Posted on

Dealers praise Karndean’s focus on design

May 13/20, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 25

By Lindsay Baillie

 

Karndean’s Art Select in Reclaimed Chestnut provides dealers with unique visuals to offer clients.

If a manufacturer is going to compete in the resilient flooring category it must possess top-notch products backed by performance, design and service. According to several flooring dealers, Karndean Designflooring is doing just that—and more.

With “design” strategically placed in the center of its name, there is no surprise that Karndean has placed much of its attention on creating show-stopping visuals. Its unique designflooring element has helped differentiate itself from others in market while assisting RSAs in closing the sale.

“Karndean spends a tremendous amount of time going out and researching natural products to make their floors, and they have a great story behind it,” said Cody Carman, a salesman with Wecker’s Flooring, York, Pa. “What’s really neat about Karndean is you’re not just selling a floor—you’re selling a story.”

Carman cited a new color in the manufacturer’s Art Select line, which is actually patterned after reclaimed wood from an old tobacco barn in Lancaster, Pa. “Lancaster is about 20-30 minutes from our store,” he added. “It really hits home for the consumer.”

Jody Robison, president, Red Mountain Flooring, Idaho Falls, Idaho, echoed Carman’s sentiments. “Our customers love having a story to tell regarding which historic building, rain forest or quarry inspired the look of their floor.”

Karndean’s products also allow RSAs and consumers to create unique flooring projects. With three installation options available—glue-down, floating and loose lay—as well as design strips, borders and beveled edges, no two floors have to look the same. “With Karndean’s design elements we have the ability to create a truly unique floor,” Robison explained. “Our customers don’t have to settle for a look that’s just like everyone else in the neighborhood.”

For dealers such as Jason Stafford, general manager, Stafford’s Discount Carpet, Redlands, Calif., Karndean’s focus on design flooring brings a unique boutique feel. “You can really go into a house and change the entire look of it by offering some of the different products (medallions, grout and design strips, etc.) Karndean has in its collection.”

Karndean’s new Van Gogh rigid offering covers 14 top-selling visuals from its glue-down line. Shown is Smoked Oak

For RSAs looking to sell Karndean, retailers suggest starting with the product’s story. “Everyone knows you sell to Mrs. Consumer and Mr. Consumer signs the check,” Carman said. “When you can tell a story to someone who is buying a floor it gets her excited. You’re not talking about price point, you’re talking about a new story for their home that they can tell their friends.”

Wecker’s Flooring’s Carman added that RSAs should take the time to learn the stories behind each one of Karndean’s colors. If an RSA needs help, Carman suggests reaching out to Karndean’s sales reps who are “really educated and know the history behind the products.”

RSAs should also take the time to explain the “designflooring” aspect with prospective customers. “The biggest thing is don’t be afraid of price,” Stafford explained. “Familiarize yourself with their products, the benefits of it and what you can do, boutique-wise, with it for a customer. Focus on the things they do well, such as styling, and go into the family history of how long they’ve been around. If you can lay down the foundation of what a great company Karndean is—and what they’ve done to set themselves apart—at that point the product sells itself.”

What’s more, RSAs can also take advantage of the manufacturer’s merchandising tools and product warranties, according to Brian Anderson, vice president, Anderson Flooring, Ponca City, Okla. “The display systems make it easier to sell upgrades and the company provides all installation methods. Karndean has extremely quick turnaround times from order to receipt of product.”

More importantly, RSAs need to sometimes step out of their comfort zones, Robison said. “Embrace all of the amazing design aspects that will set you apart. It can seem daunting, but Karndean has a great net- work to help you be successful.”

Making an impact
Several of the new products Karndean showcased at Surfaces this year are already making noise in retail showrooms. Van Gogh, a new rigid line developed from the 14 top-selling styles of Karndean’s glue-down offering under the same name, has captured the attention of several dealers. “We’ve been selling Van Gogh for the last 20 years and it’s kind of been the workhorse of the Karndean line,” Stafford explained. “It’s definitely our best seller out of their line. We’re really excited to get the rigid into the store because not every home you go into can accept a glue-down product. This allows us to still keep that great Van Gogh look, but move them into a rigid core product that may suit their needs better.”

Carman also looks forward to selling the product in multiple formats. “I really love that they came out with their Van Gogh line in a rigid click product, which are really huge in the market. When they stepped up and made some of their most popular colors in click—it’s a manufacturer you can sell all around the table. It doesn’t matter what their need is, they have an answer for it.”

In addition to Van Gogh, many dealers are excited about the new colors in the Karndean’s Art Select line. “We’ve had positive feedback on all the new styles, but because of the nearby mountain resorts and rural communities, we think the new Select Hickory and Reclaimed Chestnut visuals will be our top sellers,” Robison noted.

Regarding’s Karndean’s Art Select visuals, Anderson is in complete agreement. “Art Select Reclaimed Chestnut offers beautiful visuals not available from any other manufacturer.”

Posted on

Wood: Domestics vs. exotics—A matter of taste, economics

May 13/20, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 25

By Reginald Tucker

 

In the perennial battle between domestically produced hardwood and imported exotics, anecdotal information shows homegrown species are continuing to grow in popularity at a much faster rate than their tropical counterparts. At the same time, suppliers of hardwood flooring from South America, Southeast Asia and even parts of Africa said they are seeing a resurgence in demand for some of their products.

“In terms of domestics, white oak, red oak and hickory are still the drivers,” said Pat Oakley, vice president of marketing, Mullican Flooring. “We’re doing some different things with those species, such as light distressing and wire- brushing, to give them a more unique look.”

Industry experts primarily attribute the growing interest in domestic species to the combination of consumer trends away from the old “red’ exotics along with the color/texture characteristics domestic species pro- vide. “With hickory, for example, it’s the variation in color that generates interest and demand,” noted Brett Miller, vice president of education and training, for the National Wood Flooring Association (NWFA). “Even when you look at some of the imported species that are popular, they have that variance in color like hickory.”

Right alongside hickory are domestic variations of walnut. Proponents cite the species’ unique look, which has a high-end connotation compared to more mainstream species. “It has that nice, deep brown chocolate/almost purple color along with that light, blond sap-wood, which is a drastic variation,” Miller explained.

Domestic wood species have become more popular over the last several years in particular, given the frequent use of European white oak across many domestic and imported brands alike. This has created opportunities for manufacturers to differentiate themselves from the pack by utilizing various techniques. “Consumers are favoring American hardwood, but many still desire non-traditional visuals from their flooring,” said John Hammel, director of category management, hardwood and laminate, Shaw Floors. In particular, he cited the company’s new Repel Hardwood line offered in Relic and Landmark styles. “Domestic species like hickory and walnut answer that need.”

