As this issue of D&WC was going to press, the National Association of Realtors was reporting that sales of existing homes fell 8.4 percent in March, the steepest monthly decline since January 1989. The decline was seen in all regions of the country: down 10.9 percent in the Midwest, 9.1 percent in the West, 8.2 percent in the Northeast and 6.2 percent in the South. Ouch!
For an industry with close ties to the movement of individuals and families into and out of homes this comes as bad news. It hurts a little bit more because the previous news on housing was positive. In the first quarter of the year building permits and housing starts were up overall, the U.S. Commerce Dept. reported, continuing a trend that began in January. The American Institute of Architectsí Architecture Billing Index (an indicator of construction spending for the commercial market) also showed an increase. It was thought that these reports indicated an upturn for the housing industry. But with sales of existing homesóby far the majority of all home salesótaking such a tumble, it doesnít look as if too many families will be buying and moving into those new homes.
Perhaps only few other window coverings dealers have experienced a decline in home sales as sharply as those in Florida. This monthís cover story, Grant Treiber, Window Decor, reports home sales are down 45 percent in southwest Florida, and it has meant that for the first time in his companyís history sales were down from the previous year.
Fortunately for Treiber it isnít quite as bad as it sounds (the company closed out 2006 with $7 million in sales). It isnít so bad for Window Decor because for the last 10-plus years Treiber has been building a business, not just creating a job for himself. He has built a company that offers a wide range of top quality products at fair and reasonable prices. He has maintained excellent showroom and sales staffs who know the products they sell and he has put money back into the business, reinvesting in its future.
Trying times has a double meaning. It could refer to difficult or frustrating times, or it could mean time to try new things. Fewer homes being sold, only means customers arenít moving. Their needs and wants havenít changed; theyíre just staying put. These are times when all the hard work and effort to create satisfied customers begin to pay dividends. Now is the time to try reaching out to previous customers and see how you can help them. Itís the other guys always out looking for the quick sale who will be frustrated.