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Opportunities aplenty in Main Street market

May 28/June 4, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 25

By Ken Ryan

 

Main Street has been growing in importance as a strategic channel for flooring dealers and manufacturers for the past several years, thanks in large part to a healthy small business climate that is fostering growth. Along with that demand, observers say, comes the need for versatile flooring materials.

There are many theories as to why Main Street has risen in importance. Some executives cite the versatility of the Main Street channel in which small business owners are now exposed to a greater array of affordable flooring alternatives.

Al Boulogne, vice president, commercial resilient business, Mannington, believes Main Street is dynamic because of the vast amount of “touches” it gets in the market. “Any retail location, regardless of size, has the chance to be a hub of profitable commercial sales locally,” he explained. “Commercial spaces also have a huge variety of requirements. Offering a diverse portfolio of flooring types is critical to win.”

Getting residentially focused store owners and salespeople to see the opportunity that Main Street commercial presents takes a concentrated effort to educate, train and re-educate. At the retail level, this requires a sales team committed to guiding the customer to the right product for the application, experts say.

Brandon Kersey, hard surface and commercial brand manager for Engineered Floors, said the continued rapid movement in Main Street toward carpet tile and away from broadloom is the single largest factor in the segment’s recent growth. “As Main Street customers who have traditionally used broadloom get more exposure to carpet tile, they begin to understand the key advantages such as ease of installation, less disruption to end users’ business, ease of removal, styling options from carpet tile’s inherent modularity and high-performance backing systems,” he said.

Steven Erhlich, vice president of sales and marketing, Novalis Innovative Flooring, suggests the growth has more to do with macro trends. For example, he sees three factors driving Main Street: the home office, a stronger economy and greater design versatility.

“More people are working from home than ever before, so they are turning bedrooms, bonus rooms, garages and basements into workspaces in need of flooring solutions that are more business-oriented in performance and design. Second, there is a healthy small business climate; and third is greater design flexibility. The growing availability and promotion of business at the retail level is in turn driving the demand and sourcing for these solutions by small business with retailers.”

In just the last two years, several mills have jumped headlong into the Main Street space, in some cases offering multiple products. Phenix Flooring, which had considered the Main Street market for a few years, finally took the plunge in January. “We saw a natural fit for our brand and therefore created a full-home flooring solution through both our traditional hard and soft surface offerings,” said Jason Hair, vice president of hard surface. “We saw a successful launch of our first collection—Phenix on Main—at this past Surfaces and continue to hear good things about the products we’re offering in this space.”

The Phenix collection features olefin and nylon products in broadloom, carpet tile and carpet plank solutions as well as a complementary hard surface offering. The collection will be displayed in nine architect folders. In total, the collection includes 10 carpet options and Point of View, a luxury vinyl hard surface offering that comes in both plank and tile in 15 colors.

Stanton Carpet entered the commercial Main Street market in January with Stanton St. Decorative Commercial. The line features 17 products, including four carpet tile offerings, a first for the company.

“We always liked the idea of getting into commercial, but it had to match our identity,” said Jonathan Cohen, CEO. “This fits for us. We can be competitive with price, and as long as we stay decorative we feel like we can have a place within the market.”

Foss Flooring said it is doubling down on offering products for the home or business. Its signature carpet tiles feature a unique peel-and-stick installation with no VOCs, “which makes a quick turnaround for any small business installation possible, so they can get back to generating revenue,” Brian Warren, executive vice president of sales and marketing, explained.

Foss’ new style, Manhattan, has been the most successful new product launch in its history, Warren noted. Available in 24 x 24 tiles, as well as broadloom, the line is positioned as an ideal Main Street product.

By offering a broad portfolio of choices, observers say Main Street retailers are uniquely positioned to provide a one-stop shop for commercial products. “We offer that portfolio of products that are crafted with purpose,” Mannington’s Boulogne said. “That means those products are made with a relentless focus on design, uncompromising quality and a [range] of options for the best solution to fit the need. We aren’t pushing a single category. We have the ability to listen to customers who come to Main Street, understand their challenges and then consult with them to pick the best solution for the space.”

