Al’s column

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LOGUE-ISTICS: At the recent convention of Alliance Flooring in Orlando, Fla., co-CEO Jon Logue told members 2009 carpet mill shipments were down more than 20%. Residential was down 21% and commercial was off 25%. He said hard surface was down 23%, laminates off 22%, ceramic tile down 35%, wood 30% lower, and resilient 11% down. He noted that resilient and carpet showed a small gain on the other categories. Logue said that Alliance members reported the year 2010 has started “OK” and that mill shipments were up for the first time in 18 months. January was a good month for the entire industry, he added.

DIA-LOGUE: Having interviewed executives of the industry’s seven largest mills, Logue said they expect business in 2010 to range from minus 1% to plus 7%. He supported the prediction with some positive trends: Housing starts are up; a Harvard study showed the remodeling index with a strong upward movement, and sales of existing and new homes have increased. Logue said he feels there is a strong pent-up demand among consumers, especially with retirees and upper income people. “They’re ready to bust loose,” he stressed, particularly in the second half of this year. Credit will loosen, he said, and long term there will be strong, steady growth, up 2% to 3%. Amen.

SOUND OFF: Sound is powerful. It changes our mood, transports us to a different time and place, and it affects how we behave. Not many people are aware of the importance of sound and how devastating its absence is in our lives. Contemplate this: When sound was removed from slot machines in Las Vegas, revenue fell 24%. Experiments in restaurants show that when slow music is played (slower than the rhythm of a heartbeat) we eat slower— and we eat more. Yet 83% of all advertising communication (other than print) focuses almost exclusively on the sense of sight. Buyology Inc. and Elias Art, a sound identity company, researched the responses to various sounds and found: The Most Addictive Sounds in the World (non-branded and brand- ed) 1: Baby giggle. 2: Intel. 3: Vibrating phone. 4: ATM/cash register. 5: National Geographic. 6: MTV. 7: T-Mobile Ringtone. 8: McDonald’s. 9: Star Spangled Banner. 10: State Farm. I hear ya.

YEAR END: Mohawk Industries filed its fourth quarter earnings report and considering the shape of the economy, the company fared reasonably well. Losses were minimized and fiscal restraints were instituted to strengthen the bottom line. Jeffrey Lorberbaum, chairman and CEO, commented, “Our fourth quarter earnings exceeded expectations due to the implementation of cost savings efforts, personnel reductions and plant consolidations. Our balance sheet is strong with over $500 million of cash and a net debt to total capital ratio of 26%. All our segments have reduced infrastructure and capacity and improved productivity. New products have been developed in all segments that will enhance our sales and market position. In spite of the very difficult environment, we are strategically positioning our company for growth. Our geographic product expansion continues with enhanced distribution of ceramic tile in Mexico, laminate in Russia and wood flooring in Western Europe.”

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