Given this rising popularity, it should come as no surprise that many of these domestic species are increasingly factoring into recent introductions and/or best-selling products from some of the industry’s major manufacturers. “Over the past few years, we have focused our introductions on these species with tremendous results,” said Dan Natkin, vice president, hardwood and laminate, Mannington. “There is something timeless about North American hardwoods. Smooth, elegant graining, great character, and the way they accept stain and other visual effects make them the prime choice for consumers.”

Mohawk has been using domestic white oak for many of its products combined with special proprietary manufacturing and finishing techniques to render different
visuals. Mohawk said it has also witnessed growing interest in species such as hickory and walnut, and it is adding more collections to meet those needs. “Consumers who are looking to be more unique are trying the hickories, walnuts and some other visuals to give it more flavor and variety in the mix,” said Adam Ward, senior director of wood and laminate.

Despite the strong allure of select domestic species, hardwood flooring importers believe there are still viable opportunities for exotics in the North American marketplace. Take IndusParquet, for example. The company has made a huge push over the past few years to broaden its product offering to appeal to a larger customer base.

“Although we still use only South American raw lumber, we have many more options for our consumers,” said Dan Gold, director of architectural sales. “For instance, in addition to our traditional, smooth, semi-gloss natural line, we can now stain, texture and use different gloss levels to meet the color trends of today.”

With trends moving away from the darker, dated, “deep red” species that define many imported species, especially those from South America, companies are adjusting their color range to conform to today’s trends toward lighter, warmer, cooler, brown/gray tones.

“Two of our fastest growing product lines come from wood species we rarely used until just recently,” Gold said. “A species named tauari, which we market under the Brazilian Oak Series, and a species called copaiba, which we market under the Langania Hickory Series, have been great additions for us. Brazilian Oak has been especially successful with the 3⁄4-inch solid version and Langania Hickory in the wide plank engineered version. Those woods don’t have natural red tones like others in the traditional lineup.”

Other exotic flooring suppliers are tweaking their finishing processes to appeal to more mainstream American consumers. Amaz Floors, for example, applies specialized staining techniques that mimic grain structures found naturally in other species. “With some of our species from Peru, we apply wirebrushing and a two- tone staining process to deliver a unique look,” said Ross Oliver, vice president of international marketing. “We also offer a species we call Peruvian pecan, which features contrasting colors. And for those customers who desire walnut (we don’t have that species in Peru), we offer jatoba but we put a chocolate stain on it. This gives it that variation you would normally see in American walnut.”

Ribadao Wood Boutique also reports a renewed interest in exotics, especially among those who purchased exotics in the past and are looking to expand into other rooms. During Domotex, Bruce Hammer, vice president of sales, North America, said people were asking for South American species. He also cited growing interest in some of the species the company imports from Africa, including wenge, sapele and iroko. “There’s just a rareness factor about it,” he said.

Posted on

Wood: NWFA convention—Industry looks to leverage category’s winning proposition

May 13/20, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 25

By Reginald Tucker

Fort Worth, Texas—Although hardwood remains arguably the most aspirational flooring product today, it is increasingly facing intense competition from look-alike products such as LVT, WPC and SPC. The most effective way to recoup market share, proponents say, is to make a more compelling case for retailers and, ultimately, consumers to go for the real thing.

That was the prevailing message that came out of the 2019 National Wood Flooring Association (NWFA) convention and expo, which took place here earlier this month. While many of the specialty hardwood flooring contractors, manufacturers and distributors in attendance here believe hardwood has significant advantages over competing hard surface products, recent trends reflect a tangible decline in market share.

“All our research shows consumers prefer and want real wood products in their homes, but market sales show noticeable shifts to non-wood products,” Michael Martin, NWFA president and CEO, told FCNews. “The truth is wood has a great story to tell. Consumer research tells us they want flooring products that are beautiful, durable, easy to maintain and add value to the home. Hardwood checks all these boxes.”

It’s not enough that wood is ceding some market share to competing hard surface categories designed to emulate wood; the proliferation of so many wood-look products in the market today is also causing a lot of confusion among consumers who are looking for the real thing. Hence the newly launched “Real Wood, Real Life” marketing campaign NWFA recently launched to combat misperceptions about the various products now being positioned as real wood.

“At the end of 2017 we published a research study on consumers to get their insights and perceptions about wood floors,” Martin recalled. “What we discovered was two-thirds of consumers want wood floors. However, we found many consumers don’t know the difference between wood floors and other products. The intent was to take that research and design a campaign around it.”

But before the NWFA could proceed, it realized it first needed to devise a formal definition of what constitutes a real wood floor. So late in the fourth quarter of 2018, the association published an official release describing real wood flooring as follows: “Any flooring product that contains real wood as the top-most, wearable surface of the floor.” (This includes solid and engineered wood flooring, as well as composite engineered wood flooring.)

“The first two definitions are pretty self-explanatory—solid vs. engineered—with the third being engineered composite,” Martin explained. “We also felt we could not ignore any floor that had a real piece of wood on the wear layer—no matter what’s on the back, whether it’s composite, plastic, resin or otherwise. As long as it has a real wood surface, it falls under the definition of a real wood floor. What doesn’t fall under that definition is a photograph of wood on a piece of paper that’s then sealed onto a piece of plastic—that’s not wood.”

The NWFA convention served as the ideal platform to generate greater awareness of the new campaign. Utilizing two primary vehicles—the Homeowner’s Handbook to Real Wood Floors and woodfloors.org—the association is looking to educate wood flooring contractors, retailers and distributors on what they can do to promote the message in their local markets. Along with the new handbook and website, NWFA has produced a campaign “toolkit” for retailers and contractors to make it easier for them to tailor the “Real Wood, Real Life” marketing message to their unique businesses. NWFA is making available to contractors and retailers creative assets such as digital and print ad materials, campaign logos, trade show tabletop signage, media outreach materials and product fact sheets. NWFA has also provided retailers with social media posts they can use in their online marketing efforts.

Sobering statistics
Bruce Zwicker, former president and CEO of Haines and now independent industry consultant, delivered an enlightening keynote address that drove home just how much resilient flooring—both flexible and rigid core products—are nipping share from the total floor covering pie, not just hardwood. Specifically, he cited research showing LVT grew by 25% in the U.S. last year, accounting for roughly 12% of the total flooring market. By comparison, he said hardwood—although it represents roughly 13% of the total flooring price— grew by only 3%.

The rapid rise of LVT/LVP is putting hardwood contractors in a tough spot. “I’ve done some LVT projects, but I limit it to below-grade applications,” said Chris Zizza, outgoing NWFA chairman and co-owner of C&R Flooring in Westwood, Mass. “But in all other areas of the home, I recommend the customer put down real wood.”

