By Steven Feldman
The second leg of FCNews’ Retail Recovery Across America was completed a couple of weeks ago. Round two took us to five locales in Florida (before things escalated down there), Louisville, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Chicago and Madison, Wis. We checked in on large and smaller retailers alike; I encourage you to watch the video series on fcnews.net. I know some of them run a little long, but I think in each case there are some valuable nuggets from which all retailers can benefit. We add a new video every few days, but if you miss one they are all archived here.
So, 11 retailers and six states later, there were many takeaways that seemed to hold true wherever we stopped. Here they are:
- The first two and a half to three months of the year were gangbusters for everyone. Many were on track for a record year. Some cited a more moderate winter; others touted the solid economy. Either way, if not for the disruption caused by the virus, this was shaping up to be a great year for the flooring industry.
- April was the challenging month. Some businesses came to a grinding halt, while others were able to continue builder and/or property management work. Some retailers were able to complete installations from the previous month’s sales— providing the customers felt comfortable. The fact that the first quarter was strong allowed many dealers to weather the storm.
- As April turned to May and state economies reopened—some earlier than others—business gradually returned. Some stores were open by appointment only, but customers returned to the store.
- While flooring retailers that were not considered essential and forced to shut in late March and April lost business to the home centers, once their stores were able to open, consumers said they prefer shopping somewhere with one or two customers in the store as opposed to the throngs that are walking around the big boxes.
- The customer today is not kicking tires, nor is she coming into the store three and four times before making a decision. She is a serious buyer, has done her homework (plenty of time for that when the country shut down in April) and maybe visits twice. Close rates are through the roof.
- Price has not been as much a driver as what is typically seen despite the lofty unemployment numbers we are constantly inundated with. Many of today’s flooring consumers have not been negatively impacted financially in the second quarter. In fact, they have money burning a hole in their pockets because there was nothing to spend on in early spring.
- Retailers cite a number of reasons why business rebounded in May and June. First, there is pent-up demand from March and April. The people who were going to spend in those two months simply postponed their flooring purchases, and that should hold through the summer. Second, many people are not taking lavish vacations this year and instead are diverting those funds to home improvements. Third, many people are sick of staring at their outdated and/or dirty floors after spending the better part of two months in lockdown mode and now want to replace them.
- Business is expected to get even stronger in the coming months as people escape big cities and relocate to the suburbs. This migration is already happening in droves as people want more space as many are now working from home. They also don’t want to be stuck in a cramped city apartment in case the economy ever shuts down again. (Personally, I don’t think it ever will.)
- Flooring dealers are taking advantage of the Internet to drive business. While their messages vary, most don’t even mention COVID-19 or sales discounts. They are all taking a positive stance with messaging like, “We’re open” or “It’s time to beautify your home” or stressing safety and cleanliness.
- All are predicting the second half of the year to be solid. No one is expecting to be down for the year, although many acknowledge this is an election year and things often get wacky in the month or two leading up to the election.
There were other solid comments, but I recommend you watch the videos to get a pulse on what’s happening at retail across this great land.
So, where should I go next? If you have something solid to share, the Retail Recovery Across America might stop in your city later this month.