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Ordinary people doing extraordinary things: Eric Thompson—Fighting poverty with laughter

May 14/21, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 24

By Mara Bollettieri

For the past 25 years, most of Eric Thompson’s loyal customers see him as the longtime owner of Satolli Carpet & Floor Covering, a specialty retailer based in Warren, Ohio. But there’s a whole other side that people might not know. As it turns out, Thompson is also a professional standup comedian/magician who not only performs several nights a week at local clubs, but he also travels the world to deliver laughs and thrills to those who need it most.

Thompson, who has honed his craft over the past 40 years, intentionally selects places to perform that are not typically on most tourists’ radar. As part of his Million Miles, Million Smiles Tour, Thompson performs magic/comedy shows to impoverished people of all ages. He has performed in two dozen countries across five continents, including countries like Cuba, Guatemala, China, Peru, Burkina Faso and more.

The idea for this tour came to him on a trip with his wife to the Caribbean, where he saw the village children playing. “I started showing the kids tricks and they were really into it,” Thompson told FCNews. “They were obviously very poor, I think they were begging. For a moment they forgot about being hungry, poor and oppressed; they were laughing.”

Thompson recalled how grateful the kids seemed that he took the time to get to know and play with them. And that’s when the light bulb turned on. “I thought, why can’t I do this for whole groups of people or whole villages?” he said. “I do shows for hundreds of people at a time at home. I wanted to deliver this to people who don’t normally have joy and laughter in their lives. I have enough people that have money to buy tickets to shows at home.”

So in 2012, with permission from the U.S. government, Thompson performed shows throughout Cuba before travel restrictions were lifted. And through the power of magic, he was able to connect with others despite language barriers.

“Magic opened that door and people let their defenses down and we realized we’re all just people,” Thompson said. “People are the same everywhere. They really enjoy smiling, laughing and being nice to one another.”

Language of laughter

Laughter has allowed Thompson to break language barriers (although he employs translators for certain trips. In fact, his act has been translated into seven languages). One of Thompson’s most memorable moments happened during his visit to Guatemala. During that trip, he came across a small village where eight little boys were playing. He recalled they barely had five marbles to share between them. He went over and played with them. “We were laughing, pushing each other and I pretended like I was cheating,” Thompson recalled.

Unable to communicate in English, one of the boys in the group extended his hand, opened his palm and motioned for Thompson to do the same.  At that point, the boy held Thompson’s hand, placed a marble in it and closed his fingers around it. The child then said something in Spanish. Although Thompson had no idea what he said, he had a feeling it was important. He called over his translator to explain. “He said he wants you to have his marble,” the translator told Thompson, who didn’t feel comfortable taking the marble from the boy. The translator explained that he had to take the marble home. As Thompson recalled, “The boy told the translator that people come from all over the world to build schools, dig trenches for running water and ditches for sewage, build churches and schools, and bring clothes. But you, you came, and got down on the ground and played with us and you brought us laughter. The boy said, ‘I want you to have this marble.’ Here I am, 50-something years old, and this little kid is giving me the wisdom of love.  That was a powerful moment.”

The incident moved him so that when he arrived home from the trip, he bought 11 pounds of marbles and sent them back to Guatemala to be dispersed throughout the villages for all the children. Thompson said he still has the marble on his dresser at home, and he’s shared the story with his grandkids.

On another trip, Thompson performed for a leper colony in China—something he didn’t even realize still existed. “Everybody there is missing a limb, lips, ears and noses. But they were freed with laughter.”

From humanitarian to retailer

Providing joy to others via comedy and magic tricks extends to Thompson’s customer service philosophy. He incorporates some of his schtick when greeting and interacting with shoppers in his store. “You can buy material anywhere for about the same price, but what you don’t get when you buy it somewhere else is me,” he explained. “You can go to Home Depot and Lowe’s, but you’re not going to get the owner who cares and wants it done right.”

Thompson is mindful of his reputation since he resides in a small town. He said this gives him the incentive to go above and beyond when servicing customers. “When I go to the county fair or walk through the mall, I might run into one of my customers,” he explained. “I sure don’t want them yelling at me in front of my grandkids. So, I’m motivated to get the job done right and at a fair price and earn their business.”

The exceptional service Thompson provides is evident by the comments customers leave on his Facebook page. “We have remodeled every room in our house and every time we have chosen Satolli Carpet & Floor Covering,” said Kelly Stroup Chambers. “We have been doing business with Eric for well over 10 years and are always completely satisfied.”

Other customers, such as Lori Ferguson-Nottingham, agree. “My experience at Satolli Carpet & Floor Covering was a wonderful one. The installers were prompt and the carpet looked so great. I plan to revisit them for my kitchen and bathroom.”

Thompson’s partners across the supply chain also sing his praises. “I’ve known Eric Thompson for a number of years,” said Scott McKnight, territory manager with Certified Flooring Distributors, which operates branches in Pennsylvania (Pittsburgh) and Ohio (Cleveland and Columbus). “He is honest and fair with his customers, and he also keeps them informed about the latest trends and technologies. He goes the extra mile for them.”

Dan Zembiak, senior territory manager of State Crest Carpet & Flooring, also based in Cleveland, said, “I have known Eric since he first entered the floor covering business almost 30 years ago. What stands out most is his outgoing personality and sense of humor, his ability to make others around him feel at ease. It’s no wonder he’s been able to achieve such a high level of success.”

Life lessons applied to the workplace

Eric Thompson’s philanthropic efforts have brought happiness to individuals in underprivileged areas globally. At the same time, his experiences have taught him valuable lessons that he has applied to his business.

“I’ve learned to negotiate a little bit better,” Thompson told FCNews. “Everywhere you go, when you go shopping in another country, generally those markets are filled with great negotiators.” This, he explained, has allowed him to step his game up since he has experienced haggling with the true experts. “When I have to negotiate with a vendor, I’m a little better at it because I’ve done it in 110-degree heat,” he noted.

