Posted on

Armstrong Flooring initiates price increases

Lancaster, Pa.—Armstrong Flooring will introduce a three-to-five percent price increase on select commercial sheet, luxury vinyl tile, vinyl composition tile and select residential resilient products in the United States and Canada. The increase will apply to orders shipping on or after Oct. 1, 2018. 

“Over the past several months, we have continued to experience increases across the majority of our input costs,” said Brent Flaharty, senior vice president of North America sales. “In spite of significant cross-functional efforts, we can no longer fully absorb these increases.”

 

Posted on

Armstrong Flooring names 2017 Elite Retailers of the Year

Lancaster, Pa.—Armstrong Flooring has named three companies 2017 Elite Retailers of the Year. Dalton Wholesale Floors was awarded Gold; Airbase Carpet & Tile Mart received Silver; and Flooring America-Fairfax earned Bronze. Mercer Carpet One Floor & Home and Carpets Unlimited received honorable mentions. The award is based on a variety of factors, including sales, lead conversion rates, overall program support, showroom quality and website excellence.

“We are delighted to recognize and thank the best of the best for their continuing excellence as Armstrong Flooring Elite Retailers,” said Chris King, vice president of residential national accounts, residential distribution, Armstrong Flooring. "We are grateful to work alongside a great team of retailers who exemplify the values of Armstrong Flooring and help us to be seen as the world's best and most trusted flooring company.”

The 2017 Gold Elite Retailer of the Year, Dalton Wholesale Floors, has been a proud Elite Retailer since 2015. Barry McEntire and Todd Stephens started Dalton Wholesale Floors in 2004 with only a handful of employees. Through the hard work and dedication of employees, it has now grown to five retail locations with over 70 employees.

Silver winners AirBase Carpet and Tile Mart’s 12 superstore locations serve Delaware, Pennsylvania, Maryland, South Jersey and South Carolina. Carpet & Tile Mart is a third-generation, family-owned and operated business. They carry a wide variety of flooring options for the home, available to pick up in stores, shipped anywhere in the USA or installed next day by professional installers.

Bronze Elite Retailer of the Year, Flooring America-Fairfax, takes pride in its experience and staying power. Flooring America-Fairfax is locally owned and operated by the Menefee family. The flooring business began in 1979, and FA Design Build was launched in 2004 based on the vision of providing flooring clients with full-service remodeling from inspiration to installation. The showrooms feature a full range of flooring choices—from hardwood, luxury vinyl tile and plank, laminate and tile to carpet, area rugs and runners.

One of two distinguished Honorable Mentions is Carpets Unlimited, a family-owned and operated company established in 1969. Carpets Unlimited is dedicated to customer satisfaction and committed to bringing the highest quality products to its customers’ homes. Known as Owensboro’s premier flooring and furniture store, Carpets Unlimited was founded in 1969, and has grown in many ways over the last four decades.

Honorable Mention Mercer Floor & Home Carpet One is a local, full service floor covering store for excellent service and quality carpeting, hardwood, luxury vinyl tiles, ceramic tiles, custom area rugs and more. As a third-generation family business, Mercer has been servicing the Greater Baltimore region—especially Carroll and Howard Counties—since 1959.

 

Posted on

NeoCon turns 50: Design, innovation take center stage at milestone event

By Lindsay Baillie

Chicago—NeoCon, one of the largest commercial interior design shows in North America, concluded its 50th edition last month, drawing in more than 50,000 attendees—a 5% increase from 2017. The Mart in Chicago was bursting with 140 showrooms, where roughly 350 exhibitors showcased the latest and greatest in corporate, hospitality, healthcare, education and retail design.

According to show management, the show floor was completely occupied, which was in keeping with NeoCon trends seen over the past 10 years. What’s more, flooring was the second highest represented commercial industry. “The fact that this was our 50th edition added a lot of buzz and energy,” said Byron Morton, vice president of leasing, NeoCon.

The scores of A&D professionals in attendance echoed those sentiments. “We could tell from the energetic crowds at The Mart that the excitement of NeoCon was at an all-time high this year,” said John Hopkins, principal and design director, IA Interiors Architects’ Chicago office. “We loved that there was such a focus on acoustic solutions—it’s an undervalued component when it comes to privacy, workplaces and open environments. We also noticed there were a lot of natural materials and finishes, a welcome return after the influx of the cold, industrial materials of the past few years.”

Angie Lee, AIA, IIDA, principal, design director-interiors, FXCollaborative Architects LLP, New York, agreed. “I have attended NeoCon for the last three years and continue to be impressed by the immense energy and creativity of the manufacturers, designers and associations. I saw a range of products implementing unexpected, thought-provoking uses of color, pattern and texture.”

Vendors attributed much of that enthusiasm to three primary factors—the strength of key end-use market sectors, the bevy of new products that provide both aesthetic and performance solutions, and positive trends in non-residential construction spending.

