Posted on

Resilient Executive Forecast: Rigid core poised to lead the charge in 2020, consensus shows

Dec. 9/16, 2019: Volume 35, Issue 12

By Lindsay Gonzalez


Resilient manufacturers are cautiously optimistic moving into 2020, citing the election year and uncertainty around tariffs as possible challenges. Despite potential hiccups, the category is expected to grow double digits next year with rigid and WPC products leading the charge. Innovations in rigid, WPC and LVT are expected to continue stealing market share from soft and hard surface alternatives alike.

Bill Anderson
Karndean Designflooring
What is your projection for category growth next year?
We expect the double-digit growth the industry has seen in LVT for the past several years will continue.

What segments and/or products will fuel this growth?
With the continued advancement in design and technology, we anticipate LVT will continue to take market share from other categories. In retail, rigid core will continue to be a strong market driver, while in commercial there is a preference for glue-down and loose lay.

What is the predicted growth of your company in 2020?
We are very fortunate that, despite the tariffs, we continue to break sales records month after month. We look forward to building on that momentum in 2020, anticipating double-digit growth.

What is the “X” factor that will impact your business next year?
We’ve been in this industry for decades, we know we have the best-looking visuals in the market and a high-performing product, but what really sets us apart and keeps customers coming back are the people behind the Karndean Designflooring name.

Where do you see opportunities for next year? Challenges?
Because we lead with design, we believe that no matter what product a customer chooses, we have the ability to customize and deliver a floor that is unique. Competition for us is the main challenge because companies are trying to drive LVT into the commodity area.

What are some of your biggest initiatives for 2020?
We will continue to diversify our product selection with new and innovative designs in four of our ranges. Whether it’s glue-down, loose lay or rigid core, we always lead with design and develop original visuals, each with a unique story.

Thomas Baert
What is your projection for category growth next year?
SPC will grow 25%.

What segments and/or products will fuel this growth?
There is a trend starting to go toward products with less PVC or none at all, with more and more innovations that will come—such as Tenacity, with mineral core and no PVC.

What is the predicted growth of your company in 2020?
Being the largest producer and innovator of SPC-based hybrid products, we are optimistic for the year ahead.

What is the “X” factor that will impact your business next year?
CFL’s success has always been thanks to its ability to offer solutions to successfully develop and launch first-to-market products along with the guidance and support of our trusted distributors.

Where do you see opportunities for next year? Challenges?
Our goal is to be able to continue to provide flexible solutions that are above geopolitical risks thanks to our increased capacity in countries not concerned by tariffs.

What are some of your biggest initiatives for 2020?
Expanding production capacity while becoming a global player through production in different continents. We also have breakthrough innovations in the pipeline.

Chris O’Connor
President and COO
What is your projection for category growth next year?
We expect flooring to grow 2%-3% as long as the economy continues to grow. The growth in resilient will be higher than that as it has the last few years. The trend away from other products will continue but at a slightly slower pace in 2020.

What segments and/or products will fuel this growth?
WPC and SPC. The continued trend toward multi-layered flooring will be most of the growth in resilient.

What is the predicted growth of your company in 2020?
In 2019, we made some changes with our group of distributors that will help us grow double digits next year. We’re aiming for at least 10%, and most of that is driven by new product introductions and a strong group of distributors.

What is the “X” factor that will impact your business next year?
We should have architect portfolios at the end of 2019 for CLEO Contract. We will also continue to push our CLEO Home product and grow that business. Overall, I think working in the commercial space, which the company has not significantly participated in for a few years.

Where do you see opportunities for next year? Challenges?
There are opportunities to move product lines to less expensive constructions, from WPC to SPC. Sourcing from countries that are not involved in the Chinese tariffs could be an opportunity. As for challenges, the economy is slightly an unknown right now with an election year.

What are some of your biggest initiatives for 2020?
CLEO contract, CLEO home and moving our products into new, more popular constructions—specifically taking our WPC designs and offering them in SPC construction.

Steven Ehrlich
VP of sales and marketing
Novalis Innovative Floors
What is your projection for category growth next year?
We expect consumer spending as a whole to be slow moving into 2020, which is typical of an election year. However, we also expect to see continued growth during the year as a whole due to a rise in the residential replacement market.

What segments and/or products will fuel this growth?
The industry is driven by the continued unprecedented growth of rigid core. More than ever before, residential consumers are putting hard surface flooring in their homes. Commercial consumers are following suit with more Main Street commercial, hospitality and multi-family units putting in LVT as well.

What is the predicted growth of your company in 2020?
We are strongly positioned in 2020 for an unprecedented year with NovaFloor. Our market penetration combined additional sales staff and with the knowledge and footprint of our partners sets us up to see brand growth like we’ve never seen before.

What is the “X” factor that will impact your business next year?
The X factor that will impact our business in a very positive way is the groundwork we put down this year. We have added additional sales and support staff, increased our presence in specialty retail, ramped up our marketing and developed brand new, on-trend products in 2019.

Where do you see opportunities for next year? Challenges?
Our biggest opportunity and challenge are one in the same—keeping up with the demand of the ever-growing luxury vinyl market. With over 30 years in this business, we have the knowledge, talent and manufacturing skills to not only keep up but to rise above the rest.

What are some of your biggest initiatives for 2020?
Our biggest initiatives center around four pillars: capability and talent development, product, merchandising and marketing. In 2020 we are looking to increase the overall NovaFloor presence at retail.

Michael Raskin
Raskin Industries
What is your projection for category growth next year?
We predict the category will grow by 10%.

What segments and/or products will fuel this growth?
Rigid click and loose lay.

What is the predicted growth of your company in 2020?
We anticipate 20% growth.

What is the “X” factor that will impact your business next year?
2019 was a big investment for Raskin Industries on the residential side of our business with luxury displays. We placed more than 3,000 displays in 2019 that we anticipate will return dividends in 2020.

Where do you see opportunities for next year? Challenges?
We offers diversified production in Korea, China and the U.S. This is important because there is still uncertainty with the tariffs, which are due to expire in August. We will be positioned in 2020 to offer rigid manufactured both in Korea and the U.S. should the tariff war escalate.

What are some of your biggest initiatives for 2020?
Investing in social media to promote our message to end users. We also launched a room scene application called the FlorLab, where you can select any of our floors and see them in any room by simply taking a photo and inserting our floor.

Herb Upton
VP of hard surface
Shaw Industries and USFloors
What is your projection for category growth next year?
We anticipate positive sales and rapid growth in the coming year. The resilient category will remain the highest growth flooring category in North America and will continue to take market share from other flooring categories.

What segments and/or products will fuel this growth?
Rigid core will continue to be incredibly popular, due to its versatility, ease of installation and numerous benefits for both residential and commercial applications.

What is the predicted growth of your company in 2020?
We anticipate continued high demand, and our team plans to remain the leading innovator in this exciting category. With the rapidly evolving nature of resilient, and especially LVT, new advancements are on the horizon.

What is the “X” factor that will impact your business next year?
Disruption through innovation is key in this segment for products to stand out in the market. Our work in developing new cores and new surface treatments, as well as understanding consumer trends to provide the highest quality visuals, set us apart in this category.

Where do you see opportunities for next year? Challenges?
Opportunities include further innovation, which we are at the forefront of with COREtec. One challenge is ensuring RSAs have the information they need to successfully sell the product. We were very diligent in 2019 in regard to educating our RSAs, which we will continue in 2020.

What are some of your biggest initiatives for 2020?
We will continue to innovate our industry leading Floorté and COREtec product lines for 2020. We have some exciting introductions in both these brands that are sure to impress consumers and drive sales for this category.

Michel Vermette
President and CEO
Armstrong Flooring
What is your projection for category growth next year?
Across the industry, we expect the resilient category to continue to show strong growth as hard surface flooring continues to take over spaces once reserved for carpet.

What segments and/or products will fuel this growth?
LVT and rigid core have been the growth engines driving not only resilient but also the flooring industry. We expect that to continue going into 2020. Resilient products offer tremendous advantages to customers in terms of beautiful designs, durability and ease of installation.

What is the predicted growth of your company in 2020?
Our focus for 2020 is to optimize our product portfolio, expand our customer reach, streamline processes and implement best practices to better take advantage of market opportunities and leverage the strength of the Armstrong brand.

What is the “X” factor that will impact your business next year?
There are a couple factors that could generate uncertainty, including any fluctuation in tariffs on imported flooring. Another is the presidential election. Although we can’t control these factors, we will continue to offer solutions that provide style, durability and value.

Where do you see opportunities for next year? Challenges?
In addition to residential flooring, our traditional areas of strength in the commercial market are education and healthcare. We see strong potential to expand our reach further into hospitality, office, single-family and multi-family segments.

What are some of your biggest initiatives for 2020?
We’re hiring more people to service customers, investing in the development of in-demand products and simplifying processes so it’s easier to work with us. We’re also developing new selling tools and increasing digital marketing and demand creation.

Posted on

Resilient: Suppliers call a draw on domestic vs. imports

Nov. 25/Dec. 2, 2019: Volume 35, Issue 11

By Lindsay Gonzalez


The benefits and shortcomings of domestically produced resilient flooring vs. imported are often used to determine which flooring is the better product. However, it would be unfair to deem one source of production superior over the other, resilient suppliers say, especially considering the fact that a healthy mix of domestic and imported product is an effective way to keep up with the consumer’s ever-growing demand for resilient products.

FCNews polled a handful of manufacturers to get their take on the advantages and disadvantages of producing resilient flooring domestically and overseas. Following are excerpts of what they had to say.


Armstrong Flooring has six U.S. plants, including this one in Lancaster, Pa.

Shorter lead times. 
Manufacturing close to the market can provide faster delivery, according to David Morgan, executive vice president of operations, Shaw Floors. But, that’s not all. “Having design, engineering, production and service collaborating in close proximity to one another enhances the opportunity for innovation,” he said. “Furthermore, with our internally produced products, we’re able to completely understand the material chemistry and physical product attributes down to the ingredient level.”

U.S. jobs and quality control. Domestic production opens the doors for more jobs for U.S. citizens, said Chris Dillon, vice president of sales and marketing, SLCC. “There are several advantages from a consumer as well as an economic advantage when it comes to domestic production,” he added. “The quality control can also be localized. When you buy domestic, you know exactly where it is coming from and whom to hold accountable for any issues.”

Faster reaction time. “U.S. production gives Mohawk the advantage of reacting to the customer’s needs efficiently and timely—to deliver the products she wants when she wants them,” said Joey Faircloth, senior vice president of manufacturing, Mohawk Industries. “Add in natural resources, low energy costs, low transportation costs (due to our IVC plant having easy interstate access) and a very capable workforce—manufacturing here oftentimes makes the most sense.”

