LUXURY RETAIL INSIGHTS: Q&A WITH INTERNATIONAL DESIGN GUILD PRESIDENT KRISTA ELIASON
Led by Krista Eliason, International Design Guild and its upscale dealers and showrooms focus on designer outreach and engagement to pull through sales of luxury hard surface flooring, broadloom and rugs to high-income consumers.
MANCHESTER, N.H. -- Designer programs are flourishing at International Design Guild (IDG), the luxury division of the nation's largest flooring cooperative, CCA Global Partners. In an exclusive interview with Rug News.com, IDG president, Krista Eliason, discusses the organization's strategy to dominate the luxury space in the floor covering industry through support systems and marketing initiatives for dealers and showrooms in the top tier of the market.
With more than $350 million in annual sales, IDG represents an elite group of 110 flooring dealers and showrooms within the stable of CCA Global companies. While Flooring America/Flooring Canada with 500 members and Carpet One with 1200 doors target mid-level and some volume stores, IDG and its members focus on designer outreach and engagement to pull through sales to high-income consumers.
How do you define luxury consumers?
They are unique and particularly demanding. Quality and style are important considerations of their purchases, but so is value. You're talking about someone who has at least a $600,000 home. They probably have a million dollars of net worth or a trending income of $400,000 dollars a year, whereas the Flooring America consumer is closer to a $100,000-plus dollar income.
Who are your core customers, and how are they different from those of other CCA Global Partners?
CCA Global Partners has so many different groups because they understand that each group has different needs and different audiences. At IDG, we sit at the top. Our members are to-the-trade showrooms and high end consumer-based retail firms, and we are the only luxury flooring alliance in the country.
Also unique to the IDG framework is a secondary group of independent designers, we call "IDG Designers." If one of our member showrooms or dealers invites someone to be an IDG Designer, that designer will reap some of the same benefits that our showrooms do. That includes business and marketing programs, card processing, websites, email marketing, and micro sites. We push all of those benefits down to the designers.
The spacious to the trade showroom of IDG member Floordesign of San Francisco, features a combination of area rugs and broadloom.
Is there any crossover between IDG and Flooring America in terms of product?
Our members have access to all the brands other CCA groups do, with the addition of some specialty suppliers that not everyone in CCA would use. There is crossover between Flooring America and IDG on some products, but IDG is the home of top of the line designer goods -- and price points. You're not going to go in and buy a $200 a yard piece of carpet if you're making a $70,000 household income. You're just not going to do that. Or it would be very rare; I don't want to say you never would do it. Our members have access to all the brands other CCA groups do, with the addition of some specialty suppliers that not everyone in CCA would use.
Do any of your members specialize in rugs? Can you give us some names?
We don't have anyone that's only a rug store. So they're diversified in some way, and many carry rugs, broadloom and hard surface flooring. The one thing all of our members have in common is they all sell broadloom.
We have lots of what I call rug giants in our group: Bob Kashou of Kashou Carpets in Milwaukee, Sam Presnell of the Rug Gallery in Cincinnati, Jerry Arcari of Landry & Arcari in Boston -- just to name a few. Some of our members own more decorative showrooms like Tandy and Stan Stratton of Floor Coverings by CPA in Denver and Shea Dunigan of Floor Designs in San Francisco.
What do members buy at conneXtion versus the traditional trade shows and markets?
We're good at special, more consistent things, but when you're talking about the real rug giants, they will shop Atlanta market for other vendors and to buy one-of-a-kinds. That's not really what we're about. I do think it is pretty unique to have the type of rug companies that we had all on the show floor; you don't usually see that many outside of a rug market.
At our January conneXtion 2016 [convention] in Orlando, Flooring America, Flooring Canada, Floor Trader and IDG members came together for the first time. The show floor had feature areas, where IDG and the other groups each had their own area to display products we were focusing on. On the first night, we also have what we call X-Deals which are like plunder -- or specials.
A vignette shows a rug from the Louis A Dabbieri collection, a high end IDG proprietary product line exclusive to members.
How do IDG's member support programs differ from those of other CCA Global Partners groups?
Like other CCA Global Partners, we offer programs that include access to exclusive products, the power of collective buying, and robust operational tools. But we offer them to our showrooms and affiliated designers. We've also spent the past few years outlining strategies that would allow IDG members to rise above the competition and we've invested in innovative programs to enable us to continue to dominate the luxury space in our industry. We encourage our members to leverage these tools -- from our innovative Design for a Difference program to our unmatched digital marketing programs -- to ensure that they gain market share.
In a Design for a Difference makeover at Community Services Agency in California, IDG showroom owner Fred Wee of Interiors & Textiles brought together a group of student designers and corporate sponsors to transform the lobby.
How does the Design for a Difference program work?
Design for a Difference is a community-driven marketing initiative in which our showrooms, designers and a local non-profit will work together on a makeover that we've pre-approved to be sure it will really make a measurable difference. We use Emmy award-winning designer Mark Brunetz of as our national spokesperson, and we've done makeovers all across the country.
Since it was launched in 2014, we've watched Design for a Difference gain tremendous momentum with our members and the huge impact these participating showrooms have had in their communities. We've even created a website, A special website, www.designforadifference.com, to present makeover photos and testimonials from designers who have participated. Design for a Difference and the IDG Designer program are closely aligned. Our goal is to continue to support these programs to drive growth.
National spokesperson for Design for a Difference, designer Mark Brunetz says the IDG charity program truly makes a difference in people's lives.
Celebrity designers Jen Bertrand (left) and Lonni Paul flank IDG president Krista Eliason at the July 2016 Dallas conference entitled "Building Buzz".
Social media is a key strategy promoted to IDG members. Why is "Building Buzz" important enough to be the theme of your July conferences in Dallas?
In order to be seen and be heard, retailers and showrooms must leverage smart and effective social media strategies to stay top-of-mind in front of their customers and potential customers. Having a dedicated conference on social media and digital marketing is a way for us to help our members leverage these strategies to elevate their businesses.