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Starnet fall meeting: Commercial group positions for future growth

November 7/14, 2016: Volume 31, Number 11

By Ken Ryan

screen-shot-2016-11-11-at-11-12-17-amNashville, Tenn.—“Forward to the Future” was the theme of the 2016 fall meeting of the Starnet Worldwide Commercial Flooring Partnership. Based on statistics and anecdotal evidence, the future looks very bright indeed for the industry’s largest group of flooring contractors.

Unlike the spring meeting, which is mandatory, Starnet members are not required to attend the fall gathering. And yet, each autumn the attendance numbers continue to increase, as was the case this fall at the Omni Nashville, where 368 attendees turned out. This represented more than half of membership—and an uptick over last year’s meeting in Boston.

Starnet now has 167 members “with two more in the hopper,” according to Jeanne Matson, president and CEO, who celebrated her 10th year with Starnet at the fall meeting. Starnet members, which generate between $3 million and $130 million in sales, are closing out a year in which most of them are forecasting solid single-digit gains in revenue, with a healthy backlog of projects to start 2017. The group typically adds two to four members per year, and Matson suggested they might accelerate that pace going forward, although they will be choosy.

“This is not an easy group to get into,” she told FCNews. “We have what we call a ‘no-jerk policy.’ We want the right members. We set high standards, and therefore it can be a challenge to grow membership because all our members have to be full-service flooring contractors. But if we achieve our goals for 2016 we will be at an all-time high in membership.”

Matson has an explanation as to the reasons why the optional fall meeting is becoming a must-attend conference. “This event is strictly business and strictly education and they like that. In fact, some members prefer this show to the spring show. Also, we are getting tremendous support from our vendors and they are bringing more people to this meeting.”

The fall workshops included discussions on the future and family. More than 62% of Starnet members are family-owned businesses, and many of them are facing issues such as succession planning. One panel discussion was titled: “Leadership Planning for a Family Business,” which—as members have found—can be a contentious issue when one or more members of a family are interested in taking over the business while others are not interested. What might be the financial obligations to the non-participatory family members?

There were also forums on hiring, training and retaining, and on the financially healthy dealer. Chris Adams, owner of Value Carpet One in Salisbury, Md., joined Starnet this fall to reinvigorate his business. “We have a lot of competition in our area, and I felt like we needed to step up our game. It is easy to fall into a rut when you are a family-run business, and while we haven’t gotten complacent, I am concerned about that.” Roughly 50% of Value Carpet One’s business is commercial, with more than 50% of its profits coming from that side.

screen-shot-2016-11-11-at-11-12-02-amStarnet, which emphasizes benchmarking and networking at all of its meetings, formalized its leadership exchange program at the fall meeting. This program enables members to host other members at their facility, or in the field, for a few days to learn their way of doing business in a non-competitive structure. “It is bringing into practice what Starnet is all about, which is networking and sharing,” Matson said. “Basically the leadership exchange is speed dating. We’ve been doing it informally but this event is where we formalized it. It is much more structured today.”

Several members who have gone through the program said the experience was enlightening, gave them ideas that they could implement in their own businesses and was much more fun than they would have expected.

Panel discussion
The higher education segment continues to be one of the strongest in the commercial market, especially those financially well-endowed institutions. During the opening session, facilities managers representing higher education convened for a panel discussion hosted by Tarkett North America.

At one point cheers were heard when Dave Irwin, associate vice chancellor at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, told audience members that LEED certification has become such a cumbersome process that he no longer uses it in projects. Irwin said LEED paperwork, which can amount to hundreds of pages of documentation, was costing an additional 3% to 5% in costs and delaying projects. “We also found that contractors and designers were chasing LEED points that were not necessarily beneficial to the end user.”

Irwin said the university will reinvest the 3-5% savings toward products that are energy efficient and carbon-neutral—so in the end the building is sustainable, it is just not LEED certified. Some Starnet members confirmed that the process of LEED certification has become tedious and needs to be dialed back.

Irwin said college students have become activists in environmental matters. “They’ll come up to you and want to know what will happen to the carpet that’s on the floor after the end of its life cycle. They are also asking about transportation costs of getting the product to the site. Our students are very focused on climate change and sustainability. There is not even a question about climate change with them—it is ‘what are we going to do about it?’”

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Mohawk Commercial scores big in FCNews charity league

October 24/31, 2016: Volume 31, Number 10

Seven weeks into the 2016 NFL season, defending champion Mohawk Commercial is again atop the FCNews’ Fantasy Football for a Cause league standings. So far, the MoComm Machine is undefeated and has already raised $3,000 for its cause, Susan G. Komen. The powerhouse leads FCNews in the standings by two games and Salesmaster by three games. Both FCNews and Salesmaster have raised $1,500 for its charities of choice, Long Island Cares and American Cancer Society, respectively.

The league awards $1,000 in prize money for the high-scoring team of the week and $500 for the second highest score. The winner of the league will earn $11,500 for its cause while the runner-up will earn $7,500. Third-place is worth $5,000; fourth place, $2,500; fifth place, $1,500 with the remaining teams each earning $500. Playoffs begin in week 14.

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Mohawk Group brings together all commercial divisions under one roof

 

Mohawk Group’s Light Lab, the company’s recently renovated design studio, has received Petal Certification from the International Living Future Institute (ILFI) Living Building Challenge 2.
Mohawk Group’s Light Lab, the company’s recently renovated design studio, has received Petal Certification from the International Living Future Institute (ILFI) Living Building Challenge 2.

By Steven Feldman

Dalton—The Mohawk Group earlier this year brought its entire commercial team under one roof, transforming the iconic building that once housed World Carpets and for years served as Mohawk’s Dalton headquarters into an eco-friendly space that is now dubbed the Light Lab.

About 80 people now call the Light Lab home. This includes Mohawk Group’s core commercial, hospitality, hospitality pre-order (floor plans, sample entry, planning and estimating) and custom divisions.

“We were previously located in three or four different areas,” said Jackie Dettmar, vice president of commercial product development and design. “It’s nice to have all our design teams together for collaboration, cross fertilization and to break down barriers between the groups.”

The space incorporates the latest design and sustainability trends. This includes both open and alternative workspaces. “Everyone has their individual workspace, but they can also work in collaboration areas,” Dettmar explained. There are also some traditional office spaces with actual doors when privacy is needed, or where a designer can work if he or she needs light blocked. “We also encourage people to work outside in our green space.”

Aside from bringing together its commercial teams, Dettmar said Mohawk Group needed a space where it could bring commercial customers. “We use it as a showroom for product but we also work with designers here in real time on custom design projects. We can run samples in our pilot plant while they are here. Then we can review and make changes, and work on visualization simulations so we can accelerate custom design projects.”

The Light Lab also comes equipped with its own “Experience Room,” where Mohawk Group can do training in the traditional sense in a space that can accommodate up to 70 people. The room can also be reconfigured for community events. “We recently hosted a Chamber of Commerce Young Professionals class,” Dettmar said.