“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,” Robert Brockman, segment marketing manager, commercial, Armstrong Flooring, told FCNews.

LVT in particular is driving commercial flooring consumption across several end-use markets as it continues to exceed the growth of the once-dominant broadloom sector. This is especially the case in hotels. “Most hospitality end users are also looking to make a change to something more timeless in terms of pattern and color,” noted Al Boulogne, vice president, commercial resilient business, Mannington Commercial. “That, coupled with the easier maintenance requirements, make it an ideal product for these environments.”

But it’s not just hospitality that’s driving LVT specifications. Observers say healthcare holds the biggest growth potential for LVT, especially in areas such as hotel lobbies, hospital corridors and senior living spaces. “Slip/fall issues help LVT vs. other hard surface options,” said Paul Eanes, vice president of new business development, Metroflor.

Product trends
The vast array of innovative new products on display at the show reflected diverse requirements of architects, specifiers and designers. To keep up with demand, flooring manufacturers are developing new products across both hard and soft surface arenas that appeal to multiple commercial sectors at a time. In addition to developing products that fulfill “resi-mercial” demands, manufacturers are incorporating more pops of color to assist designers in creating unique, productive spaces.

In terms of hard surfaces, manufacturers continue to incorporate sustainable, biophilic design, with resilient flooring mimicking stone, cement, wood and other natural looks. Armstrong Flooring, for example, rolled out a heterogeneous sheet product called Mixers, which was inspired by the vibrant colors of different cocktails. Focused on its heterogeneous and homogeneous sheet lines, Armstrong presented attendees with new products that boast equal performance. “The update there is two fold,” Brockman stated, adding that designers can specify both sheet lines together without performance issues. “It’s not only new designs and patterns, but Diamond 10 technology has been added to the heterogeneous line.”

New to NeoCon, Cleo Contract—a Congoleum brand—highlighted its non-vinyl, non-PVC product. Made up of 85% limestone, Cleo has an ultra-low VOC, high-performance clear coating for durability and performance. What’s more, its visuals are digitally printed, which allows the company to produce custom looks. To help designers show what the product looks like after a complete install, Cleo Contract developed digitally printed papers that can be updated in real time with the current SKUs, according to Kurt Denman, chief marketing officer and executive vice president, sales, Congoleum.

Also riding the non-vinyl train is Mannington Commercial with its latest non-vinyl alternative resilient tile, Cirro. Offered in 20 visuals and four different sizes in tile and plank formats, Cirro can be installed using traditional resilient adhesives.

Also new from Mannington is Northern Wonders, which was inspired by a designer’s visit to see the Northern Lights. “Its colors and design are a culmination of ideas developed during the trip,” said Whitney LeGate, business manager, commercial LVT, Mannington. The product is available in nine colorways.

Over at the Karndean Designflooring space, the emphasis was on designer education as well as the seemingly endless options available through its Korlok, glue-down and loose-lay products. The company’s grout strips, available in 16 colors, were installed in the booth to show how to incorporate fake grout lines as well as pops of color to a SKU. “We’ve expanded our solid color offering to allow for both bold, saturated pops of colors and pastels to align with 2019 color forecasts, great for projects that require an elevated brand identity or to add a bit of whimsy,” said Jenne Ross, director of marketing. “We’re excited that these custom colors will be available on-demand and custom cut at our Pittsburgh facility.”

One of the products Raskin Industries showcased was Ceramix, a resilient tile with built-in grout lines that’s available in a variety of visuals, including stone, marble and concrete. “We have 36 x 36 tiles that give you a really clean smooth concrete look,” said Ted Rocha, vice president of sales. “It would be something that you’d see in an Apple store, for instance.”

Aspecta released its Aspecta 10 line, a premium multi-layer flooring with Isocore technology. The new offering features a 28mil wear layer and can be installed floating corner to corner—thanks in part to its innovative vertical locking system. “This is the Rolls Royce of multi-layer flooring,” said Marcel Kies, global CEO, Aspecta. “What we’ve tried to create is a good, better, best product.”

Shannon Specialty Floors displayed its new Naturescapes line, which was designed with the help of Jason McLennan, author, founder and creator of the Living Building Challenge. Naturescapes, he explained, is a resilient flooring product made with organic polymers. “It’s not vinyl, it’s free of all Red List chemicals and it’s the first Living Product Certified resilient flooring in the industry. This product class is highly sought after.”

Roppe highlighted multiple products at the show, including its Northern Parallels Chevron LVT planks available in a 9¼ x 59¼ format in three color ranges. According to Dee Dee Brickner, marketing manager, the line reflects strong demand for one of the most popular patterns—a directional pattern that’s often seen in real hardwood installations. “By offering a left and right design, these floors can also be laid in the same direction to create another unique look by using only one side.”

