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Resilient: Demand fuels manufacturing output at home

October 15/22, 2018: Volume 34, Issue 9

By Lindsay Baillie

 

It seems, as of late, most eyes are on resilient flooring. This comes as no surprise, especially when considering the category’s red-hot products from the past five years. However, resilient flooring is now receiving extra attention as a result of the newly imposed Chinese tariffs. While manufacturers who import products are working through the current 10% tariff—and preparing for the potential 25% tariff at the start of 2019—those who manufacture domestically are considering ways to boost their current capacities.

Regardless of the tariff’s influence, many flooring manufacturers see domestic production of resilient flooring on the rise in 2018—a continuation of a trend seen in 2017 when domestic production increased 1.4% from 30.2% the previous year. One driver of this increase is the growth of LVT, observers say.

To keep up with the demand, manufacturers are making significant investments in their domestic facilities. Case in point is Mannington, which has more than doubled the size of its LVT plant over the last six years and has tripled the output, according Jimmy Tuley, vice president, residential resilient. “I think there’s continued investment because the category is growing and there are a lot of benefits to domestic manufacturing. Also, there’s still a big gap in the amount of capacity that’s here vs. what’s in Asia and Europe.”

Armstrong Flooring, a company that has manufactured the bulk of its flooring products in the U.S. for more than 100 years, sees the benefits of domestic production as a main driver of growth. “Manufacturing in North America typically gives us improved lead times and the ability to more rapidly integrate customer feedback into the product design and development cycle,” said Jamey Block, vice president, product management, resilient.

For Kurt Denman, chief marketing officer and executive vice president, sales, Congoleum, the increase in domestic production can be attributed to both its overall benefits as well as a strong economy. “There are market segments that are simply better served by domestically produced goods. Domestic manufacturing allows for more direct control, responsiveness to market demands and shorter lead times.”

Other industry observers see the tariffs on Chinese imports as a potential driver. “We see a steady increase in demand on our domestically produced resilient and expect this trend to continue with the uncertainty over import tariffs,” said Michael Finelli, director, Beauflor.

Tariff talk
The newly imposed tariffs on Chinese imports have the potential to effect domestic sales of resilient flooring. However, many manufacturers believe it is too early to determine the precise outcomes. “The imposed tariffs, if they remain in effect, will likely have a gradual and positive impact on domestic production over time,” Congoleum’s Denman said. “In the short-term, domestic production will likely see an increase where existing capabilities and capacity are aligned with the market needs.”

Denman added that the long-term impact is less clear, specifically because businesses often thrive when influencing factors are consistent. “Tariffs can be imposed or reversed with relative ease and speed. Adding domestic manufacturing capacity is expensive—which, if the tariffs remain in place, may be a good strategic initiative. However, if there is a reversal, a company that has invested in domestic capacity can find themselves with excess capacity and an overhead structure that is not competitive.”

Others, such as Adrienne Roseman, director of LVT, Tarkett, predict the promotion of domestically manufactured goods will significantly increase over the next several months. “The duration of the tariff will steer the amount of domestic manufacturing that comes online in the coming year. LVT manufacturers will have to closely consider new launches to ensure we can bring value to our customers.”

While the tariffs could spark an increase of investment in domestic production, manufacturers say initial investments started long before there were talks of tariffs. “Investment in domestic capacity has been well under way for the past five to seven years,” said David Sheehan, senior vice president, product management, Mohawk resilient. “Most of the traditional resilient players have all made investments in their facilities to increase capacity. There has also been investment from both Europe and, most recently, Asia to expand U.S. capacity.”

In fact, even though this investment is expected to increase, observers expect the bulk of it to come from manufacturers who already have hands in U.S. soil. One main reason for this: the cost of admission. “There is a large barrier to entry for any of the resilient manufacturing facilities,” Mannington’s Tuley said. “It’s a challenge for people who aren’t experienced manufacturers to do that.”

In addition to the literal cost of creating a new facility, the time it will take to build poses another obstacle for manufacturers looking to break ground. “Our state-of-the-art plant took three years to bring from idea to realization,” Beauflor’s Finelli said. “These shifts do not happen quickly.”

Facility updates
While it might take some time for importers to construct new domestic facilities, U.S. manufacturers are continuing to expand and diversify. For instance, Shaw Industries, which provides both domestically manufactured and internationally sourced products, has invested in the U.S. in a big way. “We are building on our $130 million investment to create domestic LVT manufacturing at Plant RP in Ringgold, Ga., by adding additional product and innovation capability,” said Tim Baucom, executive vice president - residential business. “Regardless of where our LVT is manufactured, we will uphold our current standard of excellence, which consistently outperforms our customers’ expectations.”

Armstrong produces 100% of its residential vinyl sheet products in the U.S. It’s Lancaster, Pa., plant focuses on mainly fiberglass-backed products, while its Stillwater, Okla., facility handles predominately felt-backed products as well as the company’s proprietary limestone-encapsulated felt product, StrataMax.

“We have invested millions of dollars in the domestic production of LVT to produce resilient flooring in a cost-effective manner, improve styling and be more responsive in servicing key market segments,” Block said.

Mannington is increasing its domestic capacity via the expansion of its LVT plant as well as the development of a new cutting building. “We’ve only had our new cutting building for north of a year,” Tuley told FCNews. “We’ll expand over the next nine months to a year, and this is absolutely a place we’ll continue to invest in.”

Meanwhile, Tarkett is also taking advantage of its domestic space. The company kicked off a three-year investment period back in January to increase production capacity at two facilities in Florence, Ala. “This expansion addresses significant demand for Tarkett’s vinyl modular flooring,” Roseman said.

Mohawk/IVC, which has more than 1 million square feet of production space, continues to expand its capabilities. Sheehan predicts it will soon be the first fully integrated North American producer of rigid products.

Over the past two years, Congoleum has invested millions of dollars into its Trenton, Pa., plant. According to Denman, this investment paved the way for the launch of Cleo Home. “[Cleo’s] eco-forward construction is 85% locally sourced limestone and is produced entirely in the U.S. This type of market-leading innovation simply isn’t possible using offshore manufacturing.”

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The brand power behind COREtec

By Mara Bollettieri

What’s in a name?, Shakespeare famously asked. It’s more than a label; it’s about identity, reputation and, ultimately, trust. Not only does a brand represent a company name, but it also represents everything that comes with it and how it distinguishes itself
 from other products and/or services.

COREtec—which has the power of four strong brands supporting it—knows this all too well. The synergies between Berkshire Hathaway—led by world-renowned investor Warren Buffett—along with the powerful name recognition and stature of manufacturers such as Shaw Industries and USFloors are at the very core of what defines a strong brand in the mind of the consumer.

Here’s a closer look at how each brand relates to the other.

USFloors
USFloors is largely credited with giving the flooring industry its first resilient offering featuring a 100% waterproof rigid core—aptly named COREtec. Launched in 2013, COREtec has not only spawned various iterations within the brand—each successively featuring innovations that aim to improve on the preceding collections—but also imitators looking to cash in on the latest craze. But USFloors is working relentlessly to maintain its leadership position while continuing to evolve the technology, launching successors such as COREtec Plus Premium,
 COREtec Plus HD and COREtec Plus XL.

Berkshire Hathaway
Headquartered in 
Omaha, Neb., Berkshire
 Hathaway holds major shares of numerous global companies, many of which
 are household names. The corporation also has minor shares in others, namely GEICO, Dairy Queen, Fruit of the Loom, Kraft Heinz, Duracell and Benjamin Moore & Co., to name a few.

All totaled, Berkshire Hathaway—which boasts a market value of $491.6 billion—owns more than 60 companies, according to Forbes,
 which ranks Berkshire first on its America’s Largest Companies list and No. 4 on its list of the World’s Largest Public Companies. Its much-ballyhooed purchase of Shaw Industries in 2000 elevated the manufacturer to an even higher level of prominence.

More importantly, the
purchase revealed the driving philosophy inherent in Berkshire Hathaway’s investment strategy—it only invests in or purchases companies in which it truly believes makes in impact of the lives of the people who purchase their products.

Warren Buffet
Reverentially referred to as the “Oracle of Omaha,” Warren E. Buffett, CEO and chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, is one of the most successful business investors in the world. One could argue the powerful business magnate is a brand in and of himself. According to Forbes, the 87-year-old investor is currently worth $82.7 billion.

In 1962, at the age of 32, Buffett decided to invest in Berkshire Hathaway, a
 textile manufacturing firm that was on the decline. By 1965, he was in control of the company 
and changed management
 completely. This allowed him to
 make it the foundation of the 
holding company that it’s recognized for today.

Buffett heralded the success of USFloors in Berkshire Hathaway’s 2017 recap letter to shareholders. “USF’s managers, Piet Dossche and Philippe Erramuzpe, came out of the gate fast, delivering a 40% increase in sales in 2017, during which their operation was integrated with Shaw’s. It’s clear we acquired both great human assets and business assets in making the USF purchase.”

