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Made in the USA: Domestic messaging speaks volumes

Volume 27/Number 26; April 28/May 5, 2014

By Ken Ryan

Ten years ago, IVC Group was a Belgian-owned and based, privately held flooring manufacturer looking to break into the North American market. Today, IVC US appears as American as apple pie; the Dalton-based U.S. division has incorporated Made in the USA into all its merchandising, which has enabled the company to carry this story directly to the retailer and consumer.

“In the last three years we have been updating all our graphics, messaging and marketing collateral to include the Made in the USA icon, complete with American flag,” said Bart Rich, senior vice president of marketing. “The Made in the USA message speaks volumes.”

While IVC is a relative newbie to the U.S. market, the flooring industry includes such legacy companies as Armstrong, Mohawk and Mannington, which collectively have more than 300 years of U.S. manufacturing under their belts. Others, such as Shaw Industries and Anderson (now under Shaw), have been major producers for decades.

Flooring companies with deep roots in the U.S., as well as those relatively new to the market, are voicing their U.S. message in big ways and small, both internally and externally.

Some executives believe the deep pain caused by the Great Recession, coupled with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, have rallied Americans to get behind U.S.-made products and companies.

A study by Perception Research Services found that shoppers are motivated by Made in the USA claims on packaging, with most consumers saying that they are more likely to purchase a product after noticing a Made in the USA label on it. The research also ascertained that the primary reason shoppers are more likely to purchase Made in the USA products is to help the economy.

Some flooring executives said the industry must do a better job articulating that message. “Honestly, I don’t feel the flooring industry as a whole does a great job at promoting Made in the USA–and it’s a message that should be encouraged,” Rich said. “Consumers may have assumptions about where certain flooring products are made, but why leave them assuming? We as an industry need to take the assumptions out of the equation and tell the story of Made in America–because it’s important to a lot of consumers.”

David Duncan, senior vice president of marketing and sales operations at Mohawk, said the industry must be clear and transparent in clarifying what is actually meant by Made in the USA. “Made in America should mean the products are sourced, produced or assembled, and finished in the U.S.,” he said. “There should be no confusion in these facts. And at the local level, retailers and salespeople should take the time to familiarize themselves with Made in America products and promote these to their respective customers.”

Mohawk promotes Made in America on carpet, carpet tile, cushion, hardwood, laminate, ceramic and area rugs. For example, consumers choosing Mohawk carpet or hardwood floors can select “Made in USA” as one of many features of their floors; using “Made in the USA” as a search factor on MohawkFlooring.com allows shoppers to instantly see numerous floors that are produced domestically. These products are also labeled as American-made products.

Armstrong, which has been manufacturing flooring in the U.S. for more than 100 years, in 2013 introduced the American Scrape hardwood collection. Inspired by the rugged beauty of the American landscape, a portion of the sales from the American Scrape collection is dedicated to supporting Homes for Our Troops (HFOT), a national nonprofit, non-partisan organization that builds specially adapted homes for the nation’s severely injured veterans.

Mannington points to the fact that it makes flooring in nine communities across the U.S. The company says on its website that it is “deeply committed to the places where we work and to manufacturing quality, American-made products. When you order flooring from Mannington, you’re part of this mission.”

Kim Holm, president of Mannington Residential, told FCNews, “The Campbell family is very committed to Made in the USA. We enjoy a reputation as a Made in America, family-owned, 100-year-old company. We get some credit for that. We talk about it at every opportunity at the trade level.”

Several other companies are promoting their American heritage, too, whether in advertising collateral, website or social media. Founded in 1946 as Standard Plywoods, Anderson Hardwood has been manufacturing hardwood flooring in the U.S. for more than 60 years. As the family business grew, with successive generations of Andersons coming on board to run the company, it stayed committed to Made in USA manufacturing.

Since 1967, Shaw Industries (Anderson’s parent company) has offered Made in the USA products, and the company continues the tradition today with the majority of its floor covering being American-made.

Kronotex, which is not rooted in the U.S., has nonetheless jumped on the bandwagon. “We’re not just newcomers to Made in America,” a company blog said. “We were staking out property and planning our first U.S. laminate flooring production lines long before it was ‘cool’ to do so.”