Flooring: Local preferences don’t always follow national trends

Like any other business, the carpet and flooring business requires owners to stay abreast of current national trends while also realizing local trends might not follow suit.

Such is the case in Grand Junction, where Mark Ledebur, owner of Carpetime, keeps an eye on national trends, but also strives to meet the needs of his customers.

“Carpet has gotten softer,” Ledebur said in noting one national trend. “It’s also gone from a shaggy look to a plush look.”

Such trends seem to be spreading through the Grand Valley as people shop for carpet that wears well and cleans more easily than does deep carpeting. As softness and price have become priorities, so have polyesters become preferable to nylons.

Yet, local trends being what they are, many people in Mesa County choose nylon because it lasts longer. And hard floors might be preferable to nylon in some parts of the home, Ledebur said. “People might want a more hard surface, especially in traffic areas.”

While there are many homes on the market in the Grand Valley these days, Ledebur said many people are staying put and laying new carpet instead of trying to take on a new mortgage.

On the other hand, foreclosed homes and other low-priced properties can be attractive for people looking to remodel a home and resell it.

“It could be a flip in a way,” Ledebur said, alluding to the “fix and flip” process that was more prevalent in the valley three years ago. If that trend returns, more people could be looking for new carpet to spruce up old homes.

One trend that’s failing to get much traction is the effort to brand carpet. A Ralph Lauren brand hasn’t caught on very well, Ledebur said. Home Depot offers Martha Stewart carpet, but that hasn’t taken off in a big way, either. For whatever reason, people are not latching on to brand name carpet the way they do for brand name clothing.

Carpetime Ledebur
Mark Ledebur, owner of Carpetime in Grand Junction, tracks national trends in flooring while also keeping an eye on what local customers prefer — such as harder surfaces in traffic areas. (Business Times photo by Mike Moran)

Ledebur is an engineer by training with a background in the aerospace industry in Southern California. He returned to his Grand Junction roots in 1999 and now runs a business formerly operated by his parents. The paychecks might not be as consistent or dependable as they were in the aerospace industry. But as an engineer, he seldom saw the finished product he helped create. He experiences more direct satisfaction from running the carpet business.

“When you run a small business, it’s easy to see what you’re doing right and what you’re doing wrong,” he said.

And competitors always keep a business owner on his toes. Despite the soft economic conditions, Ledebur said competition remains fierce.

Large chain retailers often advertise attractive low prices for carpet, but consumers should consider the big picture, Ledebur said. For example, carpet might be priced at less than $1 a square foot, but cost $7 a square foot to install. Warranties and long-term service also could be factors consumers might consider when shopping for carpet.

Whatever the competition might pose, Ledebur and others in the carpet business will continue to watch trends as well as revenues, hoping 2011 is at least is good as 2010 and 2012 will be even better.