January 5/12, 2015; Volume 28/Number 14
By Amanda Haskin
The last five years have seen several significant shifts within the floor covering industry, and businesses have undoubtedly felt the effects. After lifting themselves out of the recession and mortgage crisis of 2008, businesses awoke to a new industry landscape that is characterized by an increased dependence on the Internet and social media, and an overall interest in transparency and easily accessible research. To grasp how these changes have affected business trends, FCNews asked retailers from all over the country the seemingly simple question: “Are you better or worse off than you were five years ago?”
Owner, Haley’s Flooring and Interiors, Huntsville, Ala.
“My answer would be yes; we are better off today. One aspect is social media and the Internet. While we still do print and TV and radio [advertising], I think we’re better off today because we have different avenues of reaching people. Luckily we have two sons who have stepped up because they know more about it than my husband and I do. It’s such a good way to communicate with our market and keep us exposed. And with so many people going online to do research, it’s really all about customer service. It’s more competitive, so you have to bring your standard higher and step up your game. We have monthly sales meetings to sharpen up our employees and ensure that we’re on top our product knowledge.”
Merchandise manager of flooring, Nebraska Furniture Mart, Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa locations
“Business in general is better. The competitive landscape in many places has improved; there’s a better understanding of who you’re up against and how they react to things. People who went through the last six to seven years in business have had to learn to adapt to the new ways things are happening out there. As a result, you’re better for it.
In the last four years we’ve also taken a much more aggressive approach to the Internet, specifically getting involved in social media and, because of it, reaching different customers. It’s about awareness and education.”
President and co-owner, Kermans Flooring Indianapolis, Ind.
“We’re much better off today. We’ve been in business for 93 years, and only in the last five years we’ve doubled in size and expanded from one city to two. We’ve greatly expanded our market share in our main operating area, and that has a lot to do with the downturn in competition. Our cost structure benefited from the downturn because labor is easier to attain. Five years ago our market was saturated with flooring companies and, since then, we’ve lost about half our competition through attrition.
We became much more focused and aggressive five years ago and decided to concentrate our efforts in the new homes business. As we began to grow in that area, we became better at it. Now we’ve reached a point where it’s difficult for people to compete with us.”
Sales manager, Lake Murray Floor Covering, Irmo, S.C.
“This area of South Carolina is actually a little down as far as overall building permits, so toward the end of the year the numbers fell off. I’ve got one builder with whom I’ve been doing a lot of work, and it’s been a really slow year for him.
With that being said, we’re certainly a lot better off than during the recession and the housing market crisis. There have been a lot of home renovations going on, and a great thing in our market now is that we’re moving to more hard surfaces. So what customers are coming in to buy now is actually an [upgrade] from the carpet they would have bought four or five years ago. The interest in hard surfaces also leads to increased sales in things like area rugs.”
Co-owner, Myers Carpet, Dalton, Atlanta and Nashville locations
“2014 was the best year in 56 years of business, up over $1 million from . We deal mostly with higher-end products, and I think those products were the last to go away when the recession hit and the first to come back. But the best thing we ever did was look outside of Dalton and build big showrooms in Atlanta and Nashville.
Georgia has been successful in attracting the film and TV industries through tax exemptions. Three years ago, the set director for ‘Anchorman 2’ walked into the store and bought a bunch of carpet, and then she kept coming back for other movies she was working on. We did a customized Google rug for the movie ‘The Internship,’ and just within the last two weeks we started working on a new Russell Crowe movie. And our Nashville location has been doing all the sets for the TV show ‘Nashville’ for the past three years. Also in Nashville, we just finished doing a big addition to the Country Music Hall of Fame.”
Owner, Waltham Floor Covering, Waltham, Mass.
“2014 was the best year we had in the last six years. The previous five were awful. We did a lot more Main Street commercial and residential last year, and it all came together at once. We’ve cut way down on print ads and hired someone to do our social media campaign. [Consumers are] definitely on the Internet and looking up manufacturers. For every line we carry in the store, it is imperative we are on [that company’s] dealer locator.
We upgraded to being a ‘platinum’ dealer, which has given us better pricing and allows us to be more competitive. It separates you from the other dealers who are carrying the same line. That is one of the major reasons we’re doing so well with those lines. These are lines that were mediocre for us two years ago, and now we’re 24% above 2013.”
Owner, Yates Flooring Center, Lubbock, Tex.
“We are better off than we were five years ago. Our business has increased in the last three or four years, with 2014 about 5% above 2013. This is largely because we’re in a good state, and a good part of the state with the oil boom that’s been going on in west Texas for the last year.
Hard surfaces are growing at the expense of carpet. The luxury vinyl plank segment has had our largest growth in the last few years, and we’re also selling a lot of porcelain and ceramic. Wood and tile are the more expensive items, and our ticket prices have increased considerably because of those things. On the other end, our carpet sales seem to go down each year, which I’m not sure if I like because hard surfaces have a much longer lifespan.”