Posted on

Merchandising: Dealers put waterproof front and center

July 22/29, 2019: Volume 35, Issue 3

By Ken Ryan

When Craig Phillips, owner of Barrington Carpet in Akron, Ohio, purchased a Carpet Country location in January, he wasted no time in transforming the space to reflect the realities of 2019. “We shrunk our carpet area by 30% and moved all of our vinyl plank and tile products to the front of the store in the most prime real estate,” Phillips explained. “We highlight the products with large display floors of our best-selling products. At our Barrington Carpet location, we highlight the category right inside our front door in a feature area.”

Many flooring dealers across the U.S. are updating their showrooms to better display and merchandise the explosive and still-evolving WPC/rigid core segment, often displaying large sections of the product on the floor. “We actually installed every single color of one whole line so the customer could see it on the floor,” said Joe Elder, co-owner, Hiller’s Carpet One Floor & Home, Rochester, Minn. “We used to have boxes on display, but they never quite looked nice enough so we decided to install them on the floor. It makes it much easier to take a customer and show them exactly what it will look like installed.”

At North Dakota-based Carpet World Bismarck, more than 30 different 4 x 4-foot displays of WPC/SPC are displayed on the showroom floor. “In the last year or two, the only presentation change we have made is to indicate on our display floors which products are WPC and which are SPC,” said Jon Dauenhauer, co-owner.

Other dealers said it just makes sense to allocate more square footage to show your hottest selling items. “We have several different colors of WPC installed in the showroom with wing racks, room scene poster boards and installed photos,” said Carlton Billingsley, co-owner of Floors and More, Benton, Ark. “We stock nearly two dozen SKUs so we can put together four to five boards from a box to give the customer a visual of the finished floor. We have allocated more space to this product in the last year by dedicating a room we affectionately call ‘waterproof room.’”

The size of the showroom is critical in the decision process as to how much WPC/rigid core to display. Offering a wide range of display systems—including traditional waterfall, stair steps and wing displays—are best shown in larger format stores, according to dealers, as the bigger showrooms allow for more options and ease of transition when adding displays. Retailers typically add displays without subtracting, which can be an issue for a smaller showroom.

When to place the product is also critical. As the category emerged as a staple in the industry, many chose to shrink down their carpet, laminate and even solid locking LVT selections to make room. Some dealers created a waterproof section; others moved WPC/rigid to the front of their stores.

Like many others, A.J. Rose Carpets & Flooring now has a separate section for WPC/rigid core with display floors underneath. “It has its own section rather than being mingled with hard surface,” said A.J. Boyajian, co-owner.

Nick Freadreacea, president of The Flooring Gallery, with multiple locations in the Louisville, Ky., market, has committed significant space for this category and moved it to the front of his locations to reflect the importance of the category. “In the stores that allow, we place the multi-layer flooring category next to our wood category and then transition into ceramic,” he explained.

Posted on

Pergo ad campaign preps dealers for a surge

July 8/15, 2019: Volume 35, Issue 2

By Reginald Tucker

 

Mohawk first sought to whet the appetites of its dealer partners with the official rollout if its Pergo-branded Extreme LVT line at last year’s Edge Summit (FCNews, Dec. 10/17, 2018). Now, with nearly 1,500 Pergo Extreme displays firmly planted in Mohawk Edge dealer showrooms across the country, the company is ready to kick off an integrated consumer advertising campaign designed to deliver shoppers to retailer storefronts ready to buy.

The multifaceted ad campaign, which boasts the tagline “Go Bold,” aims to influence the consumer throughout all phases of the shopping experience while educating her on the key visual and performance attributes of the Pergo Extreme LVT brand. Whether she discovers the brand while researching flooring options online—or if she is exposed to the product via more traditional advertising means such as radio, cable TV or shelter magazines—it will all crystalize when she finally sees the Pergo Extreme displays, installed floors and various point-of-purchase signage and materials upon entering the store.

According to Jason Sims, director of brand marketing at Mohawk, the goal is to reinforce the Pergo Extreme messaging and impressions the consumer absorbs across various media, culminating in a customer who is likely pre- disposed to the Pergo LVT brand when she visits the retailer for a consultation. “We had a great response to Pergo Extreme at Edge, and there’s a ton of excitement for the product,” Sims told FCNews. “We’re about 90% complete with our placements, so the consumer journey from online to in-store can begin.”

Beginning July 11, the official pergo.com website—which heretofore had been promoting mainly Pergo-branded laminate and hardwood—has been updated to reflect the full Pergo Extreme LVT offering. (That’s “phase two” of the strategy.) The launch coincides with a national digital media campaign to drive demand to independent retail. (Note: The campaign does not affect Pergo local advertising, which retailers can start as soon as they receive their displays.)

“Our goal has been to activate our digital strategy once we had 75% of our displays in the market in order to drive leads to active retailers,” Sims explained. The timing, he noted, was to help protect the brand, create the best experience possible at independent retail and ensure a solid footing for future efforts. “Previously the Pergo site only represented the laminate and home center positions and channels. Now, we’re excited about bringing Pergo Extreme for our specialty retail partners online, along with the full launch of our media ads for Pergo Extreme.”

During the kickoff of the “Go Bold” digital campaign, Mohawk will be placing digital ads across YouTube as well as other targeted channels. Meanwhile, on the Pergo website, consumers will see a beefed-up presence for Pergo Extreme along with clear positioning to help consumers understand the value of what LVT does and how Pergo Extreme stands out. “We’ve already experienced a lot of early success in the market without the power of national media, but over the next couple weeks we really expect to open some eyes,” Sims stated. “There’s going to be a lot more traffic coming in, a lot more lead generation for Pergo Extreme.”

With the seeds of the Pergo Extreme LVT line planted back at the Edge Summit, Mohawk took a measured and deliberate approach in bringing the product to market prior to launching a national marketing effort. Again, according to Mohawk, it goes back to protecting a storied brand. “We know Pergo has the best brand awareness in the industry, so doing this right was very important,” Sims explained. “There’s been quite a bit of patience on the part of the retail community who knows what the Pergo brand can do for them. The Edge conference was the start of it. We knew we had to partner with the right folks to launch this brand.”

A potent package
It was no accident that Mohawk chose to partner with Edge dealers to launch this initiative. To protect the brand, Mohawk realized it needed to exercise some control on how it was going to distribute the products. “Our Edge partners qualify as the best opportunity to promote our best products,” Sims said. “In our minds they have the most potential and are the ones who see the value in the partnering with Mohawk. So that was phase one—getting everyone on board with how this would roll out and what, exactly, was going into this product line.”