Another telling statistic reflects decreases in domestic wood flooring production. Zwicker’s research shows imports account for almost 50% of U.S. consumption, with China representing at least a third of all imports. Looking specifically at wood, however, China represents 50% of wood imported but 85% of LVT/multilayered flooring. Even more telling, wood imports were 30% of the U.S. market compared to 52% last year. In 2006, wood imports accounted for just 15% of the market. “U.S. producers are not very profitable, and there is over-capacity,” Zwicker told attendees. “In response, manufacturers scaled back production, raised prices and sold all or part of their wood divisions.”

Other findings: Prefinished hardwood has grown to represent nearly 60% of all wood flooring sold in the U.S. market today, with unfinished accounting for 40%. That’s nearly a reversal of the breakdown from eight to 10 years ago. In terms of end use, Zwicker estimated 20%-30% is new construction; 60%-65% is residential replacement; and roughly 10%-15% is commercial.

Exhibitors...assemble

NWFA exhibitors did their part to entice hardwood flooring contractors and specialty retailers with their latest collections as well as additions to existing best-selling lines. At the American OEM booth, for example, the spotlight was on trendy new colors and patterns along with a line of engineered composite wood floors.

“We’ve added more colors to upper-end Appalachian Springs line, which features a sliced white oak veneer,” said Allie Finkell, executive vice president. “It offers an aged antique look with circular saw blade marks, then we add the highlights and low lights to give it more variation. It’s designed to look like reclaimed wood from the old textile mills in the Carolinas. We’ve received really great feedback.”

American OEM also took the wraps off Woodlands, a 3⁄8 inch-thick product available in 5-foot long planks. “It comes in four hickory looks, four oaks and features light wire brushing and good mix of tones,” Finkell explained. “And at $3.99, it offers a great price point for the consumer.”

The company also tested the waters with Raintree, a product line featuring a real wood veneer over an SPC rigid core. It comes in a 75-inch-long x 7 1⁄2- inch-wide plank format with four-sided locking system and attached backing pad. Although it made its official debut at Surfaces, this was its first appearance at the NWFA expo—the domain of the hardwood flooring enthusiast.

“We’re really proud of the way this looks,” Finkell said. “We have brought our expertise in finishing and staining to this hybrid category, and when it’s installed it looks just like our Hearthwood products. I was curious to see what the reception would be among all the wood nerds here, but people feel there’s a great market for this. People can get a look they want in wood and not have to compromise.”

There was also quite a bit of action and excitement at the Anderson Tuftex booth, where the spotlight was on newly launched Ombre and Metallics. The former utilizes a four-pass process of texture, stain, high- lights and lowlights to create a full gradient of color washes across each plank, while Metallics—as the name implies—entails actual metallic particles infused into the stain treatment similar to techniques employed in the automotive paint industry.

“Our specialty is doing unique things you can’t do on a site-finished floor,” said Matt Rosato, hardwood category manager. “A lot of people are looking for differentiated products, especially with this customer base.”

More importantly, the occasion marked Anderson Tuftex’s NWFA debut as a combined entity. “It’s been a great show for us,” Rosato stated. “We’re planning an even bigger presentation for next year.”

NWFA also marked the official debut of AHF Products, the spinoff company created when Armstrong Flooring sold its wood division to AIP back in November. For Brian Carson, the company’s newly appointed CEO, the focus was on brand promotion.

“We have the Bruce brand, the best consumer brand in the industry,” he told FCNews. “We’re going to be putting more focus into that, more merchandising for the specialty retailer. We will also be transitioning from Armstrong brand to the Hartco brand, which dates back to 1946. That legacy and heritage is a natural fit. We’re also going to be relaunching the Robbins line, which dates 125 years. That’s going to be for retailers who want some exclusivity around their territory.”

There was also a fair amount of activity at the Mullican booth, where the company’s popular Wexford products generated attention. As Pat Oakley, vice president of marketing, explained, the allure is all in the manufacturing technique. “It’s live sawn in Virginia and finished at our engineered plant in Tennessee. We take the center of the log and cut it in one direction, which gives you a ‘cathedral’ graining. It’s a real high-end look.”

Mullican also showcased unique finishes made possible via a process called carbonization. This technique employs a heat-treating process to deliver interesting visual characteristics. “It essentially gives you a reactive stain look without actually using chemicals to do it,” Oakley explained.

 

 

Posted on

Carpet: Fiber report—Latest soft intros take cues from hard surfaces

May 13/20, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 25

By Ken Ryan

 

The growth of hard surfaces is viewed in some circles as an impediment to the health of the broadloom industry. And yet, mill executives say it is hard surfaces that are influencing some of today’s positive trends in soft surface fiber.

Indeed, there are many fiber technologies in play today that enable multi-color dyes and tonal carpets to complement hard surfaces to create a fashionable home. Several mills are looking to take advantage of this opportunity. “The growing trend of hard surface throughout more of the consumer’s home is creating an inert need for the softness and comfort of carpet,” said Jason Surratt, senior vice president of product and design, Phenix. “We’re seeing a trend for more tactility with varying textures and blends of fiber twist levels within standard cut piles. Coloring and pattern design are also trending toward bolder selections. This is also attributed to hard surface breaking up living spaces and providing a more neutral tone throughout the consumer’s home.”

The encroachment of hard surfaces throughout the home means fewer rooms—or even spaces within a room—are designated for carpet. But wherever soft surface does reside—whether a carpet or a rug—it tends to incorporate more richness in style, patterns and vibrant colors. Jamie Welborn, vice president of residential carpet product development, Mohawk, cited data showing that solid carpet represents less than 40% of Mohawk’s sales in carpet compared with 60% for a non-solid coloration. “When I got into product development eight years ago it was a solid world and beige and brown was 90% of our sales,” he recalled.

Many consumers are looking for tried-and-true colors and visuals from their carpet, according to mill executives, and will often gravitate toward a smaller scale pattern. “Convergently, consumers selecting soft surface for a smaller room are getting bolder in their style choices,” said Theresa Tran, director of soft surface portfolio management, residential, Shaw Industries.

Pushing the envelope
As consumer demands drive product development, mills are relentlessly seeking to push fiber and product innovation forward to see how it can best meet consumers’ high expectations. These innovations include product and merchandising efforts.

One of Shaw Floors’ 2019 marketed programs—Color That Speaks to You—is a refresh of its Anso Colorwall, a successful merchandising and selling tool for more than two decades that now provides RSAs an easy-to-explain narrative about style and performance. Tran said this display gives consumers soft surface options and a pathway to selecting the carpet that fits their style preference and performance needs. Simply the Best, another marketing program, offers 13 styles and a palette curated with a variety of greige hues to be more on-trend with what consumers currently demand.