Shaw Industries
Shaw Industries, interestingly, also started as a small business. Back in 1946 it operated as the Star Dye Co., which dyed tufted scatter rugs. Fast forward to today, the Dalton-based behemoth manufactures and distributes a host of flooring materials, including carpet, resilient, hardwood, laminate, tile and stone, synthetic turf and more to both commercial and residential markets worldwide. The company, led by Vance Bell, chairman and CEO, has around 20,000 associates globally and generates nearly $6 billion in annual sales.

Along the way, Shaw Industries expanded its product portfolio via both investment and acquisition, picking up venerable brands such as Evans & Black, Queen Carpets, Dixie Group, Anderson Hardwood Floors and, more recently, USFloors. Since that time, the company purchased Scotland-based carpet tile manufacturer Sanquhar Tile Services (STS), thereby expanding its global footprint.

 

 

 

 

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Resilient: State of the industry—WPC, SPC continue to drive category growth

August 6/13, 2018: Volume 34, Issue 4

By Lindsay Baillie

In the first six months of 2018, the resilient category has shown no signs of slowing down. In fact, some industry executives predict even greater growth for the segment in 2018 above and beyond the strides made in 2017. In keeping with last year, industry observers attribute the category’s aggressive, record-setting growth to innovations in WPC and SPC.

Some executives also see factors outside the industry contributing to the category’s success. “We believe there are several factors for resilient’s growth,” said Steve Ehrlich, vice president of sales and marketing, Novalis Innovative Flooring. “On a macro level, the overall U.S. economy is strong—GDP may reach 4%—and the housing market, both new and re-sale, is strong. All of that is good, but what makes it successful is a resilient product category coming on the scene that satisfies consumer needs so well.”

Based on FCNews research, residential LVT and its subcategories were the products to successfully satisfy consumer needs in 2017. In fact, residential LVT finished 2017 with an estimated $1.888 billion in revenue, which represented 73% of total residential resilient sales. In terms of volume, the category captured 1.379 billion square feet, or 48.1% of residential resilient volume. What’s more, WPC and SPC claimed 45.8% of residential LVT dollars and 31.8% of the category’s volume.

“LVT is a product that has come at the right time,” said David Sheehan, senior vice president, product management, Mohawk Industries. “It’s providing the right value proposition to the consumer. Retailers have really embraced this notion of leveraging waterproof, which appears to be resonating in the minds of consumers.”

Rigid products, according to Sheehan, boast physical properties that make it attractive to homeowners and end users. “It tends to be thicker, and thickness is viewed as something from the consumer that equates with high quality. It seemingly has solved some installation concerns on behalf of some retailers and flooring installers vs. its flexible counterpart.”

Much of the trends seen in 2017 have carried over into the first half of 2018. Sheet is still relatively flat; LVT is seeing growth with WPC and SPC; waterproof is still piquing consumer interest. While the category has been up overall, observers say margins are deteriorating on entry-level products. “Product awareness has helped create a much wider audience to which we can sell LVT,” said Michael Raskin, founder and CEO, Raskin Industries. “There is excitement in the category and around the new types of flooring coming out of it.”

From this sustained consumer excitement, flooring executives are bullish about the category’s prospects in 2018. “Across all segments of our business—from specialty markets, hospitality and education to multifamily and single-family homes—Shaw Industries’ and USFloors’ resilient flooring continues to consistently outperform expectations,” said Piet Dossche, president of USFloors and executive vice president of hard surface, Shaw. “Resilient flooring enables consumers to incorporate the desired looks into their homes without worrying their flooring will be scratched or damaged by water. USFloors’ customers and their consumers often remark to us on how much they appreciate LVT’s ease of maintenance and its scratch-resistant and waterproof qualities.”

Sheet’s staying power

According to statistics compiled by FCNews, sheet was down 2.8% from $596.1 million in 2016 to $579 million in 2017. The category also saw a 4.2% drop in volume. Sheet’s slowdown, observers say, is a result of the rise in WPC and SPC—not only because of the latter two’s waterproof stories, but also the perceived value of a rigid core vs. a flexible product.

“In a way, one of the secondary impacts of a successful product like rigid is it sometimes causes an overreaction in the market,” Mohawk’s Sheehan explained. “People begin to say, ‘OK I’m selling a lot of rigid, so I need to put more rigid in my store,’ and they therefore go ahead and create an imbalance in their product portfolio.”

Sheet’s slowdown is also attributed to the fact that it is a mature category, says Michael Harris, product manager, Armstrong Flooring. “Sheet vinyl is feeling pressure from LVT, primarily on the new construction side, but it is still a great residential remodel product and continues to see strength there,” he said. “Investments in manufacturing, processes and new technology are being made with a strategic view.”

Another key factor is the current installation crisis, which makes installing sheet vinyl a harder task. As Kurt Denman, chief marketing officer and executive vice president, sales, Congoleum, explains, “It is certainly no secret that a sheet installation requires a specific skill set beyond that of something like LVT. And it is essential that we, as manufacturers, understand the market and consumer preferences so we can guide the evolution of resilient sheet to ensure a strong and relevant future for the category.”

Despite another year of relatively flat performance, sheet is still a viable category. That’s according to flooring executives, who believe the category is necessary for specific commercial sectors as well as residential DIY projects. “Our research shows, with both consumers and retailers, that sheet vinyl is indeed a viable category,” Sheehan said. “There is a specific sheet vinyl buyer, and you can argue it’s regional in nature, but that’s fine. There is a sheet vinyl buyer who is walking into stores today and being traded or switched to a rigid product when she would have been perfectly fine and satisfied with a sheet vinyl product.”

Two ways to combat a sheet vinyl buyer being converted to a rigid product is through updated visuals and proper education, resilient manufacturers say. “The most important part is to push the visuals,” said Jimmy Tuley, vice president of residential resilient, Mannington. “We’ve been able to produce visuals in sheet vinyl that you just can’t replicate in LVT or any other hard surface without spending a ton of money. We just need to make that an attractive part of the offering as much as we can.”

To help create an even playing field, Mannington mounts its sheet vinyl to hard boards. This way, according to Tuley, consumers can see what it will look like once it’s installed, thereby helping sheet compete against a rigid product’s perceived value.

In terms of education, manufacturers are looking for ways to engage with today’s buyers. “Gaining awareness with younger customers will be an important key to the sheet vinyl category while maintaining retail space against the popularity of LVT, WPC and SPC,” said Jon Gittrich, vice president product management, Tarkett. “We are increasing our social media and exposure on home improvement shows.”

LVT maintains its lead

It should come as no surprise that LVT and its subcategories, WPC and SPC, are seeing continued momentum through the first half of 2018. As the main drivers of residential resilient sales, their success begs the question, where does the LVT category go next?

Industry observers see the trio continuing to innovate in terms of style, design and features. “There are a couple of different innovations that will come in both construction and newer performance stories,” said Mannington’s Tuley. “But even bigger than that, innovation will be similar to sheet vinyl—continuing to make vinyl products that mimic real products exceptionally well. If you look at the LVT category over the past 10 years and compare a sample of LVT from 10 years ago to today, there is a remarkable visual difference.”

Novalis sees seemingly endless possibilities with WPC and SPC because the products are still relatively new. “Digital printing, larger size tiles and planks, wall applications and increased physical performance characteristics are just some of the changes that will help keep driving sales in both SPC and WPC categories,” Ehrlich said. “Innovation at Novalis has led to exciting new looks and styles we brought to market in our Serenbe collection this year.”

As relatively new products, WPC and SPC also have the opportunity to continue answering the needs of retailers and consumers.

“I foresee technical advancements in this category, allowing printed visuals to evolve from a hardwood to a ceramic tile visual,” USFloors’ Dossche said. “For consumers desiring a ceramic tile look, the skill set needed to install that product is hard to find given the current shortage of qualified tile installers. Stone-look LVT could answer a number of needs, such as do-it-yourself installation and quicker installation in homebuilding.”

The success of this category is also reliant on better machines, faster technology and overall improved production, according to Amy Sadler, national sales manager, EarthWerks. “We are optimistic that capacity and speed to market are only going to continue to progress, thus driving the capabilities in this segment,” she added.

Beyond technological innovation with respect to product attributes, the category’s success also relies on proper education. “Retail training and passing valuable information to the consumers is important,” Raskin said. “Innovations are great, but with so much change sometimes the products aren’t explained properly in the marketplace.”

WPC, SPC steal share

As with any new and successful product, both WPC and SPC are starting to steal market share from other products in the industry. At a macro level, these two products are helping resilient steal share from laminate and other hard surfaces as well as carpet. At a micro level, WPC and SPC are stealing share from sheet vinyl and traditional LVT, experts say.

“These types of products are taking share from virtually every category, including laminate, hardwood and ceramic,” said Larry Browder, chief sales and marketing officer, Karndean Designflooring. “They require less subfloor preparation, can go over existing hard surface floors—thus reducing/eliminating tear-out costs—and cause less upheaval and down time on the job site. All of this results in lower installation costs for the homeowner or end user and potentially less hassles or callbacks for the retailer and installer—provided they are using a quality product and installing the floor correctly.”

Along with the ease of installation, WPC and SPC solve certain issues other products cannot. “It has the maintenance attributes that all families are looking for, making it ideal for kid-friendly and pet-friendly spaces,” EarthWerks’ Sadler said. “Style and design have drastically improved, and when you add the waterproof and performance capabilities, you have the perfect story for the ideal product.”

