September 30, 2020
Marketing a business that has almost a 100% in person component to it is a hard ask in 2020, but our superstar client Ian Minotti of Parry’s Carpets has absolutely rolled with the punches. Ian has a varied background in education amongst other things, and when he started at Parry’s, he quickly involved himself in all facets of the business to ensure he knew exactly what was needed. It’s paid off, and they are still flourishing despite the hurdles the covid shutdowns has thrown at him. Cami LeGoff, our SEO Manager chats to Ian about his challenges and what’s coming up next for the flooring industry.
Bec: Hey everyone, I’m Bec Caldwell, and welcome to today’s Mash Pod. Today we’ve got Cami, our SEO manager in the house and she’s having a chat with one of our favorite clients. Take it away, Cami.
Cami: Hi everyone. I am Cami Le Goff from Mash Pod. And today on the show I have the pleasure to be interviewing Ian Minotti, General Manager of Parrys Carpets in Western Australia. Hi, Ian, thanks for being here with us today. How are you?
Ian: I am doing good, Cami. How are you?
Cami: I’m great, thank you. So let’s kick start with the interview.
Ian: I love how you pronounce my name, Cami.
Cami: Ian Minotti.
Cami: So there’s a bit of Italian to it?
Ian: It’s a bit of Swiss actually.
Cami: Swiss? I’ve been saying the Italian way.
Ian: It’s alright.
Cami: So, Ian, you have a very interesting background. You’ve been the general manager of Parrys Carpets for almost 10 years. But prior to moving into carpet retail, you initially were more building a career with kids in education. Is that right? Could you tell us a bit more about your background and how this led to your current position today?
Ian: Okay, background. 25 years in education teaching high-school kids. Some people say I’d be mad doing that sort of thing but, for some reason, I’ve got to 25 years. And then, the opportunity just came to become the general manager of Parrys, completely different field, from education to business. There was a link there where the people who owned Parrys, at the time, the son was my brother-in-law. So, he married my younger sister. They were looking for someone to take over the company in regards to running the company. I have no background in flooring whatsoever but I do have a background in management, leadership. Well, I’ve been running schools and a lot of the political end of schools for the last 10 to 12 years before I did the shift over. So the transition of management wasn’t hard, the only thing I had to learn pretty much was what I was selling.
Cami: So, at Parrys Carpets, you seem to be responsible for about everything from executive development, business planning, operation management, human resources, advertising, marketing, and so on. So what’s your typical day like at Parrys Carpets?
Cami: It must be.
Ian: No, typical day, get up early, get there early. Check through the 100 emails you get, everything from looking at the stock levels, ordering stock from around the world. So we order, you know, flooring carpet from within Australia, from New Zealand, from overseas. We do a lot of our hard flooring from China, from Belgium, places like that, Taiwan. So, constantly keeping track of enough stock that we carry in our warehouses. We do have five stores around Perth, so enough stock to supply.
What we do differently than other flooring companies is we have stock available, so people wanna come and buy something and have it, pick up there and then, or have it laid in a very, very quick turnaround. We carry the stock rather than having to wait for it to come in from a 2-week period over east or something like that. So that’s a major part. One of the major parts. Obviously looking at upcoming events, advertising, designing, marketing, working with all the different marketing agencies I’ve worked with, hiring and firing. Staff come and go all the time, mainly coming. So I am looking currently at backing out of all those things you described that I do and get someone else to do some part of it so I can slow down a bit.
Cami: Right, that’s exciting.
Ian: Yes. I just did that last weekend.
Cami: Oh, great. Let’s just go back to advertising and marketing for a minute. You’ve been in this industry for about a decade and you must have seen a lot of changes and disruptions in the carpet industry. 10 years ago, I guess, marketing activities for carpet retailers were mostly focused on offline channels, such as TV, radio, newspaper ads. Can you tell us a bit more about what was Parrys Carpets’ marketing mix 10 years ago and how it looks like now?
Ian: When I started almost 10 years ago, Parrys pretty much was solely focused on press advertising, so, the newspaper advertising. It built its reputation that way. The newspapers here, in Perth, back in the late 90s, early 2000s were the number one source of info. We didn’t have the internet in regards to news channels, there was no such thing as iPhones, there was no such thing as tablets or, you know, all that sort of stuff. So people bought the newspaper and they read the newspaper. And within those newspaper, there was ads.
