Posted on

Armstrong captures Consumers Digest Best Buy rating

Armstrong's Performance Plus hardwood
Armstrong’s Performance Plus hardwood
Armstrong Performance Plus hardwood
Armstrong Performance Plus hardwood

Lancaster, Pa.—Armstrong Flooring received the prestigious Consumers Digest Best Buy rating for four of its products in the engineered hardwood and vinyl categories. The company is the only flooring manufacturer to have four of its products recognized with individual awards including a clean sweep in the vinyl flooring category.

Performance Plus hardwood, Duality Premium Plus vinyl and StrataMax better and best sheet vinyl have been categorized as “exceptional values” with the Consumers Digest Best Buy rating. Recipients of the Best Buy rating are selected based on quality of construction, range of style options and exclusivity of species or design.

Consumers Digest was founded on the premise of arming consumers with the knowledge needed to buy with confidence,” said Joe Bondi, senior vice president, North America, residential at Armsrong Flooring. “As a benchmark of quality, recognition from Consumers Digest underscores the design, durability and performance of our innovative flooring lines.”

Posted on

Best Buy becoming major industry player

Carpet producer is a total flooring solution provider

Volume 28/Number 6; September 1/8, 2014

By Louis Iannaco

Screen Shot 2014-09-11 at 10.07.40 AMBest Buy Flooring, a division of Marquis Industries, started out as a carpet specials company in 1996 by two principals, Tim Bailey and Larry Heckman. According to Heckman, the company’s goal since its inception has been to provide flooring dealers with the best styling, value and pricing available in the market. “That has been our philosophy for 18 years and has proven to be a winning combination, along with a much broader product selection.”

Best Buy has grown from a small specialty carpet company with just a few employees to an entity that now employs more than 250 people, including 23 full-time salespeople. It has become a “low-cost, efficient and fully integrated, modern carpet mill with over 750,000 square feet under roof,” Heckman said. All of Best Buy’s carpet manufacturing, processing and fiber production takes place in the U.S.

While Marquis Industries is the parent company of Best Buy Flooring Source, Marquis also serves the industry under A-O Industries, a wholly owned subsidiary, which produces extruded monofilament nylon and polypropylene textured yarn. The yarns are marketed to customers producing products for golf applications, sports fields and synthetic landscaping.

M&M Fibers, a division of Marquis, produces millions of pounds of continuous filament solution-dyed polyester consumed in Best Buy’s residential carpet programs, Heckman added. “This integration has allowed Best Buy to be one of the lowest cost polyester producers in northwest Georgia for the past 10 years.

“Dealers ask all the time what separates us from our competition,” he said. “We tell them, ‘Plenty.’” Heckman considers Best Buy to be a “promotion-oriented carpet mill featuring 21 running line styles offering great values” in a new cut order display program—the Marquis Industries Showcase Display.

“We also offer special values in polyester styles for promotional buyers,” he explained. “The most unique program we offer is an ongoing residential nylon roll-buy.” Marquis buys millions of pounds of nylon yarn in the secondary market, which enables Best Buy to offer select dealers “outstanding values on high style residential cut pile berbers and multi tones in low profile saxonies. The nylon specials provide tremendous value to our dealers.”

The mill also produces a 24- and 28-ounce face weight commercial graphic level loop nylon in six colorways, “producing 4,000 square yards per color,” Heckman noted. Best Buy stocks over 200,000 square yards of loop style carpet for immediate shipment at promotional prices.

Hard surface offerings

In the past 10 years, Best Buy has developed one of the strongest and most competitive high styled hard surface lines on the market. “It was created by the growing demands of our dealers looking for value in hard surface styles,” Heckman said, “both in pallet goods and roll goods.

“Our hard surface line is a strong mainstream lineup of high-styled LVT products, several unique laminates and hand-scraped engineered wood lines along with six series of vinyl lines,” he explained. “We also feature hundreds and hundreds of rolls of vinyl specials in 6 feet, 12 feet, 13 feet, 2 feet and 15 feet x 6 inches at promotional prices.”

One of those dealers looking for hard surface value is HMS in Girard, Kan., and owner Hank Smith has been pleased with what Best Buy can deliver. “We do some backhauling, sending our own trucks to Screen Shot 2014-09-11 at 10.07.47 AMGeorgia, and Best Buy has been pretty easy to work with in getting merchandise hauled back to us here.