Patriotism. There’s a certain patriotic advantage to domestic production, according to Doug Ankney, vice president, resilient manufacturing, Armstrong Flooring. “For some consumers and businesses, it’s important to buy products manufactured in the USA because it’s a means of supporting local economies.”

Close to raw materials. For Armstrong Flooring, domestic production puts the company in close proximity to raw materials such as limestone. “Locating production close to both raw materials and end markets has both economic and sustainability benefits because it reduces transportation costs and the related environmental impact,” Ankney added.

Cost issues. In some instances, domestic resilient products are unable to compete with imports on pricing, manufacturers say. “Some projects are driven almost entirely by initial cost, which impacts price competitiveness, especially for less durable LVT constructions with lighter wear layers,” said Adrienne Roseman, director of LVT, Tarkett North America. “This can hinder the ability to produce these entry-level products domestically.”

Less flexibility. Domestic production often comes with less flexibility as well as higher minimum order quantities, higher labor costs and longer development time, according to Michael Raskin, CEO, Raskin Industries.



Cali Bamboo sources its Moso bamboo from within the Zhejiang Province of China.

Consistency, reliability. Manufacturing product globally can help companies provide customers with consistent service. That’s according to Jenne Ross, director of marketing, Karndean Designflooring. “For Karndean Designflooring, because we are a global entity with businesses in the U.S., UK and Australia/New Zealand, having a global supply chain is advantageous for our business and our customers because this allows us to offer products with universal consistency and reliability.”

Significant capacity. With the large growth of LVT, WPC and SPC-type products, capacity is an important factor in production. “WPC and SPC products were originally developed in China creating significant capacity there,” Shaw Floors’ Morgan explained. “While manufacturing in the U.S. is taking place, getting new facilities online simply cannot happen at a pace that comes close to meeting market demand. Thus, imports are particularly important in the LVT flooring sector where U.S. production is significantly below in-country demand.”

Sustainable sourcing. For Cali Brands, sourcing its Moso bamboo from within the Zhejiang Province of Southeast China is a move that is not only sustainable but also reduces environmental impact and transportation costs. “Most of the world’s bamboo is concentrated in this region, making it the most sustainable place to harvest, process and manufacture bamboo products,” said Alex Brodkin, Cali’s senior manager of product management and innovation. “These efficiencies in the supply chain bring customers high-quality products at better prices. Cali relies on a third-party agency to visit manufacturing sites regularly and ensure all quality control processes are being followed properly.”

Flexibility. Overseas production, noted Thomas Baert, president, CFL, provides a certain level of flexibility not found in the U.S. “Contrary to the general perception, the higher end and more innovative products are often made overseas since they require a certain flexibility in manufacturing, which is hard to realize on fully automated machines typically used in U.S. manufacturing.”

Cost savings. Despite the tariffs and duties, importing LVT from China, Korea or Southeast Asia can have significant cost savings for companies. That’s according to Tommy Junker, LVF business unit manager, Swiff-Train. “The LVT market is so saturated that if you aren’t the lowest in price, you must differentiate yourself with custom designs and unique features, which for the most part are only offered outside of the U.S.”

Longer lead times. Some manufacturers say longer lead times can pose challenges when importing resilient product. “Because of long lead times during transport, imported goods can pose challenges and unpredictability with inventory control and operating expenses,” Tarkett’s Roseman said. “This certainly impacts everyone involved in the project and can add expense and complexity to the business model for manufacturers and sales channels.”

Hard to keep up. With a lower price of entry overseas new resilient factories are frequently created, which can create confusion in the marketplace. “There are so many resilient factories overseas that it is hard to keep up,” SLCC’s Dillon said. “It seems that almost every day a new one is opening. Vetting these companies are not always easy, and I have seen some U.S. companies get burned by importing from factories that have a lower price, but much inferior quality.”


Posted on

LVT, WPC, SPC—which is right for your customer?

October 14/21, 2019: Volume 35/Issue 8

By Lindsay Gonzalez


As the resilient category continues to expand into various subsegments, flooring dealers have had to stay abreast of where each product—once installed—will truly thrive. LVT, WPC and SPC—arguably the three most popular resilient products today—all have different nuances that make one better than the other for different projects.

When helping a consumer find her ideal floor, experts say retail sales associates need to consider several factors, including the consumer’s lifestyle and the room in which the flooring is being installed. For instance, areas with direct sunlight could benefit from an SPC product. That’s according to George McMurtry, owner, America’s Carpet Outlet, State College, Pa., who explained flooring near “a porch or deck entrance with a southern exposure, a wall with full length windows or in a home without UV protection in the windows is typically in direct sunlight. A WPC product could be more susceptible to movement caused by the direct sunlight than a product with an SPC core.”

SPC can also be the ideal product for a consumer looking for a high-performing floor. “SPC is a home run for those wanting tough, dent-resistant hard surface, especially if they don’t want to remove their existing ceramic or porcelain tile,” said Marjorie Benson, president, Friendly Floors, Port Charlotte, Fla. “WPC is great for some of the older population where a bit softer, resilient floor is helpful for hips, ankles and knees.”

For Cathy Buchanan, co-owner, Independent Carpet One, Westland, Mich., SPC is the go-to for three-season rooms. “A rigid core product would be the first direction shown to the consumer due to fade and ever-changing temperatures and the water aspect of this product,” she noted.

Buchanan said she also believes situations calling for rolling chairs and extreme traffic could benefit from SPC’s performance attributes. “SPC is a sure bet due to its strength, flexibility in application, temperature allowance and price for budget.”

While WPC and SPC flooring have become the go-to products for residential projects, they are also making their way into the commercial space. “I recommend LVT products in any situation that a customer may be looking at hard surfaces, and more than ever in baths and wet areas,” said Chris Kemp, owner, Kemp’s Dalton West Flooring, with three locations in Georgia. “I like to use SPC in commercial areas.”

Craig Phillips, president, Barrington Carpet, Akron, Ohio, has seen his custom builder, commercial and retail business all shift over to SPC products. “SPC offers many advantages over traditional LVT—no acclimation, better sound absorption, in addition to being more forgiving of imperfect subfloors. We have actually seen some of our property accounts switch to SPC where their budget permits. The SPC products offer very realistic visuals and are built for today’s active households.”

Despite WPC and SPCs’ strong hold on most of the market, traditional LVT is still being specified in various commercial projects. As Benson explained, “Glue-down LVT is better for commercial applications where chairs, carts, etc., may be rolling over them. In Florida, we have more concrete slabs in poor condition than not, so we prefer floating floors residentially.”

Phillips said he sees LVT being installed mainly in property management projects. “It’s aggressively priced but allows the property managers any opportunity to upgrade their common area flooring within the apartment to a better-looking, durable, easily repairable flooring.”

While it is clear most dealers have their top product categories for different installation projects, many stress the fact that they don’t push the consumer to one specific product.

“Typically, for most homeowners we would not make any significant distinction among the different construction types of LVT,” McMurtry said. “In more residential environments, our experience is the final selection should be based on color, traffic type and volume and general appearance.”

McMurtry is not alone. Tim Schoolfield, owner, Countryside Carpets Flooring America, O’Fallon, Mo., said his staff keeps it simple. “This gets way too complicated, and as sales professionals we can get too far out in the weeds. I tell them to pick the look and feel they like; take the samples home and see how they look. If they like it and it fits their budget—buy it. In most residential applications, it doesn’t matter what acronym it is. Most household moisture cleaned up properly isn’t going to hurt it.”

To help dealers meet the needs of all consumers, manufacturers have brought various innovative LVT, WPC and SPC products to market. Following are several of those flooring lines from some of the top resilient manufacturers in the industry.

Cali Vinyl Longboards
Longer, broader and better looking. That’s the gist of the new Cali Vinyl Longboards collection. The coastal-inspired launch offers extra-large planks—70 7/8 x 9—for natural-looking floors that install faster and create spaces that feel open and serene. Improved hardwood visuals (North Shore Oak seen here) come with specialized embossing—grains and knots can be felt as well as seen. Planks are 100% waterproof, according to the company, and geared for commercial grade durability with a GeoCore limestone composite foundation. An ultra-thick, 20-mil wear layer delivers scratch protection from pets, kids and party-people, while built-in acoustic padding offers boost- ed sound insulation.

Inhaus – Sono
Sono is a German-made, waterproof, PVC-free, floating resilient plank product that competes directly with PVC products such as LVT, SPC and WPC. Sono is engineered with indoor air quality as a top priority as its core consists solely of two ingredients: polypropylene and mineral pow- der. The result, the company said, is Sono is manufactured without the use of plasticizers, contains no phthalates or formaldehyde and has an ultra-low VOC emissions rating. High-definition digital printing makes possible a 1 in 18 plank repeat on Sono’s 26 decors. The product is finished with four coats of hard-wearing (AC5), natural lacquer that gives the product an authentic look, comfort underfoot and can be easily repaired. The product comes equipped with Megaloc, the company’s standard, easy to use, fold-down installation system, and can be cut by scoring and snap- ping, making the installation process simple and quick.


Now in select specialty retail stores across the country, Pergo Extreme provides Mohawk’s Edge partners an exclusive luxury vinyl collection. Consumers can choose from 60 authentic designs including wood-looks, stone-looks, and—for the very first time—tile, each inspired by nature and built to last. According to Mohawk, Pergo Extreme’s superior construction and performance attributes produce one of the best rigid warranties in the industry: dent-proof, 100% waterproof and 100% kid- and pet-proof.


MSI – Bayhill Blonde LVT
Bayhill Blonde luxury vinyl tile from the Everlife rigid core collection offers light cashew brown tones with subtle knots and graining for an authentic wood look. This 7 x 48-inch luxury vinyl plank is 100% water- proof, the company said, and protect- ed with a 20-mil, commercial-grade version of CrystaLux, a wear layer designed to guard against everyday scratches, spills, pet accidents, indentations and sun damage. It also comes with a custom-designed beveled edge, a pre-attached backing to ensure comfort under foot and an easy-install locking system.



NovaFloor by Novalis – Maybree
According to NovaFloor, its latest collection, Maybree, features a portfolio of styles and colors that are as resilient as they are beautiful. Ultra-realistic and on-trend visuals pair with an extra-thick, 6mm high-density core, 20-mil wear layer and NovaFloor’s NovaShield protective coating. What’s more, Maybree’s waterproof construction allows it to be installed in any space, including wet areas such as laundry rooms and bathrooms. An attached foam underlayment for a softer step and a fold-down locking system for easy installation round out the product attributes that make Maybree an ideal flooring option for the home.

