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Lisbiz Strategies: Fashion’s influence on flooring design

October 23/30, 2017: Volume 32, Issue 10

By Lisbeth Calandrino

 

Lisbeth CalandrinoRecently I visited Oxford, Miss., to meet with Lisa Stout, owner of Stout’s Flooring, to present a seminar for local female business owners. Oxford is an interesting college town, the home of “Ole Miss” with about 50,000 residents, 25,000 of which are college students. They have wonderful shirts that read, ‘Oxford, Miss., population—full!’ I was here 22 years ago and the town is barely recognizable. Now it has everything you would need, including a luxurious town square with a boutique hotel that was formerly a gas station. The carpet design is an industrial, two-tone herringbone pattern. The lines in the room are very clean and uncluttered.

I asked Stout—who, with her sister, owns a high-end clothing shop—if she sees any societal trends influencing flooring. She travels to all of the boutique shows to buy for the store. It also gives her an idea of trends that will be influencing her flooring market. She believes flooring is definitely impacted by clothing and make-up trends. It may take a year or so for things to change but it’s definitely noticeable.

Not only is “what’s old is new,” but businesses are doing more than recycling. This technique sets the stage for interesting interiors but it only provides a background. Authenticity is not necessary, as artifacts from many places can wind up in the same room. For our meeting, we were in an interesting restaurant with floors that appeared hand scraped. The walls were stark white with pictures created out of tufts of cotton. The copper lighting was recessed into the beams.

According to Stout, it also includes sustainability. “We’ve been selling and installing tiles indicative of the early 20th century. We’ve had to do lots of research to find the right materials. It’s exciting to see buildings being recycled with a modern twist. For example, hand-scraped original wood floors in buildings with metal recessed lighting. Our sand and finished flooring business continues to take off. Natural looks in wood are very appealing to consumers.”

The matte finish prevalent in lipstick is also showing up in luxury vinyl, laminate and wood floors. Glossy floors seem to be out and shiny is hard to find. Another clothing trend, crushed velvet, is popping up in area rugs. This sounds like the velvet look, which caused plenty of problems in broadloom years ago. Carpet products with the industrial commercial look are selling well in residential settings.

A friend of mine in Knoxville, Tenn., who buys and flips houses, is installing the gray/beige patterned look. Herringbone patterns and high and low looped styles are widespread. These designs have an industrial feeling but are still soft to the touch. In the 1970s, when I was in the flooring retail business, we sold industrial patterned goods but for different reasons. We told customers the carpets were very durable; we never discussed the styling. Now the styling as well as the durability is very popular. It’s obvious the commercial carpet look has found its way into residential settings.

Trends such as “farm to table” and local breweries are giving a new meaning to home grown. Handcrafted, large beam tables pair well with the rough-hewn floors. The farm to table movement brings us back to a simpler time. Some other noteworthy design trends: Interiors are becoming more sparse; country chic seems to be on the back burner; and frilly is gone—at least for now—which leaves the interiors open for an emphasis on the flooring patterns.

 

Lisbeth Calandrino has been promoting retail strategies for the last 20 years. To have her speak at your business or to schedule a consultation, contact her at lcalandrino@nycap.rr.com.

 

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In Style: Kane Carpet finds success in high-end rug biz

October 23/30, 2017: Volume 32, Issue 10

By Lindsay Baillie

 

Screen Shot 2017-10-27 at 12.52.31 PMDespite the increase in hard surface sales, carpets and rugs continue to hold significance in flooring showrooms across the United States. Kane Carpet, a trendsetter in broadloom since 1947, is helping dealers increase margins and soft surface sales with its high-end carpets and rugs. The company also aims to provide retailers with upsell opportunities through its service, style and quality.

“We’ve put our customers back into the rug business,” said Bruce Kurtz, vice president sales & marketing, Kane Carpet. “Kane offers retailers diversification and profitability.”