Mohawk’s ColorMax has resonated with the retail market and consumers due to its color clarity, depth and balance. To that end, Mohawk will expand its ColorMax offerings in the coming months. “ColorMax is one of those things where, until you see it up against a traditional carpet, you don’t realize the magnitude of it,” Welborn said. “I think we hit a home run.”

For Engineered Floors/ Dream Weaver the emphasis remains on balance, be it a soft subtle tonal or a vibrant blend of bold color combinations. As Mike Sanderson, vice president of sales and marketing, explained, “It’s the balance and consistency throughout the entire product that we strive for and that we notice continues to attract the consumer.” PureBac, the company’s most innovative backing system, continues to gain momentum with both the RSA and installers, Sanderson said. “Using our Colorburst technology, we continue to create and develop styling and innovation that remain on the cutting edge of styling.”

Foss Floors, which is exclusively a PET provider, has taken what worked in specified commercial—bolder, accent colors—to the Main Street and residential markets. New introductions such as Couture and Cutting Edge feature 9 x 36 planks with nine colors in two different styles. Foss also introduced a 24 x 24 carpet tile, again using bold colors to accent the line, to much fanfare in Main Street and residential applications.

Anderson Tuftex’s Unleashed collection, shown at Surfaces, has taken off in a big way, according to Pam Rainey, vice president of product design. “All of the carpets in the collection are made with Stainmaster PetProtect, so they’re stain and pet hair resistant along with having high-performance durability and comfort,” she explained.

Invista continues to expand its color and style portfolio of solution-dyed fiber to both stay on trend and increase the options its Stainmaster customers have to utilize. “Stainmaster PetProtect carpet already has a strong foundation, but the more we tell the story with retailers and consumers, the more we see excitement grow around it,” said

Jeff Dill, director of mill sales and specialty retail. “From social media and beyond, the response is exciting. Because of this enthusiastic response, we’ll continue to build our SDN [solution-dyed nylon] fiber portfolio to increase the options of looks and color palettes available to the market.”

The Dixie Group relies on its differentiation to stand out, and to that end has created some unique designs and patterns for its Masland and Fabrica brands. “Also, we are continuing to focus on our new EnVision66 nylon program as a point of differentiation,” said T.M. Nuckols, president, the residential division, The Dixie Group. “We are seeing good results and strong growth with this program, and this part of our business will continue to grow.”

Phenix unveiled new fiber and yarn initiatives at Surfaces that created buzz. This included a high lustered metallic yarn in a Stainmaster PetProtect line that refracts light differently, giving a luxurious pop within a traditional cut pile texture. In Modern Contours, a new polyester line, Phenix offers dealers a new, subdued tonal yarn system.

Stanton Carpet is marketing super-soft, plush nylon fibers that are soft to the touch and offer an opulent luster that is aesthetically pleasing and performs well. Examples include Jazzy, Swing, Muse and Mambo. With these new developments in soft nylon, the yarns have evolved to an almost silk-like touch. In addition, Stanton has unveiled a broad assortment of delustered super-soft nylons such as Starry Night, a soft cut-pile nylon with metallic yarn sprinkled throughout. Oxford Street, Regent St., and Marble Arch are innovative designs atop a plush nylon base offering what the company believes is the right balance of pattern, soft touch and performance.

Soft fiber continues to be the headline at Southwind Carpets as illustrated in its So Soft PET carpet line known for its exceptional softness and comfort. The solution-dyed feature of the yarn is also a prime factor for the security of fade resistance, color-fastness and inherent stain resistance.

Southwind’s solution-dyed offerings come in blue, blue-green and green, with multiple textural effects and lusters. Its Classic Traditions collection of LCLs and Color Points is an example of soft, solution-dyed fiber in layered, textural, lustrous carpets.

Posted on

Installation: Self-levelers smooth over rough subfloors

April 29/May 6, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 24

By Lindsay Baillie

For a consumer to get the most out of her floor, the product must be installed properly. As retailers, installers and contractors know, the success of any installation starts with a properly prepped substrate.

To help installers with this important step, manufacturers are developing new self-levelers to shorten prep time and create better working environments for all on the construction site. Here is an overview of some of the latest products hitting the market.

Ardex – Ardex K13
Ardex K13 has a dual water ratio, allowing installers to choose a high flow or standard flow option for their installation. When choosing the standard flow option, the product can be installed up to 1 1⁄2-inch without aggregate and tapered to meet existing elevations. The high flow option has outstanding fluidity and coverage. It can be installed as thin as 1⁄16-inch but still maintains ideal self- leveling properties in these thin applications.

The Ardex K13 unique dual water ratio allows installers the flexibility to adjust to the jobsite requirements with a single product. The installation crew can change water ratios from job to job or even bag to bag on any install to cater to their preference. The product still maintains a 16-hour dry time at both water ratios for most floor coverings. These features are said to provide reduced cost and rapid turn-around fitting any timeline.

Custom Building Products – CustomTech TechLevel WSF
CustomTech TechLevel WSF is a fiber-reinforced, self-leveling underlayment for wood subfloors. Due to its fiber reinforcement, lath is not required for plywood or OSB substrates. What’s more, WSF is compatible with radiant heating systems and can be used in place of backerboard over most applications. It can also be used over non-wood floors, providing one product for all types of subfloors.

CustomTech’s low-prep technology requires no mechanical prep for suitable substrates. It helps installers save time by eliminating the labor involved in installing a wire lath before leveling. “This is a high-flow formula with excellent handling and exceptional flow retention properties that helps production rates,” said Eric Carr, senior director of product and channel management.

Schon̈ox – Renotex 3D System
Schon̈ox’s new Renotex 3D System is designed to exceed the material standards of new and remodeling projects. This versatile and customizable system combines Renotex 3D, a sound and insulation sheet, Schon̈ox RS 50 foam tape and Schon̈ox AP Rapid Plus to provide a fast and cost-effective subfloor renovation system.

First, the sound and insulation sheet is cut to size and loosely laid, sheet to sheet, on the wooden substrate. The high density of this underlayment allows for walkability at any time. Any gaps around the perimeter should be closed adhering the RS 50 foam tape to any vertical structure. The Schon̈ox Renotex 3D reinforcement fabric is then cut to shape and flattened lengthwise to overlap approximately 2 inches. Finally, the Schon̈ox AP Rapid Plus self-leveling compound is poured. The system cures in as little as 24 hours to a completely decoupled, floating and self-bearing system.

MAPEI – Polyplan RSL Rapid Self-Leveler
Polyplan RSL is a two-part self-leveling compound. It is provided in a 30 lb. bag of powder and a 1-gallon bag of liquid latex. Due to this configuration, no on-site water is needed other than wash water, and the compound cannot be over or under watered.

