FLOR Spreads the Message Around

Floor-covering catalog FLOR is in the midst of its second makeover since launching in March 2003. But that doesn't mean business isn't going well. Sales have been good enough to justify an increase in the book's circulation from 240,000 in 2003 to about 1.5 million this year and a projected 3 million-plus in 2005.

The reason for the makeovers is that FLOR's product selection — peel-and-stick floor tiles in various textures, styles and colors — is new to catalogs, so finding the best format has involved experimentation.

FLOR's debut catalog measured 19-by-11 5/8 inches. The oversized format coupled with the semi-gloss photos of modern design furniture sitting atop FLOR tiles on the inside aimed to have an effect on design industry professionals.

“We knew that they could be tremendous influencers,” said Chip DeGrace, vice president of marketing at FLOR, Chicago, who noted that the company paid a premium to print and mail an oversized book with this audience in mind. “That piece was half catalog and half advertisement.”

Success in the first year was measured as much by the number of editorial mentions the catalog received in decorating magazines as it was by sales.

“We ended up getting a lot of free publicity because of the catalog,” he said.

The company wanted to reach a broader audience in its second year. One big change involved the size of the catalog. Still not a standard size, it measured 7 9/16-by-11 13/16 inches for each of the two editions mailed this year, one in April and the second in September.

In its first year, FLOR showed how different tiles could be combined to make a rug. But it cut back on this strategy in 2004.

“People bought less of [the combinations we suggested] and did more mixing and matching on their own,” DeGrace said.

The price range also was broadened this year as more SKUs were added to encourage consumers to experiment with mixing and matching tiles. The book's current average order is $250 to $350.

What remains the same is the book's “aspirational” look, DeGrace said.

“It shows the product in a lot of rooms that people don't use soft carpets in today,” he said. FLOR spends a significant percentage of its marketing budget on photo styling, with many shots done on location in apartments.

Both of this year's editions mainly targeted women ages 35-55 who are on the mailing lists of shelter magazines and modern design catalogs. They are college educated and design savvy.

The catalog's measurements change again in January. The new size will be 7 1/2-by-10 1/2 inches, which is “more efficient” since more presses can produce this size, DeGrace said. “Now the size is not very normal, and only one or two presses can run it.”

FLOR will add products in its 2005 editions, scheduled for January, April and September. Selection currently consists mainly of dense, tightly woven tiles. Next year will see a larger selection of softer textures and larger pile textures. FLOR also will add handmade felt tiles and printed graphic florals that can be used to customize a rug. Another new product will be a 100 percent renewable wool hemp felt.

The book's target audience and look will stay the same.

Its Web site, interfaceflor.com, produces 33 percent to 45 percent of annual sales. Some of those sales may come from customers who get the catalog, then go online, said Joe Cahill, FLOR's vice president of direct business. The site provides more in-depth information about installation, he said.

FLOR also has a growing retail business. In October, Lowe's rolled out a FLOR program in 1,000 stores with products unavailable in the catalog. The line in the catalog is also available in Design Within Reach stores nationwide.

“We don't have the distribution reach right now, and there are partners like Lowe's that do,” DeGrace said. “They represent a different design-forward customer.”

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