Web Exclusive: How flooring retailers are coping with COVID-19

Home COVID-19 Web Exclusive: How flooring retailers are coping with COVID-19

Flooring dealers are being forced to cope with unprecedented disruptions caused by the virus. At the same time, they want to keep their employees safe.

By Ken Ryan

Like most of America, flooring retailers are faced with a challenge unlike anything they have ever dealt with before. In these trying times, these owners and entrepreneurs switch into survival mode in hopes of keeping their businesses afloat—even if it means closing down temporarily—and their employees paid as long as possible.

FCNews sat down with several key flooring retailers to discuss tips and guidelines for surviving during this difficult time.

Kevin Frazier, Frazier’s Carpet One Floor & Home, Knoxville, Tenn.
Frazier offered up four tips for managing the current crisis:

  1. Very slowly but methodically (with waiting periods in between certain actions) control cash retention by: a) Day 1: Push non-discount payables out by 5-7 days. Demand discounts or 60-day terms on everything (not just carpet and large stock buys); b) Day 35: Decrease marketing spend by 25%. Wait a month, decrease more if necessary; and c) Day 60: Assess human resources.
  2. Maintain large cash reserves, always, and this crisis illustrates why: a) That’s how I am able to push any HR cuts out two months if I need to and, b) This is how I can take advantage of the unbelievable buys that are beginning to show themselves: I’m not having a “fire sale,” I’m going fire-sale shopping.
  3. Emphasize free in-home estimates and in-home shopping: “We come to you, we make it easy and we make it safer, just give us a call or visit our website and we’ll come to you (and bring our own bottle of hand-sanitizer).”
  4. Take advantage of the climate to help you with your crisis management. As an example, in a climate like this you can probably decrease your marketing spend by 25% just by threatening the cut.

Sam Presnell, owner of The Rug Gallery in Cincinnati

Presnell said desperate times require commensurate measures. He recommends asking for longer terms from your suppliers. “It is obvious we retailers are going to need longer terms and credit for awhile until we see an uptick in consumer spending and our cash flow is stable again.”

Penny Carnino, chief operating officer, Grigsby’s Carpet, Tile & Hardwood, Tulsa, Okla.

Carnino advises keeping the health and safety of employees top of mind. “Just trying to remain calm and reassure our employees that we are trying to be proactive, reminding them to practice social distancing for their safety and the consumers,” she said. “We have two employees who are not comfortable being here, and we have allowed them to try to work from home and meet customers here as needed. I think it is key to be flexible with people who have compromised immune systems or are just scared.”

Although its retail operations have been shut down in Illinois and Kentucky, The Flooring Gallery is still servicing its builder/new construction projects and empty multi-family business.

What if your showroom is already closed or if you reside in a state with mandatory work-at-home edicts? Flooring retailers are already learning to cope with those measures.

Nick Freadreacea, president of The Flooring Gallery, Kentucky, Indiana

Freadreacea said he has been ordered to shut down all retail operations in Kentucky and Indiana. “We are still servicing our builder/new construction projects and empty multi-family business. Try to communicate with your entire staff and customer base as frequently as possible. Try to make decisions that will protect as many people as possible and survive this together so there are companies to come back to after this has passed.”

Steve Weisberg, president of Crest Flooring in Allentown, Pa.

Weisberg has locked his showroom doors to new customers and canceled all advertising. He is allowing pickups and deliveries and—where a customer allows—installing scheduled jobs.
“We have also opted to discontinue evening hours,” he said. “I have promised to pay my staff for regular hours and salaries regardless of if they are working or not. I have committed to do this through March. I have told everyone that they are not required to be here if they are uncomfortable for themselves or their families. Limiting our exposure to deliveries and pickups, while still a risk, certainly lessens our chance of getting the virus. More importantly, my team knows that I am not obligating them to work even though I am paying them. My concern is for their safety.”

Bill Zeigler, co-owner of Charles F. Zeigler & Sons, Hanover, Pa.

Zeigler spent March 23 sequestered in a cabin high up in the Pennsylvania mountains. “We closed up our store entirely as required by Pennsylvania law. We saved for a ‘rainy day’ and this pandemic looks like it’s going to be a real downpour. I recommend retailers close if the possibility exists. Do your best to take care of your employees. Remember, they depend on you. Make it a point to stay in contact with them and keep them up to date on any decisions you plan to make.”

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