By Reginald Tucker
The World Floor Covering Association (WFCA) is partnering with several flooring industry organizations and associations to provide guidance to retailers, installers and contractors, among others, as they deal with the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic. WFCA partners in this effort include the National Wood Flooring Association (NWFA), Tile Council of North America (TCNA), National Stone Institute (NSI) and Certified Flooring Installers (CFI), to name a few.
“We’re all afraid, and that’s OK—but fear goes away with knowledge,” said Scott Humphrey, CEO of the WFCA. “The more we know what’s going on, the more we can know who’s supporting us and who we have to lean on to get financial support. Our purpose, and really the purpose of all the associations, is eliminating fear. Our job is to take useful information and disseminate it in a way that’s palatable to our audience.”
One way the WFCA and its association partners are looking to facilitate this is through ongoing communications with respective members. These educational vehicles include email blasts, website updates and informative webinars that aim to answer frequently asked questions while pointing retailers in the right direction as they seek aid from both federal and state sources.
A webinar WFCA conducted just last week, for example, shed light on the challenges retailers face despite the passage of a $2 trillion federal stimulus package. “Many retailers who participated in the webinar still want to know whether they should apply for the loans, what’s the forgiveness aspects and when they turn into grants,” Humphrey explained. “They have a lot of specific questions about their particular business; for example, if they have sub- contractor employees, they want to know if can they count those individuals when they try to calculate their costs for the previous 12 months—a requirement for the loan application.”
Retailers also have questions about insurance claims. “For example, even if they did not have pandemic coverage, they want to know if they should they go ahead and file a claim anyway,” Humphrey said. He cited a precedent set in the aftermath of 9/11, whereby many insurance companies made exceptions to business negatively impacted by the terrorist attacks because essentially no one saw the event coming. “We’re telling members to go ahead and file business interruption claims, because there might be legislation in the next phase of stimulus relief (Phase 4) that’s akin to what insurance companies did back on Sept. 11, 2001,” Humphrey added.
Strength in numbers
WFCA is leveraging its size, reach and scale to educate the industry at large, at a time when reliable information is sorely needed. Since the beginning of the year, membership has quadrupled, growing from 1,000 people to 5,000 members in three months, Humphrey reports. Ironically, it was not the result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Rather, membership ballooned primarily because WFCA changed its fee structure to make membership free to anyone who wanted to join.
“The reason we did that was, at the time, we were focused on the installation crisis,” Humphrey explained. “That’s clearly not the focus anymore, but if there’s a time when we need to speak with one voice to ensure Washington, D.C., hears us, it’s now. We’ve had groups like the Shaw Flooring Network, with 1,400 members, join in full. William Bird did the same thing, and Haines is doing it. Fuse Alliance has joined, so has NWFA. They’re doing this because they realize we’re not in competition. They realize we need a very loud voice when we go to D.C., because lawmakers want to know how many people you represent—for them that’s votes.”
Humphrey, who was a vocal performance major in college, described the importance of having a unified voice in musical terms. “I’ve always said, if you want to hear great music, listen to a soloist. But if you want to hear awesome music, then listen to a soloist backed up by a choir. When you have that many voices singing the same thing, you hear it differently. That’s what we have to do in Washington, D.C., by saying, ‘Hey guys, we represent all these professional flooring dealers as well as installers, inspectors, manufacturers, distributors.’ When we all go with one voice, it’s a much more powerful message.”
Then there are the more practical benefits of collaborating with associations representing other sectors and channels of the industry. For one, Humphrey holds weekly meetings with other association leaders, primarily to share best practices. This collaboration also provides an opportunity to share resources. “All of our resources are mutual—we don’t care who uses them,” Humphrey explained. “We don’t care who gets the credit; we just need to fix it. Right now, the more useful information we have the more actionable items we can put out there.”