Winston Churchill, former prime minister of the United Kingdom, is credited with saying, “Never let a good crisis go to waste,” in the 1940s as the world approached the end of World War II. That's the philosophy the board members of the National Floorcovering Alliance (NFA) said they are taking with their businesses at their fall meeting at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, Michigan.

While pundits argue about whether the U.S. economy is in a recession, the NFA is gearing up for more growth. 

 "Churchill said, 'Never let a good crisis go to waste,'" said Dan Mandel of Sterling Carpet & Flooring in Anaheim and Mission Viejo, California. "If you see recession, we view it more an opportunity to grab market share."

"When you look at 2020 and 2021, those were anomaly years, but everyone did really well," said Eric Mondragon, hard surface buyer, RC Willey Home Furnishings. "Everybody still is still very optimistic about the outlook over the next couple years. The question comes up: are we in a recession or are we not? And that really depends on how you want to look at it. Consumers are still shopping. They're choosing to where to spend their discretionary funds."

"Consumers are more serious and they're more value oriented—but value doesn't mean they want cheap stuff," said David Chambers of Nebraska Furniture Mart. "They just they're looking for the value that's going to give them the best value for what they're buying."

In response, Chambers said his stores are introducing a new showroom-within-a-showroom concept featuring Shaw's Anso carpets.  

"We're cutting back on SKUs," Chambers said. "We're making it more strategic, a curated selection for that region. We're trying to do a  little bit better job of making it more shopper-friendly, inspirational, with better display systems, not a bunch of vendor racking."

He said a recent initiative with Engineered Floors' Dreamweaver brand was an example of why a streamlined approach would work:  "In Omaha, they only have 10 collections of carpet on our floor, but they are up the most with the least number [of collections]."

Mondragon agrees that a simplified approach is key. "We've repositioned our stores. We went from 12 down to 10—just consolidate some stores and better-placed markets." 

As RC Willey continues to study the reasons consumers coming back into stores to buy, Mondragon said he and his team are planning a new store in Idaho Falls, Idaho. 

 "Customers were getting overwhelmed," he said. "In the past, we were so worried, especially last year, about getting certain products, we wanted to show more, so you would always have a backup or something else to show in case you couldn't get the customer's first choice. But now, the supply chain has loosened up and we're not having as many issues with that. It's been kind of a less-is-more approach, and we've shown it's driven up sales."

Jason McSwain, president, McSwain Carpet & Floors, with nine Ohio locations, said his business has seen a 52% increase in hardwood sales thanks to a focused approach to the hardwood category. 

"Sand and finish is always where our company started, and so we wanted to make sure we reflected that," he said. "We gave the front of the showroom the largest amount of square footage and really created some fun pieces. The goal is if a customer came in with a hardwood budget, was that they left at least equal, if not more excited, to complete that hard project with versus going with LVP or keep shopping."

At the fall meeting, held at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, Michigan, the members elected a new slate of leaders. Ian Newton of Flooring 101, which has seven locations in California, was elected president; David Chambers, director of flooring, Nebraska Furniture Mart, which has five midwest and south locations in the U.S., has been named vice president; Jessica Arscott, vice president of Floortrends, which has five locations in Canada, was named secretary; and Jason Waggoner, vice president of sales of ICC Floors Plus, with four stores in Indiana, was named treasurer. 

"Having that regular change brings new energy, new ideas on the problems that we're facing," said McSwain who is the outgoing president of NFA. 

 "We want to give a big thank you to Jason," Mandel said. "He's been an incredible leader through some of the hardest times our industry has faced. We're lucky to have him when we had him in that spot."