What ultimately ended up going into the line, according to Sims, was an expansive offering of 60 SKUs spanning four collections of trendy, high-end wood and stone visuals. Among them: Wood Originals—30 hardwood looks boasting genuine texture and multiple plank size options; Wood Enhanced—seven realistic visuals with added touches such as painted bevel and an embossed-in-register finish; Wood Wider Longer—five fashion-forward options offered in a 10 x 72 format; and Tile Options—an assortment of 15 stone pat- terns in three oversized tile sizes.

Pergo Extreme LVT is backed by strong benefits and warranties. Developed for families with active households, the Pergo Extreme collections are 100% kid-, pet- and water-proof, and they come with a Worry-Free for Life, No-Dent Warranty (lifetime residential warranty) and a 10-year medium commercial warranty.

“Sixty SKUs is a lot of product, even if you’re not adding a new display,” Sims explained. “It’s quite an undertaking—the designs, the samples and, now, the merchandising. These collections offer dynamic looks and dramatic patterns with unmatched characteristics and detail while providing homeowners with true worry-free living.”

In support of Edge dealers’ marketing efforts, Mohawk will be providing Five-Star point-of-purchase kits entailing high-end graphics, wall art, floor decals—all the things the dealer needs to promote the Go Bold campaign.

Posted on

Resilient: LVT, WPC, SPC bulldoze the competition

June 24/July 1, 2019: Volume 35, Issue 1

By Lindsay Baillie

 

Industry observers will not be surprised to hear that the resilient category had another spectacular year of growth in both sales and volume. FCNews research shows the category generated $4.916 billion in sales (not including rubber) in 2018—an industry-leading 23.1% increase over 2017’s $3.993 billion. In terms of volume, the category accounted for 4.373 billion square feet (not including rubber) at the first point of sales, an 8.67% increase from 2017’s 4.024 billion square feet. This positive momentum, executives say, is directly attributed to the performance of subcategories such as WPC and rigid core.

The resilient category’s strong performance in 2018 is even clearer when measured against other hard surfaces. When compared to the likes of tile, wood and laminate, resilient accounted for 42.4% of sales. When taking total flooring sales into account, resilient comprised 21.4% of revenue and 22.3% of volume.

The category’s skyrocketing growth really comes into perspective when you consider the fact the segment’s percentage increase in revenue is over five times the growth of the entire industry, while volume is almost four times that of the flooring sector as a whole.

Resilient’s continued double- digit growth in sales in 2018 is made that much more significant when looking at its performance over the past few years. FCNews research shows 2018’s sales represent a 40.5% increase over 2016’s $3.499 billion and a 68.13% increase compared to 2015. To put this growth into perspective, total resilient sales increased 123% from 2013’s $2.206 billion and 130.3% from 2008. Meanwhile, total resilient volume increased 68.8% from 2013’s 2.59 billion square feet and 49.76% over 2008.

Industry executives cite a multitude of factors that contributed to the resilient category’s meteoric rise. One of which is the fact that the category possesses a wide range of products to fulfill a range of retailer and consumer needs. As Michael Raskin, CEO, Raskin Industries, explained, resilient products across the board provide the consumer with value. “Today’s customer wants performance and design. The visuals in this category have vastly improved. All of these attributes—waterproof, durability, ease of installation and maintenance—provide an unsurpassed value. Also, it is more difficult to find skilled labor, which impacts products like ceramic and wood. Retailers ultimately push products they can install with confidence in a timely manner.”

Other executives agree, citing the features and benefits the category provides. “Resilient flooring provides tremendous value to consumers through advancements in visuals that are better than natural wood and tile looks, superior performance and ease of installation,” said Ed Sanchez, vice president product management, Mohawk Industries—parent of the Pergo Extreme brand. “Consumers want value but don’t want to compromise on features. With resilient, they don’t have to.”

Other manufacturers see the category’s red-hot LVT segment as a major factor in resilient flooring’s performance. “The resilient flooring market is being fueled by LVT’s continued growth,” said John Szilagyi, manager market intelligence, Tarkett North America. “The category has captured some of the best features of design, performance and price. It has also been a hotbed of innovation. While other product categories have remained somewhat stagnant, LVT has benefitted from digital printing. LVT has also seen advancement in material innovation—especially WPC and SPC— and diverse production.”

Most executives agree LVT’s sister subsegments, WPC and SPC, have brought the category to new heights. “The consumer has embraced the SPC category as a high-value flooring choice,” said Art Layton, director of specialty products, Axiscor. “The performance is proven in high-traffic and high-moisture applications, and it is an extremely easy product to clean and maintain. Retailers love selling the product for several reasons, including ease of transport to and from jobs, faster installations and very few callbacks.”

It also helps that LVT, WPC and SPC are all products that provide retailers with a compelling story to sell, executives say. “They can sell the end user on its practicality, the fact that it is waterproof, scratch resistant and so on,” said Chris Dillon, vice president of sales and marketing, Celeste. “Every year it seems the looks get better and more realistic. A few years ago, you could easily see the difference between real wood and resilient; now it’s more difficult.”

Residential
FCNews research shows the residential end-use sector made up almost 65.6% of total resilient revenue or $3.227 billion. With respect to volume, residential resilient accounted for 71.4% of square footage shipped. The bulk of that activity was driven by residential LVT (including WPC and rigid products), which generated an estimated $2.6 billion in revenue or 80.6% of total residential resilient sales. In terms of volume, these trendy products accounted for 1.848 billion square feet, or 59.2% of residential resilient volume.

Resilient manufacturers attribute the category’s success, in part, to the strength of key end-use sectors. Many industry executives see the greatest activity in replacement/redesign markets. However, builder and new home construction—in both single- and multi-family installations—are helping to bring the category to new heights. Executives also say that while WPC and rigid core products remain the darlings of the resilient category, each segment is seeing a different resilient product take market share.

“I have seen this category grow everywhere, but it has been stronger in the residential replacement market,” Celeste’s Dillon explained. “I had a friend recently go into a retailer looking to purchase hardwood, but the retailer kept trying to push her toward a resilient floor. It has become the trend in the retail market, much like laminate used to be.”

The resilient category as a whole is thriving in residential replacement in part because its unique selling points catch the consumer’s attention. That’s according to Jason Hair, vice president of hard surfaces, Phenix Flooring, who sees WPC clearly leading the charge in this sector. “The waterproof story seems to resonate with the consumer since it’s such a practical feature. It’s a feature they can easily understand and apply to their own home.”

