April 15/22, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 23
By Lindsay Baillie
Congoleum first previewed its standalone Cleo Home brand during The International Surface Event in Las Vegas in 2018. One year later, the brand is making a name for itself in the saturated resilient market.
“While Congoleum has a long and proud history of innovation in flooring that spans more than 135 years, that success has been almost exclusively in PVC-based products,” said Kurt Denman, chief marketing officer and executive vice president of sales, Congoleum. “Cleo is so different from anything else in the market, including our own Congoleum portfolio. We thought it was important to have clear differentiation to avoid confusion.”
Cleo’s unique, eco-forward construction eliminates PVC, plasticizers, chloro-chemicals and
VOCs. Its 100% waterproof base is a CulturedSTONE mineral composite core that is 85% locally sourced limestone. What’s more, the product’s wear layer features the UltraCLEAR high-performance, ultra-low VOC coating system, which is further enhanced with Scotchgard protectant.
Cleo’s imaging is created through Congoleum’s ChromaTRU high-fidelity digital imaging process, which features direct-to-base printing. “The visuals created through the digital imaging process are worlds apart from rotogravure,” Denman explained. “Nearly eliminating repeats combined with the subtle shading available creates depth and richness that simply cannot be achieved by other processes.”
Cleo is currently available in 55 individual designs across two tile shapes (12 x 24 inches and 24 x 24 inches) and two plank shapes (7 x 48 inches and 9 x 60 inches). All of these products can be installed either edge to edge or fully grouted.
The road less traveled
Creating an entirely new cate- gory of flooring has its challenges, according to Congoleum. In fact, the company’s R&D team worked for several years to create the right construction in terms of performance. “The design team had to wrap their heads around the nearly unlimited possibilities of digital imaging as opposed to the inherent limitations of rotogravure and PVC-based print films,” Denman told FCNews. “And the marketing team had to dive in deep to really understand the value proposition and create the right tools and resources to help everyone in the selling cycle understand the uniqueness and the industry-leading benefits of the Cleo platform.”
All of that hard work did not go unnoticed by distributors such as Tri-State Wholesale Flooring, Sioux Falls, S.D. The company’s president, Joe Gasper, toured Congoleum’s facility when the supplier was working on Cleo’s design and merchandising concepts prior to Surfaces 2018. “While on the tour we could see there was a significant amount of work that was going into the design palette of this line,” he explained. “We also had the chance to see just the amount of thought they were putting into the merchandising system they were putting into place.”
To assist in telling the entire Cleo story, the brand now has its own dedicated website (cleoflooring.com). While the company is still working out some of the bugs on the site, Denman said it “promises to be an incredible resource for consumers to find inspiration, learn about design styles and, of course, experience the incredible benefits of the Cleo construction with its jaw-dropping visuals.”
Hitting the streets
At the end of 2018 Cleo displays officially made their way into retail locations. According to Denman, the company’s current display demand is well beyond its immediate capacity to ship. However, it is shipping more than 100 Cleo Home Studio displays each month.
Building off of the demand for Cleo Home Studio, Congoleum has developed a slightly smaller display called Cleo Home Collection. Whereas the Studio display offers flexibility in how a retailer can configure the display—including in a straight line, back to back in the center of store or in a corner—the Cleo Home Collection display is one piece that is linear. “It has all of the features of the larger display with the exception of lighting,” Denman explained.
The company started shipping the new display in April and will bring its capacity to around 200 displays per month.
Cleo distributors and retailers alike are singing the praises of the new display. “Retailers are drawn to the merchandising system,” Tri-State’s Gasper said. “I mean it’s hard to ignore it. It’s a beautiful display and it really does show off the designs well. The other thing we’re really finding is the dealers want it on the floor. They want people to see how deep these designs go, how large the pattern is. They want to be able to show that off because it’s not something that’s present in our industry to this extent outside of a natural-made product which you would have with a stone or a natural wood.”
Matt Ketterman, owner of Got You Floored in Greensboro, N.C., is one of those retailers who has installed Cleo in his stores. In fact, he built a new 15,000-square-foot building and installed Cleo in the showroom and common areas and bathroom—roughly 3,000 square feet in all. “We have a wood product down in the common areas and we put a real antique looking ceramic look in our bathroom,” he explained. “It looks beautiful.”
Cleo’s earth-friendly story and digitally printed visuals make it a home run, according to Ketterman. “Cleo is an exciting new product that sets Congoleum apart in the marketplace. We had a VIP event for all the big developers of apartment communities and investors, and they loved it; the reaction was fantastic. With the display we’re
able to show the multitude of offerings and colors, and they just loved all the different selections.”
While the displays continue to receive retailer praise, Tri-State Wholesale Flooring is also noticing dealers are stepping up and buying deep into the designs. “They’re seeing opportunities that just aren’t available to them elsewhere,” Gasper said. “And I think that is a result of a variety of things, but largely it’s the design palette they’re seeing. Especially when you align it with a company that has been around for an excess of 130 years. I think they’re extremely comfortable with diving into this.”
Gasper believes Cleo is going to give the dealers the opportunity to leverage who they are and what they are successful at, “which is providing cutting-edge designs in a high-quality, very fashion-forward type of floor as opposed to something that comes from the box store.”