Nashville, Tenn.—The 2023 Abbey Carpet and Floor and Floors To Go convention kicked off here this week amid record-breaking attendance. Flooring dealers from near and far converged on Music City Center with the goal of upping their game and grabbing market share in what is expected to be a potential recessionary year for flooring.
Phil Gutierrez, Abbey CEO and president, noted the group’s steady and successful growth over its decades-long history. From 100 member stores in the 1980s to more than 700 member stores today, the group continues with its expansion plans.
Under the banner of “Getting down to business,” the show promises a full day of breakout sessions focusing on building business through digital marketing, consumer financing and more. Another day is dedicated to the exhibition floor where suppliers are clamoring to meet with the hundreds of flooring store owners who made the trip to Nashville.
ITR Economics’ “it kid,” Connor Lokar—who also happens to be a senior forecaster, economist and speaker for the firm—gave the keynote presentation on day one of the show. While Lokar chose to look at the “silver lining” among the data, the news was somewhat sobering for the packed audience.
“ITR Economics is forecasting a recession for the United States economy in 2024, and we don’t do that lightly,” Lokar told attendees. “For the entirety of last year, we were team ‘soft landing’ at ITR. We did not view a recession as a required outcome for this particular economic cycle. We have, unfortunately, had to change our tune because of the United States Federal Reserve and the degree of interest rate increases we have seen at this point that we no longer view compatibly with a soft-landing outcome for the United States economy.”
However, Lokar noted that with the flooring industry’s tie to housing and the consumer cycle many flooring dealers are already starting to feel the effects of the burgeoning recession and will experience 2024 as somewhat of a recovery year— unlike most other industries. “Most folks in this room, you’re actually going to experience 2023 worse,” he explained. “And that’s the silver lining I’m trying to inject today, is that this is actually a very mild recession forecast. At worst, it’s a fifth of the severity of 2008-2009. So, it’s not a jump out the 20-story-window-type forecast; what it is, of course, is relevant, noticeable.”
Lokar also stressed the importance of “getting your house in order” in an effort to utilize the downturn for the inevitable upturn expected in 2024-25.
Bill Wilson, executive vice president of sales and marketing, took the stage on opening day of the show to speak to attendees regarding the group’s expanding digital prowess. Breaking news was the group’s new partnership with Roomvo. “This is what might be a pretty exciting opportunity for a lot of you,” Wilson said. “I think this answers a lot of the questions that you’ve asked us over the years—moving into what Roomvo calls an agency partnership. And that’s basically stepping up our game with room visualization and the products that are shown on the room visualizer.”
Wilson also noted that group continues to look at its digital marketing offering as anything but a one-size-fits-all model and will be expanding its offering with solutions meant to be mixed and matched and fit for each individual dealer’s needs.
“We’ve had just many, many years to experiment with solutions for you,” he said. “There’s so much in our toolbox today that is available for you, that’s customized for you and is very flexible. We are not robots, you’re not robots and that is a big part of what the services are and what we’ve built over the years.”
Phil Gutierrez, president and CEO of Abbey Carpet, noted the group’s continued growth—recognizing the 100 members in 1980 and the 700-plus members in the group today.
Connor Lokar, senior forecaster for ITR Economics, warned of the inevitable recession in 2024 but told attendees to “get their houses in order” while they wait for the upturn in 2024-25.
Dave Hardy, executive VP of merchandising and member services, expressed the importance of merchandising in today’s retail environment and highlighted the five new suppliers entering the fold.
Bill Wilson, executive vice president of sales and marketing, revealed the group’s new partnership with Roomvo, which is poised to bring members’ showroom experience to the next level.
See the March 20, 2023, edition of Floor Covering News for the full story.