While residential replacement has also been a primary driver in the growth of LVT volume, some companies are seeing a strong LVT presence in the multi-family market. There have even been reports that indicate builders are embracing rigid core products. “Residential retail has been a big player in the growth of luxury vinyl flooring, in particular the rigid segment,” said Lindsey Nisbet, director of marketing, EarthWerks. “While there are so many options of flooring to consider, luxury vinyl flooring has all of the looks, performance capabilities and price options for the homeowner.”

Other executives are also seeing builders install more luxury vinyl planks (LVP) and tiles (LVT) in all rooms of the home. “We continue to see the resilient products, planks and tiles along with textile back sheet replacing other hard surface products in new construction, property management and residential replacement,” said Nick Brown, vice president of sales – North America, Beauflor USA.

Industry executives also attribute this continuous growth in the residential arena to the evolution of vinyl plank. “Starting with traditional LVT, followed by WPC and, most recently, HDPC/SPC rigid core products, each incarnation has provided improved structural design and performance with enhanced HD visuals and textures,” said Dick Quinlan, senior vice president of sales and marketing, Wellmade Performance Flooring.

Subsegment breakout
Within residential LVT, dryback and click products experienced decreases in 2018, research shows. Dryback was down roughly 1% from $523.65 million in 2017, while click saw a 6.56% decrease from $460.6 million two years ago. Conversely, loose lay revenue grew 22.2% from $33.8 million in 2017 to $41.3 million in 2018. In terms of volume, dryback represented 34.5%, click was 18.8% and loose lay was roughly 1% of total LVT volume in 2018.

“We are seeing growth within all three categories of LVT—glue- down, loose lay and rigid—residentially because they provide practical benefits in addition to original visuals,” said Bill Anderson, CEO, Karndean Designflooring. It is ultimately the intended use that dictates which LVT format is chosen by the consumer, he added.

WPC and rigid had another stellar year in 2018, on the heels of astronomical growth in 2017. The subsegments together claimed 61.9% of residential LVT dollars and 46.5% of residential LVT volume, respectively. That is an 84.7% uptick in dollars and 92% increase in volume from 2017. Observers believe this trend provides evidence of WPC and rigid core’s cannibalization of LVT click products.

Rigid core’s growing acceptance, experts say, boils down to several factors: ease of installation, waterproof qualities and visuals. “Rigid core has the trifecta of irresistible attributes: unbelievably realistic look and feel, fast and easy installation and upkeep, and 100% worry-proof and waterproof with industry- leading warranty,” said Sam Kim, senior vice president, MSI. “We have seen increased acceptance of rigid core LVT in all areas of construction—new, replacement, low-end, mid-end, high-end, spec homes and custom homes.”

Innovations in subsegments such as WPC and SPC are also driving appeal. As Axiscor’s Layton explained, “Technologies and improvements to SPC products such as embossed in register finishes, beveled edges and superior natural visuals have made a major impact on the popularity of the category.”

While WPC has been outpacing other flooring categories (including traditional LVT) since its inception, the subsegment has felt increasing pressure from rigid core over the past two years in particular. This phenomenon, executives say, is due to rigid core’s differentiating qualities.

“SPC does not require adhesive during production so it is more efficient from a production standpoint,” Raskin explained. “The consumer market can still differentiate as WPC uses a thicker foam board that is less dense. It depends if the consumer sees value in a thicker foam product filled with air used in WPC or a denser board with no air or foam. If the consumer is educated properly, then WPC sales should continue to decline.”

What’s more, rigid is expected to continue taking market share away from almost every sector. “Our results indicate it is primarily taking share from residential, both single- and multi-family,” said Kurt Denman, chief marketing officer and executive vice president of sales, Congoleum. “With the growing preference for hard surface, it is seen as a product that can go anywhere in the home.”

Despite rigid core products stealing share from WPC, industry executives still see a market for the latter. “There has been hyper growth in SPC in all of the channels,” said Herb Upton, vice president hard surface flooring, Shaw Industries, parent company of USFloors and Fusion. “If you look at it on a percentage basis, SPC growth is significant but it’s the laws of bigger numbers. There’s more WPC out in the market right now. Both WPC and SPC have a place in the residential home, so they can coexist. WPC is the luxury 60-ounce carpet; it feels great underfoot, looks beautiful and performs. It is what you want in those main rooms within your house. SPC offers a high-performance platform for high traffic.”

Sheet
With the continued success of LVT—more specifically WPC and rigid products—residential sheet vinyl flooring saw another year of decline in 2018. According to FCNews research, the segment was down 12.3% from $579 million in 2017 to $507.9 million in 2018 in sales and 12.6% off in volume. Several manufacturers see this decline in starter homes and multi-family projects in particular.

Some manufacturing executives do not see sheet ever regaining market share. “Sheet vinyl has an uphill battle against rigid core and flex vinyl planks and tiles,” said Jamann Stepp, vice president of hard surface, The Dixie Group. “What market share rigid core does not consume from sheet vinyl, flex vinyl such as dryback, click vinyl and loose lay will. There will be a market for sheet vinyl goods; however, that market will continue to shrink.”

However, not all manufacturers have written off sheet in residential settings. “Beauflor has revived sheet with textile-back products,” Brown explained. “Textile-back sheet allows the customer to install the floor similar to a luxury vinyl plank and tile with limited floor prep and being able to install over single-layer constructions.”

Mohawk’s Sanchez also sees sheet as a viable product moving forward. While sheet has experienced pressure from the commodity plank products in the market, sheet should be able to hold a unique position for some applications in the face of increased pressure from imports. “Improved realism, design and features such as EIR make sheet an ideal solution for some applications, delivering value and fashion to the consumer,” he said.

While sheet vinyl manufacturers foresee a tough road ahead, there are several moves they can make to jump-start the subcategory. Proponents like Bret Perkins, vice president, hard surface, Southwind, sees potential in installation innovation. “About the only thing the industry can do is create a product that can easily be installed by DIY, is free floating and easy to seam together,” he explained.

Another avenue that may help sheet recover market share is creating unique visuals untouchable by other resilient products. As Dan Natkin, vice president–hardwood and laminates, Mannington, explained, “From a product perspective, we have seen success in reviving sheet through patterns that are nearly impossible in any other category. The other area to revive sheet revolves around telling the quality story and training a new generation of installers.”