“We’re involved with many different categories with Best Buy, but the hottest one right now is probably its click LVT,” he added. “A couple of its products, Glenwood Plank and Country Home, are doing extremely well for us. And while we are known as a carpet store and still sell mostly carpet, as far as percentage-wise growth, I’d say LVT is really growing. We do well with some of its sheet vinyl as well as some of its carpet, especially its Doral collection in the low end and Waterford Place on the medium to high end.”

Cami Culpepper, store manager, One Stop Flooring, Pampa, Texas, likes what Best Buy products have to offer, particularly its carpet offerings. “It has really upped its game and come out with many super soft yarns for a very reasonable price. The major mills have emphasized soft and Best Buy is very competitive with them. We stock more Best Buy broadloom products than we do any other carpet. We’re in a region that gets pretty harsh winters, so people here like carpet, and Best Buy fits our demographic well as far as the price and quality you get.

“We also have good response to its vinyl plank,” she added, “especially its floating vinyl plank.”

Another plus from Best Buy for Culpepper is its customer service. “Best Buy is one of the easiest companies to work with because its reps are very personable and quick to get back to you. With other mills you often don’t get very personal service, you have issues and you can’t get anyone to answer. We never have that trouble with Best Buy; its turnaround is extremely quick and they’re quick to resolve any issues, if there are any.”

Jay Hill, manager, Deluxe Carpet, St. Paul, Minn., is another dealer who finds a number of benefits in doing business with Best Buy. He noted the mill makes quality products at price points “that work very well for our store. Best Buy offers quite a range of styles at different costs, and costs are what we look for. Over the years we’ve learned what our clientele is going to spend. Fortunately, Best Buy has some very nice products in the price range we’re looking for.”

And, like Culpepper, Hill is a big fan of Best Buy’s customer service. “Best Buy handles complaints very professionally. It has a great turnaround, and [any replacement carpet needed] is up here very quickly. That means a lot to us as a company—how a carpet mill handles its complaints. Best Buy does an outstanding job on it.”

Dealer response is what drives Best Buy, allowing the company to meet retailer partners’ needs and stay on top of demand. “As a strong carpet manufacturer, our management team travels extensively and is constantly listening and looking to our dealer base to determine their needs,” Heckman explained. “For example, in 2013 we heard from a number of dealers looking for high style and high performance polyester products. Due to the high demand for polyester styles in today’s market, the dealers are requiring higher performance styles and construction.”

At Surfaces 2014, Best Buy introduced eight new carpet styles with 6.8 twists or better in tight gauge constructions. “The dealers responded with outstanding support since our styles have some of the best performance ratings in the industry,” Heckman noted. “It’s all about knowing what the dealers need and responding to them in a timely manner and at the best price.”

According to Heckman, Best Buy has the innate ability to respond quickly to market changes and the needs of the dealer. “In some cases, it’s less than 14 days from conception to finished product. Not many companies can turn product that quick. We can.”

What the future holds

The company’s plans for 2015 call for expansion into new markets and growth in existing arenas, as well as increasing its selection products in ultra soft and super soft fiber styles for the winter market. “We see a big spread between promotional-minded, big value dealers and high end retailers looking for value, high style and high performance,” Heckman said. “We plan to keep both camps happy with our new introductions.”

In the residential and commercial print area, Best Buy is seeking to grow both markets with its newly installed, multi-million dollar Zimmer Chromojet printer at its Artisans facility in Calhoun, Ga. “This state-of-the-art printer is capable of recognizing a picture and computer calibrating it to carpet,” Heckman explained. “This new technology again will change the way carpet is printed and its applications are endless for rugs, specialty logos and hospitality.”

Future endeavors for Best Buy include the introduction of a new Home & Hospitality display featuring top residential patterns along with mainstream styles for hospitality, healthcare and service industries at popular price points. Custom print projects will also be available for all industries.

“If you can imagine it, we can print it,” Heckman said. “That’s exciting, unique and puts Marquis Industries/Best Buy on the cutting edge of another specialty market segment of floor covering.”

Posted on

PET developments address color, performance

July 7/14, 2014; Volume 28/Number 2

By Louis Iannaco

Screen Shot 2014-07-14 at 11.27.38 AMWith the development of soft carpet fibers in recent years, there’s no doubt the proliferation of these super soft yet durable yarns into the marketplace has been the major trend in the soft broadloom category. Mills continue to perfect and fine-tune their soft products while at the same time working on the next big thing.

So in addition to soft, or as a subsequent result, what else do the mills have going on when it comes to polyester? The emphasis is on making more colors available, increasing performance and developing proprietary initiatives such as odor-resistant technology and stain resistance. Executives from several of the industry’s major polyester producers recently gave FCNews details on the latest from their respective companies and the segment overall.

