September 15/22, 2014; Volume 28/Number 7
By Ken Ryan
(Second of two parts)
Casino closings in Atlantic City, September snows in Colorado and layoffs hitting major manufacturers in America’s heartland are all among the challenges facing flooring dealers as they prepare for the critical fall selling season. Despite these challenges, they are optimistic about the prospects for a successful conclusion to what has been an unpredictable 2014.
Cherry Hill, N.J.
It’s been a bleak year for Atlantic City, one of the major markets that Avalon serves. This month’s news that The Trump Taj Mahal is expected to close in November means four of the city’s 12 casinos would be shuttered in 2014. The result could be major job losses leading to more economic uncertainty, which would make flooring sales even more difficult for area dealers.
“The closing of several casinos in Atlantic City and the loss of several thousand jobs at the end of the summer could have a negative impact in our selling area,” said Sean O’Rourke, vice president of hard surfaces for Avalon, which has 14 locations in three states. “But there is a positive feel to the economy in general and house prices are creeping back up, which is generally good for the floor covering industry. Lower gas prices also make customers feel better in general and might be enough to tip a few extra customers toward replacing their old flooring. After a somewhat soft summer I anticipate a slightly better fall selling season than last year.”
Great Southeast Flooring
Owner Chris Green said he is optimistic about the fall selling season being very good based on the momentum generated in the summer. “We had our best year in 2013 in our history. 2014 is still better than 2012, but I doubt we will beat 2013 at this point. Our best-selling product category is hardwood and laminate.”
The Flooring Gallery
Nick Freadreacea, president, is bullish on the fall selling season. “So far the year has just continued to build and grow. Both retail and new construction are strong compared to the past year’s sales. New categories like LVT are still selling like wildfire, and hardwood is very strong.”
Keith Spano, president, said the group is “maintaining a position of cautious optimism for the rest of the year based on the ups and downs we’ve seen over the last 12 months.”
Spano said Flooring America and Flooring Canada continue to enjoy strong growth relative to the industry and will continue to innovate and promote to drive this positive momentum throughout the rest of the year. “We have seen strong growth in both our high-end business and our builder/value-oriented business. Activity is solid, but not as robust, in the mid-price segment. We continue to aggressively buy down consumer financing for our members and invest in our digital media strategy to provide our members the tools to attract shoppers as we head into the fall selling season.”
Carpet One Floor & Home
It has been an up-and-down year for the four-store Midwest dealer. “The first quarter was strong, and then the second quarter was a bit of a disappointment,” said Todd Bierl, owner. “Here in Iowa, much of our local economy is tied to the agriculture industry, so we always keep an eye on those folks for indicators. Livestock prices have been up while crop prices have been down, making it difficult to draw any solid conclusions. But recent layoffs at John Deere manufacturing plants (including 460 in Waterloo) have raised obvious concerns. That being said, we just wrapped-up our annual Labor Day sale and are very happy with the results, so September is off to a good start. Boil it all down and I would say we are cautiously optimistic about the fall selling season.”
Bierl said his best-selling product category is LVT. “Most notable are products from IVC. They have done very well for us. Our biggest surprise would be the significant drop in laminate sales.”
O’Krent’s Abbey Flooring Center
San Antonio, Texas
Although it still represents only 5% of its business, LVT continues to be a growth category for O’Krent’s Abbey Flooring Center. “In particular, the wood-like LVT is the best selling/surprise/trend in 2014,” said owner Sam O’Krent. “Throughout all price categories and looks, [the category] is doing very well.”
Snow hit Longmont on Sept. 12, which can only mean one thing: Summer is over, and a long fall selling season is ahead. “Our outlook is that the fall selling season will be strong,” said owner Sam Chesher. “With Labor Day being early this year we have an extra week before the holidays, so we are making sure our financing programs are well displayed.
“Our goal is to prepare well and do an outstanding job training the sales staff so we have a strong selling season.”
Grigsby’s Carpet & Tile
“We have held a 10% edge on last year and hope to sustain that through the fall and winter,” said David Stover, vice president of sales. “Our commercial business has been the driving force behind the growth. Retail has remained fairly flat and we have seen a slight increase in new home starts. On the commercial side, carpet tile and vinyl plank have been the leading products for us. Residentially we have seen our hardwood business grow substantially as well as our Stainmaster PetProtect carpet styles. Customers have shown that even though this style of carpet is soft but not the softest, they value durability and perceived value over everything else. We have really pushed these products as well as our in-stock hardwood this year and it has paid off. We will stick with this agenda until at least next spring.”