While the USFloors’ sales teams primarily focus on specialty retail, the Main Street jobs may — and do — happen. “We do not focus or drive marketing/ merchandising in that category,” said Jamann Stepp, director of marketing and product management. Among the COREtec collections that have Main Street applications are Pro Plus and Pro Plus Enhanced with SPC cores, he noted. Engineered Floors’ commitment to the steadily growing carpet tile market is most evident in its new state-of-the-art carpet tile plant, which will serve all commercial applications including Main Street. Meanwhile, the mill will continue to launch nylon products with styling and performance characteristics that are equivalent to products that are priced significantly higher than its commercial Pentz offerings.

Novalis has made a strong push in Main Street with a bevy of new offerings. Its NovaFloor line has a definite Main Street flair, and Abberly has tile designs and accents suitable for retail spaces. Likewise, its Davidson and Birkdale collections are designed for public spaces, offices and shops with high styling and durability. Novalis’ new rigid core products, including Serenbe HDC, Lyndon HDC and NovaCore HPC, are also finding interest from Main Street customers who have praised the offerings for their styling and ease of installation over imperfect subfloor conditions.

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LVT, carpet tile make the (commercial) grade

May 28/June 4, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 25

By Ken Ryan

 

Flooring executives say there are several reasons why LVT and carpet tile—two modular options—represent the fastest growth and most popular flooring types for commercial interiors.

Modular flooring categories offer numerous options, enough to address virtually any budget, performance need or design requirement, according to Quentin Quathamer, commercial brand and marketing manager for Philadelphia Commercial, a division of Shaw Industries. “Modular flooring offers flexible design options via installation pattern. Combined with style, color and shape selection, a distinctive design can be easily achieved. They also mitigate less-than-perfect site conditions where less than smooth or dry subfloors exist, which can be budget-restricting hurdles or delay the use of the space you just designed or renovated.”

Others say carpet tile lends itself to enhanced design because designers can use the modularity of the tile to create spaces within a space and help with wayfinding. Nathan Stevenson, vice president of product management, Mohawk Group, noted that carpet tile is a good choice “for when you are renovating a commercial space with pre-existing furniture where you can essentially lift the case goods in the area an installer is working, replace the flooring underneath, lower the furniture, move to the next tile and keep the process moving along. Carpet tile’s benefits and flexibility help specifiers and end users meet many of their goals for commercial environments.”

In recent years, traditional LVT emerged as a versatile and durable product offering myriad design options to provide an excellent value proposition. “The traditional LVT market continues to evolve with modification that impart various performance attributes,” said Kurt Denman, chief marketing officer/executive vice president, sales, Congoleum. “Modifications to the base can deliver improvements in sound rating, indentation or installation options. Changes to the thickness of the wear layer can be made based on the type of space, the maintenance schedule and anticipated level of foot traffic to ensure optimal performance. Combine performance options with an array of design options, relative ease of installation and competitive price point, and you have a strong value proposition.”

Many flooring observers also agree that LVT is the smart choice for commercial applications because it offers a bevy of benefits other flooring surfaces cannot. “From a design standpoint,” said Alan Rowell, director of sales for Aspecta by Metroflor, “LVT fits in with the more European contemporary look that is gaining popularity in commercial settings.”

Flexibility and versatility are two other attributes in LVT’s favor in the commercial segment. “We often think about our tile products as building blocks, and our customer has the ability to control how the floor defines their space, regardless of whether it is carpet or LVT,” said John Crews, manager of Lifestyle Studio, Shaw Contract.

Amanda O’Neill, senior product manager for Armstrong, said that because LVT’s composition includes PVC, the product is much more resistant to damages in addition to being water and scratch resistant. “LVT’s flexibility in terms of modular shapes and sizes, broad palette of colors, durable long-lasting performance and easy maintenance make it idea for many commercial spaces. Plus, improved embossing techniques give LVT a much more realistic look than laminate.”

