Outside the big-box

Read it here: Quality, style, selection…

Kerry Knudsen

WHAT A GREAT YEAR. Do things need fixing? Of course, and they always will. However, look at the May building-permit report. It’s up nearly 15 percent. Did you imagine a number like that back in 2009? Other numbers are up, as well, including the TSE and the Dow, and the Canadian dollar is trading about where most pundits think it should be relative to the U.S. currency.

International trade, I guess, is a topic for debate, but, while our industry certainly has benefitted from our former trade status with China, we also have to admit the manufacturing sector and much of our retail and service economy has suffered, and the current toss-up between the U.S. and China seems to hold more potential for us than threat. It is easier to compete when everybody follows the rules.

One area that needs adjusting is the proliferation of what we call the big-box stores. It is certain they are providing a great service to the consumers and DIYers, but it’s also a mixed blessing, with hoards of DIY wanna-bes ending up having to call in a pro to finish a job they thought was outlined perfectly in the directions.

Personally, I don’t see the big-box stores as the end of the world, for a couple of reasons. For one, the heartbeat of the economy since the beginning of time has been consolidate/diversify, consolidate/diversify, consolidate/diversify…. We have been in a consolidation mode for a while, but we can see a bit of fibrillation. The hugest of the consolidators, Amazon, Google, Facebook, etc., are facing international threats at forced diversification. And they should. Anti-trust laws have been introduced in the past for a reason, and too-powerful robber-baron conglomerates are divided up and sold. For the media, social and otherwise (anti-social?) it is high time. Note: I am not getting started on Justin’s gift of $600 million divided among about every print medium but this one. We should have voted Liberal.

Anyway, the amalgamators of old, Sears, The Bay, J.C. Penny and others have more-or-less gone by the way, and other notables in fast-food franchising and entertainment have met enough competition to keep the field level and interesting.

Interesting is important. Last month we passed the 75th anniversary of D-Day, which always gets me thinking. World domination is a sport from which we are never free, it seems, whether we are talking about geography or hamburgers. Some people simply want it all.

The American GIs had much interesting to discuss, I guess, but seldom did, except how uninteresting their food was. Far into the ‘60s it was common to insult bland, industrial, mass-produced goods as being like K-rations, those being the pre-packaged food supplied to troops in battle.

In Canada, our Compo rations fared somewhat better by comparison (except, I understand, the bacon), but are, nonetheless, not recalled with fondness. People like variety and quality.

In the end, this cuts in our favour. Folks will certainly continue to shop based purely on price, but they will also continue to prove the old saying, “buy cheap, buy twice.” In our view, nobody will ever come home on his 50th wedding anniversary and proclaim, “Honey, on a special day like this, I am buying you your fifth IKEA kitchen.” That seems to have even less oomph than a new garden tool.

So we look toward a great future for floor coverings in Canada. The economy is good, and people have the wherewith to do with, even if much of the market goes to few hands.

One way we think we can help the industry at Coverings is by providing more and better, independent and original content — something gone lacking in the “big-box” stores of the publishing world. Looking at Coverings, we would like to be twice our size. Canada is worth it, and we provide material other magazines both will not and cannot, having long-since traveled the franchise path.

We remain committed to working in unison with shows and associations, the Big Three of business communication, and you can believe that because you read it here, and did not see it on Facebook.

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