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Wood: Exotics – Latest looks, styles in changing market

January 5/12, 2015; Volume 28/Number 14

 By Ken Ryan

Screen Shot 2015-01-16 at 12.38.07 PMClearly the entire market for exotics has changed. It is not forgotten, but it is just not the hot category it was a decade ago. Distributors no longer go wide and deep with their inventory, preferring to carry one or two lines that have been successful. “What the market has come down to is minimizing merchandising and turning those boards

as fast as you

can,” said Bruce Hammer, sales manager at Elof Hansson, which boasts an inventory of roughly 80% exotics.

In 2008, Congress passed the Lacey Act, prohibiting the import of illegally harvested wood and wood products into the United States. This legislation set a precedent for the global trade in wood flooring and other wood-related products, ensuring that only legally logged timber for flooring is sold into the United States.

The emergence of Lacey prompted some players to leave the Brazilian market. For companies like IndusParquet, which sources its products from Brazil, this market shift was welcome news. For starters, IndusParquet does not face illegal logging issues in Brazil because of the way it harvests from managed forests; second, the thinning of the herd has allowed it to take market share.

But the company did more than just sit back, according to Jason Strong, vice president of marketing and sales. “We don’t look at ourselves as just an exotics company,” he said. “We bring today’s fashion trends from Brazil into the U.S. market.”

Those trends include soft rustics and wide planks up to 8 feet long. Several of these products were on display at the NAFCD show in November, including Dolce pecan. This best seller features a ½-inch wear layer with a 6¼-inch-wide by 8-foot-long plank. The company sells the offering to distributors for just under $4 per square foot.

In addition, Indus-Parquet is adding a gray stain—gray being one of the trendiest colors—to its Brazilian pecan collection. “We’re taking our species and putting our spin on it,” Strong said.

IndusParquet products are now distributed in every U.S. state. The last region to be filled was the Northwest; Cascade Pacific, a Denver Hardwood company, agreed to carry the exotics line in 2014. The companies forged the deal at Surfaces.

“I have to give credit to Enos Farnsworth,” Strong said of the Denver Hardwood president. “Enos was the one who drove this process, who helped us get coverage in the Northwest.”

Farnsworth said he looked at all the exotics and believed IndusParquet was the clear leader. “We’re going to have a good partnership.”

Distributors were also interested in Elof Hansson exotics during the NAFCD show. Of particular interest is acacia, its leading exotic out of Asia. It sells for $1 to $2 less a square foot than most South American exotics and has been a winner for distributors, Hammer said.

Elof Hansson sources about 85% of its exotics from Brazil, with Bolivia and Peru making up the rest.

Industry wide, Brazilian cherry remains the leading South American exotic. Santos mahogany, another popular species, is said to be in short supply, at least in Peru where Chinese companies have been buying up vast quantities, flooring executives explained.

Out of Africa

Screen Shot 2015-01-16 at 12.38.20 PMArk Floors’ most recent exotics introductions include unique African species such as doussie, padauk, tali, amberwood and African mahogany, which all make up Ark’s Wild Coast collection. “There are a lot of unique species from that region that are durable, stunning and work well over radiant heat, yet for some reason we don’t see a lot of them in the marketplace,” said Laurie Sanfilippo, marketing manager.

Sanfilippo is one who believes enforcement of the Lacey Act and other green standards is postitive, as it has forced exotics marketers to raise their quality standards or face the consequences. “As consumers everywhere become more concerned with the back story of the products they purchase, manufacturers need to respond in order to remain viable. This can only benefit the industry as a whole. For Ark, these regulations have not changed our mindset, as responsible forestry is something that our factory has always been concerned with.”

Despite sourcing 85% of its products from South America, Elof Hansson can lay claim to a U.S. story as well—virtually all of its exotics are finished at a facility in North Carolina. The U.S. connection can be a big deal, Hammer learned, when a customer who was purchasing 4,600 square feet of tigerwood insisted on personally visiting the North Carolina facility to ensure the finishing was done on U.S. soil. “Ninety-eight percent of what we finish is done here in the states,” Hammer said. “It’s more to manage but I like the control it gives us along with the flexibility and recourse to have the raw materials here.”

For Mirage, exotics make up a very small percentage of its hardwood flooring portfolio, but it serves a niche market. The company sources Santos mahogany from Brazil and sapele from Africa. “We like the business we have in exotics, but it’s not the fastest growing part of our business by any imagination,” said Chris Thompson, vice president of sales and marketing at Boa-Franc, makers of the Mirage brand. “I think the consumer demand has lessened; the demand isn’t like what it was a few years ago. A lot of that is due to styling and color. Red—which can be found in Brazilian cherry and other exotics species—has fallen out of favor.”

Still, for those who rely on tropical exotics as their main hardwood flooring line, there are plenty of opportunities waiting to be grabbed.

