Focus 100 Retail

By Darius Helm and Kemp Harr

 

With the housing decline now officially into its sixth year—the market turned in August 2006—flooring retailers and contractors have by now firmly readjusted their expectations. For many, this slowdown has brought wisdom and deepened understanding of the business. Those who are growing and taking share have successfully retooled their sales strategies, broadened their client base and expanded their product offering. 

The last couple of years have seen some significant attrition among retailers and contractors in the residential market. In the end, many businesses that had managed to hold on for the first two or three years, fighting for their slice of a shrinking pie, were unable to maneuver into more favorable positions, overrun by their balance sheets in a climate greedy for debt and stingy on credit. Some were acquired by larger players, while others filed Chapter 7 or 11. By some estimates, the number of brick and mortar independent retailers has fallen from 14,400 to about 11,000 over the last five years. 

This year’s Top 100 list reflects growth by many retailers, largely through acquisitions or share gains in markets where competitors went under. Others, through shrewd diversification or sheer willpower, posted organic growth. Large numbers of retailers and contractors have successfully targeted parts of the commercial market, or have gained a foothold in the low margin, high volume multi-family market.

The overall flooring market will probably be up close to 3% this year, with gains in the commercial sector and a slight loss in the residential sector. The good news on the residential side is that the market has pretty much stopped falling and is as close to stable as it’s been in five years—cold comfort to retailers who must spend long hours turning over rocks and scouring the bottom to eke out every square foot of flooring opportunity.

For retailers across broad swathes of the nation, a brutal winter hampered sales through the first half of the year, and those regions by and large reported a turning of the tide around the month of August—and since then, business has been stronger. Others reported that business has been up and down all year long. And nobody is willing to prognosticate on what 2012 will bring, though several retailers pointed out that election years can have a stifling effect on sales, in part because of how political discourse tends to focus on all the ways things are going wrong in the country—making a nervous populace even more nervous.

Unemployment arguably has the largest impact on the vitality of the residential market, though consumer confidence also affects spending habits. Nationally, unemployment stands at about 9.1%, down marginally from 9.6% this time last year. However, there are huge disparities between the states. For instance, unemployment stands at 10.7% in Florida, 11.1% in South Carolina and Washington, D.C., 11.2% in Michigan, 12.1% in California and a whopping 13.4% in Nevada. By and large, retailers in those states had a hard time making gains this year—except for the notable exceptions gaining share because competitors went under.

For the complete story of the Top 100 Retailers, see the November 2011 issue of Floor Focus Magazine.



Other Archived Articles

Builder Sentiment Falls, but Conditions Still Seen as Favorable   Full Article
Washington, DC, March 16, 2015—U.S. homebuilder sentiment declined for a third straight month in March, but more builders still view market conditions as favorable, says the National Association of Home Builders.

Factory Production Declines for Third Consecutive Month   Full Article
New York, NY, March 16, 2015—Factory production in the U.S. declined 0.2% in February for a third consecutive month, says Bloomberg News.

Sale of HUD Loans Helps Over 16K Avoid Foreclosure   Full Article
Washington, DC, March 16, 2015—The sale of $16.7 billion in nonperforming loans by the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Department helped the owners of about 16,700 homes avoid foreclosure, reports Bloomberg Business.

Altro Safety Flooring Introduces Tape Installation System   Full Article
Wilmington, MA, March 16, 2015—Altro Safety Flooring has introduced a new adhesive free, tape installation system for resilient flooring called Altro XpressLay, which minimizes installation downtime.

Gerflor Expands Sales Team to Cover Entire U.S.   Full Article
Bensenville, IL, March 16, 2015—Gerflor USA has added 14 reps to its Gerflor USA sales team to cover the entire United States and provide additional reach in major markets.

Wholesale Prices Slid in February   Full Article
Washington, DC, March 13, 2015—Wholesale prices fell 0.5% in February, says the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The unexpected drop represents the fourth consecutive down month, as measured by the Labor Department’s producer price index.

Interface's Claims New Microsfera Has Lowest Carbon Footprint Ever   Full Article
LaGrange, GA, March 13, 2015—Interface has unveiled its latest product, Microsfera, which the firm says has the smallest carbon footprint of any carpet tile in history.

Ecore Revamps Business Structure   Full Article
Lancaster, PA, March 13, 2015—Ecore is making changes to its business structure in conjunction with IHRSA 2015 by launching a new category of sports and fitness flooring called Ecore Athletic.

J+J Flooring Video Wins Gold in AVA Digital Awards   Full Article
Dalton, GA, March 13, 2015—J+J Flooring Group video was named gold winner in the corporate image category of the AVA Digital Awards.

Average Mortgage Rates Rising, Buoyed by Strong Jobs Report   Full Article
McLean, VA, March 13, 2015—Average fixed rate mortgage rates are moving higher amid a strong jobs report and bringing mortgage rates back to where they were at the start of 2015, according to the results of Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey.

Trade Sales & Manufacturer Shipments Edge Down in January   Full Article
Washington, DC, March 12, 2015—The combined value of distributive trade sales and manufacturers’ shipments for January was estimated at $1,302.5 billion, down 2.0% from December 2014 and down 0.3% from January 2014, says the Commerce Department.

Retail Trade Sales Down from Previous Month But Up YOY   Full Article
Washington, DC, March 12, 2015—Retail trade sales were down 0.6% (±0.5%) from January 2015 but up 1.0% (±0.9%) over 2014, says the Commerce Department.

LL's Free Air Quality Testing Won't Meet CARB Standards   Full Article
New York, NY, March 12, 2015—Lumber Liquidators will offer free indoor air quality testing for its consumers--conducted to workplace standards,-- but OSHA's thresholds for formaldehyde in the workplace are not as stringent as CARB's for the home.

Parterre's Vertu Resilient Plank Wins ADEX Recognition   Full Article
Wilmington, MA, March 12, 2015—Parterre’s Vertu Resilient Plank won two ADEX awards.

Consumer Survey Reveals Optimism about Housing Market   Full Article
Washington, DC, March 12, 2015—Consumer optimism toward the economy is growing and appears to be contributing to further improvement in overall housing sentiment, according to results from Fannie Mae's February 2015 National Housing Survey.

Millennials Account for Largest Share of Home Buyers, Says NAR   Full Article
Washington, DC, March 12, 2015—The millennial generation represented the largest share of recent buyers, according to the 2015 National Association of Realtors Home Buyer and Seller Generational Trends study.

Three Tarkett Rubber Textures Win ADEX Platinum   Full Article
Chagrin Falls, OH, March 12, 2015—Tarkett received the Platinum Award for Design Excellence (ADEX) for its new range of rubber textures: Brushed, Concrete and Leather.

Fuse Alliance Focuses on Digital Marketing to Raise Awareness   Full Article
Laguna Niguel, CA, March 12, 2015—Fuse Alliance, a member-owned organization of professional, commercial flooring contractors, unveiled a next generation public facing website that clarifies the group's target audience and services offered.

U.S. Container Imports Down Over 5% in 2015   Full Article
Minneapolis, MN, March 12, 2015—Total U.S. container imports are down over 5% this year, compared to January and February of 2014, reports Zepol. Nearly the entire decline in imports is attributed to the West Coast ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

Armstrong Top Execs Offered Retention Award to Stay Through Spinoff   Full Article
Lancaster, PA, March 11, 2015—Armstrong World Industries is giving three of its top executives an incentive to stay at the company through the spinoff of its flooring business into a new, independent company next year, reports Lancaster Online.