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

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Consumer Spending, Income Rise in October   Full Article
Washington, DC, Nov. 26, 2014 -- U.S. consumer spending picked up at a modest pace in October, according to the Commerce Department.

Consumer Sentiment Continues To Rise   Full Article
Ann Arbor, MI, Nov. 26, 2014 -- Consumer sentiment in November hit its highest level in more than seven years, according to the Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan's final November reading.

New Home Sales Hit Five-Month High   Full Article
Washington, DC, Nov. 26, 2014 -- Sales of new single-family homes edged up in October to the fastest rate in five months, according to the Commerce Department.

Initial Jobless Claims Rise Last Week   Full Article
Washington, DC, Nov. 26, 2014 -- Initial claims for unemployment benefits unexpectedly rose last week to the highest level since September, according to the Labor Department.

Pending Home Sales Dip in October   Full Article
Washington, DC, Nov. 26, 2014 -- Pending home sales fell 1.1% in October, the National Association of Realtors reported Wednesday.

Mortgage Applications Decline Last Week   Full Article
Washington, DC, Nov. 26, 2014 -- Mortgage applications last week fell 4.3% from one week earlier, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.

Dixie Group, Desso Terminate Joint Venture   Full Article
Chattanooga, TN, Nov. 26, 2014 -- Dutch carpet firm Desso and The Dixie Group have terminated their joint sales venture agreement.

USGBC Names Directors, Officers   Full Article
Washington, DC, Nov. 26, 2014 -- The U.S. Green Building Council announced today the newly elected and appointed officers and directors to its 2015 Board of Directors.

Installation Apprentice School To Open Next Year   Full Article
Dalton, GA, Nov. 25, 2014 -- A non-profit floorcovering installation apprentice school has been set up in Dalton.

House Prices Increase in Third Quarter   Full Article
Washington, DC, Nov. 25, 2014 -- House prices rose 0.9% in the third quarter, according to the Federal Housing Finance Agency House Price Index.

Home Prices Rise from a Year Ago   Full Article
Washington, DC, Nov. 24, 2014 -- U.S. home prices year-over-year rose 4.9% in September-- the slowest pace since October 2012 -- compared with annual growth of 5.6% in August.