The “building in the round’s” revamp has been in the works for a couple of years. Dettmar said the idea came up to go to Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) and collaborate with the interiors group at one of top interior design schools in the U.S. “We had 12 students who came up with ideas on how to use the space. We chose the Light Lab idea from a student named Bradley Oldem. He has since started his own design firm in Atlanta. We also took what we liked from other students and incorporated them into Bradley’s concept.”

After Mohawk finished its work with SCAD, the company started getting involved with the International Living Future Institute (ILFI) along with its Declare labels and transparency initiatives. “We thought this would be a great opportunity to work through IFLI’s Petal certification, which is similar to LEED,” Dettmar said. The Petal option provides a platform for a project to inform other efforts throughout the world and accelerate the adoption of restorative principles. “What I love about IFLI certification is beauty, health and wellness are all part of that certification. So we incorporated a lot of biophillic design initiatives and also were cognizant of health and wellness of employees. For example, everyone in the entire space gets a view of the outside. We weren’t going to put up walls. People went from basements to sunlight. The other big part is we were the first restoration in the Southwest to achieve Petal certification.”

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Crain joins H.J. Martin commercial flooring division

Crain_ElizabethGreen Bay, Wis. – Elizabeth Crain has joined H.J. Martin and Son as a commercial interior sales and project management specialist. In that role, she will work closely with internal and external clients of the company’s commercial flooring division.

Crain most recently spent seven-plus years as a healthcare account specialist at Building Service Inc., a Wisconsin-based commercial interior company.  Prior to that, she worked in sales locally with Nordon Business Environments and KI.

A native of Shiocton, Wis., Crain received a B.A. degree in interior architecture from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point in 2005.

Professionally, Crain serves as treasurer of the Northeast Wisconsin chapter of the International Facility Management Association (IFMA) and assisted in the founding of FaciliThon, an annual event of IFMA dedicated to elevating facilities management as a career path for young adults.

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Commercial: LVT, carpet tile fuel growth as corporate reigns supreme

June 20/27, 2016; Volume 30, Number 26

By K.J. Quinn

Screen Shot 2016-06-28 at 12.06.51 PMA gradually improving economy combined with a rise in permits for building renovations, chiefly in the corporate office sector, contributed to an increase of 3% to 5% in the commercial flooring arena in 2015, FCNews research shows.

True to form, the carpet category remained king as sales reached roughly $3.95 billion despite the ongoing encroachment of hard surfaces on carpet’s turf. Estimates indicate that as much as 80% of carpet sales were generated by specified contract market with the remainder coming from Main Street applications. Within the soft surface segment, modular tile has emerged as the pacesetter, growing at a 10% clip year over year and now commanding about 55% of soft surface sales.

Among the primary drivers contributing to the success of carpet tile, industry watchers say, is the product’s portability and assortment of sizes, colors and textures. Plus, the A&D community craves the product’s sustainability as it is much easier to take up and recycle than broadloom. “The styling for carpet tile continues to improve,” said Ralph Grogan, president and CEO, Bentley Mills. “Some of the long-term holdouts were law firms and accounting firms, and even they are switching to carpet tile for the same reason everyone else: ease of installation and recyclability.”

Experts estimate that broadloom still represents about 56% of soft surface volume. In high-end applications—where broadloom is often considered the better solution because of its ability to create custom looks and finishes—innovation is enabling modular carpet to expand.

“We came to NeoCon last year with a heavy weight, high-end, luxurious product not common to [carpet] tile,” noted Mike Gallman, senior vice president of product management, Mohawk. “We [brought] some innovation to our cutting and tufting processes to be able to do that.”

Hard surface activity

Although carpet maintains a dominant share of the commercial market, several hard surfaces categories have been growing at a faster rate than carpet in some sectors. Observers say sustainability concerns have turned into a selling point as more flooring producers list environmental and health data to help make products transparent and verifiable. Case in point: Armstrong provides a broad portfolio of sustainable hard surfaces such as VCT featuring high recycled content, Bio-Floor (BBT), linoleum sheet and tile goods.

“Our investment in our luxury flooring plant in Lancaster, Pa., will yield product with recycled content as we phase our launch into commercial,” said Dominic Rice, senior vice president, North America commercial, Armstrong Flooring. “Further, with domestic production we reduce our environmental footprint related to transportation for delivery and reclamation of the product.”

Resilient, a stalwart category in the commercial arena, generated $1.188 billion in commercial sales, FCNews research shows. LVT is now 29.4% of the commercial market, while sheet is now just 13.1% of the commercial market, down 1.4% in dollars in 2015.

“LVT continues to be the fastest growing product across a broad array of commercial segments,” said David Sheehan, vice president, commercial hard surface, Mannington. “Both the aesthetic and performance properties of commercial LVT provide the end user the perfect price and performance value.”

While LVT is the headliner, other hard surfaces are carving a niche in various segments. For instance, sheet goods retain a strong position in healthcare, where it is predominantly used in operating and emergency rooms. “We still see VCT from a volume standpoint as the largest [hard surface] category,” said Jeff Krejsa, senior vice president at Tarkett, noting its strong performance characteristics make it suitable for hospitals, schools and retail environments. “LVT has taken over from a dollar standpoint and has grown significantly.”

With respect to ceramic tile, analysts estimate that between 70% and 75% of category sales can be attributed to specified contract.

While statistics are hard to pin down because distribution is fragmented, ceramic trails only vinyl as the leading commercial hard surface, tallying an estimated $750 million in 2015.

Screen Shot 2016-06-28 at 12.06.58 PMRubber remains a workhorse product for healthcare and education settings, although the category exhibited a modest sales hike last year according to industry estimates. Linoleum remains a viable choice for these environments with sales reportedly picking up in the second half of 2015. “Linoleum is a value proposition sale that makes economic sense in facilities that demand low cost of ownership and high durability,” said Denis Darragh, general manager, North America, Forbo Flooring. “As a result, it has a very strong and growing presence in education and healthcare and a solid position in retail.” Approximately 85% of linoleum sales are derived from specified contract, experts said, although Main Street remains a growth opportunity.

Rounding out the hard surface categories are hardwood and laminate, which collectively combined to represent roughly 4.2% of the total commercial flooring business, FCNews research found. Hardwood accounted for nearly four times as much revenue as laminate and was typically specified for higher-end applications. Laminate, meanwhile, has primarily been relegated to retail spaces with light foot traffic. Observers point to shortcomings related to performance as a reason for the lack of large-scale specifications.

“I think laminates are declining because of their susceptibility to moisture,” said Jack Ganley, president, Mannington Commercial. “There is a lot of new construction in retail, and laminates are being used less.”

