Posted on

Shaw merges Anderson, Tuftex brands into one

November 20/27, 2017: Volume 32, Issue 12

Combined entity to make debut at Surfaces

By Reginald Tucker

 

Screen Shot 2017-11-27 at 10.09.36 AMDalton–What has been rumored for months is now confirmed. Shaw Floors, parent company of the venerable Anderson Hardwood and Tuftex brands, has announced plans to merge the two with the combined entity to be called Anderson Tuftex. The change is effective Jan. 1, 2018.

For Shaw, the deal made sense because both brands have a long heritage in the flooring industry and are a natural fit. According to Carrie Edwards Isaac, vice president, Anderson Tuftex, the brand will take a holistic and consumer-centric approach to marketing and product development. This, she said, is based on the fact today’s consumer demands a simplified shopping experience both in-store and online.

“The entire consumer journey is changing and has been for quite some time,” Edwards Isaac said. “Consumers are finding inspiration everywhere and are more directly connected with brands than ever before. But purchasing flooring is complicated and consumers feel pressured to get it right. At Anderson Tuftex, it’s about simplicity. We don’t want to overwhelm consumers with options but, rather craft intentional designs that serve as a canvas for their lives.”

Anderson Tuftex will be showcased at Shaw Connect 2018 winter markets and will unveil the new premium brand at Surfaces in Las Vegas. The future of these two legacy brands will focus on their new, collective brand identity by working with their valued retail partners to drive premium floor covering sales.

“We’re committed to elevating the discussion with our customers and providing them with a beautiful product mix that they’re eager to sell,” said Trey Thames, vice president of sales, Anderson Tuftex. “By offering bold, yet timeless patterns and foundational colors in both hard and soft surface flooring products, we’re empowering our customers to create a seamless shopping experience for consumers.”

Retailers buy in
For many Shaw retailers the announcement doesn’t come as a surprise, although it is welcomed news.

Screen Shot 2017-11-27 at 10.09.48 AMTodd Wheeler, owner of Wheeler’s Flooring in Salinas, Calif., said that while he initially questioned the merging of an East Coast line (Anderson) with a West Coast mill (Tuftex), he believes the pairing ultimately makes sense. “It goes hand in hand with the trends in the industry of carpet losing share and—in the last few years—the growth of hard surfaces. Tuftex has a good rug program; Anderson is a good hardwood brand. To have the brands merge and complement each other I believe will be a good marriage.”

As a result of the merger, Wheeler said his Tuftex rep will now also have the Anderson line, which makes sense instead of having two people. He also believes Shaw “needed to do something” with Tuftex and not let it fall away and be gobbled up like other mills. “Shaw really is trying to hold onto that brand, which is smart because Tuftex makes great carpet.”

In his Salinas showroom, hard surface products are generally positioned on one side of the floor, across from soft surfaces. However, when the Anderson Tuftex displays come in, Wheeler will likely pair them together in one common area, which he believes will stimulate sales. “As a Kool-Aid drinking Shaw customer who has had a great relationship with Shaw over the years, I am excited about this branding.”

Dean Howell, owner of two Moda Floors & Interior stores in Atlanta, got his first glimpse of the Anderson Tuftex pairing at the Shaw Flooring Network winter market earlier this year (FCNews, Jan. 30. Feb. 6.) Like Wheeler, he believes in the combined marketing strategy. “Shaw’s plans to re-energize the Anderson brand is exciting. They’re trying to elevate the image of Anderson the way they are doing with the Tuftex line.”

Posted on

Mannington Commercial enjoys success at NeoCon

mannington-commercial-raise-sheet-prices-fullChicago—Mannington Commercial kicked off NeoCon 2017 with the launch of new hard and soft surface flooring products and a new showroom. The company also reported higher showroom traffic of visiting architects, interior designers and other specifiers than ever before.

New products featured LVT and carpet designed by the in-house Mannington Design Studio, under the leadership of Roby Isaac, vice president of commercial design, as well as collaborations with the Los Angeles- and London-based HOK Product Design.

The two new soft surface products created in collaboration with HOK Product Design are the Paper and Origami carpet collections, which coordinate while meeting different needs in interior environments.

