By Lew Migliore
The main street market traditionally consists of the small businesses around a community, often housed in strip malls or town centers – doctors, dentists, insurance agencies, restaurants, health care offices, salons hairdressing and manicure, law firms. Unlike chain operations which are franchised or owned by a large company, Main Street includes all local businesses that provide a service or product to that locality. And there are millions of them, making it a huge market for flooring.
All of these small businesses have a floor and therefore need a floor from time to time. They could use the same commercial flooring products used in larger companies; however, there are products dedicated to the high street market, supplied by most major domestic flooring manufacturers.
Main Street businesses are more likely to purchase flooring locally from an independent flooring retailer than to use, or even know of, a commercial flooring contractor in their area. They are also not likely to hire an architect, but may hire an interior designer for their interior furnishings and flooring. They are probably rather clueless about the products available or what would be best for their business. Additionally, a small business is less likely to have a large budget for new flooring. To capture this business, flooring retailers must be up-to-date and serve as an advisor on flooring products and the needs of this market.
Most of the major flooring producers have a dedicated offering for the high street commercial market, in particular carpet tile manufacturers, which hold a larger market share than rolls. However, what is used primarily is LVT. Many of these products can be glued down, but increasingly they are interlocked and left “floating” above the subfloor. These floating floors are sensitive to heavy, rolling traffic which can break the tongue at the end or edge causing the flooring to fail. So, if the business is going to receive heavy traffic, it would be prudent to glue the floor to the substrate and avoid floating floors, regardless of how they are manufactured and marketed.
Installation guidelines and practices for installing flooring in the Main Street market are exactly the same as for the commercial market specified. The substrate must be clean, dry and free of any compromising contaminants or any condition that could cause installation failure. Moisture testing should be performed, and if moisture is an issue, the substrate should be dampened to prevent moisture-related flooring failure. This means that the retailer selling to this market must be fully aware of any condition that could compromise the flooring or installation and take action to prevent it. The small business end user will certainly be unaware of these conditions and may be skeptical and reluctant to accept any prep work that may be required on the substrate prior to the actual installation of the flooring. But they need to be enlightened about the consequences of what can happen to their new flooring investment if they don’t correct conditions that could cause failure.
Manufacturers like to emphasize the warranty of their products, but the most important thing is to sell the right product, well suited for the application, in the right space. You shouldn’t have to “crutch” flooring with warranties, most of which are useless anyway and don’t cover what actually happens when flooring fails.
The most attractive products on the high street market are, as mentioned, carpet tiles and LVT, both in plank and tile form, with plank being the leader. But don’t forget about other hard surface flooring materials that can make a space stand out, as long as the flooring will work in it. Porcelain tile and hardwood can enhance the look and character of a space, especially in the professional offices of lawyers, financial advisers, insurance brokers, counselors, doctors, or unique boutiques . The higher the profile of the company, the more impact the flooring should have. Flooring dealers must sell flooring products that match the corporate image and make a statement. Flooring should not only be functional, but should also reflect the image that a high-end business projects.
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