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Buying Flooring Off The Internet

Weighing-In On Purchasing Flooring From Internet Retailers

I understand that things change and technology gives us wonderful tools for us to gain knowledge and insight, but I would caution that it does have its limits and drawbacks. I want to share my opinion and insight on buying floor coverings from Internet retailers.

TFP: Sharing Information & ResourcesStop and ask yourself this question: “Why did I come to The Floor Pro website?” I would guess it’s avail yourself of the expert knowledge you needed or wanted so that you don’t have problems with your new flooring purchase. While you’re getting that knowledge here for free (Thank you Jim for this great site!), the people providing that information are sharing with you the fruits of our experience & knowledge because we simply love the floorcovering industry and helping people. BUT, we all work and derive our living from the industry and if we cannot sell our goods and services we wouldn’t be here.

The Internet retailer guys have seriously hurt independent local retailers over the last 15-20 years, and while it’s only my opinion, supporting those sales channels continues to harm and erode the independent dealers, who far-and-away, have more knowledge and ability to sell products properly than any Internet retailer.

Brick & Mortar Dealer vs. Internet Retailer

Flooring Display RackThe overhead for a dealer factors in pretty heavily to their pricing. The displays and samples that a dealer has for you to browse in the local showroom represents and huge investment. And no, they are not provided free to the dealer.

Here’s an example of just one vendor in that dealers store, let’s call it vendor “M”: The retailer has large display racks throughout her or his store for hardwood flooring, laminates, sheet vinyl, and LVT from that vendor. The average cost to purchase a single display is 700 to 1,000 dollars. Then there are annual update fees that the dealer must pay for those new products in each line that are introduced every year. These can range from and additional $300.00 – 500.00 per year. That’s just one vendor. Add in maybe dozens of other vendors, both big and small, that dealer has in their store. Figure in the cost of opening the doors each day, utilities, wages for sales and staff, insurance, operation of delivery vehicles and handling equipment and if they carry inventory in the store, that can also be a LOT of overhead expense sitting there.

The reason these Internet retailers can be so cheap is that there are a lot of, in my opinion, unscrupulous manufacturers and distributors who will do the online retailer’s “work” for them. They ship the product directly to a customer for them and they don’t require online dealers to purchase displays and samples. This enables these guys to sit at a computer and push buttons with little or no overhead, knowledge or commitment and work at profit margins far below what a local retailer can operate on.

Sure, they have some pretty good pricing, but they shift the burden of handling product to the consumer very slyly. Anyone who purchases from these guys should read very carefully the shipping policy for the Internet dealer that explains what you are going to have to deal with to get that product at such a great price.

Taking Delivery of Your Purchase

Internet retailer flooring delivery headachesLet’s take a typical 1200 sq. ft. order of Luxury Vinyl Tile for example. That much LVT weighs about 800-900 lbs. You place the order and the Internet dealer is going to ship that to you via common carrier – a big semi-truck is going to show up at your house. That means you’re going to have to be there waiting on that truck. If no one’s home, they don’t unload it and leave it in your yard, they take it back to the retailer and you still owe for the attempted delivery.

Got a forklift at your house? Common carrier drivers do not touch freight. Their only obligation is to get the pallet to the back of the semi-trailer where YOU have to take it off. This means you will be carrying each one of those boxes into your house, it doesn’t just magically appear there. Those drivers have lots of deliveries and there are things called “retention charges” that can come into play. What that means is you have a set amount of time to get that material off the truck. If you go beyond that allotted time, you start paying a fee for holding that driver up. This is flooring. It’s bulky, it’s heavy and it’s hard to handle. This isn’t a set of headphones you bought from Amazon that the FedEx guy leaves at your door.

Let’s Talk About Freight Damage & Other Delivery Problems

Internet retailer flooring delivery headachesWhat happens if there’s damage? It happens a lot with flooring. Flooring can be easily mishandled or damaged in shipping. When you sign for that delivery if you happen to miss that a carton got damaged, or there is a problem like they sent the wrong color, now you get to deal with how to get it back to the Internet retailer. Once you sign, you’re essentially saying everything was OK.

As a wholesale distributor we spend a ton of money with common carrier freight companies every year. They have no hesitation in telling me to get stuffed when there is a problem, so what do you think they are going to tell you, just an individual they have no relationship with, if there’s a problem. Oh yeah, if you want them to have this delivered by a specialty carrier with a lift gate (if one’s even available in your area) so you can handle the material easier, all of a sudden that “free delivery” goes away and that $700 difference will go away pretty quickly as well. And did I mention that freight companies don’t work by appointment? They give you a day that they will be there sometime and you have to sit there and wait for them until they get there.

Buy Flooring Locally

To me, I say “No Thank You” to all that online, Internet retailer hassle and deal with my local flooring dealer. He or she will deal with all of this headache for me. Your local retailer will handle any issues with damage and will most likely deliver my flooring and may even be installing it, using local, trusted installation professionals. If there is a problem, the local dealer is going to address the issue in person. You’re not talking to someone in a completely different part of the country, maybe even another continent. You know what you are getting before it arrives and you already know it’s a first-quality product and if it’s not, you know who to address it with.

To further give you some food for thought here’s some helpful links from major floorcovering manufacturers:

      Mannington’s Internet Purchasing Policy

      Armstrong Internet Flooring Sales Policy

I would also encourage you to google “Purchasing flooring from the Internet” and you will find a ton of flooring manufacturers’ websites that discourage or advise caution regarding buying from Internet retailers.

Sorry to get on my soapbox, but it’s something we flooring distributors fight on our end daily. I hope that your project goes smoothly and that you enjoy your new floor. Keep us here at The Floor Pro Community in mind for your next flooring purchase. Post about it and share some pictures on our forums so we can help by sharing our experience, information and resources. Then again once you get the project done. We love to see how things turned out! Yesss!

Chuck Milledge
Chuck started in the floor covering industry in 1995, working in the warehouse and worked his way up to Commercial Sales Manager for Kaough Distributing Co. Chuck has always believed, if you want to understand floor covering, ask a flooring installer. He spent the first 4-5 years of his career loaning himself out to installers and doing a lot of listening. Chuck continues to listen, but he also enjoys sharing that knowledge with other pros and the consumer & DIY members of The Floor Pro Community.

One Response to Buying Flooring Off The Internet

  1. Ken Fisher says:

    Nice review.

    A few inaccurate comments to note:

    don’t require online dealers to purchase displays and samples

    I had to. It’s the only way you can get competitive pricing. Perhaps this part has changed over the years. I quit selling name brands online nine years ago. It was ridiculous. Some guys selling a $ 5.00 product for $ 5.40 and I knew what they were paying.

    Now it’s my own custom line that does not compete with the others. No price competition/matching on the same product.

    Those drivers have lots of deliveries and there are things called “retention charges” that can come into play.

    I’ve never had that happen. Never.

    And did I mention that freight companies don’t work by appointment?

    Every single one I work with does for residential delivery, but it’s more like a two to four hour window.

    carrier with a lift gate

    All the ones I work with have that option, but costs more, or $125 or so. However, my products can’t be taken off by lift gate. Too heavy and too long.

    I do agree with other points mentioned. Unfortunately in your world today it’s a different landscape and I’d be disgruntled as well. Time to reinvent yourself.

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