Within this resilient subcategory, FCNews research shows felt goods continuing to lose market share to fiberglass. While felt was approximately 22.5% of dollars and 25.3% of volume in 2017, the product has dropped to 18.2% of dollars and 22.1% volume in 2018. Fiberglass, on the other hand, increased its share to 71.6% of dollars and 71% of volume—a 3.8% and 2% increase, respectively, from 2017.

“With the introduction in textile-back sheet and the continued development of fiberglass sheet constructions, felt will continue to lose market share in the residential replacement, property management and builder markets,” Beauflor’s Brown said.

Despite felt losing share to fiberglass and other backings, some executives still see a market for felt-backed sheet. “It is still the most value-oriented construction and performs exceedingly well in many environments,” Natkin stated.

Commercial
FCNews research shows resilient products in the commercial arena generated $1.916 billion in sales in 2018, a 17.8% increase from 2017. Volume, by comparison, was up 7.7%. Industry experts believe key end-use sectors such as healthcare, hospitality, education and Main Street assisted in resilient flooring’s growth in the commercial market. This trend is expected to extend through 2019 and beyond as LVT, WPC and SPC products continue to poach market share from soft goods as well as other hard surfaces.

“Resilient flooring—particularly LVT—is growing across virtually all commercial channels, as hard surface is seen more often in spaces that used to feature carpet,” said Deb Lechner, vice president of marketing, Armstrong Flooring. “Growth occurred in healthcare and also within the office sector, with the ongoing growth in employment. The education market showed growth as well, as state and local tax revenues improve. In addition, hospitality improved last year as economic conditions encouraged business and leisure travel.”

Others are seeing growth in resilient in education as well as retail. “We are in the education buying/specification season with much school construction under way,” said David Thoresen, senior vice president commercial hard surface, Mohawk Group. “We are seeing the growth in retail because of our strong position in the segment with strategic accounts and relationships.”

Similar to 2017, much of resilient contract sales came from commercial-grade LVT, which accounted for roughly $1.087 billion in 2018—a 35.9% jump over 2017’s $799.8 million. Within this subcategory, WPC and SPC made up a significant portion of dollar growth, rising from $72 million in 2017 to $151.7 million in 2018. Dryback saw a 19.17% growth in volume, while click continues to see a drop-off—likely due to the growth of commercial SPC, which captured 57.7 million square feet in volume in 2018, observers say.

“In a commercial setting—such as those with roller traffic—LVT or a glue-down SPC will perform very well,” said Amy Tucker, senior marketing manager, Philadelphia Commercial. “WPC, however, is engineered for spaces less likely to encounter roller traffic. Resident living spaces and areas looking for more comfort underfoot pair best with WPC.”

The growth of LVT in the commercial market, experts say, is likely due to the subcategory’s low maintenance requirements, ease of installation and performance attributes. “If you look at many restaurant chains where they used to specify wood, they now have vinyl planks,” said Perry Coker, CEO, CFL Flooring North America. “Same for hotels, which used to have wood or ceramic in the lobbies and carpet in the guest rooms. Ditto office space.”

FCNews research shows commercial sheet increased 3.79% in revenue to $232.5 million in 2018 from 2017’s $224 million. This is slightly down from the 4.9% growth the subcategory saw in 2017. This slowdown, executives say, is likely the result of an uptick in commercial-grade LVT sales as well as the growing popularity of SPC in commercial applications.

However, some believe sheet resilient still has a place in the commercial sector. “Because there are no seams with sheet resilient, it is ideal for spaces where spills and messes may happen and has less maintenance requirements than other flooring options,” Tucker said.

VCT
Increases in commercial-grade LVT, WPC and rigid products have finally caught up to traditional resilient categories such as vinyl composition tile (VCT), which is now seeing a decrease in dollars and volume. According to FCNews research, VCT saw a 6.8% decrease in dollars from $299 million in 2017 to $278.6 million last year. In terms of volume, square footage fell 7% in 2018.

Despite its decline, manufacturers that are heavily leveraged in the product category still see VCT as a viable commercial product. “Although LVT and rigid core are currently attracting the lion’s share of attention, VCT continues to account for a large share of square footage of resilient commercial flooring installed each year,” Armstrong’s Lechner explained. “It offers a durable and cost-effective flooring solution, particularly for education and mass retail applications.”

Rubber
FCNews research shows rubber generated $227.4 million in sales in 2018, a 3.7% increase over 2017. In terms of volume, the category accounted for 61.5 million square feet, a 3.4% increase from last year. “The rubber market continued to fare well in 2018,” Tarkett North America’s Szilagyi said. “Its growth was better than the overall market but not as robust as the rest of the resilient category.”

The main reason for this growth, according to Mark Tickle, director of marketing for American Biltrite, is more end users are acknowledging the benefits of rubber tile and sheet. “Manufacturers are stepping up to the plate with an increasing number of designs and colors to meet the growing demand from designers,” he explained.

Linoleum
FCNews research shows linoleum grew 4.2% to $100 million in 2018 from 2017’s $96 million. What’s more, the subcategory’s volume increased 2.4% to 33 million square feet. According to Tim Donahue, residential national sales manager, Forbo Flooring Systems, linoleum’s growth was driven primarily by residential replacement. “Forbo is seeing double-digit growth with our Marmoleum brand of linoleum for five years straight—residentially,” he said. “This is due to customers seeking healthier flooring options for their homes in colors and patterns that allow design flexibility. Flooring specialty retailers have also been a key driver for the growth in our residential replacement business.”

Imports vs. domestic
The resilient category is still heavily reliant on imports, which represent 76.7% of sales. However, domestic production continues to increase, taking a small percentage away from imports. In 2018, domestic production accounted for 23.3% of the category.

Domestic manufacturers say bringing production to the U.S. helps eliminate several problems often associated with imports. “Domestic investments shorten the supply chain and reduce variability,” Mohawk’s Sanchez explained. “This gives domestic manufacturers and their customers more options on how to service their consumers.”

While some manufacturers are looking to move away from imports, generally, domestic mass capacity comes online to supplement a growing, sustainable product category. So says CFL’s Coker, adding, “We see this now with SPC. The challenge is almost all of the innovation in the vinyl category over the past years has come from China—where change is fast, new ideas are welcome and unique limited-production types of products find success and become the new mass-production norm.”

The Dixie Group’s Stepp sees the majority of flexible vinyl being produced domestically. He also noted more manufacturers are attempting to produce rigid core in the U.S. “However, I look for that to change in the near future—especially if the tariffs on goods from China remain at a punitive 25%.”