Looking beyond LVT, manufacturers in the rubber segment also looked to generate some buzz by showcasing products in on-trend, vibrant colors. Suitable for multiple applications, these manufacturers have developed customer cut and base profile programs to provide designers with greater options.

Then there was American Biltrite’s AB Pure, which features its signature Nfuse technology (Here, the coating that is applied directly into the flooring.) “Normally you would take [a rubber floor] out of the box, glue it down and then you’d scrub and clean it to release the mold agent,” Mark Tickle, director of marketing, explained. “With AB Pure, once you lay it down you use a damp mop on the surface. Then as soon as the adhesive has cured you can have people on it.”

Flexco is incorporating different wood-look visuals as well as new rubber plank sizes to its portfolio. “We’re also going to be launching some of our new base profiles, which is catching a lot of people’s interest,” said Haley Plank, marketing manager. “We’re also working on sustainability for our products. We have two new HPDs coming out for our rubber tile and treads.”

Procedo Flooring’s new Maxime rubber flooring line—available in eight colors in a 24 x 24 tile format—was designed to be installed across multiple settings, including educational facilities, sports facilities and retail areas. “We also started doing water jet cuts on the product for greater design options,” said Pierre Lefort, national sales manager.

All shapes and sizes
“Some of the coolest things in floor covering,” noted NeoCon’s Morton, “has to be the different shapes and textures” on display at the show. To that end, Tarkett showcased several products ranging from Pentagonals, which won a Best of NeoCon Gold, and Woven Fringe, a Best of NeoCon Platinum winner.

According to Terry Mowers, vice president chief creative officer, Pentagonals features rubber in a way that highlights a wide range of design possibilities. “You can get whatever color palettes you want within the system and a variety of shapes.”

Woven Fringe complements Tarkett’s rubber offering by providing a resi-mercial solution that is part of the company’s area rug program. According to Mowers, the product’s neutral color palette fits right in with current trends. “We’re seeing grays moving to healthcare in combination with other colorings. We’re also seeing grays getting warmer but we’re not seeing them move that far away.”

As hard surfaces continue to gain more share across various commercial markets, end users are incorporating more area rugs in their designs. At the same time, carpet tile is also gaining steam. New soft surfaces continue to follow sustainable, biophilic design while brightening up spaces with hints of color.

Case in point: Aquafil’s booth displayed clothing and carpet featuring Econyl fiber. According to Kathy Long, brand communications manager, the booth was designed to show how fashion and carpet flow together. “We’re trying to show the endless possibilities of Econyl,” Long said. “We have 28 new colors to the Econyl collection—new neutrals and pops.”

Patcraft highlighted Dichroic, a PET carpet tile made from recycled plastic bottles. “We’ve worked on two products to pull plastic waste out of the environment,” said Kieren Corcoran, director of performance markets. “We’ve taken the bottle chip that can’t be recycled and turned it into fibers. We can then recycle it again at the end of its life back into pellets.”

EF Contract, which made its NeoCon debut, highlighted several carpet collections, including Rust Dye. “What we did was take metals and went through the process of rust dying them and capturing what they leave behind as they decay,” Susan Curtis, vice president, design and marketing, explained. “We’re all about tile, skinny planks and giving the designer flexible to design their own patterns.”

New to Mannington’s broadloom products is Moire, a carpet tile offering developed in conjunction with installation artist Gabriel Dawe. Moire mimics an installation Dawe completed in The Mart, which featured 30 miles of colorful fiber organized in prism format. Interestingly, the installation changed its colors as attendees passed by.

Mohawk put the spotlight on several new soft surface offerings, including Sunweave, a collection of woven broadloom and rug products featuring Heathered Hues Duracolor premium nylon, and Crafted Convergence, which draws on influence from Native American pottery and baskets to everyday Japanese and African garments. “With Crafted Convergence, we’re starting to transfer more hospitality looks into the workplace,” said Mark Oliver, vice president, workplace and retail. “The other beauty is it’s broadloom, but we’re also offering it as a rug.”

Posted on

Resilient: In a contested field, sheet vinyl still competes on value, visuals

June 11/18, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 26

By Mara Bollettieri

 

There’s no denying that LVT and WPC have nipped some market share from sheet vinyl, but by no means is the workhorse subcategory down for the count. Although other resilient formats are growing in popularity, the product still has a place in the flooring industry today, offering benefits to residential and commercial markets.

Thanks to new technological enhancements and product design innovations, resilient sheet is showing it can hold its own against the onslaught of hard surface competition both within and outside the category.  “WPC is getting all the attention today, but sheet vinyl has been waterproof since long before WPC came on the market,” said Mary Katherine Dyczko-Riglin, product manager of residential sheet vinyl, Mannington.

Mannington is working to remind retailers and consumers of the many benefits of sheet vinyl, such as its durability and ease of maintenance. With the company’s Revive collection, it’s promoting these positive attributes while providing dealers with unique and on-trend visual options to make it more appealing to customers. Dyczko-Riglin also emphasized the affordability of the product as a key benefit. “The key to sheet’s success is to remind people that it has those great features and benefits,” she explained.