Thompson’s experiences with other cultures has also taught him to be flexible. “To be adaptable to change and to know that one idea or one reaction is not the only idea or reaction,” he said. “I listen to my employees, my installers—they spend more hours in the customer’s house than I do.”

He’s also learned to be open-minded and vigilant, especially having survived multiple economic downturns. He explained that the location of his store is in an economically depressed region. Many times, he said, within the last two-and-a-half decades in particular, he thought he would have to close up shop, especially during the time when the housing bubble burst. But he turned out to be wrong. “I learned how to look at economic indicators and allow for more than one resolve, to be open-minded,” he explained. “I’ve learned that growth can come in lots of forms, not just geographical. So I don’t have to have another store.”

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Ten people making a difference

May 14/21, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 24

One measure of success in business or in life is being able to make a positive impression on the lives of others. Whether that is achieved through strong leadership, perseverance, compassion, humility or some other personality trait, this year’s Ten People Making a Difference list has impacted the flooring world in many different ways—and in some cases well beyond the scope of the industry. As in years past, this year’s list includes top-level flooring executives whose work helped shape their company’s fortunes as well as those from outside whose efforts nonetheless were deeply felt within the flooring sector.

FCNews’ Ten People Making a Difference is an amalgam of movers, shakers and groundbreakers who achieve success in a variety of ways.

Dave Meberg: The Doer

By Brett Morrow

When I think of Dave Meberg, whom I have known as a friend for more than 20 years, I think of a guy who is intelligent, has a big presence—both physically as well as the way in which he conducts himself. One of the cool things about him is he understands the job from the ground up. He’s not one of these guys who hung around the country clubs growing up and just happened to take over his dad’s company.

Dave came from a family of old-school Norwegian guys. He learned to work the trucks; he worked the warehouse where his family made him sweep the floors. He understands the logistics of everything. He knows what the warehouse guys are up against, what the project managers are doing, the estimators and so on. To this day, I am amazed at how involved he is. Dave has his own business (he is principal, president and CEO of New York-based Consolidated Carpet), but he’s also actively involved with the Greater New York Floor Coverers Association, with Starnet and the New York City District Council of Carpenters. You don’t get to be on the district council very easily. To get to the point where Dave has gotten takes tremendous sacrifice, and yet he has earned everything.

Dave is a very good communicator who is extremely well prepared. He is a not a fly-by-the-seat-of-the-pants kind of guy. If he has a meeting coming up, he does his due diligence. He knows going in what the material costs are, what the labor estimates are, etc. He not only can talk the talk, but he can walk the walk as well.

Brett Morrow is vice president of Soundtone Floors, Long Island City, N.Y.

Rochelle Routman: The Disruptor

By Harlan Stone

When I hired Rochelle Routman to become our first chief sustainability officer two years ago, I anticipated great things from her. We felt her vision and expertise could not only help us, but also transform the resilient industry. But I had no idea that she would have such great impact in such a short period of time.

Two years later, Rochelle has relentlessly pursued her vision for transparency and sustainability, and this has resulted in a stunning series of firsts for our company and the resilient industry. Not only have Metroflor and Aspecta achieved the most rigorous third-party certifications in product, but we have also had groundbreaking achievements in transparency. Most recently, the issuance of the first JUST label for a China-based factory of any kind.

Guided by her leadership, and with the help of our product authority team, Metroflor earned Declare labels—analogous to nutrition labels for building products—across Aspecta’s entire range of commercial flooring, and the first-ever Declare label for a multilayer flooring product. We were also the first to have all Declare labels translated into six languages for full global product ingredient transparency.

But the real crowning achievement of Rochelle’s first two years is this persistent focus on transparency. Not just simple things like material ingredients, but also changing the game with transparency in operations, manufacturing, supply chain and social impact. JUST has arrived in our industry thanks to Rochelle, and it’s only the beginning.

When you go to a sustainability/transparency conference with Rochelle, it feels like you are accompanying a rock star though a music festival. She knows everyone, and everyone wants to stop her and show their appreciation for her never-ending energy and dedication to these important values.

Rochelle is driving and redefining what is possible in transparency and sustainability in the resilient flooring industry.

Harlan Stone is co-chairman of Metroflor Corp.

Stephanie Owen: The Online Educator

By Brett Miller

Stephanie Owen joined the National Wood Flooring Association (NWFA) in 2015 to spearhead its online learning platform, NWFA University (NWFAU). With no flooring background on her resume, but extensive experience developing educational curricula, Owen immersed herself in the industry while simultaneously researching online learning platforms.

Just 18 months later, NWFAU launched with 50-plus courses. Individual courses are just 10-20 minutes in length, so they are easy to fit into a busy schedule. Courses also are accessible using a PC, tablet or smartphone.

Since the initial launch in July 2016, course options have increased to 100-plus, with learning paths in installation, sand and finish, and sales. A manufacturing learning path launches this month, with future course development planned for inspections, customer service and business skills.

To date, 31,400-plus courses have been completed, averaging about 50 per day. Contributing to the success of the program has been the platform’s convenience and affordability. NWFAU is a member benefit, available for just $100 per year. And since NWFA membership is company-based, all member company employees are eligible to utilize NWFAU. Nearly 900-member companies currently use NWFAU as part of their employee training programs, equating to 6,100-plus individual registered users.

NWFAU and Owen have been recognized with an Association Trends 2017 Learnie Award for Biggest Success Story, and an Association Trends 2017 Gold All Media Award for eLearning & Live Training.

Also included on NWFAU are member-sponsored webinars, Expo education sessions and CEUs registered with AIA and IDCEC/ASID for continuing education credits.

Brett Miller is vice president, education and certification for the National Wood Flooring Association.

