June 5/12, 2017: Volume 31, Issue 26
By Ken Ryan
U.S. Census Bureau data showed businesses with fewer than 20 workers made up 89.6% of American businesses in 2012. Factor in 23 million non-employee (sole proprietor) businesses, and the share of U.S. enterprises with 20 workers or less workers is a staggering 97.9%.
In short, small business means Main Street business. As the economy improves and consumer confidence rises, flooring executives are seeing more opportunities for manufacturers and retailers to seize.
“Over the last five years Main Street has rapidly evolved with product preferences ever shifting toward modular solutions in carpet tile and resilient,” said Quentin Quathamer, commercial brand and marketing manager for Philadelphia Commercial, a Shaw division. “Improved aesthetics and product design—combined with ease of maintenance and selective replacement that extends product life cycles—has made this market even more dynamic than ever.”
The consensus is the flooring industry is more vested in Main Street because of largely untapped profit opportunities. Some dealers say Main Street opportunities can be as easy as having a two-minute conversation with your dentist looking to tile his waiting room. “The retailers we have partnered with realize the opportunity in higher profits and quicker pay—unlike typical bid projects,” said Keith Wiethe, channel manager–Main Street business, Mannington. “Main Street offers another channel that maybe a retailer hasn’t explored, and it affords him the opportunity to cross-germinate into another channel diversifying his reach.”
As part of its retail support program for Main Street, Armstrong Flooring developed Elevate to help specialty flooring retailers grow and capitalize on the burgeoning Main Street business. “In conjunction with our distributor partners we are aggressively engaging the specialty flooring retailer in Main Street,” said Lisa Kronmuller, channel marketing manager.
Chris Post, director of sales operations for Mohawk, said the steadily improving economy will start driving more growth into Main Street channels. “As residential soft floor covering has softened in the marketplace, more dealers are looking for other profitable categories to grow their business. Increased earning potential with larger average selling price and more units ordered per job as compared to residential products makes Main Street commercial a great opportunity.”
To help its dealers succeed in Main Street, Mohawk introduced multiple resilient sheet and LVT products along with new carpet tiles—product types that represent the fastest growing segment of the market.
Flooring dealers said succeeding in Main Street commercial requires networking on the local level through local civic organizations such as the Chamber of Commerce. It also requires being proactive in getting to know local business owners/decision makers. “Then it comes down to having samples with great pricing readily available when the customer calls,” said Carlton Billingsley, president/owner of Floors and More, in Benton, Ark. “Knowing the availability of products for quick shipping, and the ability to have installation technicians available for nights/weekend work is key since this work is typically done when the business is closed.”
Flooring companies have ratcheted up their R&D efforts to take advantage of the market opportunities Main Street provides. Mannington is updating its Main Street merchandising in 2017 with new products including a commercial rigid core product with FloorArmor. Wiethe said the company is also introducing a performance-driven product that will allow retailers to upsell typical VCT customers.
Since entering the Main Street space, Engineered Floors’ Pentz Commercial brand has grown by leaps and bounds, the company said, with strong response seen in its nylon modular and broadloom offerings.
New this year from Engineered Floors is an APEX SDP commercial polyester fiber system that features a high-performance PET engineered specifically for commercial-grade performance.
Carpet tile and resilient products have led the way in Main Street commercial, and some companies are combining the two. Philadelphia Commercial rolled out its specified resilient line to its sales force this spring. “Furthermore, the introduction of our newest Design Smart collection featuring our StrataWorx backing has opened up a whole new realm of possibilities for carpet tile,” Quathamer said. “It’s an exciting time to be in this business segment.”
Foss Manufacturing, known for its innovative on-woven fabrics and specialty synthetic fibers, introduced an all-in-one Smart Transformations carpet tile display offering a large selection of Main Street products with an interactive presentation of the Foss exclusive Peel & Stick technology. The display also has a demo of Foss’ goof-proof installation system and a complete set of architect folders.
“We’ve seen an uptick in Main Street businesses buying carpet tiles as a fast, easy and cost-effective way to improve and update the look and feel of their storefronts,” said Brian Warren, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Foss. “Main Street businesses that have been sitting on money are seeing more customers come in and finally feel comfortable investing back into their spaces.”