Strategic Exchange: Current economic lull allows for showroom and digital marketing adjustments - February 2023

By Kemp Harr

As you read this in early February, it’s important to step back and put this period in context. Last year at this time, business was still humming along and the Fed hadn’t started raising interest rates yet.

That first 1/4-point bump was in March, followed by six more-taking the Fed rate to 4.5%. This almost doubled the rate of a 30-year fixed mortgage, which has put a big damper on both new and existing-home sales. But on the bright side, Q4 GDP was up 2.9%, following Q3 growth of 3.2%. In addition, the Architecture Billings Index showed a little lift in December to 47.5, and while still below 50, the inquiries into new projects was 52.3.

Naturally, we can’t control what’s going to happen within the economy, but we can adjust our sails to react. Now’s a good time to train your staff and freshen up the showroom by reducing clutter and updating the lighting. While there might be fewer prospects out there, we need to attract and close what’s there, so make sure that your team is reaching out within the community and that your digital tools are sharp for online searches and ratings and reviews.

Most economists agree that this dip will be shallow, with growth opportunities on the other side. I’ve recently attended three national flooring conferences, and I’m headed to Surfaces now. The learning labs at all these events have been very insightful to help attendees sharpen their saws and take share from the folks who just show up, flip the lights on and walk around wearing aprons.

My two most recent meetings were CCA Global and Shaw Flooring Network. CCA’s Carpet One, Flooring America/Canada, IDG and ProSource represent roughly 1,500 independent retailers. with its Retail 2.0 transformation, this group continues to focus on making the consumer’s shopping experience more streamlined. John Gilbert, president of Carpet One, told me in a podcast that this is CCA’s biggest investment in the history of the co-op.

One of the biggest challenges the group is facing in the rollout-the bulk of which will happen this year-is getting the members to remove the showroom displays that are not part of the program. I understand both sides of the debate, and it’s going to be interesting to watch how this plays out. Yes, this is the member’s business, and he does have the ultimate say. However, offering the consumer too many options can cause her to hit the off-ramp in the commitment stage of the buying cycle.

Charlie Dilks, CCA’s chief product officer, gets an excellent perspective of product category share shift based on the pure volume and national scope of the organization. In a recent podcast, Charlie told me that LVT is CCA’s single biggest product category, but the potential is there for laminate and carpet to retake some of that share loss due to the incremental visual and performance enhancements he’s seen lately. It’s worth noting that both of these product categories are domestically produced with fewer supply chain issues.

Shaw’s aligned dealer meeting (SFN), held in mid-January, was its first since 2019, and it was a massive event, attracting 4,500 people to Orlando, Florida. In total, roughly 1,000 dealers (accounts, not head count) attended, and 1,500 children came with their parents. Shaw started this program in 1998, and by now, it’s learned that influencing the children early about Shaw’s family-oriented brand focus pays off as the children grow up and take over their parents’ businesses.

This was Tim Baucom’s first SFN meeting since taking the helm, and he was hands-on during the meeting, hosting his own learning lab to share the recent books he’s read about managing people and running a successful business. In his general session, Tim got a laugh from the stage when he mentioned that carpet was mostly relegated to the bedroom now…but that Shaw was doing everything in its power to bring excitement back into the bedroom.

Just before press time for this issue, I attended Mannington Mills’ retirement dinner for Russell Grizzle, and once again, this 107-year-old, billion-dollar company sincerely portrayed what family ownership and taking the long view is all about. As master of ceremonies, Keith Campbell, Mannington’s chairman, told stories, asked us to hold hands and pray together, and at the end, sing the company’s Show Me The Way To Go Home song. Perhaps I’m a sucker for tradition, but I thoroughly enjoyed this coat-and-tie event. And to make it complete, Mannington invited all its other great retired leaders like Tom Davis, Ed Duncan and Joe Amato.

From the stage, Russell recounted the question he asked Keith when he was interviewing for the job: What do you want me to accomplish as president? And Keith answered, “Make sure this company is successful for generations to come.” As we learned that evening, Russell far exceeded that mission. In his 12 years at the helm, Russell doubled the top-line revenue and increased the company’s profitability by 300%. His three biggest achievements were the acquisition of Amtico, Pharr and Dixie’s commercial business, but he also exited the hardwood manufacturing business, sold off the VCT business and built a domestic LVT plant in Calhoun, Georgia.

If you have any comments about this month’s column, you can email me at

Copyright 2023 Floor Focus 

Related Topics:ID Group, Shaw Industries Group, Inc., Mannington Mills, Carpet One