Domestic vs. imports

Being that resilient—specifically LVT, WPC and SPC—is such a sought-after category, manufacturers agree that a balance between domestic production and importation will always exist. Even though many manufacturers still import, there are a number of domestic facilities being built to create LVT and now WPC and SPC locally.

“We believe in the viability of domestic production,” Mohawk’s Sheehan said. “After we purchased IVC and started leveraging its U.S. assets, we were very aggressive in making sure we got our flexible LVT plant up and running. We’re continuing that same tradition with our new rigid plant.”

Sheehan added that while Mohawk is focusing on domestic production, it still understands the need to supplement its product offering with what he calls “good partner relationships with our supplier partners in Asia.”

Mohawk is not the only manufacturer investing in domestic production. Armstrong Flooring’s state-of-the-art facility in Lancaster, Pa., as well as a portion of its plant in Stillwater, Okla., are being used to produce resilient flooring. “We have invested in the domestic production of LVT to produce resilient flooring in a cost-effective manner, improve styling and be more responsive in servicing key market segments with inventory,” said Jeremy Kleinberg, senior product manager. “We expect to continue to offer both a mix of domestic production and sourced product to best meet our customers’ needs.”

While domestic production continues to grow, industry observers explain there is not enough capacity in the U.S. to successfully fulfill consumer demands. “As of now, I think domestic production will supplement overseas production,” Raskin stated. “Getting production lines up and running has been difficult for larger U.S.-based operations, so they still rely on outsourcing from Asia. The demand has grown considerably, but there hasn’t been the fastest momentum from domestic plants; a huge surge in demand creates a strong need for overseas production. Unless demands decreases—which may or may not happen if a tariff is imposed—overseas production will still be required.”

What’s next?

As the hottest segments within the resilient category continue to generate consumer interest and, naturally, sales, suppliers expect to develop new innovations to maintain that momentum. Case in point is the new resilient portfolio from Provenza Floors, which in the past has been known primarily for its expertise in hardwood flooring production. As it turns out, the company is utilizing its vast experience on the wood product development side to create extremely realistic vinyl flooring offerings.

“Many people have entered the LVP market, but what we are seeing is a repeat of patterns,” said Ron Sadri, principal owner. “What we decided to do, in order to differentiate ourselves in the market, is digitally scan our real hardwood flooring products and create our own resilient looks that are exclusive to Provenza. Specifically, we will be adding about 14 new SKUs—all long boards in primarily oak looks—to our Moda Living line of luxury vinyl planks.”

But the company is not stopping there. Provenza has also developed what it calls an engineered stone powder composite core product that features an LVT top layer. Highly dense and durable, but still affordable, the new line scored high marks in focus groups and dealer and distributor previews. “We are taking what we believe are the best visuals for consumers and designers that are price driven, and yet maintain the same integrity and quality for which Provenza is known,” Sadri stated.

In addition to more manufacturers entering the category, existing resilient suppliers are competing with new introductions. “While not technically an LVT product, the introduction of CLEO is a perfect example of innovation in hard surface that has been met with incredible enthusiasm,” Congoleum’s Denman said. “It is different in every way and is set to be a game changer for the industry. CLEO is a first-in-class, eco-forward construction that is entirely PVC free and features a mineral composite core that is 85% domestically sourced limestone coupled with solvent-free, high-fidelity digital imaging and a high-performance, ultra-clear, VOC-free top coat.”

Most resilient manufacturers see the success of LVT, WPC and SPC continuing well into 2019. Novalis’ Ehrlich sees sales for these products continuing to rise as more displays are placed in showrooms and as more consumers begin to share the benefits of resilient flooring. “More retail and commercial segments are embracing the category, so we see a very bright forecast for the remainder of 2018 and 2019,” he stated.

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Resilient: Marmoleum dealers sing product’s praises

July 9/16, 2018: Volume 34, Issue 2

By Lindsay Baillie

 

Forbo Flooring Systems’ Marmoleum line, long utilized in commercial applications, is finding favor residentially. Retailers who report success selling the line cite various attributes, including the product’s updated visuals and, of course, the environmental story as major selling points.

“Marmoleum sheet flooring is our No. 1 resilient product by a wide margin,” said Curt Stiger, manager, Major Brands Floor Supply, Seattle. “We stock over 50 colors of sheet material, more than 25,000 square feet of Marmoleum tile and 10 colors of Marmoleum CinchLoc.”

Stiger is not alone. Jeff Lerner, owner of Floorcraft Carpet One, San Francisco, is also a believer. “Forbo has great existing looks and the company has added some innovative visuals to its collection,” he explained. “We love presenting Marmoleum to our customers. We tell them, ‘Here’s a product that doesn’t try to look like others. It just tries to look like itself.’”

For dealers like Stan Levy, president of A-1 Floor Covering, Los Angeles, the appeal of Marmoleum is its versatility. “Now consumers can get it in a couple of different looks and textures,” he explained. “It’s really an update from the looks they’ve had for years. Customers like the fact that it’s a green, natural product. And here in Los Angeles, it’s a big selling point when restoring the original look of homes.”

Consumers are gravitating toward the product’s green attributes for sure, dealers report. Unlike other resilient products, Marmoleum is made of all-natural ingredients such as wood flour, jute fiber and linseed oil. What’s more, the flooring product contains no plasticizers, phthalates, volatile organic compounds or toxic chemicals.

All of these qualities and so much more give dealers like Patrick Rutledge, general manager, Green Depot, Portland, Ore., full confidence in selling the product. “Marmoleum Click CinchLoc is where we have seen a big jump in sales. It’s super easy to install—just about any flooring installer can do it. The indoor air quality health aspect is the next biggest thing.”

But at the end of the day, the clincher for many dealers is the look. Marmoleum is available in more than 300 colors and patterns as well as 12 different structures. Consumers have the option of choosing modular formats or sheet products depending on their needs. A floating floor option, Marmoleum Click CinchLoc, is also available for the DIY customer.

“There’s something for everyone,” Green Depot’s Rutledge said, citing Marmoleum’s expansive color palette and range of options.

Sam Snow, owner of Eco-Floors in Portland, Ore., is in agreement. “Their line offers some great retro looks that work well in our market, where people are going for a period-correct kitchen or bathroom remodel. With such a big line of products, it can easily cover both residential and commercial applications.”

The fact that consumers are consciously seeking out more environmentally friendly products is also driving interest in products such as Marmoleum. As Mike Masucci, owner of Ted’s Flooring and Interior Design, Albany, N.Y., explains: “A lot of people are looking for that natural product. People who aren’t looking for linoleum often see the new colors and say, ‘Wow, I’ve never seen anything like it.’”

Service counts, too
Beyond the aesthetic and performance attributes, retailers who sell Marmoleum cite the top-notch support Forbo provides. “Forbo also conducts a school for our mechanics,” said Ron Codron, owner of Abbey Carpet of El Cerrito in California. “Consequently, we receive an important credential upon graduation, something many competitors fail to do. This gives us an edge.”

Eco-Floors’ Snow concurs. In fact, Forbo recently held an informal training at the retailer’s warehouse for both its in-house installation team as well as a few other local crews the company utilizes regularly. “Forbo has been a great company to work with in terms of support and customer service,” he stated. “It’s easy to tell the folks at Forbo take great pride in their products and want them to be successfully installed and truly enjoyed by the end user.”

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Resilient: WPC, LVT, SPC continue to reign supreme

June 26-July 2, 2018: Volume 34, Issue 1

 

By Lindsay Baillie

The resilient category once again led the flooring industry in terms of percentage growth, thanks mainly to the performance of sub-categories such as WPC and SPC. FCNews research shows the category generated $3.993 billion in sales in 2017—an industry-leading 14.1% increase over 2016’s $3.499 billion. In terms of volume, the category racked in 4.024 billion square feet at the first point of sales, a 13.8% increase from 2016’s 3.537 billion square feet.

The resilient sector’s chart-busting performance in 2017 comes even more into focus when measured against other hard surfaces. When stacked up against ceramic tile, hardwood, laminate and other hard surface materials, resilient accounted for 30.34% of sales. When taking total flooring sales into account, resilient represented 18.15% of revenue and 20.4% of volume.

What’s even more impressive is the fact that resilient flooring’s percentage increase in revenue is a little over three-and-a-half times the growth of the entire industry, while volume growth is approximately five times that of the flooring sector as a whole.

Resilient’s double-digit growth in sales in 2017 is even more significant when looking at its performance over the past few years. FCNews research shows 2017’s sales represent a 36.6% increase over 2015’s $2.924 billion and a 60.2% increase com- pared to 2014. To put resilient’s growth into perspective, total resilient sales increased by 96.2% from 2012’s $2.035 and 81.8% from 2007. Meanwhile, total resilient volume increased 65.6% from 2012’s 2.43 billion square feet and 23.8% increase over 2007. The greater percent of increase from 2012 compared to 2007, observers say, reflects the effects of the Great Recession, which had just started in 2007 but was felt through 2012.