When talking about domestic production and import activity, it is almost impossible to not con- sider the recent tariffs imposed in 2018 by the Trump administration. For some industry executives, the tariffs may help drive domestic production capacity in the next five to 10 years. For others, it will remain business as usual as importers look to other countries beyond China for manufacturing. However, virtually everyone agrees the situation has created uncertainty across the board as to whether or not the tariffs—including the new 25% hikes proposed in 2019—will stick.

Regardless of what happens with the tariffs, executives see the opportunity for even further innovation in the resilient category. “Home buyers, renters and remodeling homeowners have already seen $1 billion added to U.S. housing construction costs thanks to tariffs,” said Tom Hume, vice president of marketing, Cali Brands. “The tariffs are also prompting some manufacturers to diversify product portfolios and develop other categories that can be made outside of China.”

While increased innovation is all well and good, it will ultimately create greater saturation in a flooring category that is already overflowing with me-too products. This, executives say, could cause the prices of certain resilient products to dive even lower than current levels. As Chet Graham, president, Marquis Industries, explained, “SPC has allowed a cheap alternative to enter the resilient flooring [arena]. So-called ‘fly by night’ manufacturers are entering the domestic market and just selling product on cost.”

Posted on

Rigid core revolution: Segment seizes market share indiscriminately

June 10/17, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 26

By Lindsay Baillie

 

The resilient flooring category is on course to have another stellar year of growth, thanks in part to the excitement surrounding WPC and SPC products.

However, some resilient manufacturers say much of the new growth will stem from SPC instead of WPC sales. As WPC gets its own dose of cannibalization, SPC is expected to continue taking market share from just about everywhere and every product category.

“Rigid core is taking share from almost all hard surface sectors,” said Derek Welbourn, CEO, Inhaus. “Its growth is clearly due to it being a great product, but also because it is a great fit for a lot of uses, from commercial to any room in a residential space.”

Isaac Lee-San Leandro, branch manager, Eternity, saw the strength of rigid core firsthand when the company launched its SPC collections. “We were anticipating that it would do very well. However, we did not expect it to grow so rapidly and seize the entire resilient flooring category. It has become the top choice in resilient flooring luring many consumers away from other flooring categories such as carpet, laminate and hardwood mainly because of it being a 100% waterproof product.

Residentially, SPC’s waterproof attributes make it an ideal product for practically every room in the home, manufacturers say. Bedrooms, bathrooms, living rooms, kitchens, basements, laundry rooms, mud rooms, home offices and even gyms are all taking part in the rigid revolution—and for different reasons.

“Rigid offers a waterproof floor that does not trap dirt and offers hypoallergenic properties,” said Michael Raskin, president, Raskin Industries. “Carpet is now being taken out and replaced with new, fresh rigid visuals offered in wood, stone and textile looks.”

Flooring executives, such as Ed Sanchez, vice president of product management, Mohawk and the Pergo brand, also see rigid’s latest visuals as a key to its success. “Rigid core is taking share from across the board,” Sanchez said. “Because of the improvements of visuals, rigid has made its way into bedrooms and other spaces previously reserved for carpet.”

While SPC’s expansion throughout the entire home can be attributed to its durability and waterproof attributes, experts believe the latest digital printing technology has made it hard for other hard surfaces to compete. “The advancements in digital print and embossing technologies are creating some of the most realistic, beautiful floors available, and in many cases at a fraction of the price of the real thing,” said Art Layton, director of specialty products, Axiscor Performance Flooring.

Mike Belprez, director of product management and innovation, Cali, sees the aggressive growth of rigid products as a “lifestyle takeover.” The product attributes, he noted, are more appealing than ever and have resonated with the consumer. “Many who had never before considered vinyl floors now opt in based on these key selling features that allow homeowners to live on their floors with assurances of lasting quality and performance.”

While WPC has been relegated to mostly residential and light commercial applications, manufacturers say SPC is making a greater dent in commercial, with the potential of cannibalizing WPC in light-commercial settings.

“COREtec’s patented original WPC flooring helps a house look and feel like home,” said Kathy Young, vice president, marketing, USFloors. “This innovative flooring provides an unmatched combination of beauty, durability, comfort and sound-dampening performance. We also developed our SPC floors to provide extra strength and rigidity to meet the demands of commercial and high-traffic residential applications.”

SPC’s qualities make it ideal for several commercial sectors with high traffic. “SPC resists indentation and high impact, making it an excellent choice for commercial applications,” said Jeff Francis, hard surface resilient category director, Shaw Floors.

CFL, which has also been making some noise in the rigid core arena, is seeing a significant uptick in commercial applications such as hotels and restaurants. “While the growth is taking share from all sectors, we also think a side benefit is the popularity and simplicity of rigid products is also shrinking the replacement cycle for flooring,” said Thomas Baert, president.

Manufacturers such as MSI are seeing rigid core products taking over in hospitality. “It is gaining tremendous momentum and popularity, due to how beautiful, resilient and fast they are to install and maintain,” said Sam Kim, senior vice president.

Other suppliers, including Karndean Designflooring, sees rigid making headway in multi-family applications. “Rigid core has grown popular in the entire residential sector, but specifically in upper-level rooms that require acoustic qualities, like playrooms or children’s bed- rooms,” Bill Anderson, CEO, told FCNews. “Commercially, we anticipated rigid core would be popular within multi-family for the same reasons as the residential market, but we’ve seen our rigid core enter all the commercial segments. That’s due in part to acoustics and because our rigid core products exceed the ASTM standard for indenta- tion resistance and dimensional stability.”

Cali’s Belprez sees rigid emerging in Main Street applications. “Ease of install, light to heavy commercial ratings and modern visuals make it an ideal solution.”

While rigid is making its way into commercial, most manufacturers do not see it capitalizing on the market. “These click formats are a perfect solution for residential living spaces, but because of heavy rolling loads, specifically, commercial spaces perform best when directly glued,” said Amy Tucker, senior marketing manager, Philadelphia Commercial. “Traditional/flexible glue-down LVT is typically great for new construction and where subfloors are perfectly smooth but can cause problems later if installed over a subfloor with imperfections. Last year, Philadelphia Commercial introduced products featuring Advantium Core and continue to add to our portfolio. These products were developed to address these issues.”

SPC vs. everything else
As the industry’s latest darling product, it is no surprise that SPC is taking market share from almost every flooring category—including other resilient products. The reason, experts say, is because of rigid’s various attributes and visuals.

