May 11/18, 2015; Volume 29/Number 3
By Jenna Lippin
A leader in hardwood style and innovation, Anderson Hardwood Floors has remained true to its roots in its rich 69-year history. The company touts its spearheading of engineered hardwood, along with handscraping techniques and visuals. Going forward, Anderson continues to work on its progression in high design, along with making the most of abundant species like maple, oak and hickory.
Natalie Cady, who recently moved from the hard surface marketing director at Shaw—Anderson’s parent company—to a new role as hardwood category manager, has witnessed an “evolution” in Anderson over the last two years.
“The next revolution is making sure we take all of the textures out there and develop even more,” she said. “Oak, maple and hickory are the predominant species for the future as they make up the readily available wood; they are sustainable as well as consistently available. We know what resources we have and we go after textures we can create, like wire brushing and contouring. There is good, old fashioned oak, for example, but by adding a little texture it looks like a whole different product.”
For the last year Anderson’s slogan has been “The fine art of flooring,” which Cady believes is apropos because a “floor is a piece of art and it should take on a life of its own.” In a home she believes “you need to develop everything in the room from the floor up,” seeing the floor as a canvas. “‘Fine art of flooring’ means we’re making the right textures and colors for the future and not just trying to mimic the past.”
With that, Anderson has started to develop more colors for its palette while making sure to cater to the latest trends such as grays and what Cady calls “griege,” a blend of gray and beige that “tones it down a little.” She added that with hardwood “you have to be careful with gray because it has a tendency to appear purple or blue, so you have to have that right amount of the neutral tone.”
Anderson also manufactures the Virginia Vintage brand, which Cady said is “more elite” in terms of both design and distribution reach. To meet the demands of the higher-end consumer, Virginia Vintage is where Anderson focuses on texture and style, both heavily concentrated. “Cost is not a limitation with this brand. The planks can be longer and wider. There can be a three- or four-step stain process or various levels of stain and texture. There are many levels of stain in which each time [the plank] runs through the process there is a cost involved, yet you attain a piece of art.”
With the Shaw, Anderson and Virginia Vintage hardwood brands, the umbrella company is able to run the gamut in product offerings. Shaw is more driven for mass appeal, Cady said, with selections that move from commodity all the way up to the higher end. “Anderson is a narrowed down product offering; it has some style and design at an affordable price. Then with Virginia Vintage you’re at the higher end with high style and design with products that are a little more evolved in the manufacturing process that is more involved with a lot more layers. If you look at the hierarchy of wood the very top would be Virginia Vintage. Shaw and Anderson would be comparable but one is more broadly based as it makes other product categories (Shaw) and one is a little more focused because the company is all about wood all day long (Anderson).”
What the future holds
Moving forward, the Anderson team plans to continue working on high design and meeting the latest trends, along with connecting to the consumer more during her buying process which, of course, begins online.
“As we all know, the consumer goes to a website [an estimated] three times before going into a store,” Cady said. “You have to deliver visually appealing room scenes [on a website], and over the last two years Anderson has been heavily focused on that. We have our intros prominently placed on landing pages, with other room scenes still viewable but no longer on the ‘front’ page.”
Anderson’s technology game plan includes consistently updating Facebook, Instagram and other visually focused social media platforms, along with constantly refreshing the company’s website. Part of the reason Anderson is undertaking these efforts is to appeal to the millennial generation. “We are very glad to hear millennials are going toward wood. We are striving to make sure our technology is lending itself to that generation. Millennials cause two orders really: putting in a new floor in their homes and also the remodel of their parents’ homes, who will finally be ready to remodel when their millennial children move out. Millennials want wood and baby boomers/empty nesters can get the wood they’ve always wanted. We have style and design, along with performance options, in place to satisfy those varying appetites.”
The company is also working on touting the green qualities of its products, in addition to domestic manufacturing. “We want to make sure everybody understands that Anderson products are Cradle to Cradle and GreenGuard certified, and meet CARB 2 regulations,” Cady noted. “All of the environmental aspects that Anderson has always been about center on what it will do to our world first; we think about how to sell the product later. We make product in the United States; we import some, but they are predominantly made here. Style and design is developed in the U.S. Our R&D plant is in South Carolina, an hour away from the production facility. We know exactly what the product will look like coming off of the line, so we can instantly tweak something.”
Anderson has been developing “a tremendous amount of product” set to be released within the next six months. Part of this enhancement includes a wide variety of colors “able to please most consumers’ palettes these days.” The additions will feature the company’s “newest evolution,” taking back clean lines of wood. New textures will be brought to the forefront, following the style of the successful Churchill product under the Virginia Vintage brand. “It has the [strong] visual and a lot of texture, there is a lot going on, but it’s a maple, which has less grain compared to oak and hickory. Then we etch it and black fill it or white fill it. There is texture yet it feels kind of smooth. Textures are what’s next.”