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Commercial Flooring News

The Fight Back Starts Here

China supplies over 65% of wood floors sold in the UK: Low priced products with no guarantees and no back up

Alex Davidson, business development manager, Kahrs (UK), says retailers can add major value for customers by promoting the guarantees from manufacturers of quality branded European floors:

WHO hasn’t been annoyed when purchasing a retail item, such as a TV or mobile phone, when it comes to the extended warranty sales pitch? The warranties offered in this situation are an extension to the manufacturer’s own warranty or guarantee.
They account for a high proportion of turnover and, in effect, they’re insurance premiums. At Kährs, we can offer the end user a free, tangible and very clear 30-year guarantee on our wooden floors.
But, we’re still bemused as to why almost 90% of our retailers have no interest in passing this value adding and differentiating offer onto their own customers, or at least discussing the guarantee in detail with the end user. We know this to be the case because we’ve compared our sales statistics against the number of end user guarantees we officially register, via our retailers.
The UK’s most successful retailer, John Lewis adds a lot of value and also strengthens its brand identity by offering free extended guarantees on its electrical goods. It has proven that customers will pay the full-ticketed amount when the guarantee is free and not part of a highly pressurised sales strategy. When it comes to the hardwood flooring industry, it would appear that retailers have been slow to pick up on offering and discussing supplier guarantees with their own customers.
We recently polled a small proportion of our customer base and feedback revealed that the end user very rarely enquires about guarantees during the selling process, but tends to focus more on colours, textures and price. This should not be seen as a negative by the retailer, but more as an opportunity to discuss the supplier guarantee and to add value during the selling process.
One of our retailers actually zones in on our free end user guarantee and promotes it as a way to secure the sale and differentiate itself from its competitors.
The retailer knows from experience that it’s highly unlikely that any other flooring retailer before them will have discussed guarantees with the end user, and this small but significant selling gap reassures the end user that it may be worth paying a little extra for this safety net, offered by the retailer and manufacturer.
The retailer in question makes it part of the value proposition during their selling process, very similar to John Lewis. It completes the sale by asking the end user to register the guarantee with Kahrs and presents them with the certificate in an after sales folder. This allows the guarantee to be tangible and have an intrinsic value for the end user.
This process is very similar to how the branded white goods manufacturers operate. Who hasn’t got their television or washing machine guarantee stored away at home? As consumers, we’re happy to pay for extended guarantees on some household products, but not on others. The point that flooring retailers should be reinforcing is that you’d expect to have your wood floor for longer than your television – both are seen as big ticket items and that’s why guarantees should at least be discussed during the selling process.
We try to offer our retailers a comprehensive toolbox for securing profitable, low risk sales: CFA/CFJ-award winning product ranges; point of sale materials; an interactive website; consumer brochure; local sales support and the reassurance that they are selling and promoting a quality product that’s backed up with a manufacturer’s guarantee.
In a UK hardwood flooring industry where over 65% of floors are imported from China, retailers of quality European branded floors need to compete with low priced products that offer no back up, no guarantee or no support. By making the suppliers’ guarantees part of the selling process, retailers can subtly pick away at the ‘low priced, no guarantee floors’ that the end user may have seen in a merchants, or a ‘stack it high sell it cheap’ outlet.
To answer the question, ‘What are manufacturers’ guarantees worth?’ then John Lewis has proven that they add more than a perceptional value to business; they add a tangible value in terms of sales revenue and bottom line results.
Consumers now, more than ever, demand that retailers stand by the products that they sell and their expectations have never been so high. With this in mind, the retailer who can offer a guarantee to the end user (which comes to them free as part of their supply chain) is very astute.
It minimises their own risk, reassures the end user that they will stand by the product, as part of their supply chain, and it adds value to their business in monetary terms.
We often wonder whether our guarantee would be given more attention, by the retailer and end user, if we charged for it, but as part of the brand’s B2B and B2C offering, we’ll continue to offer it for free but raise the awareness of it in stores. This is proof that, on occasion, you can get something for nothing in terms of adding value to your business!
The editor of CFJ comments: In addition to the above article from Alex Davidson, retailers and other UK purchasers of wood flooring should be aware of China’s record of fuelling the illicit timber trade buying cheap wood flooring and other wood products from neighbouring countries and turning a blind eye to its origin. China’s disregard for illegal logging is well documented by London based Environmental Investigation Agency. The EIA accuses China of having become the number one importer of illegal wood products. Illegal logging causes deforestation and threatens biodiversity, emits carbon, impoverishes local communities, and is often coupled with other crimes. http://eia-international.org

This article has been reproduced from the Contract Flooring Journal. You can find them at www.contractflooringjournal.co.uk.