Specialty dealers continue to defy the odds

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By Ken Ryan

The overall economy may statistically be in recession, but floor covering retailers continue to flourish nonetheless—with several achieving records.

The overall economy may statistically be in recession, but floor covering retailers continue to flourish nonetheless. What began as a sharp rebound in May following the COVID-19 lockdown in late March/early April has turned into a months-long winning streak for many flooring retailers—with several achieving records.

For instance, business is so robust for Kelby Frederick’s My Flooring America/My Flooring Texas, based in the town of Webster, that he has put a “massive effort” toward closing the sale as early in the process as possible. “We are definitely seeing an uptick in customer activity and sales,” he told FCNews. “Many of our stores had their best September in a long time. We see our average tickets increasing as well as our consumer financing. We find that customers are ready to buy now more than ever.”

Frederick said customers want to shop fewer places and have fewer interactions. To that end, he is encouraging his sales team to be more direct without being pushy or high pressure. “We’re seeking to maintain our professionalism with a big emphasis on helping the customer make a quicker decision,” he explained. “We are using tools like room visualizers to help speed up the process.”

Strong traffic and high demand are being reported in many other states as well. At Lancaster, Pa.-based Indoor City, store traffic count is up considerably and low interest rates are driving its builder business. “It seems hard to believe that only several months ago we were completely shut down and unable to fully operate as a business,” said Ryan Commerce, owner.

September was a particularly strong month for flooring retailers. In fact, for Hiller’s Flooring America, Rochester, Minn., it was the third biggest month in store history. “The last four months have been phenomenal,” said Rob Elder, co-owner. “In 40 years of doing business, I don’t remember a busier stretch than we are in. September was up 26% over last year, and last year was our biggest year in our history.”

Ted Gregerson’s Floors To Go set a record for sales in September, proving flooring activity remains brisk.

Typhannie Watson, owner of Carpeting by Mike, Somerset, Wis., said September was the second time in the last 31 months that her business surpassed $300,000 in a month. With September’s total, Carpeting by Mike has already exceeded sales for all of 2019. “We are finding households that are spending more than the average are looking to update their dated floors and want it to be their truly last floor,” she told FCNews. “They are taking their time with design and quality and ultimately purchasing a better quality than before. They are also doing the entire home, not just a room at a time.”

Watson said in 2019 her business missed the $2 million mark by just $70,000. This year, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Carpet by Mike is on pace to hit about $2.5 million.

In Alabama, sales are exploding for Ted Gregerson, who owns Abbey Carpet & Floor and Floors To Go businesses. “Through the end of September, our entire company is up nearly 19%,” he said. “Our Abbey Carpet & Floor store is up 19.33%. Our Floors To Go store is up 29.14%, while our commercial division is down 6.8%. Retail sales for us are incredible, to say the least. This will be our biggest year by far.”

Just to show how business is not tailing off, Gregerson ran his once-a-year sale at Floors To Go (Sept. 24-26). Normally a two-day sale, this year it took place over three days to spread out the traffic. “It came in at $888,529,” Gregerson said. “The most it had ever done before was $605K last year. I would not believe it myself if I were not a part of it.”

On the East Coast, business activity remains strong for The Vertical Connection Carpet One, Columbia, Md. “We continue to see people moving to larger homes, people moving to the suburbs and others just ready to invest in their home,” said Adam Joss, co-owner of The Vertical Connection.

Ditto for Montgomery’s CarpetsPlus ColorTile in Venice, Fla. “We have seen an uptick in residential consumers looking for replacements over the next three months,” said Mike Montgomery, co-owner. “As they say, ‘Before the holidays, if possible.’”

Even in far outposts including Bismarck, N.D., and Thayne, Wyo., the good times continue to roll. “We have been very fortunate that our business activity is still strong,” said Jon Dauenhauer, co-owner of Carpet World Bismarck. “Remodels, new homes and Main Street commercial are all very busy.”

The migration to suburbs and rural areas has taken root in Wyoming, where Eric Buehler, owner of CarpetsPlus Wyoming, said business remains stellar. “People are still flocking to my area and buying up real estate and remodeling homes. I still attribute most of it to people wanting to get away from large cities and move to more remote parts of the country.”

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Oct. 19, 2020

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