Posted on

Customization, character blossom into 2010

Spring brings new things, from flora to fauna to floors. In this industry, new products and innovations have become essential to survival as companies vie for the current limited purchasing activity. The following have secured a position to that end, appealing to the value-minded consumer and her needs.

Anderson

Numerous new products make up the company’s spring launch, including Reflections, a seven-color exotic engineered line with a post-industrial waste core; Crossfire, a maple, cross-grain, hand-sculpted plank in four colors; Sanctuary, in the combination width trend; Natural Brilliance, a lightly brushed piano finish in four shades; Haversham, an adaptation of the Vintage Old Paint collection, and color expansions in Coastal Art and Exotic Impressions.

All introductions feature Luster Lock Ultra, a finish up to six times more resistant to scuffing and abrasion. “Today’s buyer doesn’t perceive value as only lower prices,” said John Woolsey, vice president of marketing. “In addition to that, she wants better quality, innovation, style and design, and environmental stewardship.”

In addition to flooring, the mill also expects to launch a new Web site this season. Features include a two-and-a half-minute tutorial upon registration, log in memory, rotational viewing and a scrapbook. The scrapbook can be exported to email or social media sites, or the shopper can order samples to be delivered to her home. “It brings your neighborhood to you without geographic barriers,” Woolsey explained.

Armstrong

The mill and its various brands have several introductions for spring, with new merchandising systems throughout that were distinguishable and functional as products are now organized by style.

“Style is the most important thing,” said Daniel Call, vice president of wood product management. “Armstrong lets you attract buyers from across the board—from middle market consumers who want something different and trendy, to others who want the latest in design and premium quality and are willing to pay for it.” For enhanced visuals, there is also a room scene on the back of each oversized sample.

New applications in Century Estate made their debut in parquet installation, with six granite stones that coordinate with Armstrong countertops. Wood embellishments are avail- able to suit the end user’s preference, Call noted. The parquet flooring also matches current Century Estate planks and can be installed in a herringbone design.

Legacy Manor is the new, hand-scraped addition to the Bruce brand, with random surface chatter and beveled edges, the 3⁄8-inch, engineered construction comes in nine colors in oak and hickory for a casual, rustic visual.

Homerwood

Homerwood followed Armstrong’s lead with its Herringbone Cut Planks in hickory, black walnut, cherry, hard maple, white oak and red oak. “With this customization, you can add character to a room,” said Dawn McElfresh, product manager. Hand-scraped by Amish craftsmen, it has a UV-cured oil finish conducive to refinishing and repairs. It will be available in March.

Lauzon

New branding and imagery that draws on themes from the renowned painter Piet Mondrian is a distinction for the mill this spring, in addition to three product intro- ductions.

The Line Art collection is made from FSC-certified maple in three colors, said Daniel LeDuc, vice president of marketing. Travertine is a gray, almost white, shade, Agate is a dark gray with contrasting grains, and Brown Jasper lies somewhere in between with more natural brown shades.

Reserva draws on its environmental story by creating exotic looks from domestic species, coined as “eco-chic” by LeDuc. Sumatra visuals are constructed from ash and the look of Jakarta is achieved with yellow birch. “All lumber is sourced from our proprietary forest in Quebec that is roughly the size of Connecticut,”            said LeDuc. “Lauzon man- ages the property entirely. All our products go from the forest to your floor.”

The most extensive line for spring is Impressions, subdivided into Gray, Dark and Natural. Gray Impressions follows the trend for that color in solid and engineered constructions with colors like shadow gray, purple slate, titanium gray and alchemy. Dark Impressions follows the modern trend in a grander sense with onyx colors and Natural Impressions goes back to basics in lighter tones that appear comforting and clean with a touch of acidity.

All new products should hit the market by April.

Mannington

After three years of development, the manufacturer debuted its Earthly Elements collection of hardwood tiles. A break from traditional planks, the line comes in12x12and12 x 24 wooden tiles to provide ultimate design flexibility, said Dan Natkin, director of wood business. Symmetrical tabs on the lock system offer rotation possibilities to change the grain of the wood or create one of five patterns: checker- board, subway, weave, herringbone or pinwheel.

“Easy installation was important—the first way for a product to fail is to get installers to hate it,” Natkin said. “Care is the same as classic hardwood and for retailers, it is part of the UltraFlex display with loose samples as in a porcelain display.” The tiles come in eight colors, all inspired by natural elements such as water, earth, air, fire, metal and wood.