Industry executives cite several factors that contributed to another year of stellar growth of the category. One of which is the lingering effects of an improving economy. As Kurt Denman, chief marketing officer and executive vice president, sales, Congoleum, explained, “Fundamentally, the economy is good. Consumer confidence is high and there’s a ton of building going on, which has helped in all aspects of resilient.”

Many resilient manufacturers also point to the overwhelming success of WPC and rigid core products. “Multi-layer flooring is leading the way in LVT growth,” said Russ Rogg, president and CEO, Metroflor Corp. “While other variations are also growing, multi-layer flooring is outpacing glue-down and other varieties in a significant way.”

Executives like David Sheehan, senior vice president, product management, Mohawk Industries, believe WPC and rigid core continue to help push the resilient needle as more people discover the products’ benefits. “Floors that are rigid in nature are the darlings of the industry and have captured the attention of many sales associates and, in some cases, are being oversold to customers,” he noted.

Another key factor driving resilient sales is the constant innovation surrounding LVT, WPC and rigid core products. “Compared to other flooring categories, the LVT sector has seen many changes from additional looks, durability, availability and sheer innovation,” Jamey Block, vice president, product management resilient, Armstrong Flooring, told FCNews.

Beyond the category’s various product attributes, another driving factor is the number of manufacturers in the resilient game. “More people are discovering the benefits of resilient flooring,” said Steven Ehrlich, vice president of sales and marketing, Novalis Innovative Flooring. “That discovery fuels demand, which, in turn, fuels more production—and so on.” Another factor is the growing availability of resilient across a variety of flooring brands, he added.

Residential rules the roost
FCNews research shows the residential market made up almost 64.76% of total resilient revenue or $2.586 billion. Residential resilient also accounted for nearly 71.8% of total resilient volume. What’s more, residential LVT (including WPC and SPC) finished out 2017 with an estimated $1.888 billion in revenue, representing 73% of total residential resilient sales. In terms of square feet, research shows this red-hot product garnered 1.379 billion square feet, or 48.1%, of residential resilient volume.

Resilient manufacturers attribute the category’s stellar performance, in part, to the strength of key end-use sectors. While some industry executives see the greatest activity in the replacement/redesign markets, others are finding their products being used in builder/new home construction applications—including both single- and multi- family installations. However, most executives agree each segment is seeing a different resilient product take over market share.

For Armstrong, the replacement market continues to be strong. “We’re seeing strong growth across channels for remodel work,” Block explained. “We are also seeing a lot of excitement in new home construction with [rigid] products.”

According to David Kim, managing partner, NuFlors, single- and multi-family in new home as well as residential remodel saw improved growth in 2017. “Both [sectors] are expected to surge as the year continues,” he said. “As new construction has seen continued growth the last 10 years, we also see replacement growth as new technologies make it easier to replace and renovate existing floors.”

While some manufacturers are seeing mostly WPC and rigid in the multi-family segment, other companies feel more dry- back is being installed. “That’s where the majority of the dryback business is,” Lindsey Nisbet, marketing director, EarthWerks, told FCNews. “[Builder] may be taken over by WPC, but [dryback] is standing strong in multi-family.”

Within residential LVT, click, floating and dryback products saw quite the shakeup. Back in 2016, click represented 39.7% of LVT revenue. In 2017 that number jumped to 55.1%. The large increase in click sales, observers say, resulted in a percent decrease for both floating and dryback products, which went from 6.8% to 4.8% and 53.5% to 40.3%, respectively.

Last year proved to be a big year for WPC and SPC, which claimed 45.8% of residential LVT dollars. In terms of volume, the sector’s go-to products captured 31.8% of residential LVT. Despite click LVT’s growth in 2017, many are seeing the product lose share to WPC and SPC.

“Whether it’s WPC or rigid core, there are a couple of things they just do better,” Congoleum’s Denman said. “One is it’s an easier installation product because you’re not trying to get that floppy click to come together. It inherently has a stronger locking joint. Most of it is sold with a backing on it so you’re getting sound mitigation. Generally speaking, it’s a better perceived value. If you hand someone a floppy click product and a WPC product and tell them price is relatively the same, as a consumer you’d take the thicker one. Plus, they’re doing great things with it, such as embossed in register, enhanced edges, longer boards.”

Another factor in WPC and SPCs’ takeover is the decrease in click innovation, according to EarthWerks’ Nisbet. “We have some of our click products that are still doing well, but you don’t see a ton of new click products being developed. The rigidity of WPC and SPC products just make it easier to install and a higher performing product.”

While WPC has continued to steal market share from sheet and traditional LVT, it is now facing its own pressure from SPC. Most flooring executives see a place in the market for both WPC and SPC, citing their differentiating factors as being enough to keep both alive.

“We have been educating our salesforce along with the RSA and consumer as to the benefits of both WPC and SPC,” said Jamann Stepp, director ofmarketing and product management, USFloors. “It’s not that one is necessarily better than the other, but rather WPC is designed and geared toward residential installations while SPC is engineered for more of a commercial application. The growth of WPC/SPC will continue to affect the growth opportunities for sheet and flexible vinyl. However, there will continue to be a market for these producing traditional click LVT, but we are firm believers that WPC will continue to represent the majority of multi-layer flooring category sales,” Metroflor’s Rogg said. “WPC products, which generally have a more traditional LVT decorative surface, still offer benefits SPC products don’t—such as more authentic textures, lighter and more easily handled larger sizes and formats, better acoustic advantages and so forth.”

Sheet cedes share
As a result of LVT, WPC and SPCs’ continued success, sheet vinyl products continue to lose market share. According to FCNews research, the segment was down 2.8% from $596.1 mil- lion in 2016 to $579 million in 2017. What’s more, the category saw a 4.2% drop in volume.

In addition to the increased consumption of LVT and WPC, there are other factors affecting sheet’s market share, industry experts say. “Installation is a significant issue for all flooring, especially with sheet,” Mary Katherine Dyczko-Riglin, product manager of residential sheet vinyl, Mannington, explained. “It’s hard to find installers across the country. With the installation being perceived as easier for click products, that’s definitely helping it steal share. Things that have always traditionally been sheet are also seeing dryback start to come in and take its place.”

Heavy promotion of LVT and WPC is also a factor. “I think the numbers we’re seeing right now are indicative of people becoming very aggressive with overselling the capabilities of a low-end LVT,” said Michael Finelli, director, Beauflor USA.

Despite sheet’s continuous loss of market share to LVT and WPC products, most manufacturers don’t see the sub-segment going away for good. “There are certain price points that sheet goods will always be able to participate in that I don’t believe LVT or WPC will be able to,” said Drew Hash, vice president hard surface product category manager, Shaw Floors. “There’s a place for all of them—it just may not be the same mix that we see today.”

Mohawk also sees a place for sheet. “We’re convinced there’s always going to be a flexible market,” Sheehan said. “And the value proposition of sheet is still great.”

Within sheet, FCNewsresearch shows felt continues to lose market share to fiberglass. While felt was approximately 26.3% of sheet dollars and 29.7% of sheet volume in 2016, the product has dropped to 22.5% of dollars and 25.3% volume in 2017. Most manufacturers note the benefits of fiberglass as the products main selling point; however, many are still seeing success with felt.

“Felt is definitely continuing to lose share quicker than fiberglass,” Mannington’s Dyczko- Riglin said. “And it’s starting to lose share not only to fiberglass but to LVT. The fiberglass-backed products are typically a bit more installation friendly; they’re a bit more resilient to minor errors, handling issues, etc. They’re not going to break or permanently crease. Whereas with felt, you have to have a little more finesse.”

In addition to ease of installation, proponents say fiberglass-backed products offer comfort underfoot and water resistance. “While we do forecast the shift from felt to fiberglass to continue, Armstrong Flooring continues to bring industry-leading designs to our felt structures because we know there are still segments of the market and consumers that want a felt product,” Brock stated.

Congoleum is also seeing strength in its felt business. However, as Denman reports, the company is seeing some shifts in residential remodel, which is moving more toward LVT.

Some manufacturers believe the industry has only scratched the surface with respect to resilient’s global popularity and innovation. “LVT is still in an early growth stage,” said Jenne Ross, director of marketing, Karndean Designflooring. “We’re getting a lot of people who are still early adopters and are just finding out about the overall durability and performance of the product.”

Commercial keeps climbing
Resilient products in the commercial space clocked in at $1.624 billion in 2017, a 28.5% increase from 2016, according to FCNews research. What’s more, the segment also saw a 17% increase in volume. Industry experts believe healthcare, education, Main Street and hospitality markets helped propel commercial growth. Experts also cite factors including the increased presence of WPC and rigid core products, and hard surface’s continued seizure of market share over soft surfaces.

“We’re seeing that kind of growth in every channel we service, whether that’s Main Street or traditional commercial,” Shaw’s Hash said. “I think that’s because the product offers just so many great attributes in every channel.”

Much of commercial’s sales came from commercial-grade LVT, which clocked in $796.5 million in 2017—a 22.8% growth over 2016’s $648.6 million. Within this sub-category, WPC made up a good portion of dollar growth, swelling from $24 million in 2016 to a little under $72 million in 2017. Dryback saw a 5.1% growth in volume, while click has started to see a drop-off—likely due to WPC’s growth in volume from 11.5 million square feet in 2016 to 41.7 million square feet in 2017.

