Talking to leaders in flooring, many have noted softness or a bit of a slowdown in 2019. Voices attribute it to a number of things: an unstable political climate, tariff issues surrounding imports, the economy, the upcoming election season, indicators like low housing starts, and confusion among consumers in the marketplace. While we’re a couple of months away from turning the calendar to 2020, most of us are already knee deep into planning for the coming year. What should we anticipate for next year?
Alan Beaulieu, president and principal of ITR economics, and his team are not forecasting a recession, thank goodness. While the beginning of 2020 may start off slow, ITR projects that businesses need to get ready for a rise in the latter half of the year, and that means a boost to business. What’s pointing them in this direction? Single-family housing starts, for one, which serve as a bellwether for the economy, will rise. Beaulieu projects that manufacturers, distributors, and retailers of construction materials will get busier in 2020. There’s a need for more installers, and contractors should experience more profit opportunities.
Despite favorable forecasts for 2020, our reporting on the hardwood market for this month noted some concerns. Wood-look products in luxury vinyl and porcelain are eating market share. More builders are shifting toward LVT for those wood-look finishes as technology and design capabilities improve. However, there is no denying that wood remains an aspirational and sought after flooring choice. It’s invigorating to see wood producers fighting back for market share by introducing their own take on technology through waterproof constructions and finishes, more beauty at value-driven price points, and better storytelling through shelter magazines and influencers.
Most recently, I was impressed with Anderson-Tuftex’s collaboration with Domino magazine. In a savvy marketing collaboration, the producer traded product and know-how to help the editors create some entertaining and educational content. One story, “Can Flooring be Chic and Pet-Friendly?”, showcased Domino dog owners who curated mood boards of their dream rooms grounded by Anderson Tuftex’s flooring collections. Ads in the publication and on social media offered three flooring — wood or carpet — samples to consumers (and designers) looking for beautiful floors. The sample box included a welcome note and a cloth tote that held the flooring samples. Not only was it a hit among the magazine readers, retailers who carry the Anderson-Tuftex collections were able to piggyback on the content, sharing it with their local markets. It’s this type of creative storytelling and innovation that will keep flooring companies thriving into 2020.