Shaw Floors – Distinction Plus
Distinction Plus, one of the newest luxury vinyl introductions from Shaw Floors, features 10 light-toned contemporary visuals in oak, maple, pine and eucalyptus to meet increasing consumer demand for lighter wood visuals. Part of the Floorté Classic Series, Distinction Plus is a WPC construction designed with classic style and amplified comfort in mind. Its 100% waterproof core has added foaming agents for enhanced comfort underfoot, the company said, combined with an attached Soft Silence acoustical pad for sound absorption. Additionally, Distinction Plus features a 12-mil wear layer and Armourbead finish for protection against spills and daily foot traffic.


Tarkett – NuGen
When Tarkett customers asked for a rigid core flooring with more flexibility, easy installation and beautiful designs for any room, the manufacturer said it respond- ed with NuGen. Combining the enhanced performance of rigid core with the authentic look of hardwood, Tarkett said NuGen handles anything kids and pets can spill or drop on it. NuGen is available in the most popular colors, styles and sizes. With easy, no-mess installation, guaranteed long-term wear and authentic- looking wood designs, NuGen aims to deliver a better flooring experience.


USFloors – COREtec
USFloors’ original COREtec patented Waterproof Foamed Core (WPC) flooring provides a combination of beauty, durability, comfort and sound-insulating performance. Its 100% waterproof COREtec WPC core is a rigid core composition manufactured with foaming agents to reduce surface tension. The “Plus” is the attached cork underlayment, which provides added sound dampening, absorbs subfloor imperfections and resists mold and mildew. COREtec The Original products consist of a layered construction for optimal performance. A 20-mil wear layer protects against excessive wear and stains while the luxury vinyl top layer features on-trend designs. WPC is designed for residential applications, but is suitable for light to medium commercial installations.

Wellmade – Opti-Wood
Wellmade’s Opti-Wood HDPC rigid core flooring is now available in a premium plank, featuring 7-inch widths and extra-long, 84-inch lengths. The real hardwood wear layer focuses on top-selling oak variations with dynamic cathedral graining, along with a variety of popular hickory and birch wood species. Color options range from mainstream gunstock brown and muted grays to neutral crème, finished in low-luster, wire-brushed textures. Opti-Wood’s waterproof performance makes it suitable for most residential or commercial installations.

Posted on

Resilient: For Quickstyle, slow and steady wins the race

September 16/23, 2019: Volume 35, Issue 7 

By Reginald Tucker


The Quickstyle merchandiser showcases the company’s True Grout vinyl flooring technology.

In the sea of LVT sameness, one company is looking to stand out from the pack. That would be none other than Quickstyle Industries, a leading hard surface flooring importer, distributor and manufacturer based in Montreal, Canada. The company’s not-so-secret weapon is a novel product line called True Grout, a vinyl plank and tile collection that boasts integrated grout lines. Comprising a highly UV-resistant, 20-mil polyurethane vinyl wear layer fused to a rigid densified foam core backing (DFC), the product is waterproof and stands up to mildew. What’s more, the product is FloorScore Certified and does not contain VOCs or phthalates.

“What we offer is something that’s truly unique in the market, aesthetically pleasing with a price point that is affordable,” said Mike Alfieri, vice president of sales and co-owner of Quickstyle Industries.

The USPTO awarded Quickstyle Industries the patents for the True Grout technology on DFC and SPC in April and November of 2018. Quickstyle intends to guard its patents fiercely. “While imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, we fully intend to protect and defend our patented Grout Line Technology against anyone who would violate its intellectual property rights in the U.S. and around the world,” Alfieri stressed.

Already a smash in Canada, True Grout is looking to make its mark in America. According to Alfieri, Quickstyle Industries’ innovative Grout Line Technology was embraced by the flooring industry when it was introduced to the Canadian market and is now experiencing exponential growth.

“It’s doing very well in the specialty retail segment and the commercial side of our business,” Alfieri noted.

Quickstyle is banking on duplicating the products’ success here in the States. The go-to-market strategy entails a two-fold approach: aggressively courting the specialty retail channel via distributor partners while supporting other manufacturers on a private-label basis. There are also negotiations to develop separate, non-competitive offerings for mass merchants, and the company also has a few technology licensing agreements in place.

“We have some major market penetration in Canada, but we’re looking to expand in the U.S. and build on our distribution,” Alfieri told FCNews. “Our goal is to grow market share and create strong brand recognition, but we want to choose the right partners to get us to the next level.”

U.S. distributors who have added the True Grout product to their lineup like what they’re seeing so far. For Tony Benvenuti, CEO of Wood Pro, a distributor based in Auburn, Mass., Quickstyle True Grout is a keeper. “The product line is really good quality,” he said. “It’s something that separates us from everybody else, and it gives us a leg up on the market.”

With the surge in vinyl sales and all these different products coming to market, Benvenuti said there’s a lot of me-too products out there. “This line really allows us to go to the market and sell specific features that other lines don’t have,” he noted. “Plus, they’re just great people to do business with.”

More importantly, True Grout gives Wood Pro’s customers a product they can make money on. (MSRP is $4.99 per square foot.) “We use it as a step-up product to the entry-level vinyl products out there,” Benvenuti explained. “You can promote the quality of the product in combination of the True Grout feature as a way to step up the customer so you’re not getting in the game of battling based on price.”

Retailers like Joe Bair, vice president of Long Island Paneling, Ceilings and Floors in Lindenhurst, N.Y., get it. “We market Quickstyle True Grout as a mid-level product, and we’re doing very well with it,” he told FCNews. “It’s a look no one has.”

Both Benvenuti and Bair see True Grout going into residential replacement applications as well as new construction projects. “It’s being installed by dealers and home builders alike,” Benvenuti shared. “We’ve had True Grout for about two years now, and we’ve been adding new products as they have come out.”

Stocking up
In anticipation of higher demand for the True Grout offering—and to make it easier for both existing and potential distributor partners to replenish inventories—Quickstyle is expanding its warehousing facilities in Baltimore, Md. The company is also looking to generate momentum by unveiling new offerings at major U.S. trade shows next year—Surfaces 2020 among them. “We’re going to have a big presence at the show,” Alfieri said.

Not one to rest on its laurels, Quickstyle is also looking to continue adding new enhancements to the True Grout offering. Alfieri hinted at the development of a unique and innovate “shield” that would render the grout lines stainproof and consistent in color for the period of the warranty.

Posted on

Fall intros: Innovations entice dealers to sell better goods

September 16/23, 2019: Volume 35, Issue 7

By Ken Ryan


The newest product introductions in the flooring industry run the gamut from latest in rigid core construction to carpet tiles engineered for exterior applications. What these disparate products have in common, however, are technology advancements that will help define and differentiate these innovations as they hit the market at the height of the fall selling season.

Engineered Floors
Its Dream Weaver residential brand is bringing to market a brand new line of design-focused patterns, textures and colors called DW Select. Comprising 14 initial styles, these carpets bring textural nuances reminiscent of natural materials into the home. Featuring EFs’ proprietary twistX technology, DW Select features blended fiber components that enhance wearability and styling.

Foss Floors
Foss’ Grizzly Grass mimics artificial grass but eliminates the many negatives associated with tufted grass constructions. Available in both broadloom and tiles, Grizzly Grass features DuraLock technology, which bonds all fibers in place without the use of latex/chemicals. Its premium self-stick tiles includes the company’s peel-and-stick backing system, making installation over any surface easy. Grizzly Grass is 100% waterproof and comes with a lifetime warranty against fraying, zippering, fading, stain and wear.

Launched as Inhaus’ first 100% commercially focused floor, Moto is a 3mm-thick, PVC-free, glue-down resilient plank manufactured in Japan. It is made of a polypropylene mineral composite core, ultra-clear 20-mil polypropylene surface wear layer and embossed surface to enhance the texture of wood. It is also topped with a protective surface coating. Created in collaboration with the design community, Moto consists of a collection of 12 colors.

Mohawk’s new, 100%waterproof SolidTech Plus blends style and durability. With low pattern repetition, painted beveled edges and embossed textures, SolidTech Plus adds a more authentic, natural hardwood look and feel to the SolidTech collection. Mohawk said the new rigid flooring is three times more scratch resistant due to its tough wear layer and enhanced lacquer finish. Its EasyClean technology adds stain and soil protection, while a UniClic locking system creates a watertight seam that traps water on the surface.

Entice and Tempt—created with 100% SureSoftSD and protected by Microban antimicrobial technology, are classic, casual textures. Available to retailers this fall, the multi-tonal shades of the 15-color palette are designed to create a neutral statement that sets the tone for an interior space. Resourceful & Rational, the newest casual textures from Phenix, combines fresh, earthy colors to create a 30-color line. Protected by Microban and constructed with 100% SureSoft carpet yarn, Resourceful & Rational are ideal for active households. Determined, Eager & Energetic—the latest pattern collection from Phenix—is crafted from original artistry, pulling inspiration from natural materials and textures. Twenty natural colors are available in this Microban-protected grouping.

Philadelphia Commercial
The newest carpet collection by Philadelphia Commercial, Shape of Color, is a 24 x 24-inch carpet tile featuring the company’s environmentally guaranteed EcoSolution Q Nylon and EcoWorx tile backing. Engineered to perform, Shape of Color is ideal for high-traffic applications. This collection includes two styles offering design versatility while adding bold expression to any space—Block by Block and Line by Line. Block by Block has bold contrasting colors, saturated tonal hues and neutrals that encourage the uninhibited use of color being embraced in fashion, the home and the workplace. Line by Line features a subtle color palette and a sophisticated linear pattern that reflects the angles in Block by Block.

Shaw Floors
Distinction Plus is Shaw Floors’ latest WPC introduction featuring 7 x 48 planks with 10 visuals in a range of wood species, including oak, maple, pine and eucalyptus. Part of the Floorté Classic Series, Distinction Plus was designed with classic style and amplified comfort in mind. Its foamed, 100% waterproof core promises better sound absorption and enhanced comfort underfoot for a softer, warmer hard surface flooring option. Distinction Plus protects from splashes, spills and daily household traffic thanks to Shaw’s Armourbead finish and 12-mil wearlayer.

COREtec Stone presents a designer-curated collection of tile and stone designs. An embossed thermo-resin layer provides realism while integrated grout lines match the floor perfectly, without making a mess.

