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DMX Plastics tackles moisture issues

November 26/December 3, 2018: Volume 34, Issue 12

By Lindsay Baillie

DMX Plastics manufactures dimpled underlayments used primarily in applications where moisture is a problem. The company first started manufacturing dimpled membranes used to protect foundations from water in 2004, and then expanded its portfolio to include flooring underlayments.

“Our knowledge in protecting concrete foundations from water has helped us to protect flooring systems from water,” said Steve Sennik, president. “We are now the premier supplier of dimpled underlayments for flooring applications, too.”

Unlike some underlayments that trap incoming vapor moisture and prevent evaporation, DMX 1-Step Carpet Pad, which is patented (U.S. Pat. No. 9,869,100), is designed to allow vapor moisture to evaporate, according to Sennik. This helps minimize the chances of mold growth. The secret to DMX 1-Step Carpet Pad’s success is its unique design, which features a dimpled plastic core that is covered on both sides with a closed-cell foam that is both waterproof and comfortable. “The dimples create an air gap of a ¼ inch between the concrete slab and the finished floors,” he added. “This air gap allows the vapor moisture to evaporate. No moisture equals no mold.”

DMX 1-Step Carpet Pad is among a handful of carpet pads in the market with an air gap to help evaporate moisture. What’s more, the product’s dimples have a compressive strength of 6,000 pounds per square foot, which allows the pad to hold furniture equal to that weight. In addition to being 100% waterproof, DMX 1-Step Carpet Pad comes in rolls of 100-square-feet and boasts an easy installation—needing only vapor tape.

“At the end of the day, it is about creating a high value proposition for our customers,” Sennik said. “Most people want carpet in their basements for obvious reasons—it gives a warm, cozy feel that you cannot get with laminate, vinyl or tiles. We feel DMX 1-Step Carpet Pad gives customers this choice without worrying about mold/mildew in their carpet pad. Contractors will find that DMX 1-Step Carpet Pad installs quickly and easily.”

DMX Plastics will be exhibiting its patented dimpled carpet pad at TISE 2019 (booth# 457).

For more information about the product, visit dmx1step.com.

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Laticrete looks to pull out all the stops at TISE 2019

November 26/December 3, 2018: Volume 34, Issue 12

By Nicole Murray

 

Laticrete is preparing to showcase its breadth of products at The International Surface Event (TISE) 2019 in Las Vegas. Following is a preview:

Laticrete Strata_Heat is an electric radiant floor heating system designed to go under tile and stone flooring. The system uses thermal diffusion technology to uniformly distribute heat through the adhesive, which results in an evenly heated flooring surface. The system also transfers heat quickly, saving both energy and cost. What’s more, the Strata_Heat package includes a high-performance floor heating wire, an uncoupling mat and can be controlled using a Wi-Fi-enabled thermostat.

“We recommend Strata_Heat to anyone in need of floor warming,” said Joel Tully, founder, Trends in Tile, Bridgeton, Miss. “The electric radiant floor heating system offers customers design flexibility and completely eliminates cold spots, making it easier for the floor to reach a specific temperature faster.”

Laticrete will also showcase its Hydro Ban Board, a lightweight, easy-to-install wallboard suitable for bonded tile or stone installations. This ready-to-tile product is made with a waterproof membrane on both sides and contains a high-density, waterproof polystyrene core to help protect against water and vapor. The Hydro Ban Board is included in Laticrete’s Pre-Formed Shower System, which contains an expansive line of pre-sloped and linear shower pans, niches, seats and benches as well as linear and square drains in multiple sizes and finishes. “Laticrete’s Hydro Ban line performs extremely well and requires beginner-level skills to successfully install,” Tully said. “This is a huge added benefit as older methods require more skilled workers for the same high-quality result.”

Next up is Laticrete’s Permacolor Select, a high-performance, crack-resistant cement grout designed to withstand extreme environments and is suitable for residential and commercial installations. Permacolor Select is a fast-setting, color-consistent cement grout that only needs to be mixed with water and can be placed in as little as three hours.

“I highly recommend Permacolor Select because it reduces inventory levels and waste for my customers, thus resulting in more satisfied and return buyers,” Tully explained. “There are hundreds of colors available, and the non-sanded version can even be reused.”

Then there is Laticrete’s 257 Titanium, a silica sand-free, thin-set mortar best used when installing gauged porcelain tile, gauged porcelain tile panels and slabs as well as porcelain tile and stone.

“We recently used 257 Titanium for a thin panel installation at Carlisle High School in Carlisle, Pa., and this product helped my team easily install Crossville Laminam Panels over existing block walls because the product was so easy to spread,” said Kevin Killian, president, ProFast Commercial Flooring, Monrovia, Md. “The non-sag performance of the thin set was a big help because the panels were held 6 inches off the existing terrazzo floor.”

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Marketing Online: Best way to generate reviews? Just ask

November 26/December 3, 2018: Volume 34, Issue 12

By Reginald Tucker

In this modern age of social media, it has become increasingly important for specialty retailers to effectively engage with consumers online. This not only applies to executing digital marketing initiatives relative to lead generation at the start of the product research phase, but also at the very end of the shopping cycle once the installation has been completed.

