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Exclusive interview: De Cock sets sights on innovation, customer satisfaction

New president of Mohawk Flooring says it’s all about retailers, consumers

 

At 45 years old, Paul De Cock is among the youngest presidents in Mohawk Flooring’s history. But make no mistake: He steps into this role with a wealth of experience, both through his 13-plus years with Mohawk and seven with his family’s Unilin prior to the purchase. One thing becomes strikingly obvious in any dialogue with De Cock: He is customer-centric to the core—both Mohawk’s customer as well as the end user—and anything that happens under his auspices will center around that. FCNews publisher Steven Feldman was granted the first interview with the man charged with taking Mohawk Flooring to the next level.

Who is Paul De Cock?
From a business perspective, I have spent my entire career in flooring. I came to Mohawk through the Unilin acquisition, which was my family’s business founded in 1960. I’m second generation. I have 20 years in the flooring business, but you could say I have 40 years because flooring was what we got at the kitchen table. So flooring has always been a part of my business life and my personal life. This should give all flooring retailers some comfort, that I understand what is important to them.

What drives you?
What drives me is to make the best-looking products, have the best possible service, make that product with the best possible quality and then make our customers as happy as possible. You want to be the best in service, the best in product, the best in quality and the best in customer satisfaction. That satisfaction is the end result and what ultimately drives me.

Do you have a competitive nature?
I am a competitive person, but I would not say the heart is competitive. I like to make people happy. You want the consumers to be happy in their homes and you want the retailers to be happy with their relationship with Mohawk so we can help them grow their businesses. You want everybody to be happy throughout the chain.

What strengths do you bring to the position of president of Mohawk Flooring, North America? Where can you make the greatest contribution to these retailers?
First, I come from a hard surface background. I think that is critical, because it’s the fastest growing component of the industry. I understand that, and that should bring comfort to retailers.

Second, I am a very customer-focused executive who always thinks about what we need to do to be successful. Everything is going to be aligned to make sure we can bring success to our retailers, because success to our retailers and customers is success for us.

The third thing is what I would call complexity management. The business I was running in Europe was complicated, because we were in 100 countries with 100 languages with all kinds of distribution set-ups and customer set-ups. Product demands were very different from one geography to the next. Mohawk is also a complicated business, but it’s a different level of complexity. It’s geographically less complicated but, from a product point of view, complicated given the breadth of what we bring to market.

You've been on the job for a couple of months, but you're really starting in earnest now. Tell me some of the first things you plan to focus on.
We’re going to put the organization in place, an organization that offers accountability and good chain of command so we can deliver the service, the quality and the best possible product so we can [absolve] the retailer of all the different things he has to take care of.

Second is LVT, the fastest growing category in the industry. We are very well-positioned to participate in that, given we have the largest U.S. manufacturing footprint in LVT. We have a lot of product activity and product launches going on in that part of the business.

Third, we want growth. It always comes back to the customer. Take care of your retailers and the growth is automatic.

What do you believe Mohawk does better than every other company?
I believe it’s our commitment to innovation. If you look at what we have done over the last few years with products like RevWood and SmartStrand, we’re going to do exactly the same thing in LVT. Not only product but also digital marketing tools like Omnify, for example, which is the best in the industry. I do think we push the boundaries on innovation, not only product innovation but also in the way we go to market, the way we bring the package to the customer.

A second important one is we are a manufacturing company. We want to manufacture the best possible products in North America and control the whole value chain. It’s by controlling that chain where you can bring that satisfaction to the customer. You have the teams that know the innovation part. You have the teams that build the plants in sync with that innovation. You have all the manufacturing assets domestically, completely plugged into your distribution system. That gives the best possible guarantee to the customers in terms of quality, service and product innovation.

Being a high value-added manufacturer is also something that makes us different. Sourcing is not our core business. It might complement the business, but ultimately we are manufacturers.

The last one is our distribution network. We can get into every ZIP code in America within 48 hours, bring every possible product to anybody. We have one of the most efficient ways to do that. This brings not only service to our customers but also the value of doing that in a cost-competitive way. Distribution is very expensive. Due to the scale we have, we can offer that capability to be anywhere. I think that is valued by our customers.

Why do you feel Mohawk is the best partner for retailers? How can Mohawk enhance that partnership under your leadership?
Floor covering retail is a very complicated job. The reason is consumers want the best possible product, but they also want it to be installed in the best possible way. Every home, every commercial project is different, which means it’s complicated. Every project has something special. Our retailers are the best at handling that complexity on site with the customer and helping that customer select the right product.

We need to be complementary to that role. Our role is to [lighten the retailer’s load] and flawlessly execute on that product, quality and service promise so they can focus on all the complicated things they need to take care of with the customer, which is selection and installation. The result is a happy retailer and a happy customer. That, ultimately, is why we are in business.

What are you most excited about heading into 2019?
I am most excited about all our product launches. We have new introductions in RevWood, which has been doing phenomenally well. We are relaunching two product lines in LVT: Pergo and SolidTech. SolidTech is going to be made in America. We’re bringing Pergo, the strongest product brand in the industry, back to the specialty retailer with a fantastic Pergo Extreme rigid LVT offering. It’s the best brand and best product. We’ve also brought some new introductions under TecWood. In every category we’re cutting edge with the best brands in the industry combined with innovation and service. On the soft surface side, in our SmartStrand franchise, we’ve brought in Silk Reserve. We put in four new ColorMax styles, which is the innovative new dying process to provide beautifully blended colorations and superior color clarity.

I’m also very excited about the landscape for retailers from a communication, go-to-market, branding and advertising point of view, which is changing dramatically with Google search and the online presence. I’m also absolutely proud of the fact we have an absolute leadership position in bringing digital to the retailers’ stores. We help our retailers bring the consumers in their stores, so they ask the right questions in the store. We partner with our retailers in the whole digitalization of their storefronts so they can capture more people to their stores. That’s also been something we’ve done phenomenally well.

Greatest opportunities for Mohawk in 2019?
It’s about bringing the connection and happiness to the consumer. Have the right products and the right brands in front of them with the right technical features that solve the problems they have in their homes. At the same level, it’s also about doing a better job of making sure we bring our retailers a completely seamless experience.

What do you see as the biggest challenges for 2019?
We have a relatively good economy right now. We might see a little bit of slowdown in 2019 from a very good 2018. All economic indicators are still in the green. Still, the floor covering industry is kind of slow. That is a little disconnected. We have a good economic environment, but we have a slower environment within the floor covering industry compared to what the economy is producing.

The question is why is there a disconnect? I think they were going to raise interest rates. The Fed is reevaluating that now because they see in the building-related part of the industry there is some slowdown. They obviously don’t want that. That’s an interesting part of the challenges we have ahead of us. Also, the whole tariff situation uncertainty has an impact on the business.