Other industry executives believe enforcement is the key. “We are continually reminding our customers of the advantages of sheet vinyl—installation ease, quiet, comfortable, durable, inexpensive and future flexibility,” said Liz Marcello, director of residential products–marketing, Tarkett. To that end, the company plans to launch a new sheet vinyl product, TruTEX, which has the ability to dissolve moisture and is mold and mildew resistant while providing strength. According to Marcello, with this new sheet vinyl product, Tarkett is hoping to “create more excitement” around this flooring category.

Mannington and Tarkett are not alone. IVC, a Mohawk brand, is doing its part to keep sheet top of mind. “The attributes of sheet vinyl, such as durability and waterproof features, all go hand in hand with still offering the most economic resilient product in the category,” said Amie Foster, senior product director, IVC U.S.

Suppliers are also leveraging sheet vinyl’s other attributes. “The versatility of sheet vinyl makes it an ideal solution for any number of residential, commercial and project-oriented applications,” said Kurt Denman, chief marketing officer and executive vice president of sales, Congoleum. “This multi-tasking capacity has allowed sheet vinyl to journey into builder, multi-family and residential-remodeling applications.”

Emphasis on design

Technological advancements have allowed manufacturers to deliver updated sheet vinyl looks that have more realistic visuals. Many suppliers are leveraging new printing techniques to deliver stylish visuals that today’s consumers demand.

“Sheet vinyl’s upgraded visuals and its competitive pricing make it a competitive flooring option,” said Clark Hodgkins, director of resilient, Shaw Floors. “This isn’t the dated vinyl sheet that once graced the kitchens and bathrooms of old.”

Advancements in printing technologies, according to Hodgkins, allow for new pattern creations and gives sheet the ability to better mimic popular visuals like wood and tile. He believes costumers can get beautiful visions at a “fraction of the cost,” compared to other resilient flooring. In particular, he cited Shaw’s DuraTru sheet line, which features realistic visuals.

Other manufacturers are also leveraging technology to render improved looks. “Products like Mannington’s sheet vinyl are highly styled with embossed-in-register, realistic visuals—in all constructions,” Dyczko-Riglin explained. “If you think about it, sheet vinyl is also the ultimate long and wide product as well.”

A case in point, according to Dyczko-Riglin, is Mannington’s Revive collection—a line that draws its inspiration from natural materials. “Revive patterns are inspired by popular porcelain looks, which are making consumers do a double-take,” she said. “It allows them to get the aesthetic they are looking for.”

Equally important as aesthetics, supplier say, are the performance advantages resilient sheet provides. This is particularly critical in situations where hygienic conditions are a major requirement, such as healthcare applications.

“Vinyl sheet floors are seamed by heat welding, which fuses the sheet together and creates strong, clean, aseptic seams that resist the penetration of dirt and moisture,” said Dave Bailey, associate product manager, Armstrong Flooring. “New material and coating technologies have enabled a wider range of colors and patterns, better wear resistance, reduced maintenance requirements and improved chemical and stain resistance.”

Like many products in its lineup, Armstrong’s sheet vinyl products have been enhanced with its signature Diamond 10 technology. According to Bailey, the technology boasts resistance to stains, scratches and scuffs while providing high-indentation performance.

IVC’s Foster feels sheet vinyl has the advantage in this regard. “Visuals continue to challenge the best LVTs, hardwoods and ceramic looks, so the consumer is getting an economic product with enhanced visuals.”

End-use applications

A majority of the suppliers told FCNews that an advantage of sheet vinyl is the product’s ease of installation. This attribute makes the product suitable for a range of applications and environments, be they residential or commercial.

Beauflor, for instance, is seeing its Blacktex fiberglass sheet vinyl being installed in the builder and property management segment. That’s due in no small measure to the product’s exclusive black-textile backing, which allows for loose lay installations up to 500 square feet. “Manufactured housing and RV markets love Beauflor’s sheet for our proprietary 16 foot, 4-inch width capability on a dimensional stable, cold-crack proof, waterproof and flexible construction,” said Michael Finelli, director of strategy, product and marketing.

Then there are products like Forbo’s Marmoleum, which is being installed across a range of both commercial and residential applications. “This USDA- certified, 100% bio-based product also fits the bill for sustainable-minded customers looking for healthy flooring options,” said Lori Lagana, marketing manager, Forbo Flooring. “It’s ideally suited for a variety of commercial and residential applications, ranging from patient rooms, classrooms, hallways and boutiques, to kitchens, bedrooms and family rooms.”

