Alan Lang explains how retailers can raise their level of information awareness to overtake their competition.
The Surfaces 2001 Conference Program kicked into overdrive Wednesday afternoon at the Sands Expo & Convention Center with another salvo of seminar presentations chocked full of business-building ideas for the floor covering professional.

Two marketing-related seminars, John Bricker's What is this Thing Called "Brand"? and Jonathon Triver's marketWise Canada, were featured at the afternoon educational session. Bricker, a designer who directs Gensler's Retail and Branding Studio, characterized the specialty floor covering store as a bricks-and-mortar manifestation of a brand -- one that is not always utilized to its maximum effect. Through the uses of case studies, he discussed how branding can be exploited as part of retail store design and explained how a well-branded environment is invaluable in the effort to position a company for success.

Bricker explained how savvy retailers use branding to create three "zones" that lead the consumer through the retail experience. The first zone, attraction, entices consumers into the store. The second, transformation, brings their perceptions into line with the ambience and specialized motifs utilized throughout the store. And the third zone, extension, leaves them with the desire to return to the store and even recommend it to their friends.

Some retailers do a better job than others at establishing these zones in their stores, Bricker said. The extent to which they do is a matter of choice that depends upon how strong of a brand they wish to establish.

"How much you have to change," he explained, "depends on how much you want to achieve."

Trivers, who's well known on the flooring industry speakers circuit, expanded on his Wednesday afternoon marketWise presentation to put the Canadian flooring industry under the microscope. He discussed how the industry is segmented, noted who the major players are, detailed regional differences, and identified growth opportunities in the Great White North.

New technologies came to the fore in How to Profit from the Future: Making Dollars and Sense of the Internet. Moderator Kim Gavin led a panel of industry experts on a discussion of the Internet and its evolving impact on floor covering retailers. The primary thrust of the session focused on how dealers can get involved with the World Wide Web and boost their bottom lines in the process.

Kay Pegram hosted her third session of the 2001 Conference Program with Networking to Increase Sales. Her discussion centered on networking as one of the most effective and inexpensive ways to profitably expand a small business. Pegram explained to attendees how to identify networking opportunities, prepare for an event, develop a networking plan, and reap sales results through these activities.

Alan Lang, president of The Wadleigh Group business consulting firm, brought the discussion back to business with Your Information Edge: Use it to Increase Bottom Line Profitablity. In this interactive session, Lang described ways -- particularly through use of the Internet -- to ferret out information on customers, competitors and market trends, and use it to boost profitability.

"What I want you to do is raise your level of information awareness and pay attention," he said, to how other people -- particularly competitors -- use information. Such awareness can help retailers close the gap with their competition and ultimately overtake them, Lang indicated.