But we also privileged, in WA, to be going through an absolute boom, back in those days, so people had lots of money. So, did you have to advertise because people wanted to spend…they had all this surplus cash they were spending on themselves, on cars, on their houses, on renovations, on holidays, on the restaurants. So, back in those days, that’s how it used to be. But in time and with competition and with the boom dying off and the mining industry slowing down, suddenly, advertising was important. You were competing against a large number of companies in Perth. And when I first started, the company didn’t even have a web page, so we just started developing a web page, even though some other companies didn’t. Between then and now, which is, like I said, 10 years, there’s been about 4 webpages in Parrys. So, the current one now is a fantastic web page looked after by mass media and it offers lots and lots of information to people.
Print media is still there, it’s still a focus because there’s a certain group of people in Perth, and I’d say probably over the age of 45-50, who still buy newspapers. They’re big decision makers and they influence their kids who are probably the first home buyers as well coming in at the age of 25-30. But there is a mix now, so I do a bit of TV for major events, I do a bit of print media, and I do a lot of digital media. Digital and social, obviously, these big things. I just walked down the street from the car park to here and I bumped into about 23 people with their heads down reading their phone. That’s where they get all their information from. And having all that information and advertising through those streams is where you have to be nowadays. So, where the mix was, I’d say, 100% TV and print, 10 years ago, that’s probably more like 40% of your budget now and the other 60% is more towards your digital and social media and your web page and promoting it through those sources.
Cami: Great insights. So, tell me, Ian, I remember you saying that, 10 years ago when you joined Parrys Carpets, you knew that the brand had to go digital and that number one of your marketing priorities was to build a website for Parrys. Can you remember if, at the time, any of your competitors already had a website and had a digital footprint? Or were you really like very ahead of the curve at the time for your market?
Ian: The national brands did. So, there was a few companies, here in Perth, who are national brands. And most of them had a presence in regards to a web page. Were they good web pages? Well…they were there. People, 10 years ago, using the infamous place called Google to find where they wanted to go or they were using the Yellow Pages still. Cami, there was a thing called Yellow Pages if you can remember that. So, nowadays there’s no such thing as Yellow Pages. There is a book but it’s probably the size of, you know, a cup of coffee nowadays compared to what it used to be.
But competitors were out there. They were using that. Were they using the internet, were they looking at, you know, SEO, were they’re looking at SEM? All those other places where you can drive your name. But, 10 years ago, Google wasn’t as big as what it is now.
Cami: Well, I guess Yellow Pages then was the local SEO marketing channel of today? So, not long ago, you may have had to reduce the operating hours of the stores due to a global pandemic that took us all by surprise. How did COVID-19 affect your business operation and marketing decisions? Did you have to make any adjustments at all to your overall marketing strategy?
Ian: When it hit Perth, in March of 2020, a lot of places closed down, a lot of businesses closed down, shut the doors, dismissed workers, put workers off, don’t pay, things like that. Of my 5 stores, at the time, I closed 3 of my stores for about 2 week period. I kept the two main warehouses open, and the reason for that was, A, we’ll keep the business going to see how it will pan out, but also, we already had customers in the system who were expecting flooring to be laid, booked in that time, things like that. So we still had to have some skeleton staff.
At the time, I rotated all my staff off, over probably a week to week and a half each, to have some skeleton staff. Again, fully-paid, three, not even taking off their annual leave. Gee, I’m a nice boss. Which has actually worked out well on the end because the goodwill that came back to me was tenfold, which is fantastic.
So we kept operating. It was crossing over around Easter time, at the same time, so I decided to advertise heavy for Easter and open all five stores again. And it paid off. People all came out of Easter and they all wanted to spend money. They couldn’t travel, they couldn’t go anywhere, they couldn’t go away on a holiday. So they came and bought. And since that day pretty much, through May right up to now, it’s been flat tack and business has been fantastic. Talking to lots of businesses, it all depends on the field. So, where people used to spend a lot of money on their holidays and trips and things like that and they can’t because we can’t get out of Perth, they’re spending money on caravans and four-wheel drives so that they can only travel the state. Or home renovations and sports bets, I’ve discovered. I was talking to someone who runs sports bets on a weekend and they’re saying that business is booming, even though there’s less sports in the world to bet on. One of the biggest ones is Chinese table tennis, so there you go. But that’s where people go with all this surplus cash, they’re spending money doing these things. So, renovations have been fantastic for us. So, people like Bunnings and flooring companies, especially us, we’ve just had probably the best 4 months we’ve had in 4 years.
