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Dealers optimistic about fall selling season

Volume 28/Number 6; September 1/8, 2014

By Ken Ryan

Screen Shot 2014-09-11 at 9.42.40 AMThe harsh 2014 winter that disrupted business for many flooring dealers is but a distant memory, replaced by optimism built on a strong summer and the prospect of a robust fall selling season.

FCNews spoke to several flooring dealers who said business is good—in most cases exceeding expectations—and the outlook for the fall is even better.

Abbey Carpets Unlimited – Napa, Calif.

Not even a magnitude 6.0 earthquake in Napa—the largest earthquake to strike Northern California in 25 years—can shake the momentum that Abbey Carpets Unlimited has been experiencing.

“We have been busy all summer and I only see our business increasing as fall arrives,” said owner Janice Clifton. “It might be a little hard to judge actual numbers this year because of the [Aug. 24] earthquake. I’m sure quite a bit of our business will be related to quake damage, but, even without that business, we are seeing a positive trend in sales across the total line of products. Once again, in our area we are seeing a much larger increase in hard surface versus soft surface floors.”

Enhance Floors & More – Marietta, Ga.

Elisabeth Stubbs, co-owner, is “extremely optimistic” about sales this fall. “In fact, other than January and February—horrible, horrible winter weather in Atlanta—2014 has been excellent,” she said. “Once spring began to arrive, sales became very steady and consistent.

“Another reason for our optimism is that we are moving into a new, larger (by 2,000 square feet) design center later this month. We are bringing in quite a few new product lines and will have some exciting grand opening specials from our vendor partners. And that will be on top of other events that we will participate in, such as the Mohawk Anniversary Sale, National Karastan Month, Shaw’s 30 Days of HGTV Home and the Shaw Floor Now, Pay Later promotion. We believe anyone who has been waiting and dreaming about their new floors will have no good reason not to purchase this fall.”

Through July 2014, Enhance’s sales are up almost 9% from the year-ago period, Stubbs said. “Hardwood flooring and luxury vinyl are up. We also do kitchen and bathroom remodels, and those are up significantly as well. Carpet is down a little, but we are selling more higher-end carpets. Tile and laminate are flat.”

Dillabaugh’s Flooring America – Boise, Idaho

“We’re looking at things remaining much the same as they’ve been—which is good,” said Casey Dillabaugh, vice president. “We’ve had one of the busiest summers in recent history, not just from a new construction standpoint, but also from a retail and commercial standpoint. When you factor all aspects of our business, we expect much of the same growth to continue, which is roughly 10% to 15% over the previous year. We’re seeing more and more clients wanting the full renovation experience, whether it be for one room or the entire home, and our ability to service that with flooring, granite, cabinets and window coverings definitely helps us continue to grow.”

Carpetland USA – Davenport, Iowa

Eric Langan, who operates nine stores in Iowa and Illinois, believes the fall selling season will be slightly above average this year. “We lost sales this spring due to the severe and lengthy winter in the Midwest. Since then, we have seen an above average summer and I believe we will see something similar this fall in regards to sales.”

Redi Carpet – Stafford, Texas

Redi Carpet specializes in the apartment industry, which means summer is its high season. “Our business this year is running 8% ahead of last year, including our summer season, which will wind down after this month,” said Jerry Hosko, president and COO. “Business overall this year has been good but not as robust as 2012 and 2013.”

Contract Furnishings Mart – Tigard, Ore.

Matt Bechtold, operations manager, said this National Floorcovering Alliance member is expecting a solid fall. “Business has been good so far this year, and we haven’t seen any signs that would lead us to believe it won’t continue. I do expect carpet sales to be soft as more and more customers are looking for hard surface products.”

Carpetland ColorTile – Rockford, Ill.

Housing starts are up in the Midwest, and although overall building permits are down, Carpetland ColorTile is seeing substantial growth in the nearby region with corporate and education renovations and new construction, according to Kevin Rose, president. “Cranes are moving again, [you can see changes in] part of the skyline in downtown Chicago, and that is exciting for us. I expect a strong end of the year and a solid first quarter into 2015. The retail and commercial sectors are both strong, and I don’t see that declining anytime soon. Hopefully the Feds will keep the interest rates low into 2015 and the economy can continue to slowly grow with more new hirings.”

Ron Dunn, co-CEO, Alliance Flooring

Management of the group that operates under the CarpetsPlus and ColorTile brands is optimistic about the remainder of the year. “Based on the analysts we pay attention to and the RV tour we just completed, I would project sales will be up for those who go after them,” Dunn said. “There are plenty of reasons for this. Housing starts are up, which is the No. 1 indicator for our industry. New construction in general is up. Sales movement in existing homes is up. Remodeling is up.

“However, one of the problems independent retailers are experiencing is more and more consumers of all age groups are buying from the big box stores and national chains. Still, there is strong opportunity. Sales activity as a whole will likely be up 5% to 7%. This will be a strong fall for those who have not lost their competitive spirit and have established competitive advantages with their businesses.”