March 2/9, 2015; Volume 28/Number 18
By Ken Ryan
In the last six weeks a series of snowstorms and Arctic weather fronts have delivered record-setting snowfalls and bone-chilling temperatures from Boston to Bangor. And while New Englanders are accustomed to tough winters, 2015 has been one for the books.
So how are flooring dealers coping with the elements?
“The weather has been very difficult and presented a lot of challenges for us,” said A.J. Boyajian, owner of A.J. Rose Carpets & Flooring with three locations in Massachusetts. “We have had to reschedule numerous installations, which is starting to frustrate customers since the days of us having to shut down operations have been piling up. Not to mention all the reschedules on days we were open due to not being able to get to homes whose driveways were not plowed.”
Ed’s Flooring America, with three locations in New Hampshire, went through a rough stretch last winter when sales fell 22% in the first quarter from the prior year. It took owner Ed Cross and his business all year to catch up and break even. Thanks to a strong January, he anticipated being up 25% for the first quarter this year, but then the snow started falling and the traffic started dwindling.
“People are not out shopping, and if they are they are certainly not thinking about replacing their floors in this kind of weather,” Cross said. “They would much rather wait until the spring when they don’t have to worry about the mess that will be made on floors with all this snow being tracked into homes. Hopefully that means we will be busy in the spring.”
Andy Hartigan, store manger at Durfee’s Flooring Center in Brunswick, Maine, said there have been winters before with a lot of snow but manageable cold; winters that were brutally cold and not as snowy; and then this year, a double whammy of blizzards and below-zero temperatures.
“I’ve been here for 27 years,” he said. “Snow-wise, this is probably the worst we have had in the last 15 years; it has squashed business. We have doubled our output as far as snow removal, and we still have a solid month to go.”
As of Feb. 19, Hartigan said the company is already 25% over its snow removal budget for the year. Meanwhile, getting to job sites has been problematic.
To get in the “spirit” of the inclement weather, Durfee’s promoted a “Blizzard Sale” on its Facebook page in mid-February. The one-day sale offered 20% off all remnants, bound area rugs and special order carpet; 25% off all tile supplies and 30% off all Karastan products.
On the day the sale was held, 12 to 24 inches of snow was predicted. As it turned out, only 3 inches fell that day, and the sale fizzled. As Hartigan put it, “We can’t win for losing.”
At Nadeau’s House of Flooring in Fort Kent, Maine, residents often measure snowfall amounts in feet; by that indicator, 2015 hasn’t been that unusual. “For us this is normal—snowfall is everyday life for us,” said David Labbe, owner. “We watch the national news and all the stories about Boston and sort of chuckle.”
And yet, there are certain things outside Labbe’s control that have hurt his business. The huge piles of snow have held up many Southern New England distributors he relies on from getting materials, and that has meant postponements and rescheduling of installations.
Labbe said he isn’t worried; his best year ever for business was 2014, which followed a record-breaking 2013. He expects 2015 to be another banner year. “Things are happening in our area; there is a lot of light commercial business and people are building up here. We have three or four crews who are busy all the time. We have been here so long we’ve gotten a good reputation.”