For Mannington’s Al Boulogne, vice president of commercial resilient business, LVT’s success in the commercial arena is all about versatility, as it can solve many installation-related issues. “Floating versions and more traditional glue-down versions of LVT, coupled with specialty adhesives, solve moisture issues from the subfloor,” Boulogne said. “Solid core products can also go over existing subfloors helping the end user avoid the high cost of ripping up tiles. Plank and tile formats in LVT also help to make repairs of damages much easier.”

Mark Tickle, director of marketing, American Biltrite, said the nearly unlimited visuals and colors differentiate this waterproof vinyl product in a commercial setting. “Simple maintenance, no stripping and waxing [needed]; then there is the much lower cost for installation and maintenance with a simple damp mop. Finally, better technologies have made it more durable to commercial traffic use.”

Applications for every segment

The question is not which commercial segments favor carpet tile/LVT but rather which commercial segments don’t? Indeed, markets like education, corporate, healthcare, government, hospitality, student housing and retail all are thriving with LVT and carpet tile applications.

The general consensus is the two big commercial growth segments are hospitality and workplace. Both are relatively new segments for LVT. “Having the right design for the workplace has been the challenge in such a legacy, carpet-oriented segment,” Boulogne said. “By coordinating design with what works on the soft surface side, we can make the transition a comfortable one for designers.”

Hospitality’s acceptance of LVT over soft surface products has grown lately due to health/hygiene concerns and LVT’s longer life cycle. By the same token, VCT is losing ground within education because LVT is easier to maintain and does not have an institutional look and feel. Milton Goodwin, vice president of commercial sales for Karndean Designflooring, allowed that the hospitality segment is turning away from carpet and hard tile because it is difficult to keep the grout clean. “The cleanability of LVT is a big thing. LVT doesn’t harbor dust and allergens; there is softness underfoot; it is hygienic and offers upscale looks without the costs.”

Cali Bamboo has seen significant growth among its hospitality, multi-unit housing, gym and retail storefront clients. These sectors are looking for flooring that can be installed easily and won’t have to be maintained or replaced as often. “Our customers also like the improvements in the luxury vinyl look that Cali Vinyl’s HiFi Imaging allows,” said Tom Hume, vice president of marketing. “The introduction of improved LVT has opened doors to clients who tend to shy away from hardwood or carpet.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Contract: State of the industry—Key end-use sectors drive specifications

May 28/June 4, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 25

By K.J. Quinn

 

In many ways the commercial contractor flooring market is like an onion—as you delve into each sector, one layer at a time, you start uncovering macro issues impacting flooring choices that go beyond traditional metrics. Sustainability, wellness principles and environmental impacts are among the major factors affecting facility design across the board, experts say.

“Manufacturers have increased focus on the impacts of their products on occupant well-being and productivity, offering a wider range of aesthetic and functional solutions to deliver against the requests of designers’ clients,” said Matthew Miller, president, Interface Americas.

Industry projections indicate the commercial market is on pace to experience similar growth as last year, with some segments faring much better than others. To put it in perspective, soft surfaces generated an estimated $3.6 to $4 billion in sales and upwards of 300 million square yards last year, according to industry estimates. Carpet tile claimed approximately 50% of volume and 60% of the value over broadloom—increases of 9% and 10%, respectively, over 2016.

Many trends that impacted commercial segments last year are carrying over into 2018. “I think the market for carpet will continue to lose share to hard surfaces,” said Brenda Knowles, vice president of marketing for Shaw Industries’ commercial business. “We’ll continue to see an emphasis on product design across all segments and more offerings that combine soft and hard surfaces.”

Nonetheless, there is still a good amount of broadloom being sold into commercial spaces, especially in sectors that demand a luxurious look and feel underfoot. “We still see some higher-end broadloom sold to the hospitality, legal and financial services sectors,” observed Richard French, vice president of sales, Bentley Mills. “At the high end of the spectrum, carpet tile is still not able to meet aesthetic needs.”