 

Corporate office

The office sector remains the largest of the five major commercial markets, representing about 45% of flooring sales, FCNews research shows. Carpet tile emerged as the top flooring choice for office interiors, boasting 55% to 60% market share. “The modular nature of carpet tiles allows for more flexibility in design and installation methods,” said Betsey Friedman, workplace designer, CallisonRTKL Architects, New York. “Organizations are constantly changing, and carpet tiles can be arranged to quickly reconfigure a space.”

Modular carpet, however, is not the optimum solution for all workplace spaces. For example, LVT is increasingly being specified in entryways, hallways, cafeterias and lunch rooms due to maintenance requirements. Furthermore, the functionality and design versatility of other hard surface products, namely rubber and linoleum, are leading to specifications in some areas.

“I think you are seeing some increased variation in flooring types used in the office—probably a little more hard surfaces,” said John Stephens, vice president of marketing at Shaw Contract Group.

As the workplace becomes more collaborative and open, flooring is playing a larger role in office design, experts say. “A sense of place is increasingly important to all individuals,” Stephens added. “And now more than ever employers are prioritizing workspaces that fit the lifestyles and enhance the productivity of their employees.”

To that end, more companies are creating environments that provide flexibility and choices for how and where to work. “Contemporary offices are complex spaces that now support a multi-demographic, multi-ethnic and multi-disciplined workforce,” Chip DeGrace, executive creative director, Interface, explained. “The most effective offices support business success by providing specific environments for specific people and their specific activities.”

 

Hospitality

Screen Shot 2016-06-28 at 12.07.08 PMHospitality is fast becoming a more lucrative sector as hotel brands are continuing to invest millions of dollars to renovate existing locations and build new properties. “In terms of design, many facilities are striving to create an atmosphere that’s more like home,” said Danielle Hunsicker, general manager, commercial sales, Dal-Tile.

In terms of product type, broadloom remains the preferred option for guest rooms, hallways and some public areas, designers say. Proponents say the product is considered a luxury item, offering design capabilities that are not easily duplicated in carpet tile. However, increased options in colors, textures and formats—such as planks, hexagon shapes and larger sizes—are helping carpet tile expand at a faster rate than broadloom. “[Carpet tile] can uniquely provide a design language to support any design criteria,” Interface’s DeGrace said. “It can support a need for hard surface, soft surface and even plush material.”

Hard surfaces such as resilient offerings are used in low-end and mid-range applications while hardwood, porcelain and ceramic are preferred for more luxurious settings due to their durability and natural visuals.

An increasing blend of soft and hard surfaces are specified in these spaces as hotels attempt to incorporate residential design with high-performance, easy-to-maintain products capable of standing up to heavy traffic demands. With a wealth of selections from which to choose, designers find that combining both types of flooring creates practical solutions for building owners. “It’s early in the trend, but we are seeing [a movement] toward the use of hard surfaces, specifically LVT, in both public spaces and guest rooms,” Mannington’s Ganley said.

 

Education

This sector continues to flourish as college environments are being redesigned to attract more students while public schools are seeing increased investments from local and state governments to accommodate growing enrollment numbers.

The two segments that make up the education sector—grades K to 12 and colleges/universities—have distinct needs when it comes to flooring. In higher learning environments, flooring specs run the gamut due to the vast amount of varied spaces on campus, ranging from dormitories, athletic facilities and classrooms to administrative offices and retail stores. For example, modular carpet is expanding coverage into classrooms and administrative offices while resilient, linoleum, ceramic and wood are found in common areas such as corridors, entryways and classrooms.

Flooring choices in K to 12 are more utilitarian in scope, specifiers say, as public school systems are more budget sensitive. Carpet and resilient are often utilized for adding warmth and comfort underfoot in classrooms, media centers, offices and collaborative learning spaces. VCT remains a valued product for these applications as well thanks to its durability and low installed cost in addition to its designs. “We’re also seeing a lot of rubber being used in K to 12,” said Natalie Jones, vice president of brand development, Mannington.

 

Healthcare

Beyond meeting infection control standards, the primary aim in healthcare design is to help improve patient care and enhance medical outcomes. To that end, many facilities are striving to create environments that are more comfortable. “When you have a senior housing development it’s more like assisted living where spaces are becoming more hospitality driven,” Krejsa explained. “So you’re seeing looks that are softer and keep in touch with a residential space.”

The sector maintains a broad flooring need as healthcare is spread across assisted living facilities, hospitals/clinics and medical office buildings. For instance, resilient, rubber and linoleum flooring are valued for their durability, maintenance and hygienic and slip-resistant attributes. On the other hand, low-density carpet and ceramic, porcelain and terrazzo are specified for hallways to make it easier to maneuver rolling equipment and mobile aids.

Then there’s LVT, which is reportedly gaining traction in waiting rooms and outpatient areas at the expense of VCT and sheet vinyl. “We’re seeing LVT being more accepted in parts of healthcare such as elder care and ambulatory [applications],” Krejsa added.

Assisted and senior living communities show the most promise for growth, observers say, driven largely by an aging population. For these applications, designers are fusing form and function to create environments designed for comfort, convenience and safety.

“We also see it as a growth area for broadloom as well as LVT and carpet tile,” Mannington’s Ganley said. Modular carpet is specifically considered an appropriate choice in these spaces due to its sound control and hygienic properties.

 

Retail

With online shopping expected to double over the next three years, there is more pressure on brick-and-mortar businesses to enhance the consumer shopping experience. The emphasis on aesthetics and branding is providing specifiers with more latitude for flooring choices in their efforts to help retailers boost store traffic while differentiating shopping environments from competitors. “That’s where flexibility or customization comes into play,” Krejsa said.

Many names in retail are making sustainability or authenticity of materials a major component of their store design concepts. To that end, there is pent-up demand for natural materials and textures, or a natural theme for design concepts found at specialty retail and F&D chains. “Activity in this segment has been strong in recent years, fueled in part by increased activity in the residential building sector,” Hunsicker observed. With new homes comes interior design needs, the thinking goes.

This opens up opportunities for flooring in general. “Retail is still a combination of carpet and hard surfaces,” Ganley added. “But I think LVT is replacing wood and in some instances porcelain as well [due to] ease of installation, cost and easy maintenance.”

Indeed, the segment is a mixed bag. Ceramic and carpet are often specified in high-end spaces while resilient and rubber flooring are considered ideal choices in other public areas. VCT has traditionally fared well in retail stores, although the product is losing ground to LVT in some applications.

“Retail is one [segment] that is rapidly becoming an LVT market,” Mohawk’s Gallman said. “But you’re also seeing a lot of carpet tile. Sometimes it’s mixed; they’ll use soft goods for areas like apparel and hard surfaces in areas with other goods.”

 

Main Street opportunities

Unlike the typical commercial segment, Main Street is fragmented with many different venues requiring a diverse product assortment. For many manufacturers, that represents a golden opportunity to fill a niche in the marketplace. At the same time, servicing the Main Street sector—which often consists of small retail spaces, doctor’s offices, hair salons and boutiques—requires that retailers develop the necessary technical product knowledge to respond to clients’ expectations and needs with the correct specifications.