“The movement from soft surface to hard surface is continuing to work its way into all commercial segments and is one of the contributing factors to resilient growth overall,” Armstrong’s Block explained. “The products’ looks as well as the demand for durability and ease of maintenance continue to propel resilient flooring solutions to the forefront.”

Michael Raskin, founder and CEO, Raskin Industries, has seen growth in hospitality in particular. Reason being? “Hotels are doing away with carpet because of poor maintenance, staining and odors. The benefits of LVT that apply to hospitality include durability, warm visuals and easy maintenance. In addition, we are offering acoustical backing to meet sound requirements.”

Al Boulogne, vice president, commercial resilient business, Mannington Commercial, sees traditional glue-down as the main driver of growth in specified contract applications. “While WPC and SPC have been huge drivers of growth on the residential side, it’s a little different on the commercial side,” he explained. “Even though WPC and SPC are certainly driving growth in multi-family and hospitality, for the more traditional commercial segments I still think it’s traditional LVT that is gaining momentum. There is so much about the category that pulls it through.”

Commercial sheet rose to approximately $224 million in 2017, a 4.9% uptick increase over 2016’s $213.5 million. This increase, according to resilient experts, is a result of multiple factors—not the least of which is product performance. “No doubt the increase in sheet is due to new products and advances in technologies,” said Jeff Collum, president and CEO, Shannon Specialty Floors. “We are also seeing an increase in sheet use in education, hospitality and government markets. Non-vinyl sheet is also capturing more and more commercial business.”

VCT holds on
With all the talk surrounding commercial-grade LVT, WPC and the like, it’s easy to overlook traditional product categories such as vinyl composition tile (VCT). But statistics show the sub-category is still very much relevant. According to FCNews research, VCT saw a 0.6% increase in dollars (essentially flat) but a 7.7% increase in units.

“VCT provides unique value and long-term durability that high-traffic commercial customers appreciate and very few other products can replicate,” Armstrong Flooring’s Block said. (Armstrong Flooring purchased Mannington’s VCT business in 2017.) “We have also identified opportunity to further enhance this value with the extension of our Diamond 10 technology to the VCT category.”

Rubber rises up
FCNews research shows rubber generated $217 million in sales in 2017, a 3.1% uptick over 2016. In terms of volume, the category accounted for 57 million square feet, which translates to a 4.1% increase from last year. Some flooring executives attribute this overall increase to rubber’s use in areas other than heavy commercial environments. Others suggest rubber’s natural resiliency, resistance to stains, mildew and mold, and call for less chemicals makes it more appealing in places such as healthcare, hospitality and offices.

“As environmental concerns rise, specifiers are realizing rubber flooring’s green benefits,” said Joe Visintin, product manager, Tarkett North America. “For example, with no finish application required, fewer chemicals are required to maintain the floor and less water is used.”

Proponents believe rubber is receiving more attention thanks in part to updated visuals and innovative locking systems. Visintin sees rubber making its way from airports and schools to other areas as well such as healthcare waiting rooms, corporate hallways and offices, and hospitality lobbies.

Mike Tierney, national sales manager, Roppe, sees newer and brighter visuals as a driver for success. “Rubber flooring has always been popular in healthcare and education segments largely due to inherent traits such as the natural resiliency, resistance to stains, mildew and mold, comfort underfoot along with ease of maintenance,” he said. “However, newer colorations and versatile sizes or profile patterns make rubber flooring a great option for retail and hospitality spaces as well.”

Linoleum also shines
FCNews research shows linoleum experienced an 8.75% increase to $87 million from 2016’s $80 million. What’s more, its volume increased 8% to 32.25 million square feet. According to Denny Darragh, general manager North America and Asia, Forbo Flooring Systems, linoleum’s growth was driven primarily by the education segment. He also explained that linoleum’s stable pricing resulted in almost an exact percent of increase for both revenue and volume.

Imports vs. domestic
The resilient category is still heavily reliant on import activity with 68.4% of product coming from outside the United States, FCNews research shows. Despite this percentage, domestic production continues to increase, taking a small percentage away from imports. In 2017, domestic production accounted for 31.6% of the category, a slight increase from 2016’s 30.2%.

“There has been a shift toward U.S.-made LVT,” Armstrong’s Block said. He cited the company’s own state-of-the- art facility in Lancaster, Pa., as well as capital investments in its Stillwater,
Okla., facility. “We have invested millions of dollars in the domestic production of LVT to produce resilient flooring in a cost-effective manner, improve styling and be more responsive in servicing key market segments. We’ll continue to balance domestic production and sourcing product to best meet our customers’ needs.”

When looking at specific products, anecdotal research shows approximately 85% of residential sheet is domestic and about 77% of commercial sheet is imported. VCT continues to be virtually domestic, while all linoleum is imported. In terms of LVT, about 75% of commercial LVT is imported. Roughly 80% of residential LVT is made abroad, as is all WPC.

Even though U.S. manufacturers continue to increase domestic production capacities, the bulk of LVT remains imported. According to Beauflor USA’s Finelli, the need for imported LVT products has caused an oversaturation of the market. “You have a lot of overcapacity from import manufacturers that saw a big opportunity in the growth of the LVT category. It’s such a fast-moving product for us that we rely still on our European manufacturing for our LVT. The goal would be to bring that here to the U.S. in the next year or two.”

With both domestic production and imports, the resilient category faces a pricing war. For manufacturers, such as Raskin Industries, newer products have to rely less on beating prices and more on innovative design and proper distribution.

“It can’t be all about price,” Raskin explained. “You need to give on certain products to compete with the large, high-volume, carpet-manufacturing companies and good distributor partners to understand how to work with brands on better items. You need to offer unique designs to separate yourself from the price war.”

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Xpress Global Systems opens new service center

Chattanooga, Tenn.–Xpress Global Systems, LLC (XGS) has opened a new, 68,500-square-foot service center in Lakeland, Fla. According to Darrel Harris, CEO, the new facility allows XGS to more efficiently service a greater footprint in Florida.

“Analysis showed us that a much larger, more modern facility in Lakeland would provide better service to our valued customers and allow us to improve efficiencies,” Harris stated. “The Lakeland facility fits well with our expansion plans in the Florida market and beyond.”

XGS, which began in 1986 as a long-haul shipper for the carpet industry, employs more than 600 people across 31 facilities around the U.S. With decades of experience serving the transportation needs of the floor covering industry, XGS has a long track record of success in handling a wide range of products, including carpet, hardwood, laminate, vinyl, tile and area rugs.

“XGS remains committed to efficiency and growth in 2018 and beyond,” Harris added. “We are happy to add the Lakeland facility to our portfolio.”

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Resilient: In a contested field, sheet vinyl still competes on value, visuals

June 11/18, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 26

By Mara Bollettieri

 

There’s no denying that LVT and WPC have nipped some market share from sheet vinyl, but by no means is the workhorse subcategory down for the count. Although other resilient formats are growing in popularity, the product still has a place in the flooring industry today, offering benefits to residential and commercial markets.

Thanks to new technological enhancements and product design innovations, resilient sheet is showing it can hold its own against the onslaught of hard surface competition both within and outside the category.  “WPC is getting all the attention today, but sheet vinyl has been waterproof since long before WPC came on the market,” said Mary Katherine Dyczko-Riglin, product manager of residential sheet vinyl, Mannington.

Mannington is working to remind retailers and consumers of the many benefits of sheet vinyl, such as its durability and ease of maintenance. With the company’s Revive collection, it’s promoting these positive attributes while providing dealers with unique and on-trend visual options to make it more appealing to customers. Dyczko-Riglin also emphasized the affordability of the product as a key benefit. “The key to sheet’s success is to remind people that it has those great features and benefits,” she explained.

Other industry executives believe enforcement is the key. “We are continually reminding our customers of the advantages of sheet vinyl—installation ease, quiet, comfortable, durable, inexpensive and future flexibility,” said Liz Marcello, director of residential products–marketing, Tarkett. To that end, the company plans to launch a new sheet vinyl product, TruTEX, which has the ability to dissolve moisture and is mold and mildew resistant while providing strength. According to Marcello, with this new sheet vinyl product, Tarkett is hoping to “create more excitement” around this flooring category.

Mannington and Tarkett are not alone. IVC, a Mohawk brand, is doing its part to keep sheet top of mind. “The attributes of sheet vinyl, such as durability and waterproof features, all go hand in hand with still offering the most economic resilient product in the category,” said Amie Foster, senior product director, IVC U.S.

Suppliers are also leveraging sheet vinyl’s other attributes. “The versatility of sheet vinyl makes it an ideal solution for any number of residential, commercial and project-oriented applications,” said Kurt Denman, chief marketing officer and executive vice president of sales, Congoleum. “This multi-tasking capacity has allowed sheet vinyl to journey into builder, multi-family and residential-remodeling applications.”

Emphasis on design

Technological advancements have allowed manufacturers to deliver updated sheet vinyl looks that have more realistic visuals. Many suppliers are leveraging new printing techniques to deliver stylish visuals that today’s consumers demand.