Gary Sinise: The Humanitarian

By Anita Howard

Actor and humanitarian Gary Sinise has supported veterans for nearly 40 years. His portrayal of Lt. Dan Taylor in the 1994 film “Forrest Gump” established his enduring connection with the disabled military community. Following the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, he participated in many USO tours, later forming the Lt. Dan Band, which entertains troops and raises awareness at benefit concerts. The band performed at the National Wood Flooring Association (NWFA) Wood Flooring Expo in 2017.

In 2011, Sinise furthered his commitment to our nation’s heroes by establishing the Gary Sinise Foundation (GSF), whose mission is to serve and honor our nation’s defenders, veterans, first responders and their families. The GSF R.I.S.E. program (Restoring Independence Supporting Empowerment) specifically provides mortgage-free, fully customized smart homes for America’s most severely wounded heroes. In 2015, GSF partnered with NWFA to provide wood flooring in R.I.S.E. homes. To date, NWFA has provided flooring, logistics and installation for 26 homes, with another 21 homes in various stages of planning and construction. NWFA also has introduced GSF to other industry partner organizations, including the National Hardwood Lumber Association, National Tile Contractors Association and Marble Institute of America.

In recognition of his humanitarian efforts, Sinise was presented with the Bob Hope Award for Excellence in Entertainment, Spirit of the USO Award, Ellis Island Medal of Honor, Dwight D. Eisenhower Award and Presidential Citizens Medal, the second-highest civilian honor awarded to citizens for exemplary deeds performed in service of the nation.

To learn more about GSF programs, visit garysinisefoundation.org.

Anita Howard is the COO of the National Wood Flooring Association.

Kevin Brady: The Lawmaker

By Shana Teehan

You might not know his name, but if you are a small business—and that includes the vast majority of flooring dealers—you could already be benefiting from his work on the Tax Cuts & Jobs Act, which offers a 20% deduction for qualified business income from so-called pass-through entities, which include S corporations and limited-liability companies.

Kevin Brady (R.-Texas) chairs the House Ways and Means Committee, regarded by many to be the most powerful committee in Congress with jurisdiction over taxes, health care, Social Security, Medicare, international trade and welfare. Brady is the chief author of the tax reform bill, which was signed into law in December 2017.

The tax break is intended to provide small businesses with some much-needed breathing room to compete with larger businesses and global competitors that have a smaller tax burden. Business owners can use their tax savings to hire new employees, increase employee wages and incentives, purchase inventory, expand their workspace, pay down debt or reduce their prices.

“As House Ways and Means Committee chairman, and lead author of the bill, my goals were simple,” Brady said. “Cut taxes for the middle class, simplify our unfair and broken tax code, and make America the most competitive place in the world to do business.”

Shana Teehan serves as senior advisor and director of communications for Kevin Brady.

Theresa Fisher: The Passionate Partner

By Howard Brodsky

As senior vice president of store design and merchandising, Theresa Fisher has helped shape the customer experience that has come to be the standard of excellence for independent flooring retailers. From the creation of Carpet One Floor & Home’s “Destination: Carpet One” store design program to her hand in developing differentiating branding for CCA exclusive brands, Theresa’s innate sense of style and understanding of today’s customer have made her an invaluable asset to CCA Global.

However, Theresa’s impactful store design is not the only way she has had an impact at CCA Global and throughout the floor covering industry. Without Theresa’s passionate persistence and dedication, Carpet One Floor & Home and CCA Global Partners would not have the rewarding partnership with the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation and their Building for America’s Bravest program that we have today. This program builds smart homes for catastrophically injured service members, many of them triple or quadruple amputees, to help them regain some of the independence lost due to their injuries.

Theresa has helped bring our membership together to help make a magnificent impact on the lives of our injured heroes through partnership with Building for America’s Bravest. Carpet One’s participation in the Building for America’s Bravest program has not only ensured that 36 of these smart homes have beautifully installed flooring, but also brought the membership of our cooperative together to work towards a common goal.

True to Theresa’s nature, it wasn’t good enough to just get Carpet One on board to install flooring; she was compelled to do more. She pushed further to pull in our industry partners. Today, Building for America’s Bravest receives support from Carpet One along with Mohawk, Masterbrand and Hunter Douglas. Still, Theresa felt we could do more. She now helps organize a large group of members to participate in the annual T2T 5K and encourages members to host additional fundraisers to help raise the funds needed to build smart homes.

Her desire to do good for our members and the world along with her keen eye and innovative spirit have made her an essential part of CCA Global Partners.

Howard Brodsky is co-founder and co-CEO of CCA Global Partners.

Jeff King: The Advocate

By Scott Humphrey

Of all the relationships I have developed in my tenure in this industry, Jeff King, legal counsel to the WFCA, is easily one of the most influential and fascinating individuals I have encountered. Though his education and background are in the legal arena, his knowledge of the flooring industry is second to none.

After graduating from Albany Law School of Union University, Jeff practiced law in Washington, D.C., for many years before moving to Delray Beach, Fla., where he resides with his wife and renowned interior designer Luba King and daughter Larissa. He has served the WFCA and our industry for over 20 years. In addition to authoring three publications for the WFCA: “Contracts—Cannot Live Without Them,” “The Independent Contractor Primer” and “Green Flooring Primer,” Jeff is one of the most requested speakers at industry events. If you have had the privilege of hearing Jeff, you are in no way surprised that he has been selected as one of the “10 people driving the industry.”

Jeff’s knowledge of all flooring related occupations and the issues impacting us is surpassed only by his passion for change and compassion for the people who make their living in our industry. He accurately predicts national trends by monitoring state activity and is respected in our nation’s capital to such a level that his opinion is often sought by those formulating their stances and/or considering legislation. He has proposed solutions and/or offered draft legislation to address issues including: The Marketplace Fairness Act, independent contractors, overtime regulations, government over regulation, the labor crisis, etc.

Though this industry and the WFCA comprises many strong leaders and advocates, there is none more positively driving our industry than my friend and the legal counsel to the WFCA—Mr. Jeff King.

Scott Humphrey is the president and CEO of the World Floor Covering Association.

