Emerge from Recession Thinking

The October/November issue contains at least two firsts for NWFA – the new “40 Under 40” competition, showing who is leading our industry into the future, and the first industry outlook produced specifically for planning for the upcoming year.

Despite the challenges outlined in the outlook, look-alike products and labor shortages up and down the chain, for example, hardwood flooring in 2018 will have growth. While three percent isn’t the healthiest growth the industry has ever seen, it’s nothing like the downturn most of us have lived through.

What’s interesting about the “40 Under 40” group is the youngest of the honorees came of age during the recession. They have known nothing but fear of loss in the marketplace throughout their careers. So, does three percent growth look better to them than it does to some of us in the over 40 crowd?

Think about that – 2018 will mark the 10th year since the wood flooring market hit its all-time low since the boom of the 1980s. Yet, a lot of us still talk about the recession as if it just happened.

The truth is, we should be looking at the market like our “40 Under 40” do – without fear, with high hopes for the future, and with the certainty that we have a preferred product with a strong future, even with margin concerns throughout.

What we may see more of a shift toward in 2018 and beyond, however, is a growing number of smaller companies making and installing wood flooring. The ability to make margins is sometimes more dependent on overhead than it is on market price. As the supply chain struggles with margins, those with the lowest overhead will do best. Take, for example, the pricing pressures and overhead structures that led to a large manufacturer closing two wood flooring plants recently. Will we see more of this in 2018 with the increases in margin pressure?

Without a doubt, technologies, product innovations, and markets change more quickly today than ever before. If you haven’t read the profiles of our “40 Under 40” yet, go back and take a look at these disruptors, innovators, rebels, and artists – they are equipped to take us forward and to inspire us as well.

Looking to 2018, I, for one, am going to stop looking backward at how the recession affected our industry, and focus on how NWFA can move our industry forward with healthy growth and strong career paths. And, when I find myself slipping backward, I’m going to call up one of the 40 emerging leaders in this issue to keep me focused. I’m sure they would be thrilled if you called them too…or emailed…or texted…or contacted them via social media.

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