Mercier

“For 2010, we have reorganized our products to be more consumer oriented,” said Michel Collin, director of marketing. Collections are divided by Design Plus Program, Exotic and Nature lines.

New in the Design Plus Program, Harvest, Portabello and Stone Brown stains can be applied to red oak, hard maple, yellow birch, white oak and white ash. Red oak and maple are available in solid 21⁄4-, 31⁄4- and 41⁄4-inch strips as well as 31⁄4- and 41⁄4-inch engineered planks. The remaining species are available in solid build only.

New Exotics include Asuncion, Lima, Sao Paulo and La Paz. All species are available in 21⁄4- and 31⁄4-inch solid, or 31⁄4- and 41⁄4-inch engineered formats.

“Also, beginning March 1, Mercier will be offering moldings,” Collin added. “This is a big thing for our customers because everything will be shipped together.”

Mirage

The mill has updated its Sweet Memories collection and released a new line of oak.

In Sweet Memories, Teddy Bear, Chateau and Carousel rustic colors are available on red oak, and Gingerbread stain now comes on aged maple for pronounced color variation to highlight complexities. Both stains come in 5-inch, engineered boards with a Cashmere finish.

The mill’s newest collection is the Alive series, a lightly brushed red oak in three colors. The line features pronounced color variations, small surface holes and uneven texturing for ultimate character.

“The Alive series is a breath of fresh air for red oak, which is perfect for families looking for a modern floor that can stand up to their active lifestyles,” said Luc Robitaille, vice president of marketing. “The gentle brushing and uniform color application has revitalized the specie, which many associate with more traditional decors.”

Mirage has also launched Knotty Walnut that highlights grain variation and natural imperfections, and Savanna stain for maple and red oak. Both also come in engineered 5- inch boards with the Cashmere finish.

Mohawk

New for spring is Brandymill, a 5-inch width, 3⁄8-inch scraped engineered hardwood with a random chatter effect. As part of the Rustic Scraped display, the line features two species, hickory and maple, in seven colors.

New domestic technology provides a reasonable price point as well. “The key is it is made in the U.S.,” said Roger Farabee, senior vice president, marketing. “We think domestically made is becoming more important to consumers.”

The supplier also has two acrylic impregnated engineered products. Tescott offers a smooth finish and Novell is a scrape. “What’s interesting is we are able to use species that normally wouldn’t be appropriate for flooring, like poplar,” Farabee said. “The acrylic process makes it harder. You also get a different visual affect. In addition, with the top layer being acrylic impregnated, the color goes all the way through the veneer layer. The result is a deeper, richer, color effect vs. a stain that is just sitting on top. This gives a performance and aesthetic story.”

Mullican

The company’s spring feature introduction is the Castillian collection, an engineered product in 6- and 7-inch widths and 6-foot random lengths. The character line features sculpted, brushed, fumed and white- washed details with a 3mil top layer for enhanced durability. It comes in nine shades of oak, two of hickory and one of walnut. Conscious of the economic climate, the products will retail in the mid $5 range.

Shaw

The manufacturer expanded its engineered Epic Legends collection with California Dreamin’, a 5-inch, maple plank in four colors, and Pebble Hill Hickory in 31⁄4- and 5-inch widths in six colors. Both are 3⁄8-inch thick and feature hand-scraping, the mill’s proprietary ScufResist finish and a limited lifetime warranty.

Smooth Sailin’ was added to Epic Traditions. A 5-inch wide maple in a 3⁄8-inch thickness, this addition also has the ScufResist finish and a limited lifetime warranty, but has a smooth, satin gloss finish.

In solid, Montgomery is a hand-scraped, 3⁄4-inch thick, 5- inch wide oak with a 25-year warranty. Bold graining is enhanced by satin finishes and four new color tones. Golden Opportunity also a hand- scraped, 3⁄4-inch oak but comes in 21⁄4-, 31⁄4- and 5-inch widths with a 20-year warranty. Four colors provide high color variation and knotty highlights.

T. Morton & Co.

Using select and better grade lumber, T. Morton is a higher end hardwood line. Unveiling a her- ringbone application with a UV-cured oil finish, products are produced at their FSC-certified facility in Titusville. The brand is targeted toward the art and design community and affluent end users said Dawn McElfresh, product manager.

-Emily Hooper