Over the years, I’ve often heard that the back to school season has generally been a good one for flooring sales. Summer is winding down, people are getting back to their normal routines, and the kids are not in the house all day. My question is: How will this year be different?

While I haven’t seen any comprehensive return-to-school strategies, school systems have announced plans that range from full return, to split schedules with half the kids in class one week, while the other half works from home and then switch it up on subsequent weeks, to fully remote classes. 

As you probably know by now, I’m big on going back to the things that worked in the past but at the same time with an eye toward the future and foreseeable changes in the market. 

As homeschooling takes on a new meaning (and new challenges), there might be an opportunity to focus on creating dedicated spaces for kids right at home.

I see it among my friends and family: parents are struggling to find ways to keep kids engaged, to create a good environment for learning at home, to find a way to restore some normalcy to their lives. You can have a part to play in their recovery.

The good news is that you have the perfect products for this change up. Waterproof floors in every configuration with easy installation and suitable for pro or DIY install are kid approved and teacher recommended. Stray crayon marks, spilled paint, scuff marks, maybe a few tears (mostly from frustrated parents) – all of it cleans up in a jiffy.

Carpet tiles are other great ways to create well-defined spaces for learning that kids can enjoy and take ownership of while at the same time keeping costs down for parents. You can literally transform any corner into a remote, fun and personal classroom. Same with area rugs (for those few flooring retailers that still carry them).

One retailer I’ve spoken with is planning on making good use of his parking lot by filling some large tents with products consumers can look at and browse through in wide open and safe spaces. After the long lockdown, people still long for connections but they also want to stay safe. You can make that happen.

My experience as a New Yorker and having gone through the very worst of the pandemic right here at home has shown me that in spite of the controversy around mask use – some see it as a political statement, some don’t know who to trust anymore, and some view it as the only safe way to venture outside – stores should probably err on the side of caution. 

Most retailers seem to be working hard to provide safe spaces for customers, whether through enhanced cleaning and more open spaces. At our current rates of transmission, I imagine masks will become much more common and less controversial as time goes on. For me, policies encouraging mask use let me know that the store I’m about to enter is at least trying to keep it safe. In these uncertain times, that means a lot. 

DIY and Discounts

People have more time on their hands due to lockdowns and many are putting that time into refurbishing their homes. It could be that now is the time to step up your DIY flooring efforts, promotions and product offering. 

Those same open parking lots could be a great way to showcase and present DIY installation clinics. 

Another way to drive traffic are discount buys. An old friend of mine and industry veteran, Lou Smith, has for a long time talked about the power of special buys. These are products that can be bought cheaply and sold at discount prices. Think of a pallet of hardwood or a stack of tile that may have been discontinued – these products can give you a pricing edge you need to compete. If you’re looking for an added incentive to get people in the door, this may be exactly what you’re looking for.

These are just some of the creative things the industry is doing in response to this major disruption of our lives and ongoing threats to their business.