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Wood: Less focus on price means more options, innovation

Feb. 17/24 2014, Volume 27/number 21

By Ken Ryan

(Second of two parts)

More than ever, hardwood floors are making a distinctive statement. Featuring wider widths, longer lengths, tremendous graining and color variations, today’s hardwood floors are very much a fashion product.

Numerous hardwood suppliers exhibited their latest, trendy products at Surfaces 2014, looking to seize this market opportunity with eager-to-buy consumers.

Ark Floors

Today’s consumers are savvier than those of years past, and more willing to take risks with their purchases, according to Laurie Sanfilippo, marketing manager at Ark Floors. Therefore, suppliers like Ark are striving to be more “adventurous” with products that excite consumers and allow dealers to make money. At Surfaces, Ark exhibited five new products including Padauk chestnut, an engineered product in the company’s Artistic Collection of distressed, handscraped, wider-width planks that range from 4 3⁄4 to 6 1⁄2 inches wide. Booth goers were shown classic American looks as well as exotic species in a mix of solid and engineered constructions. The company also touted its new French Collection that features a sculpted, distressed surface texture and wider width planks.

Sanfilippo said today’s younger consumers are drawn to a product’s design and may not be as concerned with its source or how much it costs, as long as they are happy with it. “There are people who are going to want to buy U.S., and that is not going to be our market. Our market is people who will want to buy something beautiful—meaning above entry-level exotics.”

Bamboo Hardwoods

Bamboo Hardwoods’ signature product at the show was a strand-woven, handscraped bamboo from the Hybrid line, which is created by combining strands of bamboo into an organic pattern and then compressing them under significant pressure. The result is an extremely dense and hard floor with superior resistance to denting.

David Keegan, COO, said dealers can make 30% to 35% profit on Hybrid. “This is no commodity bamboo product. Finally people are not looking at price point, they are looking at aesthetics. Consumers love the look of this bamboo and it is not out of their budgets. Plus, retailers can make good money on it.”

Screen Shot 2014-02-24 at 3.31.55 PMBoen Hardwood Flooring

Wider widths and longer planks are all the rage in hardwood these days, and few companies go wider or longer than Boen Hardwood Flooring. Its new engineered line, with boards 12 to 15 inches wide and 86 inches long, come with a floating Välinge click system. “The hardest part is properly displaying these SKUs because some retailers don’t have room for them in their showrooms,” said Dennis Hrusa, managing director at Boen.

CFS Flooring

Taking a different approach than it has at past Surfaces, CFS decided to install new products in its show space. “By doing so, it makes the room look so much bigger,” said Phillip Key, vice president of sales and marketing of CFS.

One product that stood out was a 9⁄16-inch handscraped engineered Asian walnut (acacia) with distinctive graining and chisel techniques. Hand-rubbed stains provide depth to the grain, and because each plank is individually scraped by hand there is a distinction between them, meaning no two are alike.

In addition to this unique visual, CFS is also trying to win over dealers with a one-price story for its new lineup. “I’m a sales guy and I like it easy,” Key said. “With one price point, it’s an easy story for dealers to tell.”

Coswick

Coswick, which specializes in traditional hardwood flooring and European-style floors, made its debut at Surfaces in hopes of meeting with distributors, part one in a plan to establish a network. The company showed distributors a brushed oak and country oak collection, among others.

The Belarus-based company’s European-style products are available in a two-layer tongue and groove construction.

“We’re strong in Eastern Europe and No. 1 in the Persian Gulf,” said Vladimir Ianovski, president. Coswick also has a market presence in Switzerland, France and Germany. “It’s time to grow in the U.S.,” he said. “We see good signs here.”

Coswick recently earned Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) Chain of Custody certification. The scope of certification includes the entire range of the company’s products—solid and engineered, wood wall panels and all moldings.

DuChateau Floors

The manufacturer of wide-plank hardwood flooring (standard sizes are 9½ inches wide by 8 feet long and 5⁄8 inch thick) is in the earlyScreen Shot 2014-02-24 at 3.35.00 PM stages of extending its successful Atelier Series of luxury flooring, which was developed exclusively by Tom Goddijin, the company’s master craftsman. Goddijin, who experiments with traditional processing methods to achieve unique flooring styles, is moving his practice from Holland to San Diego, which will allow DuChateau to bring its products to the U.S. market much quicker—an average of four to six weeks, according to Scott Petersen, director of operations.

DuChateau also disclosed it has partnered with home furnishings supplier Somerset Bay Home to launch a European oak flooring line to match 10 signature Somerset Bay Home colors.

Home Legend

Home Legend downsized its booth from 5,400 square feet to a 1,600-square-foot space divided into separate 800-square-foot areas. The company’s introductions included a new acacia line offered in 5¼ inch widths.