Tarkett’s Marcello sees its FiberFloor being used in multiple rooms in the home for single families. She believes it’s the ideal floor for kitchens, bathrooms, great rooms and/or laundry rooms. She also mentioned its usage in multifamily homes as well, where it is typically installed in spaces that see a lot of use and foot traffic. Also, when paired with its ProSheet Plus 3 product, Tarkett’s FiberFloor and TruTEX sheet vinyl products have the ability to be installed over existing floors. Since TruTEX is moisture resistant, along with being resistant to both mold and mildew, it works in areas that tend to get wet, such as basements, laundry rooms and bathrooms, Marcello added.

Mannington’s sheet vinyl, according to Dyczko-Riglin, is going down in wet areas such as kitchens, laundry rooms, mudrooms and bathrooms.

All of this is no surprise given the category’s waterproof attributes. Shaw Floors’ Hodgkins believes these qualities make sheet vinyl the go-to product for areas of the home that are prone to spills, messes or accidents. “Consumers don’t have to worry if their beloved pet tracks mud through the house or their children make a mess—Shaw’s DuraTru sheet vinyl will maintain its look and shape,” he explained. Shaw’s sheet goods, he noted, features OptiClean technology—an innovation that offers an extra boost of stain resistance.

But sheet vinyl is not just a utilitarian floor as far as installation, maintenance and upkeep are concerned. At the end of the day, proponents say, consumers will select the product because they love the way it looks, along with its suitability for a variety of installation scenarios.

“We’re seeing ArmorCore installed throughout a living space—including entryways and hallways—because of its visual continuity across multiple substrates and subfloor conditions,” Congoleum’s Denman said. He sees this as partly due to the trend of open-concept living in homes, and the continuity of a singular floor to “visually open up smaller spaces.”

Posted on

Eye on inflation: Flooring industry meets economic threats head on

June 11/18, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 26

By Ken Ryan

 

The flooring industry is operating amidst significant inflationary pressures, the likes of which haven’t been experienced since the end of the Great Recession. In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in June that inflation climbed 2.8% in the last 12 months to its highest level in six years.

Inflation impacts all industries, including flooring, which is heavily dependent on raw materials and transportation—both of which have endured substantial cost increases.

“Inflation is a real business challenge that is facing Mohawk and many other industries today,” said Brian Carson, president, Mohawk Flooring N.A. “We hear about it in the newspapers, on TV, everywhere. We see it in our personal lives when we go to the store, the restaurant and even the gas station. The good news is our economy has strengthened over the past few years, but that strength has created constraints in many areas of our businesses—from lumber and petrochemical materials in our products, to transportation and labor to produce and deliver them.”

In response, suppliers across the board are announcing significant price increases in products. Others along the supply chain have acted in kind, passing along cost increases to their end users. At the same time, companies are working to maximize efficiencies to better withstand an inflationary period that some believe will be the new norm.

“If you have only been in business since 2006, you haven’t seen inflation—we have been in a deflationary period,” said Tim Baucom, executive vice president of the residential division of Shaw Floors. “Since the Great Recession we’re feeling legitimate inflationary pressures for the first time. Going forward, we have to manage and lead with an inflationary mindset rather than a deflationary mindset, because we are moving toward a period like in the early ’80s where even if you are making significant improvements in product, you will have to raise prices to maintain profitability, so you can reinvest in your business; otherwise, you will fall behind.”

Like other manufacturers, Armstrong Flooring has implemented price increases and surcharges in cases where it can no longer absorb the effects of inflation. According to Steve McLean, director, global procurement, the company is proactively working to manage the impact of inflation primarily in lumber, resilient raw materials and transportation costs. “We consistently monitor basic energy, petrochemical feedstocks, key raw material markets and macro-economic indicators globally to understand pricing trends. This enables us to identify risks and opportunities in the market. Our efforts include negotiating with suppliers, particularly where prices are not warranted by market dynamics. We also leverage the extensive global supply base we’ve built up over decades to give us flexibility in sourcing.”

Distributors in the middle

Flooring wholesalers feel the pain of inflation as acutely as any member of the supply chain, as they have faced steady margin erosion even while looking internally to control costs. The consensus among several of the top 20 flooring distributors is the consumer of any goods or services should bear the cost of inflation. Accordingly, wholesalers typically pass along a portion of their increased input costs to the channel, much as their various suppliers do as well.

Raising prices or kicking the inflationary can down the road is not enough, however. At the same time, both distributors and their channel partners are working together to drive efficiencies. That’s according to Scott Rozmus, CEO of FlorStar Sales, a top 20 wholesaler based in Romeoville, Ill. Whether it involves finding lighter-weight (but still protective) packaging, reviewing and optimizing delivery routes, introducing additional technology to improve the speed and accuracy of order entry, or otherwise simplifying the business process, he believes any activity that reduces cost provides an opportunity to pass less along. “While we certainly are committed to such efficiencies, at the end of the day much of inflationary supply chain pressure has to get passed along to that end consumer of the goods or services.”