According to James Lesslie, assistant to the chairman, Engineered Floors, while soft continues to be the fastest growing category within polyester, combining beiges and grays—as the company does with Dream Weaver’s natural Tonal Solids collection—remains the fastest growing trend. “The unique ability to blend colors with solution-dyed fibers allows us to create new looks with an endless array of color combinations.”

Polyester continues to be a favorite with many of Beaulieu America’s dealers. In order to respond to demand, two of the mill’s most popular polyester collections, Bliss Healthy Touch and Bliss EverClean, received updates this year. “We added 84 SKUs to Healthy Touch and 54 to EverClean,” noted Matt Johnson, senior director, product management, residential division.

Both collections bring the softness and inherent stain resistance of the company’s polyester together with proprietary features such as Magic Fresh odor reduction, 3M Scotchgard and, in the case of Healthy Touch, Beaulieu America’s antimicrobial Silver Release treatment. “We plan to continue improving and expanding our polyester line in 2015,” Johnson said.

As noted, the trend toward softer fibers in polyester carpet continues and Shaw is innovating to meet that demand, said Trey Thames, vice president, residential marketing/product development. “A good example of Shaw’s latest PET evolution is the Clearly Chic Collection, introduced earlier this year. Not only a ‘super soft’ carpet, the collection is available in bold colors and features ClearTouch Platinum PET construction with a high twist yarn that also offers great performance.”

As Shaw focuses on innovative processes and sustainability, another initiative for the mill is its recently announced $17 million investment in the new Evergreen recycling facility in Ringgold, Ga., which will process both nylon and polyester carpet (see story on page 3). Complementing Shaw’s carpet recycling portfolio, “Evergreen Ringgold will create a high purity post-consumer recycled material that can be used in a broad range of applications,” Thames noted.

Extruding excellence

Investing in fiber technologies continues to be key for the industry’s major polyester producers. Mohawk is continuing what it started two to three years ago in reinvesting for the future by making considerableScreen Shot 2014-07-14 at 11.28.04 AMcapital investments with heavy emphasis on extrusion and product innovation.

According to David Duncan, senior vice president, marketing and sales operations, the mill is currently well positioned with a full assortment of next generation fiber technologies in SmartStrand as well as polyester BCF and nylon platforms. “As we continue into 2014, we believe we now have the capacity and capabilities with our patented Continuum PET BCF technology to lead the industry in the next round of polyester innovations.”

Susan Curtis, vice president, marketing and product development, Phenix Flooring, believes polyester’s continued growth in residential is due in part to advances in extrusion equipment that help create a uniform, highly bulked yarn. “Polyester has a naturally soft hand and feel,” she said, “and improved yarn bulk adds tactile value. Continued advances in polyester resin chemistry intended for bottles and packaging have improved the performance of BCF PET, making it a more flexible fiber.

“Additionally, a stable polyester supply chain with huge scale creates favorable economics for PET as carpet yarn consumes only .5% of the supply—even at half the North American residential carpet market.”

As previously noted, creating new looks through the blending of colors is paramount among polyester’s latest innovations. At Lexmark, Ed Williams, president, residential, believes the development of new patterns through the use of colors is critical when it comes to polyester and the different looks it can offer.

“We’re working mostly on pattern designs in different color combinations to give a sophisticated, toned look,” he said. “We’re also focusing on broad-based looks that will have widespread appeal. We’ve just shipped two post-Surfaces introductions—Chesterfield and Chandler Heights—that have new and fresh color the market seems to embrace.”

Larry Heckman, president, Best Buy, noted the prevalence of polyester styles continues in the marketplace because they can be produced at very competitive price points. This has helped polyester become the mainstream residential carpet choice in many markets across the U.S.

Styling has come a long way in space dying and yarn blending, Heckman said, while polyester’s natural characteristics play a significant part in providing value by being virtually stain proof with very low static build up. “Today, polyester can be extruded in ultra-soft deniers for exceptional underfoot comfort, which is in high demand.”

Best Buy’s polyester improvements have come from advances in extrusion techniques that include fiber design, enhanced yarn drawing and crimping. “This improves features such as tensile strength of the yarn and bulking characteristics for a bigger value and hand,” Heckman explained. “It also improves brightness and luster levels of the yarn which are important characteristics for better performing and better selling styles.”

The next major advancement is space-dyed solution-dyed polyester, he noted. “This is one of the biggest technological breakthroughs in polyester styling—creating crisp and bold color clarity in both jewel tone colors and cut pile berber space dye styles. Best Buy has been one of the pioneers to perfect this new process. It’s done on our new computer controlled space dye line.”

