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Installation: J-Lock spacers keep floating floors in check

By Mara Bollettieri

 

J-Lock spacers are designed to hold floating floors firmly in place during the installation process.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one: So an installer is getting ready to lay down a laminate floor. He has all the necessary tools for the job—including the plastic, wedge-style spacers that came with the standard installation kit he purchased at the store. While the spacers were designed to ensure the requisite space around the perimeter of the installation, he finds the planks keep moving anyway.

This is precisely what happened to Adrian Battle, a carpenter with 35 years of experience who works in the San Diego market. Over the years, he grew weary of using traditional spacers that were not always effective in keeping floating floors—especially laminates—in place during installation. In one instance, Battle was in a customer’s home installing laminate flooring on a steamy summer day. On this particular job site, there was one section of the wall that was not perfectly straight. So every time he would get to that section, he would push the floor together but the planks would pop apart, leaving him to start the installation all over again.

It was in that exasperating moment he envisioned a spacer that would hold the floor in place properly. This led him to devise his own solution: The J-Lock spacer. “I was frustrated,” Battle recalled. “Then I thought, what if I had something that was in the shape of a ‘J’ on top of the board?”

Battle noted the spacers he used in the past were either too expensive, very clunky, wouldn’t stay put and/or were difficult to pull out. The beauty of J-Lock, he says, is it stays in place and it’s easy to remove.

How it works: The longer leg in the “J” rests between the flooring material and the wall, while the shorter leg sits on the surface of the floor. If there’s a gap under the drywall that’s big enough for the flooring to slide under (something that, according to Battle, happens often when you push against it), the J shape will make it lock in place on top of the board. “It gives you a nice, stable, vertical surface to push and work against,” he explained. “And they’re easy to get out—I can stick my finger under there and pull them out.”

Designed with both novice installers and professional floor layers in mind, the J-Lock spacers—which are made of high-density polyethylene and come 20 to a pack—are easy to use and intuitive, according to Battle. “There’s not a lot to figure out about how to use them. You just put two on every long edge and one on every end, and you get going. Plus, they’re small—you can just throw them in your bags and go on to the next job to use them again.”

End-user approved
Installers and retailers alike are singing J-Lock’s praises. Independent contractor John Herald, located in San Diego, was skeptical about using the J-Lock spacers at first, given the fact they were a bit wider than the spacers he normally used. But his reservations quickly subsided. “I used them on a job and was impressed,” he recalled. “The base still covered all the way around the room, and my gaps were wide enough for expansion and contraction.”

While designed primarily for floating floors, the J-Lock spacers can be used in other installation scenarios as well. “I’ve also used them on glue-down products,” Herald noted. “They sit on top of the product; they don’t get down in the glue. It just makes things a little easier.”

Dezarai Gonzales, customer service supervisor at San Diego-based Coles Fine Flooring, an NFA retailer, is also a believer. In fact, she was so impressed that she insisted that all of her installation crews switch to J-Lock spacers exclusively. Aside from expediting installation, she touted another major advantage: Use of the spacers provides a bit of a legal “cushion” in cases where potential claims might arise out of challenges regarding the provision of perimeter expansion gaps.

“I’m sick and tired of manufacturers denying claims,” Gonzales said. “With the J-Lock spacers, we can put them in room by room, snap some pictures and leave those in our file. Then, if we have a claim on that floor in the future, we have proof that we did, in fact, leave an expansion gap. It’s not disputable.”

J-Lock spacers have even made an impression among installers outside the U.S. James Scully, a senior fitter/installer who formerly worked for Floors & Doors in Palmers Green, London, commended the product for its innovative design. “These spacers are a game changer,” he said.

At present, the J-Lock spacer is patented in the U.S., Europe and Turkey. Battle is optimistic about the future potential of his invention. “It’s my hope it will become the industry’s standard,” he told FCNews. “I think it’s going to end up being like peanut butter and jelly—when somebody goes into the store to buy laminate, the salesperson might say, ‘You need a few packs of those J-Locks.’”

 

Visit jlockflooringspacers.com for more information.

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Amaz Floors embraces stewardship

For Peru-based wood supplier, environmental awareness is king

September 17/24, 2018: Volume 34, Issue 7

By Reginald Tucker

In today’s marketing-centric, eco-conscious world of imported wood flooring, the term “environmentally responsible” is often applied very generously. But in the case of Peru-based Grupo Maderero Amaz S.A.C—which maintains a half dozen carefully managed forest concessions totaling 70,000 hectares throughout the country—the practice of sustainable forestry is in its DNA.

Grupo Maderero Amaz, which has been in business for more than 11 years, operates six sawmills, 36 conventional dry kilns, a veneer plant and a flooring factory. The exotic hardwood flooring manufacturer/exporter has the capacity to kiln-dry 1.4 million board feet of grade timber and components every month, and the flooring plant produces 10,000 square feet per day—more than enough to meet the requirements of customers in Asia, North America, South America and Europe. On an annualized basis, that translates into more than $300 million in sales and upwards of 10 million board feet of sawn timber produced.

