Although many flooring retailers in the residential remodel business find themselves in a slump, current market conditions are not stopping the 40 members of the National Floorcovering Alliance (NFA) who met Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, this week for their fall meeting.
In fact, the economic slowdown presented these top retailers in North America, who each report $10 million or more in annual sales, the opportunity to analyze costs, fine-tune margins, and reexamine their showrooms while consumers continue to be cautious and more surgical with purchasing decisions. Several NFA members reported opening showrooms or expanding showrooms in 2023, taking advantage of lower commercial rental rates.
“We all have had a good year but not as good as last year,” said Ian Newton, CEO, Flooring 101 in Oxnard, California. “A lot of us use 2019 as our number that we based off of, and I would say most of us all are up over 2019 numbers for sure."
Newton, who is NFA board president, said his team analyzed margins, which gained the company five points. “It’s a big difference, so even if we're down, we're still—profit wise, we're about even.
“We’re down, but it’s a great year,” said David Chambers, director of flooring, Nebraska Furniture Mart in Omaha, Nebraska. “It's our third-best year in history. I'm not looking at the negative in front of the number anymore. Business is still really strong for what's going on out there. It is unrealistic to expect three years of continued record-breaking growth.”
Jason Waggoner of ICC Flooring in Indiana said its business is positive year over year, and Deb DeGraaf of DeGraaf Interiors in Michigan, which celebrated 30 years in business this year, reports growth in commercial business.
The board reported that membership heard from business management software provider RFMS at the meeting, along with best practices from retail members.
“That's the whole point of this group,” said Jason McSwain, president, McSwain Carpets & Floors in Cincinnati, Ohio, who is past president of the NFA board. “Each of the members are all doing their own thing. For them to come and be able to share some of these great ideas that they've been able to implement—it opens the eyes with everybody.”
One of those best practices was presented by Jason Waggoner, VP of sales at ICC Flooring in Indianapolis, Indiana, who developed an app for installers, field supervisors and warehouse personnel to ensure jobs are completed accurately. The app will only be available to NFA members.
Waggner described the app: “Installers have to check off the jobs when they’re done, send pictures, the field supervisors have to walk the job and go through a checklist. If the job's ready, it automatically goes to our customer for a sign-off. It's a good checklist.”
The group's outlook for 2024 may be similar to what retailers experienced this year.
“The first part of the year is going to be much the same as it is currently,” said Jessica Arscott, VP of FloorTrends in Ontario, Canada. “There's a lot of volatility for the local real estate market right now, so it remains to be seen how that's going to play out.”
“I’m heavy residential remodel, and I don't see really the residential remodel coming back until interest rates drop when people have more money or easy access to money that doesn't cost 'em an arm and a leg,” McSwain said. “I’m hopefully more optimistic for second half of next year.”
See photo highlights of the NFA Fall Meeting here.