Polyplan RSL does not require the use of a primer over non-porous substrates, making it a time saver for installers. It also has a very fast cure time and is ready for the installation of vinyl flooring three hours after application.

“We chose to put Part B of Polyplan RSL in a plastic bag rather than 1-gallon plastic jug,” explained Jeff Johnson, FCIS product manager. “The reason being if you are using Polyplan RSL on a job of any size you would have a mountain of gallon jugs to get rid of. By using a plastic bag, you will reduce the volume of waste generated and it is actually less plastic by weight as compared to a plastic jug.”

Sika – Sika Level-425
Sika Level-425 is a dust-reduced, high-flow, high-strength self-leveler. Sika Level-425’s dust-reduced technology allows for a clean installation in areas such as medical facilities, libraries, domestic properties, industrial environments and cafeterias. It is a very low-shrinkage, smooth self-leveler that allows most floor coverings to be installed in as little as 16 hours. Apply Sika Level-425 from as little as 1⁄16-inch up to 1⁄2-inch.

Posted on

A look back at 2018’s top introductions

April 29/May 6, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 24

By Lindsay Baillie and Ken Ryan

 

In a marketplace plagued by “me-too” products, it is up to manufacturers to develop standout flooring. Whether it’s carpet, hardwood, laminate, tile or resilient, suppliers have had to step up their game in style, design and performance to excite flooring dealers and customers alike.

In 2018, the industry saw a plethora of new products enter the scene. Following is an overview of those products that stood out to flooring retailers.


Terra Linda by Anderson Tuftex

About the product: Terra Linda is a 100% Stainmaster Luxerell BCF nylon carpet with textured styled. Available in 24 colors the signature product also features A/T’s Softbac Platinum Backing.

Sierra Nevada by Audacity from CFL
About the product:
Audacity’s water-resistant laminate floors are available in five collections—Classic Naturals, Hearthside, Lodge, Monticello and Vintage. In the U.S. and in Canada, Audacity Flooring is sold exclusively through select Armstrong Flooring distributors.

Adventure II by Engineered Floors
About the product:
EF’s Adventure II is a 5.5mm luxury vinyl plank with a 22-mil wear layer and a ceramic bead finish. Available in nine wood-look visuals, the 7 x 48-inch plank can be installed floating and comes with a 10-year commercial warranty and a lifetime residential warranty. What’s more, Adventure II is Floorscore certified for indoor air quality.

Sono by Inhaus
About the product: Sono is a 100% recyclable, PVC-free flooring that is made up of 60% mineral powder and 40% polypropylene. Sono is waterproof, easy to install and highly stable under both humidity and heat. The company continues to invest in its digital printing to ensure quality, on-trend visuals.

RevWood Plus by Mohawk
About the product: 
RevWood Plus is a revolutionary wood floor destined to make consumers rethink the wood category. RevWood Plus planks offer reliable durability that resist stains, scratches and dents. Thanks to its 100% waterproof flooring system, spills, accidents and tracked-in-stain-makers are kept on the surface for quick, easy cleanup.

Sweet Memories collection by Mirage
About the product: 
Mirage’s Sweet Memories collection features the manufacturer’s exclusive staining and brushing processes to create floors with the charm of yesteryear. Variations, knots, cracks and other natural characteristics help to create the collection’s authentic appearance.


Titanium by Karastan

About the product: Karastan’s Titanium rug collection is grounded by a careful combination of both traditional and transitional patterns. The collection is meant to satisfy a craving for contrast with a fashion-forward fusion of matte and sheen finishes.


Acrylx by Raskin

About the product: Acrylx is a solid surface waterproof floor available in three collections: Premier Home, Premier XL and Premier G-Core XL. Acrylx’s high-density core is made of pure materials and minerals that are tightly bonded with polymers to create a solid core that is more impact resistant and denser than other floors.


Great California Oak by Republic Floors

About the product: Great California Oak is an extra-wide, pure SPC floor with beveled edges and realistic grains. The 100% waterproof flooring carries a limited 25-year residential warranty and a limited 10-year commercial warranty. What’s more, it features the company’s new antibacterial EVA underlayment padding.


Bellera by Shaw Floors

About the product: Created with a holistic approach to meet the design and performance needs of consumers, Bellera is a top-to-bottom innovation known for style and durability. With Bellera, Shaw’s new Endurance high-performance fiber is combined with proven technologies such as R2X soil and stain resistance and LifeGuard backing to create a worry-free carpet.


Harbor Plank by Southwind
About the product: 
The Harbor Plank series features planks 6 x 48, with a high-density wood plastic composite core and a Uniclic locking system. Attached to each luxury vinyl plank is the Southwind IXPE underlayment pad, which is impervious to water, hides subfloor imperfections, provides added sound absorption and comfort underfoot.


COREtec Pro Plus by USFloors
About the product: 
The COREtec Pro Plus Series consists of two collections: COREtec Pro Plus (5mm total thickness) and COREtec Pro Plus Enhanced (7mm total thickness). COREtec Pro Plus Enhanced includes all the features of the Pro Plus collection coupled with a four-sided enhanced bevel for added realism.


Radius by Stanton Carpet

About the product: Stanton’s Radius broadloom carpet is available in Stanton Street, the company’s Decorative Commercial line. Radius is a cut-pile nylon and is crafted for residential to heavy commercial application.

TruTEX by Tarkett
About the product: With its unique textile backing, TruTEX luxury sheet flooring resists mold and mildew while adding superior strength against rips, tears and gouges. With 20 realistic, high-definition stone and wood designs, TruTEX is easy to install over existing floor coverings, greatly reducing the time spent preparing subfloors.

 

 

Posted on

Made in the USA: Effects of policies on reshoring activity

April 29/May 6, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 24

By Reginald Tucker

 

Some of the key economic policies instituted by the Trump Administration were designed to reduce the tax and regulatory burden on U. S. corporations to create an environment that would attract (or retain) investment in domestic manufacturing.

This change would improve the absolute ROI on U.S. investment, motivating and enabling all U.S. companies to grow faster by investing at home. At the same time, the U.S. ROI would be improved vs. offshore investments, leveling the playing field with some of our primary trading partners—namely China—by encouraging U.S. manufacturers to take advantage of lower taxes by reinvesting in their stateside operations. The changes would also encourage those companies who already produce outside the U.S. (or are planning to do so) to “reshore” those operations and bolster their domestic capacity and, by extension, American jobs.

FCNews recently caught up with Harry Moser, founder and president of the Reshoring Initiative, and an authority on all things concerning domestic manufacturing, to discuss these issues. More importantly, to find out if the stated objectives are meeting the intended goals.

