The 43 members of the National Floorcovering Alliance (NFA) met in Savannah this week for their fall meeting—a first for many retailers who have been on their home turf and not traveling since the coronavirus pandemic.
A small group retailers, including the Canadian members who weren’t allowed to travel do to government travel restrictions, joined the meeting via teleconference.
“It was a chance to get encouraged, reinvigorated and help us get back to retail business with excitement,” said Jason McSwain, president of the National Floorcovering Alliance (NFA), and president, McSwain Carpets & Floors with nine stores in Ohio and Kentucky. “Eight months is a long time friendship-wise. There’s a lot to connect on.”
Key industry leaders gave the group their insight into where retail is going in flooring how do they capitalize on it. Larry Flick of The Floor Store, with nine stores in California, was voted into the position of vice president of NFA taking the place of Ian Newton, general manager of Flooring 101, which includes seven stores in California.
“It was more excitement to come to an event than I’ve seen in a long time—for the first time traveling so they were able to get out and speak to other people and learn and see how they dealt with everything,” Newton said.
The halt on travel this summer affected business—including product development and merchandising plans for 2021.
“The hard surface process is a lot of traveling through the summertime and that hasn’t happened,” McSwain said.
By meeting in person this week, the NFA group was able to work through product specifications with key vendors and merchandising changes so they can execute them in January and February in preparation for the Spring selling season.
“This gives our members a huge advantage to get together ahead and see product and get together one on one,” Newton said. “Now that Surfaces got pushed back, this was perfect timing.”
While retailers were receiving displays and samples from manufacturers throughout the pandemic, many were putting them together themselves without the in-person assistance manufacturers representative who also were barred from travel in many markets.
“We had to adjust how we evaluate products on our floor,” McSwain said. "A product that came out in February or March may now just getting traction. The PK took place, there were no customers, and now we have to redo the PK all over again now that there is opportunity."
To learn more about the NFA, visit nationalflooringalliance.com.