Retailers and manufacturers agree that Main Street commercial continues to be a boon to business in 2019, thanks in part to advances in technology and greater partnerships among dealers and suppliers. 

“Main Street business is a nice progression from traditional retail trade,” said Larry Woodard, executive vice president, Creative Flooring Solutions, Inc., a multi-store, full-service commercial and retail flooring provider in Nova Scotia, Canada. “It requires the same skills, and ultimately, you want to develop a relationship to ensure future business with that small business owner.”

In many cases, it’s also a non-tender business, so delivering top-notch service can pay off later with both repeat business and referrals. 

“It’s becoming more common now for residential dealers to take on commercial projects—so long as you’re not dealing with conductive tiles, homogeneous sheet vinyl, or higher-end designs where you have 150 colors of carpet tile that require CAD drawings,” said Matthew Syler, chief revenue officer, Bella Flooring Group. “When it’s a 14-story office building or a lobby, we’re seeing a lot of that being done by the local dealer base.” 

Woodard said installation logistics can be challenging, particularly in cases where the business does not close for the project, so installers are forced to work around the staff. Considerations like low- or no-VOC adhesives, daily cleaning, dust control, and managing the expectations of management all come into play.

“We consider it our responsibility to ensure our installations go well and that the dealer gets the information they need to install the project correctly,” Syler said. “Collaboration is key. There are so many variations of product and methods of installation, it’s impossible for any product rep or retail sales associate to understand every detail about every product on the market being sold. We have to work together with the dealer and installer so that the end user is happy.”

Product technology has spurred growth for the market. Today, manufacturers are able to create commercially rated products at a lower price point, and many of the newer products require fewer technical skills for installation, which lowers labor costs as well.

Main Street by Philadelphia Commercial, for example, introduced In the News this year, a collection of carpet tile that is random and mergeable.

“Product can be brought in for a project, and if they’re a box or two short, it can be ordered with no issue with dye lot,” said Amy Tucker, senior marketing manager, Shaw Industries. “That’s attractive for retailers in those spaces as they do more Main Street work. They can stock those products because there’s no limitations on where and how they can use them.”

Trends in the category continue to move toward hard surface and hard surface paired with carpet tile, and retailers with in-house designers have a leg up when securing projects because it saves the Main Street business owner the expense of hiring an interior designer.

“Luxury vinyl plank (LVP) and tile (LVT) with acoustic padding is gaining momentum as concerns grow for the comfort of employees and customers,” Woodard said. “Ease of maintenance is a concern, but rarely do life-cycle costs get discussed.”

Oversized rectangular carpet tile, rigid core and increased width of planks in LVP and LVT dominate, and all provide retailers opportunities to trade up and improve a variety of spaces. Natural elements and colorations have made their way in to the Main Street market, just as they have in the home, corporate, education and health care segments. Another popular visual is distressed concrete, made to mimic industrial concrete floors.

“Dealers have found that it is less expensive to install LVT than it is to prep and finish an existing older concrete floor,” said Chris Post, vice president of business development, Mohawk. “Not to mention there is less maintenance with the enhanced wear layers we use on our LVT, and it’s easier to source labor to install LVT. This is ideal for leased commercial buildings.”