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The sky has not fallen

by Lewis Migliore

There is no question the last several years have been challenging for business and especially the retail residential flooring market. But 2011 seems to have stemmed the fall and, according to my unscientific survey of asking everyone, business has either steadied or begun to pick up.

In some geographic markets business hasn’t changed much, in others things are turning around and in some, business is making a dramatic up swing. Think of this as a train: all the cars move together but they arrive at a different time, the engine first and the caboose last, but they all get there.

The high end of the market is doing well and sales of luxury merchandise are steady and rising. Luxury vinyl tile sales are up in excess of 50% and that’s conservative. The lower end of the market is also on fire. Multi-family housing carpet sales are up at least 22%. Engineered Floors, Bob Shaw’s new company, which concentrates on the multi-family market is the hottest business in the industry, manufacturing solution dyed polyester that looks good, performs well and fills a need. Bob Shaw is a master of success in a down market.

Every building and home has some type of flooring and everything you sell will go into one of those locations. Flooring only lasts so long visually and we’re at the end of an era where products have been down beyond what many may have expected. Eventually, these floor coverings need to be replaced and we’re at the point where that’s happening. So I predict, with inevitability, you’re going to see a steady increase in business. The only thing to keep that from happening is you.

So this is what I think you have to do.

Have an Internet presence. Most people start there to research a product and flooring is one of those products that begs to be researched.

Stock your store with the types of merchandise your customer wants. So it would help if you understood your market.

You have to ask yourself, “What business am I in?” and “Who is my customer?”. Focus on your strengths and weaknesses and do whatever it takes to make both parts stronger. You have to have a store people will want to shop in, not one only inviting to a slob.

Most of your customers are women and you have to cater to them and understand them, which is extremely difficult for a man to do, as most of us have not advanced much beyond the Neanderthal stage. So it would behoove you to hire the right kind of people. People who understand what women want. You are, after all, in a fashion industry and flooring is an important component to a home’s décor. Just watch HGTV to understand flooring’s significance. Every female on any show who steps into a house mentions the flooring.

Have confidence in your business and less patience. Go out and get business like a squirrel after a nut. If you don’t ask you won’t get and if you don’t get, you won’t be successful. 2012 can be a good year if you want it to be. If you’re reading this you’re still among us, and that speaks volumes. Now, go do better.

I look forward to seeing you at Surfaces. I’m participating in the Inspectors Symposium on Jan. 23 and 24 and I am holding a seminar, “New Green Flooring Backings and Installation Technology,” on Jan. 25 as part of the Surfaces’ Educational Conference, which is sponsored by Floor Covering News.