October 10/17, 2016: Volume 31, Number 9
By Ken Ryan
The impact from Hurricane Matthew wreaked havoc on several flooring distributors operating in the Southeast U.S., with wholesalers reporting service disruptions before the storm’s arrival on through its departure.
Communities from central Florida up through Virginia have experienced problems ranging from substantial beach erosion and blackouts to homes made uninhabitable due to major flooding. At press time, for example, more than 198,000 homes and businesses in hard-hit North Carolina remained without power, according to North Carolina Emergency Management.
“Matthew was no fun and it’s not done yet with the flooding’s full impact still to come in some areas,” said Bruce Zwicker, CEO of Haines, the industry’s largest distributor with operations from the mid-Atlantic to Florida through its Wheeler and CMH divisions. “We closed some facilities—some of which are not open yet. Deliveries are all messed up with customers still sorting themselves out, too. As far as we know no employees or customers were injured or killed. But the dust has not settled.”
Zwicker called the near-term impact for Haines “disruptive and will cause loss of sales.” Over the medium term, he expects to see an increase in business as homeowners and businesses repair or replace their floors.
William M. Bird, based in Charleston, S.C., has 10 locations in 12 Southeastern states. The 151-year-old company is no stranger to natural disasters, which is why it established a Hurricane Preparedness Plan to deal with situations like Matthew. In the days leading up to the hurricane, a group representing William M. Bird’s Charleston-based customer service team traveled to the distributor’s Braselton, Ga., location—which is located outside of Atlanta—to set up a command post where it took calls from customers and processed online orders. “This was one aspect of our Hurricane Preparedness Plan, which assures our business operations are not affected and our customers throughout the Southeast continue to receive outstanding service,” said Sharon Higgins, marketing coordinator for William M. Bird.
While many in Charleston were without power and experienced some flooding, the city fared well overall, according to Higgins. The William M. Bird office was closed on Friday, Oct. 7, so employees could prepare their homes and families for the storm.
In Jacksonville, Fla., Cain & Bultman closed Oct. 6–7 for the safety of its employees. It opened business as usual on Monday, Oct. 10. Buddy Faircloth, president of Cain & Bultman, said the distributor was in the process of contacting its East Coast dealers to “check on them and let them know that we are ready to service their business. Many areas on the East Coast are still out of power, have roads damaged, trees down, etc., and there will be some problems getting into some dealer locations to deliver product.”
Cain & Bultman, which services Florida, Georgia and Alabama, will be running limited delivery service in the areas most impacted. “We are working to find out which locations we will not be able to access,” Faircloth said.
In North Carolina, major flooding was expected to continue the week of Oct. 10 in central and eastern towns along the Lumber, Cape Fear, Neuse and Tar rivers. The National Weather Service said the Neuse River would crest on Oct. 14 and it forecast “disastrous flooding.”