Just three months into 2009, it is definitely not business as usual for the floor covering industry. Clearly, all segments have taken a different approach in conducting business. Those driven to success during these economic times are now closer to their business partners.

Flooring retailers and contractors are now working closer with distributors and flooring manufacturers to enhance their business operations in all corners of their business: from the sales floor to business operations, and from management to installation.

At Shaw’s 2009 Retail Revolution, the recent event for Shaw Flooring Network dealers in Orlando, the tone was set early by CEO Vance Bell and president Randy Merritt. Bell presented a realistic view of the industry and commented about the economy. “We are in an unrelenting recession.” He cautioned the nearly 2,600 attendees to not confuse reality with pessimism.

Dealers came to the event with a mission of learning skills to improve their businesses when they returned home. They attended the Best Practice Sessions in droves and went to an expo filled with new products and services from manufacturers and suppliers throughout the industry.

The attendees looked at new products, learned ways to improve business and bought product for the upcoming selling season. One of the most interesting introductions was from Shaw’s Tuftex of California and Disney Consumer Products. The line is a series of broadlooms inspired by scenes from Disney favorites like Winnie the Pooh, Toy Story, Hannah Montana and Cars, along with the Disney Princess Collection and Disney Fairies. Each non-character based assortment features its own unique color palette to complement other Disney Home interior products, allowing for a complete room solution.

Scott Humphrey, marketing manager for Shaw Flooring Alliance, said it best in addressing the group: “We are bullish on the future and we are committed to your success.” Taking it a step further, Humphrey added that Shaw could never be successful without retailers achieving success.

Other manufacturers, distributors and buying groups concur with the thoughts of Humphrey on the critical need for retailers being successful. The challenge in today’s economy is to provide new and different products that can energize consumers and bring them into the stores or online.

Manufacturers are introducing these new and different products regularly. A wide assortment of new products was launched at the Surfaces 2009 show in Las Vegas last month. I hope you saw some of these products in the New Product Pavilion. No matter whether the product is a fresh new floor covering or part of the installation, introductions like Mannington’s Corsica luxury vinyl tile – winner of the Best New Product 2009 Award – can generate interest for Mrs. Consumer in making her home more enjoyable.

Likewise, installation products such as Bostik’s TruColor Pre-Mixed Grout can improve a ceramic tile installation for both the consumer and installer by eliminating the problem of consistent color in grout and chemical/stain resistance.

The number of new flooring and installation products is endless. The message is: Keep your store clean and updated with the newest flooring products. Change your floor vignettes regularly to make your store more appealing. Offer color and design services to consumers, along with installation services, for which you and your customer can be proud.