Money Pit’s ‘Voice of the Consumer’ dwells on flooring
Tom Kraeutler, nationally syndicated radio host of "The Money Pit Home Improvement Show," said he was not surprised that flooring was the show’s most talked-about category, edging out plumbing by one percentage point.
"It’s actually been a trend we’ve been watching for many years," Kraeutler said. "Floors are the largest, most heavily used single surface in a house. They take a lot of wear and tear that leads to questions, and are a central decor point lending themselves to regular updating."
The radio show’s "Voice of the Consumer" report, which analyzes all of Money Pit’s consumer engagement, found that "following a short recession-fueled dip, questions related to flooring projects are again on the rise, especially in the South and Southeast."
That echoes a study by the Freedonia Group, a Cleveland-based industry market research firm, which found that worldwide demand for flooring and carpets is forecast to rise 4.9% annually through 2016. This marks a sizable improvement from the 2006-2011 period, as countries rebound from the 2008 global economic crisis, the firm said.
U.S. flooring retailers agree that the market is ripe for a resurgence in flooring. "As an industry we know that there’s been pent-up demand and people sitting on the sideline just waiting," said Sam O’Krent, president, O’Krent’s Abbey Flooring Center, San Antonio. "It’s exciting to see that people are starting to ask more questions about flooring, and the results from the Money Pit certainly mean that consumers are jumping back into the market."
Kraeutler said questions about flooring installation, care and repair — everything from squeaking floor repair, to installation or refinishing hardwood, to cleaning carpets — is top of mind among callers to the show. "I also find that more people than ever want to take on a floor as a DIY project. They are empowered especially because flooring products like engineered hardwood, tile and laminate have become easier to install."
Jeff Striegel, president and CEO of flooring distributor Elias Wilf Corp., Owings Mills, Md., said that while higher-end flooring is generally viewed as a "postponable purchase," many homeowners — from DIYers to those who shop at specialty retailers and need floors professionally installed — "are ready to jump back into the market. That’s why that survey doesn’t surprise me, because the market is ready to pop."
Why they buy where they buy
All channels of distribution are not created equal.
But what are the strengths of each channel of distribution in the mind of the contractor?
Part of the answer can be found in "Building Products Distribution 2012," a 350-page study from Malvern, Pa.-based Principia. The findings at right are excerpts from the research, which is the result of direct interviews with more than 600 professionals representing building product manufacturers, wholesalers, distributors, dealers, builders, contractors and installers to offer a full picture of an increasingly complex, $100 billion industry.
The chart at top right shows the relative importance of several key purchase motivators for the contractor — ranging from the breadth of the offering to the relationship with the supplier representative. (The relative importance of the factors are indexed on a 1 to 100 scale.)
"At the dealer level, supplier relationships are more important than ever to drive share with contractors and builders," according to Principia, repeating a time-honored concept of the lumber business. Relationships may be gaining in importance, but they’re not the leading purchase motivator in any of the channels, according to the study.
When contractors turn to manufacturers, they typically do so out of desire for breadth of assortment. When contractors turn to the big box, the leading reasons are a combination of low price and convenient location. Service delivery to the job site drives business to lumberyards.
According to Ken Jacobson, partner at Principia, recession and recovery continue to shape the data dramatically. "The industry has been challenged since the economic downturn with lower revenues, margins and inventory turns," he said. "Many smaller or weaker participants have either closed operations or been acquired. On the other hand, it’s been a case of survival of the fittest, whereby the industry has consolidated and the larger, stronger players are poised to reap huge benefits when the construction market picks up."
Principia provides the building products industry with services including strategy consulting, market research, and industry conferences and reports. VisitPrincipiaConsulting.comfor more information.
KBIS to join IBS
The International Builders’ Show was a news-making machine in products and trends. The show also created a buzz for the trade show business itself.
For instance, during the general session of the Las Vegas event, National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) CEO Jerry Howard announced a merger of IBS and the Kitchen & Bath Industry Show (KBIS).
The shows will co-locate in Las Vegas beginning in February 2014. The two events will remain separate and distinct shows held simultaneously at the Las Vegas Convention Center through 2016, creating Design and Construction Week, self-described as one of the world’s largest gatherings focused on new ideas, products and technologies to design, build and remodel homes.
"This new format allows exhibitors to reach a full range of design and construction professionals who buy, specify and influence the products that go into American homes," said NAHB chairman Barry Rutenberg, a home builder from Gainesville, Fla. "For attendees, it means access to two expansive trade show floors and hundreds of additional suppliers to meet."
"Two shows, two associations and one place to see and connect with every aspect of residential construction and remodeling," said John Morgan, NKBA 2013 president and president of Morgan Pinnacle, a manufacturer’s representative for cabinetry and technology brands.
The National Hardware Show also made news at the show, announcing and promoting an expansion into building products.
The National Hardware Show slated for May 7-9 in Las Vegas will showcase pet products, expand into farm and ranch, and turn its attention to building materials, according to show organizers.
Joining pet products with a dedicated area on the show floor of the Las Vegas Convention Center’s central hall will be Farm & Ranch. And throughout the exhibit floor, products in the building materials category will be marked with signage.
The changes are part of a continuing evolution of the show, according to organizers.
"We had a huge home run with pet last year," said Sonya Ruff Jarvis, VP attendee programs for the National Hardware Show. "And we’ve added a new dedicated area on the show floor for farm and ranch, and we’re seeing a lot of excitement for it."
Companies including Olympia Tools, Gorilla Rack, GRK Fasteners and T.W. Evans Cordage are among those in the new farm and ranch section.