We’re seeing uncertainty on several levels—from the Federal Reserve on interest rates to the part of the consumer about the economy next year to the tariffs creating a climate where people are not confident about the future and where people want to spend money on their homes. The consumer may be taking a bit of a conservative approach on capital goods, like buying new cars or new floors or updating their homes.

I think the consumption is still going well. But I think we need to make sure we keep that positive vibe with the consumer and the confidence with the consumer so she can have confidence to spend the money on the renovation of her house and the capital goods that are associated with that.

What about labor? Do you see labor still remaining a big challenge for this industry?
Yes. Installation labor is a challenge. We are working on some innovative solutions to make installation quicker and easier so you need fewer hours per square foot to be installed. That’s definitely one of our focuses. As I said before, we’re a manufacturer. Finding the talent to run the plants is not easy. And, you know we have a big distribution network; it’s not easy to find the drivers for all the trucks. There is more or less full employment in North America. It’s not easy to find people in any of these sectors.

With the industry going more toward hard surface, obviously the replacement cycle becomes longer. Do you see that as a challenge for dealers?
I don’t. Yes, the replacement cycle becomes longer, but you have a whole different opportunity given the ticket for hard surface is larger than it is for carpet. So, the counterpart of the longer cycle is the ticket is bigger. It’s not about changing your carpet every five years anymore; it’s about changing your hard surface floor maybe every 10 or 20 years. But remember, that hard surface is costing two, three, four times as much as carpet. It’s difficult to say what the impact of this changing dynamic will be on the total floor covering industry.

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Cali Brands grows, evolves, disrupts

January 7/14, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 16

By Steven Feldman

 

San Diego—Cali Brands, the company formerly known as Cali Bamboo, is growing faster than a weed after a rain shower on a sunny day. The company continues to evolve its product portfolio, adding vinyl, rigid core wood and engineered European hardwood to the mix while staying true to its sustainability mission and “green to the core’’ roots.

Bamboo is still an important part of the business, according to Doug Jackson, president and CEO. “We grew 40% last year with Cali Bamboo and Cali Vinyl. We have no interest in losing that business. We’re the largest importer of bamboo in the country, more than Home Depot, Lumber Liquidators, Floor & Décor, etc. People don’t realize that about us because we’ve got a wide reach across an omnichannel platform.”

Constantly appearing on Inc. magazine’s “5000 Fastest Growing Private Companies” listing (2018 was its 10th consecutive year as it checked in at No. 2370), Cali now boasts sales well north of $100 million and in 2018 increased its sales into the specialty retail channel sevenfold—quite impressive given its selective distribution strategy.

“We have about 1,100 actively purchasing dealers,” Jackson said. “In a perfect world we’ll have around 1,000 in the right 1,000 marketplaces that have the ability to make money with our products and allow us to drive those end users into their stores. We’re looking for the cream of the crop—close partners who want and are able to grow with us.”

With 30 years in the business under his belt, Jackson knows the “right people,” many of whom are in the National Floorcovering Alliance, to which Cali became a core vendor in 2018. “We gave them a handful of exclusives, and they will have a year to see if that works for them,” he said.

As the company evolves, it seems more retailers are interested in taking on Cali than Cali is in taking on retailers. In fact, it doesn’t seek too much exposure. “We’re not going to be on the show floor at Surfaces,” he said. “We’re going to call people up, go see them, catch up with them, find out if we’re a good fit, and if we are we’ll move forward. So far everybody we’ve talked to has gladly taken us on.”

In illustration, at the last NFA meeting in Napa, Calif., Cali was showing its brand spanking new Meritage collection, its first foray into the long and wide French oak hardwood arena pioneered by companies like DuChâteau. The line is aggressively priced at a price point where the retailer can make a healthy margin.

“Companies like DuChâteau, Provenza and Urbanfloor are doing a good job here offering a similar product where the consumer may pay $20,” Jackson said. “But a dealer might make 20% or 30% if they’re lucky because everybody in town can get it. We’re going to sell our 800 to 1,000 dealers and be happy about it.” The line debuts in the first quarter in eight SKUs that are 9½ inches wide, 72 inches long on a sustainable acacia core.

 

A fresh approach
Jackson uses the word “disruptive” to describe Cali’s approach. “We’re going to come in and say we only sell [Retailer X] in a particular area. They can make a great margin and a consumer can’t shop it. If they want to call us direct, fine, but we’re going to sell it for the same price. It’s much like that Apple phone. It doesn’t matter where you buy it, it’s just what level of service you want. Most folks would not know how to put this floor down. Ultimately, they are going to say, ‘Who is going to move my furniture? Who is going to measure? Who is going to install it?’ Buy from us and we will put it on your doorstep but we’re not going to lay it down. That’s where we get a chance to refer that consumer to our dealer partners. And for a product like this, nine out of 10 times she is going to say she needs someone local to measure, move the furniture, put it down, all those things.”

Another new product for Cali Hardwood this year is Odyssey, an engineered hardwood collection in European oak, American maple and American hickory. The line launches in 5½- and 7½-inch widths and 11 colors on an engineered, plantation birch foundation, illustrating Cali’s commitment to remaining “green to the core.” Plantation birch is grown with the intention of being cut. It’s a fast-growing, renewable, sustainable tree. The birch comprises more than 80% of the product, topped by a 2mm veneer that’s sourced from responsibly managed forests.

Cali Hardwood is also launching the second generation of GeoWood, its revolutionary engineered hardwood layering real timber over GeoCore, a flexible and waterproof limestone composite. The first generation, launched last year, was a 3-foot plank in bamboo, “which was really who we were as a company,” said Alex Brodkin, Cali’s new product introduction manager. “But we wanted to make sure the next generation really matched where we’re going.”

GeoWood 2.0 is a 6-foot-long, 5-inch-wide plank with a 1.2mm real oak veneer and comes with an attached 2mm pad. The pad helps with noise mitigation, one of the issues surrounding some SPCs. “For a DIY consumer who has done a vinyl install this is only marginally more challenging,” said Mike Belprez, director of innovation/product management. As an added advantage, the core of the product is coordinated to the wood. “So if you ever dent, ding, or scratch the surface and expose a bit of the SPC core, it will not stand out.”

Last but not least, Cali is taking its sustainability story to area rugs. “We all know when someone buys a wood floor, within a month on goes a rug,” Jackson said. “We’ve got that covered, too, with 100% sustainable rugs shipped directly to your house.” The rugs are handwoven from natural jute fiber, wool and upcycled denim and cotton.

“If you look at what we are doing and where we are going, it is all about options,” Jackson stated. “We talk to consumers every day to determine the best floor for their lifestyle. Where do we fit into their world? You can go vinyl, waterproof wood flooring or take a step up and have the best-looking woods on the market. We ask how long they plan to keep the house, what their cost expectations are, etc. We are going to provide a range of options for her lifestyle and budget.”

