While many economic uncertainties still exist due to the COVID-19 pandemic, business is thriving throughout the entire wood flooring supply chain. NWFA member companies we recently spoke with are reporting that 2020 was their best year ever, despite some volatility in the first few months of the year. Additionally, though the NWFA and Hardwood Floors magazine’s 2021 Industry Outlook survey was conducted in the summer of 2020, 50 percent of respondents expected sales to grow this year.
The wood flooring industry is filled with contractors who deal with a higher-end client, most of whom have barely noticed the impact of COVID-19 on their businesses. Lenny Hall, president and owner of Florida-based Endurance Floor Company, said that business in 2020 was higher in both dollars and square foot volume, with a significant uptick in high-value jobs. He expects that trend will continue into 2021, with business up about 30 percent overall. However, he acknowledges there are challenges. “Plywood cost is nearly double from a year ago,” he said, and PPE acquisition is a constant challenge.
“We’re busier than we have ever been,” said Mike Totta, owner of Missouri-based Totta Hardwoods. Totta reports that his sales are up more than 50 percent from this time last year. He cites high demand as being the primary catalyst for his company’s growth, but also acknowledges that he was fortunate the Midwest remained open for the most part, while contractors in other areas of the country were forced to shut down due to COVID-19.
Manufacturer and distributor members see similar trends. “Our sales are double where they were a year ago,” said Peter Connor, owner of Wisconsin-based WD Flooring. “We expect sales to be double last year’s, provided we can find the human resources to fill orders, as well as source the raw material.”
David Williams, vice president at Horizon Forest Products, a flooring distributor with 20 locations in Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Texas, said that Horizon is seeing increased demand each month, with demand outpacing supply. “It has been a challenge to maintain inventories of certain products,” he said, because many of their contractor customers “are now scheduling out six to eight weeks.”
That is certainly the case for contractor Mike Somodean, owner of Georgia-based MSCS Inc. “Even though we had a shaky start [in 2020] due to a few cancellations, things are back on track now, with four to five weeks of
work scheduled and a good amount of leads coming in.” While the workflow is good, Somodean admits that, while not as bad as other areas of the country, supply shortages have been an issue. “We are having to secure orders way ahead of time,” he said, “to make sure we don’t have to delay a project because of the material not being available.” And his company currently is getting more work opportunities than they can handle.
Companies throughout the entire supply chain agree that the high demand for wood flooring is a residual effect of the lockdowns many regions experienced. Tommy Maxwell, president of Arkansas-based Maxwell Hardwood Flooring, shares that “money is being spent on new homes and remodeling,” and, as a result, business is up double digits from last year for his company.
Still, “we only make so much flooring per day,” he added, “so when demand is high, there are some challenges.”
In addition to production capacity limitations, Maxwell shared that lumber supplies have been tightening for six months, making it difficult to source raw materials. For his part, though, Maxwell has been able to build lumber inventory and has increased truckloads to their distributors across the board.
Rick Holden, chief operating officer of Pennsylvania-based Derr Flooring Company, also reports that supply issues are a major problem. “A shortage of lumber in the United States has created a backlog,” he explains. “We cannot get enough flooring to fill backorders and build inventory.”
On the retail side, Mike Hart, vice president of Missouri-based Ambassador Floor Company, said inventory is a challenge as well. “With the consolidation of manufacturers and changes in distribution, we have seen a number of out-of-stock items and long lead times from sources.” Still, Hart states that business was good throughout 2020, and continues to be in 2021 so far.
It is encouraging to hear that across the entire supply chain, the members we spoke with anticipate that sales in 2021 will be even better than last year. We want to hear from all of you about how 2021 is going. Be sure to complete NWFA’s 2022 Industry Outlook survey when it goes live in June. Findings will be featured in the October/November issue of Hardwood Floors magazine.
Michael Martin is the president and CEO of NWFA in St. Louis, Missouri. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.