by Matthew Spieler
While every flooring category has been hit hard by the recession, perhaps none more so than wood—in the five years following its high water mark in 2006, the segment is down 40%. So it should come as no surprise as the economy shows signs of steady improvement manufacturers feel the slide is finally over.
Industry veteran and Hall of Famer Peter Spirer, company spokesman and consultant for Max Windsor, is not projecting 2012 to be gangbusters, but he feels “we are entering a period that will be the forerunner to a boon. There’s been a continual picking up. And with this being an election year and the fact housing is a central part of the economy, I think it portends very well.”
This positive attitude was clearly reflected in the plethora of wood products and programs unveiled during Surfaces 2012. The one common thread was value. Even though there are signs of life, mills recognize it is a new world in how consumers shop and what they are seeking.
The following is a brief overview of some of what was new and exciting at Surfaces when it came to wood flooring. (Editor’s note: Due to the amount of wood companies exhibiting, FCNews will showcase additional ones in the next issue.)
Two introductions highlighted the company’s offerings and both put the emphasis on creating value, but in different ways.
The Armstrong Performance Plus collection utilizes proprietary acrylic-infusion technology for a combination of strength and beauty unmatched, noted Milton Goodwin, vice president, Residential Hardwood. Throw in a nano aluminum oxide finish, and the product has the “highest hardness of all wood floors” offering increased indent resistance and the most resistance to scratches and stains.
The New Handscraped Hardwood collection has something for both the Armstrong and Bruce brands and is designed with an array of looks allowing retailers to tailor the offering to their local market.
On the Armstrong side, there is Rustic Accents and Artesian Hand-Tooled, two engineered lines, while the Bruce side has Frontier and Rustic Heritage, an engineered and solid, respectively.
Since its founding in 1993 CFS Corp. has built a quiet reputation for quality, design-driven hard surfaces. While its manufacturing and product design philosophy has not changed, Alicia Strange, marketing specialist, said it is time for the company to come out of its shell.
“We’ve been more of a grassroots marketing organization but we’re now on track to start being aggressive. We redesigned all collateral materials and are now ready to make some noise.”
Beyond redoing its marketing materials, Stange said the company added to its successful EnviroCork line. The 3/8-inch engineered cork plank line has been rounded out and now includes nine colors, all featuring CFS’ 7 Layer Treffert UV-cured, acrylic-urethane with aluminum oxide for an “ultra durable” finish.
CFS also added to its extensive bamboo offering with a collection of wire-brushed strand woven products in four colors and featuring Unilin’s Uniclic locking system.
Rick Gill, marketing manager, said the company’s EcoSolid brand name has been trademarked which will aid retailers when selling the patented process that uses the outer hull of the bamboo stalk for the floor’s top layer.
The latest generation still uses just the natural skin of the bamboo stalk for protection, but has been sanded which “allows us to stain the product like never before.” Two lines, EcoSolid Vintage in two colors and EcoSolid New Worlds in five colors were being showcased.
Gill added the company is now offering a full selection of strand woven bamboo in both solid and engineered constructions.
Ron Oliver, vice president of sales and marketing, said the thing that separates companies like Hallmark is the attention to detail it pays from sourcing to delivery. This is especially true when dealing with planks that can be longer than 7-feet.
“You need to be extremely careful at each step of the manufacturing process,” he explained. “We not only purchase the logs and cut them ourselves we have quality control people who are our employees at the plants so it’s a very hands-on process.”
The result can be seen in Hallmark’s latest collections, which include: Heirloom, a line of three 5-inch wide handcrafted Appalachian species—Maple, Hickory and Walnut—in nine colors; Hacienda, featuring the same three species but sanded to a smooth face and with small pillow beveled edges; Buena Vista, a 7-inch wide all white oak line offered in either a sanded smooth or wire brushed finish, and Exotics, a line of sustainably harvested species such as Tigerwood, sapele, Santos mahogany and Sucupira.
Known for its variety of high-performance underlayments, the company has thrown its hat into the hardwood ring with the launch of the Healthier Choice Hardwood collection. T
he solid wood line has an initial offering of four products—Vintage Maple in four colors, Wild Acacia in two colors, Pacific Maho-gany in three colors and Strand Woven Bamboo in three colors and featuring the Uniclic locking system.
“This is a very big deal for us, said Phil Reifinger, vice president of sales. “We’ve been studying the market for a while and felt we can bring something unique to our customers.”
The new wood collection comes with the option of two displays and Reifinger noted the company will be offering it through traditional distribution “at value pricing, and it will be fully stocked in Dalton.”
Returning to Surfaces after a five-year hiatus proved to be very fruitful for the Pennsylvania-based mill, noted Wendy Wescoat, marketing manager, after the company received a Best of Surfaces award for its booth, thanks in part to the authentic Amish wagon that greeted visitors to the space.
As for product, the focus was on the new Birch Run collection, featuring a designer pallet of six colors in a variety of widths all at an entry level price.
“Our products are typically priced at the higher end,” Wescoat explained. “This allows a person who normally couldn’t afford a HomerWood floor to be able to get one of our products.”
Tiffany Davis, marketing brand and product manager, said the company used Surfaces to, among other things, unveil its Baker’s Creek branded line of hardwood floors.
Three collections totaling eight SKUs make up the initial offering and include ReCrafted in two SKUs, Allure in two SKUs and Colonial in four SKUs.
All feature Home Legend’s CrystalGuard protective wearlayer and the company’s patent pending Anti-Bowing technology which allows the mill to produce random length planks up to 7-feet that remain flat after they are installed.
Johnson Premium Hardwood
Johnny Xu, marketing manager said the company came to Surfaces with an abundance of new offerings.
The Tucson Series, for example, is a high end line in five colors that comes in multiple widths in the same box. The Victorian Series is technically the same as Tucson except it is an entry level product.
Another new offering is Java wood, a solid, plantation grown rubber wood from Indonesia in four colors. Despite the fact it is an entry level product, Xu said it is a “quality exotic species with a very sustainable story.”
Two new lines along with a new finish were the centerpiece of Max Windsor’s Surfaces launches.
Europa is a line of 71⁄2-inch wide planks in seven colors and board lengths up to 6-feet. Spirer said the wood is smoked so the color from the stain goes through the board. It also features Max Windsor’s new DuraMax Finish, a water-based coating that is “almost indistinguishable from an oil finish but with the durability of a urethane.”
Legends is Max Windsor’s first 3⁄8-inch thick engineered product. It comes in both distressed and smooth textures in a variety of species.