Five years from now, Jackson admitted the product mix might be different, but wouldn’t venture a guess as to how. “As we evolve the consumer is going to determine our product mix. I’d love to say my perfect plan is to be 50% this or 60% that, but because we’re asset light, we’re going to deliver what the market wants. You see what’s happening with WPC and rigid core. That can continue to grow strong or it could take a shift. We saw what happened with laminate. What we do know is we want to be mid to high end, we want to be affordably elegant, and we want to find voids in the marketplace where other people won’t, or can’t, make the products we can deliver.”

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Who will emerge as the ‘comeback’ kid?

More retailers put their money on carpet vs. laminate

January 7/14, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 16

By Ken Ryan

The growth of hard surfaces, in particular LVT and its subsegments WPC and rigid core, has taken market share away from other flooring products, notably carpet and laminate.

While carpet is still the largest flooring segment (FCNews estimates carpet and rugs made up 57.3% of the overall market in 2017), that percentage continues to fall each year. In the residential market, carpet’s use is mostly relegated to bedrooms. What’s more, new home construction, especially in the South, is almost entirely hard surfaces. In the commercial sector, many new and updated hotels are opting for hard surface and rugs in spaces where carpet used to dominate.

So, which category stands to emerge as the leading contender for the comeback kid? Retailers FCNews interviewed overwhelmingly chose carpet.

“Carpet has the greater chance of a comeback,” said Mel Gauthier, owner of Nufloors Fort McMurray, Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada. “Vinyl plank has replaced a large portion of business in both laminate and carpet, but in the end a lot of people still want the warmth and comfort of carpet. Carpet fiber has come a long way and is now extremely soft, durable and stain resistant/proof.”

Bill Huss of D&M Interiors Flooring America in Appleton, Wis., agreed. “Carpet will definitely make a comeback, especially in our market in the Midwest. People who spend a lot of time inside, like we do in the long winters, will still enjoy the warmth, luxurious feel and noise-reduction properties carpet can supply. If prices from the mills start to stabilize, I think we could see an uptick in the future.”

Billy Mahone III of Atlas Floors Carpet One in San Antonio is already seeing carpet making a comeback in his market. “We might not be selling as much square footage-wise, but things have been evening out with customers typically selecting higher-quality products for the rooms where they install carpet in their home. With new stylish patterns hitting the market every day, and innovations like waterproof backing and durable/soft fibers, the carpet segment should continue to grow.”

Despite the fact that carpet has lost share over the years, Mike Melone, owner of Boss Carpet One Floor & Home in Carroll, Iowa, is also putting his money on carpet. “A significant part of carpet’s decline is due to shifts in consumer design tastes, which could swing back around at some point; laminate, on the other hand, is fighting a losing battle against vinyl products.”

For many retailers, it’s not just the choice between carpet and laminate; LVP has emerged as the wild card. “While laminate with new technology is looking better and becoming more water resistant, LVP is quickly replacing the laminate market share as rigid core is rapidly gaining market share,” said Kevin Rose, owner of Carpetland USA Rockford, Ill. “Meanwhile, carpet has always been a staple as people enjoy its softness.”

But any unforeseen shifts in consumer trends could throw a wrinkle in the mix. “If the LVP category falters with claims or some type of failures, then that could give laminate [the upper hand],” said John Taylor, owner, Taylor Carpet One, Fort Myers, Fla. “Carpet may never be used as it was throughout the house, but it will grow again in time.”

For the past 10 years, laminate sales have been almost nonexistent at Murray Floor & Window Coverings in Billings, Mont. However, Kevin Murray, owner, is beginning to see more interest in laminate with the new technology, water-resistant features and durability. “Luxury vinyl has taken most of laminate’s market share over the years, but consumers are finding it will scratch easier than laminate. Carpet has always been our No. 1 category in sales volume.”

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DuraMatt: Mirage’s silver bullet

January 7/14, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 16

By Reginald Tucker

 

When Karla Wisch-meyer, an interior designer at Verhey Carpets in Grand Rapids, Mich., recently conducted a one-year follow-up visit on a residential hardwood flooring installation the company performed, she was absolutely confident she would be pleased with the result. After all, the job entailed several hundred square feet of Mirage hardwood flooring, which features the company’s signature DuraMatt, low-sheen, high-performance finish.

But what Wischmeyer and her team probably didn’t anticipate was the degree to which the finish withstood a full year of wear, tear and heavy pet foot traffic. “As we approached the house, we could hear a big dog barking from the driveway. I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, this is either going to be a nightmare, or it’s going to be beautiful.’ We opened the door and the floor still looked fantastic. The homeowners have this big dog but the floor held up great. I believe it’s due to the durability of DuraMatt and the matte finish, which really hides a lot of what can happen in the home.”

Verhey Carpets has a long track record of success with DuraMatt and the Mirage brand in general. Wischmeyer, who has been selling the brand for the past 10 years, attributes 95% of the company’s wood business to the Mirage brand.

“We have been very pleased with it, and I’m sure we haven’t had any claims,” she told FCNews. “The other thing I love about the product is the styling—today’s wood looks are a little more casual and urban looking, and that matte finish on DuraMatt really lends itself to that style. Homeowners aren’t really going for a formal look these days, so they don’t really use finishes with a high sheen or gloss anymore.”

Wischmeyer—who has personally visited the Boa-Franc manufacturing plant at least five times—isn’t the only one who cites the product’s exemplary track record. Neil Coughlin, regional vice president of sales, Belknap-White, is also a believer.  “The DuraMatt finish from Mirage gives the homeowner the look of an oil finish without the maintenance issues; it wears like a urethane. But the scratch resistance is 20 times better than traditional urethane finishes.”

Another indicator of the product’s success is the rate of its adoption across other collections within the Mirage portfolio. At the launch of the finish, it was only offered in one collection; it’s now available in five collections.”

Point of differentiation
For Mirage, DuraMatt is much more than a high-tech finish; it’s also a point of distinction for the company. “The DuraMatt finish has the look of an oiled hardwood floor without the hassles of regular oil application and low wear resistance,” said Brad Williams, vice president of sales and marketing, Boa-Franc. “This urethane finish brings out wood’s natural beauty and offers many benefits. It is 20 times more wear resistant than a conventional oil finish and is easily washable, and the technology also provides superior resistance to stains and scratches.”

To demonstrate the product’s technological attributes, Boa-Franc has posted several videos on YouTube covering everything from scrub, Taber and marker tests to demos on how the finish resists staining from spilled wine. (Visit youtube.com/watch?v= OsY3Ohcccy0 for more information.)

“We have created videos comparing DuraMatt’s performance to other finishes available in the industry, and the results speak for themselves,” Williams stated. “Nothing can be compared to the quality of this finish.”

