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Sheet: Original waterproof flooring proves it has staying power

April 1/8, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 22

By Ken Ryan


With so much attention focused on the LVT category and its growing WPC/SPC sub-segments, the sheet vinyl segment has managed to fly under the radar as perhaps the most multi-functional, economical, waterproof floor in the industry today.

Once deemed a commodity—and a substitute for other flooring options—sheet vinyl has elevated its stature on the strength of improved visuals and construction. Some flooring observers call sheet the best value of any flooring product on the market today, citing its versatility, eco-friendly properties and price.

“Sheet vinyl is an amazing product—it is the pioneer of waterproof flooring,” said Mary Katherine Dyczko-Riglin, product manager, residential sheet vinyl and sundries, Mannington. “Sheet provides a seamless installation in many residential settings, creates stunning visuals in the home and has outstanding performance and superior comfort underfoot. And it does all of that while typically being much more budget friendly than a WPC/SPC competitor.”

Angela Duke, director of brand marketing, Mohawk, added, “Waterproof is one of the hottest buzzwords in the flooring market right now, and many consumers have always known that [sheet] vinyl is the original waterproof flooring made right here in the United States.”

Sheet vinyl has gained traction over the past few years in many different segments of the industry. Sheet continues to be an especially popular resilient choice in the builder and property management channels despite the continued growth of LVT.

“The opportunity for sheet is definitely apparent in builder, where entry glass is making a stand,” Dyczko-Riglin said. “Another market demographic we continue to see opportunity with is the millennials. With less exposure to sheet vinyl in the past, they don’t have a negative connotation of ‘Grandma’s floor.’”

Kieren Corcoran, director of performance markets, Patcraft, a commercial brand of Shaw Industries, said sheet vinyl products are typically installed within certain areas of healthcare settings mitigated against concerns regarding infection control. Sheet products can be welded at the seams, and homogeneous sheet can also be repaired. Even in applications where sheet was often left out, new opportunities are emerging as more realistic designs and expanded visual capabilities are developed.

“Small retail spaces and certain areas within hospitality are finding this material to be a great solution due to the updated aesthetics and ease of maintenance,” said Ben Korman, senior product manager, Tarkett.

While sheet vinyl is not growing anywhere near the rate of WPC/SPC, it is nonetheless experiencing modest low- to mid-single-digit growth across both residential and commercial settings, with the greatest growth potential in commercial, observers say.

Latest innovations
Rejuvenations with Diamond 10 technology is Armstrong Flooring’s latest sheet launch. The product merges commercial and residential aesthetics, offering numerous color and texture choices for applications ranging from healthcare to retail. For residential sheet, Armstrong is launching a number of new wood and stone designs in its premium Diamond 10 CushionStep and Duality collections for independent retail. Design highlights include Ceruse oak, a multi-width ceramic- and wood-look plank in a variety of colors. Hillborn Run, a 5 x 27 stone plank design, and Venetian Marble, a modern hexagon tile design in two attractive colors, are other new intros.

Beauflor’s Blacktex HD has been developed and designed based on the demand of today’s consumer. Blacktex HD utilizes the TexStyle backing system to assist in ease of installation which will also provide attributes such as additional comfort underfoot and added sound reduction. “Blacktex HD not only delivers superior quality but is at the forefront with the most up-to-date and realistic visuals,” said Tami Stahl, senior marketing manager, Beauflor USA.

Mannington has gained a well-earned reputation over the years for pushing the boundaries in style and design, and that expertise carries over into sheet vinyl. Morocco, one of the new patterns in its Revive collection, features a 6-inch encaustic tile pattern in a variety of decorative motifs that create the look of a custom tile installation with the design filling the entire width of the sheet without repeating. “However, from a practical standpoint, the economy match on the pattern is simply one of those 6-inch tiles, making the entire sheet usable without creating excessive waste in smaller or more complex installations,” Dyczko-Riglin explained.

Mohawk is looking to change the conversation surrounding 
sheet vinyl with the 
launch of its
 VersaTech collections of more than
 50 new waterproof 
styles that feature
next-level stone 
and tile design and
 refocused merchandising to 
enhance the consumer experience.
 The new products encompass wood 
and tile styles in a
 variety of weights so consumers can choose the option that best suits their room, including basements and high-moisture areas.

Coordinating VersaTech merchandising displays will showcase the VersaTech, VersaTech Plus and VersaTech Ultra collections’ trade-up story around product weight and warranties. “Our retailers can use the VersaTech collections and trade-up strategies to completely change the way sheet vinyl is presented to residential consumers,” Duke said. “It is not the vinyl of 20 years ago.”
The EcoSystem collection is Patcraft’s first PVC-free resilient style, an important breakthrough in the specified commercial market. Within the collection, Enrich is available in coordinating sheet and plank in classic and modern wood visuals.

Tarkett’s most recent launch of Performa heterogeneous sheet combines strength, visuals and value in one comprehensive solution for commercial interiors. Performa includes a polyurethane coating and 25-mil wear layer. It is available in both 6- and 12-foot rolls for added speed and flexibility during installation.

Congoleum’s AirStep collections feature 16 new SKUs across the three quality levels—Plus (good), Evolution (better), Advantage (best). In addition, ArmorCore added eight new SKUs across all five constructions.

“Recognizing that even the best-performing product categories won’t stand a chance in today’s competitive marketplace without exceptional design, we made signification changes to the designs in both our residential remodel AirStep product as well as in our ArmorCore,” said Kurt Denman, chief marketing officer and executive vice president of sales. “In an effort to best-in-class presentation at retail for the AirStep line, we also introduced a new display that features mounted samples, including inspired room scenes to help consumers envision the designs in their space.”

