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Specialty vendor, Stainmaster roll buy in spotlight

Las Vegas—When the National Floorcovering Alliance (NFA) meets here each year on the morning prior to Surfaces, one of the primary goals is to expose its members to vendors not present at the group’s two major gatherings in the spring and fall. Referred to as tier 2 suppliers, members have the opportunity to spend three hours with “specialty vendors” in a table-top trade show format, allowing them to fill in gaps and/or further differentiate their product lineup from their competition.

This year saw a number of first-timers among the 30 or so exhibitors. These included Lexmark Carpet, making its entrée into the residential arena; the Bob Shaw-owned Dreamweavers; Elevation Floors and its true loose-lay LVT; Johnson Hardwood, and DeZign North America, the spinoff of Lamett headed up by Pete Ciganovich.

Some members were particularly excited about Dreamweaver. For example, Tom Levi, Levi 4 Floors in Columbus, Ohio, said he was never a big buyer of polyester until he saw what Dreamweaver had to offer first hand. “I ordered 17,000 yards after seeing the facility. I never realized the efficiencies Bob Shaw is putting on the ground right now in Calhoun, Ga. The manufacturing process is so streamlined and efficient. By the end of 2013, he will have 150 million pounds of capacity. I didn’t think there was a new way to skin a cat.”

Levi said his purchase was precipitated by the move Invista/Stainmaster has been making to the upper echelon price points. “I also think we should consider major roll buys with PET suppliers. There’s an opportunity with a vendor to get a very competitive place in the marketplace with under $10 product.”

NFA also managed to conduct some business during its three-hour meeting in advance of the tier 2 specialty vendor meeting, most notably the conclusion of its third annual Stainmaster roll buy. Despite the continuing difficult business environment, the roll buy was more than 20% larger than last year with a significantly higher average cost per yard. Well over 2,000 rolls of carpet were ordered with the promise of significantly more to come.

The roll buy featured a first: rather than awarding it to one mill, four carpet manufacturers will take part in in the program for 2012: Shaw, Gulistan, Dixie and Karastan. Products included range from the new premium Stainmaster TruSoft to Luxurell to solution-dyed nylon fiber systems.

“This purchase was the culmination of a great effort by NFA, Stainmaster and our closest mill partners to create a meaningful opportunity for mutual benefit,” said Sam Roberts, owner of Roberts Carpet and Fine Floors in Houston. “Market conditions and a changing product landscape created substantial challenges that were overcome by a prevailing climate of perseverance and fairness for and from all involved.”

The group also hosted a pair of prospective members who have since been voted into the group: Larry Flick, owner of six The Floor Stores in Richmond, Calif., and Kevin Arscott, owner of Floortrends in Ontario, Canada, with four stores located east of Toronto.

The Floor Store does about 95% retail, while Floortrends boasts a 40/30/30 split between retail, commercial and builder. Both dealers have sales volumes well north of the group’s $10 million threshold for inclusion.

In other NFA news:

•NFA member Bob Hill, owner of Floor Covering Associates in Chicago, was recently honored as the 2011 Chicago Floor Covering Association person of the year.

•NFA welcomed back Carpets of Dalton, which had been automatically dropped from the buying group after missing two meetings while it was going through its recent reorganization.