Flooring demand in 2010, measured as purchases by independent dealers, was flat or maybe a bit down, according to Bruce Zwicker, president and CEO of J.J. Haines, who noted it is difficult to be precise because, in his words, “industry stats are not great.” In comparison, Haines/Wheeler was up almost 6% year over year, with Haines up 5% and Wheeler up 8%, he said. The housing tax credit helped make demand at least flat for the full year by pumping up the first half, especially March through May. “By July, the market slowed dramatically and died in October.”
Zwicker said 2011 has been very soft primarily due to the harsh winter conditions. “Underlying demand is flat. Actual demand (purchases) was down small double digits.”
He sees 2011 as another lackluster year but with some hope for a very good 2012, “albeit not back to the hey-days of 2004-06.” For the first half of 2011, comparisons with 2010 will be bad, Zwicker said, due to the surge in demand last year caused by the housing credit. “In the second half of 2011, comparisons with 2010 will look great because at that time in 2010 demand was very weak. Plus, by the second half of 2011, we should see the slow and steady underlying increase in demand, following the general economy.” Throughout this rough patch for the flooring industry, Haines continues to gain market share. Between 2003 and 2010, total industry demand fell about 5%. “Furthermore, the drop from the peak demand point to the trough was 35% to 40%,” he added.
Haines, which has grown 13% since 2003, had one down year, according to Zwicker, “but we never lost money. Of course, we cut costs and made a lot less money than we did back in 2006 and 2007. We attribute our success to three basic reasons: We had a good strategy and executed it well; we had the support of good suppliers, and most importantly, we had the loyalty of our customers.”