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Southwind dealers sing the company’s praises

February 18/25, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 19

By Ken Ryan


Among mid-sized carpet mills, Southwind stands out for the way it has aggressively expanded into the hard surfaces arena. In three years, hard surface—LVT, WPC and hardwood—has gone from zero to an estimated 60% of Southwind’s overall business, and flooring dealers are quick to praise the Dalton-based company on the merits of product innovation, unwavering service and promptness.

Specialty dealers who spoke with FCNews were consistent and unanimous in their appreciation of all that Southwind represents. “We do well with their products—a few are actually some of our top 10 products we sold in 2018,” said Dave Snedeker, executive vice president, Bob’s Carpet & Flooring, with 17 locations in the Tampa Bay area. “We do both hard and soft surfaces with Southwind and have been very happy with their products’ performance on both sides.”

Barry McIntyre, owner of Flooring Depot in Panama City, Fla., said Southwind is now its biggest LVP supplier. He praised the company for its diversified hard surface offering, including 9-inch embossed in register boards, 6-inch products and a retro 3¼-inch offering that “nobody else has. They know what they are doing.”

Flooring Depot recently brought in 30 pallets of Southwind’s LVP, with much of that going toward the massive rebuilding and remodeling taking place in the Florida panhandle in the wake of Hurricane Michael, which hit Oct. 8, 2018.

Dave Meister, owner of Naples, Fla.-based The Floor Meister, is another fan of the new 3¼-inch WPC product Southwind introduced at Surfaces. “We will put it on our showroom floor,” he said. “I am 69 years old, and it reminds me of the old days. I like the old parquet look. People are buying that look again.”

Meister said 75% of his business in southwest Florida is now WPC. “[The majority] of people in Naples have cats and dogs. The dogs can’t ruin WPC.”

As much as dealers rave about Southwind’s products, they told FCNews they are equally impressed with the people driving the business.

“They are great to work with, and what I am telling you is from the heart because not everyone is like that,” Meister told FCNews. “Ken Allen, their rep who calls on us, is a first-class guy.”

Flooring Depot has been carrying Southwind for more than a decade—first with carpet and now WPC in a big way. McIntyre described the company as “awesome to deal with. I’ve known upper management for many years. Bret Perkins [vice president, hard surfaces] is really just a brilliant guy as far as picking out the right products and colors and pricing for our market.”

Bob Carpet & Flooring’s Snedeker cited Southwind’s straightforward approach to dealing with retailers as a plus. “They are always looking for a win-win situation for us both. They have great value in some of their offerings, and we have had a solid partnership with them for a long time.”

Brenda Fowler, owner of Village Floor Covering in South Point, Ohio, has been doing business with Southwind for 15 years—first on the carpet side and now with hard surface. “If you have a question on anything, they get right back to you,” she said. “If they don’t know the answer, they find someone who does. If there is a claim, which is very infrequent, they are right on it. They are just very responsive.”

Fowler said her most successful Southwind product continues to be Harbor Plank, a 6 x 48 WPC core with a high-density wood plastic composite and Uniclic locking system. Attached to each luxury vinyl plank is the Southwind IXPE underlayment pad, which is said to be impervious to water, hides subfloor imperfections and provides added sound absorption. “It has been selling like hotcakes,” she said.

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Resilient Surfaces coverage: New displays, products aim to simplify congested category

February 4/11, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 18

By Lindsay Baillie



Las Vegas—In a category consumed by acronyms and new products, resilient flooring manufacturers are concentrating on making their products simpler to sell in 2019. At The International Surface Event (TISE) held here last month, manufacturers showcased their latest sheet, LVT and WPC/SPC introductions alongside brand new displays.

Many of the new displays aim to create destinations for retail sales associates, making it easier to guide the consumer to a product and visual that best meets her needs. In fact, many of these displays are designed to be one-stop-shops, providing the consumer with good/better/best options in a range of constructions and designs.

WPC and SPC products had the strongest presence on the show floor—with good reason as they are still the fastest growing segments within the resilient category. USFloors, a major player in this arena, highlighted the company’s largest rollout in its storied history. Chief among the new products was COREtec Stone, which features polished and matte visuals with a brand new, refined mineral core. Available in 12 x 24-inch, 18 x 24-inch and 18 x 36-inch sizes, COREtec Stone is rectified and has an easy click installation. “People have been very excited because it gives them the ability to really disrupt the market, which is what COREtec does,” said Natalie Cady, COREtec and hardwood category manager. “We wanted to make sure we created a product that really addresses the needs of both the consumers and dealers. Tile labor and installation, both in cost and time, have been a problem for the industry. We made sure we addressed those issues, but we also wanted to make the product look beautiful. COREtec Stone also has cork on the back for added comfort.”

COREtec Wood, another introduction, also features the new refined mineral core and is waterproof from the ground up. Due to the mineral core, COREtec Wood not only has some weight to it, but also has no flex. “We’re able to get it in 7 x 72 inches and we have both white oak sliced and a hickory sliced product,” Cady explained. “What’s great is we have varying visuals from a little bit more of that brown rustic visual to white under fill to a blanched visual.”

Another introduction from USFloors is its COREtec Pro program, which, according to Cady, makes it easier for consumers to choose an SPC product that is right for their situation. “We made it in a very easy display, super convenient. It has a logical story for upgrades for our RSAs and consumers. You go from a product that is a non-bevel to an enhanced bevel and then to an XL and HD. The consumer can see what she likes and can afford.”