“Sheet vinyl’s upgraded visuals and its competitive pricing make it a competitive flooring option,” said Clark Hodgkins, director of resilient, Shaw Floors. “This isn’t the dated vinyl sheet that once graced the kitchens and bathrooms of old.”

Advancements in printing technologies, according to Hodgkins, allow for new pattern creations and gives sheet the ability to better mimic popular visuals like wood and tile. He believes costumers can get beautiful visions at a “fraction of the cost,” compared to other resilient flooring. In particular, he cited Shaw’s DuraTru sheet line, which features realistic visuals.

Other manufacturers are also leveraging technology to render improved looks. “Products like Mannington’s sheet vinyl are highly styled with embossed-in-register, realistic visuals—in all constructions,” Dyczko-Riglin explained. “If you think about it, sheet vinyl is also the ultimate long and wide product as well.”

A case in point, according to Dyczko-Riglin, is Mannington’s Revive collection—a line that draws its inspiration from natural materials. “Revive patterns are inspired by popular porcelain looks, which are making consumers do a double-take,” she said. “It allows them to get the aesthetic they are looking for.”

Equally important as aesthetics, supplier say, are the performance advantages resilient sheet provides. This is particularly critical in situations where hygienic conditions are a major requirement, such as healthcare applications.

“Vinyl sheet floors are seamed by heat welding, which fuses the sheet together and creates strong, clean, aseptic seams that resist the penetration of dirt and moisture,” said Dave Bailey, associate product manager, Armstrong Flooring. “New material and coating technologies have enabled a wider range of colors and patterns, better wear resistance, reduced maintenance requirements and improved chemical and stain resistance.”

Like many products in its lineup, Armstrong’s sheet vinyl products have been enhanced with its signature Diamond 10 technology. According to Bailey, the technology boasts resistance to stains, scratches and scuffs while providing high-indentation performance.

IVC’s Foster feels sheet vinyl has the advantage in this regard. “Visuals continue to challenge the best LVTs, hardwoods and ceramic looks, so the consumer is getting an economic product with enhanced visuals.”

End-use applications

A majority of the suppliers told FCNews that an advantage of sheet vinyl is the product’s ease of installation. This attribute makes the product suitable for a range of applications and environments, be they residential or commercial.

Beauflor, for instance, is seeing its Blacktex fiberglass sheet vinyl being installed in the builder and property management segment. That’s due in no small measure to the product’s exclusive black-textile backing, which allows for loose lay installations up to 500 square feet. “Manufactured housing and RV markets love Beauflor’s sheet for our proprietary 16 foot, 4-inch width capability on a dimensional stable, cold-crack proof, waterproof and flexible construction,” said Michael Finelli, director of strategy, product and marketing.

Then there are products like Forbo’s Marmoleum, which is being installed across a range of both commercial and residential applications. “This USDA- certified, 100% bio-based product also fits the bill for sustainable-minded customers looking for healthy flooring options,” said Lori Lagana, marketing manager, Forbo Flooring. “It’s ideally suited for a variety of commercial and residential applications, ranging from patient rooms, classrooms, hallways and boutiques, to kitchens, bedrooms and family rooms.”

Tarkett’s Marcello sees its FiberFloor being used in multiple rooms in the home for single families. She believes it’s the ideal floor for kitchens, bathrooms, great rooms and/or laundry rooms. She also mentioned its usage in multifamily homes as well, where it is typically installed in spaces that see a lot of use and foot traffic. Also, when paired with its ProSheet Plus 3 product, Tarkett’s FiberFloor and TruTEX sheet vinyl products have the ability to be installed over existing floors. Since TruTEX is moisture resistant, along with being resistant to both mold and mildew, it works in areas that tend to get wet, such as basements, laundry rooms and bathrooms, Marcello added.

Mannington’s sheet vinyl, according to Dyczko-Riglin, is going down in wet areas such as kitchens, laundry rooms, mudrooms and bathrooms.

All of this is no surprise given the category’s waterproof attributes. Shaw Floors’ Hodgkins believes these qualities make sheet vinyl the go-to product for areas of the home that are prone to spills, messes or accidents. “Consumers don’t have to worry if their beloved pet tracks mud through the house or their children make a mess—Shaw’s DuraTru sheet vinyl will maintain its look and shape,” he explained. Shaw’s sheet goods, he noted, features OptiClean technology—an innovation that offers an extra boost of stain resistance.

But sheet vinyl is not just a utilitarian floor as far as installation, maintenance and upkeep are concerned. At the end of the day, proponents say, consumers will select the product because they love the way it looks, along with its suitability for a variety of installation scenarios.

“We’re seeing ArmorCore installed throughout a living space—including entryways and hallways—because of its visual continuity across multiple substrates and subfloor conditions,” Congoleum’s Denman said. He sees this as partly due to the trend of open-concept living in homes, and the continuity of a singular floor to “visually open up smaller spaces.”

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Xpress Global Systems: Going the extra mile

May 28/June 4, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 25

By Reginald Tucker

In today’s hypercompetitive distribution economy, it’s no longer enough to simply move products from point A to point B. In order to gain an advantage, wholesalers must also go above and beyond by offering value-added services to manufacturers and retailers alike.

That’s precisely the edge that Xpress Global Systems, formerly Crown Transport, claims to offer its partners across the supply chain. “We’re the largest nationwide transportation hauler for the floor covering industry,” said Darrel Harris, CEO of the Chattanooga, Tenn.-based distributor. “Xpress Global is a company that’s been around for 40 years.”

According to Harris, Xpress Global Systems’ fleet entails nearly 300 trucks, and the company owns roughly 600 pieces of trailing equipment. From a logistics standpoint, about 75% of its freight originates out of Dalton, with approximately 20% coming out of the Southern California area.

“The majority of our business that we handle is LTL—less than truckload—shipments predominantly for floor covering businesses,” Harris explained. “We also have a fair amount of our business dedicated to warehousing. We store freight for our customers, and most of the time that freight then finds its way onto our trucks for local distribution.”

Xpress Global Systems also maintains a brokerage division (XTMS) that’s able to arrange transportation, truckload brokerage and LTL if it’s outside the scope of the company’s normal activities. Operating out of Xpress Global System’s Tunnel Hill, Ga., facility, XTMS is designed to provide additional services for the company’s large customer base in the region.

Harris cites additional competitive advantages. “By far it’s our expertise in handling floor covering, specifically rolled goods. Our employees are very well trained, experts in their field. It’s a type of product that requires special handling. You hear so many different stories in the industry about carpet being damaged when shipped using general commodity carriers. It’s not that we never had that problem, but it’s a very low claims percentage. Less than half of 1% of our shipments result in a claim, because we take great care of our equipment. Plus, our network is set up to make sure the carpet is handled properly.”

But it’s not just soft goods. Xpress Global is also equipped to handle pallets of hard surface products such as LVT. “We really put a big focus on the hard surface of segment of the business,” Harris said. “What’s really good about it from a transportation perspective is those goods commingle well in a transportation mode. Over the past few years we have really put a focus on exploring those opportunities with our customers.”

Creative solutions 

Xpress Global Systems also excels in what Harris refers to as “reverse logistics.” For example, if freight is delivered to a retailer but the shipment is rejected, Xpress can arrange to send it back to the originating mill. “We can assist the retailer for any reason that might create a scenario where they would need to return the product,” Harris explained.

Another competitive advantage Xpress Global Systems offers is its sheer size and scale. “There’s no one that has the broad coverage area to match our 33 facilities across the country,” Harris said. “That is something that’s very unique and special in this particular space focused on floor covering.”

So why would a retailer prefer to have Xpress Global ship their products from a mill as opposed to just paying the mill to have the product shipped to them? Harris explains the thought process. “What we find is many retailers don’t always take the time to really understand their overall freight costs or the logistics behind it. So there could be significant cost savings with us. Also, we have capabilities in so many different areas that are all built around floor covering, which translates into other solutions we could bring to the table that they might not even be aware of. For example, we can store goods for clients in various parts of the country without them having to spend the extra funds to basically put brick-and-mortar facilities in. In essence, they can use our facilities as an opportunity to position their freight for their customers, and we can  handle shipping it out for them. So there’s just a lot of creative things we can do by opening up those discussions directly with the retailers.”

Robbie White, senior manager of distribution and logistics for Beauflor, is a believer. “Xpress Global has given us a lot of capacity that we didn’t have. But they have also worked with us on drop trailers, especially on nationwide coverage of rolled goods. With the proactive reporting they provide, we don’t have to wait on exceptions to come up. They’re really good at managing those exceptions for us.”

Other Xpress Global Systems customers attest to the distributor’s high level of service. Jared Warnack, vice president of Lowe’s division for Phenix Flooring, has been a client for more than 15 years—and for good reason. “They are a very integral part of our company. They service the majority of the nation for us, and they do a wonderful job.”