As with others, Haines has certainly dealt with cost increases, particularly in the transportation arena where ELD (electronic logging devices) mandates have caused a significant contraction of capacity. The industry’s largest wholesaler has worked over the past three years to find ways around what was then a projected increase in costs.

“As this forecast has become reality, these plans are helping us,” said Michael Barrett, president and CEO, Haines, Glen Burnie, Md. “We have worked to engage companies such as JB Hunt and CH Robinson to assist us contractually to ensure our costs are kept under control. On the delivery side, we have a multi-year contract with moderate escalators that has aided us in managing through the cost component of transportation. Companies like Hunt also have much greater capability to ensure our driver pool is maintained through their capabilities in sourcing and hiring drivers. The one variable that does affect us and others is fuel. As fuel continues to rise, we will have to address the cost impact of this charge. On the inbound freight side, the positive impact that CH Robinson provides is the ability to find capacity needed to move freight. We are seeing costs escalate here as well and we continue to monitor to ensure we can achieve our goals.”

Both of these approaches are within Haines’ business model. What is somewhat out of its control is manufacturer price increases. As Barrett explained, “[Manufacturers] are balancing all the transportation cost issues but are feeling pressure on energy costs to run factories as well as raw material cost increases. In these cases where price increases are happening, we are having to pass them through. We continue to look for ways to keep our costs under control, so we can minimize any internal need to raise fees or other costs. We will maintain that approach for the foreseeable future.”

To a large degree, increases in raw materials and transportation costs are part and parcel of doing business in any industry, flooring included. What’s different now as opposed to, say, six years ago is the pace of inflationary pressure, executives say.

Several distributors began working on inflationary strategies long before inflation began creeping into the picture. Madison, Wis.-based Jaeckle Distributing, for example, has had a fuel surcharge in place for many years to help cover the fluctuations in costs that can’t always be addressed through constant price revisions. That helps keep things more stable so the company doesn’t have to reissue standard pricing as frequently. “That said, price changes are happening more frequently these days, and it can be a challenge to stay on top of things and keep all pricing updated,” said Torrey Jaeckle, vice president. “We’ve had one vendor who has increased prices three times already this year. Given the fact that product might only be ordered by a customer once a month or so, it can be confusing for customers to be getting billed different prices on every subsequent order. It also creates issues for distribution and retailers who might bid a job several months in advance only to find costs have changed significantly once the order actually comes through.”

What’s more, he added, vendors seem to be giving less notice on price increases now, which gives distributors less time to implement the increases, which means they are absorbing some increases at least for a short period of time until they can work through the logistics of implementing it on their end. “In addition, pricing has become much more complex over the past several years, which increases the time to implementation,” Jaeckle said. “Many prices are now negotiated between the retailer, distributor and manufacturer, and when prices change trying to get all three of us on the same page with regards to new pricing going forward can be a challenge and time consuming.”

Adleta, a top 20 wholesaler in Carrollton, Texas, has absorbed as much as it could, according to John Sher, president. For the first time in years it has been forced to increase its delivery costs. “However, our one-charge drop fee is still a tremendous value,” Sher explained. “Our customers have told us the consistent Adleta delivery on our trucks with Adleta-employed drivers trained to handle flooring products is one of the value adds we bring.”

Exacerbating the inflationary pressures in 2018 are increases in labor—both in hiring and retaining—insurance premiums and fuel costs. “Workers costs have gone up; entry-level costs have gone up substantially in the last three to five years but really in the last year,” said Jeff Striegel, president of Elias Wilf, a top 20 distributor based in Owings Mills, Md. “The fact is labor, insurance and fuel all continue to rise. This time it’s for real.”

Given the tight labor market, several manufacturers say they have been forced to pay bonuses for new hires and to retain quality employees.

Retailers react

To no one’s surprise, flooring dealers say they are experiencing the same pressures as everyone else. Strategies to combat the inflation differ somewhat, however. Nick Freadreacea, president of The Flooring Gallery, Louisville, Ky., said some material costs can be caught upfront and passed on in some cases or not at all. “Retail prices are usually easily adjusted, but builder/multifamily can be hard to change more than once a year,” he said. “Freight and fuel surcharges are those hidden cost that are harder to recover, and those items really eat into the bottom line of a company.”

Adam Joss, co-owner of The Vertical Connection Carpet One, Columbia, Md., said inflationary pressures haven’t negatively impacted his business since the increases get passed on to the consumer anyway. “Personally, I think there’s more to it than just labor shortages and raw material costs—it’s also a result of years of consolidation.”

In talking to many of its dealer partners, Mohawk’s Carson said he knows they have seen inflation in their costs as well—things like installation labor and rents. “At Mohawk, we are constantly investing in our plants to innovate new products, but also to innovate our processes to drive efficiencies and lower our costs and to do our best to offset inflation. Despite these efforts, sometimes the input costs rise to a degree where we have no alternative but to pass them along. I know that’s difficult, but it’s a reality in today’s markets. I think these pressures of additional inflation will be with us for a while.”

