What’s in store for the future of flooring?

By James Dion, founder and president of Dionco Inc., consultant, speaker, trainer and author

The flooring sector — like many other elements of retail — is ripe for a major disruption owing to three trends that are growing in importance, size and scope:

  1. The U.S. has too many ‘brick and mortar stores’ for too few customers;
  2. Technology is accelerating a change in traditional retail models; and
  3. The next generation of shoppers are much different than the previous generation.

Now, let me explore each of those three assertions a little more.

The U.S. has too many brick and mortar stores for too few customers

Less than two years ago, industry analysts were suggesting that online sales would account for the majority of sales for some businesses, while maintaining that they would never exceed 20% of total sales for others. In the last 12 months, however, those predictions have changed dramatically, with experts now forecasting that online sales will exceed sales for traditional brick and mortar stores this coming holiday season. That is a significant turn of events in a short period of time and it appears certain that there will be fewer retail stores in the U.S. in the months to come.

For the flooring sector, however, the retail store is not going to disappear any time soon. Even online retail giant Amazon sees a future for traditional stores; relationships are, after all, built at the store level. But, stores of the future will be very different.

Technology is accelerating a change in traditional retail models

One of the reasons that retail stores of the future will be very different is the rapid growth of technology. Consumers will likely take measurements with their smartphones, get design ideas from websites, and read online reviews. They will import their specific information into an app, then create images of what their space might look like — all before coming into the store.

Instead of serving as a showroom, filled with product samples, flooring stores will become places where consumers can seek guidance from experts. Smart retailers will offer modern technology, like virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR), that will enable a visualization of purchases by allowing consumers to ‘walk through’ their new home, renovated kitchen, or redecorated bathroom.

Customer service will remain paramount, as relationships will continue to be built in the store. However, when customers visit the store, flooring retailers need to take a different tact. They will need to provide experts who can answer questions, then provide guidance, advice and expertise based on real-world experience. Instead of salespeople offering to show samples and give pricing, associates will need to be trained on what questions to ask, how to take cues from customers and how to demonstrate products in this new reality.

The next generation of shoppers are much different than the previous generation

It’s true that millennials represent the next big wave of American consumers. It’s also true that millennials are much different than any previous generation of shopper.

For starters, millennials are very comfortable with technology. Millennials also tend to view shopping as a singular experience. Whether they are buying clothes, furniture or flooring, they compare the experiences equally. This is significant because retailers like Amazon have spent the last decade ingraining a new psyche of young shoppers that if something is not right, it can easily be returned.

Obviously, this is much more difficult when you are dealing with flooring. For that reason, consumers need to visualize their purchase first, then obtain expert guidance to help them with practical issues, such as choosing the right textures, the right underlay material and the right installer. More than ever, flooring needs to be done right the first time.

How can flooring retailers remain relevant?

When thinking about the next five years, retailers need to ask themselves three important questions:

  • Do I have an adequate online presence?;
  • What is the purpose of my brick and mortar store now and in the future?; and
  • Do I have the right sales associates and technologies in my stores?

Come hear me on Feb. 7 at DOMOTEX USA where I will be a featured speaker, sharing my expertise on consumer trends, retail technology, selling & service, retail merchandising & operations, as well as best practices for sustainable retail and store management.


DOMOTEX USA is bringing the world of flooring to you. The show takes place Feb. 5–7, 2020 in Atlanta, providing an excellent opportunity to immerse yourself in an environment where you can listen, observe, investigate, ask questions and learn; all over the course of just three days. The event also provides a unique opportunity to gain a global perspective of the flooring industry, featuring exhibitors from around the U.S. and the world.

Do you want to have an edge in the marketplace? Are you looking to be at the top of your game? If so, register for DOMOTEX USA today.

About James Dion

James E. Dion (Jim) is a retail authority and founder and president of Dionco Inc., based in Chicago. His retail career began in 1964, when he started working in a menswear store and was appointed Store Manager only five years later. Gathering more than 30 years of progressive retail experience working at Sears, Levi Strauss and Gilmore Department Stores, Jim Dion has become one of the most sought-after retail consultants and speakers across the U.S. and around the world.

Jim Dion has taught at Wilfrid Laurier University, Ryerson University and the International Academy of Fashion Merchandising and Design in Chicago. Jim is a regular speaker for the National Retail Federation (NRF) on Retail Trends, Technology, Inventory Control, Best Practices in Sustainable Retail and Store Management. He lectures on retail trends, technology issues and on the Internet and its use and misuse by retailers and manufacturers.

Jim is the author of several books. His retail selling manual Retail Selling Ain’t Brain Surgery, It’s Twice As Hard and The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Starting and Running a Retail Store affirmed his standing as one of the most sought-after experts on retail. Jim also studies and evaluates new retail POS, EDI, merchandising systems and CRM software. Jim graduated from Chicago State University (Illinois) with a BS and MS in Psychology, then attended Illinois Institute of Technology in Industrial Psychology and Marketing.