I had the opportunity to sit down with Vance Bell and Tim Baucom of Shaw Industries in March just as the two announced their leadership transition. Bell has been named executive chairman and will be stepping down as CEO effective April 5. In addition to his role as president, Tim Baucom will succeed Bell as CEO. You can read the interview here.
What struck me about this interview—and the commentary I’ve heard from other leaders this month—is the overall mood of positivity. More people are getting vaccinated. Trade shows are starting to schedule in-person events again. Business is beginning to look a bit brighter than it has in months past.
“The residential businesses is really strong and will be really for the next couple of years,” Baucom said.
Of course, it’s not all roses. James Lesslie, commercial president, J&J Floors and EF Contract, said he anticipates commercial business to be down 15-20% in the first half of 2021. He estimates first quarter of 2021 will be down 15-20% and the mega storm in February did not help business. For second quarter, incorporating normal second-quarter seasonality, he projects commercial flooring to be up 18-20%. The first six months of 2021 will be down 15% compared to pre-COVID-19 2021.
Manufacturers have announced price increases in response to rising raw material costs and increased freight costs due to containers being backed up at ports and a lack of containers available for shipment turnarounds.
“All the things that have been backed up shows how connected we are,” Baucom said. “You’re seeing it with wood, you’re seeing it with steel, you’re seeing it with appliances, you’re seeing it with windows.”
Bell said that the impact of rising lumber prices alone will have a tangible impact on the prices of contracted home, which will squeeze builder margins.
“There’s a lot of inflation coming through the economy, and, ultimately, all or most of that will end up being passed onto the consumer,” he said. “To me, the central question over the next 12 months, 18 months, is what impact will all that inflation have been passed on to the consumer? What will that do to the economy and to business?”
“We’re dealing with some short-term hyperinflation flexed muscles we haven’t had to exercise for a while, and it’s sort of the perfect storm—no pun intended—because the Houston storm demand is surging for raw materials,” Baucom said. “It’s surge in the inflationary pressure that’s not on the commercial side, and we are starting to see some green shoots come up,” Baucom said. “Certainly, education and healthcare are still pretty robust because of people having to adjust to the impacts of COVID-19 specifically. But I think designers have concepts and ideas—they just haven’t been able to come together yet to idealize them. I think the worst is over. So, I think we’ll get back to ‘19 by next year.”