Trent Busenbark, sales associate, Busenbark Flooring, Farmington, Mo., was particularly interested in COREtec Stone’s new mineral core. “I like that they’re looking for different core products outside their WPC,” he told FCNews.“It’s something new. Also, being that COREtec Wood is waterproof, I’m sure everyone is going to want it.”

Also increasing its WPC and SPC presence is Raskin Industries, which launched its new Brooklyn Reserve, updates to its Acrylx line as well as new displays. “We’re really excited about Brooklyn Reserve, which is inspired by Brooklyn, [N.Y.],” said Michael Raskin, founder and CEO. “We have eight colors in that collection. We featured the chevron on the floor to show something unique to attendees. This product took over one year to make and a lot of that had to do with the details and having the design work because it’s a mosaic format. It’s old Brooklyn, but with new materials.”

Acrylx GenCore is available in both 48-inch and 60-inch planks with painted bevels. New introductions feature a more texturized finish and embossing. To house these updates as well as Brooklyn Reserve, the company also updated its displays. “We started out with smaller displays and a limited line,” Raskin said. “With all of these new introductions you’re going to get better and bigger displays. This year, we’re really investing into the retailer with the right merchandising to show off the products.”

Rigid is all the rage
The focus for many manufacturers in 2019 is growing their rigid offerings. This includes Mohawk Industries, which added 42 new SKUs to its SolidTech line. “We had a very successful SolidTech launch two years ago and we’ve consistently added to it,” said David Sheehan, senior vice president, products management, Mohawk Industries. “Today, we’re finding in fashion that things are going lighter and grayer. In the new SolidTech line you’re seeing some of those grays and lighter visuals. We’re also adding multi-width products, painted bevel, tile formats and embossed in register (EIR).”

SolidTech Marquee, a new introduction for Mohawk available in 24 SKUs, will be made in the U.S. “It’s best in performance as it relates to impact, indentation resistance and then also ease of maintenance,” Sheehan explained. “We have this new technology called StainShield, which actually allows you to have stain and scratch resistance.”

Mohawk also launched Pergo Extreme, which gained the attention of many show attendees. What’s more, it is an exclusive program to Mohawk’s Edge dealers. Aaron Hartwell, owner, The Carpet Man, Indianapolis, Ind., for example, is looking forward to leveraging the product’s name recognition. “I’m really excited for Mohawk’s Pergo Extreme. The name recognition is going to be great. Having that in my store is going to help bring customers in.”

EarthWerks is simplifying its lines to be more direct for RSAs and consumers. New to its SPC line is Stadium, which features eight colors in a 9 x 60-inch format and four colors in a 7 x 48 format. “It has everything—a painted bevel, EIR, fission backing, sound absorption as well as deeper embossing because it has the LVT top layer to it,” said Lindsey Nisbet, marketing director, Swiff-Train Company. “It’s 9 x 60 so you get the longer, wider visual without going to the 72-inch plank, which is great but is harder to manage.”

Novalis Innovative Flooring is also elevating its game in 2019, according to Steve Ehrlich, vice president, sales and marketing. As part of its focus on product, the manufacturer is launching updates to its popular Lyndon collection and rolling out a new collection called Maybree, a 7¾ x 60-inch plank. “It has 16 visuals per style, so you don’t really get any overlap in color or style,” Ehrlich explained. “It’s 6mm with a high-density core and has our NovaShield enhanced protection. We have one collection in the English oak and another in a wormy chestnut and rustic oak. It has longer planks, high-fashion and high-style.”

Novalis is also making selling simpler with an updated display. “We’ve taken all of our core products and put them in one display, so the customer has a destination,” Ehrlich added. “It’s really well lit, really high-style and gives a lot of information to the customer.”

Mannington Mills’ big launch in WPC was its AduraMax Apex. According to Jimmy Tuley, vice president, residential resilient business, Apex is an aggressive, out-there style and design line. “Our goal this year was to have people say, ‘Wow, you did that in a floating floor?’ This is in a 16 x 48-inch plank. It has the 5Gi drop lock so it’s really easy to install. We’ve also done some variable grout technology, so if you run your hand on top you get that smooth top and then the rough grout in between and all of that is EIR so you get a really realistic feel.”

In addition to planks and tiles, Mannington has created Loft, an updated parquet look available in four colors. This addition to Apex features EIR with every single plank having a registration mark. “When you look at that it looks like each individual piece was put together in the floor,” Tuley said. “There’s been such a crazy reaction to this product in the booth so far because parquet is an older look. With all that detailed design you don’t have to worry about how it’s installed.”

As a way to simplify selling its products, Mannington also developed the Adura Selling Solution, which it launched in mid-2018. “We think it’s a unique way to go to market,” Tuley said. “You have one display with 80 colors, and you can pick your color and then pick you construction. We also tell the corresponding technical story.”

At the CLEO booth, the company promoted its eco-forward product, which underwent a soft launch at last year’s TISE. In addition to highlighting its 56 SKUs, the manufacturer focused on its new CLEO website—which was built around SEO—and its new recycling program.

“Not only is the site beautiful, but we’ve looked pretty deeply into how consumers do their searches online for flooring and understanding what kind of content they want,” said Kurt Denman, chief marketing officer and executive vice president sales, Congoleum. “We really wanted to be a design-focused brand beyond performance attributes. A lot of the website is about helping people understand how designs work and come together. We also tie back into Pinterest and other social tools.”