Zack Zehner: The Heir Apparent

By Keith Campbell

Not many companies get to hold onto their old values as they reach for the new ones, but that’s exactly what is happening here at Mannington Mills as the fifth generation of the Campbell family emerges into company leadership.

Zack Zehner, my nephew, currently serves as our senior vice president of distribution network and has been a driving force in Mannington’s progress over the past few years. Zack’s efforts have kept us on the forefront of innovation while continuing to foster important relationships among our distributor partners.

He joined Mannington in 2003 after five years as a lawyer in Washington, D.C., and has learned about Mannington by using that old-school work ethic and actually doing the hard work. He was a district sales manager, a product director for laminate and porcelain tile, and vice president of commercial hard surface before stepping into his current role.

Just as important, he’s leading the company’s culture into the next generation. Family values are the cornerstone of everything we do here at Mannington, and Zack understands that. Zack grew up in a family where those values were part of his everyday life. Mannington was all we talked about at family gatherings, and Zack really absorbed it all. His passion for this company and the people who work here is in his blood.

Zack’s dedication extends into the community as well. He is now president of Stand Up for Salem, a community revitalization organization founded by my father, Johnny, and where I served for many years. Our headquarters is in Salem, N.J., and although we do business all over the world—and may not live within the confines of the zip code—it will always be our home.

Keith Campbell is chairman of the board for Mannington Mills.

Diana Rosenberger: The Initiator

By Troy Virgo

Until recently, Shaw Industries’ sustainable sourcing efforts consisted of a standalone supplier guide that defined Shaw’s expectations of suppliers regarding environmental protection, social fairness, ethical behavior and identified desired disclosure around chemicals of concern.

However, Diana Rosenberger, sustainability manager-global sourcing, recognized an opportunity for Shaw to have an even bigger impact in its sustainability efforts by engaging with its supply chain differently. Doing so stood to ensure Shaw’s products met globally recognized principles and were aligned with Shaw’s sustainability commitments to impact those who source from this supplier base.

Diana helped the company create a legally enforceable, easy-to-read, sustainable sourcing policy that would be integrated into our Standard Terms and Conditions of Purchase. She brought the Ten Principles of UN Global Compact to Shaw to use as the backbone of our new sustainable sourcing policy. Diana’s efforts led to Shaw becoming an official signatory in late 2017. Being a signatory of the UN Global Compact, the world’s largest corporate sustainability initiative, brings external credibility to Shaw’s new sustainable sourcing policy.

In short order, Diana’s efforts are positively impacting Shaw products, Shaw’s supply chain, the flooring industry as a whole and manufacturers in myriad industries by advancing options for safer chemistry.

Diana’s collaborative approach shows what can happen when we work together toward a common goal.

Troy Virgo is director of sustainability and product stewardship for Shaw Industries.

Kurt Denman: The Brand Builder

By Chris O’Connor

His diverse work experience combined with his passion for branding that is underpinned by meaningful consumer insights are the things that have enabled Kurt to drive change in an industry that can be predictable.

Over the past five years, Kurt and his team have worked to revitalize the Congoleum portfolio, improve the consumer journey and ultimately set the stage for the next chapter in Congoleum’s storied history.

By allowing market and consumer needs to guide the journey, we created a new category of PVC-free, digitally printed flooring. Equally challenging was to create a connection between this break-through technology and a new generation of consumers. Kurt had the vision to create a style-driven brand that would live outside the umbrella of Congoleum. While known for making high-quality products within the industry, Congoleum is also known as a producer of vinyl flooring. Cleo is not just another vinyl product; it’s different in every way.

The process of bringing a revolutionary product to market has been the most challenging and exciting part of my career. To see Kurt’s vision for the brand unveiled at Surfaces earlier this year was an unbelievable experience.

Chris O’Connor is the president and CEO of Congoleum.

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Coverings: Latest tile, stone introductions hit all the right notes

May 14/21, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 24

By Mara Bollettieri

Coverings, billed as the largest international tile and stone event in North America, delivered as promised as attendees from near and far came to see the hottest and freshest trends in the industry. More than 1,100 vendors showcased their respective products across the vast showroom floor at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta

“It’s really about connections for anyone who attends,” said Alena Capra, Coverings industry ambassador. “You can meet new vendors, people you can partner with. It’s for tile installers, fabricators, retailers, distributors. Everyone wins because [the connections are] what the show is really about.”

With respect to trends, larger-format tiles, which were prominent throughout the show floor, continue to trend. While the larger format is overtaking the European market, the U.S. is still slowly absorbing the trend, explained Juan Molina, general manager of sales and marketing, Del Conca USA. However, larger tiles are now being used in certain high-volume metropolitan markets, such as Miami, New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, to create open spaces.

At the show, Del Conca USA highlighted its Alchimia porcelain stoneware collection, which is available in different sizes and colors—from 120 × 120 cm to 40 × 80 cm. “We are here every year and believe in the show,” Molina said. “This particular convention is the most important one in all of North America. It’s the best environment for customers in our industry to make good comparisons from one factory to another.”

Larger format tiles were also seen in the show’s tiny home displays. Many of the homes used formats as large as 48 x 48, which Capra referred to as a “super large format.” Capra noted that, “some of the homes only had six tiles throughout the whole house.”

While larger, thin-format tiles are currently on the rise, many were on display with more standardized sizes that are wider and not as tall, according to Diana Friedman, Novita Communications, Ceramics of Italy. “Along with that, we are seeing some companies that are doing thick tiles—20mm—but in actually smaller sizes,” she explained. “It’s a new way of showing these thick tiles.”

Wood is (still) good

Wood-look tiles are still holding strong in the marketplace as these visuals are finding their home both inside and outside. What’s more, wood-look tile is incorporating other tile trends such as thinner, longer formats.

“We’re seeing a couple of companies have thin wood looks,” Friedman explained. “We are seeing a 3 x 24-inch version that’s really nice and smooth—almost like a buttery wood, a leathery texture.”