Chief among COREtec Stone’s achievements is a new, rigid mineral core that’s free of PVC and plasticizers. The rigid mineral core offers indentation resistance with dimensional stability, allowing the product to offer a 18 x 36-inch platform among its array of design-forward aesthetics and formats suitable for commercial or residential use. The rigid mineral core offers greater dimensional stability than WPC and SPC, making COREtec stone ideal for large spaces without using transition pieces. According to USFloors, moisture from the top or bottom will have no effect on COREtec Stone as its rigid mineral core is waterproof.

Opti-Wood rigid core hardwood flooring is now available in wider/longer premium planks—7-inch widths and 84-inch lengths featuring real hardwood bonded to Wellmade’s patented HDPC rigid core. Low-luster, wire-brushed finishes along with distressed and hand-scraped textures augment the collection’s dramatic visuals. Representing the next generation of engineered flooring, Opti-Wood is tolerant to temperature fluctuations while remaining stable in the most demanding environments. With its waterproof properties, Opti-Wood can be installed in areas prone to moisture and humidity, including kitchen, bath and below-grade applications.

Posted on

Resilient: State of the industry—Category thrives despite tariffs, oversaturation

August 19/26, 2019: Volume 35, Issue 5

By Lindsay Baillie


Riding the coattails of a robust 2018, the resilient category saw steady growth in the first six months of this year. This, most industry executives say, is the result of multi-layer flooring’s continued popularity across practically all sectors. As this focus on WPC and other rigid products is expected to continue, executives say the category should finish 2019 just as strong as it did last year.

Despite the category’s expected overall growth, some executives believe the resilient category saw a softer first quarter than anticipated at the beginning of 2019. “This was driven by a decrease in retail sales due to a softer economy than in 2018,” said Nate Hohenstein, director of strategic accounts, Novalis Innovative Flooring. “Beginning in March 2019 the demand for resilient flooring—specifically LVT—has steadily increased, leading to growth year over year through July 2019.”

Kurt Denman, chief marketing officer and executive vice president of sales, Congoleum, agreed the category has continued a nice recovery each month since the first quarter. “You could see it wasn’t just the flooring category that was sluggish,” he noted. “It was across the building and remodeling segments overall. First, there were the new tax laws. Second, there continues to be an uncertainty around tariffs and, more broadly, an uncertainty around global trade partnerships and the health of the economy. When consumers and investors are concerned, they hold on to their money.”

As consumers begin to loosen their grip, executives are seeing growth across their entire portfolio of resilient product. Forbo, for example, has seen “good growth” residentially in resilient sheet and tile, according to Tim Donahue, residential national sales manager.

At Beauflor, growth is being dominated by the company’s LVT/P rigid core collections. “Despite a competitive marketplace, we have been able to build product stories based on the style and design, performance and pricing of our products to gain market share,” said Nick Brown, vice president of sales, North America. “Our sheet vinyl roll products have also seen positive sales growth this year.”

One of the reasons for resilient’s continued success, executives say, is consumers are still drawn to the benefits of LVT—such as being waterproof, family friendly and durable—over other flooring options. “Certainly, the popularity of rigid core/WPC/SPC has contributed to this,” said Bill Anderson, chief executive officer, Karndean Designflooring. “However, we are continuing to see growth in all three of our LVT product categories—glue-down, loose lay and rigid core.”

Newer product technology is also helping to keep resilient products at the helm. As Ed Sanchez, vice president, product management, Mohawk Industries, explained, “We continue to see growth as we have in the previous few years. Part of that is a result of the ongoing improvement in technology that we’ve seen in resilient—improved realism, comfort and performance in scratch, stain and dent like we did with our Pergo Extreme program.”

In addition to LVT’s waterproof qualities and durability, its visuals—which are now being revamped thanks to newer technology—are capturing consumers’ eyes. “Consumers have higher expectations than ever from their floors, and resilient is able to meet or exceed those expectations across the board,” said Herb Upton, vice president hard surface, Shaw Floors. “This category offers a wide variety of visuals, all with an incredibly realistic look and feel, featuring waterproof and water-resistant performance, as well as scuff- and dent-resistance and ease of install. Each of our brands in the resilient space—Shaw Floors, COREtec and Philadelphia Commercial—have continued to broaden capabilities, launching new products with even more performance attributes and realistic visuals.”

Suppliers by and large cite improved durability, stability and imaging technology as the category’s primary drivers. “We continue to expand our business across channels and are seeing strong growth among dealers and the commercial sector,” said Alex Brodkin, senior manager, product management and innovation, Cali Brands. “Cali also continues to implement new manufacturing innovations, allowing us to plan a steady schedule of product launches.”

Attractive features and product attributes are not the only reasons behind the growth. Deb Lechner, vice president, marketing, Armstrong Flooring, believes part of resilient’s growth in the first half of 2019 can be attributed to another factor, namely “the need to work off inventory that had been built up at the end of 2018 in anticipation of higher tariffs on flooring imported from China.”

Tariff talk
The talk and implementation of the additional 15% tariff (bringing the original 10% to now 25%) certainly caused a stir in the flooring industry, with resilient manufacturers feeling the pressure to minimize its impact. However, just how much the 25% tariff has affected the category/consumers is up for debate.

“Tariffs will force pricing up on imported LVT products,” said Dick Quinlan, senior vice president of sales and marketing, Wellmade Performance Flooring. “This may delay consumer purchases to some degree. Even at higher prices, LVT offers a great value to the consumer, so sales are expected to continue to grow throughout the category.”

Jimmy Tuley, residential resilient business, Mannington Mills, said the first tariff was relatively transparent to the consumer. However, he believes the second tariff will cause consumers to notice price increases. “The second tariff has probably provided some emphasis on other product categories such as U.S.- and European-produced laminates,” he explained. “I think the second tariff has probably caused some behavioral changes, but I don't think it’s a major shift. I still believe the value LVT, SPC and WPC products bring to the market can command a higher price.”

While industry executives are mixed on the kind of impact the tariffs could have in the near future, manufacturers with domestic facilities as well as those with plants in other eastern countries are seeing an uptick in demand. “We have continued to see double-digit increases in resilient sales,” said Tommy Junker, LVF business unity manager, EarthWerks. “We attribute this growth to the popularity of the rigid category at retail but also to our non-Chinese, entry-level, glue-down business. With so many increases coming from products out of China, we have been able to stay at or below market by sourcing from countries such as Korea and Taiwan.”

As talks between the U.S. and China continue, resilient flooring manufacturers continue to look into ways to minimize the effects of the 25% tariff.

“We are currently experiencing a minimal impact from the tariffs for the rigid core category,” said Isaac Lee, regional manager, Eternity Flooring. “We’ve had multiple meetings with our suppliers overseas to figure out how to absorb/minimize the costs that would be passed over to the consumers. However, we can only hold down costs for so long.”

Despite the uncertainty and frustration surrounding the tariffs, Art Layton, director of specialty products, Axiscor, sees the tariffs as an opportunity to make the category even stronger. “Tariffs have absolutely created uncertainty in the category to the point that manufacturers are considering a lot of options,” he explained. “New opportunities are being created for those willing to invest, and that investment will lead to improvements of product and service making the resilient category even better.”

As arguably the most popular flooring category today, resilient is fighting against not only the tariffs but an oversaturated market. With the success of LVT, WPC and SPC products, more manufacturers are entering the arena, making innovation and differentiation crucial to a company’s success.

“The point of saturation is upon us now,” said Jamann Stepp, vice president hard surface, The Dixie Group. “Innovation and design visuals are key, as is finding a reliable supplier/trade partner. The overwhelming majority of rigid core will continue to come out of China. However, if the tariffs remain at 25% long term, we will see additional factories relocate from China to Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand—perhaps even South Korea. We will also see SPC operations open in the U.S. if the tariffs and the consumer’s demand for rigid core continue on the current path.”

In addition to the battle to stand out among a sea of resilient products, manufacturers are also fighting against a race to the bottom in terms of price. “We’ve certainly seen a growth and influx of low cost imported products,” Mohawk’s Sanchez explained. “There are a number of instances that I’ve seen in the marketplace where people go to these cheap, low-cost import providers, but they don’t have the quality assurance and quality check infrastructure that a company like Mohawk is able to bring to the supply chain both domestic and international.”

Along with lower prices, the quality standard of these products are often called into question, explained Chet Graham, president, Marquis Industries. “We work hard with our manufacturing partners to continue to produce quality product at a value. Without a governing body to institute and hold accountable the builds and pricing structures, we will have to deal with oversaturation of the category. The proof will be in five years with warranty call backs for overstated claims failing to meet expectations.”

Michael Raskin, CEO, Raskin Industries, suggested only those who stay true to their brand and support their customers with tools to promote and sell product will survive in the congested category. “Companies that are built on strong foundations and adapt to the new business climate will overcome the pressures of oversaturation and low-priced competition,” he explained. “The companies that add value to the market, reinvest in their customers and serve a real function to their customers will find a way to weather the storm during oversaturation. We believe the cream will rise to the top.”

Ultimately, oversaturation causes product confusion for flooring dealers and consumers. To combat this, manufacturers must work to provide dealers with unique products and displays. As Shaw Industries’ Upton explained, “As more manufacturers are offering resilient flooring, the retail showroom space can become overwhelming to the consumer and even to the RSA. It is our job as manufacturers to provide an impactful and distinctive presence in a finite space.”

Despite the uncertainty around the tariffs as well as dealing with a saturated market, industry executives are bullish about the resilient category in 2019 and beyond.

“WPC/SPC is the basis of the innovation within the LVT category,” said John Szilagyi, manager, market intelligence, Tarkett North America. “The rigid category will continue to be the driver for change. It is creating a lot of the growth we see today and will continue to do so in the near future. We see resilient continuing to grow over the next few years, but the pace is expected to slow some.”

Following the heels of WPC and SPC, floating floors are expected to experience market growth. “There has been a proliferation of floating floor options, such as locking planks as well as self-adhering floors, which enable customers to forego traditional adhesives,” Armstrong’s Lechner said. “These advancements are helpful not only for the do-it-yourself market but also due to the shortage of installers within the industry.”

The big three
Innovation in the LVT, WPC and SPC subsegments is expected to help these products steal even more market share from their resilient brethren as well as other hard surfaces. Newer cores, visuals, performance stories and attributes await the industry, executives say. “Resilient products offer

great versatility, durability, performance and aesthetic flexibility in the marketplace,” explained Lisa King, vice president of innovation, insights and product management, Interface. “The category continues to see more innovation across the industry with ever-evolving designs and better sustainability.”

