The promise of direct links between stores and manufacturer and the lure of streamlined ordering, scheduling and accounting, is undermined by lingering concerns. In general, retailers say they are leery that gains induced by automation will be offset by the loss of personal contact and security. Most frequently, they voiced concerns about the prohibitive cost of equipment, installation and training. The consensus seems to be that computers may be fine for emails, web access and the occasional spread sheet, but the tried-and-true phone, fax, handshake-and-a-smile method of doing business is an indelible part of the flooring business.
The industry's enthusiasm for technology-or lack thereof- is the focal point of a comprehensive research study conducted jointly by National Floor Trends and the World Floor Covering Association and commissioned by BNP Media Market Research. Overall, results of the mail and web-based survey of WFCA members and NFT subscribers were a mixed bag. While they clearly indicated significant inroads made by IT systems, they also suggested a clear preference for old school methods of doing business.