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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

 

 

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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.”

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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.