Gianni Mattioli, president and CEO, Ragno USA, sees the importance of wood looks in the marketplace, although he explained it is probably leveling off. Ragno USA saw brisk traffic at its booth during the show, with many attendees stopping to look at wood visuals. To cater to this market, the manufacturer continues to introduce new wood finishes such as traditional and rustic wood looks.

Blast from the past

Honoring the past was an ongoing theme throughout this year’s show, as many exhibitors embraced old-fashioned designs and styles. According to Friedman, a lot of textured tiles with classic looks and ideas were on display in the Italian Pavilion, which displayed over 120 brands of Italian exhibitors.

A huge retro trend that a majority of companies displayed was terrazzo. “Terrazzo has been big and is getting even bigger,” Friedman stated. “We’re seeing a hyper-realized idea of this post-modern look, so there are a lot of colors, a lot of these pastel tones.” She explained that there is almost a “terrazzo inception” going on, where lots of companies are displaying tiles that have terrazzo within a terrazzo pattern.

“Ornamenta has a beautiful ombre tile, which is large and thin,” Friedman noted. “It’s called the Operae collection, and it has a stylized palm leaf motif. The company takes these hyper-realized, classic known elements and makes them bold and bright with a new take.”

Capra also noted the return of terrazzo as well as patchwork. “Terrazzo has been around for a long time in tile form,” she explained. “It has a batch of different benefits and features, so that’s a great option.” With respect to patchwork, “We definitely saw a lot of the patchwork-type look, whether it’s all consistent in black and white—and a lot of color as well, softer tones,” Capra said. “There were a lot of coordinating soft color tones that go with this patchwork—everything from bold geometric patterns to the more traditional-type looks.”

Color tile conquers

Many exhibitors and attendees commented on the usage of bright colors, blues and pastels at the show. As Beth Wickliffe, Clayton Tile, Greenville, S.C., told FCNews, “Anything with color—bright colors—is coming back. A lot more blues coming around—bright blues and navy—but grays are still around as well.”

Manufacturers, such as Marazzi, are tapping into this wide range of colors to create tile for all occasions. Marazzi’s popular line, Middleton Square, is full of bright, vibrant colors in 4 x 12 wall tiles with undulations, 3 x 12 and 6 x 6. “We’re getting a lot of good feedback that people want to move away from blacks, whites and grays,” said Ray Piña, Northeast regional sales manager.

Capra also emphasized the rise in color tile. “Something we noticed is a lot more color—a lot of bright color,” she said. “A lot of dark teals and aquas, different shades of blues, soft pinks and soft greens and yellows.”

One new trend that caught Capra’s eye is contrasting colored grout with neutral or colored tiles, such as gray tile with yellow grout, or turquoise grout with black and white tile. This style, she said, would work great for an accent wall as a kind of statement.

Technological advancements

Although many suppliers are feeling nostalgic what with the return to old-fashioned designs, many are also embracing technological advancements to create innovative tile, such as digital printing. For example, Refin Ceramics displayed its new line, Kasai, a collection that pays tribute to Japanese culture. The line is simple and made in three colors with various decorations inspired by Japan, according to Nick Schenetti, sales rep for the Northeast and Midwest American market, Refin Ceramics. Through the usage of digital printing on the tile, the company has created a tile that gives a look of burned wood.

Many show exhibitors are digitally printing their tiles to develop new styles. “There was also a lot of metallic gold veining on already digitally printed porcelain,” Capra said. “There was a lot of gold over existing design. People are playing with technology to go ahead and create new things.”

Texture has also played a huge role at this year’s show. “I noticed some pattern tile had some texture on it,” Capra added. “There was one with a cactus on it, and you could feel it. You’re seeing subtle textures to really strong textures, like 3D texture. With the advancement in technology, they are able to do that.”

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Cali Bamboo names Doug Jackson CEO

San Diego, Calif.—Cali Bamboo has named Doug Jackson, the company’s president and industry veteran, as its new chief executive officer. As CEO, Jackson will continue to leverage Cali’s unique platform, authentic brand experience and highly specialized team to drive accelerated growth. The promotion recognizes the company’s board of directors’ complete confidence in Cali’s future outlook and strategic direction.

“Having now had almost a year working as a part of this amazing team, I’m more convinced than ever that this company is becoming known throughout the industry as a major disrupter,” said Jackson. “To be here, helping to fuel and guide that disruption is both an honor and a great pleasure.”

Since joining Cali Bamboo as chief revenue officer in September 2017 and being promoted to president last November, Jackson has proven instrumental in building out the company’s leadership team and thoughtfully retargeting the unique omnichannel platform on areas of revenue growth. Under his direction, Cali has recalibrated and expanded its dealer program, accelerated new product introductions and increased its presence at key industry trade shows.

As a former Shaw Industries divisional vice president of sales and marketing, Jackson brings over 20 years of experience and is known for facilitating strategic, long-term business relationships with customers in the dealer, national account and trade channels—three arenas where Cali Bamboo is positioned for considerable further growth.

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Stairrods introduces bendable LVT stair nosing

Blackhill, England—Stairrods has been manufacturing carpet accessories for over 30 years. During this time the company has constantly innovated in all areas—designing, developing and introducing new products, fittings and finishes. Stairrods designs and manufactures all its stair rods in-house, meaning the entire process is controlled by the company.

“We concentrate entirely on our products,” said Richard Dunn of Stairrods. “This attention and focus guarantees they are the finest available anywhere in the world.”

One of Stairrods products, bendable premier LVT nosing, can be used for straight and curved bullnose/curtail steps using 3/32-inch and 1/8-inch dryback. It can also be used with 15/64-inch plywood on treads between 55/64-inch and 63/64-inch thickness. This product can be fitted on site and no templating is needed for curves. It is currently available in 10 finishes.

