The year began with much of the country enveloped in a deep freeze with lots of snow and ice to boot, and that essentially stopped consumers from purchasing new floors for their homes, and it put a halt to many commercial projects that were planned for the first quarter.
In the commercial sector, once the country thawed, business certainly picked up, and more so than many anticipated as the projects that were put on hold came back to life. In fact many contractors I spoke with found themselves with twice the amount of work they expected and were scrambling to find crews to do the extra work. In some parts of the country there are contractors saying they are “cautiously optimistic” for the first time in over five years that business is moving in the right direction.
Granted, the residential sector never really took off the way it did in 2013 and along with sales being tough to come by so were margins, which continue to get squeezed with all products and projects—but that was the case last year and since the Great Recession started so it shouldn’t come as any surprise.
In speaking with dealers across the country, while many said the year has certainly been tougher than they projected it would be they also concede they will finish the year up a few percentage points over 2013. For the better retailers the numbers are higher, but across the board it seems as if the industry will end up 2% to 4% over last year.
While that is certainly not setting the world on fire, people need to take a step and back and remember a few things. First, 2013 was the best year most businesses and the industry as a whole had in at least six years. And yes, it was a very robust year for most as the housing market was the strongest it’s been in years and commercial spending started picking up in areas that had been stagnant since the economic downfall.
Second, we need to forget the early part of the 2000s. Those years were true anomalies, and the chances of having a sustained stretch of business like that may never happen again in our lifetimes.
Third, we need to remember our history, which is the industry generally grows 2% to 4%. To put it another way, it will roughly mirror the country’s GDP, which is why flooring is used as a key economic indicator.
Now, also consider if 2013 was said by many to be their best in six or so years and this year they did better, wouldn’t that mean 2014 was your best year in seven or so years?
Was it as robust as you thought it would be? No. Was it far tougher than you thought it would be? Yes. In the end, did you have a better year than the previous 12 months? For most, the answer is, yes—even if you are up just 1% over 2013 it still means it was a better year than one of the best you had in recent memory.
The point is, 2014 was harder, and maybe not as rewarding as you hoped it would be, but when you take a step back and look at it from a bird’s eye view, it really wasn’t as bad as you think.