As these three products continue to evolve, executives are seeing SPC take share from WPC. “Rigid core will continue to grow,” said Ana Torrence, hard surface category manager, Engineered Floors. “Although, WPC as a subcategory is shrinking as it offers lower performance vs. SPC and a higher cost.”

According to EarthWerks’ Junker, the growth of the rigid category shows no signs of slowing down. What’s more, the sub-segment is seeing greater demand in the multi-family channel—from office spaces and club houses to corridors and units.

As new products fight for differentiation, manufacturers are expected to develop new innovations. “The cores will continue to evolve,” said Chris Dillon, vice president, marketing and sales, SLCC. “Current rigid core contains limestone, and many manufacturers have moved on to magnesium as a core. The cores will continue to get better along with ease of installation.”

Others, such as Bret Perkins, vice president, hard surface, Southwind, expect updates to anti-scratch technologies, better visuals and deeper embossing to create differentiation among current LVT, WPC and rigid manufacturers.

Jason Hair, vice president, Phenix Flooring, said he sees most of the innovation focusing on taking market share away from flooring such as ceramic tile and hardwood. “We’re seeing SPC products with painted bevel, so they look much more realistic like stone or ceramic tile. They’re imitating other floors’ even broader designs, wider widths—just flexibility that would be very costly and expensive for hardwood to actually do. We’re finding those looks to be gaining popularity from the LVT category.”

Space for sheet
Although sheet had a rocky finish in 2018—down 12.3% in dollars and 12.6% in volume from 2017, according to FCNews research—industry executives say the product is still preferred in certain applications. In the hopes of growing the product’s market share, manufacturers are developing enticing visuals that mimic natural flooring products such as hardwood and stone.

“Vinyl sheet continues to be a go-to flooring solution for certain segments, including healthcare facilities,” Armstrong’s Lechner explained. “Vinyl sheet provides the ability to heat weld and flash cove the flooring for a seam-free surface that is easier to keep clean and hygienic. It also has strong adoption in value-driven markets such as multi-family and builder as it is a compelling alternative to natural stone, ceramic tile or even hardwood that can be installed as a single solid surface in moisture-prone rooms like kitchens and baths.”

Mannington’s Tuley said the company continues to push and innovate from a style and design perspective. “We have put in some exceptionally good-looking patterns and retro colors that the market and our competitors have followed pretty aggressively because it has worked so well in the specialty retail space. We continue to invest in significant new colors in the specialty retail space every year with the higher-end glass products and they continue to be valued in the remodel category.”

Posted on

Merchandising: Dealers put waterproof front and center

July 22/29, 2019: Volume 35, Issue 3

By Ken Ryan

When Craig Phillips, owner of Barrington Carpet in Akron, Ohio, purchased a Carpet Country location in January, he wasted no time in transforming the space to reflect the realities of 2019. “We shrunk our carpet area by 30% and moved all of our vinyl plank and tile products to the front of the store in the most prime real estate,” Phillips explained. “We highlight the products with large display floors of our best-selling products. At our Barrington Carpet location, we highlight the category right inside our front door in a feature area.”

Many flooring dealers across the U.S. are updating their showrooms to better display and merchandise the explosive and still-evolving WPC/rigid core segment, often displaying large sections of the product on the floor. “We actually installed every single color of one whole line so the customer could see it on the floor,” said Joe Elder, co-owner, Hiller’s Carpet One Floor & Home, Rochester, Minn. “We used to have boxes on display, but they never quite looked nice enough so we decided to install them on the floor. It makes it much easier to take a customer and show them exactly what it will look like installed.”

At North Dakota-based Carpet World Bismarck, more than 30 different 4 x 4-foot displays of WPC/SPC are displayed on the showroom floor. “In the last year or two, the only presentation change we have made is to indicate on our display floors which products are WPC and which are SPC,” said Jon Dauenhauer, co-owner.

Other dealers said it just makes sense to allocate more square footage to show your hottest selling items. “We have several different colors of WPC installed in the showroom with wing racks, room scene poster boards and installed photos,” said Carlton Billingsley, co-owner of Floors and More, Benton, Ark. “We stock nearly two dozen SKUs so we can put together four to five boards from a box to give the customer a visual of the finished floor. We have allocated more space to this product in the last year by dedicating a room we affectionately call ‘waterproof room.’”

The size of the showroom is critical in the decision process as to how much WPC/rigid core to display. Offering a wide range of display systems—including traditional waterfall, stair steps and wing displays—are best shown in larger format stores, according to dealers, as the bigger showrooms allow for more options and ease of transition when adding displays. Retailers typically add displays without subtracting, which can be an issue for a smaller showroom.

When to place the product is also critical. As the category emerged as a staple in the industry, many chose to shrink down their carpet, laminate and even solid locking LVT selections to make room. Some dealers created a waterproof section; others moved WPC/rigid to the front of their stores.

Like many others, A.J. Rose Carpets & Flooring now has a separate section for WPC/rigid core with display floors underneath. “It has its own section rather than being mingled with hard surface,” said A.J. Boyajian, co-owner.

Nick Freadreacea, president of The Flooring Gallery, with multiple locations in the Louisville, Ky., market, has committed significant space for this category and moved it to the front of his locations to reflect the importance of the category. “In the stores that allow, we place the multi-layer flooring category next to our wood category and then transition into ceramic,” he explained.

Posted on

Pergo ad campaign preps dealers for a surge

July 8/15, 2019: Volume 35, Issue 2

By Reginald Tucker


Mohawk first sought to whet the appetites of its dealer partners with the official rollout if its Pergo-branded Extreme LVT line at last year’s Edge Summit (FCNews, Dec. 10/17, 2018). Now, with nearly 1,500 Pergo Extreme displays firmly planted in Mohawk Edge dealer showrooms across the country, the company is ready to kick off an integrated consumer advertising campaign designed to deliver shoppers to retailer storefronts ready to buy.

The multifaceted ad campaign, which boasts the tagline “Go Bold,” aims to influence the consumer throughout all phases of the shopping experience while educating her on the key visual and performance attributes of the Pergo Extreme LVT brand. Whether she discovers the brand while researching flooring options online—or if she is exposed to the product via more traditional advertising means such as radio, cable TV or shelter magazines—it will all crystalize when she finally sees the Pergo Extreme displays, installed floors and various point-of-purchase signage and materials upon entering the store.

According to Jason Sims, director of brand marketing at Mohawk, the goal is to reinforce the Pergo Extreme messaging and impressions the consumer absorbs across various media, culminating in a customer who is likely pre- disposed to the Pergo LVT brand when she visits the retailer for a consultation. “We had a great response to Pergo Extreme at Edge, and there’s a ton of excitement for the product,” Sims told FCNews. “We’re about 90% complete with our placements, so the consumer journey from online to in-store can begin.”

Beginning July 11, the official website—which heretofore had been promoting mainly Pergo-branded laminate and hardwood—has been updated to reflect the full Pergo Extreme LVT offering. (That’s “phase two” of the strategy.) The launch coincides with a national digital media campaign to drive demand to independent retail. (Note: The campaign does not affect Pergo local advertising, which retailers can start as soon as they receive their displays.)

“Our goal has been to activate our digital strategy once we had 75% of our displays in the market in order to drive leads to active retailers,” Sims explained. The timing, he noted, was to help protect the brand, create the best experience possible at independent retail and ensure a solid footing for future efforts. “Previously the Pergo site only represented the laminate and home center positions and channels. Now, we’re excited about bringing Pergo Extreme for our specialty retail partners online, along with the full launch of our media ads for Pergo Extreme.”

During the kickoff of the “Go Bold” digital campaign, Mohawk will be placing digital ads across YouTube as well as other targeted channels. Meanwhile, on the Pergo website, consumers will see a beefed-up presence for Pergo Extreme along with clear positioning to help consumers understand the value of what LVT does and how Pergo Extreme stands out. “We’ve already experienced a lot of early success in the market without the power of national media, but over the next couple weeks we really expect to open some eyes,” Sims stated. “There’s going to be a lot more traffic coming in, a lot more lead generation for Pergo Extreme.”

With the seeds of the Pergo Extreme LVT line planted back at the Edge Summit, Mohawk took a measured and deliberate approach in bringing the product to market prior to launching a national marketing effort. Again, according to Mohawk, it goes back to protecting a storied brand. “We know Pergo has the best brand awareness in the industry, so doing this right was very important,” Sims explained. “There’s been quite a bit of patience on the part of the retail community who knows what the Pergo brand can do for them. The Edge conference was the start of it. We knew we had to partner with the right folks to launch this brand.”

A potent package
It was no accident that Mohawk chose to partner with Edge dealers to launch this initiative. To protect the brand, Mohawk realized it needed to exercise some control on how it was going to distribute the products. “Our Edge partners qualify as the best opportunity to promote our best products,” Sims said. “In our minds they have the most potential and are the ones who see the value in the partnering with Mohawk. So that was phase one—getting everyone on board with how this would roll out and what, exactly, was going into this product line.”

What ultimately ended up going into the line, according to Sims, was an expansive offering of 60 SKUs spanning four collections of trendy, high-end wood and stone visuals. Among them: Wood Originals—30 hardwood looks boasting genuine texture and multiple plank size options; Wood Enhanced—seven realistic visuals with added touches such as painted bevel and an embossed-in-register finish; Wood Wider Longer—five fashion-forward options offered in a 10 x 72 format; and Tile Options—an assortment of 15 stone pat- terns in three oversized tile sizes.

Pergo Extreme LVT is backed by strong benefits and warranties. Developed for families with active households, the Pergo Extreme collections are 100% kid-, pet- and water-proof, and they come with a Worry-Free for Life, No-Dent Warranty (lifetime residential warranty) and a 10-year medium commercial warranty.

“Sixty SKUs is a lot of product, even if you’re not adding a new display,” Sims explained. “It’s quite an undertaking—the designs, the samples and, now, the merchandising. These collections offer dynamic looks and dramatic patterns with unmatched characteristics and detail while providing homeowners with true worry-free living.”

In support of Edge dealers’ marketing efforts, Mohawk will be providing Five-Star point-of-purchase kits entailing high-end graphics, wall art, floor decals—all the things the dealer needs to promote the Go Bold campaign.