Following are excerpts of that conversation:

Is there a direct correlation to the number of manufacturing jobs coming back to the U.S. and the Trump Administration’s policies on taxation, trade and tariffs?

There’s a direct correlation between these government actions and the reshoring trends. The lower tax rate—specifically taking it down from 35% to 21%—makes the return on investment in a U.S. facility much more competitive than it was before. Also, the immediate expensing of capital equipment helps companies finance the investments. In the past, suppliers had to depreciate any new equipment they purchased over the course of seven years, basically for tax purposes. Now, they can write off the equipment in the same year in which they made the investment. This includes a factory, machine tools, a steel mill—whatever. This helps reduce their tax in the current year because they have all that depreciation. However, it hurts suppliers in the second year/third year because they don’t have those years of depreciation. It shifts those write-offs forward to the year in which those expenditures are made. This definitely motivates business owners to invest in capital now.

Research shows the U.S. economy saw a bump in 2017 as a result of the tax cuts. Has that spilled over into 2018?

In 2017 we had 170,000 (announced) manufacturing jobs come back to the U.S. But in 2018 the responding number was 145,000—down 14.7% from the year before. However, it’s still the second highest number of manufacturing jobs reshored, and it’s two or three times the average of the last 10 years, excluding 2017.

To what do you attribute the lower number in 2018 compared to 2017?

We believe it’s because of the uncertainty caused by the trade war with China and all the issues with the tariffs. It’s a lot of back and forth. Companies don’t know what’s going to happen with the supply chain or the market. Therefore, the easiest thing for them to do is stay in a holding pattern. But it’s all relative; if we didn’t have such a huge year in 2017, we would be bragging about 2018, because it’s up a lot from 2016.

Looking at the various manufacturing sectors, what industry was most impacted in 2018?

Most of the falloff in the reshoring numbers—specifically two-thirds—was in the auto- motive category. So if you look at the number of companies announcing reshoring jobs and/or foreign direct investment (FDI)—they’re up 35% from 2017 to 2018. But we didn’t have as many of the big gains when, for example, Nissan or Toyota puts in a whole new assembly plant. Announcements such as these typically result in the reshoring of 3,000-5,000 positions, not including the smaller, local suppliers who add anywhere between 500 and 1,000 jobs to support the additional capacity. Most industries were OK, but the transportation equipment number was off substantially.

Do you expect to see companies continuing to reinvest?

We saw a decent rise in capital expenditures, but now it’s tailing off a little bit. Again, that’s due to all the uncertainty surrounding the China tariffs—the aluminum and steel tariffs and the threat of automotive tariffs.

Is this strategy sustainable?

President Trump keeps bringing up new stuff—I think he has too many balls in the air. If he had just stuck to, ‘Hey, we’re going to fix the trade deficit’ and maybe left all our trading parts alone and just focused on China—and perhaps gotten all of the other countries to help him—I think he’d be in a much better position today than having put aluminum and steel tariffs on our allies and threatening them with various actions. I think the reshoring numbers and FDI numbers would be much better if he had done that.

Where do we stand today on trade with China?

The Chinese trade surplus with the U.S. is about $400 billion a year in their favor in terms of goods. By comparison, the Chinese trade surplus with the world is about the same number. So when you boil it down, China is “trade-neutral” (or trade balanced) in aggregate with the rest of the world, but it has a $400 billion a year trade surplus with the U.S. That represents about half of our total goods trade deficit.

When you look at the numbers, you might say, “Damn, it looks like China is intentionally beating up the U.S., shipping us its exports (toys, clothing, refrigerators, electronics, TVs, cell phones, etc.). Either they have focused on the U.S. or we’ve been totally negligent in not producing the things we should have been making but did not.

Why has there been this imbalance for so long?

Economics. Fifteen years ago, Chinese wages were about 3% of the U.S. level. Which means it costs substantially less to produce there. Also the Chinese government was very flexible to support investment by domestic and foreign firms. At the same time, the U.S. has set itself up as the dumping ground for imports by having a currency that is 20% overvalued and no value added tax.

We seem to be at a standstill in terms of a long-term resolution.

Trump is looking at that same data and has every right to bitch and say, ‘This isn’t fair and we have to fix this.’ I support his efforts in this regard, but I would have been much more focused on getting the allies on board; I would have negotiated with China in private before- hand and given them a chance to agree “voluntarily” instead of beating them up in public, because if they agree to anything now they’re losing face—and the Chinese don’t like to lose face.

Some of the companies that import from China began stockpiling inventories in advance of the tariffs with the fear a second round of tariffs would be forthcoming. This goes against the grain of the flooring industry model, which primarily functions on a “just-in-time inventory system.” What happens if there are no additional tariffs?

If it goes to 25%, you will have the inventory. But if it doesn’t you’ll want to get rid of it as fast as you can. Sounds like a good time for me to negotiate for flooring for my condo.

In the flooring industry, many companies that were primarily sourcing from China have partnered with manufacturers in other Asian countries in the wake of the tariffs. Are you seeing this across other sectors?

There has been a series of articles about work flooding out of China, with most of it going to Southeast Asia to places like Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, India.

Is it just a matter of time, then, before Vietnam becomes the new China and we’re dealing with the same issues?

That’s unlikely. Vietnam has about 96 million people compared to China’s population of 1.3 billion. Also, Chinese wages were rising 10-15% a year for the last 15-20 years. There are different dynamics in other parts of Southeast Asia. You don’t have to move too much work out of China to flood Vietnam with business. There are simply not enough workers in Vietnam to take the flood of work and not see the same wage growth patterns we’re seeing in China. So, five years from now, you might have to leave Vietnam. And by that time maybe Cambodia has gotten too expensive to produce. So now where do you go when that happens? India? (Has significant issues.) Africa? (I don’t see that.) Why go through a cycle like that every five years? Instead, we suggest U.S. companies do the math and find out the savings they will realize by coming back to the U.S.

But with high wages in the U.S., it’s not really cheaper to make products in the States.

It’s not that the U.S. is the best place in general to produce, but it is, in many cases, the best place to make products that are going to be sold here in the U.S. market. For example, U.S. companies are much more competitive selling flooring in the U.S. than they would be exporting to China, Germany, etc., because they don’t have to deal with duties, freight charges, inventory and so forth. U.S. manufacturing can be 15% more expensive than Chinese and still be the better choice for supplying the U.S. market.

Part of the challenge for companies that import is the high value of the U.S. dollar compared to other currencies. How do we address this issue?