Beyond the bells and whistles, DuraMatt ultimately provides a means for retailers to boost their wood business. How? By simply offering consumers peace of mind. “This technology meets the needs and requirements of any consumer by offering the desired look and gloss level combined with high performance and resistance without the hassles of regular maintenance,” Williams explained.

While DuraMatt is primarily geared toward residential applications, Boa-Franc reports its acceptance has been extended to the architect and designer community. Some Mirage retailers have also installed the products within their stores to demonstrate the strength of the DuraMatt finish. “We have the product installed in our downtown showroom, and we also have a rug gallery with Mirage on the floor,” Wischmeyer said. “This serves as a demo regarding commercial and Main Street applications.”

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Executive interview: Ed Duncan reflects on four decades in the flooring industry

January 7/14, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 16

 

Ed Duncan officially retired as president of Mannington Residential on Dec. 31, 2018, after 40 years in flooring, 31 of which were spent in Salem, N.J. FCNews publisher Steven Feldman sat down with Duncan to look back on a career that began at Wilsonart.

How it all began
I graduated from Baylor in 1978 and immediately went to work as a sales trainee for Wilsonart, then moved to Dallas where I had a sales territory. Within about two years, I moved back to their corporate headquarters in Temple and went into the marketing department. I was there for probably six years before I was recruited by a company named U.S. Brass, which made faucets and plumbing. It was up in Dallas. Within two months, I knew I had made a big mistake. I didn’t like the product. I didn’t like the organization. I didn’t like anything about it. I got ahold of a recruiter and he said he just started a search for Bigelow, which was this carpet company in South Carolina looking for a director of marketing. I interviewed with Tony Kelly and that’s how I got in the business. I didn’t know a thing about carpet. Bigelow was a really good company at that time; you had Tony Kelly as CEO, Steve Bordeaux was vice president of marketing, and Phil Haney was vice president of sales.

Hi… and bye
About a year later, out of the blue, they sold the company to Karastan, and now all of a sudden it was Karastan Bigelow. It was one of those deals where you walk into work in the morning and you see all your bosses and then at about 9 a.m. they stop by and say, ‘Bye, we’re leaving, we’ve sold the company.’ They literally flew to New York on a Fieldcrest Cannon private jet and the new management team flew back. We had dinner with all our new bosses that night. I was fortunate enough to be the survivor who took over the marketing for both Karastan and Bigelow.

Mannington: It just felt right
In 1987, I got a phone call from Mannington. I was happy where I was; I was a vice president at a very young age. But Mannington was persistent. I came up for an interview mainly out of courtesy. But after I spent a day here, by the time I went back to the Philadelphia airport I knew this was the spot. I met with Keith [Campbell], Johnny [Campbell] and Jack Hollinger. There were several other people I also met with.

I just had this very strong gut feeling that it was going to be a company where I would be happy for a very long time. I didn’t really know a whole lot about Mannington. I didn’t know much about the strength of the company financially, and I really had never known much about the family. But the people were all very consistent in terms of what they believed, their culture and what was important to them. They had a clear set of values they believed the company should live by. And the fact they were interviewing me more about my fit and personality as opposed to my technical knowledge said a lot to me.

It only takes two minutes
My first day of work for Mannington was at the Chicago market in 1988. I did a full week with Karastan Bigelow. I was at their showroom on the 12th floor. I finished getting the showroom ready for the market on Friday afternoon and then took the elevator up to the Mannington floor, which was maybe 17 or 18. And I officially started with Mannington. I literally left Karastan at 5 p.m. and started up with Mannington at 5:02 p.m., or however long it took the elevator to get up to their floor.

Tony Kelly: Less is more
Tony Kelly was a huge influence because of his dedication to a disciplined thought process relative to the marketplace, understanding the customer and communication, understanding the discipline of clearly defining your position in the market, defining what differentiates you as well as his approach to marketing yourself. If he taught me one thing, it’s fewer words are better than more words. The discipline of boiling down your thoughts to just the required number of words to communicate.

Keith Campbell: Do unto others…
Keith Campbell is all about the importance of people and the importance of how you treat people. Over the years Keith has been incredibly consistent and dedicated to treating people the right way, treating people the way you would want to be treated. And he does that throughout the organization.

Memorable customers
Ed Menefee was probably my first real close friend in the business. His store was Carpet Value Center in Virginia. He’s retired now down in Florida and his son is running the business. He's just one of the funniest guys I know. He taught me early on to not take this business too seriously and just laugh at the humor of this business.

Dave Snedeker is solid, always honest. And even when you didn’t want him to be honest he’d tell you the truth, but at the same time very tactful and consistent. Not an emotional buyer, very thoughtful and quiet sometimes. He and I connected from the very early days before he even went to Nebraska Furniture Mart.

Tom Splinter at Herregan is one of my favorite golfing buddies. And there’s Dan Riley at BPI, Jeff Striegel at Elias Wilf and Russ Berringer at Dealers Supply. Those are guys I grew up with in the business. When I first started with Mannington they were all sales managers. Today they’re all running their companies. Even though they didn’t work for Mannington, they were essentially part of the Mannington family.

Mannington Gold: Lessons learned
My greatest lesson from [Mannington Gold] is more around what not to do, which is outrunning your headlights. Being too aggressive in the pursuit of a goal, where you leave a lot of detail undone, ultimately becomes your Achilles heel. Ultimately, the rush to market with Mannington Gold became the core issue. Because of that, we implemented a disciplined staging process to help create an order that would assure we wouldn’t make those kinds of critical mistakes moving forward. You must make sure you have a process where you ask all the critical questions.

This was transformative not only for the company but also for me personally, and I wasn’t even involved in it from a management perspective. I was trying to start up the commercial side of the business. We were in the process of licensing inlaid technology from Japan and then building this plant and starting up a VCT facility here because we weren’t in commercial hard surface. I was in the right place at the right time when it happened because I didn’t get hit with any of the bullets.

Memorable products
NatureForm was a technology that provided a realism and texture that had never been seen before in sheet vinyl. It was combining mechanical and chemical embossing for the first time and truly made the product look like what we were trying to emulate.

In laminate, the Historic collection was different than what competitors were offering. You had Pergo and you had these European guys and it was all kind of the same. Nobody had really done anything that looked significantly different in design. We came up with the idea of recreating a reclaimed barn-wood look—these high-character visuals. That put us on the map in laminate.

In wood, we took a similar approach with Chesapeake. We did this mechanical distressing on it—the first time it had been done. It was a great looking product.

In LVT, I’ve never seen a product like AduraMax. I’ve never seen a product type like rigid core in my 40 years in business. I’ve never seen where a product has just taken off and dominated like it has. That product alone probably kept me from retiring a year earlier.

