Al’s column

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by FCNews staff

  • GROWTH RINGS: Everyone knows China and most of Asia for that matter has been growing at unprecedented rates during the last decade in terms of their importance on the world’s economic stage. As an example of how much, one just needs to look at the recently completed Domotex asia/ChinaFloor (DACF) in Shanghai (see complete story on page one). When Floor Covering News became the first flooring publication to personally attend and report on the show more than eight years ago, DACF had about 600 exhibitors filling four pavilions and more than 26,000 people attend. For the 2012 event, more than 1,100 companies exhibited in 11 pavilions and attendance was expected to exceed 40,000.
  • WAGE CHANGE: China was once the sourcing ground for the lowest-priced items due to a host of inexpensive things, such as payroll, as Chinese companies paid employees next to nothing in monthly wages. While the minimum pay scale is still way off balance compared with the U.S., company executives have almost universally said payroll continues to climb in China as the minimum wage keeps getting increased. This, along with rising energy and transportation costs are quickly making the country not the cheapest to source from anymore. In terms of wages, China’s 12th Five Year Plan aims to have them increased 13% annually between 2011 and 2015.
  • FIGURES: In March, four of China’s main cities increased the monthly minimum wages, including Beijing, 8.6% and Shanghai, 13%. Along with trying to increase domestic consumption, the higher wages raise competition for an ever-tightening labor market. Domestic competition among cities to attract and retain labor is fierce, according to reports. And, not only are the more developed cities and provinces in eastern China in competition with each other, they are also finding it more difficult to attract workers from less developed southern and western regions. As such, local authorities are raising minimum wages as fast as possible. For example, some cities between Beijing and Shanghai raised theirs by as much as 19% in March, making them practically on par with the larger cities. In less developed parts of the country, wages already jumped upwards of 22% in January.
  • CHICAGO CARES: For more than 50 years, the Chicago Floorcovering Association (CFA) has been an active participant in helping members thrive in one of the county’s toughest market areas. It has also been active in the community and this year the association is adding the next chapter to its long, honorable history. The Charity Committee, known as Caring For All, has been formed with the goal to “make a real effort to go out and help others less fortunate than us,” states CFA’s new president Terrry Maliska. It’s not about raising money, she added, but about people volunteering their time—“sweat equity” as Maliska said. The committee will be identifying opportunities to help others and then coordinate activities for CFA members to volunteer their time and talents.
  • WFCA BENEFIT: There are many benefits to being a part of the World Floor Covering Association (WFCA), from scholarship funds to other programs that save members money. One of the bigger benefits is the WFCA Bench-marking Survey. The latest one begins May 1 with a deadline to participate of June 15. The confidential survey is conducted by the respected Profit Planning Group and is a great source of financial benchmarks. While always important, financial benchmarking against your peers during these difficult business conditions is more important than ever. Along with seeing how you compare with similar-sized retailers, participants receive a free personalized performance analysis and suggestions for improving profitability. For more, call WFCA at 800.624.6880.


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