The new offerings are also available in birch and Brazilian cherry and come in three constructions: HDF click-lock, engineered tongue and groove, and solid tongue and groove. “You can classify it as a good, better, best [program],” said Jamann Stepp, vice president of sales.

Horizon

Many hardwood flooring companies talk about their sustainable practices, but Horizon took the movement one step further by constructing its booth—for which the company won a Best of Surfaces award (see story on page 1)—out of reclaimed timbers and railroad trestles from an abandoned Ohio rail yard.

Screen Shot 2014-02-24 at 3.35.56 PM“It’s all about first impressions and the ‘wow’ factor,” said Alex Shaoulpour, president of Horizon, speaking about both the booth and its new products.

Horizon’s product launches were Villa Tuscana Cambridge Estate, Ferno and Saddle Creek. “The overwhelming positive response from our distributors confirm these styles are the newest trends for 2014 and a perfect fit for their markets, which inspires us to develop innovative floors every day.”

Horizon’s products feature an open grain finish that allows floors to live and breathe in a healthy home environment. The natural oils penetrate through the wood pores to enhance the look and create a durable, long-lasting floor.

“We develop products [our customers] can make money on,” Shaoulpour concluded. “For us, our customers’ success is our success.”

Korus Wood Flooring

Korus, which announced at Surfaces its entry into the residential market, is known for its acrylic impregnated hardwood flooring. This specific type of product is made from natural wood that is infused with acrylic resin to create a stronger, tougher floor.

Korus’ engineered construction uses five plies of marine-grade Baltic birch, glued with marine-grade adhesive, and topped with a 1⁄10 inch-thick acrylic impregnated real wood wearlayer.

The company is launching 54 SKUs, including a reclaimed oak hardwood it believes will appeal to dealers looking for differentiation. “We have a lot of colors and wood species working together,” said Jason Brubaker, director of sales and marketing.

Korus reported that its representatives met with a number of prospective customers at Surfaces. As an incentive, the company gave away 50 retail displays as part of its residential kickoff, which Brubaker said was a successful promotion.

Trillium

Bill Friend, a vice president and co-owner of Strategis International, which oversees the Trillium brand, said the company tried to do “too many things” with wood in the past. So it is now focusing on what it does best: strand-woven bamboo. “We want to be the bamboo guys in the U.S.,” he said.

At Surfaces, Trillium showcased Manhattan Grey, a wire-brushed bamboo that Friend said could generate significant margin for retailers looking for a differentiated offering. “Flooring used to be a boring product,” he said. “Twenty years ago, you had two [wood] choices: maple and oak. Today you have so many options it’s become a fashion product. I think bamboo could very easily be 10% of wood, and there’s margin dollars there for dealers.”

WE Cork

WE Cork displayed its Serenity Collection of cork flooring with a high definition, three-pass, digital print technology that reproduces the essence of wood or tile on a cork substrate. The floor is finished with the company’s patented Hot Coating, giving it an oil-like, satin luster.

The digital print technology allows for customized visuals such as blue jeans or cobblestone, both of which were installed at the booth. “Dealers were overwhelmingly positive; they love the unlimited commercial applications,” said Ann Wicander, president of WE Cork.

 

 

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Wood mills form alliance, file petition on Chinese imports; aims to level the domestic hardwood playing field

WASHINGTON—The Coalition for American Hardwood Parity (CAHP), an association of U.S. manufacturers of engineered wood flooring, filed an unfair trade petition on Oct. 21 regarding imports of multi-layered wood products from China.

The petition, filed with the U.S. Department of Commerce and the International Trade Commission (ITC), asserts that imports of the product are sold in the United States at dumped prices, and that Chinese manufacturers have gained an unfair competitive advantage. Continue reading Wood mills form alliance, file petition on Chinese imports; aims to level the domestic hardwood playing field

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Domotex asia/ChinaFloor: U.S. mills expand into Asia as Eastern mills grow in west

SHANGHAI—Massive earth-quakes. Powerful hurricanes. Countries struggling to survive economic collapse. Many would say the world is turning upside down. This is certainly so in the world of flooring—but unlike world events, it is for the betterment of everyone, it seems.Domotex asia show floor

While China remains the most important sourcing market for all kinds of products (73% of the country’s exports end up in the U.S.), flooring including, there is an interesting trend that was played out among the 8.5 football field-sized halls that made up the 12th annual Domotex asia/ChinaFloor (DACF) here last month. Western-based manufacturers continue to see mainland China as a major opportunity for sales of products bearing their brand, while Chinese mills that have set up shop in the U.S. have seen their market share grow as retailers and distributors look for alternatives in this tough economy. Continue reading Domotex asia/ChinaFloor: U.S. mills expand into Asia as Eastern mills grow in west