January 2/9, 2017: Volume 31, Number 15
By Ken Ryan
If you are a CEO or a high-level executive in the flooring industry, there is no shortage of issues on your mind. From government over-regulation to the dearth of installers to the vagaries of consumer buying habits, executives have a lot to think about. Many, however, have learned not to sweat the small stuff or be too concerned about things they can’t control.
FCNews asked a cross section of manufacturer, distributor and retail executives that question.
Neil Poland, president, Mullican FlooringAutomation of our plants is an area of operations I think about a great deal. The wood flooring industry is small, so most of the automation is customized which increases the cost. It is very challenging to find the most efficient equipment, systems and technology at a price that will provide an acceptable return on investment.
Eric Demaree, president, Carpet One Floor & Home
The competitive landscape continues to change, and all independent flooring retailers are facing digital upstarts, channels that do not invest in any assets to support our industry and discounters like warehouse clubs that only compete by gutting the price. As manufacturers continue to make products that cater to the DIY consumer, and as they target millennials, independent retailers are going to need an authentic, compelling, competitive advantage that consumers value and will be willing to pay for. Stand-alone retailers are going to find it more difficult to compete in the years ahead.
Scott Rozmus, president, FlorStar Sales
As we look at the landscape today, I wonder about how the next generation is going to pursue floor covering buying and whether we and our vendor and retailer partners are prepared and best preparing to address that.
Keith Spano, president, Flooring America/Flooring Canada
Retail growth through innovation, both digital and physical, present challenges. We’re in a mature industry and in any retail environment you must continue to reinvent your business every year to stay relevant and top of mind. New product offerings and new approaches to reach more customers through technology that changes by the minute. The Internet has changed everything from how we shop to how we communicate and how we as retailers sell product.
Nick Freadreacea, president, The Flooring Gallery
Being a business owner always means you will lose sleep over the issues of the day. Today’s top three current issues: How do we get salespeople interested in the flooring industry as a career? How do we recruit installers into the industry? How does small business handle the spiraling cost of doing business—i.e., health care, taxes and insurance cost?
Brad Williams, VP sales and marketing, Boa-Franc
What is our competition doing around the world? It used to be about beating local competition, but now we are in a global game and innovation is happening at a high speed. Project choices are crucial to success and being able to not go forward in some projects is just as crucial as the time, effort and investment required to innovate. Losing time, effort and investment on prioritizing a non-successful project in the end really can set you back in the innovation race.
Raj Shah, president, MSI
As the industry grows, staying disciplined is becoming more difficult. Scaling those disciplines in a growth environment is difficult. The tight job market, increased demand and possible immigration reform affects overall installation capabilities.
Roger Farabee, SVP of laminate & hardwood, Mohawk Laminate & Hardwood, N.A.
What keeps me up at night? The economy in general and what impact a Trump administration will have on that. We need an economic environment that provides the confidence needed for consumers to invest in their living spaces at a higher rate than we’ve seen since the recovery began.
Derek Welbourn, CEO, Inhaus
The main issue that keeps me up at night is my son who just turned 1. Besides that I think most executives should be open minded and receptive to new ideas and look to adapt their businesses to reflect constantly changing markets. For example, as a laminate producer, we have been successful and continue to grow our laminate sales; however, it didn’t stop us from investing in a product category that could be considered to be cannibalizing the laminate category. We feel both have a position in the marketplace and future.
Eric Langan, owner, Carpetland USA (The Langan Group)
A couple of the business issues that concern me are e-commerce and the availability of qualified installers. E-commerce has been, and will continue to be, a growing segment of our industry. Organizations need to get educated quickly to determine their approach to this part of the business. Secondly, the availability of quality installers is a concern. The younger generations, for the most part, do not want to work with their hands. Therefore, availability of quality installers will be a concern going forward.
Jeff Striegel, president, Elias Wilf
The continued challenge of evolving alongside the industry as it relates to the ever-changing dealer base and the emergence of new competitors. Then there is the basic product evolution itself as hard surfaces increases share and morphs into high-level excitement with new products like LVT and WPC. The ongoing search for maximum efficiencies required within flooring distribution in today’s competitive environment is another. It is paramount that Elias Wilf doesn’t lose site of our 100-year philosophy of understanding that people buy from people, and the importance of maintaining close relationships with our team and customers is critical to long-term success.
Travis Bass, executive VP, sales and marketing, Swiss Krono
The opportunity for a repeat of an incident such as the “60 Minutes” episode on formaldehyde in laminate flooring causing a very costly stampede of unsubstantiated concern.
Bruce Zwicker, CEO, Haines
The slow growth market, tightening profitability led by margin and the loss of share by independent floor covering dealers in the residential retail remodeling market segment are worries for the industry. I also see opportunities in becoming more efficient in providing service to our customers, in redeploying focus toward winning customer segments and products, and in refining and delivering more powerful value to customers.
Todd Gates, VP residential sales, DuChateau
The responsibility to ownership, the employees and their families to make the best use of available resources in order to sustain the long-term health and prosperity of the company.