But the best part is it’s all done with strict adherence to environmental policies and in consideration of the responsible use of natural resources. “At Grupo Maderero, we maintain a strong commitment to sustaining the forests,” said Luxia Hong, managing director for the company’s North American operations. “In fact, we are the largest FSC-certified forestry company in Peru.”

This impressive scale allows Grupo Maderero Amaz to offer a diverse range of products, including AD-grade timber, kiln-dried grade timber, decking, lamellas for engineered flooring and solid and engineered unfinished and prefinished flooring as well as cabinetry components—all FSC certified.

Not only does this ensure consumers and end users that the company purchases products from only responsibly managed forests, but it provides social and economic benefits as well. “We fully support the local communities near the forests, and we empower them to carry out their self-managed activities and projects at the local level,” Hong added. “That’s something that we’re really proud of.”

Alba Solis, who oversees FSC’s Peru operations, attests to Grupo Maderero’s responsible approach to forest management. “Together with four other companies and one indigenous community, they hold almost half of the FSC-certified areas in Peru.”

Spreading the word

In many respects, Grupo Maderero’s environmental philosophy is just as important as the message behind its go-to market strategy. According to Hong, the company works closely with the Forest Stewardship Council and World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to promote awareness of FSC responsibly managed forests and other eco-friendly concepts. The company’s clients on the commercial and A&D side of the business get it, but it’s also a focal Grupo Maderero wants to emphasize to its distributors and specialty retail partners.

It’s important enough that Grupo Maderero Amaz representatives recently participated in an FSC-sponsored summit in Minneapolis featuring prominent global manufacturer brands from different industries, including some National Wood Flooring Association members, Shaw Industries, Target Corp., as well as various furniture and construction interests. The primary aim, according to Hong, was to promote the awareness of FSC certification throughout the logistics supply chain for industries that utilize wood.

At a time when there is so much misinformation and misperceptions about imported tropical wood species and harvesting practices, proper education is critical. Back in July, Grupo Maderero Amaz—along with NWFA, FSC and WWF—helped facilitate a webinar designed to teach consumers more about FSC and sustainable forest management. “There’s so much that people don’t understand about how these products are harvested,” Hong stated.

Case in point is the fallacy that many imported wood flooring suppliers take a careless, random approach to harvesting lumber—a process known as “clear cutting.” But Hong said nothing could be further from the truth. “It’s not about cutting trees; it’s really about forest management,” she explained. “If the trees grow more than 30 years, then they will fall and knock down the smaller ones—which won’t grow as nicely as they should. That’s why it’s so important to manage the forest properly.”

And this is where owning the land has its advantages, according to Hong. “Let’s say you own the forest and you have 20 parcels. That means each year, only 10% of the trees in that parcel are allowed to be cut. This ensures we only cut the portion that already has very tall trees so the smaller ones can grow.”

Then there’s the issue of replenishment. By law, Grupo Maderero Amaz is required to plant new trees in a specific area known as “farms.” And once those new trees grow to a certain size, they are moved to the forest area for replanting.

“The whole concept behind FSC is best business management practices of our forests, which not only ensures the sustainability of global resources but also guarantees the authenticity of the products we produce through the chain-of-custody certification,” Hong explained.

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Flooring sector feels impact of Florence

September 17/24, 2018: Volume 34, Issue 7

By Ken Ryan

Hurricane Florence’s massive flooding through the Southeast caused record-breaking floods in North Carolina and also impacted neighboring states, including Virginia, where a Florence-spawned tornado leveled a flooring retail store and killed a supervisor who was trying to help other employees.

The impact from the Sept. 14 hurricane was still being felt a week later in North Carolina as cresting rivers continued to endanger hundreds of thousands of residents. “People are going through a nightmarish situation right now down here, there is so much devastation,” said Russ Barringer, owner/president of Dealer Supply Company, a Durham, N.C.-based flooring distributor with extensive interests in eastern North and South Carolina. “We had these floods two years ago with Hurricane Matthew, and some people still haven’t recovered from that. A lot of these people don’t have flood insurance and won’t be able to rebuild.”

For Dealer Supply, as well as top 20 distributors such as Haines, William M. Bird and Elias Wilf—each with business operations in the affected areas—the biggest issue was service disruptions caused by persistent flooding and impassible roads, including I-95 and I-40, the latter being a major artery that connects to Wilmington, one of the hardest hit areas.

Barringer, who described Wilmington as “an island surrounded by water,” said his eastern North Carolina rep (who lives in Wilmington) evacuated to Raleigh prior to the storm but has been unable to return because so many roads remained closed or impassible.

Widespread damage

Storm damage was not confined to the Carolinas. In Midlothian, Va., near Richmond, an EF-2 tornado packing winds of 120 mph flattened Old Dominion Floor Co., a flooring dealer. Sadly, the twister killed long-time employee Ronnie Bishop, a supervisor of the hardwood flooring division for Old Dominion.

According to published reports, an employee at Old Dominion Floor saw the funnel cloud approaching and alerted colleagues. Bishop reportedly left his office and went into the warehouse to make sure everyone (there were 15 employees inside the store) moved inside to an attached office building. Bishop was the last person in the warehouse when the tornado hit. The 60-year-old was one of at least 36 people whose deaths were attributed to Florence.