Keeping its plants financially healthy is the fuel that allows for continued investment in new products, new capacities, new services and new efficiencies, Carson added. “These investments in innovation are vital to all our businesses whether the dealer, the distributor or the manufacturer. Mohawk will always be committed to continuous innovation.”

Posted on

Armstrong energizes commercial vinyl sheet in new DecorArt Rejuvenations

Lancaster, Pa.—DecorArt Rejuvenations flooring, a vinyl sheet collection from Armstrong Flooring, introduces a versatile range of updated designs that deliver enhanced realistic visual impact and long-lasting performance to contract interiors. 

New visuals with exquisite detailing, combined with Armstrong Flooring’s exclusive Diamond 10 technology coating, take the brand’s trusted heterogeneous sheet vinyl solutions to the next level of style and performance. Consisting of three unique collections—TimberLine, StoneRun and Ambigu—Rejuvenations with Diamond 10 technology coating features more realistic, nature-inspired visuals and timeless textures. The line merges commercial and residential aesthetics, cross-pollinating colors and textures to provide a wealth of choices to fit any environment, from healthcare and education to retail and corporate.

Armstrong Flooring designers play a key role in identifying flooring trends and translating those trends into looks that will resonate with customers. “We’re focused on helping our customers create the right environment and the right experience for those who will be in these spaces,” said Razieh Council, principal designer. “There is a growing shift in preference by designers who are open to hard surface options in what were traditionally carpeted areas, primarily due to maintenance and health concerns and carpet’s limited visuals.”

The floors meet customers’ demanding maintenance, cost and durability requirements. Diamond 10 technology uses cultured diamonds to provide the highest scratch, stain and scuff resistance in the category, and can stand up to the challenges of a commercial environment, such as resisting heavy traffic and staining to keep floors looking newer longer. With exceptional dirt, scratch and stain resistant qualities, Rejuvenations is a low-maintenance product with a no-polish option, minimizing noise, labor and costly operational disruptions from maintenance procedures.

For more information, visit: armstrongflooring.com.

 

Posted on

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.”

 

 

 

Posted on

Made in the USA: U.S. suppliers leverage advantages of domestic production

April 30/May 7, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 23

By Mara Bollettieri

Many domestic flooring suppliers cite numerous advantages in producing stateside. A huge benefit that Don Finkell, CEO of American OEM, pointed out is the ability to respond quickly to changing design trends in the industry. “We are closer to the market, so we are more aware of consumer preferences,” he explained. “In addition, consumer trends favor locally made products. American made has become a whole movement of its own.”

Others cite much shorter lead times as being a key benefit. “We have the ability to deliver product for large installations within four weeks,” said Michael Raskin, CEO of Raskin Industries. “In addition, we can fill in our domestic inventory to support distribution and our distributors can bolster their supplies if needed, which provides excellent support and turnaround.”

Matt Rosato, director of portfolio management, Anderson Tuftex, concurred. “When you have domestic production vs. something that’s sourced overseas, we are more agile and able to quickly hit lead times, especially for some project work. If it’s overseas, you’re looking for, after production time, 12-16 weeks of transit time into the U.S., where we can turn it around in a couple of days.”

For executives like Jimmy Tuley, vice president of residential resilient, Mannington Mills, being able to innovate and bring products quickly to market go hand in hand. “We’re also in control of our process. It’s one of the cores of Mannington—to be able to control your own destiny. And when you produce, you control that whole supply chain.”

Tom Lape, president, Mohawk Residential, can attest to that notion. Mohawk Industries is in the middle of a major push toward domestic production, with $700 million invested in five different plants. He noted that 90% of what the company produces is being sold right here at home. Beyond that, he said, “there is a high level of supplier reliability; the more you in-source, the more you create a more reliable customer and there are fewer big surprises.”

Onshoring creates jobs

Opening plants here at home, suppliers say, has increased the number of employees that suppliers need to hire. Paul Stringer, vice president of sales and marketing, Somerset Hardwood Flooring, shared that the number of employees has increased exponentially over the years now that the company has onshored production. “I started work at Somerset in 1999. At that time, we had roughly 225 employees; today, we employ more than 900 people throughout all of the Somerset operations.”

The creation of more jobs, in turn, sparks work in other industries as well, executives say, thereby stimulating the overall American economy. Mannington’s Tuley illustrates how opening plants throughout the U.S. has done precisely that. “If you look at a plant that’s growing and expanding, chances are there’s a restaurant in that area that’s opening, there are roads that are being worked on—all sorts of service industries spring up around manufacturing facilities.”