“Commercial environments require high-performance products that will withstand foot traffic,” said Quentin Quathamer, commercial brand and marketing manager for Shaw’s Philadelphia Commercial division. “The Main Street commercial market is very diverse, and Shaw provides a wide array of choices to meet those varied end-user needs.”

Quathamer cited Shaw’s 5th & Main LVT collection as a good example of a fashionable product engineered to withstand the rigors of any commercial environment—including New York City’s Grand Central Station, where it was first installed. Today it is found in commercial areas such as churches, boutiques, barber shops, banks, schools and hospitals—150 styles and colors in all.

As is the case with the residential sector, luxury vinyl tile has found a home in Main Street. In fact, notes Keith Wiethe, channel manager, Main Street, Mannington, LVT is on the verge of taking over the segment on the strength of its easy installation, striking visuals, flexibility and durability that lends itself to so many commercial applications. “There will be a changing of the guard where LVT will be the chosen product, and we expect this growth to continue for the next few years,” he said.

If LVT is choice No. 1, carpet tile is 1A in Main Street applications. According to Chris Post, director of sales operations, Aladdin Commercial/Mohawk Industries, the company expects double-digit growth in Main Street, with a 25% growth rate in carpet tile—a subcategory that is often be paired with LVT for maximum flexibility. “Carpet tile and LVT work together because probably every application will have both of those products,” Post explained.

In yet another pairing, Mohawk is adding LVT and resilient sheet to its existing Aladdin Commercial Display. Mohawk is also launching resilient sheet manufactured through IVC via the Visionary Collection. The line features five soft, organic visuals that are textile-inspired along with natural wood grain looks that create a warm and comforting environment, Mohawk stated. The collection is constructed for light commercial and residential spaces and offers excellent performance, durability as well as resistance to wearing and staining by virtue of the company’s M-Force enhanced urethane finish. Post said Mohawk will sample these in rack cards to go in its commercial display and in architect folders along with room scene photography to show how well the product coordinates with its carpet tile and broadloom products.

Another new entry is EnviroStrand, a 100% solution-dyed PET fiber made with Mohawk’s Continuum process that uses the highest grade FDA-approved PET bottle resins and requires less energy to produce. Among its many benefits, Post said, EnviroStrand SD has a Class I rating for improved flammability and smoke density.

Mannington plans to implement a new premium product it believes will open new end use applications within the channel. “Primarily we have effectively communicated our Quantum Guard HP message, and schools are now seeing the benefits of reduced long-term life cycle costs compared to other resilient products,” Wiethe said. “Interestingly, we actually have seen residential interest in our commercial LVT products. Most of that boils down to visuals.”

Mannington is capitalizing on Main Street growth through its Madison, Ga., manufacturing facility, which has been expanded three times with the potential for additional space. “Our Amtico acquisition brought us 50 years of manufacturing experience—and there is no substitution for experience,” Wiethe said. “Our combination of manufacturing expertise and our domestic facility will provide us the opportunity to continue to lead.”

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Resilient: Novalis rides commercial sector’s rising tide

April 11/18, 2016; Volume 30, Number 21

By Reginald Tucker

Screen Shot 2016-04-22 at 2.08.11 PMBy most accounts, 2015 was a fortuitous year for Novalis Innovative Flooring. During that time, the company—known for its modern, environmentally friendly approach to LVT product development—expanded its global manufacturing and warehousing capabilities to better serve its distributors and end users.

The end result, according to John Wu, the company’s president, was not only the successful launch of new product lines and programs that drew praises from its customers, but also vinyl tile rollouts that managed to garner some prestigious commercial contract industry awards along the way.

“In 2015 we had two major commercial launches: the Birkdale collection from the branded NovaFloor line, which features extra long planks and tiles; and a new product offering under the AVA banner,” Wu said. “These 18 x 36 tiles and

9 x 50 planks have been very well received by distributors in the marketplace; they have been asking for this larger format. It’s definitely trending up.”

With AVA, Novalis launched 64 SKUs in planks and in tiles across three collections: DGSN for corporate, retail and hospitality; SNSE for education and healthcare; and STYL for multi-family developments. AVA offers a broad selection of designs in dryback, loose lay and click installation formats. This marks the company’s first foray into commercial flooring under the Novalis brand.

The reception of the AVA-branded commercial line has been particularly warm, according to Wu. Just a few short months after the line’s official launch in the summer of 2015, the collection made an even bigger splash at NeoCon East in Philadelphia in November. What’s more, AVA took home the coveted Kapok Award from the commercial interior-focused Guangzhou Design Week show in China the following month. (It’s worth noting that more than 1,000 products competed for the prize.)

“We wanted an attention-grabbing display for our new AVA product,” Wu said, describing the full-size, sprawling skateboard course that was built right into Novalis’ booth at the Guangzhou event. “Hundreds of people visited the booth to watch skateboard athletes showcase the beauty and demonstrate the durability of our AVA floors.”

 

2016 objectives

Wu is confident the momentum of award-winning products such as AVA will carry over into 2016. This is based on his hunch that two entirely new offerings will generate just as much buzz—if not more so—than last year’s breakthroughs.

As an encore act, Novalis is launching a pair of fresh products under the NovaFloor banner. The first line is called Davidson, which is a commercial-spec glue-down product for the Main Street/commercial market. The second product is branded Abberly, a Main Street commercial floating LVT floor with a Valinge 5G locking system.

A soft launch of these products took place at Surfaces in Las Vegas back in January, followed by a larger, full-scale rollout earlier this month.

“Our distributors are very excited about the product,” Wu said, noting the focus on these specific formats reflects the company’s confidence in the Main Street commercial sectors. “With Abberly in particular, we believe this is one of the strongest click products on the market.”

While Wu stresses the fact that Novalis spends significant funds on researching design trends to develop what the company predicts will be the hot colors and patterns, it’s not taking all the credit for the inspiration behind the new 2016 offerings. “Every year we invest a lot of money into developing new designs, but we also couple that with feedback from our distributor partners as well,” he explained.

For those dealers who carry existing NovaFloor products, Wu said the company has made it easy to incorporate the newer lines into the fold. This is courtesy of Novalis’ modular display system, which can be adjusted using “sidecars” to accommodate the latest samples. The updates will be supported by new literature.

“We think this will be a very successful program as more and more distributors recognize that they need to be involved not only in residential but also commercial,” Wu stated. “Our research shows LVT is becoming a bigger part of the overall pie, and with these two new products distributors will have a much greater chance of grabbing a larger share. “

The 2016 objectives don’t end with the product launches. Wu also revealed that Novalis is working hard to bolster its online presence, particularly as it relates to building a social network for the flagship brand.

“Even though we have been in the business for 30 years, we are still the new kid on the block with respect to the U.S. market,” he explained. “That’s why we feel that we need to have a stronger social network presence (i.e., LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook). I think you will see a lot more of that from us.”