“We are heartbroken that our customer, Old Dominion Floor, lost their business and one of their employees,” said Maybank Haygood, CEO of William Bird. “We are devastated for them and have been in contact with them.”

Haines was also a big customer of Old Dominion Floor. “No matter what we need to do to shore up our business and our customers’ business, it pales in the face of the loss that occurred in Richmond,” said Michael Barrett, president and CEO.  “Our people, our customers—that is what is most important to us.”

Florence was particularly wrenching for North Carolina native Hoy Lanning, senior CEO advisor at Haines, who noted that the cities of Wilmington, New Bern and Fayetteville are dealing with a devastating situation. “Cars can neither get in or out of Wilmington,” he stated. “Some folks are running out of food. Several groups like the Baptist Men’s Association have set up a 1,000-square-foot kitchen facility in Wilmington to prepare 20,000 meals per day. The volunteers have been amazing. It’s great to see people reach out to help others. We have many customers where their businesses and their personal homes are still under water.”

Barrett said the storm was very impactful to the Haines network, and he has taken various measures to ensure the company maintains outward facing communication related to the storm’s impact. “We have added a button on our homepage that will take customers, suppliers and associates to updates related to delivery and building status. We made sure we contacted and then followed up with our people and our customers to ensure they were well taken care of during and after the storm.”

Barrett said the distributor’s focus now is to provide help to anyone in need. “We have received several reports and videos of customers with severe storm damage to their businesses. We have our finance teams and our direct sales teams ready to aid in whatever way is needed.”

Charleston, S.C.-based William Bird, with coverage throughout the Southeast, halted deliveries to all areas that were in mandatory evacuation areas. However, as Sharon Higgins, marketing coordinator, explained, “Throughout the storm, our customer service was fully operating from locations throughout our territory as part of our storm preparedness plan.”

Jeff Striegel, president of Elias Wilf, said he has three retail accounts in Morehead City, N.C., an area that received more than 23 inches of rain and saw widespread damage from flooding. His company responded in the aftermath by sending supplies to his customers.

Dealer Supply also had retail accounts with losses, including Williams Carpet in Morehead City, which had its roof blown off and incurred extensive damage inside the store. A Carpet One Floor & Home dealer in hard-hit New Bern closed its business on Sept 12 in advance of the hurricane but reopened on Sept. 19. A message on the dealer’s Facebook page declared, “Carpet One Floor & Home of New Bern is open. Back in Business! Hurricane Florence can’t stop us from helping our customers!”

Barringer said it typically takes six to eight weeks in flood-ravaged areas before flooring goes into these damaged homes.

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The brand power behind COREtec

By Mara Bollettieri

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

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CCA looks to ‘right-size’ its programs: ‘Less is more’ is the driving mantra for Flooring America members

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

By Lindsay Baillie

Montreal, Canada—Keep it simple. That was one of the main themes to emerge from the Flooring America/Flooring Canada convention held here last month. To that end, management adopted a streamlined exhibition area to drive home the benefits and effectiveness of a simpler retail showroom layout.

Keith Spano, president of Flooring America and Flooring Canada, discussed the logic behind the new format. “Our stores tend to be over merchandised,” he told FCNews. “There are so many products in there and so much duplication. For the first time we are just going to show our core, proprietary products on the show floor—that way we are cutting out the clutter.”

Retail members like what they are seeing. “We need a simplistic approach to our showroom,” said Gayle Maestri, co-owner, Noel Maestri’s Flooring America, Covington, La. “Flooring America does a lot of homework, which makes it easier.”

Abe Drissi, president, Flooring America, Ashburn, Va., agreed. “The focus on streamlining and decluttering the showroom is very nice,” he said. “I like the fact they just want to focus on the vendors who support us.”

The streamlined merchandising approach dovetails nicely with the group’s focus on core brands and high-growth categories. According to Cathey Gundlach, vice president of merchandising, the group’s overall success is being driven by luxury vinyl in the multilayer product segment. “We are up double digits in that category, and that is of course trending across all of our hard surface products,” she said. “We are outpacing the industry in hard surfaces overall, and that is taking share from our soft surface.”

Flooring America/Flooring Canada’s new product line extensions reflect this trend. One of the group’s major product launches is another phase of exclusive luxury vinyl tile. According to Gundlach, management has converted 12-foot laminate section displays to now feature the new luxury vinyl products.

Despite hard surface’s domination across the industry, Flooring America/Flooring Canada is not turning its back on carpet. Quite the contrary—the group unveiled an exciting soft goods program that utilizes the latest manufacturing technology. “On this introduction, the mill we have partnered with has [identified the main objections to carpet] and reverse engineered a fiber to answer those objections,” Gundlach explained.

What’s more, the new carpet introduction will use repurposed displays, which helps save members money. “We made a commitment to our members that we are going to create a display system where there will be no more throwing out displays and buying new ones,” Spano explained. The repurposing of carpet and laminate displays, he noted, are steps toward fulfilling that commitment.

