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

Philly Manufacturing Continues to Expand   Full Article
Philadelphia, PA, Oct. 16, 2014 -- The October Manufacturing Business Outlook Survey indicated continued growth in the Philadelphia region’s manufacturing sector this month.

Builder Confidence Declines in October   Full Article
Washington, DC, Oct. 16, 2014 -- After four consecutive monthly gains, home builder confidence fell five points this month to a level of 54 on the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index.

Industrial Production Rebounds in September   Full Article
Washington, DC, Oct. 16, 2014 -- Industrial production rose 1% in September, the Federal Reserve said.

Jobless Claims Lowest in Over 14 Years   Full Article
Washington, DC, Oct. 16, 2014 -- Initial claims for unemployment benefits last week were the lowest in more than 14 years, according to the Labor Department.

WFCA Taking Entries for Gold Standard Award   Full Article
Anaheim, CA, Oct. 16, 2014 -- The World Floor Covering Association is accepting entries for the annual Gold Standard Award.

Foreclosure Activity at Pre-Bubble Levels   Full Article
Irvine, CA, Oct. 16, 2014 -- Foreclosure activity last month hit the lowest level since July 2006, according to tracking firm RealtyTrac.

Business Inventories Rise Less Than Expected   Full Article
Washington, DC, Oct. 15, 2014 -- U.S. business inventories rose less than expected in August, according to the Commerce Department.

Producer Prices Decline in September   Full Article
Washington, DC, Oct. 15, 2014 -- Producer prices in the U.S. fell in September for the first time in more than a year, according to the Labor Department.

New York Area Manufacturing Slows in October   Full Article
Washington, DC, Oct. 15, 2014 -- Manufacturing in the New York region expanded at a much slower pace in October, according to the New York Federal Reserve.

Retail Sales Decline in September   Full Article
Washington, DC, Oct. 15, 2014 -- U.S. retail sales fell more than expected in September, following the biggest gain in four months in August, according to the Commerce Department.

Mortgage Applications Up on Lower Rates   Full Article
Washington, DC, Oct. 15, 2014 -- Mortgage application volume rose 5.6% last week from the previous week as interest rates fell, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.

Florim Opens Showroom in Moscow   Full Article
Moscow, Russia, Oct. 15, 2014 -- Tile company Florim said it has opened a new flagship store in Moscow.

Retirement Fund Files Suit Against Lumber Liquidators   Full Article
Toano, VA, Oct. 14, 2014 -- Lumber Liquidators is facing a class action law suit brought by the City of Hallandale Beach, Florida, Police Officers' and Firefighters' Personal Retirement Trust, according to the Virginia Gazette.

UFloor Systems Signs Western Distributor Big D   Full Article
Aurora, CO, Oct. 14, 2014 -- UFloor Systems has signed Big D Floor Covering Supplies to distribute its Uzin subfloor preparation products.

Mannington Raising VCT Prices in January   Full Article
Salem, NJ, Oct. 14, 2014 — Mannington Mills said it will raise prices by 4% on all of its vinyl composition tile products effective Jan. 5.

Armstrong Issues Third Quarter Warning   Full Article
New York, NY, Oct. 14, 2014 -- Armstrong World Industries became the second public flooring company to issue a third quarter profit warning.

WFCA Names New Leader of Northwest Association   Full Article
Anaheim, CA, Oct. 13, 2014 -- The World Floor Covering Association has named Tish Gasparich leader of the WFCA’s Affiliate Flooring Association Northwest(FAN).

Horizon Forest Products Moves Richmond Offices   Full Article
Richmond, VA, Oct. 13, 2014 -- Horizon Forest Products moved its Richmond offices to 4820 Eubank Road in the Interport Business Center.

Share of Custom Homes on the Decline   Full Article
Washington, DC, Oct. 13, 2014 -- New NAHB research reveals significant regional differences in the share of custom homes started in 2013.

Self's To Distribute Novalis LVT in Midwest   Full Article
Toronto, Canada, Oct. 13, 2014 -- Wichita, Kansas-based Self’s, Inc. will now distribute luxury vinyl flooring made by Novalis Innovative Flooring.