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Top 20 distributors: Flooring distributors grind out gains in 2015 behind strength in commercial sector

October 26/November 2; Volume 30/Number 10

By Ken Ryan

Screen Shot 2015-10-30 at 4.29.34 PMThe industry’s top 20 flooring distributors are a resourceful bunch, continuing to find ways to grow their businesses while navigating through choppy economic waters.

While the commercial sector has been strong in 2014-15, residential remodel—which accounts for about half of floor covering demand—continues to underwhelm.

“Just like 2014, we see the market as disappointing compared to expectations for 2015 of mid- to modestly high single-digit growth of floor covering in the U.S.,” said Bruce Zwicker, CEO of Glen Burnie, Md.-based Haines, the industry’s largest flooring distributor. “Floor covering demand in 2014 was predicted to grow 7% or more following strong 7% growth in 2013. But 2014 did not live up to expectations.”

The good news is that the commercial sector is on mostly solidfooting, particularly property management, which one distributor described as “the goose that is laying the golden egg.” Well-positioned distributors have been able to shift more of their business to commercial while waiting for retail to rebound.

The strong commercial business has resulted in some healthy sales increases for distributors; however, because commercial work produces lower margins than residential work, the percentage of overall gross profit has taken a hit.

Sales, distribution climate

As previously noted the residential remodel sector concerns distributors most. With the exception of a strong 2013, that segment has remained mostly sluggish since 2008 as consumers continue to delay big-ticket purchases.

“Today’s retail consumer is fickle,” said Jeff Striegel, president of Elias Wilf, Owings Mills, Md. “Whatever it is—a war in the Middle East, rising gas prices, the Pope comes to America and shuts down three cities—it can be anything that makes the consumer fickle.”

Adding to that impediment is what some executives call the “lack of available discretionary income.” After adjusting for inflation, consumers’ incomes have not Screen Shot 2015-10-30 at 4.29.45 PMimproved much since 2009. Furthermore, many are saddled with debt, particularly younger consumers with significant college loans to pay off.

“Consumers are not quite confident enough to spend on discretionary big-ticket items,” Zwicker said. “When they do they spend on other big items like cars and roofs. Other big spends are often prioritized by consumers over floors. Plus, homeowners are less convinced that they would get a return on investment on home remodeling expenditures. Remodeling spending has been driven more by higher income consumers who have the confidence and wherewithal. This is fine but we need the broad market of consumers to step in to really move the needle.”

Several distributors said August 2015 was a rough month for business, but no one seems to have a clear reason why. “The year was moving along quite strongly, but in the last 90 days things slowed down a bit, tempering overall performance,” said Scott Rozmus, president of FlorStar Sales, Romeoville, Ill. “Reports from the field and feedback directly from customers suggest that in many of our markets retail traffic was down.”

Meanwhile, the auto industry saw its strongest sales in a decade in August.

While both flooring and automobiles are considered large-ticket items, more favorable credit terms in the auto industry have allowed consumers with spotty—or even poor—credit history to purchase vehicles.

Specialty retail is still strong for those dealers and distributors who are diversified in all segments. As Jeff Hamar, president of Galleher, Santa Fe Springs, Calif., put it, “You have to be where the market is and not where you hope it is going to be.”

Despite these challenges, the industry’s top-tier distributors continue to do what they do: generate year-over-year revenue gains. These wholesalers have thrived in part by taking market share away from smaller competitors, having diversified product portfolios and being more important in their local markets.

Being well positioned has been a godsend for Adleta, according to John Sher, president. Ten years ago the Carrollton, Texas-based distributor was not even in the hardwood business; today its portfolio is 1⁄3 wood, 15% laminate and sundries, and the rest LVT/resilient. “We are pretty fortunate not to be tilted into any one category; we were able to diversify, and that is a great thing,” Sher said. “Our plan for years has been to participate in every market without becoming too dependent on any one area.”

At one time Denver Hardwood was 100% wood; today the distributor is still about 90% wood but the other 10% is comprised of LVT, sundries and laminate (IVC Balterio, specifically). “We are happy with our 2015 results but I don’t know if I could make that comment if not for our product diversification,” said Enos Farnsworth, president.

For All Tile in Elk Grove Village, Ill., logistical improvements for the distributor and its CCS supplies company that it acquired in early 2014 have paved the way for a nearly 7.5% increase in 2015. “Combined trucks equals better logistics and cost savings for our customers, better distribution for our suppliers and more control over our deliveries,” said Bob Weiss, CEO.

All Tile opened a new CCS facility in Davenport, Iowa, on Sept. 1, marking its initial presence in the Hawkeye state. Weiss said All Tile would be expanding into Indiana in the fourth quarter of 2015.

Galleher, which has made two acquisitions since 2009 to fuel its business, is on a run of five consecutive double-digit yearly gains, having gone from $50 million in 2010 to a projected $175 million in 2015. “Through August we are up 18% over last year,” Hamar said.

As it grows Galleher continues to launch initiatives. It is expanding its in-house manufacturing capacity, relocating several branch facilities to larger locations and working on data-driven models to help improve results in its major sales channels.

Oil production woes

Lower gas prices have helped sales of automobiles nationwide and boosted consumer confidence; however, in the major oil- producing states including Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana, the downturn in oil production has resulted in massive layoffs. Four of the top 20 distributors are headquartered in Texas.

“A loss of jobs and what it does to the general psyche does more harm than what the advantage at the pump can do down here,” said Sher, whose company covers a seven-state region including Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana.

Jonathan Train, president and CEO of Swiff-Train in Corpus Christi, Texas, said the decline in oil production affects many jobs. “The general feeling is that oil prices will remain depressed and have a negative impact into 2016.”

Bob Eady, senior vice president of sales and marketing for T&L Distributing in Houston, said when T&L was budgeting for 2015 it did not predict that oil would drop to $45 per barrel. “It has really slowed down the market here. Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana do much better when oil is $100 per barrel but then the rest of the nation would suffer. So it’s a tradeoff for us.

Product trends

Being aligned with the right vendors in trending products like LVT has been a formula for success for ages. As LVT continues to be the nearly perfect product, suitable for most commercial and residential applications, distributors continue to expand its assortment in the category. LVT has gotten so big some distributors have separated it from the broader resilient categorization.

For Herregan Distributors in Eagan, Minn., LVT accounts for the majority of its resilient portfolio, which is more than 50% of its business. “Mannington and Metroflor continue to be the leaders in our markets in LVT,” said Pat Theis, vice president of sales and marketing. “We are also seeing aggressive growth in our fiberglass sheet vinyl business.”

Distributors said the burgeoning WPC category will be carefully watched going forward. Striegel said he expects 30 to 40 new WPC product introductions at The International Surface Event in Las Vegas in January, in what could be a preview of an explosive 2016. “There’s a saying, ‘You have to run to where the noise is,’ and LVT and WPC are making lots of noise these days. Any time you have a product that solves a problem it seems to do well. One of the issues people have with LVT is that there is some telegraphing, so there are limitations of what you can put it over; however, WPC solves that problem.”

