My unofficial straw poll taken by questioning a variety of flooring dealers from all over the country who call us with questions on problems or issues daily has given us a glimpse of good news. There is an up tick in business being experienced of late and a stabilization of business. What this means is that the backwards slide has seemed to have subsided and customers are walking in the door and buying. The story is the same from Connecticut, to Dalton Georgia, to California. Unless you’re in a market that has been affected by serious downturns like Elkhart, Indiana or Detroit, Michigan flooring dealers are starting to breathe just a tad easier. They tell me builder business is still off, no surprise there, but that homes being purchased from foreclosures or remodeling projects are where the business is coming from.
What’s selling? The two leading products are carpet and laminate and not necessarily the cheapest stuff. The mix is roughly 60% carpet and 40% hard surface. Carpet because there’s a lot of value in it. It can be easily installed, quickly and make an instant impact on a space. It’s warm and comfortable. One California dealer said he’s got customers coming in that say, “just give something to cover the floor.” Another retail dealer said that her customers are buying carpet because they are spending more time at home and carpet is more inviting to spend that time on, lying around the floor doing things with family. I found this interesting and it’s a perspective the industry may not have realized. This could actually be a theme from the old advertising slogan the carpet industry used years ago, “Carpet. It Just Feels Better.” There are tractor trailers running around Dalton that still have this signage on them. For sure a marketing idea that could sell carpet as being warm, comfortable, inviting and luxurious – a floor the whole family can gather on.” This would certainly appeal to the primary buyer of carpet; women. Laminate is the other flooring material mentioned as the hard surface leader. There are so many different kinds with looks that mimic wood, vinyl, stone and tile that it’s hard to tell if it is or isn’t. The other hot product is luxury vinyl tile and its use in basements. This is the most surprising of all and the information is coming from dealers in all parts of the country. This may be the hottest product on the market today.
Just as the banking industry is flush with cash because they’re not lending it, consumers who are gainfully employed home owners may be in the same situation. Everyone’s been paranoid to spend money, they’re paying off debt and their homes aren’t getting any prettier. There comes a point when you spend so much time at home and see things you want to change that you just have too. These projects may be done a room at a time and new floor covering can make the biggest difference.
One fact you have to remember is that every structure in the world has to have floor covering. This is not going to change. Why do you think Warren Buffet bought Shaw? Look at his investments; they are in businesses that provide the three basic necessities of life or touch on them, food, clothing and shelter, and flooring is the foundation of the sheltered space. The economy may take time to recover but a sure bet is that the pent up demand for floor covering will be there. There may well be fewer dealers selling it but there should be a lot of customers to buy it.