September 2/9, 2019: Volume 35, Issue 6
By Ken Ryan
Out of an abundance of caution, flooring distributors servicing the Southeast U.S. battened down the hatches last week in advance of Hurricane Dorian as the storm threatened communities from Florida to the Virginia border.
After devastating the northern Bahamas as a Category 5 hurricane, Dorian weakened in strength to a Category 3 (maximum sustained winds of 115 MPH on Sept. 5) but grew in size as it headed up the coast, causing widespread flooding and power outages along the way.
Flooring distributors who are no strangers to these storms responded quickly. Jacksonville, Fla.-based Cain & Bultman, which services all of Florida and parts of Georgia, closed its operations Tuesday and Wednesday (Sept 3-4) as the storm turned north from the Bahamas, parallel to the Florida coast.
“We have learned from past storms,” Buddy Faircloth, president of Cain & Bultman, told FCNews. “We have salespeople in all areas of Florida, so wherever the storm hits some of our customers and people are affected. Many of our dealers place their orders online and we will process and ship all those orders [Sept. 5]. Our delivery partner will ship orders processed on [Sept. 6] in all markets we serve. Our staff is ready to do what we can to aid any customer who was affected by the storm as they are our true partners in business.”
In Charleston, S.C., William M. Bird activated its Hurricane Preparedness Plan, closing its Charleston office on Sept 4. At the same time, Bird’s customer service team—including customer service managers—headed to the distributor’s Braselton, Ga., location to conduct normal business operations in hopes of averting any disruption to their flooring businesses. “This was voluntary, but many of our customer service reps were happy to do so and some have taken their families with them,” said Sharon Higgins, senior marketing strategist for William Bird. “For customer service reps who have chosen not to evacuate, we have set them up to work remotely from their homes—also voluntary. Other department members have also traveled to other Bird locations throughout the Southeast and/or are working from home. Of course, Bird has fully respected those who have evacuated; their obligations are to their family. As employees, we’ve had as much time as we needed to prepare our homes and take care of our families.”
William Bird anticipates delivery delays in those areas on the coast where flooding is expected. However, there is a plan in place to make those deliveries as soon as it is safe to do so, Higgins said.
Haines, the industry’s largest wholesaler, with a footprint stretching from New Jersey to Florida, provided its customers with periodic updates. While its main facilities in Orlando; Douglasville, Ga.; Concord, N.C.; and Raleigh, N.C., remained open, many of the delivery routes were not operational during the storm. “Past storms have trained us to be cautious and plan ahead,” said Hoy Lanning, president and CEO. “We also have to communicate with our customers ahead of time and follow the storm to make sure our drivers are safe. It does us no good to make deliveries and have no customers open.”