The recycling program will take CLEO product at the end of its lifecycle and incorporate it back into the product work stream. “What makes that so easy is the product is 85% limestone,” Denman explained. “We really want this product to have as many environmental benefits as it can. It truly is a Cradle to Cradle product.”

John Wooten, regional sales manager, CMH, a division of Haines, likes the CLEO line. “The dynamic patterns, the visuals and the durability of CLEO make it a great product. It’s unique to the marketplace.”

Karndean Designflooring showcased its new premium rigid, Korlok Select. The product features the company’s proprietary K-Core technology and is 100% PVC. What’s more, the product is available in three American barn wood-inspired colors in a 56 x 9-inch plank as well as a 24 x 6-inch herringbone parquet plank. “When installers are putting it in, they can cleanly score it and snap it with a utility knife,” said Katherine Caringola, communications manager. “It also has our HoldFast 5G locking system.”

Korlok Select caught the eyes of Jason Stafford, general manager, Stafford’s Discount Carpet, Redlands, Calif. “Karndean and their products are very unique in terms of styling and they really set themselves apart from the majority of manufacturers. Korlok Select is their first update to the collection, which they showed at Surfaces last year. They’ve provided us with everything from a barn wood, rustic looks all the way to tropical looks. They always do very well at giving you a broad range of styles from which to choose.”

The highlight at the Home Legend booth was its entry-level SPC, Foundations. “We haven’t even sampled it or put it out in the marketplace and we’re already getting orders for it,” said Keith Wiethe, director of sales. “What we’re working on with our product assortment is a good, better, best selling proposition. We have to make it simple for the RSA to sell our products.”

Fresh faces
New to the U.S. market is Beauflor USA. The company featured its latest SPC product with an attached pad, Boardwalk. “We wanted to keep the line simple, but we wanted to have different options within the line,” said Dana Nevens, regional manager. “We kept all of the price points the same, but we have multiple widths, some tile patterns and some reclaimed barn wood looks.”

Another company making its mark in the U.S. is Lico. The manufacturer featured two products, one of which was Hydro Fix Comfort Core, a Swiss quality product that will be made in the U.S. starting in June. “We’re some place between a WPC and an SPC,” said Rob Rebman, president. “We have the soft underfoot comfort of a WPC and are more dimensionally stable, light weight and very affordable in wonderful designs. Today we carry 50 different offerings, but we can also build custom design programs.”

The second product, Micodur, is a cement-based construction that is 100% dimensionally stable, according to Rebman. “It’s a clickable tile, with no PVC, it’s eco-friendly. It’s digitally printed. Today we have 30 SKUs, but because it is digitally printed, we can do custom designs.”

New in LVT, sheet
While SPC and WPC seemed to make a statement at almost every resilient manufacturer’s booth, the LVT and sheet segments saw a plethora of new introductions. One of Armstrong Flooring’s biggest launches was its VCT with Diamond 10 Technology. With the new technology, the already durable product is easier to maintain and does not require polish, according to the company. What's more, it’s available in a multitude of colors.

“From a design perspective VCT has a lot more to offer today than it ever has before. It’s really a durable low-cost floor that’s available in a ton of colors,” said Deb Lechner, vice president of marketing.

Grant Petruzzeelli, president of Universal Metro in Sante Fe Springs, Calif., welcomes the addition of Diamond 10 to the manufacturer’s VCT offering.“The fact that they’re rolling it out with Diamond 10 is fantastic and definitely a step in the right direction.”

Armstrong Flooring also introduced a new engineered tile, which is meant to compete with ceramic at a much lower price point. “The reason you’d want to do an alternative tile is the warmth compared to ceramic,” Lechner explained. “It is waterproof and has a little cushion to it. It’s also easier to sell to the consumer when she wants the look of ceramic, but not the cold properties.”

In 2019, Tarkett is focusing on providing “great spaces, one surface at a time,” according to Jeffrey Stefanov, segment strategy–residential. A part of this strategy is its recent acquisition of Lexmark, which now allows the manufacturer to offer its customers over 300 soft surface designs. On the hard surface side, Tarkett has launched seven new ProGen products as well as new TruTex designs. “ProGen is going to continue to be a great benefit to the consumer,” Stefanov said. “Our TruTex product is getting 20 new designs and it actually has a unique textile backing that dissipates water and resists mold and mildew. Our goal is to ultimately have everything for our customers.”

Forbo highlighted new designs in its Flotex line, which is a flocked 6,6 nylon product that is available in 10 x 40-inch planks, 20 x 20-inch squares and as a sheet good. It is 100% waterproof and can be permanently installed or put down with releasable adhesive. “It’s kind of a hybrid between the best benefits of a textile and the cleanability and performance of a resilient,” said Tim Donahue, residential division sales manager. “We’ve added five designs to the collection. Each one has about four to six colors, so you’re looking at 30 to 40 SKUs.”

When it comes to LVT, even those in porcelain and ceramic tile are getting into the game. At the show, MSI showed off its first LVT introduction, named Everlife. To support a more one-stop-shop approach to selling, the company expanded into the new product segment and even aligned its branding with its expanded product offering—just before the show, the company unveiled a new global brand identity that showcased its expanding focus.

On the glue-down LVT side, Karndean Designflooring launched Art Select in new wood visuals. The premium glue-down range features beveled edges and a 30-mil wear layer. “This is the first time we’ve really revisited this collection in over four years,” Caringola said. “This collection has a lot of our classic woods and we’ve added some new hickory and chestnut designs. We also have introduced a specific SKU in this line called Glacier Oak. It’s available in a 56 x 9-inch full size plank. We also offer it in an 18 x 3 parquet plank as well.”