Experts like Taylor Cutler, digital marketing manager for Podium—a company that specializes in helping businesses communicate and interact with their customers to get reviews and feedback—recommends retailers follow a series of rudimentary steps to not only generate more online reviews but also better, more positive ones.

“First you want to make sure you’re collecting reviews on the right review sites,” Cutler said. “This means doing some research about the sites that your customers—and potential customers—might use. This includes Google and Facebook, obviously, but also several others that are industry specific.”

After that, dealers should get into the habit of inviting customers to provide positive reviews. “Customers tend not to do this on their own, unless they’ve had a very bad experience,” Cutler explained. “If you’re letting your reviews come in organically, you’re going to see a really polarizing effect where only those people who are motivated will jump through the barriers to give you a review.”

However, it’s not enough to ask customers for reviews, experts said. Dealers must also exercise good timing. Nine times out of 10, this means waiting until the purchase is made. “In the flooring industry, most of the time this is done after the flooring has been installed,” Cutler stated. “If you have a technician go out to install that carpet or another product, you want to make sure he or she asks the customer to kindly write a review—providing, of course, the customer is happy with the job. If you wait a week, or even a day or two, then the customer has likely already moved on.”

With all this emphasis on social media and digital technologies, Cutler said it’s important to focus on the fundamentals. “Even if you have the best online review platform in the world, if you’re not providing great customer service, people are not likely to give you good reviews, even if it was a good product.”

Above all else, it has to be easy for the customer to provide a review. In order to avoid illegitimate online reviews, most of the popular sites require customers to log in to those respective sites to prevent fraudulent activity. “It’s very difficult for customers to leave reviews anonymously these days; they actually have to have an account with that particular site,” Cutler said.

To help retailers keep things simple for the customer, Podium has developed software that detects the particular device the consumer is using to post a review, thereby removing any barriers. One of Podium’s key features is its text messaging system that allows businesses to ask customers for reviews with a push of a button. By using this feature, businesses are able to request a customer review seconds after a service is performed. This increases the business’ probability of gaining more reviews.

“If it takes the customer too long to leave a review, it could have the opposite effect,” Cutler said. “It’s best when the consumer is using her own device. It’s also wise to give the customer a heads-up that she might receive a text message asking for a review so she will be expecting it.”

While experts recommend retailers apply creativity when soliciting reviews, they caution against going overboard. “Retailers need to be careful about offering incentives for positive reviews, as this is against the guidelines for many review sites,” said Jim Augustus Armstrong, FCNews columnist, author and retail consultant. His recommendation? “Get into the habit of sending each of your customers an email asking for a review, and include links to several popular review sites.”

Like Cutler, Armstrong advises against having the customer use your store’s computer or tablet to write reviews, but for different reasons. “It’s easy for review companies to detect these kinds of kiosk tactics using incoming IP addresses and browser cookies,” Armstrong said. “It’s best to email the request and let the customer give the review from her home or personal device.”

Handling negative feedback
While most dealers welcome positive online reviews, there are situations where some customers might express their disappointment publicly. You’ve heard the story: A happy customer tells three people about her experience, but an unhappy customer tells 30 people.

The key to managing all this, experts said, requires action and a cool head. “If you get a bad review, reach out to the customer and try to correct the issue quickly,” Armstrong said. “Depending on the site, you may be able to comment on the review and explain the steps you’ve taken to make things right.”

Online marketing experts said it’s only natural—and realistic—to get a bad review every now and again. Studies show consumers are skeptical when they only see 5-star reviews online, so a less-than-perfect review can actually make you seem more real.

Armstrong recalled an incident regarding one of his clients: “‘I remember this guy’, a dealer from Minnesota told me. I had just pointed out that he had a negative review on Google. ‘He was rude to my staff and made unreasonable demands. When we told him we couldn’t give him what he wanted, he left this lousy review.’”

When someone leaves a negative review, it’s easy to get angry and defensive. Sometimes, however, the negative comment might be legitimate. In cases like this, Armstrong said, the reviewer has taken the time to point out a problem that is causing you to lose customers and money. The solution here, he said, is to swallow your pride and fix the problem.

“Sometimes all someone wants is a sincere apology,” he said. “Even if you didn’t do anything wrong, you can still say things like, ‘I’m sorry you’re frustrated. I get it.’”

Also, just because you have received a bad review, doesn’t mean it has to stay that way. “If you’ve resolved the problem and satisfied the customer who left you a bad review, kindly ask the customer if she will delete the bad review and give you a positive one about how you have fixed the problem,” Cutler said. “This has happened to me, and I’ve had no problem changing my review.”

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Wood: Ark Floors sets its sights on strengthening the brand

November 26/December 3, 2018: Volume 34, Issue 12

By Reginald Tucker

 

Ark Floors is doubling down its efforts to build capacity, expand its product offering and develop customized programs for its customers. The goal, according to Ed Goldberg, national sales and operations manager, is to fortify its position with distributor partners around the country while strengthening awareness of the Ark brand.

“Carl Lu, the owner of Ark Floors, told me he wanted to build a great brand,” Goldberg told FCNews at the recent NAFCD conference in Dallas. “‘I want to be like Armstrong,’ he said. Well, I took that to heart, and I carry that with me every single day.”