Part of Kane Carpet’s appeal is its unique style. These fresh looks combined with premium materials provide retailers with opportunities for greater margins. What’s more, the company’s products are designed to complement hard surface offerings, which continue to creep into all areas of the home.

“Over the last few years we’ve taken a completely different direction as the marketplace became extremely casual and the consumer started looking for decelerated [carpet and rug] designs,” Kurtz explained. “This is because years ago hard surface used to be an application, but today it is a decoration. Oftentimes hard surface has a lot going on, so the customer wants to tone down the carpet. We’ve changed our whole method of styling our products to meet customer [demands].”

By providing a soft surface that complements wood, laminate, LVT, etc., Kane helps retailers sell high-end rugs to existing hard surface customers. “If a consumer is going into a store for a hard surface, chances are she will want a rug from the same place,” Kurtz explained. “Most people like one-stop shopping.”

Jeff Penrose, owner, Specialty Carpet Showroom, Salt Lake City, has carried Kane Carpet 26 years and is installing it everywhere. “We do everything from custom staircases to theaters to family rooms. These products even go into some commercial projects, including hospitality.”

While the manufacturer’s black and white offerings has done well for Specialty Carpet Showroom, according to Penrose, the retailer doesn’t just stick to one look or pattern. “They’ve got such a variety, we really sell their whole line,” Penrose added.

At Lester Carpets, Los Angeles, Kane’s uniquely designed area rugs have been selling well for the past 10 years. “We have a large display in our showroom and it’s definitely an eye catcher,” said Neil Lester. “With the increase in demand for area rugs, they have some unusual patterns that make interesting statements on the floor. Kane Carpet offers such a wide variety of patterns and color, which is unique in the industry.”

Along with high style comes greater margin opportunities. Just ask Rob Bush, owner of Abbey of Addison in Chicago. He has been carrying thousands of Kane Carpet products for about 15 years. “Selling Kane Carpet certainly helps our image, especially when a customer sees all those beautiful products and such a large selection—they look like carpets made on rug machines. Kane Carpet has a very high-end line with extremely unique, value-oriented and beautiful designer products.”

Getting with the ‘program’
In addition to providing high-end products, Kane Carpet provides its dealers with an alliance program, where the manufacturer only sells through dealers that have samples in the store. “The dealers know that their margins are always going to be higher with us than with others because we reward the dealers for showing our projects,” Kurtz explained. “We show these retailers over and over again that our prices are better than the competition.”

To complement its product offerings and designer-like style, Kane Carpet has also created a product book for its dealers. The manufacturer hopes the book will help speed up processes and provide designers with a simple way to show all of Kane’s products.

“We have been very proactive with growing our designer business through our dealers by giving them the book of Kane which has everything in it,” Kurtz said. “We give retailers the books if they show our whole line. Plus, they can have as many books as they need to support their designer trade. The book gives such a simplistic way for designers to look up any product and order samples, without them coming to the store.  This makes the process that much easier. It’s a great way to do business on the fly.”

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In Style: Numerous factors shape product design

October 23/30, 2017: Volume 32, Issue 10

 

There’s no denying the correlation between trends in the fashion industry with home furnishings, especially when it comes to flooring. Manufacturers routinely employ teams of design professionals and stylists charged with the daunting responsibility of predicting the “next big thing” in terms of colors, patterns and even textures long before trends solidify.

But what—and even who—determines and defines style direction is largely based on the beholder. While overall global trends certainly play a key role in product development for consumers in the North American market, it’s largely up to the individual manufacturers to interpret those trends and apply them to their respective offerings.

For this special ‘Style & Design’ issue, FCNews rounded up several manufacturers and asked them how they exemplified style in their approach to product design. In short, what makes them style leaders in their respective categories.

