Dec. 9/16, 2019: Volume 35, Issue 12
By Ken Ryan
Unlike mass merchants or electronics stores, brick- and-mortar flooring retailers don’t benefit from Black Friday or the Christmas shopping frenzy in the way others do. To spur business at the end of the year, flooring dealers often rely on their own creative instincts and strategies to draw customers into their stores.
This doesn’t mean there can’t be some decent activity. For some, aggressive promotion has turned the trick. Thanks to a successful campaign in the last six weeks of 2019, Crest Flooring is on the verge of turning what could have been a disappointing end into a better-than-expected conclusion. So said Steve Weisberg, president and owner of Crest Flooring, who ran a six-week cash-back program tied to 36- month financing to drive business. “I try to keep these pro- grams running longer as customers need more than a day or even a week to work through the decision-making process,” he explained. “To me, there’s no benefit to promoting a one-day Black Friday event when it comes to floor covering unless you are offering remnants at 50% off. Our current program started Oct. 15 and was sup- posed to end Dec. 7, but it has been so successful I decided to run it another week.”
Other dealers contacted by FCNews reported mixed reviews for their fourth quarter, which is not unexpected for this time of year, especially the last two months. “Business has been very sporadic over the last few months,” said Brian McCarver, owner of Brian’s Flooring + Design Birmingham, Ala., who reported a fourth-quarter decline.
Eric Langan, CEO/owner of Carpetland USA, Davenport, Iowa, with nine locations, said sales were off. “Business and traffic have slowed during the fourth quarter this year, specifically in November.”
Others also reported flat or underwhelming results. Bobby Meredith, owner of Oklahoma City-based Flooring America OKC, said he usually sees a spike in commercial opportunities year-end—but not so much this year. Typically, what hap- pens is the government and corporations allocate money on an annual basis for various upgrades to their facilities. If the entire allocated budget is not spent, then the budget amount for the next fiscal year gets reduced. “That’s why we typically get commercial clients purchasing flooring toward the end of the fourth quarter,” he explained. “It’s to protect their budget allotment for the following fiscal year.”
There was more brisk activity in Grand Rapids, Mich., where DeGraaf Interiors enjoyed strong builder and retail numbers coming out of the third quarter. “We are down a bit in commercial due to some larger-than-average projects last year,” co-owner Deb DeGraaf said. “[However], coming into the final weeks of the year, I am confident that with the finishing up of some commercial projects—and the nice October and November— we will end the year slightly up over last year.”
Success often hinges on where a retailer is located. For Kemp’s Dalton West Flooring, robust growth continues in Newnan, Ga., located in Metro Atlanta. “People are still spending money in our market as we’re located in an area that continues to grow,” said Chris Kemp, owner. “Also, many people in our area are taking advantage of real estate prices being low and are buying bigger homes.”
In Benton, Ark., Floors and More has consistently grown on the strength of a balanced portfolio of residential and commercial projects, a trend that has continued in 2019. “The fourth quarter has been busy with some nice projects being completed, and the opportunities for projects have increased with the end of the year expenditures rush,” said Carlton Billingsley, co-owner. “We are focusing on improving our close rates as the opportunities not converted to sales percentage are higher than normal. The biggest surprise for me is the buyer is still very cautious in our market on spending in this economy.”
That cautiousness has played out for Sam Presnell, owner of The Rug Gallery in Cincinnati, whose business activity has been marked by fits and starts. “October was an off month,” he said. “We lost quite a bit of revenue, but traffic was up over 2018’s numbers—but not by much. About the third week of October it kicked in and traffic and high-ticket sales came in. November was also a good month as far as revenue beating 2018’s number and traffic was up, too. So far in December, we have had a couple of slow days and a couple of big days.”