We calculate that for every 1% improvement in U.S. suppliers’ costs vs. manufacturing off-shore, about 150,000 manufacturing jobs come back to the U.S. One of the simplest ways of achieving that is to bring down the value of the dollar. There’s a program called the Market Access Charge, which would charge anyone who wants to store money here—not to buy companies or hire people—a quarter percent to move the money into the U.S. That would motivate companies to move their money to Germany, Switzerland or maybe China, for example, which would lower the value of the dollar and raise the value of those other currencies. That, in turn, would make us more competitive. It would also make the U.S. a better place to build a factory—even if it doesn’t make us as good a place to be a bank. But the fact is, we need factories more than we need additional banks.

Interest rates play a role in that equation as well.

Lower interest rates are good for investment, and they’re also good for keeping the value of the dollar down. With a higher dollar value, U.S. bonds pay a higher amount and people think the dollar is going to keep going higher and higher. Then, billions of offshore dollars flood into the U.S. to get the higher interest rate and appreciation, and that keeps the cost of manufacturing in the U.S. uncompetitive vs. the rest of the world. One way to get the dollar down is to get the interest rates down again.

 

Posted on

Cork, bamboo intros sport new looks, sizes

April 29/May 6, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 24

By Megan Salzano

 

Cork and bamboo flooring options are the go-to eco-friendly options for consumers who deem sustainability an important part of their buying decision. Both categories fit well into the overall green story, and manufacturers agree they should be marketed as such. However, the product categories have also undergone a recent evolution with new technologies allowing for on-trend visuals and sizes sure to captivate consumers.

Following are recent product introductions that boast trending design features.

Amorim
Amorim’s Wise marks the first generation of flooring with an Amorim identity. Wise features a rigid core made of cork and recycled materials. The product was launched in a collection of 62 cork and wood visuals. It is PVC-free with all the benefits of a low thickness waterproof solution. The reinforced dimensional stability means it requires minimum subfloor preparation. Wise can be installed in both residential and commercial spaces alike.

 

Bamboo Hardwoods
The Symphony collection is a rigid core SPC with a strand-woven bamboo wear layer. It measures 5 inches wide, 72 inches long and 1⁄4 of an inch thick and features a 1.2mm wear layer. It can be glued down or installed as a floating floor. It is water resistant and withstands up to 72 hours of topical water spills.

 

Cali Bamboo
Nine new floors are now available in the company’s Eco-Engineered bamboo flooring collection. The new floors are the company’s first wide-plank engineered flooring styles with click-lock milling, ideal for gluedown or floating installations. Planks measure 72 7⁄8 inches long, 5 5⁄16 inches wide and 9⁄16 of an inch thick. The new styles feature an extra thick wear layer of fossilized bamboo over a sustainable core of cross-constructed eucalyptus. Planks are protected by a 13-coat durability sealing system, shielding them from pet claws, high heels and other forms of wear and tear.

 

USFloors
Natural Bamboo’s Muse Strand is ideal for homes located in a wide range of climates. The engineered locking construction pro- vides extreme dimensional stability. Muse Strand’s design features distressed and chiseled surfaces, hand-sculpted scraping and wire-brushed enhanced grains and fashion-forward stains and washes. The 5-inch and 5 1⁄2-inch planks are designed to add tailored sophistication while the 2 1⁄2-inch strip conveys a retro look.

 

Torlys
CorkWood Designer is designed to emphasize the true essence and beauty of hardwood. The line, which is FSC certified, features extra-long and wide planks in contemporary, on-trend colors. It includes a 3mm top layer, a polyurethane finish said to be equivalent to top-rated AC4 laminate, sealed edges for increased water resistance and CorkPlus attached underlayment with Microban antimicrobial protection.

 

WE Cork
The Timeless collection is a glueless floating floor system with traditional and unique shades and patterns. It is available in tiles or planks with a micro-bevel profile and comes with Unilin locking system. Timeless tiles and planks are finished with Greenshield and are suitable for light commercial or residential use. Tiles measure 24 x 17 1⁄2 x 7⁄16. Planks measure 35 1⁄2 x 7 1⁄2 x 7⁄16.

 

Wellmade Performance Flooring
Wellmade HDPC waterproof bamboo couples the performance virtues of rigid core flooring technology with real bamboo wear layer veneers. The product features Wellmade’s HDPC waterproof technology, a moisture protection system that seals out both topical and sub-surface moisture while boasting a 100% waterproof HDPC core. With attached pad, the bamboo flooring is 8.3mm thick x 7.48 inches wide x 72.83 inches long and features the Uniclic locking system. Colors range from traditional carbonized to multi-color and character-driven glazing options.

Posted on

Coverings 2019: Premier tile and stone event going strong after 30 years

April 15/22, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 23

By Steven Feldman

 

Orlando, Fla.—Against the backdrop of a slowing ceramic tile market, a sold-out Coverings celebrated its 30th anniversary here April 9-12 with 1,100 exhibitors from more than 40 countries showing their latest and greatest in response to a variety of trends.

At 480,000 square feet, Coverings is ranked as the 35th largest trade show in the U.S., according to Trade Show magazine. That’s up 3% from 2018, said Jennifer Hoff, whose company, Taffy Event Strategies, has been managing the show for the past three years. To put that in perspective, Surfaces, the flooring industry’s premier event, is ranked 42nd in terms of exhibit space. The good news is Coverings continues to grow despite U.S. ceramic tile consumption more or less stalling in 2018, increasing just 1.5% to 3.11 billion square feet, according to the Tile Council of North America (TCNA). Consumption increased at least 5.1% in each of the three prior years.

Eric Astrachan, executive director, TCNA, pegged the U.S. ceramic tile industry at $3.69 billion, up just 0.4% from 2017. Imports grew as a portion of the market from 68.8% to 70.7%, an increase of 4.7%. On a dollar basis, Italy remained the largest exporter to the U.S. in 2018, comprising 30.9% of U.S. imports. China was second with a 27.3% share and Spain was third with a 15.6% share. In terms of square footage, China remained the largest exporter of ceramic tile to the U.S. with a 31.5% share. Next is Mexico with a 17.3% share, its lowest percentage since 2006. This despite the peso’s significant decline vs. the U.S. dollar over the last five years, losing nearly half of its value. Italy was the third-largest exporter of tile to the U.S. in 2018, making up 16.4% of U.S. imports.

What is impacting ceramic tile in the U.S.? For one, acronyms, namely LVT, WPC and SPC. The waterproof/rigid core revolution has impacted every category of flooring, and ceramic is not immune to that competitive pressure.

But it’s more than just the competition from LVT. Donato Grosser, consultant for Ceramic Tiles of Italy, acknowledged that Italian imports of ceramic tile to the U.S. in 2018 was down about 7% in dollars and square footage. “Ceramic tile in general has been down,” he said. “As for Italian tile, there is a lot of com- petition from Chinese, Spanish and Brazilian manufacturers, particularly the Spanish over the last couple of years; for some reason their FOB prices went down from $15 per square meter to $12 per square meter. We don’t know how this can happen so abruptly, but you have a situation where their products are cheaper than even the Chinese.”