NeoCon also saw the launch of Medina and Self-Assembly, two piece-dye products.

The Umbra collection, developed by Mannington’s UK-based Amtico design team; the Portland Project LVT, an extension of the Portland Project carpet collection; and Color Anchor LVT, a collection of tiles and planks, are three new hard surface offerings.

This year’s showroom, a collaborative effort between Mannington’s designers and Atlanta-based Leap Communications, featured paper craft by artist Christina Lihan and emphasized the process of discovery and creation. Formally trained as an architect, Lihan hand-cuts and sculpts paper into intricate architectural forms. Her recent work has been featured in the Flatiron Prow Artspace in New York and in the Jaffa Museum of Art in Tel Aviv.

Posted on

Wood: Canadian suppliers seek to play the ‘Q’ (as in quality) card

July 3/10: Volume 32, Issue 2

By Reginald Tucker

 

Screen Shot 2017-07-10 at 3.18.14 PMIn some circles, Canada is renown for developing some of the greatest hockey players—and teams—in the history of the sport. Well, the same could be said for the nation’s formidable forestry sector, which has produced some of the most prolific producers of hardwood flooring.

But it’s not just high volumes that some of these well-respected companies are cranking out. Many industry observers would argue that they manufacture some of the industry’s highest quality hardwood flooring products.

Take Rochester, N.Y.-based Installers Warehouse as an example. This wholesale flooring distributor ranks the Wickham line high on its portfolio of hardwood flooring products. Craig Dupra, president, has toured the Wickham plant on multiple occasions and is always impressed with what he sees. “Wickham has a unique business model in that it produces an enormous amount of product, but the company doesn’t apply a color or a finish until the product has been ordered by the retailer or distributor. I don’t know how it manages the logistics of it, but the company is very good at making a particular product for a particular customer and still gets it to my customer in 10-15 business days from the time the order is placed. This gives retailers an enormous amount of flexibility in terms of how the particular floor can be made regarding width, species, grade, color and sheen.”

Perhaps it’s the signature, tight-grained maple species native to the various Canadian forests where lumber used for flooring is predominantly harvested, or maybe it’s just an ingrained mindset embraced by the major wood manufacturers operating here, but there’s definitely something to be said about the quality of the upper-end hardwood flooring products originating from Canada. Marketplace reputation probably plays a role as well, observers say.

Abraham Linc, which took on the Wickham line late last year, also attests to the company’s focus on high standards. “Our entire team is excited to partner with Wickham and offer this line to our customers,” said Darren Abraham, president. “The high quality of the products, fashion-forward colors and design, combined with our commitment to inventory, delivery and sales support gives our dealers an exciting new line.”

Screen Shot 2017-07-10 at 3.18.31 PMAsk virtually any top distributor or retailer to corroborate many Canadian hardwood flooring manufacturers’ claims that their products are among the highest quality available on the market today, and you are not likely to find a lot of hesitation. Jaeckle Distributors, based in Madison, Wis., is a case in point.

“Mercier gives us a first-quality Canadian manufactured wood line that fits all possibilities in today’s ever-changing customer lifestyle,” said Steve Flanagan, product and marketing manager. “Mercier fits the consumer’s need anywhere from a quality entry-level product in their Pro Series to the most fashionable 7-inch pine long board or other popular species like hickory, maple, red and white oak, and their entire exotics series.”

Jaeckle’s experience with the Mercier brand continues to generate positive results. For 2016, Brad Myers, sales manager with Jaeckle Wholesale Distributors in St. Louis, won the manufacturer’s Best Salesperson of the Year award In addition, for the third straight year, Jaeckle Wholesale Distributors earned Wholesaler of the Year honors from Mercier.

Other top distributors are singing the praises of Canadian hardwood. For instance, No. 1-ranked Haines counts the Mirage Hardwood Flooring brand among its best sellers. “Mirage’s Flair collection features a next-generation finish called Duramatt, an extremely durable, low-gloss urethane finish that has the appearance of an oil finish without the maintenance required for oil,” said Shawn McCloskey, marketing manager. “Duramatt also contains anti-microbial agents and is 20 times more wear resistant than a conventional oil finish.”

