By Ken Ryan
“I would have never believed business would have been as strong as it has been.”—Chris Kemp, Kemp’s Dalton West Flooring
Bob Dedering, president of CarpetsPlus of America in Manitowoc, Wis., has been through recessions, snowstorms, 9/11 and now COVID-19. So, when he asserts, “this is the slowest it has ever been,” he speaks from authority. But, in this case, slow does not mean shutout, as Dedering is proving resourceful in making money during the crisis.
“The silver lining is that we are doing a couple of taverns while they are closed,” he explained. “My apartment business is also continuing, and we are still doing some residential constructions and remodel.”
Dedering is far from unique among flooring dealers. Many are continuing to service accounts—mostly on the commercial side—that are currently closed or have slowed considerably.
Chris Kemp, owner of Kemp’s Dalton West Flooring in Newnan, Ga., told FCNews, “I would have never believed business would have been as strong as it has been with everything going on.”
Kemp’s Dalton West has three stores, two of which are currently closed. “Our main location has stayed open for pickups and deliveries, and our office is open from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m. for employees,” he said. “We have had about one-third of the staff and salespeople working. It has amazed me how much business we are able to turn out in these difficult times. Much of the business we are doing was originated before COVID-19 came about.”
Smiddy’s CarpetsPlus of Terre Haute, Ind., has also been tapping the potential within its commercial business. “Anyone who has told us they will do it when they have the time; well, now they have the time,” said Dan Smiddy, co-owner. “For example, we have a local restaurant that is closed, so we are doing a $6,000 carpet tile re-do of the entire restaurant. We have always done their floors and they have become friends, so they reached out to us. We also have three Subway restaurants whose floors we are re-doing while they are closed.”
What’s more, Smiddy is a certified paramedic. Before his crews are dispatched to a job site, he checks their vital signs to make sure everyone is healthy.
In Tulsa, Okla., Johnson Carpet One Floor & Home has also had success reaching out to local businesses that are now shuttered. “It is a great time to complete flooring projects and a surprising number of businesses have welcomed the idea, and we are selling jobs,” said Palmer Johnson, vice president.
Ramping up residential
On the residential side, some retailers are taking advantage of stay-at-home orders. While not every homeowner wants installers in her home during this period of social distancing, some retailers said they are trying to ease any fear she may have by practicing social distancing. “We have had quite a few customers trying to get projects done while they are home,” said Brian McCarver, owner of Brian’s Flooring & Design, Birmingham, Ala. “We make all of our installers sign off daily that they and their household are not having any health issues. We also call all customers before we go to their homes and ask the same questions. We are using social media and Constant Contact to stay in contact with our customers.”
Like many others, Montgomery’s CarpetsPlus ColorTile in Venice, Fla., has been reaching out to any and all restaurants/bars and commercial businesses that are not open for inside retail traffic. However, unlike many others, Montgomery’s is providing additional services to help remain top of mind to its flooring clients. Those services include cleaning/sanitation. “We have a long list and are currently working through it,” co-owner Mike Montgomery said. “This will not only get us immediate business but also future business, i.e. cleaning and/or replacement [of flooring]. This is a perfect opportunity to be in the cleaning/sanitation business. Not only is it profitable, but it keeps you in contact with your customers and your community for future business when the economy opens back up.”
RC Willey Home Furnishings, with four locations in four western states, is drumming up business by leaning on its other categories. “Fortunately for us, we have more reasons—with furniture, appliances, mattresses and electronics—for consumers to continue to shop with us, whether it be online or by appointment in one of our showrooms,” said Eric Mondragon, hard surface flooring buyer. “So, even though our traffic count is down, our conversion rate is at an all-time high.”