Cami: Yeah, it sounds like there’s been a bit of a shift in priorities in, you know, people’s budget.
Ian: Advertising-wise, during April and May, I probably backed off on the advertising a bit. I kept some social and some digital going but I turned off the social, I turned off the print media, I turned off the TV because we just did not know what was gonna happen. So I thought, “Let’s save some money and see,” and people were coming.
Cami: “Let’s see what happens.”
Ian: The more they came in, the less I advertised, which was good. I didn’t really start advertising heavily again until probably June. I’m back into, not more advertising but just what I normally would do.
Cami: Yeah. Earlier in our chat, you said that you have suppliers in China, Taiwan, Belgium, and I wonder how did you manage to reduce your reliance to your overseas suppliers? How did you get enough stock for Perth consumers?
Ian: Couldn’t reduce it, I increased it. So, I was supposed to do a trip to China early March but because of this pandemic, which was coming out of China back in November-October last year, 2019, I was keeping a close eye on that. So I had this gut feeling that something was gonna happen bad. So, where I order a lot of stock, especially all the hard flooring out of China, it’s usually an 8-week turnaround. I decided to get in early, order extra containers of stock from China and make sure they had it ready to go out of their port onto a ship just as they were about to close the borders. So by doing that, it allowed me to get the stock here. And it was an expensive decision but a smart decision because we were one of the only flooring companies at the time who had plenty of stock available for people who were in lockdown, they couldn’t go out, they couldn’t do anything. So, what do you do when you’re locked up? You have to clean your house, so they would do a lot of DIY projects. So, because of that, that’s probably was a lucky decision. It was a gamble that paid off. And a lot of people came in and bought DIY from us. So I haven’t backed off from ordering and buying from overseas, I just ordered some containers today actually. What I am doing is, obviously, ordering with an extra time period just in case there is delays because of productions or ports or travel through shipping companies that they normally would have because of what’s going on in the world today.
Cami: Right. Is that one of your talking points, the fact that you are fully stocked in Perth and that’s one of your advantages over your competitors?
Ian: Buy and take, that’s one of our advertising ploys that we do. Buy now and have it laid immediately. We have layers ready, we have stock available. People walk into our warehouses and they see mountains of stock sitting there, so they know they can go, “Wow, okay, this is great, and done, get it laid next week.”
And there’s a lot of people who aren’t…how would I say…time-managed people, they’re probably time-poor people and they wake up one day and say, “I need new carpet this afternoon and have it laid by tonight.” Which is a difficult thing to do but, if we can do within 48 hours, which we can, there’s not many other people who can do that because of we carrying the stock. Not that many.
Cami: Right. Just to go back to your marketing mix, I hear that you guys are about to launch the very first Parrys Carpets’ magazine, which is very exciting news. Are you allowed to tell us a bit more about this project?
Ian: Look, we thought we’d do something a bit different, again, a different mix. There’s always been the old letterbox drops around the place that are still going on and everybody sees that in their letterboxes, or the ads and all the pamphlets from different companies. We decided to come up with an idea that lets market Parrys a little bit differently, and we do it two ways. Yes, we produce the magazine, the magazine is bigger than a normal magazine, so, if it was gonna end up in a letterbox, it’s the one on the outside wrapped up around the other ones. So, when people get their whole pile of advertising, before they throw it in their yellow recycle bin, if they don’t read it, they’ll look at this bigger one that’s wrapped up around the others and go, “Oh, what’s this?” and they might just hold onto that one and have a bit of a look. It’s a glossy, high-gloss magazine, it talks about our latest products, it talks about products of the week or products of the month, talks about specials, it talks about cleaning techniques, or how you can look after your flooring, or what’s the latest fashion, or what’s the latest trends. It introduces all our sales managers at all our different stores, talks a bit of history about Parrys. So it’s something a bit quirky, something a bit different. It comes out every season, so the spring one has just been released, since we’re in September. The next one will be summer, in December. So, every 3 months, we’ll have a different one.
And we’ll see how that goes. People can get online, they can order it, a hard copy if they wish, which will be delivered to their letterbox, or they can just download it directly from our web page and they can click through that and they can see what’s going on with Parrys and what’s coming up. And the handy tips are probably the biggest thing, so how to clean your carpets or what’s the best flooring for your situation in regards to the type of house you have or the type of situation you wanna get flooring for.