EarthWerks also increased its glue-down offerings with the launch of Chassis, a set of trendy planks in six colors with Tuff Shield protection. The complete collection features Chassis (2mm x 6 mil), Chassis Advantage (2mm x 12 mil) and Chassis Pro (3mm x 20 mil).

Mohawk is also rebooting its offerings to tap into the market of consumers who still desire sheet goods. “What we have is a good, better, best offering,” Sheehan said. “We have 51 visuals that are all available in the VersaTech, VersaTech Plus and VersaTech Ultra. We’ve also mounted the samples on Masonite, so the consumer gets the impression of how it’s going to feel on the floor.”

IVC, a division of Mohawk, continues to evolve its sheet offerings as well. “Within our sheet vinyl line, we’re doing some really amazing things with the visuals, painted tile looks, taking our platform of seamless solutions and really highlighting not only great design in tile, but great design in wood,” said Jason Sims, brand marketing director, Mohawk Industries. “We’re also launching some LVT product and expanding IVC’s footprint.”

Beauflor USA relaunched its Blacktex collection as Blacktex HD. The redesigned luxury vinyl roll collection expanded by 10 SKUs, now encompassing 30 SKUs total. “Because of its textile backing it is very rip and tear resistant compared to the other sheet vinyl out there,” Nevens said. “Very limited subfloor prep is needed, which is also key. You don’t have to worry about telegraphing coming up through and it looks like an LVT.”

In addition to Mannington’s WPC product and Adura Selling Solution, the manufacturer has launched new sheet products. One of its new products is Morocco, a 6-inch encaustic tile from Mannington’s Revive collection. “We have put a couple of encaustic looks in in the last couple of years and they’ve worked really well for us,” said Mary Katherine Dyczko-Riglin, product manager, residential sheet. “We have this nice 6-inch look and it varies all the way across the sheet so you can get a really nice customized look. The trend with this Revive introduction is it looks like a custom tile installation with sheet.”

Make way for the mills
Carpet mills continue to increase their presence in the waterproof luxury vinyl segment, with new offerings in WPC and SPC shown at Surfaces. Among mills not named Mohawk and Shaw, no one was more ambitious than Engineered Floors, which entered the LVT segment in 2018, and has 60 SKUs slated for 2019.

Key offerings include Bella Sera, an SPC under the Triumph collection that features an attached pad, EIR and painted bevel. Ana Torrence, hard surface category manager, called it, “the best value for a high-end plank.”

For 2019, EF has a generous assortment of click, loose lay and glue-down products, from opening price points to super high end. The strategy tied in with the company’s efforts to be a full-service line for its dealers. “We know our bread and butter is [PureColor, our proprietary solution dyed fiber], but we also want to offer the retailer a comprehensive assortment, which includes hard surfaces,” said Mike Sanderson, vice president of marketing.

Pietra, which means stone in Italian, is a 2019 hit that includes an embedded grout line that can be installed over existing tile in a matter of hours, not days. “It looks like real tile without the hassle of tile,” Torrence explained.

The bread and butter of Marquis Industries’ may be WPC; however, the company’s newest introduction is Cheyenne, a SPC click product featuring a 20-mil wear layer, attached cushion and multi length boards.
Phenix Flooring is entering its third year in the hard surface segment with a goal to introduce price sensitive product to drive volume. Case in point is a new 12 mil SPC with a painted beveled edge that it showed at Surfaces.The rigid core plank and tile offerings—under the names Velocity, Impulse and Momentum—feature Corex, a rigid thermoplastic extruded core with stone technology. Impulse and Momentum utilize a cork backing while Velocity combines Corexwith an EVA foam backing, which eliminates the need for any additional underlayment.

The Dixie Group is still in its infancy as a hard surfaces’ supplier, according to T.M. Nuckols, president of the residential division, TDG, but is poised to expand. At Surfaces, the company showcased a new SPC line from its Masland Energy collection called TruCor, as well as 5-, 7- and 9-mil products—27 planks and 16 tiles in all.

Whereas other mills dabble in hard surfaces while continuing to emphasize soft offerings, Southwind has moved steadily in the direction of hard surfaces, which now accounts for 60% of its overall mix.In addition, while other waterproof vinyl companies continue to show wide planks, Southwind is going retro with a smaller 3 1/4-inch offering. Called Classic Strip, these 20-, 40- and 60-inch long boards come with 20 mil wear layers. “People are getting tired of the wide looks,” said Tim Gilmore, Southeast regional vice president for Southwind. “We can go 100 boards before a pattern repeats – that’s unheard of.”

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Exclusive interview: A closer look at Armstrong Flooring today

February 4/11, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 18


Within the past five years, Armstrong Flooring has developed several strategic initiatives to strengthen the business. Among these moves included separating from the ceilings business, exiting the laminate segment, reconfiguring some of its distributor partnerships and alliances, and, more recently, selling its wood flooring operations to American Industrial Partners (AIP).

FCNews publisher Steve Feldman and Reginald Tucker, managing editor, sat down with Don Maier, Armstrong Flooring president and CEO, at Surfaces to talk about where the company stands today. Following are excerpts of that interview.

How would you describe Armstrong Flooring today?
We’re really excited about 2019 as we enter the market as a pure-play, resilient player. We’re doubling down our efforts to go after the LVT business in a big way. In wood, we’ve seen a continuation of solid products moving to engineered, but more engineered product has opened up markets to the Asian suppliers, creating price compression in that category. We’ve been struggling to really figure out that part of the market. In 2017, 40% of our revenue was wood but only 10% of our profits came from wood. The other piece of it is about 80% of my time was trying to fix wood. If I’m spending 80% of my time, guess what the rest of the organization is doing?