Marketing initiatives

“Building Buzz,” a driving and recurring theme of the Flooring America/Flooring Canada summer conventions, is not just about showcasing new core products and enhancing the showroom experience for consumers. It is also about highlighting the group’s latest digital marketing programs. At convention the group unveiled a host of updated and new initiatives, including digital visualization tools, geo-fencing and automated marketing.

“It is our job to create programs that members could not do on their own, because it is too expensive to do alone,” Spano explained. “At the end of the day, we want to create a legacy for our members and show them how to work on their business and not so much in their business.”

During the general session, Spano explained the development of these digital programs are meant to help bridge the gap between a member’s digital space and his or her physical retail showroom. Since more consumers are starting their journey online, it is important for members to focus on the “phygital” space (a combination of both their physical and digital experience), Spano explained.

Echoing Spano’s sentiments was guest speaker Brad Grossman, founder and CEO, Zeitguide, who talked to members about the changing consumer landscape, how the workforce is evolving and how dealers must adapt to stay relevant. During his conversation with Spano, Grossman referenced the growing importance of digital and a need to embrace the phygital space.

One of the tools to help members thrive in this area is Drive, a completely automated marketing platform that combines everything from the group’s CRM system and old marketing platform to social media into one program. In addition to presenting members with measureable marketing, Drive has the capabilities to send highly personalized messages to leads across the purchasing journey. “Our new Drive system allows us to really get to know our customer,” Spano explained.

Flooring America and Flooring Canada members will also have the option to participate in two other initiatives: Updater and Rug.Shop. Updater is an app that helps consumers who are in the process of moving. How it works: By participating in this program, Flooring America and Flooring Canada members will have multiple opportunities to put their businesses in front of people who are likely to purchase flooring before or after fully moving into their new homes.

Meanwhile, Rug.Shop provides members with an e-commerce platform that is integrated into the dealer’s website. Members who participate in this program do not have to worry about stocking inventory, updating product information online or dealing with returns, according to Carole Cross, founder and CEO of Mobile Marketing, which developed the program.

In addition to the Drive, Updater and Rug.Shop, members are able to take full advantage of Comm Creative, the group’s new marketing agency, which has the ability to create a complete, comprehensive marketing program for members. As Spano explained: “It is a complete program for members whereby the agency goes in on a local level and helps them understand where they should target customers.”

Flooring America dealers are excited about the new initiatives. “The digital and marketing programs look great,” Drissi said. “Drive looks great, and I like the Updater and Rug.Shop programs as well. I tried to do [rug e-commerce] on my own a few years ago and ran into major problems. This makes it easier.”

Kevin Pomeroy, co-owner, D&M Interiors, Appleton, Wis., also sees value in the digital and marketing programs. “I want to use them all. It is going to make things easier and make us better, and it will also make us stand out.”

That, of course, is the name of the game. According to Spano, nearly a third of members are up 22% in 2018. What’s more, he believes the group on the whole will be seeing mid- to high-single digit growth by the end of the year. “It has actually been a relatively strong year so far,” Spano stated. “The Northeast struggled a little bit during the winter, because we had a couple of rough months, but in general I think everyone is happy.”

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CCA looks to ‘right-size’ its programs: For Carpet One, leveraging core suppliers has benefits

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

By Lindsay Baillie

Montreal, Canada—Carpet One Floor & Home retailers assembled at the Palais des congrès de Montréal here last month for the group’s summer convention. Over the course of the two-day conference, members gleaned valuable insights from guest speakers and took advantage of networking opportunities. Members were also treated to the new, scaled-back C1XPO exhibit hall which tied into the convention’s theme, C1 Xperience (C1X).

A major focus at C1X was the importance of selling core products. To that end, the exhibit hall, which was smaller than usual, featured only displays from Carpet One’s core products. The convention also explored Destination: Carpet One—the updated concept for member showrooms, which includes an inviting welcome desk, more open space and features core products.

Part of the concept for Destination: Carpet One is the idea that “less is more,” according to Eric Demaree, president, Carpet One Floor & Home. “Owners have to stop merchandising their stores for the reps that call on them and instead start merchandising for the consumers they’re serving.”

With that in mind, Carpet One developed Destination as the ultimate place for consumers to shop for flooring and home products. “The visual elements [in Destination] are unbelievable,” Demaree explained. “The second thing that’s incredible is the way you can orient yourself as a consumer because of the way things are positioned and merchandised.”

In addition to the showroom’s aesthetics, members with Destination showrooms must go through extensive training in the group’s customer-centric selling system. Furthermore, they have to commit to ongoing operational standards and agree to participate in mystery shopping exercises.

The new exhibit hall format was met with mixed reviews from members and manufacturers in attendance. “I like that the summer convention shrunk, but it wouldn’t work for the winter convention,” said Steve Sevilla, manager, Sunset Carpet One Floor & Home, El Segundo, Calif. As for adopting a Destination showroom, he sees the benefits. “Destination: Carpet One is something I did years ago,” Sevilla added. “It’s a good thing.”

