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Roundup in ‘Big D’: Optimism reigns as carpet mills, distributors, host product showcases

DALLAS—It may not be as large as Surfaces, but Dallas has become a very important locale for manufacturers and distributors to not only show their wares to floor covering dealers, but also place displays and plan programs for the year. And like Surfaces, an array of show specials can be had.

But unlike Surfaces, the suppliers are not all in one place. Most set up shop in hotel ballrooms or their own warehouses in close proximity to the DFW airport. And to facilitate things for retailers who travel from as far as Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Louisiana, and to maximize attendance, every company ensures their show dates coincide with those of the next guy. In illustration, this year’s events Jan. 13 to 15 even coincided with the Carpet One convention, which attracts 900-plus dealers.

Following are some of the highlights.

Adleta

It was only a half-day into the two-day market at Wolf Creek Lodge, but John Sher, president, was all smiles. Not only was traffic up from last year, but early indications were that the distributor was selling more material and was in reach of its $1 million goal, a 10% increase over 2010. “I think people are feeling a little better than last

January,” he said. Amidst its product showcase, Sher was excited about Armstrong’s new resilient merchandising system and the products in it. “It’s a home run. I think it’s [a combination of] the right products at the right time for the economy. We placed 150 displays before we officially kicked it off at this show. Our original goal was 200. Now I’d like to place 300 by the end of the year.”

Sher was also touting the InterfaceStroll Main Street commercial line; about 350 displays were shipped in December. “We saw about six or seven big jobs using Stroll and its Tactile system. This is all incremental business for us because we had been out of the carpet business for years.”

Finally, Adleta has high hopes for its private-label BellaCera wood and laminate collection. “Over the last year-and-a-half we have really listened to our customers about what they need. And I think we’ve done a really nice job of finding products that can make them money.” Specifically, Sher cited its partnership with wood supplier Struxtur for a local advertising program. “Our retailers have been successful knowing they don’t have to compete in the marketplace with the line and have been promoting that.”

This market serves as the start of a year in which Sher expects to be up mid single digits. “I feel a lot more optimistic about 2011 than 2010, although we are still scraping the bottom in commercial. Dallas went into the recession later than the rest of the country in commercial, so we’ll be last to come out.”

Beaulieu

Despite once again sharing a ballroom with Adleta, Jeff Meadows, executive

vice president, Residential, thought traffic was a bit lighter than the first day last year. “I don’t know how much of this is weather related, but we still have a good crowd.”

Beaulieu was hoping to write somewhere between 500 and 600 rolls of carpet over the two-day market, “which gives us a chance to get new displays off the ground.”

Meadows was touting a new yarn system called SuperSoft, which Beaulieu is marketing as Bliss Healthy Touch. “It’s the softest carpet yarn we’ve seen from any supplier. And we enhanced the collection by putting Silver Release and Magic Fresh on those styles.” The line launches with 20 styles—saxonies, textures, freizes, LCLs, patterns, multicolors, each in a range of 20 to 36 colors. Retail price points, carpet only, range between $19.99 and $29.99.

Beaulieu is looking at single-digit growth this year while continuing to pick up market share, something Meadows said has been the case for the last three years. “The year has a chance to be better, but if you talk to the big builders, they don’t think housing will improve, and until the housing recovery happens, it will be hard for the residential carpet business to recover.”

BPI

The country’s second largest flooring distributor set up shop in its Irving warehouse in close proximity to the hotel circuit. And befitting a leader, its two-day market focused on more than just selling—although many specials were offered. Thursday night saw 300 people take part in Casino Night, which also featured former Texas Ranger Rusty Greer signing autographs and a drawing for a five-day, four-night trip to the Atlantis in the Bahamas.

“We had an excellent turnout and sold quite a bit more material than last year,” said John Anderson, vice president, sales and marketing. “Everybody’s mood was a lot more upbeat than last year.”

Anderson himself was also more upbeat, forecasting double-digit growth for the year. “I think there will be more builder business, and with all the fore- closures out there the remodel replacement segment will help us increase our numbers.”

He was pleased the BPI Roundup attracted some of the distributor’s best customers, all with positive attitudes. “I couldn’t cite one particular product that got us excited; it was more about dealer response.”

Mohawk Industries

Building on the momentum generated from the Karastan convention in November and Floorscapes/ColorCenter event in December, not to mention some previously held regionals, Tom Lape, president, Mohawk Residential, said it’s all good: the show, attendance and the mood of the dealers. What’s more, he classified product acceptance at this market as “phenomenal.”

Specifically, Lape cited Revive, the industry’s first branded PET line under the WearDated banner, until now reserved for nylon products. Revive takes the brand’s performance and durability story to polyester. Mo- hawk said the collection is softer, cleaner and stronger than traditional polyester products, giving the retailer an edge to sell value over price. Nine styles in 40 common colors comprise the collection, which includes pat- terns, freizes, basic textures and a loop. They retail between $19.99 and $34.99.

When it came to goals for this and other markets, Lape told FCNews it’s not about aggregate dollars but rather a comparison to the prior two years along with display placement and the actual product mix being bought. “We don’t look at how much they bought, it’s what they bought that matters.”

He noted display placement is one of the fundamental goals at the show because that translates into space commitment and product commitment.” He characterized display placement in Dallas as “excellent.”

Shaw Industries

Over at the Embassy Suites, Shaw Industries was getting a return on what Jeff Sills, executive vice president of sales, Hard Surface, referred to as the company’s largest introduction of hard surface products, well in excess of 400 SKUs. “Our traffic was busy from start to end; the only slowdown we had was during lunch. Buying activity was excellent. We felt the mood of the dealers was great. Everyone seems to feel like we hit the bottom and are starting to cycle up.”

Sills added that he was seeing a smarter dealer. “We felt like the dealers that came did a good job of preparing for the market, analyzing their inventory and coming in with the mindset to buy.”

Like most of the other manufacturers, dollars are not the barometer of regional market success for Shaw. It’s more about the number of pallets, Sills said, “because that’s what runs our plants. Our goal would be to sell about 3,000 pallets of laminate, hardwood and resilient at this market, and I think we will hit our goal.”

Somewhat surprisingly, Sills said 35% to 40% of what was sold could be classified as higher-end product. “It all comes back to the visual. I think people are tired of me-too product. They want something that wows the customer when she walks into the store.”

Swiff-Train

The company was one of the few, if not the only manufacturer or distributor to host a three-day event in Dallas, which again was held at the Hilton. Jonathan Train, import product manager, said traffic on day one was “steady, equal to last year,” but noted Friday (day two) is traditionally the company’s best day. “Preregistration is up 15% to 20%, so I would expect a similar percentage when we count the numbers.”

More important was the mood at the show. “I’m excited about the optimism. People say this year is going to better than last, and they are saying it with confidence.”

Like Lape, Train puts less of an emphasis on product sold and more on display placement. “The most important thing for this market has to do with planning with our dealers for the year. It’s display sales and understanding the full product range we offer.”

From a product standpoint, Train was most excited about Linkwerks, the new floating LVT under the Earthwerks brand. The product comes in two options: a Unilin-licensed locking system called RapidClic and one that combines a pressure-activated adhesive with a mechanical locking system called FirmLock.

While Swiff-Train is far from the largest distributor in the U.S., Train noted it is one of the strongest given it does not have a major line. “We have developed a lot of our own lines to carry us. We push forth our own branded lines to give us more control. We want to work with suppliers that allow us to manage our own business.”