For more information email Donald Haigh at stairrods@aol.com or visit stairrods.us/nosing-bendable.

Watch the latest video and learn more about the premier bendable LVT nosing here.

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Domotex asia/ChinaFloor increases exhibition space

Shanghai, China—Domotex asia/ChinaFloor is set to celebrate its 20th anniversary March 20-22 at the Shanghai New International Expo Center, here. The show welcomes an all-star cast of new and returning exhibitors, making up the largest Domotex asia/ChinaFloor to date. Due to high demand in all product categories, the show has significantly increased exhibition capacity to accommodate over 1,400 companies.

Wood (Hall E1-E3, E9-E11 and T1-T7)
The wood flooring sector will present the latest innovations in solid wood, engineered wood, laminate, cork, bamboo and WPC flooring. Hall E1 will be home to many well-known brands visiting the show for the first time, including: Junckers, I4F, HKS and Ribadao.

Domotex asia/ChinaFloor 2018 is promoting WPC decking as a hot subcategory to accommodate an overflow of outdoor decking and wood flooring exhibitors. One of the highlights coming from E10 is the WPC decking VIP Hosted Buyers program. The business platform involves 50 WPC decking exhibitors and 15 VIP international delegates with the goal of increasing collaboration between Chinese suppliers and global flooring companies.

Carpet (Hall W1-W5)
The country pavilions from Afghanistan, India, Iran and Pakistan signify the ever-increasing strength of the show’s hand-made carpet division. Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands and the United States fill the gap to present a large variety of machine-made carpets and rugs. In Hall W5, The Luxury Brands Carpet Show will host 16 internationally renowned designers and their

extravagant, unique carpets. The “Carpet Tile Zone” has seen 35% growth from last year and is becoming another main visitor highlight of the show.

Resilient (Halls E5-E9 and T10-13)
Now covering five halls, resilient flooring has become Domotex asia/ChinaFloor’s largest segment. Extra efforts have also been made to spearhead sport flooring as the up and coming niche in this year’s exhibition as participation has risen 57% since 2017. The Sport Flooring Experience Area will organize a badminton tournament on artificial turf pitch and construct an Ice+Snow Zone. Attendees will have the opportunity to meet some of the following exhibitors: Gerflor, Armstrong, Tarkett Asia Pacific, Laticrete, Nature Building Materials, Jason Building Material, Yunduce Decorative, Dryadmix, LanGuan and Nidehigh Technology.

Technology (Hall E4 and E11)
Domotex asia/ChinaFloor 2018 introduces the best of flooring technology—everything from raw material suppliers to floor laying, extrusion and packing machinery. In Hall E11, domestic wallboard companies such as Dilong Culture, Nanyang Decoratire and Youzhong Decoration will be launching their products at the exhibition for the first time.

For more information, visit: domotexasiachinafloor.com.

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Haines to bail out of Bravo Services Group

February 19/26, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 18

By Ken Ryan

 

Haines, the flooring industry’s largest distributor with 2017 sales of approximately $495 million, has announced plans to exit the Bravo Services consortium, effective April 1, 2018. Haines, in a prepared statement, said the decision to end the relationship with Bravo, which dates to 2000, was based on the distributor’s inability to justify the cost and time commitment vs. the overall return on investment.

“Our decision, while difficult, is simply a matter of return on our investment from the efforts we put in,” Mike Barrett, president and CEO of Haines, said in a press release. In a follow-up call, Barrett told FCNews that over the past year he had evaluated the “the time and effort required to attend meetings, answer surveys, attend the annual [summit], plus our dues, and we frankly haven’t been able to justify a return on those investments.”

Barrett said he kept John Carney, executive director of Bravo, and John Sher, president of Adleta, and a group leader, apprised of his concerns the entire year. “So this, while not their hope, was not a surprise,” he stated. “John Carney and John Sher are great leaders in our industry, and we wish them and the Bravo members the best.”

Bravo disseminated its own release confirming the departure of Haines following a lengthy management review. “Bravo wishes to thank Haines for their many contributions to Bravo over the years,” Carney said.

Haines recently expanded its distribution coverage with Armstrong to the South (FCNews, Feb. 5/12). However, Barrett said that move had nothing to do with its Bravo decision. Also, in November, Haines and Belknap-White Group forged a partnership aimed at improving the  effectiveness of both companies. As part of the deal, Belknap will hold limited shares in Haines through an equity investment, which would help Haines reduce debt and continue to invest in new initiatives.

Industry ponders potential impact of Domotex USA

February 19/26, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 18

By Ken Ryan

 

Flooring industry executives are decidedly mixed in their response to Hannover Fairs’ plans to launch a Domotex USA trade show in Atlanta next February (FCNews, Jan. 8/15). Some executives who exhibited at Surfaces said there is “no demand” for another trade show and would continue supporting TISE; others, particularly those with operations in the Southeast, said they plan to attend both shows in 2019 and then make a decision as to which one to support. Still others declined comment or stated it was too soon to decide.

Hannover Fairs chose Atlanta, contending that 75% of the U.S. population is located in the eastern half of the country. As well, the majority of flooring companies would be within driving distance of such an event.

Ray Bianchi, vice president, events and business development, Hannover Fairs USA, told FCNews the group conducted extensive research prior to its decision to launch Domotex USA in Atlanta next February. “The industry told us they are excited about the new show and absolutely see this as a must-attend showcase and gathering place. Many of our leading floor covering manufacturers already exhibit at Domotex in Hannover and welcome the addition of the U.S. show to the portfolio.”

The first iteration of Domotex USA would begin Feb. 29, 2019, at the Georgia World Congress Center, with show dates for 2020 to shift into mid-February. The goal is to hold the three core Domotex shows within four to six weeks of each other to make it easier for the industry to conduct business across the portfolio of flooring shows. “Our goal is to build a Domotex USA trade show in the U.S. that is by and for the industry,” Bianchi explained.