Hard surface seizes share

The market size for hard surfaces is nearly as much as carpet, estimated at $3.7 billion in sales. But that’s where the similarities end. Sales and volume grew by double digits, led by ceramic tile and stone ($1.45 million in 2017 sales), rubber ($650 million) and luxury vinyl tile ($600 million), according to industry estimates.

LVT is the fastest growing sector, with sales rising by double digits and usage expanding across all segments. “Hard surface growth in the commercial segment is being driven by LVT and ceramic,” Jeff Fenwick, president and COO, Tarkett North America, told FCNews. “LVT is showing up in more commercial spaces and design features of ceramic are taking it out of the ‘back of the house’ and letting it be utilized in other spaces.”

VCT, estimated at $250 million in 2017 sales, and sheet goods, which generated about $300 million, remain viable options. Healthcare and education, long strongholds of the sector, are reportedly losing market share. Hardwood, laminate flooring and linoleum are being specified for certain niches, although each category accounts for only a small percentage (less than 5% apiece) of the overall commercial market, statistics show. “For people who want that visual a little different and want to make more of a statement than a neutral gray floor, then linoleum is your answer,” said Denis Darragh, vice president, North America, Forbo Flooring.

While LVT dominates the headlines, one category maintaining steady growth is ceramic. While it’s difficult to determine sales and volume due to fragmented distribution channels, anecdotal research indicates tile commands approximately 15% of total commercial flooring sales and volume, with specified contract accounting for about 70% of the business. Growth rates are projected to mirror last year, when the category grew an estimated 6% in sales and 5% in square footage.

End-use activity

There are diverse applications for flooring within the five major sectors of the commercial business, the majority of which (an estimated 70% to 75%) is specified contract and the remainder Main Street commercial applications. Each has its own set of issues, trends and requirements which, in some cases, are unique to specific areas. As such, flooring choices and volume are expected to vary this year in some segments while remaining constant in others, industry watchers say.

“Traditional hard surface markets like retail and healthcare still are very strong, and non-traditional markets such as offices and hospitality are shifting toward hard surfaces in many areas they did not consider before,” said Robert Brockman, segment marketing manager, commercial, Armstrong Flooring.

The largest sector remains corporate/offices, representing roughly 40% of commercial flooring sales. Design strategies have traditionally centered on integrating natural elements into work spaces that help energize employees, encourage collaboration and make them feel more at home. “The goal is to leave work at the end of the day feeling recharged,” said Sharon Steinberg, AIA, LEEP AP, a principal architect at Stantec’s Houston office. “The design of the space, including flooring materials, can contribute to these feelings.”

Carpet tile has emerged as the top flooring choice, representing an estimated 55% to 60% share of the segment. “Carpet tile reduces sound transmission and provides underfoot comfort,” Interface’s Miller stated. “Carpet tile is also easy to upkeep and maintain—and since it is modular, it can easily be replaced or redesigned, providing the flexibility to update or refresh flooring as needed.”

Industry observers report the use of hard surfaces such as LVT, hardwood, porcelain tile and polished concrete is expanding beyond coffee and bar/break areas and into more diverse office environments. “While tile usage is typically limited to areas such as lobbies, bathrooms and kitchenettes, we predict there will be more tile being used in traditionally unexpected spaces,” said Gianni Mattioli, executive vice president, product and marketing, Dal-Tile. He cited advancements in the tile printing technology space as one of the primary reasons.

Another sector to watch is healthcare, which some believe represent the greatest growth potential for LVT. “Slip/fall issues help LVT vs. other hard surface options as well as infection control,” said Paul Eanes, vice president of new business development, Metroflor. “The segment is now more receptive to LVT in most places except operating rooms.”

Ceramic, porcelain and terrazzo tile are commonly found in hallways, making it easier to maneuver rolling equipment and mobile aids. “The health benefits and low maintenance of tile makes it ideal for this space, and our advancements in manufacturing have allowed us to make tile slip resistant through our proprietary StepWise technology, catering to residents’ safety needs,” Dal-Tile’s Mattioli said.

