At the CFI (International Certified Floorcovering Installers Association) convention in August, a third generation installer stopped me in my tracks with a pointed question. "How," he asked, "can we attract more new people into installation?"
If you get caught up in the hustle and bustle of business you can actually overlook the products and services your consumers and clients truly demand. People buying flooring expect the people who sell it to have product knowledge and be well-trained in the subject. Anything less turns them off.
A mixed bag best describes the answers we got from retailers and distributors to the question: "What are the most significant highlights of the first part of the year and what's ahead for the balance of 2006?" As usual, we set no boundaries; answers include low points as well as bright spots.
Manpower, Inc., a Milwaukee-based staffing/ employment firm, conducted an eye-opening survey earlier this year. Remarkably, it showed that 40 percent of nearly 33,000 employers surveyed across 23 countries are struggling to find qualified job candidates.
More consolidation, a worsening shortage of skilled labor, supply pipeline issues, uneasiness about the Internet replacing brick and mortar stores...these are just some of the curves expected along the road leading to 2010. But the forecasts we gathered from retailers and distributors also anticipate a far more efficient distribution system, stronger buying groups, better product lines and, perhaps most important, consumers who appreciate, and respond to, quality flooring.
I am fortunate to have been a part of this industry for the most exciting years in the history of floor coverings. It has been 50 years marked by a multitude of dramatic events that impacted on the industry and its people. By the way a great many more had a positive than a negative impact. This article isn't a trip down memory lane; rather it's a recap of key events impacting the industry between the start of my career in 1955 and today. Few in 1955 could have foreseen that the industry would reach today's heights with a wide array of products that were not even on the horizon back then and technology that created so many important breakthroughs.