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Elof Hansson, Ribadao form partnership

170001377lNorcross, Ga.— Elof Hansson and Ribadao Lumber have formed a partnership for the American and European markets. Under the terms of the agreement, the companies will join resources, collaborate on production and operate a network of shared warehouses, combined sales and territory management efforts.

“Combining forces with Elof Hansson allows us the opportunity to develop a larger flooring market than we have been currently serving,” said Pedro Tavares, president of Ribadao.

The two companies are developing a line of engineered flooring manufactured in Portugal that will expand the current offering to include solid South American exotics, solid African exotics, wide-plank engineered European oaks, domestic and exotic engineered flooring and plywood products.

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Wood: New staining techniques create heightened designs

February 2/9, 2015; Volume 28/Number 16

By Ken Ryan

(First of two parts)

As the trend of wider widths and longer lengths becomes more mainstream, hardwood flooring manufacturers are turning to the latest in staining techniques to differentiate their offerings. Several of these were attention grabbers at Surfaces 2015.

Armstrong

Screen Shot 2015-02-09 at 2.53.06 PMArmstrong has added depth and more choices to its Prime Harvest collection, bringing hickory and maple into a portfolio that already included oak. All species are available in multiple widths, colors and gloss levels across solid and engineered.

The beefed-up Prime Harvest line now gives retailers more options for its customers, according to Mara Villanueva-Heras, vice president of residential marketing. “So now a consumer comes in [the store] and says, ‘Hey, I really like that color but I don’t like oak; do you have it in cherry?’ Before it was almost impossible to navigate her there. Now we say, ‘Yeah, we do have that color in cherry.’ Then she starts looking and says, ‘I love that color in maple but I just got back from my builder and he said I need engineered.’ Before it would be ‘No, that’s a different collection. Let’s start over and pick a new color.’ Now we say, ‘Absolutely, we have that in engineered.’ Then the retailer can demonstrate in one width but there are multiple. It makes it easier to navigate instead of finding a line with different names and features.”

Also, Armstrong has added maple to its successful American Scrape line, which now boasts a range of colors from light—almost white—to black with some grays in the middle. “It’s a softer, more refined scrape, not as aggressive as you would see on the oak or hickory, which are more grainy, with more character in the wood,” Villanueva-Heras said.

Boen

Wide widths and long lengths are all the rage in hardwood, and no company makes a louder statement than Boen, which showed 12-inch wide x 9-foot long oak products. Specifically, Oak Highland and Oak Graphite were the two big hits at the show, according to Dennis Hrusa, managing director. The company utilizes a stain process that creates distinctive variations in color in the big boards.

Oak Highland, which retails for $14 to $15 per square foot, “is an eye catcher,” Hrusa said. “It’s used in big rooms, and in big rooms people tend to be more conservative.” Oak Graphite (top product is Mystic Jungle) provides a certain European oak look that Boen prominently displayed at its booth to grab attention.

Elegance Exotics

Elegance Exotics already sources from South America, Central America, Asia and Africa; now, for the first time, it is adding North America to the list with two hickory products. “One thing we wanted was to be well rounded,” said Lukasz Piatek, vice president of sales. “The one place we weren’t getting it was North America. It adds value.” Piatek said what drew the most attention at Surfaces was a ½-inch thick engineered line featuring three birches and two hickories.

Elegance also sought to make further inroads with top-tier dealers at Surfaces, especially National Floorcovering Alliance (NFA) retailers. Elegance has existing relationships with about 10 NFA dealers. “One of our goals is to continue to grow with the NFA,” Piatek said. “We want to be one of their core vendors.”

Elof Hansson

Screen Shot 2015-02-09 at 2.53.00 PMThe first hour of the first day of Surfaces proved quite busy at the Elof Hansson booth where Bruce Hammer, sales and marketing manager, engaged customers about the company’s new Brazilian walnut and Brazilian Plantation species. The Plantation Series grows extremely fast, from seedling to maturity in seven years.

Brazilian walnut comes in dark colors, including chocolate and coffee. “One of the issues you have with the staining process is it homogenizes the whole color and takes the variation out and gives a more uniform color,” Hammer said. “As a result we are getting some of the sellable looks of the exotics but at a lesser price.”

Hammer urged retailers to carry the product because of its uniqueness, ability to make money and Made in the USA angle. “We bring the material in raw and finish it in North Carolina. If a customer says, ‘I like that stain but want more espresso in it,’ we can do it. Having that plant in North Carolina is one of our big advantages.”

Johnson Premium Hardwood Floors

Johnson’s Alehouse Series was a Best of Surfaces winner in style and design. Its dimensions (7 1⁄2-inches wide by 7-feet long), design (beveled edges, light brushing) and numerous color variations kept booth visitors intrigued. Alehouse is offered in nine dark tones.

To achieve the desired effect, a multi-layer, hand-staining process creates an inner glow appearance that darkens toward the timeworn plank edges. The line is the heir apparent to English Pub, one of the top looks at Surfaces 2014. Bill Schollmeyer, CEO, said he is not sure Alehouse will outsell English Pub but believes both will have strong appeal in both commercial and retail markets.

Kährs

Kährs, which in December merged with Karelia‐Upofloor to create one of Europe’s leading wood floor producers, showcased its Real collection (up to 10-inches wide) and lengths (up to 12 feet), as well as the Smaland line from Sweden, which includes 12 strip oak floors. The company is taking advantage of its European heritage with a two-part staining process that displays the high gloss of the acrylic-based urethane.

Nature Flooring

Screen Shot 2015-02-09 at 2.52.54 PMJaman Stepp took over as CEO of Nature Flooring in December, so Surfaces was an opportunity to meet with distributor partners and outline a plan for 2015. “We want to reassure these folks we are going to step it up a notch.”

Stepp acknowledged Nature’s service level hasn’t been where it needs to be; therefore, his 2015 focus is on building an infrastructure to support the business model. “Building the team from the inside out. It is going to be a challenge but I am looking forward to it.”

Nature Flooring has plenty of production capability at its disposal: it owns four forests, operates 19 facilities in China and runs a Peruvian manufacturing site. “I want us to be a leader in the exotics category,” Stepp said. “Having ownership of the plants and forests is key.”

In 2015, Nature Flooring will move into a new corporate facility in north Georgia.

Preverco

Preverco highlighted the launch of a mobile app and a new merchandising system.

The app uses augmented reality, allowing users to view their existing flooring and substitute it virtually with Preverco floors. “The tool will give consumers confidence they are choosing the right product,” said Etienne Chabot, Preverco’s vice president of marketing. The mobile app is available free in the App Store for iPad users.

The new merchandising system can fit 20% more samples while taking up 8% less footprint; it also features enhanced LED lighting to show samples in the best light. “It can be customized and configured the way you want it,” Chabot said. Preverco showed a prototype of the merchandising system at last year’s Surfaces and made enhancements based on customer feedback.

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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.