That explains why Goldberg made it a point to attend NAFCD and share that message with former, present and potential distributors alike. “My goal is to promote our brand and let people know we are still here,” he said. “We have a clear map for success and a direction moving forward.”

Part of that game plan, according to Goldberg, entails instilling a stronger sense of discipline across all facets of the business. “When I took over as general manager of Ark Floors about a year ago, we essentially only had one way to go—and that was back up,” Goldberg said. “Some of those changes I needed to implement were specifically in regard to product and color consistency, although the quality of the product was always good. When I surveyed our partners, there were very little issues with quality but more about color matching the samples. We are going to work more closely with our factories to maintain a higher level of color consistency to those samples.”

Some of those efforts are already paying dividends. “We achieved 15% growth this year; by Sept. 1 we had already matched our gross sales for 2017,” Goldberg said. “More importantly, we have greatly increased our gross profit margins.”

Goldberg attributes that success, in part, to the commitment of the company’s distribution network. “Much to my delight, distributors that I’m resurrecting relationships with as well as new industry partners I’m going after are excited to promote the Ark brand,” he explained. “I’m an old dog, so my go-to-market strategy is predominantly through traditional distribution, and that network is coming along. There are few areas of the country where we have not been able to get a good partner to commit yet, so we are going forward with a direct-to-retailer program. However, the price structure I have put in place will allow that to ultimately be a turnkey system to hand over to the right distribution partner.”

A few of the wholesale partners who are on board include Bay Area-based Medallion, Ark Floor’s longest and most loyal partner; Certified in Pittsburgh, which is moving forward with a new, revamped program; Finishes, which will handle Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Arkansas and Louisiana; and Marietta, Ga.-based A&M Supply, which has committed to resuming a business relationship with Ark Floors in the Southeast after a brief hiatus. “Every single day those guys are seeing opportunities with our brand,” Goldberg said.

A&M Supply, looks forward to having Ark Floors back in the fold. “We believe Ark will be a tremendous addition to our product offering,” said Dunn Rasbury, director of flooring. “Its exotic product offering is second to none. We’re also very excited about an updated color palette in oak Ark has introduced.”

Among Ark Floor’s most popular lines is a “genuine” mahogany that Goldberg described as having different characteristics than a traditional South American mahogany. (It doesn’t “amber” or go through photosynthesis, and it replenishes very quickly and takes color stains very well, he said.) The company also offers popular European white oak species in predominantly A and B grades with a “little bit of C grade mixed in. Our Asian birch also continues to sell very well,” he added.

A winning formula
At a time when many distributors and retailers are being inundated with products that are often “force fed” by some of their manufacturer partners, Ark Floors is taking a slightly different tack. In essence, the manufacturer’s wholesaler partners are encouraged to cherry-pick from its wide offering so they may only stock those products that sell well in their respective markets.

How it works: Ark Floors maintains 64 running-line SKUs (25 of which are ¾-inch solids, with the rest being engineered). From that batch, distributors are asked to select their “Top 20” best-selling products or potential movers, and then Ark Floors works to ensure a consistent supply of that inventory based on those specific SKUs. At the same time, distributors are not necessarily locked in; they do have some flexibility. “For example, Finishes, based in Texas, actually identified their Top 36,” Goldberg stated. “And that’s OK, too.”

Bottom line: Whatever distributors decide, Ark Floors will support them with display systems, samples and inventory. In fact, the company is working to develop a better balance of inventory on the East and West Coasts via its warehousing facilities in Baltimore, Md., and Los Angeles, respectively. Part of that lies in improving communications between the various warehouses and factories located in Brazil, Cambodia, Croatia, Ghana and Indonesia. “The factories are going to be responsible for letting us know when containers of specific SKUs are ready to ship, and where those products are going to be shipped,” Goldberg explained.

All that is music to distributors’ ears. “Ark Floors has created a great logistics model that will allow us to great provide service and value to our customers,” A&M’s Rasbury told FCNews.

At the end of the day, Ark Floors just wants to do the right thing for the customer. As Goldberg explained: “Having been in the industry for 30 years, I pride myself on longevity and maintaining relationships and also maintaining my integrity in an industry that can be full of empty promises.”

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Ceramic state of the industry: On the heels of a strong year, suppliers brace for change

November 26/December 3, 2018: Volume 34, Issue 12

By K.J. Quinn

 

The ceramic tile industry can best be described as a two-sided coin: one side shows a business thriving from a healthy economy and consumer preferences trending toward floors resembling or made from natural materials; but on the flip side, a projected decline in new housing starts and unfavorable macroeconomic issues threaten to stymie growth.

“I predict that by the end of the year, the overall consumption of ceramic tile [floor and wall] will be flat with the previous year,” said Gianni Mattioli, executive vice president, product and marketing, Dal-Tile. “New residential applications should be positive thanks to new home construction, while residential remodeling could be slightly negative.”

When you look at the numbers, ceramic is a steady performer, posting eight consecutive years of sales growth through 2017. Sales rose 5.8% and nearly topped $3 billion for the first time while volume rose 5.5%, according to FCNews research. The U.S. remains fertile ground for tile makers, as the amount of ceramic sold is significantly less than other parts of the world.

“Products continue to get to market through tile distribution and dealers’ showrooms, though e-commerce continues to grow, as well,” noted Lindsey Waldrep, vice president of marketing for Crossville.

