QR code system for updating showroom pricing to smart approaches for recruiting and retaining employees, members said the conference agenda offered plenty of takeaways to implement back home.

For Jerry Wilson, manager of Walker’s Floor & Design, Twin Falls, Idaho, it was learning new tax laws from Roman and Bart Basi that he took to heart. “As soon as the session on new tax laws was over, I called our bookkeeper and told her we are changing our company from an LLC to a C Corp., to lower our tax burden,” Wilson said. “It’s going to be a huge thing for us.”

For Katrina Coy, co-owner of Classic Carpet & Flooring, Howell, Mich., and Sara Lee, co-owner of Pocatello Flooring in Pocatello, Idaho, having access to the new QR system for showroom pricing is a potential game changer given how frequently prices are increasing. “We have a small staff and we have people every day manually changing price,” Coy said. “This will save us on time and make us much more efficient.”

Lee lauded the QR system for its ease and simplicity. It was her second convention since joining FCA last year, and she said she was eager to learn new ways to advance her business. She even attended the opening reception in her wedding dress, just hours after getting married to Aaron, her new husband and business partner.

Network members thriving

FCA retailers Carlton Billingsley (far left) and Dan Billingsley discuss products with Happy Feet’s CJ Johnson, Ladonna Hamlin and Casey Johnson.

The 24th annual FCA Network convention provided members with a chance to share ideas and discuss their continuing success, which continued despite myriad challenges.

Robertson said as a group FCA members were up 22%-24% from 2021 vs. 2020 and are off to a strong start in 2022. “It’s been going gangbusters,” she told FCNews. “The consumer is willing to spend money and invest in her home. Consumers are still buying; inflation hasn’t scared any of them yet. Consumers see the value of their home continuing to go up, and when you see that, you can invest more. At some point things will settle down. But, in the meantime, I tell members to make hay while the sun shines.”

FCA Network members said just keeping up with the pace of business has been all consuming. Matt Bliemeister, owner of Cincinnati Floor & Window Coverings, Loveland, Ohio, marveled at the patience customers have been showing during the ongoing supply chain slowdown. “We used to be two to three weeks out with some products but are now four to eight weeks out, and no one is balking,” he said. “Business has been strong across the board, really in every category. 2021 was our best year ever, and we’re still going like gangbusters.”

Robertson told members they have learned valuable lessons since COVID-19, namely the importance of perseverance and resiliency. “We have had the staying power despite the adversity,” Robertson said. And given the domestic challenges as well as the ongoing conflict in Eastern Europe, Robertson urged members to “focus on what you can control and keep a hopeful approach. We have much to be thankful for. We’re all here together to take us to the next level.”

Members new and old said they are seeing their businesses reach heights not seen before. Bob Gaither, owner of Quality Carpet & Flooring, Akron, Ohio, was one of the first members of FCA Network, joining the group 23 years ago. “It was the best decision I ever made,” he said. “The first two years I didn’t really embrace the business. Back then, I had [good] sales but was losing money. I called up Olga and did everything she said I should do about running my business, and it turned my business completely around. The rebates alone put my two daughters through college.”

Round-robin trade show

The traditional trade show featured a round-robin format, with retailers spending 20 minutes at each booth to ensure that every vendor would be seen. The format drew praise from supplier executives. “In a normal show environment, you’re hopeful that someone will come by and visit with you; this format ensures they will,” said Bill Waters, regional vice president at The Dixie Group.

Jay Kopelson, vice president of national accounts for Mannington, echoed that sentiment. “It’s a great format because you get one-on-one time with dealers and can focus on what’s new and if there are any new opportunities. It’s a good way to make new connections.”

The vendor presentation included a good amount of buying, with FCA’s new Signature Home PetSafe—a private label display from Shaw—resonating with members. “Most everyone has taken on the display,” said Ann McDermott, vice president of national sales for Shaw Industries. “This is not your normal PET. In fact, we don’t call it PET. It’s a high-performance yarn system.”

By Ken Ryan—New Orleans