The biggest change in laminate is its lack of acceptance in the builder community. With the advent of 12 mil, the product looks like a ½-inch hardwood and is less expensive, which has helped it gain appreciation. “A few years ago I didn’t have laminate in a single builder account,” Striegel said. “Now 40% of my builders [use it]. Laminate is thick, durable and the visuals have come so far, a flooring expert would not be able to tell the difference between 12 mil laminate from Mannington or Quick-Step and hardwood. It can be a $2 laminate that looks like a high-end DuChateau.”

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Commercial: Carpet tile, LVT provide momentum in recovering market

June 29; Volume 30/Number 1

By K.J. Quinn

Innovation and changing dynamics are impacting flooring choices in the commercial market, and key economic indicators are finally pointing in the right direction. According to industry experts, sales grew in 2014 across certain commercial segments for tScreen Shot 2015-07-02 at 4.03.12 PMhe first time since the recession. Carpet tile and luxury vinyl tile (LVT) were the shining stars as the A&D community covets both products for their durability, maintenance and design profile.s

Several business trends positively impacted commercial flooring sales last year. Unemployment levels declined while CEO corporate confidence—which helps drive capital spending—rose, according to published reports. New construction work and the architectural billings index, the pipeline for specified contract projects, increased over the previous year. “I think the industry is finally seeing some growth and it’s really coming from those indicators,” noted John Wells, president, Interface Americas.

Carpet remains the leading category in commercial, growing to between 3% and 3.5% to approximately $3.88 billion in sales and 2.33 billion square feet, according to FCNews research. The category commands an estimated 59% share of total commercial flooring sales and volume, with 80% of the business derived from specified contract work and the remainder from Main Street applications. Carpet or modular tile surpassed broadloom as the headliner, representing roughly 52% of category sales and growing more than 10% last year.

“At some point broadloom sales have to level out, but it may have a little further to go,” said Ralph Grogan, president and CEO, Bentley. “I think carpet tile will represent 75% of the market and broadloom about 25% a couple of years from now.” Increased design options, formats—such as planks, hexagon shapes and large tiles measuring 36-inches and more—helped carpet tile grow at a much faster rate than broadloom.

Sales varied by end use, experts reported, as different specification issues affected growth rates across key sectors such as corporate, education, health care, retail and hospitality. For instance, in the specified contract business, broadloom remains a viable flooring choice in budget-conscious bedrock segments such as health care and education (K-12). New styles enabled the product to expand into areas that prefer high-end woven carpets, such as hospitality.

Average uninstalled pricing for commercial soft surfaces is creeping up, moving at approximately $13 to $14 per square yard nationwide, according to industry estimates. “I think that move in price points demonstrates the shift to better quality products,” Wells noted. “Carpet tile is being [specified] for a higher price per square yard, which is also helping drive up the overall price.”

Carpet tile, however, is not the end-all product for commercial flooring applications. “There are still some things you can’t do in carpet tile, like creating certain looks and finishes, where broadloom is a better solution,” noted Michel Vermette, president, Mohawk Commercial and International. “Carpet tile is taking the middle part of the market and I would say broadloom is taking the entry level and higher price points with better and more sophisticated aesthetics.”

Hard surface

Hard surface grew approximately 2% to 4% to reach approximately $2.69 billion in commercial sales, according to research. Statistics for ceramic are difficult to pin down as distribution is fragmented, but FCNews estimates 2014 category sales rose about 4% to around $714 billion. Roughly 60% to 70% of all hard surface commercial sales are derived from specified contract, while the rest comes from Main Street work.

“Tile demand in the commercial market is an area we can count on for growth, spurred by office and commercial construction and an increased use of tile as a low maintenance and sustainable flooring option,” said April Wilson, director, brand marketing, Dal-Tile.

Resilient (vinyl) represents about 17.5% of 2014 sales in dollars. The pacesetter is LVT, which is growing at a much faster rate and moved approximately 257 million square feet into the commercial market last year. While wood visuals remained popular, design trends are moving toward more unique visuals from concrete and stone rectangle shapes.

“You are seeing all sorts of LVT shapes, sizes and visuals, especially in the commercial market,” noted Scott Sandlin, vice president, hard surfaces, Shaw Floors. “In addition to design flexibility, LVT’s appeal includes durability, performance and maintenance ease.”

While VCT is the top resilient floor in units—approximately 550 million square feet were sold last year—this position is tenuous as it continues losing market share to LVT. “VCT has a strong place in many segments and applications,” observed Dominic Rice, vice president and general manager, Armstrong Commercial North America Floor Products. “But the size of the VCT market is considerably lower than a number of years ago.”

Hardwood and laminate combine to represent about 10.5% of hard surface commercial sales and 3.5% of total commercial sales, a figure comparable to 2013. Wood accounts for nearly twice as much revenue, and sales activity varies by end-use sector, fetching higher price points than laminates. Plus, laminate applications are limited in the commercial market, namely because the product is unsuitable for areas with heavy foot traffic, experts explained.

There are numerous factors affecting growth for hard surface in the commercial market. Many center on advances in aesthetics, performance, ease of installation and maintenance while others are based on floor design trends. There is also a greater understanding within the A&D community on what goes into certain hard surfaces. Concerns regarding sustainability and meeting LEED building requirements have been greatly reduced as more flooring producers list environmental and health data, meaning product claims are transparent and verifiable.

Rubber continues to be a mainstay product for education and health care, industry members said. Sales performance mirrored how commercial flooring fared in these core segments, with minimal growth in 2014. “Where we’ve seen some growth in rubber is outside traditional segments,” said Jeff Krejsa, senior vice president, Tarkett. “It’s largely driven by aesthetics; the durability and maintenance benefits are understood.” Rubber producers note life cycle replacement data proves the product actually costs less over the long haul because it lasts longer.

Screen Shot 2015-07-02 at 4.03.24 PMLike rubber, linoleum has carved a niche into education and health care, two segments which up until about three years ago represented an estimated 80% of its business. Now that figure is closer to 60% and coming off a year where growth was flat to modest at best, according to industry estimates. “As a category, linoleum is kind of struggling to find its new position,” Krejsa observed. “It needs to get in tune with some other trends happening in other resilient categories and carpet, related to shapes, sizes and planks.”

While linoleum remains one of the most sustainable floor coverings, that is no longer good enough. “One of the biggest fallacies about linoleum is it’s green and that’s what drives it,” said Denis Darragh, general manager, Forbo Flooring. “That’s not really the case, which can open a lot of doors for discussion. It’s the best performing resilient floor for durability and long-term use.” The category posted about $75 million in sales last year, estimates showed.