Alex Markarian, chief operating officer, Carpeteria Carpet One, San Diego, Calif., echoed Sevilla’s sentiments about the convention, explaining that members want to see more product in the winter. With respect to the Destination concept, he said it’s very valuable. “It’s important to focus on the core.”

Bud Frederick of Family Carpet One, Williamstown, W. Va., sees great value in only showing core displays. In fact, Family Carpet One has updated all of its stores to Destination showrooms and is seeing success. “I’d rather have just the core, that’s where our money is generated,” he told FCNews. “Why not sell core?”

Some manufacturers saw the new space as a challenge because representatives were spaced out among three separate zones—the Canada area, the selling section in the back of the hall and the display area at the front of the exhibit. Vendors that are more brand driven also found the summer exhibit to be difficult. “Even though it says ‘by Daltile,’ you don’t have your branded space where you can bring your whole brand story to the customer,” said Paij Thorn-Brooks, vice president of marketing, Dal-Tile. “But on the flip side, I see a lot of comfort in the members when they come to this [core] area. They seem less intimidated, and that’s a big positive to them and us.”

Other vendor executives, including Steve Sieracki, vice president residential sales, Shaw Floors, agree that this format is only suitable for the summer convention. “It’s the right way to go because it really narrows down what you have to bring out here. You can focus on your core products specifically with the members.”

Dan Natkin, vice president – hardwood and laminate, Mannington, also sees a benefit to the varied format. “We designed these brands to work in synergy with our brand and their branding,” he explained. “For us, there’s a plus. It focuses on a narrower set that benefits the members. Then there’s our regularly branded products in the back, and it’s up to the members to choose what they want to do.”

New in digital

On the digital front, Carpet One members were introduced to a host of programs to assist with lead generation and enter the e-commerce space. The group is also looking into various enhancements to its website.

“Our goal is to bring qualified leads to our stores through every manner possible,” Demaree explained. “On the marketing side, we have everything covered. The next phase is enhancements to the website. We will significantly increase our video library. We’re already plowing through hundreds of videos that we will systematically put online.”

Demaree said the group also understands the importance of entering e-commerce. “We finally found the right application that we’ll roll out as we bolt it onto carpetone.com,” he said. “That will get us started in e-commerce, which we already have a very detailed strategy on making it more robust across multiple categories.”

Members are looking forward to the new launches. “We’ve been in the business a long time—and for a retailer without the support of Carpet One, it’s very challenging to compete,” Carpeteria Carpet One’s Markarian said. “We’ve always wanted to get into e-commerce, but it’s very challenging to build a platform and do it all yourself.”

Markarian is not alone. Sunset Carpet One’s Sevilla described Carpet One’s new programs for lead generation and e-commerce as “win-wins” for members.

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Resilient: Marmoleum dealers sing product’s praises

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

By Lindsay Baillie

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Underlayment: Eco-friendly materials give dealers ammunition to sell

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

By Nicole Murray

 

In keeping with offering customers a more environmentally friendly flooring package, underlayment manufacturers are developing the latest acoustical, sound-absorbing products out of various recycled materials, including fibers and rubber tires—to name a couple. These eco-friendly underlayments often tout low volatile organic compounds as well as indoor air quality and Greenguard certifications.

What’s more, these products are being created for various types of flooring—providing environmentally conscious options for all consumers. Following are a few of the latest green underlayments to hit the market.

Diversified Industries
The Floor Muffler One line from Diversified Industries is made from recycled rubber and tire crumbs. The product boasts high acoustical properties and is ideal for multi-unit, multi-floor and high-rise applications.

With Floor Muffler One, “sound travel, especially from floor to ceiling, is minimal; this gives multi-unit homes the allusion they are living in their own space with a sense of privacy,” said Colleen Gormley, national marketing coordinator.

What’s more, Floor Muffler One comes with an optional moisture barrier for below-grade applications. It can also be floated or glued down as well as put on top of all substrates and under all types of flooring.

“This is a fan favorite because it requires the installer to only bring one underlayment to the job site as opposed to many,” Gormley explained.

Also new is Diversified’s Eco Natura Elite, which is constructed in the U.S. from recycled needled fiber. It is deal for applications such as hospitality markets where temperature stabilization is a key consideration.

DriTac
DriTac Impact 8301 and Double Impact 8302 are the company’s latest eco-friendly polyurethane underlayments. The products complement the manufacturer’s adhesives, are compatible with radiant-heated floors and are part of the company’s Total Sound Reduction System.

DriTac Impact 8301 is 1mm thick and works best with LVT and resilient products. Double Impact 8302, which is 2mm thick, is geared toward wider boards and thicker materials such as hardwood or laminate flooring. Both products have very low VOCs, are hypoallergenic and are mold, mildew and bacteria resistant. They also boast high impact isolation and sound abatement with respect to typical floor to ceiling sound travel.

“Our entire package is green from top to bottom,” said Wade Verble, vice president of underlayment and business development. “There is only one source to question for any issues, and because there is no ability to finger point another source, issues [are kept to a minimum].”