In 2018, the category benefitted from numerous factors ranging from a strong economy and new housing market to high consumer confidence and low unemployment rates. The remodeling market remained busy, observers report, as more people chose to remain in their homes and update them to accommodate evolving needs.

“Many homeowners are compelled to upgrade materials in their homes,” Waldrep said. “We always aim to guide homeowners and the remodeling professionals they are working with to choose the right tile products for the applications at hand.”

Meanwhile, the category expanded usage into key commercial sectors— namely hospitality, healthcare, education and corporate offices—and new high-end homes saw greater quantities of tile specified. “Consumers are still extending the use of tile in applications outside of traditional kitchen and bathroom floors,” said Bob Baldocchi, chief marketing officer and vice president of business development, Emser Tile. “Wall, decorative accents, indoor/outdoor, external landscaping and cladding are all growth areas.”

But the eight-year winning streak for tile is expected to end soon. Rising prime lending rates, tighter mortgage qualification criteria and rising real estate costs are among the factors expected to impact demand in 2019. For example, Dodge Data & Analytics projects single-family housing starts will slide 3% to 815,000 units in 2019 while multi-family starts drop 8% to 465,000 units.

“Total housing starts will decline 5% to 1.28 million units,” stated Kim Kennedy, manager of forecasting at Dodge Data & Analytics. “In dollars, single-family housing starts will remain flat in 2019 at $232 billion, and multi-family housing starts will fall 6% to $87 billion.”

New housing is one of the biggest markets for tile consumption. Residential construction data, however, can be skewed by peaks and valleys in key regions. For example, the South region, the largest in terms of building activity, saw housing starts decline by almost 14% through September. Unforeseen situations—such as the recent fires in Northern California and Hurricanes Florence and Michael in the South—impacted flooring choices in home improvement projects as well as new residential construction, according to published reports.

Emerging issues
A major issue affecting the builder business is affordability, as declines in home ownership persisted well into the market recovery and recent gains have been restrained, Dodge Data reported.

Limited increases in income, large spikes in house prices and rising mortgage rates are combining to hamper affordability, particularly for first-time homebuyers. “Home affordability issues within key markets are driving a push towards lower square footage,” Emser Tile’s Baldocchi said.

From a product perspective, LVT is reportedly expanding into commercial and residential spaces previously occupied by ceramic. What some industry members find worrisome about this trend is that tile is a superior product on paper, as it is a natural product offering an inert and impermeable surface with zero VOCs, is more durable and offers arguably better looks. “So it must be cost to the consumer that is a primary deciding factors, which includes everything up to and including installation,” said Ryan Fasan, Tile of Spain consultant and tile specialist.

Tile costs are slowly climbing with the average per-square-foot price increasing from $0.95 to $1.20 in the last decade, according to FCNews research. Rising tariffs and transportation/freight expenses contributed to higher sticker prices for a product among the priciest of floor coverings. Suppliers are cognizant of this, and adjusting to decrease landing costs (such as shaving a millimeter or two from the product thickness). This minor adjustment can have major ramifications throughout the supply chain.

“The lighter material is easier to carry, cut and work with on site, potentially cutting project timelines and cost when it comes time for installation,” Fasan explained. “The goal is to engineer product that does its job without overkill to allow for a broader range of projects to afford the premium characteristics and style that tile provides.”

Tile is among the most difficult floorings to install, as there are many product types, sizes and applications indoors and outdoors, plus potential floor preparation issues on job sites. Further complicating matters is the shortage of qualified installers, as retailers and contractors are challenged to find good help. “Labor continues to be a topic of conversation as it relates to both the availability and quality,” Emser Tile’s Baldocchi said. “However, recently we have seen and heard reports of markets where this is easing, and efforts are being made to do more training and attract new installers.”

Industry associations and suppliers are doing their part to boost installation quality and recruit more mechanics. For example, the National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA) offers an online apprentice program for tile installers. The University of Ceramic Tile and Stone (UofCTS) provides an online Tile Installer ITS Verification course, which features an extensive section on how to install gauged porcelain tiles on floors and walls. “It only takes about five hours to complete,” said Donato Pompo, UofCTS founder.

Crossville, for its part, prioritizes installer training and education. Its industry partnerships and in-house workshops are non-stop efforts to help more members of the installation community be equipped with the know-how to answer demand. “When installers are armed with the knowledge to land projects and achieve successful installations, they are in positions of strength to grow their businesses in terms of staffing, further training and resources.”

Eye on innovations
Tile is reportedly becoming mass marketable due to improvements in technology that have led to usage beyond floors and walls. For example, the advent of slabs for countertops and 16mm-30mm thick paver options is providing an entry for ceramics into areas of specification dominated by natural stones and other manufactured goods.

“By creating product in these progressive formats—with all of the inherent benefits of ceramics coupled with the ever-growing capabilities for staggering decoration methods—ceramics are making big waves in these areas of specifications,” Tile of Spain’s Fasan pointed out.

Emerging formats, such as large tiles and porcelain panels, are expected to continue expanding into multiple end uses in 2019. “The market is accustomed to larger proportions in field tiles, making dimensions upwards of 36-inches viable in the residential market,” Crossville’s Waldrep explained. “Even larger, porcelain tile panels are starting to be embraced residentially as options for shower stall walls, fireplace surrounds and backsplashes.”