Following are some examples:

Bamboo Hardwoods
Screen Shot 2017-10-27 at 12.44.18 PMBamboo Hardwoods analyzes industry trends and incorporates these cues with environmentally sustainable products that emphasize style and differentiation. Known for quality bamboo products since 1995, Bamboo Hardwoods’ offerings are well respected by those who prefer using environmentally benign products that are elegant, long lasting and constantly on the cutting edge of design trends. Owned and operated by a team of flooring and bamboo experts, Bamboo Hardwoods’ flooring sets the standard for beauty and durability throughout the industry.

Screen Shot 2017-10-27 at 12.44.24 PMInhaus
Inhaus was founded on the pillars of style and innovative design. Thanks to its highly skilled design team and state-of-the art design center, North American-sourced materials are produced into stunning, ready-made flooring. Inhaus is proud to work closely with its designers and master carpenters from concept to finished design to develop new textures and colors. Exciting new design ideas are generated from continuous research into color and home fashion trends from around the world that are adapted for North American markets. This attentive design process supplies its retail customers with a curated collection of beautifully unique and exclusive products.

Screen Shot 2017-10-27 at 12.44.30 PMMannington
To be a consistent styling leader in the flooring industry there needs to be a collaborative effort between multiple departments within the company. At the company, styling, R&D and manufacturing work together to drive innovation and quality along with the right aesthetics to provide high-styled products to the consumer.

Styling leadership starts with doing the proper homework, researching design, color and home fashion trends. Developing flooring product lines requires not only a creative perspective, but also factors in the technical know-how in manufacturing a quality product.

Screen Shot 2017-10-27 at 12.44.45 PMMercier
On top of developing state-of-the-art textures and colors, Mercier allows its customers to go even further into customization by offering the most extensive range of glosses and grades. Mercier is the first—and still the only prefinished hardwood flooring manufacturer—to offer a gloss as low as 10 degrees across its product line. Character marks, gloss and hues are in direct connection with the look of the product, and this is why Mercier makes it a priority to develop products that can be adapted to any style while keeping in line with the current design trends. Case in point is Mercier’s white oak Fjord, the ideal color for consumers who want a gray floor but still keep their home warm and inviting.

Screen Shot 2017-10-27 at 12.45.08 PMMohawk
For almost 140 years, Mohawk has crafted quality flooring for the American home. Mohawk builds innovative design into all its products to make life better—and provide customers with the best flooring possible.

As the world’s largest flooring company, Mohawk and its family of brands offer unlimited style and design options with the latest in on-trend colors, exceptional durability and highest quality from an array of flooring categories. Also, Mohawk is more committed than ever to American-made manufacturing and the communities and families it impacts daily, which means peace of mind that all products are manufactured safely and responsibly.

This style approach helps Mohawk provide the foundations for homes around the world.

Screen Shot 2017-10-27 at 12.45.52 PMQuick-Step
Quick-Step has taken the latest trends in flooring and translated them into elegant looks that are both stylish and durable. This means that Quick-Step’s LVT and laminate floors are not only beautiful, but also made to last.

This balance is evident in product design and development. Quick-Step’s laminate and luxury vinyl floors all look stunningly authentic with the most true-to-nature looks on the market today. Though ultra-realistic looking, with moisture-resistant technology and innovative dimensional stability, they can still withstand the everyday wear and tear of an active family.

Now that’s style—for life.

Screen Shot 2017-10-27 at 12.45.58 PMShaw
Shaw’s product designers look at the way design elements speak to the larger lifestyle image that consumers want to project. “Our homes reflect our personalities, and flooring is just one piece of an overall aesthetic consumers desire,” said Pamela Rainey, vice president soft surface product development. “It needs to complement paint color, furniture and accent pillows, etc. We are creating a canvas for consumers to live their lives.”

The crafted patterns of Shaw’s Natural Bouclé, for example, are as exquisite as sisal, with subtle color variations that highlight their natural hues and offer the ultimate texture and softness. Shaw’s Epic Plus Extreme Nature furthers the ever-expanding trend of longer, wider planks and its timeless hardwood visual.

