Dealers prepare for challenges of a presidential election year

Home Inside FCNews Dealers prepare for challenges of a presidential election year

Jan 18/25; Volume 30/Number 15

By Ken Ryan

Political advertising is expected to reach a record $11.4 billion in 2016, up 20% from the previous presidential election year, according to media consultancy Borrell Associates. While the bulk of the spending will continue to go to TV, Borrell expects 2016 to be the first election year in which digital advertising tops $1 billion.

What does that mean for flooring retailers? For many it means fighting an uphill battle in getting their messages across to customers. “Flooring business is still out there during political years; reaching consumers with your message is the challenge,” said Eric Langan, owner of Carpetland USA with nine locations, including six in Iowa, home of the Iowa Caucus, the first major electoral event of the nominating process. “The organizations that can best reach their target audiences through all of the political noise during the election year will be best positioned to earn market share.”

FCNews recently asked floor covering dealers for their views on what the past has taught them about presidential election years and how they can best prepare to maintain their business as the election nears.

Billy Mahone III

Atlas Floors Carpet One

San Antonio

Typically in election years we see a bit of a slowdown in the weeks leading up to the announcement of a new commander in chief. This seems to be an industry-wide trend, so it just creates pent-up demand once the dust has settled. The slowdown effect could be amplified in 2016 due to all the uncertainty. In times of doubt, consumers are typically wary of making big purchases, so an extended slowdown would be understandable. I think flooring retailers would be smart to structure their advertising spending so they aren’t competing with the influx of political dollars. No one likes slow periods, but you can use that time to make improvements to your business and make preparations for the busy period to follow.

Adam Joss

The Vertical Connection

Columbia, Md.

Being just outside of D.C., we’re impacted greatly by what goes on inside the Beltway. In recent years, both the government shutdown and the sequester negatively impacted sales—all due to uncertainty. Worst case, I see a pullback with the potential for a recession (based on economic and geopolitical issues). Best case, more of the same. Steady and slow with no great vision for what lies ahead. With the election comes uncertainty and with uncertainty comes consumer paralysis, especially when you get into discretionary spending, which is where we live and die. Given our political system over the past number of years, I’m not sure any candidate can really bring hope and change.

Kevin Murray

Murray Floor & Window Coverings

Billings, Mont.

The past has taught me everyone gets caught up in the election year hype and I tend to brush it off and run my business like I do every other year. I go a different direction than most when the politicians and media send out repeat messages of uncertainty. During the last economic downturn, I moved to a larger lease space and invested in a Hunter Douglas Gallery to complement our flooring segment. The plan was to ride the wave back up with added space and become more of a one-stop shop for flooring and window coverings. History has taught us that people need our goods and services no matter what is going on in Washington.

Sean O’Rourke

Avalon Flooring

Cherry Hill, N.J.         

My gut feeling is it has a very minor effect on overall business. Needless to say, there are probably some consumers who may postpone a major renovation or purchase if they believe their jobs would be in jeopardy with a changeover in Washington, D.C., or if certain programs or funds were getting cut. The main challenge is trying to get your advertising dollars to work as effectively vs. the deluge of political ads on TV. On a positive note, the consumer thinks of the floor covering business in a more positive light vs. the shenanigans of political candidates.

Bill Zeigler

Charles F. Zeigler & Sons

Hanover, Pa.  

My experience tells me election years can be challenging for business. Unfortunately the news we hear is usually negative in nature. I do believe, however, people have started to see through all the rhetoric and let it impact their buying decisions less than in the past. We still hear the complaints about politics but our job is to hear them out, don’t give an opinion and change their focus to beautifying their homes with new flooring.

Nick Freadreacea

The Flooring Gallery

Louisville, Ky.

First and foremost, it dramatically changes our advertising options and budget. Political ads pay the highest possible rate so that they are guaranteed to run on TV and radio. If the election is tight as I expect it to be it will virtually shut the majority of dealers out of TV and radio for the fall, which is usually our strongest season. Secondly, there is a lot of trepidation if there is no clear frontrunner since flooring is a major purchase and people do not tend to spend money when they are uncomfortable with what may happen in the economy.

Eric Langan

Carpetland USA

Davenport, Iowa       

The biggest challenge is marketing during an election year, especially a presidential election year. This proves to be even more difficult in Iowa with the Iowa Caucus unofficially kicking off the political season. It is almost impossible for your TV spots to be seen on the schedules in which you buy them. Political ads will inevitably take priority and bump your spots.

Olga Robertson

FCANetwork

Shorewood, Ill.        

Historically, consumer confidence is up during the election year cycle especially after one party has had two terms. I don’t expect 2016 to be predictable in any aspect of the race and I’m speculating that consumers will be tentative as well. If it looks like the “outsiders” will get the nomination, business will be good. If it looks like more of the same, people will become even more disenchanted and pull back.

Winston Whitehead

Sterling Carpet Shops

Sterling, Va.   

It is somewhat of a slowdown leading up to the election date. No one is worried about what will happen if their candidate wins; instead they are scared if the other candidate wins. The more interesting races will be in Congress. The president is just one part of the process. His influence is more perception- driven than reality-driven.

A.J. Boyajian

A.J. Rose Carpets & Flooring

Burlington, Mass.      

The uncertainty of election season seems to delay large purchases for many consumers. Generally we see things slow down during the election and then pick back up after a new president is elected and things settle down. We are very hopeful for 2016 but because of the many uncertainties we will definitely be more cautious than any other year.

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