Beyond The Big Two

At the recently held Surfaces show in Las Vegas, neither Shaw nor Mohawk had a significant presence on the showroom floor. No big news there, as they have not participated for several years. While their collective market share is significant, I came away with the impression of both how large and varied our industry is beyond “the big two”.

Hundreds of vendors, employing thousands of staff members, are creating a place for themselves in what by all definitions is a mature industry. They are doing so by providing both goods and services that aren’t offered by massive suppliers. Smaller firms can, and must, be more creative and responsive for their customers. In short, they must be “important” to their clients. Their success is dependent upon them not being “just like the big boys!” To do so, would eventually render them irrelevant.

Is this really any different than the situation that exists today in the retail portion of our industry? Sure, staff members wearing aprons take a significant portion of the business. But remember that just like the mega mills, when their share has been taken, the remaining market to be served still remains large.

Smaller firms will continue to not only survive, but thrive, by using a recipe similar to that used by smaller manufacturers. Be flexible. Be creative. Be unique. Most significantly, be important to your customers. By failing to do so, your firm will become irrelevant in your market as well, and eventually will be gone! Take a good hard look at your market, then find a niche and fill it, just as the successful smaller manufacturers and suppliers are doing. Whether wholesale or retail, rewarding opportunities still exist for those who dare to do things differently than “the big two”.

Tom Jennings

Wednesday, February 15, 2012