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Gorilla Floors enters LVT market with ‘strong’ story

NEW YORK—Michael Raskin knows a thing or two about floating LVT. After all, as the former president of Metroflor, Raskin in 2007 pioneered the category with the launch of Konecto. So after breaking from the company earlier this year to launch his own brand, the question was how he would take what he started to the next level.

Rather than go the Konecto route with a double-sided adhesive strip or the increasingly popular locking systems, Raskin is introducing a true loose lay product: Elevations. The secret sauce: tiles reinforced with a fiberglass sheet layer and a non-skid attached PVC backing. And he so much believes in these products that he is going so far as to pin his name to the company: Gorilla Floors by Michael Raskin.

According to Raskin, three key ingredients make Elevations superior and unique to competing floating LVT products:

1. Gravity. Consistency of gravity results in better dimensional stability. “As Isaac Newton discovered, the heavier the object, the stronger the gravity, which is why we make the product 5mm thick, as much as 25% thicker than competing products.”

2. Fiberglass. It is well documented within the industry that fiberglass improves the stability of LVT, regardless of the format—dryback, click or floating. “Only with a high-grade fiberglass sheet can you get the necessary performance without adhesive. The fiberglass layer in Elevations is so thick you can see it with your own eyes from the side of the plank.” Raskin added that some competitors may use chopped or fiberglass mesh, which is considered inferior to a fiberglass sheet.

3. The non-skid Gravity Grip backing. Elevations’ special backing keeps the floor tiles or planks from moving once the perimeter of the room is locked into place. “Depending on the installation, a double-face tape can be used for residential and we recommend pressure-sensitive adhesive for commercial.” An 18-inch perimeter is suggested.

Specifics

Elevations offers a 5mm construction with 20mil (commercial) and 12mil (residential) wearlayers. Its G88 nano ceramic barrier coating is immersed with microscopic ceramic particles, creating a surface that is said to be consistently durable from top to bottom. Raskin added that it is also anti-bacterial and anti-fungal.

Elevations launches with 20 SKUs—13 planks and seven tile designs. The planks are in better and best collections, he explained. Prima, the better, is comprised of eight patterns that mimic the best-selling wood species, like Brazilian cherry, a stained oak, African teak, pecan, reclaimed wood and more traditional oaks and maple. Provence Woods, the best line, offers five elegant designs one might find in a French country home. The grouping’s beveled edges and a medium texture offer a more refined look.

The seven 12 x 24 tile designs fall under the Modern Ceramic and Studio collections. Modern Ceramic is a clean, sophisticated design that will work in almost any décor, while Studio offers more of a clean, concrete visual in dark and light gray.

Raskin, who handled much of the styling at Metroflor, is again tapping into his creative side. Just don’t expect any out- side-the-box designs, well, out of the box. “Since this is the first collection bearing my name, I wanted to present a package as a whole that appeals to a wide audience,” Raskin said. “My goal was to put together a well balanced line. I’ve tapped into my 17 years of traveling and watching the trends along with valuable input from customers. The idea was to not step out too far yet put together a program that when presented as a collection makes a strong impact.”

Raskin said Elevations will be positioned as a mid-range product compared to other floating LVTs at a price point slightly less than most click products. “Retailers can easily make a 40% to 50% margin. We are selling a high quality product that will perform. In fact, in Europe this product is outselling click right now.”

Category evolves

Since Metroflor introduced Konecto nearly five years ago, there have been many “next generations” to the floating floor concept, from double-sided tape to single-sided tape to non-skid backing innovations, to the licensed locking systems not unlike those found on laminate flooring. “Anytime you pioneer a category in any industry, there is going to be constant advancements in technology,” Raskin said. “More people focus on a category, and other manufacturers want to share in the success. This ultimately benefits the consumer because competition creates a better product.”

Raskin believes Elevations improves on his initial foray into the category because:

  1. Quality. He believes a fiberglass sheet makes the product more dimensionally stable than a fiberglass mesh.
  2. Reliable sourcing of recycled material. Not all recycled content is created equally. “If you don’t know where the recycled vinyl content is coming from, you don’t know how it will react with regard to the overall stability of the product.” This was substantiated by a competing manufacturer who requested anonymity. “Recycled streams coming out of China are not very reliable,” he said. “Quality control in China is an issue. Then you start bringing in recycled streams, which generally come from buildings, like wire casings. A lot of that has lead and other heavy metals you do not want in your floors. So if you see recycled content in a floor coming out of China, there should be warning bells. There could be performance issues, platicizer issues, resin issues and concerns over heavy metals.”

Raskin also believes Elevations has advantages over the increasingly popular click systems. “Elevations is faster and easier to install. What you do is secure the perimeter, and once the floor is locked in, you simply loose lay the interior. The backing has non-skid properties that keep the floor from moving. The only instance where you want to glue down the interior is when there is a noticeable subfloor blemish. Or if you have a heavy rolling area such as hospital beds.”

The final advantage, Raskin sees is South Korea, the country in which the product is manufactured. “For a product basically made of chemical components, you need the technology, equipment and understanding of how it all works together. Korea is far more advanced than China when it comes to technology. Look at the TVs (Samsung) and cars (Hyundai, Kia). Korea constantly reinvests in machinery and technology, because the one advantage China has is labor.”

Raskin will be unveiling Elevations at the NAFCD Distributor Marketplace, where he will be seeking to pick up distribution. He will be backing up his distributors’ inventory with a warehouse facility in Dalton.

Raskin and Metroflor parted ways earlier this year over what he called “a difference of opinion” as to the direction of the brand. “I’m more about building a brand through innovation with an emphasis on styling and design with a focus on distribution. I found them to be more focused on numbers and, as a group, its core home center business.”

For more information, go to elevationfloors.com.

-Steve Feldman