Size does matter as vendors continue churning out larger formats and myriad shapes to accommodate pent-up demand. For instance, rectangle sizes are popular both in small subway wall tiles and large floor tiles. “We see strengths in larger rectangular sizes, like marbles and limestones, in general,” Dal-Tile’s Mattioli explained. “Polish material is getting more popular, and wall tile is strong in all categories and sizes.”

Wood grain, stone and concrete tile looks are top sellers in hard surfaces, and ceramic is no exception. Mosaic tiles are also trending as consumer confidence holds strong, making homeowners open to more bold and customized styles. “Wood-look tile collections are now staples,” Waldrep said. “These products are perpetually popular as durable alternatives for bringing the look of wood to spaces where the real thing wouldn’t be an option.”

Suppliers continue to invest across their manufacturing footprints to bolster production efficiency and speed to market. Digital printing is becoming so sophisticated that it has completely transformed the category, allowing production of high-quality tiles that mimic natural materials and vary in design.

Case in point: The colors in Crossville’s new Astral Plane collection offer nuanced details captured through the latest tile manufacturing technology and are somewhat warmer in tone. “We also offer mosaic options that not only add to the aesthetics of the line, but provide functional slip resistance when installed as flooring in wet areas such a shower stalls,” Waldrep said. “The size options are varied and align with popular preferences as well.”

In addition to improved aesthetics, R&D efforts center on developing larger sized floor tile and polished materials. “We also have a new product focus on wall tile that is 3D, providing an artisan look, or features structure,” Dal-Tile’s Mattioli said. “Our extra-large Panoramic porcelain slabs are hitting the market with a competitive program.”

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Resilient: Suppliers raise the bar on surface protection

November 26/December 3, 2018: Volume 34, Issue 12
By Lindsay Baillie

A floor’s design is only as good as its protective wear layer. A consumer can love the look of her new floor, but if that floor starts to show scratches and scuffs, she won’t be in love for long. To keep floors looking newer for longer periods of time, flooring manufacturers are developing innovations in surface protection for resilient flooring.

Following are various surface protection technologies used and/or made by resilient flooring manufacturers.

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Latest California wildfire impacts dealers, distributors

November 26/December 3, 2018: Volume 34, Issue 12

By Ken Ryan


The Northern California Camp Fire blaze, which sparked on Nov. 8 in Butte County, killed 88 people (203 were still listed as missing at the time of publication), burned through 153,336 acres of land and destroyed nearly 14,000 homes and in excess of 4,800 businesses and other structures. It was declared 100% contained on Nov. 25, but not before it claimed at least two floor covering dealerships in the town of Paradise—Cal-Vada Flooring and Dick’s Floor Covering.

The Camp Fire and those blazes that broke out near Malibu in November are merely the latest in a series of wildfires that have scorched the Golden State. In fact, six of the top 20 most destructive California wildfires in history have occurred in the last two years, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire).

The region is left in turmoil. “Thousands are homeless in areas that do not have available temporary housing,” said Allen Gage, president of Tri-West, a top 20 flooring distributor. “And while the story has lost its drive in the mainstream news, the situation is very bleak for tens of thousands of people who have nowhere to live while trying to rebuild their lives. Thousands fled the Paradise and Magalia towns with nothing more than a few personal belongings. This area, as well as Redding, are far enough away from Sacramento that the ability to handle large-scale construction will be quite challenging.”

Authorities said the combined 2017 and 2018 fires destroyed almost 40,000 homes and commercial buildings primarily in the Santa Rosa, Napa, Redding, Lake County and Butte County areas. The 2017 fires in Napa and Santa Rosa—where over 6,000 homes were lost—have been very slow to recover. “Availability of contractors and construction workers in an area with very little tract home building going on has been one of the factors in the slow recovery,” Gage told FCNews. “The local governments indicated during the fires the building process would be streamlined. Now, a year later, that has not really been the case.”

Now, in the aftermath of Camp Fire, flooring distributors are again facing a slew of issues, including a limited pool of contractors and construction workers from which to choose and badly damaged infrastructure in areas with minimal resources to rebuild.

“Paradise and Magalia are both almost completely destroyed and will take many years to rebuild,” Gage said, noting that Paradise and Magalia are looking at roughly 10,000 job losses with no regional job resource to replace those positions. “The short labor supply will only make the recovery that much more difficult for all involved.”

Air quality concerns arising from the fires also affected business. For a time, Northern California ranked as the dirtiest air in the world, according to Purple Air, an air-quality monitoring network, topping smoggy cities in both India and China.

“Business was negatively affected for 10 days in all cities within a 100-mile radius due to the poor air quality from the smoke,” said Drew Mittelstaedt, partner with Longust Distributing, which has operations in California. “The air quality was at a hazardous level from Redding all the way down to Sacramento. Scorched earth doesn’t begin to describe what happened up there.”

Jeff Hamar, president of Galleher, a top 20 flooring distributor based in Santa Fe Springs, Calif., attested to the environmental damage. “There was considerable impact to the air quality in Northern California, and many of our employees mentioned how serious the problem was.”

