Howard Olansky
This year, many in floor coverings clung tenaciously to slogans that were repeated, repeated and repeated so often that they became sacred cows. One slogan is "It's tough out there," and the other is "Consumers aren't spending any money." Damned if some in the industry didn't come to believe and accept both without question. It's a truism that when something is said often enough it becomes accepted as a fact. With 2003 drawing to a close, I decided to expose these two slogans for what they really are -- excuses for not succeeding.

Hate to admit it, but earlier in the year I nearly fell prey to both of those devils. Had I put too high a priority on the healthy, record-breaking housing market? Did the breathtaking sales of existing homes (with huge remodeling opportunities), starts and sales of new homes, and the exploding remodeling projects by consumers staying put spell big-time opportunities for floor coverings?

For a moment, I thought I was wrong about the power of new and existing home sales and the increased interest by consumers in fixing up their homes. Maybe those who opened every conversation with, "It's tough out there" and "Consumers aren't spending any money" were right. Their answers to the glowing home sales and remodeling statistics became a pattern with, "Could be, but it's tough out there and consumers aren't buying."

So, I went to a newly developed large housing project. Nice homes that smelled of money. Under the spell of the two slogans, I thought this was a white elephant because things are tough out there and people just aren't spending money. I went into the sales office and asked to look at the models. The answer floored me: "Sorry, sir, but we are all sold out." I mean, I'm not talking about a handful of houses; I am talking about roughly 400 of them.

Figured that, while the houses looked nice, they were probably weren't expensive. I asked for a brochure. The homes came in three different models. The first, the "cheap" one, was $775,000, the middle one $850,000 and the third was priced at $995,000.

So, obviously, the consumer is spending money.

As for the "It's tough out there," it always has been tough out there. It always has taken hard work to make sales. If it's tough and impossible, it's one thing. But if it is tough, yet not impossible, it is quite another. It is tough and impossible for those who fail to work at giving consumers good reasons to buy floor coverings from their stores.

There is a huge number of retailers and contractors with growing and profitable businesses. Is it magic? Not at all. They work hard, they work smart and they focus on running creative, efficient up-to-date businesses.