“Rigid has been impacting products across hard and soft surface,” Mohawk’s Sanchez explained. “For instance, when you think about tile, people are moving toward rigid because of its dent resistance and inability to chip. When you think about wood, those with an active lifestyle are moving toward rigid because of that dent resistance along with its waterproof feature. Rigid delivers embossed-in-register looks that provide more realism—even better than real looks—that attract people who are fashion-conscious and are looking for unique designs.”

The beauty of rigid core, according to Yon Hinkle, director, product design and innovation, Armstrong Flooring, is it combines some of the greatest features from multiple flooring categories. “First, rigid core flooring can bring to life the exacting detail of natural wood looks, and it is built to maintain its beauty—even under high traffic, high moisture and high impact. Second, the construction of rigid core includes a dense, solid core that hides subfloor irregularities and provides superior resistance to indentation, an important consideration to help keep floors looking newer longer. Third, thanks to its dimensional stability, installers do not have to acclimate rigid products in most installations.”

According to Jimmy Tuley, vice president, residential resilient business, Mannington, LVT and rigid products no longer have a plastic/PVC look, and that has increased its appeal. “That was one of the hurdles the industry had to get over,” he explained. “Now that it has, there are performance features such as the waterproof nature, the durability of it, the ease of installation that people really like. The locking systems are very easy to install. They don’t require glue or a lot of tools—it has really solved a lot of technical problems for installers as well.”

Bret Perkins, vice president, hard surfaces, Southwind, sees all products being impacted by varying degrees. However, lower price-point categories are taking the biggest hit. “With the innovation of SPC, we are starting to see more realistic, embossed visuals,” he noted.

Among hard surfaces, hardwood and WPC are beginning to feel pressure from SPC, according to Chris Dillion, vice president of sales and marketing, Celeste. He believes hardwood sales are down this year as a result of rigid core’s growth. “When it comes to rigid core eating into the WPC, it is for two reasons. For one, rigid core is more waterproof than WPC. In markets like Florida, for example, we have seen three years’ worth of moisture in a home actually catch up to the WPC and make it buckle. This is because WPC still has wood in its core and the wood over the course of a few years will take in water; rigid core will not.”

The second reason, Dillon notes, is SPC is cheaper to manufacture. “You are getting the exact same look but for much less money.”

Beyond hardwood, observers also see rigid stealing market share from ceramic tile and carpet. Proponents cite rigid’s look, performance and price point. “It’s the marriage of form and function,” said Jason Hair, vice president, Phenix.

Other industry experts, including Kurt Denman, chief marketing officer and executive vice president of sales at Congoleum, also believe ceramic/porcelain and laminate have lost share to SPC. But it’s resilient sheet that has likely been impacted the most.

“Over the past several years, there has been plenty of consternation throughout the industry over the lack of qualified installers,” Denman explained. “And while our AirStep products, with multiple installation options, is certainly one of the easiest to install, a 12-foot roll of flooring can be intimidating. However, resilient sheet continues to be an incredible value. The designs are truly awesome and it’s seamless and actually 100% waterproof.”

A major reason for rigid core’s success, observers say, is it solves a lot of challenges for the consumer. As CFL’s Baert explained. “It can be installed over most existing floors. It is low maintenance and can be wet-mopped. And, with increasing innovation providing differing widths, lengths,
embossed-in-register, etc., consumers can get the look they want at a price they can afford in a product that performs well in the home.”

As rigid core continues to evolve and improve, most manufacturers expect the category to continue stealing growth. “It started with WPC and has expanded to include SPC and HDPC,” said Steve Wagner, director of sales and marketing, Wellmade. “At the end of the day, rigid core is a superior flooring product that represents a better mousetrap that will continue to impact all flooring categories well into the future.”

Tariff trouble
Most manufacturers believe the aggressive growth of the rigid category has a slim chance of slowing down, even despite the impending tariffs on Chinese imports. While flooring executives are split on whether or not the tariff is necessary, most agree it will have a small—mostly undetectable—impact on the consumer.

“The rigid core market does not show any slowdown anytime soon,” said Nick Brown, vice president sales – North America, Beauflor USA. “With the expected continued growth, the challenge for manufacturers and distributors will continue to be the number of rigid core products that are offered to the market. At Beauflor, with all the continued tariff discussions, we continue to aggressively market our Made-in-Belgium Pure rigid core product. Having a European-manufactured rigid core product that has a unique, four-sided Dreamclick locking system gives our customers a product that will stay consistent and competitive with regards to price.”

Kelley Bolas, senior product manager, LVT, Tarkett North America, echoed Brown’s sentiments. “The trend of solid rigid core will not slow down soon. The tariff will have some effect on the pricing of current solid rigid core products, but as technology is enhanced, pricing will level out.”

Industry executives like Jamann Stepp, vice president hard surface, The Dixie Group, believes rigid core will represent 50% of the resilient category—approximately $2 billion in wholesale revenue—by the end of 2020. “However, if the tariff remains at 25% long term [deep into 2020], we may see a slight slowdown in overall volume. Nonetheless, even with a slight downward tick in volume, rigid core will still be the growth engine not only for the resilient category, but rigid core will continue to be the growth engine for hard surface and for the flooring industry.”

Denman views WPC and rigid core as “slight iterations of the same,” remarking that as more versions are created it will continue to command more share of the market until something with even better performance or price, or easier installation methods, takes its place. “It’s exactly what is happening between WPC and rigid core right now,” he explained. “The performance attributes are nearly identical, but rigid core has a price advantage.”

In terms of tariffs, Denman sees the added cost as a positive. “One of the benefits of the tariffs has been a narrowing of the price gap between imported and domestically produced goods. If we’re honest about it, the single greatest benefit of any of these import products has been price.”

Others feel the tariff levels the playing field for other countries such as Korea and the U.S. “The tariffs have more of a direct impact on big box or DIY markets,” Raskin explained. “The retail distribution model should be less effected as this customer is looking for other services other than a low price. This consumer desires customized service, quality and design. It will come down to the companies that offer the best design, service and quality attached to a marketing program that relates to today’s consumer.”

Cali’s Belprez does not believe tariffs will impact the growth of SPC. However, he does see it affecting how products will be sourced. “A product that is predominantly sourced in China will surely drive manufacturers and importers to find partners outside of China,” he explained.

Mannington’s Tuley also sees the tariffs as an issue for companies solely manufacturing in China. “I think U.S. rigid manufacturing will become a premium. We’re excited to be getting into that game as we build our rigid plant in Georgia. And I think the market overall will respond with cost reductions and efficiency improvements to keep the tariff impact to a level where we can continue to show a value with these products above other products.”

