We recently had the pleasure of interviewing Kim Wahlgren, editor of Wood Floor Business, about trends in the hardwood floor industry, how the internet is changing the way contractors do business, and more. Check it out for some interesting insights that could help your business!
Q: Do you see an increase in folks accessing the Wood Floor Business website via mobile devices? If “yes” how has your strategy evolved to handle that development? Can you share what percentage of your visitors access via mobile?
Kim: We absolutely see more people using woodfloorbusiness.com via mobile devices. In fact, recently, mobile overtook desktop for the first time. During the last month, 44% of our website visitors were on mobile, while 43% were on a desktop and 13% were on a tablet. Two years ago for the same time frame, those numbers were 23% mobile, 60% desktop, and 17% tablet. So we’re not only seeing a change to mobile, we’re seeing a relatively rapid change.
When we relaunched the HF website in the fall of 2014 we made sure the website was optimized for users on mobile devices. At the same time, we’ve simplified the design of all our emails and digital promotional materials so they are all easy to view on mobile.
Q: How do contractors say “things are going?” We see “issued” building permits for commercial and residential are up and are increasing monthly, how do you see the hardwood floor market in the next several quarters?
Kim: The contractors we talk to on a regular basis report that business is going well and is booked out for weeks, if not months. But of course we are still a long way from the boom times when the housing market was at its peak—the rate of housing starts is still about half of what it was then. It seems everyone is predicting a continued modest recovery for housing.
Q: We see more and more increased interest in reclaimed wood and engineered wood. What are you seeing with regard to reclaimed and engineered wood? Does the interest vary across geographic regions?
Kim: This interest seems to start, like most trends, on the West Coast, but now it’s firmly entrenched across the country. Many people thought reclaimed wood was a trend that would run its course, but it, along with wide plank and distressed styles, has proven its staying power. If manufacturers aren’t offering actual reclaimed flooring, many are imitating its look.
No one can deny that engineered wood flooring continues to gain market share. As it does, however, we’re seeing a growing concern that retailers and installers do a better job educating customers on the environmental conditions necessary for some of those products to work well in the homes where they are installed.
Q: Are there any regional trends that stick out? For example, we see a fair amount of inquiries from interior designers for commercial jobs and reclaimed wood, as well as glue down engineered products.
Kim: There are pockets where certain aesthetics are entrenched—I’m told that in Texas most of the wood flooring being installed looks hand-scraped, for example—but it seems that trends catch on countrywide faster than ever before. We all know that gray floors and two-tone looks are hot right now, and that’s happening from California to the back woods of Tennessee. As people watch more design shows and spend hours cruising Pinterest and Houzz, they’re more clued in to the latest styles, no matter where they are.
Q: As you look at your educational seminar calendar, are certain topics getting more traction than others?
Kim: The NWFA sees strong interest in topics like the environmental effects on wood flooring and problems, causes and cures. In fact, just last week they taught 13 seminars on those topics at the CCA and Shaw shows. As wood flooring continues to take market share, there’s a huge need to educate retailers about these products.
Q: Any trends in terms of how contractors are marketing their services?
Kim: Some contractors have gotten savvy about social media and using sites like Pinterest and Houzz to market their businesses. Their numbers are pretty small, though. Many contractors I talk with say they rely on straight word of mouth.
Q: Are there a few quick simple resources available that contractors can take advantage of to help jump start their marketing efforts?
Kim: The NWFA has some great resources and training available for their members. We also dedicate a large part of each issue to topics related to running a wood flooring business, including marketing.
For most contractors, I would encourage them to take the time now at the start of the year to make sure their marketing fundamentals are solid. Do they have a functional website? Is it updated? Do they have nice photos of their work? I can’t tell you how many times a contractor will tell me about a fantastic project we might want to cover in the magazine, but when I ask if they have photos, they don’t have anything, or they have terrible photos from their cell phone. That’s a huge missed opportunity. If you do beautiful floors but the photos of them are unprofessional, your floors look unprofessional, too.
Special thanks to Kim for taking the time to share her thoughts! Access useful tools, resources, and content for wood floor contractors at woodfloorbusiness.com.