According to Heckman, the technology is a combination of applied space dyes and heat levels. The new line heats the yarn to a maximum level just below the melt point to allow dye to penetrate the fiber core, which is then quick cooled through a cooling chamber. The process is completed with saturation steam heat by a heat set unit. “The result is a rich space dye with great color clarity and crisp color bursts.”

Performance counts

Screen Shot 2014-07-14 at 11.27.59 AMWhen you have a major shift like soft in the industry, it can take retailers two years to absorb the impact, executives noted. “We are really just completing the cycle of converting their floors,” Lesslie said. “All our PET PureColor and PureColor Cashmere fibers are solution-dyed. We get excellent quality/field performance with our products, and our customer claims ratio continues to be very low. From our viewpoint, polyesters offer the consumer excellent value and performance.”

The economy also continues to play a role in the value attributes end users shop for when they make their purchases. Recent economic conditions created a shift in consumer buying trends towards value-oriented products, which has driven the increase in polyester’s market share, Duncan noted.

He specifically cited that the trend toward soft continues to maintain its relevance. Over the past year, Mohawk expanded soft into polyester with its newest collections: EverStrand Soft Appeal and Wear Dated Allure. “We took our proprietary knowledge we acquired through the development of our SmartStrand Silk and Wear Dated Embrace soft collections and used it in PET to make EverStrand Soft Appeal and Wear Dated Allure.”

Mohawk’s Continuum technology, a proprietary, intensive purification process designed to remove industrial lubricants and oily residue, “ensures Mohawk’s soft polyester carpets—including EverStrand Soft Appeal and Wear Dated Allure—resist dirt, grime and contaminants that cause other PET carpets to become dingy over time,” Duncan explained.

“Mohawk is dedicated to consumers’ needs and we’ve made significant investments in manufacturing to improve our polyester product offerings,” he continued. “Mohawk knows that consumers do not want to forego style for value and this improved technology has significantly expanded our line of PET products. Now, we offer a variety of fashionable PET styles and textures.”

Polyester has seen tremendous growth over the past five years, Thames noted, “evolving from a ‘nice value alternative to nylon’ to a strategic component of every carpet manufacturer’s overall product offering.”

Improvements in heatset and twisting technology have helped improve PET’s overall performance and the economic downturn made the value proposition that polyester has always provided even more attractive, he explained. “Our strategy is based on providing the best polyester product lineup for value, performance and color/style versatility. This is no different than what we do in nylon. As the world’s largest producer in both fiber types, Shaw responds to changing trends by providing our customers with products that meet their needs.”

Posted on

Carpet: Mills unfurl new products, enthusiasm for 2013

Beaulieu’s Gary Fisher, left, and Ralph Boe couldn’t be happier with the buzz created by Indulgence, the mill’s new soft fiber product offering.

By Louis  Iannaco

Volume 26/Number 19; February 4/11, 2013

(First of two parts)

In the case of the carpet mills exhibiting at Surfaces 2013, the phrase, “The people coming into our booth are buying, not kicking tires” was a popular refrain. And although it’s a sentiment the industry has heard in previous years, there seemed to be genuine enthusiasm as to what the rest of the year may bring regarding sales and profits.

The majority of attendees seemed impressed with the array of selections offered, which included bolder colors, more textures and patterns, three-dimensional looks and an ever-increasing number of soft products. For the most part, a steady stream of traffic moved briskly from booth to booth as an upbeat, optimistic atmosphere permeated throughout the broadloom segment. Continue reading Carpet: Mills unfurl new products, enthusiasm for 2013

Posted on

Surfaces 2013: Years of hope turning to confidence

From left: To highlight its new Composer collection, UrbanFloor serenaded visitors with classical music. The Max Windsor illusionist entertained attendees with ‘The Magic of Max.’ Quick•Step used oversized props to showcase the features of its laminate flooring.

Mills, dealers come out of hibernation poised for recovery

By Matthew Spieler

Volume 26/Number 19; February 4/11, 2013

Las Vegas—For the first time in roughly six years, the mood at Surfaces was neither dour nor hopeful. Instead, it could best be described as confident, as in confident the bottom of the trough has been reached and business is not only finally pointing in the right direction, but has started to steadily climb toward brighter times.

And while no one would say the industry is completely out of danger from the free fall it was experiencing at the height of the recession, nearly everyone at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center felt they were on firmer ground for the first time in recent years. Continue reading Surfaces 2013: Years of hope turning to confidence