Screen Shot 2017-10-27 at 12.46.07 PMTarkett
Tarkett is an organization that interacts and shares with design and product colleagues throughout a worldwide creative and manufacturing community. Tarkett provides solutions worldwide for multiple categories and cultures. It is a unique advantage that gives the company an awareness of timely new information and perspectives that will influence the way we live and see.

Tarkett strives toward understanding the relationship between life, the workplace and societal interaction. Through these goals and efforts, the company delivers products that have an existential connection—communicating rather than simply decorating. These tools go beyond servicing its customers to build an enduring connection as creative partners.

Screen Shot 2017-10-27 at 12.46.14 PMUSFloors
USFloors’ COREtec offers today’s retail consumer a floor that can truly be lived on. The vast assortment of decors, visuals, plank widths and lengths, along with its patented construction, makes COREtec the go-to brand in composite waterproof flooring.

USFloors’ process of selecting visuals spans the globe. The company is interested in what’s new and different. USFloors is known for having the most impressive visual choices, a result of its extensive selection process. The visuals range from natural to eclectic and will match the style of any environment. This allows consumers to enjoy beauty and strength without the maintenance while enhancing their home or work space.

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In Style: From fashion to flooring

October 23/30, 2017: Volume 32, Issue 10

By Reginald Tucker

 

You’ve heard it time and time again: “We’re not in the flooring business; we’re in the fashion business.” Whether we consciously realize this, it seems to play itself out not only in the development of various flooring products that aim to reflect current or impending style trends but also how flooring designs are influenced by broader trends across the home furnishings spectrum.

FCNews reached out to several design professionals, manufacturer stylists and other experts to help illustrate the connection between flooring and fashion.

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Wood: Wide-width surge fuels sales upgrade opportunities

October 9/16, 2017: Volume 32, Issue 9

By Reginald Tucker

 

Screen Shot 2017-10-17 at 10.08.26 AMThe growing popularity of wide-width/long-length planks reflects consumer demand for hardwood floors that add depth and character to living spaces, design experts say. What this means for retailers is many of these wider/longer products—which, by their very nature, entail greater use of the raw material—retail in the high-middle to upper end of the register. This has the dual effect of driving more consumers into retail stores in search of these trendy products while giving floor covering dealers an opportunity to improve their margins.

“By and large, the market has moved to longer, wider product—that’s where most of the growth has been in engineered hardwood,” said David Holt, senior vice president, builder and multi-family, Mohawk Industries. “That’s primarily what we’re making out of our Melbourne plant. With our capabilities, we’re able to do different things to the wood, from colorization to fuming to surface texturing.”

The recent investments Mohawk has made across its hardwood manufacturing operations aim to address emerging consumer demands for stylish, trendy products, including collections featuring longer/wider boards. Mohawk’s research shows more consumers are seeking floors with larger dimensions to conform with a broader interior design trend toward open floor plans. Another benefit of this trend is it opens the door to premium products that further differentiate Mohawk from commodity wood flooring producers.

“The wider/longer boards are really growing in popularity,” said Lew Grass, owner, All About Flooring, Taylors, S.C., which sells the Mohawk brand. “I really like the distressed looks in Mohawk hardwood, be it the hand-scraped or the wirebrushed look; those are the things that decorators are drawn to.”

Suppliers across the board are rolling out products that key on the wider/longer trend. Shaw Floors, for instance, recently added a number of new products in its signature Epic Plus collection of wide, long-length planks featuring its Stabilitek core, which is built for high performance and lasting durability. The company’s Epic Plus Extreme Nature line boasts the longest, widest hardwood planks made in the U.S. Each plank is designed in a large-scale format: 9¼ inches long by 82½ inches wide by ½ inches thick.

In the exclusive Extreme Nature collection, Shaw offers three species in four textures, including Landmark Maple, Landmark Walnut, Landmark Hickory and Landmark Hickory Scraped. “Consumers are searching for a hardwood floor that will bring continuity to their large, open interiors,” said Drew Hash, vice president, hard surface product and category management.