Fashion and function are paramount in hospitality, an industry reportedly investing millions of dollars to remodel their properties. It is expected to remain a bedrock segment for broadloom in particular as high-end products are the norm for guest rooms and public areas. “People still want to feel a soft surface when they hit the floor,” Shaw’s Knowles pointed out. “So even though the trend is towards hard surface, we’re seeing a combination of the two—and we’re providing solutions for that.”

LVT is reportedly growing at a faster rate than broadloom as the product gains wider acceptance, especially in guest rooms. “Most of these hospitality end users are also looking to make a change to something more timeless in terms of pattern and color,” observed Al Boulogne, vice president, commercial resilient business, Mannington Commercial. “That, coupled with the easier maintenance requirements, make it an ideal product for these environments.”

Further fueling usage is hotel owners’ interest in switching to interior decorating products that blend with the latest design styles and last longer—a big reason why ceramic is making inroads. “Designers in the hospitality space demand unique designs, and we are taking style and design to the next level through our latest introductions,” Dal-Tile’s Mattioli said.

One segment at the forefront of design is retail as end users not only seek products that are trendy, but also address performance/functional issues.

“You can create a pattern in a hardwood or stone look that leads you into different departments of the retail store,” noted Milton Goodwin, vice president of commercial sales, Karndean Designflooring. “There’s a lot of mixing and matching of SKUs.”

Even the education sector is getting a little more sophisticated in terms of the design aesthetic, observers report. “It’s copying what we’ve seen in other public segments by trying to become a little more trendy with their looks,” Mannington’s Boulogne stated. “So that pushes more and more business to the LVT category, where there are more design opportunities.”

R&D efforts center on beefing up performance levels to ensure flooring meets the varying needs of each space. “Designers can take LVT into places that maybe they hadn’t considered before,” added Melissa Quick, product and marketing manager, AVA by Novalis Innovative Flooring. “All of this has contributed to more confidence in the use of LVT in Main Street and specified spaces.”

 

 

 

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Mannington Commercial extends Nature’s Paths LVT

Screen Shot 2014-06-26 at 4.54.24 PMCalhoun, Ga. — Mannington Commercial announced it has expanded its Nature’s Paths line of LVT. Appropriate for a variety of commercial applications, Nature’s Paths offers performance and durability, in a balanced collection of wood plank and stone visuals. The reintroduction is the first Mannington LVT collection to be wholly designed and manufactured in the U.S.

“Nature’s Paths is adding designs in a wide variety of plank and tile sizes, as running line products, and with very small minimums for custom sizes,” said Al Boulogne, senior director–commercial LVT. “Also, all of the plank products can be made into LockSolid profiles, for a floating ‘click’ option. It is an incredibly expansive offering of LVT–one of the most comprehensive in the industry, and we are very excited that it was all designed and manufactured in the USA.”

The new plank patterns include Madison Maple, a classic maple pattern in a wider, 6” format. The Windsor Oak pattern includes 6 new colors, and is produced and stocked in 3”, 4” and 6” widths. New in the tile collections are Via and Vena, naturally inspired patterns that are subtly abstracted and each come in 6 running line colors. Although the two patterns are very different, the palettes of Via and Vena are designed to coordinate and complement each other. In addition to tile formats, Via is also available in 4” x 36” planks, and Vena in 18” x 36” tiles.

Since the company began on-shoring production of its Mannington LVT, Mannington has already seen a 30% increase in jobs in its plants in Georgia, with more than 200 additional jobs to be added by the end of 2014. Domestic production of flooring benefits the communities where Mannington associates live and work, but also brings real benefit to customers, through drastically shorter lead times–orders of less than 10,000 square feet typically ship within 7 business days, as opposed to an industry standard of 14-17 weeks.

Mannington said the performance features are enhanced by its Quantum Guard HP finish. Additionally, the LockSolid option’s glueless installation system makes for cleaner indoor air quality, less materials and waste involved, and less time required for installation.