Editor’s Desk: A Few Trends Worth Following
March 1st, 2011

by Janet Arden

This is a crazy time for our industry – Surfaces, Cevisama and Coverings, not to mention the Builder’s Show and the Kitchen & Bath Show. What’s new, what do our customers want and, by the way, how is it that we’re still mired in this economy?

It’s still about the economy

The numbers may not be great, but there is a lot of optimism out there. For starters, the big-name prognosticators like the Remodeling Futures Program at the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University are predicting “a sustainable recovery for the remodeling industry” in 2011. They made this prediction based on the numbers in their Leading Indicator of Remodeling Activity (LIRA) released in mid-January. Specifically, LIRA projects annual growth in home improvement spending of 6.5% in the third quarter of 2011. “Favorable interest rates, a pickup in home sales, and the strengthening economy should lead to healthy gains in remodeling spending this year,” says Eric S. Belsky, managing director of the Joint Center.

The National Association of Home Builders is in agreement. NAHB’s Remodeling Market Index (RMI) edged up from 40.8 to 41.5 in the fourth quarter of last year. In an economy such as the current one, NAHB looks for the RMI to get back up to its “break-even” point of 50 as evidence the market is ready for an upturn. Although 41.5 seems a reach, a couple of key RMI components are much closer: major ($25,000 plus) additions and alterations was up to 48.6, and calls for bids were also close to break-even, at 47.2.

Style and substance

If you’re feeling conservative about trends, you aren’t alone. Most dealers and distributors are playing it cautious, sticking to the tried and true: neutral tones, the best sellers in the most popular sizes. The danger in this course of action is that it makes your showroom look like all the others. How do potential customers know you are the dealer they should be doing business with? How do they know they are investing in something both stylish and classic?

There are a number of answers to that, but the bottom line is that you must add a few twists to that familiar formula. You must set yourself apart and you need to do that in design, with your industry knowledge, and in customer service. Look at the numbers. What are your best sellers? How can you expand on them? Read what Jorge Aguayo says in this issue about using art tile to supplement your best sellers – and putting it in the window as a bit of eye candy to draw in shoppers. (Whether they buy it or not, you now have them in the door!)

Once in your showroom, are you prepared to meet customer needs with a display of industry knowledge? CTDA is experiencing a significant uptick in the number of online education registrations. Pair this with the growing interest in CTDA webinars and you can assume that your competition is studying the materials and the marketplace.

It takes a lot of effort to compete successfully in today’s economy, but with TileDealer and CTDA you have some of the best tools. See you on the show floor at Coverings!

Janet Arden

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