Ch ch changes
This industry has changed over these last 40 years in so many ways. When I first got into the industry it was the Wild West. There were hundreds of companies, and everybody did business on relationships and deal making. Very few competitors competed on program selling or longer-term account development—and without very clear plans. The salespeople were cowboys. You gave them a price and a car and they’d go out and just start knocking down roll deals. It was totally dominated by the specialty retailer. It was the Wild West in terms of new retailers popping up all the time and guys going out of business all the time.

As the industry matured, there was consolidation across the board and new channels emerging. Then you’ve got the home centers that have taken significant share, you’ve got the growth of national homebuilders that have their own power that they didn’t have to that extent 30 years ago. Everything 30 years ago was so much more fractured.

The customers have changed, too. They are more informed by a factor of 10 than they were. Thirty years ago their shopping process was almost solely left in the hands of that retail salesperson because they didn’t know anything about what they were buying. That’s no longer the case because of the Internet. That doesn’t mean the retail salesperson doesn’t still have a significant role in the decision making because even the Internet can be confusing. There are still a lot of consumers who still want the validation of somebody helping them at the moment of truth, when they’re making a decision.

Then you have the retailers, who are much more educated and sophisticated either because they’re a part of a buying group or because they are part of a consolidation where they become a large regional chain. The Darwin theory works in retail just like it does everywhere else. The survival of the fittest. They’re more professional now than they were 30 years ago. They’re better businesspeople in terms of how they merchandise, how they buy. Then you have the emergence of world-class, mega retailers like Home Depots and the Lowes that you didn’t have 30 years ago. So all of the forces: The consumers made them get better, the competitors have made them get better; they’ve evolved into a smarter, stronger breed of business people.

Distribution has changed, too. Thirty years ago, Mannington across our different divisions probably had 40 or 50 distributors. Now we have 13 or 14. So they’ve consolidated and become better, stronger, more sophisticated in their portion of the market.

The constants
Relationships and trust still matter—so does color and style because at the end of the day those are still what the consumer is buying.

The competitors
There are many people to respect in this industry. Randy Merritt is just a real gentleman, a strong leader. Another guy who is very consistent in his approach not only to business but to competitors.

Ralph Boe is a real gentleman and consistent. He is always dealt a tough hand, but somehow he ends up getting three of the kind. I always respected his ability to keep [Beaulieu] rolling.

Things I’ll miss the most
I’m going to miss the people, without a doubt. I’m going to miss the day-to-day interaction with my friends. The ability to laugh with those guys. And we laugh about the industry, we laugh about customers and we laugh about dumb mistakes we make. I don’t take myself too seriously and I enjoy people who laugh at me and enjoy me laughing at them.

Fore…
Favorite golf course: Pebble Beach
Hardest golf course: Pine Valley
Best golf course: Manele Bay

Three pieces of advice for retailers:
   1. Stay close to your customers.
2. Always follow through.
3. Be consistent.

Succeeding where others often fail
We have always embraced change and adapted to the change in the marketplace. When I started here 30 years ago, we were really only a sheet vinyl company. We had a tiny wood business, a tiny ceramic tile business. We had a commercial carpet line that sold through distribution. Now, sheet vinyl quite frankly is one of our smallest businesses and we have evolved into a company that is a strong force in the commercial market.

We are diversified across all categories. Where our legacy has been in sheet vinyl, you can’t describe that as being our business any longer. We are a flooring company. We adapt in our processes. Mannington Gold taught us you’ve got to continue to get better and better every day and embrace change, embrace a drive for continual improvement. And we have been over the years because we’ve been relatively consistent at the top of this company. Obviously Keith at the chairman level but our CEOs all tend to be very long tenured.

We’re consistent. When someone retires or moves on, we work hard at hiring really good people who fit into this culture of continuing to want to compete and learn new things and challenge themselves and move forward. A lot of companies in this industry tend to have sweeping changes in their upper management that just leaves things confused.

What’s next
I think step one is just going to be decompressing and learning how to enjoy the day without worrying about what my schedule is for the next day. I think I’m looking forward to Sunday nights not worried about what I’m going do the following week and what I have to do first thing Monday morning. I’m looking forward to being able to help out with the grandkids. I’m looking forward to hanging out with many of my friends who are retired other than on a short weekend schedule.

I plan to continue helping Mannington with projects and helping Zach. I’m too young and have too much energy to go sit in a rocking chair.

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Adura system: A one-stop selling solution

January 7/14, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 16

By Lindsay Baillie

 

Mannington’s Adura Selling Solution display was created with the specialty retailer in mind. Offering over 80 styles in three LVT constructions, the eye-catching, functional merchandiser is designed to help consumers find the style they like while the RSA assists with choosing the construction that is best for their home.

The creation of the Adura Selling Solution was a two-year journey, according to Jimmy Tuley, vice president, residential resilient, Mannington. The company drew inspiration for the new display from the success of its Color Select System, which displays its sheet line. “The concept of multiple constructions in the same styles became really attractive for the LVT category as the massive market changes started and caused so much confusion,” Tuley explained. “After spending time in the retail stores, it was clear the space was flooded with new displays as new constructions came out. There were some competitors with eight or nine displays to show the breadth of their LVT lines, and it was just for construction. It was clear a simplification of the story would really set us apart in the retail space.”

In an effort to simplify the retailer’s showroom, the Adura Selling Solution display showcases Mannington’s Adura Max, Mannington’s WPC flooring solution that reduces noise by 30% and provides comfort underfoot; Adura Rigid, an SPC floor that does not require acclimation time and is Mannington’s most indentation-resistant LVT floor; and Adura Flex, a traditional glue-down LVT featuring Mannington’s ScratchResist X technology.

“The Adura Selling Solution is one display that offers all LVT options in the best-looking styles in the industry,” Tuley said. “It takes up less of the dealer’s valuable floor space and enables him to provide the consultative sales experience consumers are looking for.”

Don’t just take Tuley’s word for it. Dealers like Bob Dolan, vice president of hard surface flooring, Avalon Carpet Tile and Flooring, Cherry Hill, N.J., attest to the benefits. “The display truly is a selling solution. It allows our customers to pick the style, color or design they love without having to worry about whether the product meets their needed installation method, budget or performance level. Once our customers select their pattern, our sales associates or estimators can then recommend the right product—Flex, Rigid or Max.”

In addition to helping the consumer, Dolan said the display makes the selling process much easier for RSAs. “With this display, gone are the days of having to limit what you can show a customer, because not all products would meet their performance or required installation method. It has truly become a go-to display for our sales associates.”

David Chambers, director of flooring, Nebraska Furniture Mart, Omaha, Neb., also appreciates the simplicity of the display, noting its space-saving design. “What you typically find from many manufacturers is they want as much of a footprint as possible on your showroom. The Mannington Selling Solution display is great because it offers all three qualities of their products in one display. They have reduced their footprint and yet improved their sales at the same time.”