Some health officials warned the smoke resulting from the fire could create health hazards for workers and visibility issues for vehicles. “Shipping during the fires was very difficult as many roads were closed,” noted Steve Kleinhans, president of Big D Floor Covering Supplies, a top 20 distributor with operations in California.

A representative from Chico Carpet One Floor & Home, located about 12 miles from Paradise, told FCNews the smoke was very bad for over a week. “We had to close the store during the worst of it,” he said.

Overall, it is a cumulative effect that is devastating. “We are looking at years of recovery for both northern and southern parts of California,” Gage said.

 

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Carpet: Mills raise ante on performance, product design

November 26/December 3, 2018: Volume 34, Issue 12

By Ken Ryan

 

Innovation came in many forms in 2018. For some carpet mills it was about new tufting technology. For others, it was room visualization tools. In one case, it was about partnering with social influencers of the feline persuasion.

It all added up to a year of excitement in a soft surface category that is looking to make headlines of its own after years of ceding the spotlight to hard surface products.

Following is a rundown of some key carpet innovations and product introductions in 2018.

Anderson Tuftex
The brand’s two big carpet introductions in 2018 were Terra Linda and Fair Isle, signature products from the AT Signature collection, which places an emphasis on premium textures and styles. “Textures are a huge part of the carpet market,” said Matt Rosato, director of products for hardwood and carpet. “Tone on tone, solid, berber—they all need them.”

In particular, Rosato cited the best-selling Terra Linda line with its heather cut pile, full tones and vibrant colors. “It has been a fantastic product with tremendous volume both for stocking dealers as well as special order.”

Katie Ford, director of marketing, added: “Terra Linda is a state of mind. The color palette appeals to a lot of buyers.”

According to Ford, Anderson Tuftex’s soft surface products stand out, in part, because of its shearing process, which is precise, noticeable and shows clear definition. In particular, Fair Isle is noted for its tight hand and density.

The Dixie Group
Creating differentiation among PetProtect products in the Dixie Home and Masland divisions has been a major initiative in 2018. “PetProtect has been a strong segment of our business for the last several years, and we saw an opportunity to build on that success by creating new pattern and loop pile carpets with heavier face weights and beautiful designs,” said T.M. Nuckols, president, residential division, The Dixie Group.

In Dixie Home, the division launched Eminence and Willow Lake, two striking LCL patterns with great hand and a very soft touch. Larson, a two-color loop with a great touch and styling, was also introduced. “These new Dixie Home PetProtect qualities combine upscale looks with great apparent value, and they all deliver with the durability and performance of PetProtect,” Nuckols added.

Masland took it a step further with creativity and design. First, it launched Bombay Vibration, an updated take on the classic Masland product Bombay. Bombay Vibration has a broad color palette with colors ranging from residential to Main Street commercial. Two offerings, Signature and Trademark, use unique blended yarns in linear tip sheared loops and provide the look of wool with the performance of PetProtect.

Engineered Floors
One of the company’s most significant innovations has been the EF-EYE Visualizer, a new tool that was initially targeted for Engineered Hard Surfaces products but has been extended to Dream Weaver and Pentz products beginning January 2019. “Almost immediately after launching EF-EYE, we started getting requests from our customers to add residential carpet and Pentz to the tool,” said Emily Scott, marketing communication manager. “Dealers are so excited to use EF-EYE, they want it for every product category.”

A second innovation is PureBac, a flexible backing that makes installation easier.

Invista
In 2018, Invista focused on marketing messages through influencers and unique partnerships. “We went to people who had large followings,” said Jenny Wilburn, senior content marketing manager. “People really are starting to trust those influencers and believing in them as opposed to brands.”

Invista influencers included mom bloggers as well as pet influencers such as Venus the Two Face Cat, which has 1.6 million followers on Instagram and 1.3 million followers on Facebook. Invista provided PetProtect flooring for the owners of Venus. In return, Invista received favorable posts such as this one from Venus: “I spend a lot of time on the floor (when I’m not sleeping on someone’s lap, bed or chair), so I am really enjoying our new carpet and luxury vinyl by Stainmaster, which my family loves. Stainmaster PetProtect flooring is durable, comfortable and easy to clean! Purrfect for pet-friendly homes! #Stainmaster #PetProtect @sponsored.”

Marquis
In 2018, Marquis put into place new state-of-the-art twisting and heat seating equipment. This equipment allowed the company to produce carpeting with lower profiles to meet consumer requests. This process provides a “clean” lower profile with a high-density level for better performance and durability, according to Chet Graham, president. “Also, this allows for more color combinations with more sophisticated styling while using solution-dyed fibers.”

Mohawk
Mohawk’s introduction of SmartStrand Silk Reserve carpet achieves new levels with softness, durability and easy maintenance. The Reserve fiber features permanent built-in stain and soil protection that won’t wear or wash off. It is enhanced with Nanoloc spill shield and soil protection, which makes cleaning up quick and easy, and Mohawk’s All Pet Protection and Warranty. Through an independent walk test, SmartStrand Silk Reserve endured 60,000 steps—the equivalent of seven years of foot traffic—and still looked fresh.

Mohawk’s new Air.o soft floor covering is a complete breakthrough in carpet, representing a new flooring category called USF—Unified Soft Floorcovering. Air.o leverages the Niaga technology that looks at soft flooring from the consumer backwards instead of the manufacturing plant forward. Air.o features a two-part design unified by a single polymer.