Posted on

Resilient: LVT, WPC, SPC bulldoze the competition

June 24/July 1, 2019: Volume 35, Issue 1

By Lindsay Baillie


Industry observers will not be surprised to hear that the resilient category had another spectacular year of growth in both sales and volume. FCNews research shows the category generated $4.916 billion in sales (not including rubber) in 2018—an industry-leading 23.1% increase over 2017’s $3.993 billion. In terms of volume, the category accounted for 4.373 billion square feet (not including rubber) at the first point of sales, an 8.67% increase from 2017’s 4.024 billion square feet. This positive momentum, executives say, is directly attributed to the performance of subcategories such as WPC and rigid core.

The resilient category’s strong performance in 2018 is even clearer when measured against other hard surfaces. When compared to the likes of tile, wood and laminate, resilient accounted for 42.4% of sales. When taking total flooring sales into account, resilient comprised 21.4% of revenue and 22.3% of volume.

The category’s skyrocketing growth really comes into perspective when you consider the fact the segment’s percentage increase in revenue is over five times the growth of the entire industry, while volume is almost four times that of the flooring sector as a whole.

Resilient’s continued double- digit growth in sales in 2018 is made that much more significant when looking at its performance over the past few years. FCNews research shows 2018’s sales represent a 40.5% increase over 2016’s $3.499 billion and a 68.13% increase compared to 2015. To put this growth into perspective, total resilient sales increased 123% from 2013’s $2.206 billion and 130.3% from 2008. Meanwhile, total resilient volume increased 68.8% from 2013’s 2.59 billion square feet and 49.76% over 2008.

Industry executives cite a multitude of factors that contributed to the resilient category’s meteoric rise. One of which is the fact that the category possesses a wide range of products to fulfill a range of retailer and consumer needs. As Michael Raskin, CEO, Raskin Industries, explained, resilient products across the board provide the consumer with value. “Today’s customer wants performance and design. The visuals in this category have vastly improved. All of these attributes—waterproof, durability, ease of installation and maintenance—provide an unsurpassed value. Also, it is more difficult to find skilled labor, which impacts products like ceramic and wood. Retailers ultimately push products they can install with confidence in a timely manner.”

Other executives agree, citing the features and benefits the category provides. “Resilient flooring provides tremendous value to consumers through advancements in visuals that are better than natural wood and tile looks, superior performance and ease of installation,” said Ed Sanchez, vice president product management, Mohawk Industries—parent of the Pergo Extreme brand. “Consumers want value but don’t want to compromise on features. With resilient, they don’t have to.”

Other manufacturers see the category’s red-hot LVT segment as a major factor in resilient flooring’s performance. “The resilient flooring market is being fueled by LVT’s continued growth,” said John Szilagyi, manager market intelligence, Tarkett North America. “The category has captured some of the best features of design, performance and price. It has also been a hotbed of innovation. While other product categories have remained somewhat stagnant, LVT has benefitted from digital printing. LVT has also seen advancement in material innovation—especially WPC and SPC— and diverse production.”

Most executives agree LVT’s sister subsegments, WPC and SPC, have brought the category to new heights. “The consumer has embraced the SPC category as a high-value flooring choice,” said Art Layton, director of specialty products, Axiscor. “The performance is proven in high-traffic and high-moisture applications, and it is an extremely easy product to clean and maintain. Retailers love selling the product for several reasons, including ease of transport to and from jobs, faster installations and very few callbacks.”

It also helps that LVT, WPC and SPC are all products that provide retailers with a compelling story to sell, executives say. “They can sell the end user on its practicality, the fact that it is waterproof, scratch resistant and so on,” said Chris Dillon, vice president of sales and marketing, Celeste. “Every year it seems the looks get better and more realistic. A few years ago, you could easily see the difference between real wood and resilient; now it’s more difficult.”

FCNews research shows the residential end-use sector made up almost 65.6% of total resilient revenue or $3.227 billion. With respect to volume, residential resilient accounted for 71.4% of square footage shipped. The bulk of that activity was driven by residential LVT (including WPC and rigid products), which generated an estimated $2.6 billion in revenue or 80.6% of total residential resilient sales. In terms of volume, these trendy products accounted for 1.848 billion square feet, or 59.2% of residential resilient volume.

Resilient manufacturers attribute the category’s success, in part, to the strength of key end-use sectors. Many industry executives see the greatest activity in replacement/redesign markets. However, builder and new home construction—in both single- and multi-family installations—are helping to bring the category to new heights. Executives also say that while WPC and rigid core products remain the darlings of the resilient category, each segment is seeing a different resilient product take market share.

“I have seen this category grow everywhere, but it has been stronger in the residential replacement market,” Celeste’s Dillon explained. “I had a friend recently go into a retailer looking to purchase hardwood, but the retailer kept trying to push her toward a resilient floor. It has become the trend in the retail market, much like laminate used to be.”

The resilient category as a whole is thriving in residential replacement in part because its unique selling points catch the consumer’s attention. That’s according to Jason Hair, vice president of hard surfaces, Phenix Flooring, who sees WPC clearly leading the charge in this sector. “The waterproof story seems to resonate with the consumer since it’s such a practical feature. It’s a feature they can easily understand and apply to their own home.”

While residential replacement has also been a primary driver in the growth of LVT volume, some companies are seeing a strong LVT presence in the multi-family market. There have even been reports that indicate builders are embracing rigid core products. “Residential retail has been a big player in the growth of luxury vinyl flooring, in particular the rigid segment,” said Lindsey Nisbet, director of marketing, EarthWerks. “While there are so many options of flooring to consider, luxury vinyl flooring has all of the looks, performance capabilities and price options for the homeowner.”

Other executives are also seeing builders install more luxury vinyl planks (LVP) and tiles (LVT) in all rooms of the home. “We continue to see the resilient products, planks and tiles along with textile back sheet replacing other hard surface products in new construction, property management and residential replacement,” said Nick Brown, vice president of sales – North America, Beauflor USA.

Industry executives also attribute this continuous growth in the residential arena to the evolution of vinyl plank. “Starting with traditional LVT, followed by WPC and, most recently, HDPC/SPC rigid core products, each incarnation has provided improved structural design and performance with enhanced HD visuals and textures,” said Dick Quinlan, senior vice president of sales and marketing, Wellmade Performance Flooring.

Subsegment breakout
Within residential LVT, dryback and click products experienced decreases in 2018, research shows. Dryback was down roughly 1% from $523.65 million in 2017, while click saw a 6.56% decrease from $460.6 million two years ago. Conversely, loose lay revenue grew 22.2% from $33.8 million in 2017 to $41.3 million in 2018. In terms of volume, dryback represented 34.5%, click was 18.8% and loose lay was roughly 1% of total LVT volume in 2018.

“We are seeing growth within all three categories of LVT—glue- down, loose lay and rigid—residentially because they provide practical benefits in addition to original visuals,” said Bill Anderson, CEO, Karndean Designflooring. It is ultimately the intended use that dictates which LVT format is chosen by the consumer, he added.

WPC and rigid had another stellar year in 2018, on the heels of astronomical growth in 2017. The subsegments together claimed 61.9% of residential LVT dollars and 46.5% of residential LVT volume, respectively. That is an 84.7% uptick in dollars and 92% increase in volume from 2017. Observers believe this trend provides evidence of WPC and rigid core’s cannibalization of LVT click products.

Rigid core’s growing acceptance, experts say, boils down to several factors: ease of installation, waterproof qualities and visuals. “Rigid core has the trifecta of irresistible attributes: unbelievably realistic look and feel, fast and easy installation and upkeep, and 100% worry-proof and waterproof with industry- leading warranty,” said Sam Kim, senior vice president, MSI. “We have seen increased acceptance of rigid core LVT in all areas of construction—new, replacement, low-end, mid-end, high-end, spec homes and custom homes.”

Innovations in subsegments such as WPC and SPC are also driving appeal. As Axiscor’s Layton explained, “Technologies and improvements to SPC products such as embossed in register finishes, beveled edges and superior natural visuals have made a major impact on the popularity of the category.”

While WPC has been outpacing other flooring categories (including traditional LVT) since its inception, the subsegment has felt increasing pressure from rigid core over the past two years in particular. This phenomenon, executives say, is due to rigid core’s differentiating qualities.

“SPC does not require adhesive during production so it is more efficient from a production standpoint,” Raskin explained. “The consumer market can still differentiate as WPC uses a thicker foam board that is less dense. It depends if the consumer sees value in a thicker foam product filled with air used in WPC or a denser board with no air or foam. If the consumer is educated properly, then WPC sales should continue to decline.”

What’s more, rigid is expected to continue taking market share away from almost every sector. “Our results indicate it is primarily taking share from residential, both single- and multi-family,” said Kurt Denman, chief marketing officer and executive vice president of sales, Congoleum. “With the growing preference for hard surface, it is seen as a product that can go anywhere in the home.”

Despite rigid core products stealing share from WPC, industry executives still see a market for the latter. “There has been hyper growth in SPC in all of the channels,” said Herb Upton, vice president hard surface flooring, Shaw Industries, parent company of USFloors and Fusion. “If you look at it on a percentage basis, SPC growth is significant but it’s the laws of bigger numbers. There’s more WPC out in the market right now. Both WPC and SPC have a place in the residential home, so they can coexist. WPC is the luxury 60-ounce carpet; it feels great underfoot, looks beautiful and performs. It is what you want in those main rooms within your house. SPC offers a high-performance platform for high traffic.”

With the continued success of LVT—more specifically WPC and rigid products—residential sheet vinyl flooring saw another year of decline in 2018. According to FCNews research, the segment was down 12.3% from $579 million in 2017 to $507.9 million in 2018 in sales and 12.6% off in volume. Several manufacturers see this decline in starter homes and multi-family projects in particular.

Some manufacturing executives do not see sheet ever regaining market share. “Sheet vinyl has an uphill battle against rigid core and flex vinyl planks and tiles,” said Jamann Stepp, vice president of hard surface, The Dixie Group. “What market share rigid core does not consume from sheet vinyl, flex vinyl such as dryback, click vinyl and loose lay will. There will be a market for sheet vinyl goods; however, that market will continue to shrink.”

However, not all manufacturers have written off sheet in residential settings. “Beauflor has revived sheet with textile-back products,” Brown explained. “Textile-back sheet allows the customer to install the floor similar to a luxury vinyl plank and tile with limited floor prep and being able to install over single-layer constructions.”

Mohawk’s Sanchez also sees sheet as a viable product moving forward. While sheet has experienced pressure from the commodity plank products in the market, sheet should be able to hold a unique position for some applications in the face of increased pressure from imports. “Improved realism, design and features such as EIR make sheet an ideal solution for some applications, delivering value and fashion to the consumer,” he said.