Corporate

If there is one segment that reaped the benefits of an improving economy, it was corporate office work. It represents more than 40% of commercial flooring sales and grew over 10% last year, FCNews research found, making it the largest and fastest growing sector. An uptick in new office construction, expansions and renovations from landlord dollars, coupled with double-digit sales growth for many corporations that occupy these facilities, continue to stimulate demand.

Carpet tile overtook broadloom as the top flooring choice in office interiors, representing an estimated 52% market share, according to industry estimates. As aesthetics, styles and formats evolve, the product is gaining further acceptance in workspaces demanding style and as a tool to create warmth and hospitality in cafeteria and break areas.

“Corporate continues to further migrate to carpet tile as it offers many advantages over broadloom,” said Rob Cushman, Bolyu’s executive vice president, marketing and design. “Its modular design allows easier material handling. It is easily transported up and down elevators, occupied environments are much easier to renovate, catastrophic damage is easier to replace, and attic stock is much easier to store and handle.” Broadloom remains preferable for budget-sensitive projects and high-end applications.

Hospitality

Similar to corporate, hospitality experienced double-digit growth last year, anywhere from 10% to 15%, according to industry estimates. As the economy improved, both business and leisure travel returned to pre-recession levels, which helped stimulate new construction and remodeling of hotels. “The hospitality sector has been leading in all categories in terms of commercial sales growth,” Dal-Tile’s Wilson said.

Mid-range and upscale hotel brands have projects ongoing, and the rate has picked up since the recession. While their locations feature a consistent level of performance standards associated with their brands, floor designs are being influenced by architecture and regional design preferences. This helped fuel an increasing blend of hard and soft surfaces as hotels attempt to create unique, inviting interiors with high performing, easily maintained products that can stand up to heavy traffic demands.

Hard surfaces such as resilieScreen Shot 2015-07-02 at 4.03.33 PMnt are used in low-end and mid-range applications while hardwood and ceramic tile are preferred for higher-end settings due to their durability and realistic aesthetics. Carpet remains the top-selling product, as broadloom is found predominantly in guest rooms, hallways and certain public areas.

Education

The education market—a sector consisting of schools for grades K to 12 and higher education —was essentially flat last year, although government funding for several public school building projects opened up while colleges and universities invested in renovations as they try to attract more students. “Education growth is slower relative to the rest of the market, especially in K-12,” said Brenda Knowles, vice president, commercial marketing and product development, Shaw Industries. “This is in large part due to constricted funding at the state and local levels.”

Educational facilities utilize a mixture of flooring products to support a wide array of activities. Carpet and resilient are often used to add warmth and comfort underfoot in classrooms, media centers, offices and collaborative learning spaces. VCT has long been installed in schools and colleges thanks to its durability, low installed cost, easy maintenance, fresh patterns and bold colors. But LVT and carpet tile continue making inroads at the expense of VCT as life-cycling costs more in budget-sensitive public school systems are factored into flooring specifications.

Retail

In a market renowned as “hit or miss” every year, retail was certainly a hit in 2014. Commercial flooring sales rose about 7% as capital investment and renovation plans for large retail chains and local businesses postponed during the recession were finally implemented.

Ceramic tile and carpet are often specified in high-end spaces while resilient and rubber flooring are utilized in other public spaces. Retailers specifying carpet are doing so largely because of its value proposition, including sound-deadening, aesthetic and low maintenance qualities, industry members said. “Acoustics are a big issue because the space, in general, whether it’s retail or office, is becoming more raw, with less textiles not just on the floor but on verticals and ceilings,” Interface’s Wells noted.

Health care

The health care sector experienced a slowdown through much of last year as commercial flooring sales growth was moderate at best. The uncertainty surrounding the impact of the Affordable Care Act on reducing revenue streams—the result of health care providers being reimbursed for outcomes instead of services provided—reportedly limited renovation spending. But in Q4 the purse strings began to loosen as spending levels for renovation work rose and millions of dollars were reportedly invested into building large medical facilities nationwide.

“Health care is growing, with more ahead simply due to demographics,” Shaw’s Sandlin said. “Within the health care market, there are multiple sub-sectors, with senior living driving much of the growth.”

The health care sector maintains a broad flooring need as it is spread across assisted living facilities, hospitals/clinics and medical office buildings. For example, low-density carpet and ceramic are used in corridors which help patients walk and maneuver rolling equipment, walkers and wheelchairs while providing smooth transitions and slip resistance. Modular carpet is also a good choice in these spaces due to its sound control and hygienic properties.

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Tapping into the light, local commercial market

May 25/June 1, 2015; Volume 29/Number 4

By Amanda Haskin

Screen Shot 2015-05-29 at 3.40.47 PMWhen businesses were fighting their way out of the recession and housing crisis, many flooring retailers found a glimmer of hope in Main Street commercial work. Lying somewhere between residential and large-scale commercial jobs, Main Street continues to be a lucrative segment as the economy is picking up and small businesses are opening, reopening and remodeling.

“There’s more pressure to make your business look good,” said Mike Blanton, owner of Dalton Carpet One in Athens, Ga. “We’re coming out of the recession. People are starting to spend money and they want to feel good when they do so.”

As flooring retailers need to be diversified, it is inarguable that Main Street is an essential piece of the puzzle for businesses looking to grow. Not only does it provide stability in the face of a fluctuating economy, but it also provides retailers an opportunity to separate themselves from the competition, as there are dealers still not tapped into this market.

For many retailers the hardest part is getting started. Blanton believes Main Street should start off as a natural extension of residential business. “You do someone’s house and they happen to be a doctor or lawyer looking to redo their office,” he said. “Or maybe they’re on a committee for their church and they’ve had a good experience with you. It starts with doing a good job at retail.”

At the same time, he advises retailers to be aggressive and go out and find work within the community. “Like most things in life, just do it. Make some contacts—call all the purchasing guys at your local hospitals and find out where they’re buying their product. Find commercial installers you can work with. Start locally and go ask for it.”

Gary Mazza, president of Mazza’s Flooring America in Hammonton, N.J., agrees you have to put yourself out there. “You can’t just wait for people to come to you. You have to go out and knock on doors, and you can’t be afraid to travel outside your market. I take care of the whole state of New Jersey, and if I have to go into Manhattan or Pennsylvania, I will.”

Another aspect of excelling on Main Street is product knowledge. Retailers need to understand their products and how they perform, and they need to be able to provide the right recommendations.

“It’s not about selling [customers] something because they like the color; it has to be conducive to their needs and where they’re putting it,” said John Pape, owner of John Pape Floor Coverings in Pittsburgh.

Retailers said the products that seem to sell the best on Main Street are carpet tile, LVT and ceramic tile. Mazza uses primarily carpet tile, particularly with his work in many local schools, but has used LVT in nursing homes, grocery stores and even a bowling alley.

“It gives you a wood look or ceramic tile look with cheaper maintenance down the road and a warmer feeling,” he said. “If I used a hardwood, a woman’s high heels would create all those little indentation marks. With LVT, you don’t see that.”

