Strategic Exchange: Uptick in home spending fuels recovery for flooring retailers in 2020 - Nov 2020

By Kemp Harr

Pulling together this year’s Top 100 retailer list was interesting. Nobody ever wants to admit to declining revenue, and we admire those business owners who speak to us openly and honestly.

Losing six to eight weeks of sales can be devastating and hard to absorb. Despite all the challenges, the retail flooring business has been blessed since June by a considerable uptick in spending on home remodeling. While most agree this level of consumer spending on the home cannot continue indefinitely, there is consensus that this increase has been overdue and is unlikely to abate any time soon.

Based on the gut outlook that was formulated back in April, retailers are elated to be catching up with last year’s numbers, and some might even grow this year. Those that also service the single-family builder market say it, by far, is their strongest sector. The two weakest sectors since the virus shutdown have been multifamily and mainstreet commercial.

There was a minor dip in the order rate in the second week of October, and many attribute it to consumer sentiment, election jitters and Washington’s wrangling over the next stage of stimulus. The good news is that most economists feel that investment on fixing up the home (remodel) and home ownership (builder) will continue at this heightened level well into 2021 despite what happens in Washington.

Since buying Floor Focus and FloorDaily over 14 years ago, we’ve always believed, based on our journalistic focus on objectivity, that our purpose is to keep you informed without dwelling on who we are as individuals and what we believe personally. But I’d like to share with you a quick story about my wife, Anne, and me catching COVID-19 and how it has impacted our lives over the last three weeks.

By now, most people have friends or co-workers whose lives have been impacted in one way or another, and our story is offered as another data point.

Statistically, Anne and I are two of the 8.3 million Americans who have tested positive. So if there are 328 million people in the U.S., we’re part of the 2.5% minority of the population that has had it. And as you’ll see, it affected us differently.

This story begins with Anne taking a precautionary test as she was preparing to visit her elderly parents in Kentucky. That Saturday morning, as she was scheduled to depart, she got an email that the test she had taken the day before was positive. At that time, she had absolutely no symptoms, but by Sunday afternoon, she started getting a headache with fatigue. Monday, the headache got worse, and she started getting congested. But she never had a fever. Tuesday was the worst day, and she stayed in bed and near the bathroom with flulike fatigue, upset stomach and nausea. She started feeling better on Wednesday, but it wasn’t until Wednesday that she lost her sense of smell. Thursday, she pushed herself and went for a three-mile run. And by the following Sunday, eight days after she tested positive, she was back to normal, except for continued loss of smell.

From the moment we learned of Anne’s test results, we contacted the people we’d been near to warn them, and we stayed home in isolation.

The same Sunday that Anne was feeling normal again, I was working on a minor DIY project at home and broke out in a cold sweat. Knowing that Anne was highly contagious, I’d been trying to keep my distance from her during her illness, and both the COVID tests I took that week came back negative. I checked my temperature that day, and it was 99. I took my third test in a week, and this time it came back positive.

Late that afternoon, I reached out to a network of friends to make sure I was doing all I could to minimize the impact-thinking at the time that my experience would be close to what Anne went through. I had a fever of around 100, and she never had a fever during the whole illness. In addition, I didn’t have a headache or nausea, but my stomach was making constant growling noises. My three main symptoms were fatigue, mild elevated body temperature, and when I breathed in rapidly, I could hear bronchial wheezing in my windpipe. Tuesday, we purchase a fingertip oxygen sensor, and my reading was low at around 93. A normal reading is at or above 96. My worst day was Wednesday, primarily due to the anxiety of tightening of the chest and the fear as to whether my case might develop into the type of nightmare that you’ve heard about on the evening news. But by Saturday, Anne and I were able to take a ten-mile hike to Jack’s River Falls.

In hindsight, our biggest setback was isolation and fog. If we hadn’t tested positive, neither of us would have known the root cause of our discomfort. Yes, we both went through a mild illness, though I routinely get some ailment when the weather changes in the fall. But I can’t help but wonder why our cases were so mild. We both have type O blood, which is supposedly a contributor to mildness versus type A. We both are healthy from a body mass index perspective, and lastly, we’ve been taking vitamin supplements all year long. Specifically, we take C, D3, B12, a gender-specific multi, and zinc every day.

One disconnect, now that we’ve been through it, is this obsession with temperature checks as a test within gathering groups to ensure everyone is safe. Yes, I had a mild fever that might have flagged me as someone who should be isolated, but Anne never had any fever. Perhaps more emphasis should be made that elevated body temp is not a reliable determinant-just one of many potential symptoms.

The big question, to which we’ll never know the answer with certainty, is how we were exposed. Clearly, I caught it from Anne, but where did she get it? My theory is either the post office or the grocery store. The next question is, when will Anne regain her sense of smell?

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

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