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Opportunities aplenty in Main Street market

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

By Ken Ryan

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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