While sheet vinyl manufacturers foresee a tough road ahead, there are several moves they can make to jump-start the subcategory. Proponents like Bret Perkins, vice president, hard surface, Southwind, sees potential in installation innovation. “About the only thing the industry can do is create a product that can easily be installed by DIY, is free floating and easy to seam together,” he explained.

Another avenue that may help sheet recover market share is creating unique visuals untouchable by other resilient products. As Dan Natkin, vice president–hardwood and laminates, Mannington, explained, “From a product perspective, we have seen success in reviving sheet through patterns that are nearly impossible in any other category. The other area to revive sheet revolves around telling the quality story and training a new generation of installers.”

Within this resilient subcategory, FCNews research shows felt goods continuing to lose market share to fiberglass. While felt was approximately 22.5% of dollars and 25.3% of volume in 2017, the product has dropped to 18.2% of dollars and 22.1% volume in 2018. Fiberglass, on the other hand, increased its share to 71.6% of dollars and 71% of volume—a 3.8% and 2% increase, respectively, from 2017.

“With the introduction in textile-back sheet and the continued development of fiberglass sheet constructions, felt will continue to lose market share in the residential replacement, property management and builder markets,” Beauflor’s Brown said.

Despite felt losing share to fiberglass and other backings, some executives still see a market for felt-backed sheet. “It is still the most value-oriented construction and performs exceedingly well in many environments,” Natkin stated.

FCNews research shows resilient products in the commercial arena generated $1.916 billion in sales in 2018, a 17.8% increase from 2017. Volume, by comparison, was up 7.7%. Industry experts believe key end-use sectors such as healthcare, hospitality, education and Main Street assisted in resilient flooring’s growth in the commercial market. This trend is expected to extend through 2019 and beyond as LVT, WPC and SPC products continue to poach market share from soft goods as well as other hard surfaces.

“Resilient flooring—particularly LVT—is growing across virtually all commercial channels, as hard surface is seen more often in spaces that used to feature carpet,” said Deb Lechner, vice president of marketing, Armstrong Flooring. “Growth occurred in healthcare and also within the office sector, with the ongoing growth in employment. The education market showed growth as well, as state and local tax revenues improve. In addition, hospitality improved last year as economic conditions encouraged business and leisure travel.”

Others are seeing growth in resilient in education as well as retail. “We are in the education buying/specification season with much school construction under way,” said David Thoresen, senior vice president commercial hard surface, Mohawk Group. “We are seeing the growth in retail because of our strong position in the segment with strategic accounts and relationships.”

Similar to 2017, much of resilient contract sales came from commercial-grade LVT, which accounted for roughly $1.087 billion in 2018—a 35.9% jump over 2017’s $799.8 million. Within this subcategory, WPC and SPC made up a significant portion of dollar growth, rising from $72 million in 2017 to $151.7 million in 2018. Dryback saw a 19.17% growth in volume, while click continues to see a drop-off—likely due to the growth of commercial SPC, which captured 57.7 million square feet in volume in 2018, observers say.

“In a commercial setting—such as those with roller traffic—LVT or a glue-down SPC will perform very well,” said Amy Tucker, senior marketing manager, Philadelphia Commercial. “WPC, however, is engineered for spaces less likely to encounter roller traffic. Resident living spaces and areas looking for more comfort underfoot pair best with WPC.”

The growth of LVT in the commercial market, experts say, is likely due to the subcategory’s low maintenance requirements, ease of installation and performance attributes. “If you look at many restaurant chains where they used to specify wood, they now have vinyl planks,” said Perry Coker, CEO, CFL Flooring North America. “Same for hotels, which used to have wood or ceramic in the lobbies and carpet in the guest rooms. Ditto office space.”

FCNews research shows commercial sheet increased 3.79% in revenue to $232.5 million in 2018 from 2017’s $224 million. This is slightly down from the 4.9% growth the subcategory saw in 2017. This slowdown, executives say, is likely the result of an uptick in commercial-grade LVT sales as well as the growing popularity of SPC in commercial applications.

However, some believe sheet resilient still has a place in the commercial sector. “Because there are no seams with sheet resilient, it is ideal for spaces where spills and messes may happen and has less maintenance requirements than other flooring options,” Tucker said.

Increases in commercial-grade LVT, WPC and rigid products have finally caught up to traditional resilient categories such as vinyl composition tile (VCT), which is now seeing a decrease in dollars and volume. According to FCNews research, VCT saw a 6.8% decrease in dollars from $299 million in 2017 to $278.6 million last year. In terms of volume, square footage fell 7% in 2018.

Despite its decline, manufacturers that are heavily leveraged in the product category still see VCT as a viable commercial product. “Although LVT and rigid core are currently attracting the lion’s share of attention, VCT continues to account for a large share of square footage of resilient commercial flooring installed each year,” Armstrong’s Lechner explained. “It offers a durable and cost-effective flooring solution, particularly for education and mass retail applications.”

FCNews research shows rubber generated $227.4 million in sales in 2018, a 3.7% increase over 2017. In terms of volume, the category accounted for 61.5 million square feet, a 3.4% increase from last year. “The rubber market continued to fare well in 2018,” Tarkett North America’s Szilagyi said. “Its growth was better than the overall market but not as robust as the rest of the resilient category.”

The main reason for this growth, according to Mark Tickle, director of marketing for American Biltrite, is more end users are acknowledging the benefits of rubber tile and sheet. “Manufacturers are stepping up to the plate with an increasing number of designs and colors to meet the growing demand from designers,” he explained.

FCNews research shows linoleum grew 4.2% to $100 million in 2018 from 2017’s $96 million. What’s more, the subcategory’s volume increased 2.4% to 33 million square feet. According to Tim Donahue, residential national sales manager, Forbo Flooring Systems, linoleum’s growth was driven primarily by residential replacement. “Forbo is seeing double-digit growth with our Marmoleum brand of linoleum for five years straight—residentially,” he said. “This is due to customers seeking healthier flooring options for their homes in colors and patterns that allow design flexibility. Flooring specialty retailers have also been a key driver for the growth in our residential replacement business.”

Imports vs. domestic
The resilient category is still heavily reliant on imports, which represent 76.7% of sales. However, domestic production continues to increase, taking a small percentage away from imports. In 2018, domestic production accounted for 23.3% of the category.

Domestic manufacturers say bringing production to the U.S. helps eliminate several problems often associated with imports. “Domestic investments shorten the supply chain and reduce variability,” Mohawk’s Sanchez explained. “This gives domestic manufacturers and their customers more options on how to service their consumers.”

While some manufacturers are looking to move away from imports, generally, domestic mass capacity comes online to supplement a growing, sustainable product category. So says CFL’s Coker, adding, “We see this now with SPC. The challenge is almost all of the innovation in the vinyl category over the past years has come from China—where change is fast, new ideas are welcome and unique limited-production types of products find success and become the new mass-production norm.”

The Dixie Group’s Stepp sees the majority of flexible vinyl being produced domestically. He also noted more manufacturers are attempting to produce rigid core in the U.S. “However, I look for that to change in the near future—especially if the tariffs on goods from China remain at a punitive 25%.”

When talking about domestic production and import activity, it is almost impossible to not con- sider the recent tariffs imposed in 2018 by the Trump administration. For some industry executives, the tariffs may help drive domestic production capacity in the next five to 10 years. For others, it will remain business as usual as importers look to other countries beyond China for manufacturing. However, virtually everyone agrees the situation has created uncertainty across the board as to whether or not the tariffs—including the new 25% hikes proposed in 2019—will stick.

Regardless of what happens with the tariffs, executives see the opportunity for even further innovation in the resilient category. “Home buyers, renters and remodeling homeowners have already seen $1 billion added to U.S. housing construction costs thanks to tariffs,” said Tom Hume, vice president of marketing, Cali Brands. “The tariffs are also prompting some manufacturers to diversify product portfolios and develop other categories that can be made outside of China.”

While increased innovation is all well and good, it will ultimately create greater saturation in a flooring category that is already overflowing with me-too products. This, executives say, could cause the prices of certain resilient products to dive even lower than current levels. As Chet Graham, president, Marquis Industries, explained, “SPC has allowed a cheap alternative to enter the resilient flooring [arena]. So-called ‘fly by night’ manufacturers are entering the domestic market and just selling product on cost.”

Posted on

Rigid core revolution: Segment seizes market share indiscriminately

June 10/17, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 26

By Lindsay Baillie


The resilient flooring category is on course to have another stellar year of growth, thanks in part to the excitement surrounding WPC and SPC products.

However, some resilient manufacturers say much of the new growth will stem from SPC instead of WPC sales. As WPC gets its own dose of cannibalization, SPC is expected to continue taking market share from just about everywhere and every product category.

“Rigid core is taking share from almost all hard surface sectors,” said Derek Welbourn, CEO, Inhaus. “Its growth is clearly due to it being a great product, but also because it is a great fit for a lot of uses, from commercial to any room in a residential space.”

Isaac Lee-San Leandro, branch manager, Eternity, saw the strength of rigid core firsthand when the company launched its SPC collections. “We were anticipating that it would do very well. However, we did not expect it to grow so rapidly and seize the entire resilient flooring category. It has become the top choice in resilient flooring luring many consumers away from other flooring categories such as carpet, laminate and hardwood mainly because of it being a 100% waterproof product.

Residentially, SPC’s waterproof attributes make it an ideal product for practically every room in the home, manufacturers say. Bedrooms, bathrooms, living rooms, kitchens, basements, laundry rooms, mud rooms, home offices and even gyms are all taking part in the rigid revolution—and for different reasons.

“Rigid offers a waterproof floor that does not trap dirt and offers hypoallergenic properties,” said Michael Raskin, president, Raskin Industries. “Carpet is now being taken out and replaced with new, fresh rigid visuals offered in wood, stone and textile looks.”

Flooring executives, such as Ed Sanchez, vice president of product management, Mohawk and the Pergo brand, also see rigid’s latest visuals as a key to its success. “Rigid core is taking share from across the board,” Sanchez said. “Because of the improvements of visuals, rigid has made its way into bedrooms and other spaces previously reserved for carpet.”

While SPC’s expansion throughout the entire home can be attributed to its durability and waterproof attributes, experts believe the latest digital printing technology has made it hard for other hard surfaces to compete. “The advancements in digital print and embossing technologies are creating some of the most realistic, beautiful floors available, and in many cases at a fraction of the price of the real thing,” said Art Layton, director of specialty products, Axiscor Performance Flooring.

Mike Belprez, director of product management and innovation, Cali, sees the aggressive growth of rigid products as a “lifestyle takeover.” The product attributes, he noted, are more appealing than ever and have resonated with the consumer. “Many who had never before considered vinyl floors now opt in based on these key selling features that allow homeowners to live on their floors with assurances of lasting quality and performance.”