Phenix
Phenix has enjoyed success with many of its innovations, but Cleaner Home has been a standout. It utilizes new fiber and backing technology, including Microban antimicrobial protection and SureFresh odor blocking benefits. The collection is made from OpulenceHD fiber, which lends itself to precise designs that create a refined appearance.

Jason Surratt, senior vice president of product and design, called Phenix’s Colorpoint tufting solution a game changer. “It allows the designer to precisely place carpet and cut and loop texture exactly where we envision within our pattern providing a crisp, clean design. Our latest patterned carpet launch, Karma, is a great example of this tufting technique.”

Shaw Contract
Synchronize, a custom carpet collection, offers three different manufacturing technologies inherent to the needs of hospitality designers. The machine-tufted patterns offer precision pattern details and capture a carved aesthetic in multilevel cuts and loops in patterns designed specifically for larger open hospitality areas, rugs and corridors.

Shaw Floors
LifeGuard spill-proof carpet backing answers the need for a worry-free carpet experience. With LifeGuard, no odor-causing spills or pet accidents soak into the carpet, pad or subfloor. This innovation emphasizes Shaw Floors’ leadership in the soft surface category by creating products that exceed the needs of consumers.

Shaw is positioning its Bellera High Performance Carpet as a game changer in the industry. Created with a holistic approach to meet the design and performance needs of consumers, Bellera is a top-to-bottom innovation known for style and durability.

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Mohawk touts sustainability at Greenbuild

November 26/December 3, 2018: Volume 34, Issue 12

By Steven Feldman

 

Chicago—The days of flooring manufacturers flocking to Greenbuild en masse may be a thing of the past, but the country’s leading event dedicated to sustainability in the built environment still represents a viable forum for Mohawk Industries to disseminate its message. As such, the company was front and center at the international conference and expo here last month with its various sustainability platforms on display.

This marked one of the first times Mohawk pulled together its residential and commercial brands in its Greenbuild space, showcasing both hard and soft surface along with its Dal-Tile brand. “You almost can’t tell the difference now between residential and commercial when you’re designing,” said George Bandy Jr., vice president of sustainability and commercial marketing for Mohawk Group. “I think it’s important for us to show how much capacity and scope we have to offer in terms of our sustainability value and message.”

Of course, one of the primary messages, as it has been with Mohawk for years, is recycling. The company recycles 6.2 billion plastic bottles a year, which goes to plastic chip to pellets to yarn and then into residential and commercial products. Bandy said this initiative is catching the attention of the tenant improvement market in particular. “It’s been good to see that connectivity because you see more multi-family being built and they’re really interested in taking that plastic out of our waterways and communities and turning it into something people can utilize inside of spaces.”

For Bandy, who was honored with a 2018 Leadership Award from Greenbuild, connectivity and sustainability start internally. “How do I create a mindset of sustainability and connectivity with the employees on the plant floor, our manufacturing leadership team to the legal team, the marketing team, sales—everybody on the team has to have their own filter,” he said.

The key, Bandy said, is the messaging. “I think one of the challenges early on was, you tried to talk to a soccer mom the same way you talked to a CFO about sustainability, and they’ve never understood what we were talking about. That gives us an opportunity to vary our message based upon the customer.”

For Bandy, it’s not just talking about Mohawk’s sustainability initiatives but scattering seeds about sustainability in languages people can understand. There are many facets that fall under the sustainability realm, such as health and wellness, asthma, financial return, attracting and retaining talent and social sustainability. It could be the connectivity between climate change and the different aspects of how people and countries are responding to that.

“There’s such a wide array that the tent is big enough for everybody to engage and participate and find their pathway to sustainability,” he said. “There is not a one-size solution as it once was from USGBC and LEED. I think it’s varied quite a bit and gives us an opportunity to do some great things, and our message is symbolic of that. And then, how Mohawk has grown organically around our approach to sustainability. We’re trying to be a cross pollinator of sustainability throughout every aspect of our organization and what we offer to the marketplace.”

As such, Mohawk came to Greenbuild with varied sustainability stories as it relates to its products. On the resilient side, the featured product was Pivot Point, its enhanced resilient tile, billed as the first Red List-free solution from Mohawk.

“We are bringing a solution to the commercial marketplace that’s been a cry from many healthcare customers,” Bandy said. “When healthcare wanted to change the types of materials it used for things like blood bags, they went with polyolefin. Polyolefin and calcium carbonate are the main components of Pivot Point. It gives them an alternative to what has been in the marketplace, and it also represents a change in direction for us with a new solution customers can connect with.”

On the soft surface side, Mohawk featured its Air.o product, launched a few years ago at Surfaces. Aside from having the aforementioned plastic bottle recycling story, it comes with attached cushion and also provides a hypoallergenic solution for asthma sufferers.

“One of the things we’re really proud of is we have a solution that meets your needs,” Bandy said. “We don’t feel like there’s a direct application for every particular solution, so we become solution experts rather than trying to push one product.”

Dal-Tile, which made its Greenbuild debut, may have had the most basic sustainability message of all. “Dal-Tile is really just dirt if you think about it,” Bandy said. “It’s ground dirt, then you put a glazing on it and put it down. Also, Dal-Tile has always had sustainability value in terms of longevity. You can’t speak of something that has a longer performance value than tile.”