Ecore
Ecore has combined its environmentally friendly underlayment, EcoSilence, and new luxury vinyl tile collection, Attain, to create AttainSilence, a resilient flooring system available in five configurations. The aim is to solve common acoustical challenges associated with multifamily or hospitality environments.

Then there’s EcoSilence, available in 2mm and 5mm thicknesses—ideal for wood—and also a 10mm option, which works best under tile. The underlayment is created by turning ground-up recycled rubber truck tires into underlayment.

“Rubber is the perfect material because its quality never fades,” said Bob Racioppi, director of sales commercial products portfolio. “So instead of existing in a landfill forever, the material is being put to good use.”

EcoSilence can be installed under virtually any type of finished flooring, has a crack isolation up to 1⁄8-inch and is compatible with radiant heat flooring systems.

Healthier Choice
SoundSolution and OmniChoice are acoustical underlayments made with soy-based polyurethane as well as other natural, recycled resources. Both products are Greenguard Gold certified for indoor air quality, contain anti-microbials and are hypoallergenic.

“These underlayments are protected from top to bottom,” said Andrew Stafford, director of marketing. “The microbials are infused while the products are in a liquefied state, which means it is practically impossible for mold, bacteria or mildew to grow after the flooring has been installed.”

Sound Solution is best used with laminates, engineered woods and hardwoods; and OmniChoice is designed to go under ceramic, stone, vinyl and wood. In addition, both OmniChoice and SoundSolution come with a “never crush” guarantee, which states the products will maintain 90% of their thickness. Consumers are also given the option of adding a Vapor Bloc, which is a laminated moisture barrier for an extra layer of protection.

MP Global
Quiet Walk Plus is the latest iteration of MP Global’s signature Quiet Walk brand of underlayments. The product made from small pieces of blue jean, carpet, cotton and polyester fibers, which are often too short to use in the manufacturing process and would have otherwise ended up in a landfill.

“We have developed a patented process of repurposing what normally would have been deemed as trash into a high-performing underlayment product,” said Deanna Summers, marketing coordinator. “MP Global is repurposing 20 tons of raw materials a day because what others see as garbage, we see as a flooring opportunity.”

Quiet Walk Plus also touts acoustical features, compression resistance, moisture protection and longevity. It is also certified for low chemical emission and has just recently been Indoor Air Quality certified with Greenguard and Greenguard Gold standards.

“This material can be nailed, floated or glued down, and it can be paired with a range of products including vinyl planking or WPC products,” Summers explained.

Schönox
Schönox’s signature “manmade gypsum” technology is twice as hard as concrete, doesn’t promote the growth of mold or mildew, and doesn’t shrink or crack, according to the company. This technology can be poured over all types of substrates and is found in Schönox’s AP and APF leveling compounds.

Products containing the synthetic gypsum leveling compounds have been verified for LEED credits including low-emitting material, building reused and recycled content. Another benefit is a minimal amount of dust emits when poured into a barrel.

“There is less mess and less time spent because this technology is made to go over the worst of the worst,” said Doug Young, executive vice president.

Schönox’s Hybrid Active Dry technology combines the speed and temperature tolerance of cement with the versatility of synthetic gypsum to form a fast and strong underlayment.

AP Rapid, which contains this technology, can be poured up to ½ inch. The product has low shrinkage and allows for flooring to be laid down approximately six hours after it’s poured.

WE Cork
WE Cork’s Warm & Quiet and Warm & Quiet Plus are made of cork from the bark of trees, which means these products have no off gassing, renew themselves every nine years and are moisture resistant.

Warm & Quiet is an 1⁄8-inch thick and is lighter than rubber underlayment of the same size weight. It is best used under laminates or in situations where thermal installation and sound control is required.

“You won’t hear residents walking or high heels clicking,” said Ann Wicander, president. “This product can even make a fake floor sound real. The density absorbs the reverberation of footsteps so the sound does not travel within the room or from floor to ceiling.”

Warm & Quiet Plus is ¼-inch thick and should be paired with laminates and hardwood floors. It is best suited for multifamily and second-story applications.

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Ceramic: New shapes, sizes expand possibilities

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

By Nicole Murray

 

Ceramic tile manufacturers continue to push the proverbial design envelope by developing new shapes, formats, patterns and sizes. The aim is to better meet the needs of a diverse and growing range of end users.

In terms of visuals, ceramic is looking to nature for inspiration—literally. Wood planks continue to rise in popularity, based not only on the high level of realism that can be achieved due to sophisticated digital printing, but also because of the advent of longer plank sizes and wider widths.

“Playing with the different sizes side by side adds a more modern yet sophisticated element to the design because the non-linear pattern will pop as a focal point,” said Laura Grilli, senior product development manager, Dal-Tile. As an example, she cited Daltile’s Emerson Wood collection, which is available in three extra-long sized planks, including 12 x 48, 8 x 48 and 6 x 48 formats.

But it’s not just wood looks that are trending. Warm, gray-colored concrete tile, as seen in American Olean’s Union collection, is turning heads, according to the company. “There is a softness that comes through when using gray,” Grilli explained. “Once installed, end users have the option to choose a design direction ranging anywhere from minimalistic to modern.”