Grosser also identified large companies like MSI, Bedrosians and Emser—all of which are very heavily invested in China. “They also import from other countries, but they buy mostly from China. And they offer good service, the product they sell is good and comparable to everything. So the price is not the only thing; otherwise, Brazil would have a much larger share of the market.”

Despite all of this, Hoff noted that Coverings attendance was trending ahead of last year with the hope that 26,000 people would make the trip to Orlando. Attendees run the gamut from architects and designers to fabricators and contractors to distributors and retailers.

Following are some of the key trends FCNews spotted at Coverings:

Classic polished marbles, sometimes mixed with retro elements
Matt Kahny with Ideology from American Olean.

Reflective tiles
Vetri collection from Refin

Patchwork tiles Opus collection from Casalgrande Pagana

Wood-look tile for indoor/ outdoor applications
Primewood from Sant’Agostino

Ceramic wallpaper by virtue of high-resolution digital printing technology
Kontinua collection from Casalgrande Pagana

More refined wood looks
Coby McDougal, director of non-slab sales, MSI, showcasing Caldera.

Geometric-inspired looks
Rhombix, Hexagono and Georama from MSI

Black and white retro looks Retro Revival from MSI

AT THE TILE OF SPAIN PAVILION...

Color is back in a huge way; pink was especially prevalent at many Tile of Spain booths.

Art deco and art nouveau, both geometrics and florals and organics both in small, repetitive patterns and super-size graphics.

Marble looks feature more aggressive veining with greater variation.

Squares are coming back, both on their own and in pairings with rectangles.

 

Posted on

Retail Education: Top merchandising tips to make a lasting impression

April 15/22, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 23

By Lindsay Baillie

 

Properly merchandising product can assist flooring dealers and RSAs in selling their best products while also instilling confidence in the consumer. For example, flooring displayed at the front of a store is guaranteed to catch the consumer’s eyes while a product in the back corner may never get any attention.

Following are several merchandising tips from top flooring retailers across the United States.

Keep your showroom up to date. Savvy retailers say a good-looking showroom with various styles can help build a customer’s trust and push her to see the store as both fashionable and knowledgeable.

“Having a uniform showroom is often a challenge in our industry,” said Missy Montgomery, showroom manager, Montgomery’s CarpetsPlus Color Tile, Venice, Fla. “We can carry many different products, but the key is to not saturate the showroom. We have our showroom laid out in sections such as wood, carpet, tile, LVP, area rugs, commercial, etc.”

Display the right products. As new flooring continues to enter the market, determining which products to display can be taxing. “Every square inch is money,” Montgomeryexplained. “Go through your showroom on a minimum of a semi-annual basis and allocate the dollars to the racks. Not moving the product? It is time to switch it up.”

Nick Freadreacea, president, The Flooring Gallery, Louisville, Ky., urges dealers to remember that in most cases less is more. “The first thing most stores need to do is eliminate all the displays and sampling that are not producing sales for them. Each year, we measure every product and display for their return per square foot. If something is not performing, we move it out. Larger aisles and a comfortable shopping environment are more important than having non-producing displays.”

How these products are displayed are also important. For example, Carlton Billingsley, owner, Floors & More, Benton, Ark., suggested higher-end products should reflect and demand a higher price in merchandising. “FCA Network has cherry wood displays for our higher end products, black metal frames for the mid-level products and stacker/white boards for the builder business,” he explained. “Showcase the product you want to sell in larger samples, room scenes, photos of finished projects, etc., so the consumer knows this product is important to you and maybe it should be to them, too.”

Once a dealer has selected a product and the ideal display vehicle, now it’s time to consider showroom placement. Most dealers suggest focusing on the most important items by featuring them more prominently. “Give those items the largest sample possible and place them in the most visible areas,” Freadreacea said. “Picture your showroom as a store in a mall, and they always put the items they want to feature on endcaps or in the best lighting.”

At Carpet Gallery of Akron and Quality Carpet & Flooring, higher-end products are the stars of the retail floor—and it shows. “Place some of your best products right by the front door so [customers] can see them when they first enter,” said Robert Gaither, owner. “We then like to mix in some better products with the mid-range and economy products after that. I don’t like to lead people to the far corner of the showroom to show them the economy material. Doing that might embarrass them if that is all they can afford.”

Solicit employee input. Beyond stocking stellar product, it’s important to get the opinions of different team members. “A great idea is always developed by a team member who works the floor daily,” Billingsley stated. Designers who frequent the showroom also provide valuable feedback. “We will ask their opinion of a certain merchandise product.”

Join a buying group. Several flooring dealers tout the many benefits of aligning with a buying group—one of which includes assistance with merchandising. “Joining [FCA Network] and listening to them makes merchandising easy and gives me the time to concentrate on other aspects of running the business such as selling, advertising and managing the staff,” said Bill Graybeal, owner, Graybeal’s Carpet Plus, Logansport, Ind.

The ability to private label in a buying group also helps with merchandising. “This helps us to look more uniform and professional,” Montgomery stated. “They see the quality from the moment they enter the door—from the products on the floor, displays a clean showroom and the knowledge and friendliness of the salesperson. If you can give them all those things, they see the value of doing business with you.”

Partner with the right supplier. For many dealers, manufacturers and their sales representatives can help make crucial decisions about what products to display and how they should be merchandised on the floor. “Merchandising products is picking the right manufacturers and using their expertise and choosing their displays,” Graybeal said. “FCA [Network] is also a great resource in helping us merchandise the different categories effectively. Their core product displays also make it easy.”

Retailers believe it’s also crucial to have manufacturers that will stand behind a dealer if a circumstance arises. “You need the best behind you, and if they are not get rid of the product,” Montgomery stated. “Another key is having the sales representatives on your side. I personally invest time and have relationships with them because it takes both of us to sell a product. This can also help when it comes time to order a rack and negotiate a price for the rack.”

Aim high. When it comes to showing a customer product, some retailers it makes sense to accentuate their most expensive flooring options first. “You will never insult anyone by showing them the best,” Carpet Gallery of Akron and Quality Carpet & Floorings’ Gaither said. “By exposing her to the best and explaining why they are the best, the customer may want to upgrade by herself. During our showroom tour she will be exposed to the other products as well and can usually see the difference in the quality/price relationship.”

Visit the competition.Beyond looking at their own showrooms, dealers should take a moment to explore neighboring flooring stores. This way you can see how you stack up against competitors. As Billingsley explains: “Be open to being different and not the same flooring store. If you go to five stores 30 miles from your location, do they all look the same? How will the customer remember your showroom?”