July 6/13; Volume 30/Number 2
By Nadia Ramlakhan
With the first half of 2015 in the rear view mirror, floor covering retailers remain positive about what the next six months will bring. After a relatively successful six months in which retailers contacted by FCNews showed varying levels of growth, most expect the increased foot traffic to continue with LVT remaining the darling of their product assortment.
For Cathy Buchanan, owner of Independent Carpet One Floor & Home in Westland, Mich., the harsh winter didn’t affect business as much as it had in 2014. “January and February were much better; we’re up somewhere between 28% and 31%, and we’re expecting the second half to follow the first. There’s no reason why it should drop.”
Buchanan explained the store saw heavy traffic in April due to a promotion surrounding the proprietary Relax It’s Lees carpet brand. She is looking forward to a late-summer campaign promoting Innovia, another Carpet One exclusive, which features built-in stain and soil protection. The promotion will feature a finance offer and up to 50% off.
According to Buchanan, what really resonates with customers are in-store demos. “You can talk about something, but once you see it, feel it and clean it yourself it’s a closing tool.” To demonstrate the stain-resistant capabilities of Innovia, she plans to place the product in a fish tank full of red wine and compare the results to a nylon sample. “Presentation means everything. When you do a demo, it really sells.”
New products are also top of mind at Floors & More in Benton, Ark., and give Carlton Billingsley, owner, confidence the second half of 2015 will prove to be just as profitable as the first half.
Billingsley recently put Life Happens, Shaw’s latest advancement in carpet with the patented LifeGuard waterproof backing, and Stainmaster PetProtect on the showroom floor. He predicts his customers will continue to gravitate toward the new technologies.
“Having put those on the floor, we’re seeing more and more people not only interested in those samples but actually coming in asking to see what pet-friendly products are available. These definitely help us compete.”
With a steady increase in new construction and corporate spending, Billingsley projects his commercial business will fare better in the second half. In fact, he estimates it will be up “well over 10 points.”
LVP and LVT are also driving factors of the positive outlook. “We continue to see our LVT expand on both sides of our business,” Billingsley said. “Customers love the thought of having something that looks like wood or stone without having to worry as much.”
Brad Flack, owner of Flack’s Flooring in Cumming, Ga., said his business saw more growth this year than expected and agrees there’s no slowing down of LVT, although it’s not exactly creating all the hype it used to. “I’d call it momentum. We had a strong first half and we plan to keep it up. The one thing we learned about LVT is we have to be particular about which applications we’re using it in. In the beginning we were 100% sold on the product—whatever the application, whatever the subfloor. The more we learn the more particular we are about whether it’s a good fit.” In Georgia, Flack noted, LVT has been a “home run” in basements in addition to kitchens and bathrooms.
Some dealers were worried about the laminate flooring segment taking a downward turn following the recent “60 Minutes” exposé which vilified Lumber Liquidators for selling non-CARB compliant laminate flooring. However, Bill Zeigler, owner of Charles F. Zeigler & Sons in Hanover, Pa., has seen a big upswing since May, “and I feel as though we will see this for the rest of the year. The remodel market has picked up dramatically in our area, especially in higher quality goods.”
The Lumber Liquidators accusations actually helped Zeigler with sales, who said the Made in the USA movement continues to thrive. “I’m not sure what other dealers are seeing, but the mess created by Lumber Liquidators has surely helped us. We promote products made in America and the demand is constantly growing. When questioned we readily show our manufacturers’ certifications to the customer and assure her of the products’ safe contents. This is where it helps to sell name brand products.”
Dawn Iversen, president and owner of Jerry’s Floor Store in Fridley, Minn., said people are willing to spend due, in part, to a recovering economy. “We’re anticipating a strong finish. For many years, people have been holding on tight to their pocketbooks not knowing where the economy was going, but they’re starting to see signs of things coming back up.”
Iversen recently revamped a section of her showroom and installed IVC’s Moduleo on the floor. In less than a week, her team made two sales with the product. “LVT/LVP has really been a strong growth category, and we’re definitely going to see that for the rest of the year. As soon as you install something in the showroom it drives interest.”
The main concern Iversen has going forward is finding quality installers. Like many other dealers, she plans on hiring in the second half of 2015 but isn’t sure the industry has the manpower to keep up with the growth. “Several years ago flooring workers and carpenters got out of the trade because there wasn’t much construction. There seems to be a labor shortage, and we’ve had a lot of growth, especially in commercial.”