Of course, this is all contingent upon importers playing by the rules. (According to a recent USA Today article, China is intentionally mislabeling its products as “Made in Vietnam’ to avoid U.S. tariffs. How it works: Chinese firms first export products to Vietnam, then change the labeling on packages before exporting the goods to the United States, Japan or Europe, officials said. Vietnamese officials are calling for more aggressive examination of the certificates of origin of several product categories, which include steel, aluminum, textiles and processed wood products.)

While the tariffs pose an immediate issue for manufacturers and flooring dealers, consumers probably won’t feel the impact, Phenix’s Hair said. This is because flooring is generally a once-in-10-years purchase and consumers won’t know any different in terms of pricing, he explained.

Chet Graham, president, Marquis Industries, explained that while the tariffs could slow growth in the WPC/SPC category, it won’t be enough to create a stoppage. “Tariffs have become a usage tax and as long as consumers are willing to pay for this slight increase the category will still be viable in the marketplace,” he noted.

MSI see the tariffs impacting rigid core growth via the increased cost of the product, which must be passed on to American consumers. Second, residual impact from increased cost of other goods from China, which results in lowered consumer buying power to pursue repair and remodel activities that utilize rigid core flooring.

Posted on

Resilient: LVT, WPC battle for commercial market share

May 27/June 3, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 25

By Lindsay Baillie

 

It’s well documented that WPC continues to take market share from other resilient flooring options—as well as competing hard surfaces—specifically in the residential market. Now we are witnessing a battle for share in commercial applications.

This trend shows no signs of slowing down as flooring executives, such as Thomas Baert, president, CFL Flooring, predict WPC and other rigid products will continue to expand their reach. “Many companies have been focusing on WPC versions of multi-layer flooring,” he stated. “For us, SPC is the next logical step in the evolution of multilayer flooring in both residential and commercial applications”.

Despite WPC’s aggressive growth in the residential arena, flooring manufacturers say the red-hot product is not likely to cannibalize traditional LVT in the commercial realm. This is partly because certain issues found in commercial projects are better solved with glue-down applications than WPC.

“One of the biggest challenges with WPC—or any rigid core—is the installation in commercial settings,” said Adrienne Roseman, director, LVT marketing, Tarkett North America. “Traditional locking mechanisms present installation challenges when it comes to heavy rolling loads or rolling loads with pivot points.”

What’s more, according to observers like Amy Tucker, senior marketing manager, Philadelphia Commercial, WPC is more susceptible to dents from chair legs or divots from high-heel shoes, unlike traditional glue-down LVT or glue-down SPC.

However, that is not to say WPC doesn’t have a home in commercial. “From a durability and performance standpoint, rigid core products are suitable for hospitality, retail, corporate and some education uses,” Roseman noted. “They are easy to install and have the durability to stand up to heavy foot traffic.”

Rick Morris, vice president of commercial, USFloors, sees WPC thriving in living environments such as multi-family, student housing, senior living as well as hospitality. “The key reason for this growth is speed of installation compared to traditional LVT, thereby allowing clients to return to revenue generation faster. WPC [also] offers superior IIC qualities than traditional LVT using separate underlayment. Because WPC floats, it does not destroy subfloors when removed—something that is valued during the replacement cycle. It also feels better under-foot than traditional LVT and is often mistaken for real wood.”

Karndean Designflooring is also seeing WPC creep into the multi-family sector. “While the total square footage of these jobs is on par with other commercial projects, the floors themselves are being laid in smaller spaces, thereby eliminating the need for transitions,” Milton Goodwin, vice president of commercial sales, explained.

Others point to WPC’s appeal in commercial applications from a suitability perspective, especially hospitality. “It’s a lighter-traffic application,” said David Thoresen, senior vice president of commercial hard surface, Mohawk Group. “If you look at a hotel room, you basically have an advanced heavy residential application. It really doesn’t come as a surprise that it would work adequately in there.”

While WPC has made its way into certain commercial sectors, manufacturers say it represents only a small share of the commercial resilient market. “When you move from LVT to WPC, you would do so to solve a specific challenge,” said Kurt Denman, chief marketing officer and executive vice president of sales, Congoleum. “Otherwise, you would be adding features—and cost—that are not necessarily needed for that project.”

According to Denman, a WPC product may be specified over an LVT floor if there are subfloor imperfections (which a rigid base could help mask). Or, for example, if there is a need to mitigate sound transfer between floors, WPC’s integrated backing may make it a better choice. “At the same time, the click profile may allow the product to float, but that type of installation is not well suited to commercial environments,” he added. “And gluing a click profile adds a layer of complexity to the installation.”

Traditional glue-down LVT is expected to remain king in several commercial sectors such as healthcare, education and budget-conscious multi-family projects. “Standard glue-down LVT offers the ability to meet lower product budget thresholds and some of the above-mentioned sectors still lend themselves to preferring a glue-down floor,” said Jeremy Whipple, vice president of commercial business development, Novalis. Reesie Duncan, vice president, global design, Shaw Contract, agrees. “There are definitely some segments that are embracing the performance attributes of WPC, but we predict the higher performance environments will still have a place for traditional glue-down LVT. Healthcare and education are holding strong with traditional glue-down LVT due to important performance attributes, for example rolling and static loads.”

Karndean’s Goodwin sees flexible LVT also holding ground in commercial settings such as restaurants and areas with high potential for slipping. “Specifiers want to ensure that the planks or tiles stay in place by fully adhering them to the subfloor,” he explained.

LVT’s glue-down capabilities make it ideal for many commercial applications. “In situations with heavy rolling loads, a glue-down LVT will be necessary to endure the weight of a load,” Tarkett’s Roseman noted. “Because a traditional LVT would be glued down in those situations, the risk of significant weight damaging a click system or causing indentation on WPC is mitigated.”

The wild card
While WPC is known for stealing market share from other resilient products in the residential sector, manufacturers say the sub-category may get a dose of its own medicine in commercial. The main culprit? SPC, which boasts a denser core and greater dimensional stability.

Yon Hinkle, director, product design and innovation, Armstrong Flooring, sees rigid core flooring like SPC being used in a wide range of light commercial applications, including flooring for medical and dental practices, accounting or law firms, restaurants, local retailers, daycare centers as well as public places like libraries and museums. “Rigid core is an innovative hybrid product that combines some of the best features from multiple flooring categories, and so we’re likely to see it being used more often in commercial spaces for a variety of reasons,” he explained.