In AIP we have found a company that was interested in buying that asset from us, which has allowed us to really focus our efforts where we believe we can make a difference—in the resilient category. We generated about $90 million from the transaction, but more so our focus on really being able to go drive innovation and growth in our resilient portfolio with a goal to be a leader in LVT.

When you say leader in ‘LVT,’ is it LVT, WPC and SPC or primarily that SPC rigid board category?
LVT—the whole ball of wax. Obviously, not WPC given the patents that are out there, but we think our rigid board is a superior product.

What makes it superior?
Well, its dimensional stability, we believe, is better. Its indentation characteristics are better and, of course, we believe we have better visuals.

What is the product’s name?
It’s just Armstrong Rigid Core. We introduced it here three years ago. It’s still growing extremely well for us. Of course, it has morphed now into larger plank formats, same structure, and then of course the new technology that we brought with our Pryzm product.

Are you a believer in these new products we are seeing—a rigid core with a 1.2mm wood veneer on top?
The performance of that product is different from LVT, which is more balanced. Given the environment that it’s going to be exposed to, warping, movement and buckling will become an issue. Armstrong strongly believes in making sure our products perform to our specifications. While that product will work well if the environment is consistently maintained, we don’t believe it is something that’s a real viable option.

Can you provide a snapshot of what Armstrong Flooring’s business looks like today? How would you break down residential vs. commercial?
Our wood business was almost all residential. In selling the wood business, we went from 60% residential vs. 40% commercial to flipping that. We’re now 60% commercial and 40% residential. It’s important to note that doesn’t mean we are abandoning the residential business; it’s quite the contrary.

Do you expect that ratio to be the same five years from now or would you rather see a 50/50 or 70/30 split?
By luck of the draw that’s where we’ve landed, and I think 60/40 is a healthy mix. There is a lot less volatility in the commercial business. Although, I like having exposure to the residential side of the equation. But in the end, I feel like 60/40 is a good mix for us.

What comes to mind when I say VCT?
VCT is the largest in terms of square footage—about half of all hard surface commercial flooring that is installed is VCT. We have a full breadth of products, both PVC based and non-PVC based. Our scale allows us to have manufacturing across all of North America—a big component of which is shipping. So, by having that network of facilities it not only gives us a service capability that others don’t have, but a cost-favorable position as well.

Is commercial sheet a declining business?
No. It’s growing slowly but consistently, thanks largely to the healthcare segment but not exclusively. We do sell a bit in transportation as well. It is the right product for a sterile environment. It has a unique value proposition out in the marketplace.

Are you happy where you are in that category today?
I would love to see more hospitals being built, but that’s really what governs that business for us. The introduction of Diamond 10 technology has given us a differentiation story to tell out in the marketplace.

What about commercial LVT?
It’s growing quickly, just not as fast as residential.

Residential sheet?
I think it’s underappreciated.

Is Armstrong’s sheet business growing both in dollars and square footage?
In total, yes. It’s still an important part of our portfolio, and it’s still a profitable part of our portfolio. It’s just not as significant as it used to be.

Residential LVT?
Growing like crazy. Largely being driven by the rigid and SPC products. We’re still seeing good growth in the flexible formats as well. We see that part of the market still accelerating with no signs of slowing down.

What is your feeling on the next timetable in terms of the tariffs? Do you think we'll see some movement on that by the March deadline?
All we can really go by is what the government has said these past few months. I noted back in November that there might be a possibility where [the two sides] could work something out. There’s a tremendous amount of back pressure on China to resolve this issue, and obviously I think there’s a lot of pressure to do that from the U.S.’ standpoint as well.

What has been the overall effect of that 10% tariff on your business?
For Armstrong, the 10% was pretty much a non-issue. It was a non-issue because there were a number of pieces of the overall supply chain that were able to absorb it, and each one of them took a little bit of a hit on that.

Including the consumer? Did the end user feel it?
No, I don’t think it got to the consumer. Right off the bat, you saw a devaluation of the Chinese currency, which absorbed a good portion of it right there. There was a bit more flexibility and elasticity with the suppliers, there was a bit of elasticity with the distributors, then the retailers. I don’t think the end consumer saw it at that level.

But there’s no more stretch left, or not much. If there is another incremental 15% increase, I think it’s going to be one that will actually flow through to the consumer, and that has the potential to impact demand.

Early last year, you talked about leveraging the experience of your distributor partners to help market the brand. What specifically did that entail, and how has that worked out?
We basically moved the responsibility for merchandising displays and samples to our distributor partners for the residential business. This is already working out well as they’re able to be very targeted as to what their markets need. In many cases, they’re manufacturing those components themselves. They’re able to be faster, more responsive and I think more economical for the retailer, which is all good for them and the retailer.

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SPC: New kid on the block

January 21/28, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 17

By Ken Ryan

The luxury vinyl flooring category has enjoyed multiple years of double-digit growth, starting with LVT, transitioning to LVT/WPC and finally with SPC entering the fray. SPC, or solid polymer core, is a rigid core product poised to lead this resilient subsegment in 2019.

Indeed, many flooring observers view SPC as an improved version of traditional vinyl flooring—faster and easier to manufacture than WPC and, therefore, less expensive to produce.

As the new kid on the block, here are five things dealers should know about SPC products.

What’s in a name?
According to the Multilayer Flooring Association (MFA), “SPC” refers to the class of rigid vinyl flooring products with a solid polymer core. That solid, waterproof core, experts say, won’t ripple, swell or peel no matter how much liquid it is subjected to.

