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Showing posts from December, 2009

Find Out What You Don't Know About Importing Before the Ship Sails

I love Yogi Berra-isms. If he didn't say this he should have: "You don’t know what you don’t know.” While this thought might seem deceptively obvious, it takes most of us decades of living before we realize the truth of this. When it comes to importing though, it's best to find out what you don't know before the ship sails.

Importing can be extremely profitable if you understand how to avoid the pitfalls and know how to structure the deal to your best advantage. It is definitely a tool to consider but not one to be used without preparation.

It sounds so easy to match up two parties when one is saying “I want to sell” and the other “I want to buy." But factor in a foreign laws, currency fluctuations, cultural, language and business differences, import regulations, ocean transports, product variances and dispute resolution then you see that entering those international waters can be risky.

I began importing floor covering in 1988 and over the years I’ve learned a l…

Holiday Reading: Flooring Data,Trends and Consumer Behavior

For those of you looking for some good flooring industry statistics and trends to curl up with by the holiday fire - and who wouldn't be? - here are a few of the latest options, plus some great reading on retail and consumer trends, and your core customer - women.

First, an update - Catalina's 2009 Report on Wood Flooring is now ready for release. Stuart Hirshhorn gave us a sneak peek into a couple of those wood statistics in his latest post "Better Picture of Wood Flooring Imports Results from HTS Changes", published here December 10th. At the time that post was published his latest research on wood flooring was not complete but it's ready now. Stuart says the 2009 wood report concludes that wood flooring sales are expected to recover in 2010 with gains primarily coming in the second half of the year led by the upturn in residential remodeling and replacements. In contrast, the nonresidential market is expected to continue to decline over the …

Domotex Offers Tours of German DIY Stores

North American attendees at the Domotex Hannover tradeshow January 16-19, 2010 will have the opportunity to get a first-hand look at some of Europe’s largest DIY retailers such as OBI,Hornbach, and Toom during specially organized “field trips” to stores located near the fair. These giant retailers play a significant role in the floor covering distribution channel throughout much of Europe.


To take advantage of this unique opportunity you must be a member of the Domotex North American VIP Delegation.What’s a VIP delegation you ask? It’s basically a fancy name for a FREE package of perks available to any attendees coming from North America. It came about when Jim Gould became an advisor to Domotex. After attending for 20 years he knew he could improve the experience for North American visitors.

In its second year, the delegation is a proven hit - and why wouldn't it be? - all you have to do is email us at info@floorcoveringinstitute.com - let us know you are going to Domotex a…

Sources of Flooring Inspiration & Innovation

What are your sources of Flooring Inspiration & Innovation?
Are they local and global? Are they from within or beyond flooring?
In The US, The World & The Floor Covering Industry, Jim Gould explained why he considers it important to go to Domotex for product inspiration and to better understand global sourcing implications.

Flooring is global, although it executes at a local or regional level, as David Wootton reminded us in Flooring May be Global but the Markets are Local. We need awareness of both dimensions.

In my Wear-Dated upholstery fabric days, we successfully established businesses in Canada and Mexico - that despite our business being primarily US based. We ran a trial program in the UK and explored doing business in Germany, Scandinavia, and Brazil. We did so collaborating with customers. As locally focused as our business was, global mattered and we attended shows like Heimtextil and Decosit for inspiration. That in addition to High Point and Tuppelo.

I expected similar …

Better Picture of Wood Flooring Imports Results from HTS Changes

The 2008 wood flooring import statistics reported by U.S. Customs shows a more complete picture of foreign sourced wood flooring in the U.S. because codes under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule (HTS) have been expanded. The U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) expanded the HTS codes in response to industry complaints and the data is now more specific with regard to engineered, solid and exotic species in flooring.

U.S. Customs reports that total U.S. wood flooring imports rose to $561 million and 258 million square feet in 2008. Without the new codes, reported imports would have been about 30% less, or $392 million and 184 million square feet.

However, we also know that the sales of these imported products dropped sharply during 2009 reflecting weak residential markets, the declining U.S. dollar, and the competitive advantage of U.S. suppliers offering timely shipments and products that are more likely to pass environmental requirements. This drop mirrors the weakness in the U.S. eco…

Branding to Create Profit Opportunity

In the absence of information, floor covering consumers, and all consumers for that matter, have nothing to base their purchasing decisions on except price. The result is that price becomes the only differentiator.

On a recent trip I noticed a vending machine displaying two, apparently identical, bottles of water. One cost $1.25 and the other $1.50. The $1.25 item was sold out while the $1.50 inventory was still available. A commodity product, by definition, is one that has no differentiation from competitive products in the market place and therefore is sold on price alone.


Try to increase the price above market without differentiation and the result is what you see in this picture.

Very simply, the goal of branding is to communicate product differentiation that creates profit opportunity. A classic example of successful branding is a non-descript solid color golf shirt that may cost $25 but with a little polo pony and rider on it the price jumps to $85. Higher prices can be justi…

Flooring Manufacturers and Distributors: "Déjà Vu all over again"

David Wootton asks: Do flooring distributors have a viable future and how did the marriage between distributors and manufacturers get to this point?
Returning from Europe I was catching up with the flooring press when an article by Steve Feldman caught my eye. It was titled “Distributors weigh in on key issues” (FC News Oct12/19 and Oct 26/Nov2nd). Steve had attended the NAFCD annual meeting in Phoenix and his article summarized comments made during a breakout session discussing the manufacturer / distributor relationship. It was a very well written article and if you have not already done so please try and read it.

After I read it I was reminded of the classic Yogi Berra quote “it’s déjà vu all over again." I have been involved in the U.S. flooring industry for 20 years and the majority of issues reported in Steve’s article were issues then and appear still to be so now! Also interesting was 20 years ago the U.S., and California in particular, was in recession and had just launche…

'Tis the Season.... for Floor Covering Shows

"'Tis the season" as they say... but I'm talking about floor covering shows. The three largest floor covering trade shows in the world are coming up over the next three months.

Whether you are a seasoned attendee or you have never attended, I highly recommend that you consider going to at least one of these shows. I go to all of them every year. They play a key role in keeping abreast of product, trends and people and inevitably provide inspiration for a host of ideas, not to mention an important opportunity to discuss important issues from a global perspective.

Floor covering is a global industry and all of your local markets are influenced by what can be seen and shared at these shows.

The shows are not really interchangeable. In other words, even though they are all about flooring, Surfaces isn't like Domotex and Domotex Asia isn't like Domotex Europe. But each one provides a unique opportunity to improve your knowledge of product and trends as well as increa…