Behind the scenes, Bandy noted, Dal-Tile also boasts solid recycling and energy conservation stories. “We have a machine that takes back old tiles, crushes them and puts them back in to increase our recycled content. We also do a lot of combined heat and power projects that utilize the heat that’s created inside of that cooking machine.”

So what does tomorrow’s sustainability story look like for Mohawk? More of the same, Bandy said. “[We will] elevate the volume of products that we’re able to manufacture with sustainable solutions and stories. Also, connect those products to stories people can relate to and how we actually demonstrate that in the marketplace.”

Bandy would also like to see Mohawk leverage its market strength given its significant global footprint. “How do we create more of a stronghold of those local sustainability messages? I created my own word: glocal. You’re able to actually have a glocal presence that has one sound, one band but also has an individual trumpet, drummer or whatever might be local, but you’re able to get a synchronized sound globally.”

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4th quarter retail outlook: Flooring retailers closing out 2018 on a high note

November 26/December 3, 2018: Volume 34, Issue 12

By Ken Ryan

 

Flooring dealers may be sad to bid adieu to 2018 as a strong fourth quarter has propelled many specialty retailers to better-than-expected results.

The only caveat: some signs of softening might spill over into 2019, worsened by the possibility of higher tariffs on Chinese flooring imports.

For now, however, many retailers are basking in the glow. “For us, 2018 has been a banner year, and the fourth quarter has not disappointed,” said Kevin Rose, president of Carpetland USA, Rockford, Ill., who cited strong activity in the Chicago suburbs and robust activity in the commercial and retail sectors.

Jon West, owner of Chillicothe Carpet, Chillicothe, Ohio, is also enjoying a strong fourth quarter. “We’re on pace to break our yearly record, and we’re also on pace to meet and possibly exceed our record from last year’s fourth quarter. I look for us to stay on pace through 2019 with 10% growth.”

The feeling is much the same at San Antonio-based Atlas Floors Carpet One. “The fourth quarter is shaping up to be the best quarter of the year for us, which it historically is,” said Billy Mahone III, vice president of operations. “We got off to a slower start to Q4 this year, which could probably be attributed to uncertainty caused by the November primaries. However, we are rocking and rolling now.”

Rob Elder, co-owner of Hiller Carpet, Rochester, Minn., told FCNews the last quarter is shaping up to be nothing short of amazing. “Traffic is great, sales are great and the LVP/LVT category continues to lead the way.”

Gainesville CarpetsPlus Color Tile is another dealer enjoying a stellar fourth quarter, with business up 27% from last year’s period, according to Josh Elder, co-owner. “I am optimistic that we will finish strong. We have some projects lined up for the beginning of 2019, which will get us off to a good start.”

A balance of commercial, new construction and retail has been steadily driving sales for Appleton, Wis.-based D&M Interiors, Flooring America. “An outstanding sales month in October will help us to have a strong end to the year,” said Bill Huss, owner.

Dealers have benefited by favorable economic conditions, including a high level of confidence in job security with unemployment at 3.7%, the lowest it has been since 1969. “This is allowing consumers to utilize their disposable income with a level of comfort that has not been there in the past recent years,” Rose stated.

Amidst a strong economy, some dealers are implementing their own initiatives to further drive business. Warren, Mich.-based Art Van Flooring, for instance, is closing out a strong 2018 on the heels of some aggressive moves made earlier in the year. “The biggest business move in 2018 is the big investment made in upgrading our online portfolio by not only adding products available for online purchase but also the big expansion of products that are available for our customers to view before they come into our showroom,” said Sean O’Rourke, director of purchasing and merchandising. “We have seen an immediate increase in sales of the products featured online, and it has helped our Shop @ Home business immensely.”

Art Van Flooring also expanded its portfolio by adding ceramic and porcelain tile as well as Hunter Douglas window treatments.

Several dealers have noticed higher sales in Main Street commercial. Case in point is Montgomery’s CarpetsPlus Color Tile in Venice, Fla. “We’ve had a busy fourth quarter thanks to Main Street projects,” said Mike Montgomery, co-owner. “These projects usually seem to gain traction in the second and third quarters, so that would be the biggest surprise for us as well as a good fourth-quarter return.”

Joseph Stern, owner of Brooklyn-based Boro Rug & Carpet, echoed those sentiments, citing the company’s fourth quarter growth with Main Street commercial business. “2018 was very strong for us. We have had a lot of growth on the Main Street commercial side partly because construction in Brooklyn is growing at a very strong pace.”

Stern also noted the lack of competition in the area, which has been dwindling of late, and the store’s strong installation team for its Main Street success.

However, not everyone is singing praises. For dealers like Rick Wiebe, co-owner, Carpet Colour Centre, Red Lake Alberta, being located in a province currently dealing with the ups and downs of the oil market, is taking its toll on business. “With the price of our oil so low, things are just slow. Our new home construction market is a disaster. We have a little light in the commercial section, but overall it is and has been tough.”

Wiebe expects more of the same in 2019 unless there are some major pipeline announcements that will swing the momentum the other way. “Competition is still fierce, and we are doing everything to get as much of the work as we can.”