Flooring America/Flooring Canada, International Design Guild (IDG), and The Floor Trader convened at Winter conneXtion 2018, held at the Gaylord Texan Resort and Convention Center. The two days of education, training, product education and networking is intended to kick start the year and establish some common goals for the members of the flooring cooperatives.

During the opening session, Keith Spano, president of Flooring America, Flooring Canada and The Floor Trader, reminded attendees that a lot changed in the flooring market in 2017: “Multilayer flooring became its own category and continues to bring excitement and growth to the category through WPC and rigid core products. Engineered Floors bought Beaulieu, Mohawk bought Godfrey Hirst, and Randy Merritt and John Haren retired from lifetimes at Shaw. It’s been an interesting year of ups and downs.”

Some say we are experiencing a retail apocalypse because in 2017 more stores closed than ever before. In the last year, the retail landscape saw more than 8,000 major stores close, including mall anchors and outlet centers. JC Penney, Macy’s, Kmart, Sears, HHGregg, Payless, The Limited and The Gap all closed stores.

While the news headlines mourned the message that retail is dead, Spano contends that it’s fake news: “Retail is not dead. It is alive and well and changing. The consumer culture has changed and these retailers had been unable to meet demands of the consumer the way they want to shop today. Many of the anchors just got a little too comfortable. They failed to meet the demands of the consumer.”

“We can’t keep doing things because it’s the way we’ve always done them,” he added. “We have to keep adapting and changing.”

Retail is actually stronger than ever before, Spano said. According to the National Retail Federation, for each store that closed this year, 2.7 stores opened. In 2017, there was a net increase of 4,000 retail stores and 5,000 are projected to open in 2018. Flooring retailers often worry about the internet, but Spano contends that it is the great equalizer: “Social media helps to get our message out exponentially at a relatively low cost.”

Cherish retail, the experiential retail, will continue to blossom. “Giving a great experience they can’t get online will separate great retailers from the mediocre,” Spano said. “We have got to tell our unique story.”

Personalization will attract the Yemmie, young educated millennial mother. They will make up 22% of the population by 2020 and they shop differently than the Baby Boomers. “We need to make her feel special,” Spano said. “Think me-tailing versus retailing.”

In product news, CCA Global added Engineered Floors to the CCA supplier list after Engineered Floors acquired the assets of Beaulieu America, according to Charlie Dilks, chief product officer, CCA Global Partners. The group also expanded its Coretech line of luxury vinyl tile (LVT) and launched a new and exclusive collection, Galvanite LVT, constructed with a solid core.

In marketing news, Flooring America and Flooring Canada have signed new advertising firm, Boston-based CommCreative. The firm will expand upon the group’s tagline, “Where Friends Send Friends,” and plans to release new marketing in April. CommCreative will also offer members the opportunity to develop localized national ads, custom point-of-purchase kits and help retailers determine ad spend on a small monthly retainer basis.

The group also introduced My Design Finder, a program launching this year, that will help offer consumers a new way to shop for flooring. The program walks customers through a process of choosing flooring by using room scenes that show style, type and color.