Chambers said he finds it’s easier to buy into a display concept such as the Adura system because it can be placed more centrally for the benefit of the salespeople. “They don’t have to go to all these racks—they can just go to one. We’ve already found it to be successful in our regions and people seem to really like it.”

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Executive interview: T.M. Nuckols shares vision of Dixie Group’s future

January 7/14, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 16

It has been less than two years since Thomas Martin (T.M.) Nuckols Jr. joined The Dixie Group as executive vice president of Dixie Residential. Now president of the residential division, Nuckols has in a relatively short time expanded the profiles of The Dixie Group’s three divisions—Dixie Home, Masland and Fabrica—as well as worked on areas he felt needed improvement, starting with quality and service.

FCNews senior editor Ken Ryan recently sat down with Nuckols to discuss his first 20 months on the job and his vision for the future of this nearly 100-year-old company.

You have been on the job for 20 months. Talk about your initial thoughts.
My move to The Dixie Group (TDG) came after almost 28 years with DuPont and Invista. Through my last 15 years there, I worked with TDG as one of our most aligned customers—first as the lead account manager for TDG and later in other positions, including national accounts, retail and product-focused roles. I was pretty familiar with the people and culture.

When I joined TDG in February 2017, I began to see and appreciate the company culture at a whole new level—mainly how people-oriented TDG is. We do small things like quarterly birthday luncheons for the corporate office, where Dan [Phelan] and Kennedy Frierson can connect with the employees and share our accomplishments, our challenges and generally keep people abreast of how we are doing. We also do monthly sales team recognition, highlighting the top performers in each brand. I have made a personal commitment to keep our residential sales organization up to date on how we are doing as a company and within the residential business.

Where did you see room for improvement?
After coming on board, I began to see some areas where we needed to improve, starting with quality and service. I am happy to say that over the past 20 months we have made progress in these areas. Improvements in our planning and internal communications processes have helped us achieve a much better service level, and we are now consistently running at or above our goal of 95% on-time shipments in all our divisions. While we still have areas to work on, our quality metrics are showing improvements as well. We are certainly not perfect, but service and quality are getting the attention needed to continue improving in these critical areas.

Obviously, we are not a low-cost manufacturer. We have a complex manufacturing model with yarn processing, tufting, dyeing, coating and distribution across north Georgia, Alabama and California. However, we definitely can be more efficient and have to find ways to streamline our operations where possible. We are a “product-first” company with innovation and product design providing our differentiation in the market. With a complex manufacturing model and a focus on differentiated products, there can be challenges.

What about personnel?
We also begun staffing up in some key areas. Led by Dan Phelan, our vice president of marketing, we successfully entered the hard surfaces segment in luxury vinyl in 2017 and hardwood in 2018. But as a business we lacked the skills and experience needed to really accelerate our growth in this segment. So, in July 2018, we hired Jamann Stepp, who has 20 years of experience in hard surfaces and is well connected in the industry. Jamann is already making a significant impact and helping us advance our luxury vinyl and wood programs. This move also allowed Dan to dedicate more time and focus on marketing initiatives, which previously were not getting the needed attention.

As another example, in August we promoted Jared Coffin to vice president of product management to increase our focus on commercialization of new products and SKU management. We also brought on board new employees in our product design and brand marketing areas.

What have you learned about this company that you may not have known when you took over?
Before I joined TDG, I had known many RVPs and TMs in the company, so I knew we had a strong sales team. Since joining TDG, my most pleasant surprise has been seeing just how strong our sales force is, and that includes all our divisions—Dixie Home, Masland and Fabrica. The relationships they have with our customers and the effort they put into making our customers successful is unmatched.

Talk about the ‘TDG Drive to 2020’ campaign.
Late in 2017, we developed a campaign for our residential business called “TDG Drive to 2020.” This campaign is a rally cry for us in three ways:

First, we have to recognize we have many areas to improve on, and some of them will take some time. If we can continuously improve month by month and year by year, by the year 2020 we will be in a pretty good place. We are already seeing the improvements I mentioned previously in service and quality. And our operations leaders have implemented several work streams to reduce costs and streamline our operations. This part of the campaign will continue to be a focus over the next three years.

Second, the “2020” part of the campaign represents having a clear vision. We have used this with our residential sales, marketing and product teams to help them understand our vision and where we are going as a business.

Third, in 2020, The Dixie Group will celebrate 100 years in business—a major milestone for us as a company.

Using the TDG Drive to 2020 campaign is a way to get our people connected to the improvements we are making and keep them motivated along the way. It’s no secret that in 2018 we had a tough year as a company, but our residential business has been performing well—we are profitable as a business and are outpacing the market. We are growing in soft surfaces, we successfully entered the hard surface categories, and we are resourcing to be successful with the right people in the right roles.

What makes Dixie unique compared to other carpet companies out there?
We are not a low-cost manufacturer. We rely on product differentiation, style and design to separate ourselves from other manufacturers. We use the best materials in the industry, starting with nylon 6,6 fiber. Over 90% of our business is branded Stainmaster, the most recognized brand in the industry. Using these materials, we have to design, develop and manufacture the styles and qualities, all of which command higher prices. Consider the average price point in the industry is a little below $7 per square yard. At TDG Residential, compared to the industry average, our average selling price is two and half times in Dixie Home, four times in Masland and six times in Fabrica. Our products drive higher tickets and greater margins for our customers.

How has Fabrica hardwood been received?
The Fabrica hardwood program has been received very well by the market. We launched with 40 floor SKUs and 30 coordinating wall SKUs. It is available in 100 stores currently, with about half of them in the Southeast and the rest scattered across the country. This year we plan to expand that offering with some additional SKUs and open another 200 retailers across the country. The program is a very high-end offering with unique products sourced from the U.S., Canada and Europe. The quality of the product is a good fit for Fabrica and its “Quality Without Compromise” mentality.

What about LVT? Is everything you do today PetProtect? What's next?
We launched PetProtect-branded luxury vinyl in Dixie Home and Masland with 40 SKUs in 2017.  We have expanded the program and replaced the original dryback SKUs. Soon we will be at 56 SKUs of WPC construction and have about 1,800 placements between the two divisions. We will continue offering this WPC PetProtect program and will look for opportunities to expand distribution in the market.

Under Jamann Stepp’s leadership, we are expanding our luxury vinyl offering by moving into the SPC category this year. Our SPC offering will be branded TruCOR, TDG’s brand for SPC.  We will have a wide variety of plank and tile sizes and price points hitting the heart of the market. The SPC offering will address the residential and Main Street commercial markets.

What are your new initiatives for 2019 on both the hard and soft sides?
In 2019, we will have another strong introduction with a heavy focus on Stainmaster and PetProtect. I anticipate launching about 40 soft surface styles across our nylon and wool segments, and around 60 SKUs of hard surfaces between new luxury vinyl and hardwood products.