Warnack attributes that track record to the leadership at Xpress Global Systems. “When Darrel Harris [CEO] came on board, he changed some of the policies to help improve customer focus. For example, he created a customer advisory board comprising logistics personnel from most of their major manufacturer customers, and we talk about issues we face every day in the industry. Xpress Global Systems then uses that feedback to improve their service and offerings. That’s why so many specialty retailers and big box stores use them as their preferred carrier.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Nuflors’ SetaGrip grabs the attention of retailers

Resilient installation system utilizes suction technology

April 2/9, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 21

By Lindsay Baillie

 

It is said that imitation is the highest form of flattery. This certainly holds true for Nuflors’ new SetaGrip product, which imitates the nano-suction technology on geckos’ feet to create an adhesive-, tape- and click-freeluxury vinyl floor.

“It’s no secret nature has inspired solutions for everyday challenges, including those in design,” said David Kim, managing partner, Nuflors. “Scientists have studied geckos’ feet and found they contain physical properties that promote stickiness. Using biomimicry, we studied geckos and began looking into nano-suction technology. We applied this technique to our flooring manufacturing process and SetaGrip was born.”

This patent-pending flooring installation technology uses millions of nano-sized pores and vacuum, negative fluid pressure to securely adhere flooring to non-porous surfaces. Once the flooring is pressed against a surface, the nano-sized pores—which act like millions of micro-suction cups—are activated and generate a strong adhesion to the surface.

SetaGrip was developed to simplify installation methods in the flooring industry. Unlike other installation options that can be labor intensive, require machinery and need to be reinforced, SetaGrip maintains a strong adhesion similar to glue-down methods without the need for glue, the company claims.

“Quick-install products such as loose lay and click cannot match the value of this technology,” Kim explained. “Our patented core layer is specially formulated with white ceramic particles to provide extra dimensional stability. SetaGrip’s nano-suction technology also allows the floors to be easily replaced and reused.”

In addition to a simpler installation, SetaGrip is waterproof, aids in sound insulation, does not promote the growth of mildew or mold and is able to be removed without residue.

As a newer product on the market, SetaGrip provides flooring dealers with a unique product story, according to Kim. “It is the answer to any designer, builder or installer’s dilemma with flooring. There is no need for adhesives; therefore, you don’t have to close down an area where you are installing. You can immediately walk on the floor as soon as it’s installed, and it can be installed over almost any existing floor.”

Goes down easy

While other types of flooring can be difficult to repair, SetaGrip can simply be picked up and replaced, according to the company. Nuflors sees this product as a huge win for retailers and installers. “Solving problems equals satisfied customers, which in turn equates to success for the retailers, distributors and installers,” Kim stated. “The product sells itself; the time, ease and speed in which [installers can lay down] SetaGrip will have customers clamoring for more.”

Even though the product only entered the market in January, it is already drawing the attention of retailers, installers and consumers. “I think it is one of the bigger innovations that I’ve seen in the flooring industry right now,” said Scott Lubinsky, business development and sales, TF Andrews in Westchester, N.Y. “I think it’s slightly ahead of the curve and it is completely a millennial-based product—the angle of the green story and it being a replication of what’s happening in nature.”

For installers like James Hong, an associate with Cornerstone Mechanical, Oakland Gardens, N.Y., SetaGrip is a convenient product that is easy to install and very forgiving. “It’s easy to maneuver between each plank.”

Hong has also received positive feedback from consumers. “All our clients love the product and how it installed.”

Barry Goldberg, president of Everything Floors, West Islip, N.Y., also noted the ease of installation. “It’s so much easier to work with than anything else I’ve installed,” he explained. “No prep work is needed, and it goes down easy. If you have to lift it up to adjust it, it comes right up.”

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Resilient: Rigid core continues to set new standards

April 2/9, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 21

By Ken Ryan

 

Even seasoned flooring executives are stunned at the growth of the rigid core subsegment that burst onto the scene less than two years ago and has morphed into a super cell of flooring.

Jimmy Tuley, vice president, residential resilient business, Mannington, just returned from Domotex Asia where he saw scores of new entries. “We saw combinations of wood on rigid core; some with mineral core to give it different properties... there is a lot of innovation happening. The pace of change right now is just amazing, unbelievable really.”

Jeff Francis, resilient category manager, Shaw Industries, and a 14-year industry veteran, added, “The rate of change in resilient rigid core is so significant it is challenging just to stay ahead of the pace. Based on the velocity of growth, I don’t see it receding at all.”

Francis said he sees rigid core continuing to take market share from soft surface as well as hard surface—laminate, wood and even glue-down LVT. “We see growth accelerating, and in the next 12-24 months, even as fast as the innovation is coming, we see more of it.”

David Sheehan, senior vice president, product management, Mohawk resilient, said he has been “astounded” by the growth of rigid vinyl. “It is definitely a product that has become the darling of the industry. Just as LVT in general was the go-to product for RSAs and dealers, rigid has become that go-to product.”

Rigid core, or SPC (solid polymer core), is made of a composite core construction, a step up from solid LVT, with a higher filler content and higher density without any foaming agent creating air bubbles in the core. The result is a thinner, harder and stiffer plank. Rigid core products are primarily suitable where higher indentation resistance is required and extensive exposure to sunlight/heat can occur.

This broad definition does not stop flooring companies from putting their own marketing spin on their iterations.

Following is a look at some of the newest offerings in rigid core flooring.


Armstrong
Rigid Core Vantage from Armstrong Flooring includes such features as registered embossing in elongated 9 x 60 and 7 x 60 planks and accentuated painted bevels. The line comes with a commercial-specified 20-mil wear layer and urethane coating, and is noted for its dent resistance thanks to a solid polymer core. Vantage is supported by a premium natural cork underlayment for reduced sound transmission. Armstrong said installing Rigid Core Vantage has been made easier with a new drop-lock system. It has been tested for use in fully enclosed three-season rooms where the expected post-installation temperature range falls between 32°F and 100°F. Rigid Core Vantage will be available to retailers in June.

CFL/FirmFit
FirmFit XXL boasts long and wide planks featuring synchronized embossed-in-register technology. “FirmFit was one of the first to launch long and wide rigid core planks that feature an extremely realistic embossed and register synchronized texture in a large way,” said Thomas Baert, CFL president. “The rigid core category is moving forward extremely fast and improving style and designs, which is bringing the category closer to real wood looks and textures. FirmFit XXL is the next step.”

FirmFit XXL, which will be in stores early summer, is backed by warranties on performance on massive installation surfaces without use of transition moldings. It is dent resistant and sun proof.

Congoleum
Triversa’s triple-layer construction delivers exceptional durability with a 20-mil wear layer, stability through a waterproof rigid core and versatility with cork backing for sound mitigation. A SmartLock clic system allows for easy floating installations. Triversa ID offers extensive design options, including mixed-width woods, longer planks, enhanced edge treatments and tile visuals.

Dixie Group
Dixie is one of the newest entrants into the rigid core space but is determined to make a lasting impression, according to Dan Phelan, vice president of marketing and hard surfaces. For 2018, the Dixie Home and Masland brands are coming out with 16 new offerings, all Stainmaster PetProtect with action traction. “We are filling in some gaps in colorations,” Phelan said. “We have fashion-forward colors in gray and taupe, and we are now adding heavier distressed looks.” New size options in Dixie Home (7 x 60) and Masland (5 x 60) are in addition to a 9 x 60 offered by both. Masland’s Big Sky line offers a 28-mil wear layer.

What’s different here is the company’s path to market is through limited retail distribution. As Phelan explained, “Do you want to enter the market for the sake of entering, or do you want to enter with something special? Stainmaster adds to our position in the marketplace. It’s working for us, and our limited distribution model is very powerful. We’re off to a really good start.”

EarthWerks
Noble Classic Plus SPC from EarthWerks boasts an array of high-dimension oak patterns with EIR. The assortment comes in 8 x 48 planks as well as a 9.5 x 60 tile for an even more dramatic appearance—each with cushion backing.

For customers looking for a glue-down application, these same designs and sizes are also available in a 3mm x 20 mil dry back version called Wood Classic II.

Inhaus
Sono is Inhaus’ latest innovation in waterproof dimensionally stable flooring. The German-made product comes with proprietary technology and features high-definition digital printing. The printing process enables vastly improved color variations and a 5% plank repeat, the company said, resulting in a uniquely appealing installation. The core is highly resistant to heat and cold, is waterproof and has an angle fold locking system for ease of installation. The patented ceramic composite core is free of PVCs, formaldehyde and all other additives.

IVC
Urbane, which will be launched in the second quarter through distribution, will be part of IVC’s rebranded Waterproof Solutions display, which replaces Moduleo. Sheehan explained the company is trying to communicate the inherent waterproof nature of the offerings with the three-product display that also includes Horizon and Embellish. Described as a classic flexible offering, Horizon is a 20 mil, 4.5mm construction available in click and glue down. The trade up is Embellish, a flexible LVT that Sheehan called a very significant offering. “We’re not labeling the products, we’re creating a good/better/best trade-up story,” he said.

Urbane is a rigid offering that IVC expects will drive a lot of traffic and enthusiasm. Glass is used to make the product more dimensionally stable. All three products are suitable for three-season rooms capable of handling extreme temperatures.

Mannington
Tuley said he sees the WPC and SPC segments “splitting” as new technologies emerge to create separation. AduraMax Prime is an SPC targeted at the builder/multifamily segment. AduraMax Apex offers a long and wide plank and is embossed with a painted bevel. Mannington also plans to launch Adura Rigid, an SPC with pad attached. “For the most part, these products are variations or improvements on LVT to solve very particular problems,” Tuley said.

