Today, the decisions made about everything from décor to the floor for households, increasingly fall upon women. In fact, the majority of these decisions are made by female brains. In fact, the vast majority of purchasing decisions made about interiors and interior products is made by the fairer sex and yet, most shopping experiences provided by the flooring retail sector are focused on a male customer’s attitudes, needs and mindset. Why? And how can you make the most of ‘a woman’s touch’ in the retail sector.
Maybe you disagree, but you can’t disagree with this: there is a huge disconnect between female consumers and the flooring industry. Maybe if I tackle the issue from a different angle, we can start to make the huge shift required and flooring retailers (with particular regard to carpet sales) can look forward to a future in which flooring is once again seen as ‘a key’ element of an interior makeover, maybe even a ‘fashion purchase’. The reason we should try to do this is that flooring, more often than not, has what is left of a consumer’s budget spent on it, rather than the main portion.
Can sales be lifted significantly simply by updating some traditional behaviors?
Let’s talk about selling and the salespeople: there are some female salespeople in the flooring industry, some with manufacturers and some in retail. But there is room and a powerful case to be made in favor of attracting more women to the job of selling flooring.
I should state, there is a small number of men selling flooring that ‘get it’ and do an excellent job. But, we have to face it they really are, just a few. Men selling in this industry, in general, love to get to the ‘nuts and bolts’ of the matter quite quickly; they like to talk about brands, carpet weights, construction types, prices per sq ft and where the carpet is going. I accept the importance of such knowledge and detail, but the issue lies with ‘when’ to display you have it.
A female salesperson will focus immediately on having empathy with her customer and becoming her ‘Trusted Adviser’ (thanks for that phrase Warren Tyler) long before she feels any need to show-off her technical knowledge of flooring. She understands that the customer wants to talk about ‘her’ overall décor scheme, wanting opinion about what might fit in from a color, look and feeling stance. Much more significantly, she will know – some might say instinctively – how to talk about color and pattern. Knowing which patterns mix and how to match colors. She will sit with her customer and look through wallpaper books and interior design magazines, whilst referring to flooring she has in mind that might go with the scheme. A woman will know how the female customer thinks and feels, while most crucially realizing that she is there to provide support and opinion, not solutions.
The female salesperson will naturally show a genuine passion for the customers overall interior project: whereas the men are mostly passionate about the floor and making a sale. Your first reaction to this is most likely to be to shout: “A man can do all of that!” Whilst I agree with your ‘can’, or even a ‘could’; the fact is that most don’t.
Our merchandising, pricing, showroom layouts and product offers simply aren’t evolving to meet the shopping experience the female customer desires. In fact, it’s increasingly not even meeting those of the male consumer. My recommendation based on experience across the USA, is that if you want to secure the future of your flooring business achieving increased sales; then think about employing female sales staff and let them get on with the job in a way that might be considered ‘indirect’ but which will most certainly lift sales, customer satisfaction, recommendations and profits.
There is no reason why men couldn’t learn to sell in this style, respect the customer for who she (or he) is and provide the shopping experience she/he longs for. But, we’d need to learn ‘how’ from a woman, which means lots of female sales managers and trainers need to be found…
Written by Phil Pond, Consumer Insights Director at Scarlet Opus
Beverly, East Yorkshire
Phil has a strong track record of success achieving sales revenue growth for manufacturing, retail, hospitality and service companies for over 25 years. In 2000, Phil jointly owned a UK carpet manufacturer, creating innovative activities to increase sales for and with retail partners. He sold the business in 2005. Skilled and knowledgeable in commercial and consumer marketing and sales, Phil has an excellent reputation for adding value for clients in the production and retail of a wide variety of products. Phil has clients in Eastern & Western Europe, the USA, South America, China, Scandinavia, The Middle East and Japan. He also successfully developed new products, winning new markets and hunting down efficiency in costs. He has worked in the USA since 1997 in a variety of market sectors and US businesses. Product experience spans many areas including hard and soft flooring (residential & commercial), property, and trend forecasting for and to clients that include Home Depot, Walmart, Tesco, Harrods, IDG, Kleenex, SAPPI, Marks & Spencer, Ford, Jaguar & Rolls Royce retail dealerships and US retail flooring independents. For the past 8 years his focus has been on building consumer, design and business trends for both retailers and manufacturers in the interiors sector, including working with retail salespeople to guide matching their actions to consumer desires for their ‘shopping experience’, working with retailers to match store layouts and merchandising to consumer behaviors in store, providing education to manufacturers in how best to support their dealer networks and how to engage and develop consumer loyalty.