Suppliers like Phenix Flooring, based in Dalton, is considering the option of attending the Domotex USA show but has not made a decision yet. In principle, the company said it would be very difficult to support both shows if they were scheduled in conflict with one another due to the considerable amount of time, money and resources required to participate in both events.

“At this point we have committed to participate at Surfaces 2019; beyond that we will see how this thing plays out,” said Mark Clayton, president.

At the same time, Phenix executives believe the East Coast location for Domotex USA is appealing. “We know that [Hannover Fairs] puts on a great event so hopefully they can provide the same opportunity here in the U.S. and accomplish this while controlling show expenses for exhibitors and attendees,” Clayton noted.

Other vendors who have exhibited at Surfaces also plan to stay put. Case in point: Mohawk Industries, which returned to the show two years ago with a massive presence. “We came back to Surfaces at a time when the industry had a lot of questions about the future,” said Seth Arnold, vice president of residential. “We increased our footprint to show our commitment. Our customers told us they really enjoyed coming to the show, and we will go where our customers ask us to go and Surfaces is where we have such demand.”

Shaw Industries, which has enjoyed success with its regional shows, has not been an exhibitor at Surfaces for more than a decade. However, its Anderson Tuftex brand—and its USFloors division—exhibited at Surfaces 2018. “We are always evaluating opportunities to spend time with our customers,” said Carrie Edwards Isaac, vice president, Anderson Tuftex. “We are also listening to our customers to better understand what shows are meaningful to their business, what are they looking for from us and how each event aligns to our business objectives.”

Mannington has long been a staunch supporter of Surfaces and has no plans to change allegiances. “Surfaces is the premier flooring show in the U.S., and we plan to continue to support it,” said Ed Duncan, president. On  whether the industry can support two major events, he added, “That’s just it—we don’t feel the industry can support, or needs, two major shows. It makes more sense to put all our efforts into one large show rather than split up our resources for two shows. The numbers don’t work.”

Flooring retailers may be conflicted as well. “I hear the shows in Shanghai and Hannover are incredible—especially in hard surface—and I would love to experience that,” said Nick Freadreacea, president of The Flooring Gallery, Louisville, Ky. “On the other hand, I would be disappointed to see anything happen to lessen Surfaces. This past year was the most positive I have seen Surfaces in a long time. Most dealers would not attend both, so you could have a diluted audience at each show.”

Informa, which organizes TISE, could not be reached for comment by press time.

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Best of Surfaces honors innovation, booth space design

February 19/26, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 18

By FCNews staff

 

Las Vegas—Six manufacturers were voted best of class in the 2018 Best of Surfaces competition, a contest sponsored by Floor Covering News and Informa Exhibitions, which owns and operates The International Surface Event. The awards program, now in its seventh year, has become the benchmark for new product excellence and booth design at the industry’s premier trade show.

The winners, which announced on the show floor at Surfaces, are as follows:

  • Innovation: Ceramix from Raskin Industries
  • Style & Design: Emser Tile
  • Sustainability: Congoleum
  • Technology: MagneBuild from MBS
  • Best Booth Design (over 1,200 square feet): Anderson Tuftex
  • Best Booth Design (under 1,200 square feet): Arte Mundi

The judging was initially conducted by a panel of floor covering retailers who were tasked with poring over the scores of entries in each category to come up with six finalists by the start of Surfaces. Specifically, they were each asked to explore all submissions and select their top six picks that they believe best represented the category in which they were entered. The most popular selections by consensus in each category made it to the final round, which were viewed on the first day of Surfaces—in some cases by the original judges as well as select retailers who agreed to offer their time and input.

The category winners are as follows:

Innovation
Raskin Industries
After taking home the Best of Surfaces award for innovation six years ago, Raskin returns to form this year with a win for Ceramix, billed as the industry’ first loose- lay LVT with built-in grout. Ceramix provides dealers with an alternative to ceramic tile and porcelain that can be installed in a day or two. While there have been other products with grout lines attached, none have achieved the level of realism that is inherent with this product line.

“Winning Best of Surfaces in the Innovation category for the second time is a great accomplishment for our entire organization,” said Michael Raskin, CEO. “It means so much to be recognized as unique in a highly competitive market.”

Raskin also paid homage to his late father, Gerald Raskin, who was an innovator in his own right. “I am honored and take great pride in knowing my father would be very proud if he was alive today,” he said. “He devoted his career to developing products since the early ’60s. As such, I think it would be appropriate to dedicate this award to my father, because he always strived to innovate with new products that had style and would stand out amongst the crowd. If it wasn’t for him I would not have had the opportunity to forge my own path in the flooring industry.”

Style & Design
Emser Tile
Emser Tile created Lakewood and Lakehouse as an ode of sorts to the beautiful biodiversity of aged trees. The realistic, head-turning products are offered in long 8 x 34 glazed porcelain planks. Lakewood is marked by distinct wooden tones that evoke rich detail and texture, while Lakehouse acts as an accent motif with bold color variation.

“It is an honor for Lakewood and Lakehouse to be recognized in the category of style and design,” said Barbara Haaksma, vice president of marketing. “Emser Tile consistently looks to bring a fresh approach to design, and these wood-look tile series defy boundaries by offering customizable installations with striking detail.”

According to Emser, Lakewood and Lakehouse offer a unique opportunity for retailers to sell and designers to specify complementary collections. “By breathing new life into wood-look designs, we believe we have created two series that will resonate with our customers in a lasting manner,” Haaksma stated.

Sustainability
Congoleum/Cleo
For Congoleum, the new Cleo brand represents a new era in sustainable flooring. The mineral composite core is a truly unique, eco-forward base that combines 85% locally sourced limestone with a 100% PVC-free binder that eliminates all plasticizers and chloro-chemicals, the company stated. Every layer of the product’s construction is completed in the USA, establishing an exceptionally small carbon footprint.