We will launch new Stainmaster products in our Dixie Home retail offering and complete the launch of EnVision66, a key growth initiative in our value-oriented Lifestyles segment. We will expand our luxury vinyl offering by entering the SPC segment with TruCOR, a new program with over 30 SKUs in the right designs at the right price points.

In Masland, we will have a strong introduction year in nylon with a focus on Stainmaster with differentiated PetProtect styles. We will refresh our wool offering with updated colors and looks. Plus, we will expand our hard surface offering with 11 new WPC planks branded PetProtect and 12 new SPC designs in our Energy lineup. A key initiative will be building on the momentum we created with Energy.

In Fabrica, we will build on our success in nylon and wool with new designs that complement the current offerings. We will also add new products to the hardwood program.

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Carpet: Dealers praise Phenix’s focus on style, service

January 7/14, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 16

By Ken Ryan

 

Flooring dealers who carry Phenix Flooring products describe the company as nothing less than extraordinary. Much more than a manufacturer of stylish products with on-trend colors, Phenix routinely goes the extra mile to provide outstanding service while understanding and empathizing with its dealers.

As is a mid-sized mill that competes in an industry with such goliaths as Mohawk and Shaw, a company like Phenix has to be on point in several key areas to be successful. It starts with good products that resonate with customers, backed by excellent service and follow through. Dealers say Phenix checks all of those boxes.

People, service
“I value my relationship with Phenix at the highest possible level,” said Jeran Steuart, owner of Carpet Direct, Tulsa, Okla.

Meanwhile, Brad Flack, owner, Flack’s Flooring, Cumming, Ga., said it’s the people that distinguish Phenix. “Our representation with their people is the gold standard for how a retailer-supplier relationship should be. It is second to none.”

It’s an old adage: people like doing business with people they like. “Their leadership—Mark Clayton, Chris Johnson, Tom Pappas, Mike Donarumo, Jason Surratt and Jason Hair—are caring, thoughtful and dynamic,” Steuart added. “Our relationship with Phenix is one of a kind and irreplaceable. They care about my business and profitability as much as I do. They understand the value of partnerships with the retailer better than anyone else.”

Flack agreed, citing the Phenix sales team’s interpersonal and communication skills as market differentiators. “Their reps seem to look at issues through our lens—they understand what the retailer is really going through, and their reaction is swift. They let you know not just with their words but with their actions. It is 100% true and has been for a while.”

Tom Garvey, owner of Garvey’s Flooring America, Northumberland, Pa., said it doesn’t matter who calls on his shop, he knows he is going to receive consistently excellent service. “They are strictly service focused. Tom Pappas [vice president of sales], who oversees retail, doesn’t play the power game with me. I love it when people are just simple to work with.”

Product
No matter how nice and responsive the sales team is, dealers can’t win unless the product performs and yields a profit. This, dealers say, is never an issue with Phenix. In fact, Steuart noted Phenix’s first-in-class ability to respond to trends and colors and create new products and styles is amazingly fast.

“They focus their product line on what the homeowner wants, which makes selling their products extremely easy and extremely profitable,” he told FCNews, calling Phenix “the nimblest mill” in the industry. “Whether you are selling their polyester or their Stainmaster PetProtect, you know you are getting best-in-class performance. Our annual mill tour to the Mecca of Dalton always begins with Phenix. Mark and his team are at the cutting edge of value, performance and looks for the industry. Back orders are virtually non-existent with Phenix.”

Other dealers laud Phenix’s carpet products for the option they provide to upgrade customers within the same color line. “It gives you the ability to get a customer sold on a color and then have pricing options to give them to help make a decision,” said Kelly Taylor, president, Ambassador Floor Co., Chesterfield, Mo. “Our company still has a large builder market we make selections with, and Phenix products get us into the price points our builders need along with providing value in their products with very little issues [on delivery or claims].”

Garvey said he has never had a claim on Phenix carpet. “I am dealing with truckloads. Not only are they giving me the pricing, but they are also giving me the service and quality I need. They are ahead of the game with their tone-on-tone color combinations. It is very easy for my decorators to sell their carpet; they are one of the best mills out there.”

 

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Multi-family sector: Are dealers leaving opportunities on the table?

January 7/14, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 16

By K.J. Quinn

 

There is a silver lining for dealers and builders serving the multi-family housing market. Despite published reports that project a slowdown in 2019, numerous economic indicators provide cause for optimism that the market will drive most construction activity in the decade ahead.

Multi-family housing permits rose 4.6% to a seasonally adjusted rate of 480,000 in November compared to the same month in 2017, according to the U.S. Census Bureau and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). While the modest increase was welcomed by industry members—following a year when the market slipped by 4% over 2016—the growth rate pales in comparison to 2009 to 2016. During this time, multi-family housing was a powerhouse in the overall construction recovery, as the number of starts rose 281%, Dodge Data & Analytics reported.

“We have heard from some larger builders that their sales have plateaued,” said Scott Baker, vice president of national accounts single-family at Shaw Industries. “They cited several reasons, such as rising costs and interest rates, as affecting their ability to sell homes.”

Lending rates indeed rose in 2018, which, when combined with years of home price appreciation, contributed to a 10-year low in housing affordability as measured by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB)/Wells Fargo Housing Opportunity Index. “This means despite improving income growth and tax cuts, housing demand will be under pressure...going into 2019,” Robert Dietz, NAHB’s senior vice president and chief economist, predicted.

Housing starts are expected to edge downward in 2019 as inflation heats up, interest rates rise more quickly and substantially and the economy begins to slow, Dodge reported. It projected multi-family starts will drop 8% to 465,000 units and fall 6% to $87 billion this year.

“The biggest concern multi-family housing has entering 2019 is the amount of new construction and redevelopment business that has gone on the last six to eight years, and whether there is overbuilding,” said Layne Dugger, Shaw’s vice president national accounts multi-family.

Market growth influencers
Nonetheless, multi-family is expected to quickly rebound thanks to several favorable trends. For example, vacancy rates have never risen to levels that would cut off construction despite the vast amount of new supply added during the recovery. High demand for rental apartments over the past eight years tightened rental-unit vacancy rates and drove up rents, Dodge reported, laying down prime conditions for multi-family housing development.

“Demand kept pace with supply and is expected to remain elevated in the years ahead thanks to demographic trends—population growth among young adults—that will remain supportive,” said Kim Kennedy, Dodge’s manager of forecasting. “The lure of downtown living will continue to remain strong, and incentives for homeownership may not be replaced. All these factors add up to a healthy multi-family housing market in the coming years.”