Cami: Okay. So, if I would like to get Parrys magazine straight to my inbox, I have to go onto the website, sign up…
Ian: Tick a box saying, “Can you please…”
Cami: Tick a box, and then it comes to you?
Ian: Yeah. It can either come to your download or it’ll come to your letterbox at home. Absolutely.
Cami: Yeah, a hard copy. Right. And how do you track performance? Like, you know, the performance of your magazine, what’s your objectives and goals…
Ian: Well, objectives and goals is get our name out there in a different form.
Cami: Brand explosion?
Ian: Because, when talking about the community of Perth, some people will be influenced by TV, some people be influenced by newspapers, social media, digital media, web pages. You know, there’s a lot of people out there who are Google-people and just google. But we’re trying to get out there for everybody. So there’s a lot of people who we’ll go through their letterbox or, if they are looking for flooring and they find us as number one on their hit list, which we pretty much are because we have a fantastic SEO company who drives us up there, [inaudible 00:17:29], plug them in. There’s another opportunity for them to be able to say, “Hey, keep it in the house and have a look,” take their time to read. So, you know, if they’ve got a little bit more time, they can sit there and flick through it and see some more awesome-looking flooring and some awesome-looking pictures and go, “Hey, that’s what I want.”
Cami: Great, that sounds exciting. Can’t wait to see it.
Ian: Performance-wise, we’ll see how it goes. So, at point of sale, when people come in the door, we can always ask them sort of, “How have you known Parrys? Where did you hear about Parrys?” And that’s the first and foremost way of actually, you know, communicating with your customers in regards to which are the best advertising techniques for us.
Cami: Yeah. That’s great. Thanks for this insight, Ian. I do have one last question for you before we wrap up. In your opinion, what’s the next big thing in carpet and floor covering? Are you thinking…I don’t know, I’m just throwing some ideas out there, but obviously, lots of people think e-commerce or, I don’t know, a carpet innovation that will just break the market and you’ll be the first one on it. Like how do you keep yourself up to date and also what’s your predictions kind of?
Ian: Predictions in flooring? Wow, we’re gonna be living on the Moon or Mars. Currently today, look, there’s a huge range of flooring out there but it all comes down to knowing what’s the best flooring for your solution. So, is it a new home you’re looking at? Is it a renovation? Are you selling your house where you don’t want to overspend in regards to making the house look presentable before you sell it? Is it a rental property? Is it a commercial situation? Okay? And within all that, you’ve got soft flooring, which is like a carpet, you’ve got your hard flooring, which could be timbers, could be laminates, could be vinyl planks. You know, it could be the latest thing, which is hybrid flooring. Okay? And hybrid flooring has gone up through the roof, that’s a fantastic product because it’s similar to lemonade where you can DIY, click it together, lay it on the floor, but it’s 100%-waterproof. So, to destroy it, you can either service your motorbike in your kitchen and let it destroy it or you burn the house down, because it’s a fantastic product. So, that’s probably one of the latest things in flooring.
But look, there’s always a place for carpet. People like carpet in their bedrooms and their theaters, something comfortable to sit on when they’re watching TV. And people like hard flooring because it’ll wear a lot better through your main walk areas. Things like that. So it all comes down to, “What’s the reason you want flooring?” rather than, “what’s the new innovations?” Because there’s enough innovations out there now to cover all those ranges of things. And the best thing to do is to jump on the Parrys website because it leads you through that process. You can find out exactly what you need for your floor.
Cami: Yeah, it’s very well targeted. You have like a funnel, you can funnel any users to whatever they need, whether it’s rental floor covering or floor covering for their new homes. Yeah.
Ian: We changed our company brand from Parrys Carpets and Floorcoverings to Parrys Flooring Solutions for that reason. We wanna think that we offer the best flooring solution for the situation that you are there to buy for, rather than walk in, say, “Hey, I like that,” and buy it, and then, you find out later that’s not the best carpet for what you need it for. So, our sales staff are trained and highly professional in regards to leading the customer to the best solution, rather than any solution.
Cami: Yeah, right. And this is reflected with all your digital channels. Great job. Thank you very much, Ian, it was a pleasure speaking to you today. I hope you had fun too.
Ian: Thank you, Cami. Absolutely.
Cami: And bye. See you later.
Ian: Cheers, take care