While WPC has been relegated to mostly residential and light commercial applications, manufacturers say SPC is making a greater dent in commercial, with the potential of cannibalizing WPC in light-commercial settings.

“COREtec’s patented original WPC flooring helps a house look and feel like home,” said Kathy Young, vice president, marketing, USFloors. “This innovative flooring provides an unmatched combination of beauty, durability, comfort and sound-dampening performance. We also developed our SPC floors to provide extra strength and rigidity to meet the demands of commercial and high-traffic residential applications.”

SPC’s qualities make it ideal for several commercial sectors with high traffic. “SPC resists indentation and high impact, making it an excellent choice for commercial applications,” said Jeff Francis, hard surface resilient category director, Shaw Floors.

CFL, which has also been making some noise in the rigid core arena, is seeing a significant uptick in commercial applications such as hotels and restaurants. “While the growth is taking share from all sectors, we also think a side benefit is the popularity and simplicity of rigid products is also shrinking the replacement cycle for flooring,” said Thomas Baert, president.

Manufacturers such as MSI are seeing rigid core products taking over in hospitality. “It is gaining tremendous momentum and popularity, due to how beautiful, resilient and fast they are to install and maintain,” said Sam Kim, senior vice president.

Other suppliers, including Karndean Designflooring, sees rigid making headway in multi-family applications. “Rigid core has grown popular in the entire residential sector, but specifically in upper-level rooms that require acoustic qualities, like playrooms or children’s bed- rooms,” Bill Anderson, CEO, told FCNews. “Commercially, we anticipated rigid core would be popular within multi-family for the same reasons as the residential market, but we’ve seen our rigid core enter all the commercial segments. That’s due in part to acoustics and because our rigid core products exceed the ASTM standard for indenta- tion resistance and dimensional stability.”

Cali’s Belprez sees rigid emerging in Main Street applications. “Ease of install, light to heavy commercial ratings and modern visuals make it an ideal solution.”

While rigid is making its way into commercial, most manufacturers do not see it capitalizing on the market. “These click formats are a perfect solution for residential living spaces, but because of heavy rolling loads, specifically, commercial spaces perform best when directly glued,” said Amy Tucker, senior marketing manager, Philadelphia Commercial. “Traditional/flexible glue-down LVT is typically great for new construction and where subfloors are perfectly smooth but can cause problems later if installed over a subfloor with imperfections. Last year, Philadelphia Commercial introduced products featuring Advantium Core and continue to add to our portfolio. These products were developed to address these issues.”

SPC vs. everything else
As the industry’s latest darling product, it is no surprise that SPC is taking market share from almost every flooring category—including other resilient products. The reason, experts say, is because of rigid’s various attributes and visuals.

“Rigid has been impacting products across hard and soft surface,” Mohawk’s Sanchez explained. “For instance, when you think about tile, people are moving toward rigid because of its dent resistance and inability to chip. When you think about wood, those with an active lifestyle are moving toward rigid because of that dent resistance along with its waterproof feature. Rigid delivers embossed-in-register looks that provide more realism—even better than real looks—that attract people who are fashion-conscious and are looking for unique designs.”

The beauty of rigid core, according to Yon Hinkle, director, product design and innovation, Armstrong Flooring, is it combines some of the greatest features from multiple flooring categories. “First, rigid core flooring can bring to life the exacting detail of natural wood looks, and it is built to maintain its beauty—even under high traffic, high moisture and high impact. Second, the construction of rigid core includes a dense, solid core that hides subfloor irregularities and provides superior resistance to indentation, an important consideration to help keep floors looking newer longer. Third, thanks to its dimensional stability, installers do not have to acclimate rigid products in most installations.”

According to Jimmy Tuley, vice president, residential resilient business, Mannington, LVT and rigid products no longer have a plastic/PVC look, and that has increased its appeal. “That was one of the hurdles the industry had to get over,” he explained. “Now that it has, there are performance features such as the waterproof nature, the durability of it, the ease of installation that people really like. The locking systems are very easy to install. They don’t require glue or a lot of tools—it has really solved a lot of technical problems for installers as well.”

Bret Perkins, vice president, hard surfaces, Southwind, sees all products being impacted by varying degrees. However, lower price-point categories are taking the biggest hit. “With the innovation of SPC, we are starting to see more realistic, embossed visuals,” he noted.

Among hard surfaces, hardwood and WPC are beginning to feel pressure from SPC, according to Chris Dillion, vice president of sales and marketing, Celeste. He believes hardwood sales are down this year as a result of rigid core’s growth. “When it comes to rigid core eating into the WPC, it is for two reasons. For one, rigid core is more waterproof than WPC. In markets like Florida, for example, we have seen three years’ worth of moisture in a home actually catch up to the WPC and make it buckle. This is because WPC still has wood in its core and the wood over the course of a few years will take in water; rigid core will not.”

The second reason, Dillon notes, is SPC is cheaper to manufacture. “You are getting the exact same look but for much less money.”

Beyond hardwood, observers also see rigid stealing market share from ceramic tile and carpet. Proponents cite rigid’s look, performance and price point. “It’s the marriage of form and function,” said Jason Hair, vice president, Phenix.

Other industry experts, including Kurt Denman, chief marketing officer and executive vice president of sales at Congoleum, also believe ceramic/porcelain and laminate have lost share to SPC. But it’s resilient sheet that has likely been impacted the most.

“Over the past several years, there has been plenty of consternation throughout the industry over the lack of qualified installers,” Denman explained. “And while our AirStep products, with multiple installation options, is certainly one of the easiest to install, a 12-foot roll of flooring can be intimidating. However, resilient sheet continues to be an incredible value. The designs are truly awesome and it’s seamless and actually 100% waterproof.”

A major reason for rigid core’s success, observers say, is it solves a lot of challenges for the consumer. As CFL’s Baert explained. “It can be installed over most existing floors. It is low maintenance and can be wet-mopped. And, with increasing innovation providing differing widths, lengths,
embossed-in-register, etc., consumers can get the look they want at a price they can afford in a product that performs well in the home.”

As rigid core continues to evolve and improve, most manufacturers expect the category to continue stealing growth. “It started with WPC and has expanded to include SPC and HDPC,” said Steve Wagner, director of sales and marketing, Wellmade. “At the end of the day, rigid core is a superior flooring product that represents a better mousetrap that will continue to impact all flooring categories well into the future.”

Tariff trouble
Most manufacturers believe the aggressive growth of the rigid category has a slim chance of slowing down, even despite the impending tariffs on Chinese imports. While flooring executives are split on whether or not the tariff is necessary, most agree it will have a small—mostly undetectable—impact on the consumer.

“The rigid core market does not show any slowdown anytime soon,” said Nick Brown, vice president sales – North America, Beauflor USA. “With the expected continued growth, the challenge for manufacturers and distributors will continue to be the number of rigid core products that are offered to the market. At Beauflor, with all the continued tariff discussions, we continue to aggressively market our Made-in-Belgium Pure rigid core product. Having a European-manufactured rigid core product that has a unique, four-sided Dreamclick locking system gives our customers a product that will stay consistent and competitive with regards to price.”

Kelley Bolas, senior product manager, LVT, Tarkett North America, echoed Brown’s sentiments. “The trend of solid rigid core will not slow down soon. The tariff will have some effect on the pricing of current solid rigid core products, but as technology is enhanced, pricing will level out.”

Industry executives like Jamann Stepp, vice president hard surface, The Dixie Group, believes rigid core will represent 50% of the resilient category—approximately $2 billion in wholesale revenue—by the end of 2020. “However, if the tariff remains at 25% long term [deep into 2020], we may see a slight slowdown in overall volume. Nonetheless, even with a slight downward tick in volume, rigid core will still be the growth engine not only for the resilient category, but rigid core will continue to be the growth engine for hard surface and for the flooring industry.”

Denman views WPC and rigid core as “slight iterations of the same,” remarking that as more versions are created it will continue to command more share of the market until something with even better performance or price, or easier installation methods, takes its place. “It’s exactly what is happening between WPC and rigid core right now,” he explained. “The performance attributes are nearly identical, but rigid core has a price advantage.”

In terms of tariffs, Denman sees the added cost as a positive. “One of the benefits of the tariffs has been a narrowing of the price gap between imported and domestically produced goods. If we’re honest about it, the single greatest benefit of any of these import products has been price.”

Others feel the tariff levels the playing field for other countries such as Korea and the U.S. “The tariffs have more of a direct impact on big box or DIY markets,” Raskin explained. “The retail distribution model should be less effected as this customer is looking for other services other than a low price. This consumer desires customized service, quality and design. It will come down to the companies that offer the best design, service and quality attached to a marketing program that relates to today’s consumer.”

Cali’s Belprez does not believe tariffs will impact the growth of SPC. However, he does see it affecting how products will be sourced. “A product that is predominantly sourced in China will surely drive manufacturers and importers to find partners outside of China,” he explained.

Mannington’s Tuley also sees the tariffs as an issue for companies solely manufacturing in China. “I think U.S. rigid manufacturing will become a premium. We’re excited to be getting into that game as we build our rigid plant in Georgia. And I think the market overall will respond with cost reductions and efficiency improvements to keep the tariff impact to a level where we can continue to show a value with these products above other products.”

Of course, this is all contingent upon importers playing by the rules. (According to a recent USA Today article, China is intentionally mislabeling its products as “Made in Vietnam’ to avoid U.S. tariffs. How it works: Chinese firms first export products to Vietnam, then change the labeling on packages before exporting the goods to the United States, Japan or Europe, officials said. Vietnamese officials are calling for more aggressive examination of the certificates of origin of several product categories, which include steel, aluminum, textiles and processed wood products.)

While the tariffs pose an immediate issue for manufacturers and flooring dealers, consumers probably won’t feel the impact, Phenix’s Hair said. This is because flooring is generally a once-in-10-years purchase and consumers won’t know any different in terms of pricing, he explained.

Chet Graham, president, Marquis Industries, explained that while the tariffs could slow growth in the WPC/SPC category, it won’t be enough to create a stoppage. “Tariffs have become a usage tax and as long as consumers are willing to pay for this slight increase the category will still be viable in the marketplace,” he noted.

MSI see the tariffs impacting rigid core growth via the increased cost of the product, which must be passed on to American consumers. Second, residual impact from increased cost of other goods from China, which results in lowered consumer buying power to pursue repair and remodel activities that utilize rigid core flooring.