While all of this was happening, the supply of apartments and condominiums surged, as builders responded to rising demand fueled, in part, by young Americans who preferred to rent rather than purchase a home in the aftermath of the recession, according to published reports. “Many enjoy urban life with all the amenities a city has to offer,” said Christopher King, vice president of sales, Armstrong Hardwood Flooring. “But many city locations are out of reach, financially, for some first-time buyers.”

Indeed, changing demographics is reshaping multi-family housing dynamics. For example, more baby boomers are increasingly renting by choice as they downsize their living spaces. “It’s really interesting how the traditional multi-family property was really a function of necessity,” Shaw’s Dugger said. “As multi-family housing evolved with the next generation of renters, properties feature more Club Med-type amenities as a lot of dollars are being spent in public areas such as clubhouses, yoga rooms and fitness centers.”

Multi-family is a mixed bag, which includes everything from apartments and condos to senior living spaces, student housing and factory-built homes. Each sub-sector faces its own set of macro issues impacting growth. For example, NAHB reported the market share for townhouse construction continues to rise; the typical unit is about 2,000 square feet, up 23% year-over-year for the second quarter of 2018.

“We expect the trend toward smaller units to rise,” Dietz said. “We also expect gains for factory-built housing—although the market share will remain small—and ongoing dominance of the built-for-rent segment of multi-family.”

There is a general movement toward smaller housing designs following years in which builders disproportionately constructed high-end homes. “Smaller size units, both in condos and apartments, are trending,” said Randy Rubenstein, owner, Rubenstein’s Contract Carpet/North American Terrazzo, Seattle.

The market seems to be shifting to higher-density living, industry members say, as more people are trending toward the “live, work, play” lifestyle in cities. “We are seeing smaller unit sizes but overall larger projects,” said Curtis Blanton, vice president, DCO Commercial Floors (DCOCF), Athens, Ga.

Issues, trends affecting choices
When it comes to flooring, the multi-family builder business is witnessing shifts in buyer preferences similar to the single-family new home construction and residential remodeling sectors. While choices vary by region, carpet remains the leading flooring for multi-family spaces, observers say, although market share is dwindling due to the growing popularity of hard surfaces. “Designers are specifying the so-called clean look of LVT,” Rubenstein said. “Laminate and engineered wood flooring [are being specified] in condos and apartments. Carpet tile is being limited to the corridors.”

Hard surfaces and higher-end goods are trending up. “The evolution of the LVT business has really affected multi-family to a greater degree because end users are willing to pay more as long as the return on investment is higher,” Dugger said. “Initially, residents were willing to pay more for that look vs. carpet.”

Among the fastest-growing hard surfaces are LVP and WPC products. “Buyer preferences are leaning toward hard surfaces, mainly LVT because of its great looks, durability and water resistance,” Armstrong’s King said. “Laminate is also playing second fiddle to LVT, which is constantly improving its visuals, durability and performance features.”

While homebuyers still crave natural products such as hardwood, this is not a point of emphasis in most multi-family homes. “These tend to include less-expensive commodity products that require less time and skill to install and less maintenance post-installation,” said Anita Howard, COO, National Wood Flooring Association.

Finding and maintaining installation crews who can quickly install flooring in large projects is a major challenge, experts say, given the tight labor market and higher wages paid to skilled workers. “Fast track construction schedules are also a challenge,” DCOCF’s Blanton pointed out.

Opportunities, challenges
While multi-family housing can be a lucrative business, it requires residential flooring contractors to have the necessary resources and financial wherewithal to keep up with daily service demands. “The gravity toward efficiencies has affected the mix, margin and specification of product,” said David Gheesling, CEO, FEI Group.

This transactional business requires dealers to closely monitor day-to-day operations and cash flow to keep their businesses humming. Dealers are at the builders’ beck and call, and those who can’t keep up are left behind. “Construction schedules continue to get faster and more complicated,” Blanton said. “Full-service project management as well as dedicated supervision and quality control are a necessity.”

It’s also not unusual for dealers to receive notifications from builders for next-day installations on a jobsite. This requires staff to be in sync with product and inventory needs, which helps explain why most dealers servicing the multi-family business are reportedly well-financed specialists. “Dealers who target these sectors understand the demands,” said Bob Weiss, CEO, All Tile/Carpet Cushion & Supplies, Wood Dale, Ill.

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Resilient: Raskin’s Acrylx covers all the bases

January 7/14, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 16

By Nicole Murray

 

It’s not an exaggeration to say Acrylx—Raskin’s waterproof, rigid core collection—has been a godsend for retailers. Many flooring dealers who have achieved success with the line cite its deep offerings and high conversion rate.

Acrylx contains five subcategories with varying price points ranging from entry level to higher end in order to reach a broad array of consumers and their budgetary needs. Those subcategories include Premier Home, Select, Select XL, Premier XL and XL G-Core, each with varying thicknesses and warranty packages.

“The price range falls within your typical solid core LVT or LVP product, but having different quality lines means this collection is a go-to solution no matter the customer’s budget,” said Mary DeForge, owner of DeForge Design, Loveland, Colo. “Having the flexibility to negotiate over a high-quality and aesthetically pleasing product with a wide price range means we can’t lose.”

Acrylx is suitable for both residential and commercial applications due to its waterproof and durable features in addition to its ability to remain stable in extreme temperatures. The Select, Select XL and XL G-Core lines also assist with sound control due to their 1mm attached backing. However, an even stronger selling point, retailers say, is the product’s ability to withstand a higher level of daily wear and tear compared to some competing flooring products.

“This line has proven time and time again that it is multifaceted and can be used for a lot of different projects,” said Angelo Fiordelisi, showroom manager of ProSource, Stamford, Conn. “The line’s impact resistance, however, is the key component that makes it possible to install it in places such as restaurants where people are constantly dropping things; residential homes with active kids; or even hospitals, where there is high foot traffic and machines constantly being rolled around.”

When it comes to design, the Acrylx line offers various shades of browns and grays and a large variety of visuals including distressed oak and textured wood designs and textured, hand-scraped patterns. “Sometimes the ability to close a sale comes down to the color palette, and with the various warm and cold color options there is always one that will fit people’s tastes,” DeForge said. “People can be rather picky when trying to find their perfect match, especially when choosing wood looks, but this collection gets the job done.”

David Day, owner of Day’s Floor Co., Marshfield, Mo., said despite using smaller displays for Acrylx on his showroom floor, Raskin’s product line still manages to attract just as much attention, if not more, than other larger displays. “People can become confused or overwhelmed when they are presented with too many options at once,” Day explained. “Raskin’s Acrylx display helps consumers find a product that meets all of their criteria and then they are able to easily make their final choice based on the few distinct color choices in front of them.”

The service Raskin provides also contributes to the product’s success. “Working with Raskin has been easy because they represent themselves very well,” ProSource’s Fiordelisi said. “They are always receptive if we need products in a rush or if we have questions about their products.”