Mohawk Group also sees the value of SPC over WPC in commercial settings. “WPC has really maxed itself out in the commercial arena,” Thoresen said. “We have found rigid vinyl products have a better story, and we’ve launched a couple of those. But we actually took a pass on WPC for commercial. While we know people are using it, we just don’t feel the attributes really warranted going into all commercial environments.”

Despite SPC’s threat to WPC, manufacturers agree there will always be a market for LVT and WPC products. “Designers and building owners will choose the product that best suits their needs based on multiple factors including design, performance attributes, schedule and budget,” Armstrong Flooring’s Hinkle explained.

Posted on

Dealers praise Karndean’s focus on design

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

By Lindsay Baillie

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted on

A look back at 2018’s top introductions

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

By Lindsay Baillie and Ken Ryan

 

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

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


Terra Linda by Anderson Tuftex

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

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

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

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

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

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


Titanium by Karastan

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


Acrylx by Raskin

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


Great California Oak by Republic Floors

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


Bellera by Shaw Floors

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


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


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


Radius by Stanton Carpet

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

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

 

 

Posted on

Congoleum’s Cleo brand pulls out all the stops in 2019

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

By Lindsay Baillie

 

The new Cleo Home Collection display, with its linear design, is slightly smaller than the Cleo Home Studio display.

Congoleum first previewed its standalone Cleo Home brand during The International Surface Event in Las Vegas in 2018. One year later, the brand is making a name for itself in the saturated resilient market.

“While Congoleum has a long and proud history of innovation in flooring that spans more than 135 years, that success has been almost exclusively in PVC-based products,” said Kurt Denman, chief marketing officer and executive vice president of sales, Congoleum. “Cleo is so different from anything else in the market, including our own Congoleum portfolio. We thought it was important to have clear differentiation to avoid confusion.”
Cleo’s unique, eco-forward construction eliminates PVC, plasticizers, chloro-chemicals and

VOCs. Its 100% waterproof base is a CulturedSTONE mineral composite core that is 85% locally sourced limestone. What’s more, the product’s wear layer features the UltraCLEAR high-performance, ultra-low VOC coating system, which is further enhanced with Scotchgard protectant.

Cleo’s imaging is created through Congoleum’s ChromaTRU high-fidelity digital imaging process, which features direct-to-base printing. “The visuals created through the digital imaging process are worlds apart from rotogravure,” Denman explained. “Nearly eliminating repeats combined with the subtle shading available creates depth and richness that simply cannot be achieved by other processes.”

Cleo is currently available in 55 individual designs across two tile shapes (12 x 24 inches and 24 x 24 inches) and two plank shapes (7 x 48 inches and 9 x 60 inches). All of these products can be installed either edge to edge or fully grouted.

The road less traveled

Creating an entirely new cate- gory of flooring has its challenges, according to Congoleum. In fact, the company’s R&D team worked for several years to create the right construction in terms of performance. “The design team had to wrap their heads around the nearly unlimited possibilities of digital imaging as opposed to the inherent limitations of rotogravure and PVC-based print films,” Denman told FCNews. “And the marketing team had to dive in deep to really understand the value proposition and create the right tools and resources to help everyone in the selling cycle understand the uniqueness and the industry-leading benefits of the Cleo platform.”

All of that hard work did not go unnoticed by distributors such as Tri-State Wholesale Flooring, Sioux Falls, S.D. The company’s president, Joe Gasper, toured Congoleum’s facility when the supplier was working on Cleo’s design and merchandising concepts prior to Surfaces 2018. “While on the tour we could see there was a significant amount of work that was going into the design palette of this line,” he explained. “We also had the chance to see just the amount of thought they were putting into the merchandising system they were putting into place.”

To assist in telling the entire Cleo story, the brand now has its own dedicated website (cleoflooring.com). While the company is still working out some of the bugs on the site, Denman said it “promises to be an incredible resource for consumers to find inspiration, learn about design styles and, of course, experience the incredible benefits of the Cleo construction with its jaw-dropping visuals.”

Hitting the streets

At the end of 2018 Cleo displays officially made their way into retail locations. According to Denman, the company’s current display demand is well beyond its immediate capacity to ship. However, it is shipping more than 100 Cleo Home Studio displays each month.

Building off of the demand for Cleo Home Studio, Congoleum has developed a slightly smaller display called Cleo Home Collection. Whereas the Studio display offers flexibility in how a retailer can configure the display—including in a straight line, back to back in the center of store or in a corner—the Cleo Home Collection display is one piece that is linear. “It has all of the features of the larger display with the exception of lighting,” Denman explained.

Cleo uses high-fidelity digital imaging to create unique designs with minimal repeats.

The company started shipping the new display in April and will bring its capacity to around 200 displays per month.

Cleo distributors and retailers alike are singing the praises of the new display. “Retailers are drawn to the merchandising system,” Tri-State’s Gasper said. “I mean it’s hard to ignore it. It’s a beautiful display and it really does show off the designs well. The other thing we’re really finding is the dealers want it on the floor. They want people to see how deep these designs go, how large the pattern is. They want to be able to show that off because it’s not something that’s present in our industry to this extent outside of a natural-made product which you would have with a stone or a natural wood.”

Matt Ketterman, owner of Got You Floored in Greensboro, N.C., is one of those retailers who has installed Cleo in his stores. In fact, he built a new 15,000-square-foot building and installed Cleo in the showroom and common areas and bathroom—roughly 3,000 square feet in all. “We have a wood product down in the common areas and we put a real antique looking ceramic look in our bathroom,” he explained. “It looks beautiful.”

Cleo’s earth-friendly story and digitally printed visuals make it a home run, according to Ketterman. “Cleo is an exciting new product that sets Congoleum apart in the marketplace. We had a VIP event for all the big developers of apartment communities and investors, and they loved it; the reaction was fantastic. With the display we’re

able to show the multitude of offerings and colors, and they just loved all the different selections.”

While the displays continue to receive retailer praise, Tri-State Wholesale Flooring is also noticing dealers are stepping up and buying deep into the designs. “They’re seeing opportunities that just aren’t available to them elsewhere,” Gasper said. “And I think that is a result of a variety of things, but largely it’s the design palette they’re seeing. Especially when you align it with a company that has been around for an excess of 130 years. I think they’re extremely comfortable with diving into this.”

Gasper believes Cleo is going to give the dealers the opportunity to leverage who they are and what they are successful at, “which is providing cutting-edge designs in a high-quality, very fashion-forward type of floor as opposed to something that comes from the box store.”

Posted on

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.”

Posted on

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.