Anderson Tuftex’s Rosato also believes there’s a direct correlation between plant openings and the creation of jobs in surrounding communities. “We have a large project in Alabama with Shaw that we are investing millions of dollars in, stimulating local jobs in that state as well as other states in which we manufacture—be it California, South Carolina, Tennessee or Alabama. This is definitely impacting and increasing the workflow and job creation in those states.”

Don Maier, president and CEO, Armstrong Flooring, also feels his company is contributing to the increase in jobs in certain states. “Our domestic manufacturing supports local jobs, and we are a significant employer in many of the communities where our U.S. plants are located,” he stated.

Inherent challenges

Despite all the advantages to onshoring, there are some inherent challenges. The most prominent is the void associated with the rise in manufacturing job openings vs. the lack of a skilled workforce to fill those positions. Somerset’s Stringer can attest. “I think this new generation has frowned on factory work or production work,” he told FCNews. “Young people today want to work on computers or sit in front of a screen. They don’t see themselves doing physical labor.”

Vance Bell, chairman and CEO, Shaw Industries, concurs that finding employees in this modern age is difficult. However, he said, the company is trying to encourage people to work in this field. “We believe we have an opportunity to educate students about the rewarding careers available in manufacturing and the diversity of career paths they can take here at Shaw.”

But even in cases where you have skilled employees, there’s still somewhat of a learning curve—especially when opening up a new plant. “It’s extensive and it takes time to train people, to get equipment exactly how you want it,” Mannington’s Tuley said. “It’s a major undertaking to be able to do manufacturing in the U.S.”

Other challenges that suppliers face is the competitive pricing of products from overseas. “The most notable is the battle against cheap imports,” said Frank Douglas, vice president of business development, Crossville.

Some consumers, he noted, are indifferent when it comes to the whole Made in the USA movement, opting instead for less expensive goods.

Potential impact of tariffs

Many flooring industry executives say it’s too soon to tell whether policies instituted by the Trump Administration have helped accelerate domestic production (see related story on page 20). On some level, though, many feel the mere threat of U.S. tariffs on some Chinese imports could indeed enhance domestic production.

According to Gregg Link, senior director of product management, Dal-Tile, those who make products overseas may be at a disadvantage if these tariffs are enacted. But that’s a big if. “For those that don’t have manufacturing capability and have a heavier reliance on sourced goods—and in particular China—that’s obviously going to be something that they’re going to question,” he said. “I don’t think there’s any definite direction.”

American OEM’s Finkell sees the threat of tariffs on some imported goods as beneficial to Made in the USA. “I do believe that uncertainty around what President Trump will do with tariffs is helpful to the domestic industry. Prudent buyers are increasingly hedging their bets so as to not to have all of their eggs in the import basket if a trade war breaks out or significant tariffs are imposed on imported wood floors.”

Mannington’s Tuley is uncertain about the threats as well but feels those who onshore have the upper hand. “It’s so difficult to tell in our current environment what could happen. Certainly, tariffs could change the pricing structure of flooring products if they’re taxed in certain ways. And that could give companies that manufacture in the U.S. an advantage. But it’s so hard to predict what’s going to happen.”

Shaw’s Bell feels that regardless of whether the tariffs happen or not, Made in the USA is the way to go. “We just believe it makes economic sense for any company to have some level of in-market production for their products,” he said. “That is the overall trend globally.”

Posted on

Armstrong Flooring's Natural Creations features Diamond 10 technology

Lancaster, Pa.—Natural Creations with Diamond 10 technology from Armstrong Flooring was designed in direct response to commercial interior performance needs and design trends. The collection is available in an array of modular shapes, sizes and patterns to reflect the natural look that is increasingly popular in today’s designs.

Three collections—ArborArt, EarthCuts and Mystix—are inspired by the natural beauty of wood, the colors and organic variations of stone, and the distinctive woven-like appearance of textiles. Armstrong Flooring offers a strengthened lineup of commercial flooring solutions that give architects and designers a mix-and-match opportunity to specify products that fit their client’s needs.

From timeless and traditional to contemporary and fresh, neutral and harmonious to bold and dynamic, Armstrong Flooring’s design stories represent broader trends in the design world making their way to the commercial sector.

Featuring Diamond 10 technology, this revolutionary, patent-pending innovation uses cultured diamonds to provide the highest scratch, stain and scuff resistance in the industry. See it at NeoCon at Booth #7-9112.

 

 

Posted on

Armstrong Flooring promotes Sonya Zook to vice president, Enterprise Solutions

Lancaster, Pa.—Armstrong Flooring, Inc. has promoted Sonya Zook to vice president, Enterprise Solutions.

Zook will lead the team that manages enterprise software, integration and manufacturing systems. She formerly was director, Enterprise Applications, and has worked for the company for 28 years.  

“Sonya has been a key leader in developing our IT team and delivering technology and business solutions,” said Scott Hess, senior vice president and chief information officer. “Her dedication, business knowledge, leadership and strategic thinking are a significant asset to Armstrong Flooring.”