Pape has found that floating floor products sell particularly well on Main Street. “I like USFloors’ COREtec products and Shaw’s Classico and Premio planks. We’ll also do some IVC products. [Customers] are looking for waterproof cores, products that are commercially rated and can go over imperfect subfloors.”

Blanton added that wood looks in ceramic tile are very popular right now, so he uses them for entryways, hallways and other areas that see a lot of traffic.

Major manufacturers understand the importance of Main Street commercial business, and have introduced products specifically designed for this segment. For example, Mannington Commercial has its Core Elements line created for CCA buying groups, Mohawk offers its Aladdin Commercial brand, and Shaw has 5th and Main resilient and Philadelphia Commercial.

Retailers also stress that installation becomes even more important for transitioning into more Main Street jobs. “You need to have good people around you for installation,” Pape noted. “We have all-star installers who can handle wood, carpet, ceramic, backsplashes, custom work, really anything. Having a good labor force behind you is definitely the key.”

 

 

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Carpet tile provides solutions for light commercial

May 25/June 1, 2015; Volume 29/Number 4

By Jenna Lippin

Screen Shot 2015-05-29 at 3.30.05 PMCarpet tile continues to find favor in Main Street applications for a number of reasons, with experts citing characteristics like design flexibility, selective replacement, less waste material and ease of installation. It is easy for dealers and end users to sell and move the product in terms of shipping and handling as well, and is typically more readily available than other flooring options. Designed for light commercial applications, carpet tile can also stand up to varied levels of traffic in public spaces.

“Carpet tile can withstand the heavy foot traffic of commercial environments,” said Quentin Quathamer, commercial brand and marketing manager, Philadelphia Commercial, a division of Shaw Industries. “Product development and innovation have brought down material costs, and due to the modular nature of the product there is less waste which further lowers project costs. Carpet tile is also easy to install and repair, requiring minimal business disruption. This is particularly appealing to Main Street customers, who are often small business owners for whom business downtime can have significant financial impact.”

Chris Post, director of sales operations for Aladdin Commercial, a Mohawk brand, said the use of carpet tile in Main Street environments is unlimited. “We see it in educational settings such as schools and libraries, doctors’ offices, restaurants, retail shops, churches. A lot of it has to do with there being less disruption in the workplace.”

Ken Leviner, director of business development for Aladdin, added, “A major feature of carpet tile is occupied space. You can get into some areas overnight and just replace the flooring with carpet tiles. With the adhesives we use there are less odors and VOCs, so the workplace can be right back up the very next day. It helps diffuse the installation dilemma, and is ideal for selective replacement. Typically with carpet tile, if properly maintained, you’ll see a life of about 15 or 16 years where a similar visual in broadloom typically lasts only seven to eight years before it ‘uglies out’ and the end user gets tired of it.” Making the process even easier, some companies are now offering floating carpet tile options that can be installed over existing flooring.

John Wells, president and CEO, Interface Americas, said the company continues to build a case around carpet tile as the surface of choice for all commercial applications, including Main Street. He noted that acoustics are becoming an issue in Main Street settings in which hard surfaces are installed throughout. He cited recent studies suggesting that louder noise has either hurt productivity in offices or even hurt business. This helps the idea of at least integrating carpet tile for a productive and conducive work space in a Main Street application.

To help make Main Street carpet tile more accessible in the showroom, manufacturers have tailored displays to help these specialized products stand out. Post said he has often seen commercial products “in a back room somewhere or lost in a sea of architect folders.” Aladdin has separate displays for Main Street carpet tile instead of having them roll into existing commercial merchandising. “People selling Main Street have three to five go-to products. They have a comfort level with them because they’ve done a few jobs with them, or have talked about them more, or have them laid out on the showroom floor for demonstration purposes. You can’t communicate broadloom that same way.”

Philadelphia Commercial offers a self-contained carpet tile display system, which provides the key elements a retail sales associate can use to help Main Street customers make a purchase decision, Quathamer explained. “Visualization tools are key with carpet tile. Often there is not the same sort of common repeats as there are in broadloom. And because you can mix and match carpet tiles with various accent tiles or create new patterns by turning some of the tiles in different directions, we offer visuals with our display to showcase the different looks that can be created with multiple installation methods and patterns. It helps paint a picture of what’s possible for the customer.”

Design possibilities are another benefit of carpet tile, allowing for customization that isn’t possible with broadloom. To help illustrate this advantage, retailers can create vignettes with carpet tile in the designated commercial/Main Street area of the showroom. “This allows the retail sales associate to showcase the beauty and durability of carpet tile,” Quathamer added. “And they create an interactive demonstration area to illustrate the ease of installation—changing the design on the spot for the customer.”

Leviner noted that end users can simply do more with carpet tile, including creating a border or inserting a rug visual in a hard surface floor. “You’re seeing more and more commercial carpet being put on dealers’ floors. They like to showcase this kind of product. Plus it’s easier for them to change out. They can create new patterns every six months. They can throw in an accent color to change up a showroom. I’ve been in showrooms that had the same carpet for 30 to 40 years because the dealers say it’s a pain to move displays and disrupt the floors. Like the end users in Main Street, they don’t want to disrupt their businesses. Once they see they don’t have to, they can communicate the benefit to the customer.”

In differentiating carpet tile from other Main Street product options, Quathamer said dimensional stability is key. Therefore, the manufacturing process for carpet tile is much different than that of broadloom, both in terms of tufting and backing. “If you simply cut broadloom carpet into squares, it would shrink, cup, curl and not provide the tear, tensile or delamination strength required for even the lightest foot traffic. With carpet tile, each tuft is woven and locked into place and supported by a sturdier backing.”

According to Leviner, the real performance attribute for carpet tile is its backing. “The backing itself is the shock absorber. It absorbs much of the impact of foot traffic, taking emphasis off of the fiber. You don’t need a 26 oz. or 28 oz. product; if that was necessary you would see wholesale prices of $26 to $28.” Carpet tile in lighter face weights is becoming increasingly popular, many coming in at lower than 20 oz.

Quathamer anticipates carpet tile continuing to be a poplar flooring choice for Main Street customers. He noted that carpet tile has traditionally been constructed with nylon fiber to meet the performance needs of commercial spaces, but options with polypropylene face fiber are becoming more preferred. Therefore, “it will be increasingly important for retailers and Main Street customers to understand the technical performance of these products, which are well suited for areas with very light foot traffic.”

To meet increasing demand in the Main Street market, Aladdin has added coordinating LVT to its collection of both carpet tile and broadloom. With a “solutions-based proposition,” the company is making sure color families and products work together. “What’s driving carpet tile is the end user who wants to see somewhat of a simplified selection process,” Leviner concluded. “A one-stop shop with a dealer who is partnered with a flooring manufacturer. We have that dealer’s back and know the right product for every end-use area.”