Mohawk and Shaw are not the only companies betting big on wider and longer. Mirage recently launched new board lengths up to 82 inches. The new lengths represent an average increase of 25% for Mirage Engineered 5-inch and 6½-inch widths.

“The trend toward longer boards continues,” said Brad Williams, vice president of sales and marketing at Boa-Franc, maker of the Mirage brand. “Increasing our board lengths—up to 82 inches now—supports that trend.”

Other prominent brands, including Mannington, are building on their existing product lines with wider, longer products. Case in point is the company’s new Norweigian oak product, a 61⁄3-inch-wide, engineered, wire-brushed, dual-stained floor featuring a matte finish. “The trend toward wider plank visuals lends itself to engineered given the enhanced stability of the product,” said Dan Natkin, vice president, wood and laminate.

Other noteworthy wide- plank offerings include: Uniboard’s 75⁄8-inch-wide floor from its Heritage collection, which, according to Daniel Seguin, senior director, business development, “features colors and styles designed for the U.S. consumer.”

Screen Shot 2017-10-17 at 10.08.34 AMOther examples: Johnson Hardwood’s signature Alehouse   and English Pub offerings, both available in a 7 1⁄2-inch-wide format. “Wider widths are definitely gaining in popularity,” said Bill Schollmeyer, CEO.

Then there are brand new products such as Mullican Flooring’s Wexford, a Euro-sawn offering in a 7 5⁄8-inch-wide format, and Ribadao’s Agus, a whopping 10-inch-wide, 95-inch-long product featuring a wire-brushed face and two-tone colorations. Another head turner is Mercier’s Fjord, which comes in a variety of widths and lengths to suit the consumer’s personal style. Available in both engineered and solid formats, the line is marked by gray hues combined with brown undertones and the natural golden color of white oak.

The wide range of wide-width floors on the market gives retailers virtually endless options from which to choose. When combined with unique species, surface treatments and colorations, those choices increase exponentially. Such is the case with the Covelo Canyon collection, a 6-inch-wide product, from Hemisphere Imports. “Most products in this range come in at about $6.99 per square foot, so we’re right in that sweet spot,” said Tom Karol, president. “With this product, we’re giving retailers something that offers above-average margins.”

Armstrong also offers retailers a variety of trendy products that fit the wide-width bill. Among them: Woodland Relics, Artisan Collective and Rustic Restorations. “We strive to bring our customers products that offer great design and performance,” said Christopher Moore, wood product manager.

Ultra high-end opportunities
Naturally, wide-width hardwood flooring products lend themselves to trade-up opportunities far beyond the high-middle of the market into the upper-end stratosphere. It’s comfortable territory for companies such as DuChâteau, which eschews the lower end of the market. The San Diego-based producer of wide-plank, oil-finished European oak products has its eye keenly on upscale, high-profit offerings in the $13-$25 range.

“We’re committed to quality design and aesthetics,” said Mitch Tagle, DuChâteau’s CEO and co-founder. “The DuChâteau brand focuses on European wood flooring with a hard wax oil finish. The brand has a European aesthetic—starting with the name, of course. It’s a look that’s exclusive to DuChâteau.

“We’re not the cheapest out there, and we don’t want to get into that category. We have the brand recognition, and people appreciate the quality of our products because of that.”

HF Design is another company specializing in distressed European oak products targeting that upper echelon. Like DuChâteau, Provenza, et. al, HF prides itself on staying out of the entry-level fray.

“The value we bring to our partners is based on turnkey marketing and merchandising combined with fresh new styles in hardwood flooring to help retailers stay ahead of the trend curve,” said Alex Shaoulpour, president. “We make sure we always use the finest quality materials while being fashion-forward and eco-friendly.”

Another supplier specializing in the stylish wide-width European oak look is USFloors, with its popular Castle Combe line. According to Jamann Stepp, director of marketing and product management, the product is gaining traction in the new home construction market, especially the mid to upper end.