This core is ultra-dense with no foaming agents such as those found in traditional WPC flooring. It provides slightly less resiliency underfoot but is said to make the flooring extremely durable.

SPC flooring is virtually indistinguishable from stone or wood flooring due to the printed vinyl layer, which continues to refine the product’s style and design and brings it closer to real wood looks and textures.

The dense, highly mineral-filled extruded core of SPC provides superior indentation resistance and is best suitable for high-traffic and commercial applications. Not all rigid core floors will include underlayment, but it is a popular option as an attached underlayment will deliver extra cushion underfoot and absorb sound.

Low barrier to entry
There are at least two reasons why rigid core has seen a surge in popularity among vendors, with new companies entering the market seemingly every month: a) it is the fastest growing subsegment of the fastest growing category; and b) the cost of entry is relatively minimal.

Chinese laminate manufacturers with idle equipment stemming from the Lumber Liquidators’ debacle three years ago jumped into the rigid core field in a big way. For $250,000, suppliers can purchase or lease a smaller single extruder to get started in the SPC business. In addition, short equipment lead times spanning between 90 and 120 days allows for quick ramp up.

The future is bright
Composite waterproof flooring led by SPC will be the high double-digit growth engine in hard surfaces over the next five years, experts predict. Composite/SPC tiles as an alternative to ceramic tiles is the next big growth opportunity for a slew of reasons: These SPC tiles are lighter and warmer than ceramic; they don’t break and are cheaper/easier to install (click); no grout is needed; they are easier to remove and are more comfortable to walk/stand on with its attached cork backing.

According to Piet Dossche, CEO of USFloors, there is also the environmental element to consider. “Natural resources have become scarcer and more expensive. Therefore, composite/fake is in. Younger generations take eco-friendliness to the next level. They want Mother Earth left alone.”

Primed for growth
In 2018, sales of WPC products outpaced SPC at the retail level, according to many dealers. This year, however, SPC is expected to make that leap to the top spot in this subcategory. “I expect [SPC] to have the largest growth in 2019,” said Eric Mondragon, hard surface buyer, R.C. Willey Home Furnishings, Salt Lake City. “Rigid core now fills the entry-level price point that WPC had to vacate due to the tariff price increases.”

Commercial ready
Although SPC is suitable for any environment where you need a durable, waterproof floor, it is ideal for settings such as commercial kitchens and bathrooms as well as grocery stores and other venues where spills occur. Unlike traditional vinyl that is flexible, manufacturers designed rigid core to be unbending. As such, it is virtually indestructible.


Dossche on WPC: The best is yet to come
The growth of SPC won’t come at the expense of WPC, according to Piet Dossche, founder and CEO of USFloors and the COREtec brand. Dossche said he sees WPC and SPC succeeding “hand in hand” in the market, with WPC used more for residential applications and SPC for commercial jobs.

Following are five reasons why Dossche believes WPC will remain viable.

1. Proven technology. WPC is a proven technology already in the market now for the last six years—manufactured under the auspices and quality control from the top U.S. flooring mills and by the LVT experts in China. “The complexity and significant capital commitment to manufacture WPC has kept the manufacturing landscape clean of all those fly-by-night, opportunistic start-ups that entered the SPC market and are not committed to quality and long-term sustainability of the product,” Dossche said.

2. Profitable for all. By now, billions of square feet have been sold without any quality problems and claims, according to Dossche, generating billions of dollars in revenue and profit for the entire supply chain. “Pricing discipline on WPC is in place and profitability secured for both the manufacturers and retailers. We have been able to stop the race to the bottom with WPC [unlike SPC] and avoided commoditization and margin destruction.”

3. Best looks, luxurious constructions. Dossche said the construction—with an LVT top layer on top of the extruded core—enables the best embossing and surface finishing, making for the most authentic looks. “With WPC you can clearly mimic a wood floor to its utmost and create the thickness of a 1⁄2-inch plank without the challenges of weight in shipping and handling.”

4. Ultimate comfort for households. With its foamed-up core and built-in air pockets, WPC provides exceptional comfort, warmth and sound dampening—ideal for active families with kids playing and crawling on the floor. Perfectly suitable for residential applications, WPC brings the hand and comfort of a 60-ounce saxony to the LVT segment with SPC constructed for performance and more commercial applications, comparable to a 26-ounce. level loop commercial carpet.

5. ‘The Original’. Dossche said WPC is the innovative and original rigid core product that has revolutionized the entire flooring industry and became the pioneer and trendsetter in the market. “It will continue to move the bar in originality and creativity while securing the long-term viability of the category. The leadership position it holds in the rigid LVT category makes it the guardian of this new flooring segment and, as the disruptor it is known as, it will relentlessly drive the industry forward and continuously challenge the status quo.

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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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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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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.”

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Resilient: LVT, WPC clamor for more showroom floor space

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

By Lindsay Baillie


A common challenge independent flooring retailers face is how and where to merchandise various product categories. With the increased popularity of LVT, WPC and rigid core flooring, showroom placement has become even more strategic.

“When LVT and WPC first came out we just kind of fit them into the showroom,” said Richard Scherzer, owner, About Floors N More, Jacksonville, Fla. “Now the category is growing, and we have moved them to their own section. However, they are outgrowing the space.”

Other dealers, including Friendly Floors in Port Charlotte, Fla., attest to the growth of these sub-segments. “LVP and WPC have the prime real estate in the showroom these days,” Marjorie Benson, owner, told FCNews. “As soon as customers come in the front door, it’s displayed in a large area to the right.”