Industry observers also continue to track interest in larger formats. While 12 x 24 remains the staple tile size, larger options such as 24 x 48 and 18 x 36 are gaining in popularity. Proponents cite the appeal of minimal visible grout lines, which are inherent in larger tiles, to the greater floor space bigger tiles cover, particularly in more expansive settings.

Larger-format ceramic tiles are also being utilized in various indoor spaces that require a clean and professional look as well as low maintenance. “Think elevator bank walls in office buildings, exterior cladding for hotels and retail centers, feature walls in multifamily lobbies as well as fireplace surroundings in living areas with vaulted ceilings,” said Lindsey Waldrep, vice president of marketing at Crossville. “These huge pieces of ceramic tile have infinite design capabilities and are so appealing in these environments.”

Interestingly, larger tiles are creating opportunities beyond interior settings. “Consumers are using larger panels for a monolithic look that takes tile from the front door all the way out to their patio,” said Emily Holle, director of trend and design, MSI. “Ceramic tile has proven its functionality no matter the environment, and people are taking advantage of it.”

But that doesn’t mean smaller tiles no longer have a place in the home. Observers say miniature ceramic tile sizes are still being utilized for decorative applications such as backsplashes or accent walls. “People are much more appreciative of the handmade products these days,” Waldrep said, citing Crossville’s Retro Active 2.0 collection, which is available in 13 different colors and various shapes. “Smaller tiles allow for more options of how to use the space on the wall by playing with different shades of colors and how they are arranged.”

What’s more, using various shaped tiles allows end users to experiment with color and size in both traditional and unconventional ways. For instance, Emser Tile’s Design Form collection of 9 x 9 tiles offers 16 different black and white patterns that can be mixed  to make a classic linear design or busy flooring pattern that can function as the focal point of a design.

“People are playing with irregular angles, linear etching and plaster effects to add texture and alluring dimensions on their walls,” said Barbara Haaksma, vice president of marketing, Emser Tile. “It draws in the eye so much quicker and keeps it there because there is so much to take in when the pattern is kept busy.”

Some of the most popular shapes being used on walls are fish scale, chevron and herringbone—some of which may incorporate 3D textures for a multi-dimensional look. “Our Visual Impressions collection is the perfect example of a wall tile that is not only visual but tactile and can make a space much more comfortable,” American Olean’s Grilli explained. “People are looking to take it to the next level so that you can touch and feel the texture of the tile which adds even more personality to the entire design.”

Technological leaps
Ceramic tile producers attribute many of the latest looks and designs to the advent of digital printing technology. This, observers say, has almost single-handedly ushered in the ability to create patterns and designs that at first were thought to be unrepeatable.

“Ceramic can now mimic looks that cannot be replicated in other materials,” Emser Tile’s Haaksma said. “The tile can capture textured concrete looks, mod-inspired graphic patterns and reminiscent terrazzo prints while outperforming other materials in cost and ease of maintenance.”

More specifically, printing technology has allowed marble to thrive because of the new capability to manipulate small details within the material so the design pattern can expand to more than one tile and be used in larger areas.

“Printing technology has allowed manufacturers to perfect minor aspects of the graphics that could not be achieved in the past,” Grilli explained. “For example, we are now able to adjust how one specific vein looks on a piece of marble that could not have been adjusted previously. This allows us to synchronize multiple pieces together.”

But it’s not just flooring we’re talking about here. Large porcelain slabs, such as Daltile’s Panoramic Porcelain Series, can also be used for countertop applications. “Porcelain slabs are easy to clean, waterproof, scratch-proof, cannot be stained and don’t freeze,” Grilli noted. “They are becoming the obvious choice because of the design capabilities, along with the numerous everyday advantages.”

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Wood: Canadian suppliers in a class all their own

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

By Reginald Tucker

 

Most laymen associate Canada with sprawling, breathtaking forests, maple syrup and feverishly devoted hockey fans. But when it comes to flooring, especially hardwood, industry observers agree the country produces some of the highest quality products in the industry.

Case in point is Boa-Franc, manufacturer of the standard-setting Mirage brand of hardwood floors. Over the past 10 years, the company has earned 33 quality awards—more than any other North American hardwood floor manufacturer, according to Pierre Thabet, president and founder. This includes an impressive streak of FCNews Awards of Excellence trophies as well as honors from the Canadian government and private enterprises. Among them: the prestigious Gold Trophy Award at the Canada Awards for Excellence several years ago, and the highest honor at the Grands Prix québécois de la qualité awards in 2017 and, prior to that, 2012.

“Boa-Franc strives to pro- duce the finest hardwood floors,” Thabet said. “Our entire focus is on making superior quality flooring that exudes well-being and gives dramatic new life to consumers’ home décor dreams.”

For the past 35 years, Boa-Franc’s main goal has been to produce the industry’s finest hardwood flooring, according to Thabet. To follow through on that quality promise, he said, the company adopted a management philosophy founded on five core values: passion, respect, integrity, commitment and innovation.

“Innovation is at the heart of everything we do here at Boa-Franc,” Thabet stated, adding that being a leader means being the best, not necessarily the biggest. “It’s what enables us to make superior quality products and maintain our leading position in North America.”