But that’s just part of the story. Cleo also delivers high marks on the aesthetic front. The product offers virtually unlimited style and design visuals that have an exceptionally high number of unique and non-repeating patterns—as high as 60 in certain designs. This is accomplished through an innovative direct-to-base digital printing process that uses 100% solvent-free inks. The vibrancy of the visual is further enhanced with a ultra-clear, high-performance 100% solids urethane coating that is VOC-free and delivers uncompromising protection from scratching and fading.

“The introduction of Cleo and subsequently winning the Best of Sustainability Award at the Surfaces show is a tremendous achievement and honor,” said Chris O’Connor, president and CEO. “Cleo is truly different in every way and simply put, there is nothing like it in the market today. The patented construction features a PVC-free and waterproof mineral composite core, high-fidelity digital imaging and ultra-clear protective coating that put Cleo in a category by itself.

“Chemical embossing for sheet vinyl and the introduction of the world’s first groutable LVT are great examples of how Congoleum has delivered meaningful innovation to the flooring industry for more than 130 years,” O’Connor added. “It is this commitment to challenging the status quo that has enabled us to bring Cleo, the next generation of innovative and sustainable flooring to life, and we are grateful for the recognition.”

Technology
Magnetic Building Solutions
After generating a ton of pre-show buzz, the new MagneBuild line from Magnetic Building Solutions (MBS) lived up to its billing. The innovative magnetic installation system was created by a joint collaboration between industry leaders and experts in the field of space and military technology.

MBS pushes magnetic capabilities to new heights, providing the industry with an easily interchangeable interior surface solution. How it works: The underlayment system of MBS utilizes magnetic technology as the foundation for all types of floors. To install, users simply roll it out over any smooth and clean dry subfloor surface. A key benefit of this new technology is that it alleviates many installation issues as floors no longer need to be bonded, making seams a non-issue.

Thanks to the innovation, a larger group of cost-conscious consumers can push past the limits of the need to be neutral, allowing for more adventurous interior design options, according to the World Floor Covering Association (WFCA), which unveiled the product and conducted demonstrations at the show.

The unveiling was more than enough to inspire dealers to cast their votes for the product in the technology category. “As a newly launched product, we are thrilled to receive this award and to be recognized as the recipient in the technology category,” said Scott Humphrey, CEO of the WFCA. “MagneBuild is a game changer for our industry. There is nothing like it in the world and its applications are endless.”

Freida Staten, WFCA vice president of marketing communications, agreed. “Being recognized with the Best of Technology Award provides us with an amazing sense of validation. The experts who recognized us with this award confirmed our belief that the MBS system can, and will, make a difference. They saw an installation system that works with every flooring category and extends the reach of floors to include walls.”

Best Booth
(>1,200 square feet)
Anderson Tuftex
Combining the Anderson and Tuftex hard and soft surface brands under one banner not only makes common sense (because this is how people live in their homes, company executives explained), but it also presents a unique opportunity to double down on new ways to market and merchandise mid- to upper-end hardwood and soft surface products.

“We have reconceptualized both brands, updated the merchandising along with a new website so everything is fresh,” said Katie Ford, director of brand strategy. “It’s on trend with everything our consumer is looking for. She’s not thinking about hardwood or carpet; she’s thinking in terms of how the overall room is going to come together.”

Dealers in attendance at Surfaces recognized and appreciated this strategy, which is one of the reasons why they voted Anderson Tuftex—which made its debut in a two-story space—for Best Booth in the large category. “We were beyond thrilled to receive the award for Best Large Booth Design from the retailers that attended the Surfaces show in Vegas,” Ford said. “As we designed our booth, the words we kept in mind were: authentic, thoughtful and approachable. We knew we wanted to provide show-goers a breath of fresh air in our space and an opportunity to take in the intentionality and craft inherent in Anderson Tuftex products.”

Best Booth
(<1,200 square feet)
Arte Mundi
Arte Mundi’s booth was designed as a visual tribute to its mission, serving as a physical extension of its primary goal: to infuse life and art into living spaces. To that end, the company’s Surfaces presentation played off the modern architectural structures and shapes inspired by contemporary art museums. The intended ambience is one of minimalism to impact the attendee experience in letting its products, its art pieces, speak for themselves.

The Arte Mundi booth was compartmentalized in a way that presented the company’s full spectrum of products. This included current running lines, new products for 2018 as well as conceptual products. And let’s not forget one of the biggest highlights of the space: brilliant Swarovski crystal element floors.

John Lee, the company’s president, appreciated the honor. “Arte Mundi is humbled to say that our U.S. debut at the Surfaces show was honored to win the Best Booth award. The intended inspiration for our exhibit was for it to be a direct reflection of our company mission and our corporate beliefs. Both our marketing and design teams worked tirelessly to demonstrate the capabilities of Arte Mundi. We are beyond grateful to be recognized by the panel of judges, some of the most respected professionals in the industry, and in turn are motivated and encouraged to continue to pursue this standard of greatness.”

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Voting now open for Award of Excellence contest

Hicksville, N.Y.—Voting for FCNews’ Award of Excellence contest is now open. Now in its 22nd year, the Award of Excellence has become the premier manufacturer recognition program in the floor covering industry. Why? Because they are voted on by customers whose only motivation is to recognize those who perform flawlessly in every aspect of their business.

Cosponsored by the Informa, the owners of The International Surface Event, the Award of Excellence is a way for manufacturers’ customers to honor the companies they feel consistently provide the best design, service, value, performance, quality, professionalism of sales force, management responsiveness, customer service, handling of claims, B2B and ease of doing business. In other words, which manufacturers they believe best help them in running successful, profitable business operations.

“The manufacturers covet these awards,” said Steven Feldman, publisher and editorial director of FCNews. “So much so that last year some actually campaigned and developed strong ground games. We encourage all dealers to vote because the more ballots cast, the more significant these awards become. And that makes all manufacturers strive to improve the value they provide.”

Voting is open through March 30, 2018.

Click here to vote.