Friendly Floors uses Abbey stackers to display the product when suitable. “Other [brands] such as COREtec display in their large flip rack, so we have all four of their racks against the wall,” Benson added.

Ted’s Abbey Carpet & Floor in Anniston, Ala., originally positioned LVT and WPC in the back of its showroom. But all that has changed. “Since they started taking off about a year ago, they have now gradually moved to the front of our showrooms,” said Ted Gregerson, president. “It is now definitely one of our hotter categories. We make sure they are highlighted with signage and placed in a prominent position inside our showrooms.”

Bridgeport Carpets, with two locations in Alpharetta, Ga., has also adapted its showroom to highlight the growing category. “Due to the increasing popularity of hard surface, we rearranged the main room in our larger showroom to focus on those items,” said Mary Ann Gore, officer manager. “In our other showroom, we have the LVT and WPC in a separate room from the other hard surfaces.”

For dealers such as Bridgeport Carpets, separating LVT and WPC from other hard surface flooring makes selling easier. For others, combining all the hard surfaces in one area is the way to go. Carpetland USA in Rockford, Ill., for example, displays its LVP and WPC on the showroom floor alongside sections such as tile and hardwood, according to Kevin Rose, president and owner.

Montgomery’s CarpetsPlus Color Tile in Venice, Fla., also positions LVT and WPC next to other hard surfaces. What’s more, the retailer has LVT and WPC products from different manufacturers installed in the showroom to demonstrate the various products’ benefits and visuals. “We also show installed photos to the customers of jobs we have done,” said Missy Montgomery, showroom manager. “It pretty much sells itself here in Florida because of the pools in most of the homes as well as the sand people track in. Also, our plumbing runs through the concrete slabs, which has been known to break, so it’s a win-win for anyone down here. The floor comes up easy and can go back down again without any damage most of the time.”

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Armstrong Flooring leverages domestic resilient capacity

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

By Reginald Tucker


Amidst all the uncertainty surrounding the impact of tariffs on imports from China, Armstrong Flooring is moving to boost the intrinsic benefits of domestic resilient flooring capacity. This move comes on the heels of its recent decision to sell its wood flooring operations (FCNews, Nov. 12/19, 2018).

“We’ve been ramping up volume in the Stillwater, Okla., plant, which we repurposed last fall, and we continue to increase the capacity and through-put here at Lancaster as well as in Kankakee, Ill., where we make Alterna,” Don Maier, president and CEO, Armstrong Flooring, told FCNews. “The other side of the equation is with the change in the tariffs, we’ve been demonstrating to the market the value of our legacy resilient sheet products.”

Similarly, with VCT and other resilient products, Armstrong said it believes it has the ability to provide both commercial and residential end users with alternatives to products that have been impacted by the tariffs. “The message to the market here is we have a broad portfolio of domestic products both in the LVT category as well as in others that create very high-value alternatives,” Maier added. “Second, we’re always working with our supply base and distributors to offset and be more efficient in how we do business. Basically, we have our partners’ backs in terms of products impacted by the tariffs as well as providing alternatives that give them options to avoid the impact of the tariffs.”

An added bonus, according to Maier, is the fact that many of the resilient products Armstrong Flooring manufactures in the U.S. feature the company’s proprietary and exclusive Diamond 10 technology. “While the technology was first offered on our LVT products made at our Lancaster plant, we have now taken it across nearly the entire portfolio,” he explained. “That not only gives the retailer a differentiating story, but it gives the end user/consumer a product that’s going to stand up to challenges and continue to look and wear extremely well.”

Armstrong Flooring’s distributor and retail customers are embracing the company’s strategy to build on its domestic production capabilities. “Businesses that concentrate too heavy a mix into imported goods—especially goods from a single-source nation—remain exposed to significant financial, operational and logistical risks,” said Scott Rozmus, president and CEO, FlorStar Sales. “Having options available from global suppliers such as Armstrong Flooring, who have retained a domestic manufacturing base, certainly helps mitigate such tariff and related political risks.”

The fact that Armstrong Flooring operates a variety of plants across the country affords both the manufacturer and its distributors the luxury not only of offering some pricing stability relative to tariffs, but also providing benefits in terms of a more reliable supply chain, Rozmus added. “It is never a bad thing to eliminate multiple ports as well as oceans in terms of providing greater shipping accuracy. Offering customers more predictability creates happier customers.”

Among those happy customers are dealers like Merv Breckbill, co-owner of Strasburg, Pa.-based Wall to Wall Coverings, an Armstrong dealer for nearly 18 years. For him, domestic production provides more stability with respect to pricing.

“With the stuff coming in from overseas, along with the uncertainty of the price increases, anything that’s produced here in the U.S. is a plus. The other thing is domestic products are readily available. Most of the Armstrong Flooring products we order are available the same week, sometimes even next day, which is a big plus for us and our customers.”

Future plans
Beyond bolstering capacity of existing product lines, Armstrong Flooring also hinted at plans to begin manufacturing WPC-type products here in the U.S. “We have a team dedicated to bringing rigid core capabilities domestically,” Maier told FCNews. “I won’t offer a lot of details here other than to say we continue to make strong progress, and our intention is to repurpose existing assets we have just as we did in Stillwater.”

In this respect, Armstrong said it believes it also has an advantage. “The difference between us and other companies looking to establish rigid core production is we’re not looking for a greenfield site,” Maier stated. “Plus, we don’t have as many of the start-up related things that come along with that. Another benefit is it does not require as much capital investment.”