Boa-Franc’s distributor and retail partners appreciate that quality-minded philosophy. Shawn McCloskey, marketing manager for J.J. Haines, the industry’s top-ranked wholesaler, cites one of the company’s best-selling lines—Mirage’s Flair collection, which features an advanced finish called Duramatt. “It is an extremely durable, low-gloss urethane finish that has the appearance of an oil finish without the associated maintenance. It also contains anti-microbial agents and is 20 times more wear resistant than a conventional oil finish.”

Another quality-minded supplier renowned for its expertise in hardwood production and coating application is Mercier, which markets the advanced Generations 2500 Intact finish. The molecules that comprise the coating, named for its numerical performance on the Taber test, interlock with the wood cells to create a waterproof barrier. The finish also features aluminum oxide particles of varying sizes and boasts a multilayered composition for greater flexibility and impact resistance. Generations 2500 also touts antimicrobial qualities and features anti-yellowing properties to combat the effects of UV rays.

“Mercier gives us a first-quality, Canadian-manufactured wood line that fits all possibilities in today’s ever-changing customers lifestyle,” said Steve Flanagan, product and marketing manager, Jaeckle Distributors. In particular, he cited the appeal of Mercier’s matte finish on its Design Plus collection, as well as the Legend Series from the Nature collection. “Mercier fits the consumers need anywhere from a quality entry-level product in their Pro series to the most fashionable 7-inch-wide pine board or other in-demand species such as hickory, maple, red and white oak and their entire Exotics series.”

Depth and breadth of product—as well as high service levels—are also hallmarks of many Canadian wood flooring manufacturers. That’s according to dealers like Mike Caroll, owner of Buffalo, N.Y.-based MP Caroll, a hardwood-only retailer that positions the Preverco line front and center. Although he has only carried the line for a few years, it has quickly become the company’s go-to product. “Preverco is our leading line, which we consider an upscale offering,” he told FCNews. “It’s super consistent with its milling and colors, and their attention to detail is unmatched.”

The same can be said for companies like Wickham Hardwood Flooring, which prides itself not only on consistent product quality but also quick turnaround times on special orders—a rarity in the industry. A big plus, customers say, is Wickham’s unique make-and-ship program. How it works: All stock is kept unfinished and then is finished as ordered. Regardless of species, colors, grades, sheens or widths, retailers can meet almost any consumer specification when participating in the program.

“Assisting the client in order to constantly grow their business is a crucial component of a healthy business relationship, and we are committed to making sure efforts to sell are mutual on both sides,” said J.P. Nittolo, president. “Our sales- force is devoted to assisting the customers, whether it is for product knowledge sessions, travel with the sales representatives or even in helping with product marketing. We also offer a variety of merchandising programs where customers can build their own displays—with joint efforts from the Wickham team—based on the end consumers’ needs.”

Clients like Craig Dupra, president of Installers Warehouse, a Rochester, N.Y.-based distributor, knows this firsthand. “Since assuming a controlling interest in Wickham Hardwood about 10 years ago, J.P. Nittolo has completely transformed the former Wickham Hardwood Flooring company into a brand new entity. From the time when I first visited them to today, Wickham has been in constant transformation. They have evolved from a quiet little mill to a major supplier in the North American market. Benchmarked against his competition, the growth has been remarkable.”

 

Satan Flooring sees opportunities on the wall
Toronto, Canada—Satin Flooring, maker of a variety of trendy, high- performance hard surface flooring materials, is going vertical. Known primarily for its wide offering of laminate, hardwood and resilient flooring products, Satin Flooring is now targeting consumers in the market for decorative wall materials.

With the launch of Decora 3D wall panels, Satin Flooring is targeting the homeowner who’s looking to do a complete room remodel—not just the floors. Featuring a decorative laminate wrap over a high-density fiberboard core, the new decorative panels address one of the biggest trends in interior design.

“Feature walls have become more important in decorating today,” said Ingrid Mancini, senior marketing manager. “People are putting in accent walls using stone or wallpaper, etc. This is not a throwback to the ’70s, when you had wood panel walls, but I think it’s adding texture and dimension to make the space more homey, interesting and more visually appealing.”

Available in five introductory patterns (concrete, slate, light barnwood, brown barnwood and earth pine) the new wall panels aim to complement—but not necessarily match to a tee—the products currently available in the company’s flooring line. “The patterns in the Decora 3D wall collection were created specifically for a certain kind of texture or look, but they will definitely coordinate with our flooring patterns,” Mancini said. “In my home, I have the concrete pattern on the wall and a beautiful, engineered red wood called Twilight on the floor. It’s a little more brown/gray, but it goes nicely with the concrete wall color.”

Another feature of the new wall line, according to Mancini, is it can be installed in a variety of different sizes and blocks to create a multi-dimensional effect. “So, depending on the person, there’s a lot of variation that’s available and there are a lot of trims to match,” she stated.

The new Decora 3D wall line, which was previewed at the NWFA convention earlier this year, makes its official debut this month.