Marquis
Marquis’ newest rigid core product offering, Geneva, provides a print with great color movement and depth. Featuring multi-width look patterns representing a new urban twist to a rustic look, Geneva comes in a 7 x 48 board with a 4mm SPC core and 20 mil ceramic bead wear layer finished with a 1.5mm closed-cell IXPE attached cushion.

Metroflor
Engage Inception, Metroflor’s new SPC product, expands the company’s portfolio of LVT flooring solutions that address all relevant categories—glue down and a variety of floating platforms such as Grip-Strip (Konecto), Solid Vinyl Clic (Engage), WPC (Engage Genesis) and now SPC (Engage Inception).

The new Engage Inception line is intended to serve as an entry-level, SPC product suitable for multifamily, residential and commercial environments dependent on the wear layer chosen. It is stiffer and denser than WPC, offering favorable dimensional stability characteristics, thereby enabling greater resistance to temperature changes and indentations. Beyond improved dent resistance, the premium attached high-density polyethylene foam underlayment provides sound absorption, reduces transmitted sound and foot fatigue and helps to conceal subfloor imperfections.

Mohawk
2018 promises to be a big year for Mohawk in the area of rigid core. Starting with SolidTech, its flagship line with less than one full year in the market, Mohawk is readying a slew of new rigid offerings from its U.S. production facility that will be a fully integrated rigid core plant. “Customers are getting in line for this,” Sheehan said. “Mohawk has invested a huge amount of capital toward this category. We feel we have the right products and are positioned well in each of our channels.”

Due out soon is True Design, a collection of neat visuals with features such as EIR, painted bevels and longer planks. Within the collection, Blended Tones boasts a 22-mil wear layer with a painted bevel. “The reason we do embossed in register is not to prove to the market that we can do it, but to make the product look real,” Sheehan explained. “We feel we have done that with the True Design collection.”

Both the second and third quarters will be active for Mohawk as it aggressively expands its rigid portfolio. As Sheehan explained, “If rigid is the fastest growing segment, the only way to keep pace and grow your market share is to aggressively invest in your category. We are going to aggressively expand our offering and grab market share with the right product along with the right visuals and price points.”

Karndean
Korlok Select, the company’s rigid core line, took two years to develop but was worth the wait, according to Emil Mellow, director of public relations. “Everything we put in there is top end.”

Korlok’s rigid core line comes fully equipped with K-Core technology, a pre-attached acoustic underlayment, K-Guard+ surface protection, HoldFast 5G locking mechanism and warranty. Its 9 x 56 plank matches that of other suppliers. “We found that anything longer than that logistically doesn’t work for a couple of reasons,” Mellow stated. “The box size becomes too heavy and unwieldy to handle, the retail shelf bins are not big enough to accommodate the planks, and the installation becomes very difficult. You need two people and that defeats the whole purpose of easy assembly.”

While most companies, including Karndean, attach numerous bells and whistles to their rigid core products, occasionally they dial back the features to hit a desired price point. That was the case with the Reserve line, which comes out in May. It launches with a stacker option or waterfall display for dealers.

Novalis
Its newest rigid core product, Serenbe, is part of the NovaFloor line with high density core (HDC) technology. It has 24 styles in planks and tiles—including a new 12 x 36 tile. Serenbe also features Novalis’ newest advancement in protection, patent-pending NovaShield.

NovaFloor HDC is an extruded solid vinyl that provides all the popular attributes of rigid core: waterproof, dent resistance and ease of installation over common subfloor imperfections. “We equipped it with an attached foam underlayment as a sound barrier and added comfort underfoot,” said Steve Erlich, vice president of sales and marketing. “So, if you’re a dealer, you will want this product line on your retail floor. It’s the whole package.”

Phenix
Bold Statement from Phenix is a Stainmaster PetProtect SPC in seven colors, five planks and two tile options. Velocity is a 9 x 60 SPC rigid core that combines Corex technology with an EVA foam backing to eliminate additional underlayment. “Both products have some unique features and benefits,” said Chris Johnson, senior vice president of sales. “Our Bold Statement is [among] the only PetProtect SPCs on the market. It also has the Stainmaster PetProtect finish, so it provides superior scratch resistance and pet action traction.”

Velocity is a 22-mil product that is extra wide and long but is also available in a 12 x 24 tile. “We have worked hard to develop a rich and diverse color palette for both products, so just about any home can find something within Velocity that fits their space,” Johnson said.

Quick-Step
EnduraTek and EnduraTek Ultra, the company’s newest rigid core offerings, will be sold through distribution. These unique tile visuals are constructed of an internally routed grout line that renders the product incredibly real, according to the company. “It gives the visual appearance of a 12 x 24, when in fact it is a 12 x 48 plank.” EnduraTek Ultra is slated for the second quarter. “We have rigid flowing everywhere,” Sheehan said.

Raskin
Raskin Industries is promoting its eight-layer rigid construction in which each layer is engineered to provide more stability. “It’s the best of both worlds—waterproof rigid with no air or foam, and no adhesives since we fuse the layers as we use heat and pressure,” said Michael Raskin, president. “It’s critical to have multiple layers.”

A new product, Solid Gencore, is made from Raskin’s proprietary acrylic composite structure used as its core layer to provide maximum stability and impact resistance. “Acrylx has no foam or air, making it denser than a WPC-type multilayer product. We use advanced technology-grade resins that are used specifically to provide stability against heat and cold temperatures.”

New to the market is Acrylx Select, available in five colors. The line is meant to be price competitive with the added benefits of soundproof backing and anti-mildew. It is 100% waterproof as well. Lumination Velocity, another new offering, will have 10 colors in a 4mm with a 1mm Gcore backing. This collection will include registered embossing and will be showcased in a new display with large boards. The line consists of stone, multi-plank looks and 60-inch planks. “It’s hard to differentiate, so it’s important to sell the latest and best technology that will stand up to the hype,” Raskin said. “We feel our product construction and ability to design the colors and styles that sell will offer customers the right products.”

Shaw
Shaw Industries is another major mill that has invested heavily in the rigid core business primarily with Floorte.

Floorte Pro, a new tile rigid core product, launched with 20 SKUs. The waterproof, click product features a lacquer bevel. “There is a trend toward smaller grout lines, which we can do with this product,” Francis said. “The response has been great. This opens it up to mud rooms and bathrooms.”

Overall, Floorte Pro offers a diverse portfolio of visuals ranging from hardwood to tile looks. Mineral Mix, for example, strikes a balance between contemporary concrete and linear metal looks for a chic aesthetic. Each tile has visual grout applied for a quick installation that does not require traditional grout. Blue Ridge Pine is a rich heart pine visual that captures the contrast, character and uniqueness found in natural hardwood.

Tarkett
Tarkett’s new ProGen collection is the next generation of rigid core luxury vinyl flooring that provides superior impact and indentation resistance. The product also demonstrates superior durability over traditional WPC, according to the company.

ProGen’s unique compact core design makes installation easy by providing the flexibility to adjust to tight spaces, while maintaining enough rigidity to allow for installation over imperfect subfloors. This new collection has a 20-mil, commercial-grade wear layer and enhanced polyurethane layer that allow ProGen to resist scratches and the rigors of modern life. In addition, its high-density foam backing reduces unwanted noise.

USFloors
Piet Dossche, founder and CEO, said there were 65 Chinese manufacturers exhibiting rigid core products at Domotex Hannover in January, a testament to the incredible momentum of the subcategory. “This is not a fad, this is just the beginning,” he said at a recent symposium. “Composite waterproof flooring will be the high double-digit growth engine in hard surfaces for the next five years.”

To that end, USFloors is striving to keep its market-share-leading position among suppliers. The company launched COREtec Pro Plus in Q4 2017 and COREtec Pro Plus Enhanced in January. Both are of SPC construction. USFloors will introduce COREtec Stone in the summer with upwards of 40 SKUs. “Attention to detail and design is what makes Pro Plus and Pro Plus Enhanced stand out from the crowd,” said Jamann Stepp, director of marketing and product management. COREtec Pro collections include a double extrusion process with a 1mm cork attached pad. Pro Plus Enhanced also incorporates a four-sided enhanced beveled edge for added realism. As for the forthcoming COREtec Stone, attention to detail will again be key. “The decors, including the tech and spec data that is employed in the Pro Plus collections, along with a proprietary protective coating to prevent scratching and abrasion, will set COREtec Stone apart from the rest,” Stepp said. “We see COREtec Stone as tile reinvented.”

Wellmade
Wellmade continues to expand its Nouveax en vogue HDPC vinyl plank collection. The rigid core features Wellmade’s co-extrusion technology and includes standard and wide/long plank options. Wear layers are available in 8-, 12-, and 20-mil options. Wellmade has added new design options for 2018, including character-driven muted gray and brown tones with enhanced texturing on the hardwood side, and contemporary travertine looks in stone. “Dealers have pleased with our competitive pricing, ease of installation and superior overall performance,” said Steve Wagner, director of marketing.