Other Mirage distributors, including No. 4-ranked All Tile, applaud the virtues of not only the manufacturer’s high-quality products but also the company’s steadfast approach to manufacturing overall and attention to detail. So much so that All Tile recently decided to expand the territories in which it will distribute the Mirage brand. Specifically, All Tile’s single-source trading area for Mirage Flooring will be widened beyond Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa, Missouri, eastern Wisconsin, northern Indiana, Illinois and Michigan to include North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota and all of Wisconsin.

“This is a great opportunity to provide a high level of quality service with outstanding customer service, inventory and technology to Mirage customers and help them selling the top-quality hardwood flooring brand on the market,” said Bob Weiss, president of All Tile, a Mirage wholesale partner since 2007. “We are very happy about extending our partnership with Mirage to a new territory.”

Focus on innovation
Screen Shot 2017-07-10 at 3.18.20 PMMuch like their counterparts south of the border in America, most Canadian hardwood flooring manufacturers face stiff competition from other quality-minded suppliers operating in their market. To gain a competitive advantage, many employ proprietary techniques in their respective manufacturing processes. One common denominator, though, is the obligatory attention to detail.

That same emphasis on strict quality control measures is observed at Lauzon. As Priscilla Bergeron, brand manager, explains: “We have numerous points of control to make sure every step of the way our quality is maintained. This starts right from the forests where we choose which tree we’re going to cut all the way through to delivery to the retailer. We also have state-of-the-art equipment to make sure the quality is maintained consistently. We test and re-test to make sure everything we produce has the highest standards in the market. And we communicate that message to the marketplace.”

This focus on attention paved the way for innovations such as Sunshield, which is designed to mitigate the harmful effects of UV light. Lauzon also developed a titanium finish, which it says is one of the strongest coatings on the market. And then there’s Pure Genius technology, which aims to provide air-purifying capabilities for homeowners.

“We have won many awards for Pure Genious alone,” Bergeron said. “In 2015 we won the Best of IBS Award in Las Vegas and we also won the Bronze Innovation award from IIDEX Canada in the flooring category. We also won an innovation award at Domotex in Germany in 2015, and we ranked high among environmentally friendly products at the Greenbuild show as well.”

Even Canadian newcomers to the hardwood arena are looking to leverage the country’s reputation for quality products. For example, Uniboard Canada, which previously only produced laminate flooring, launched its first engineered hardwood flooring line (Kalista) at the NWFA convention in 2016. Since that time, the company has expanded the color and species offerings to give dealers and distributors more options.

Tapis Beaver, a Uniboard distributor based in Montreal, recently previewed the Kalista line and has high hopes for its potential in the marketplace. Already a longtime distributor of Uniboard’s laminate lines, Tapis Beaver is quite familiar with the manufacturer’s overall approach to product quality, high standards and service.

Screen Shot 2017-07-10 at 3.18.24 PM“We work more on the laminate side than any other product,” said Stephane Leveille, president, Tapis Beaver. “We placed around 150 displays since last December, and we sold about $1 million or more worth of product. We don’t have any complaints about the product. The quality is very good.”

Citing their innovative approach to manufacturing—as well as the proximity to its operations and customer base—Leveille hinted that there may be an opportunity to take on the Kalista brand down the road. “We have looked into the product but we didn’t start to sell it yet. We are still in discussions with Uniboard management to see how we could work with our customers.”

Other major Canadian suppliers are also garnering attention for their innovative approach to hardwood manufacturing. Earlier this year Satin Flooring took home a Best of Surfaces Award for Wirebrushed, part of the Generations engineered wood collection. The innovative, environmentally friendly product is treated with Satin’s proprietary, non-allergenic, formaldehyde-free Eco-Last finish with UV protection and an anti-microbial finish, which prevents bacterial and fungus growth. It also features the company’s SolidFused technology, which is used in its engineered flooring production.

According to Dennis Mohn, director of U.S. sales for Satin Flooring, the company only uses lumber from well-managed North American forests—a big selling point for both existing and potential customers. “As a leading user of one of nature’s most precious and inspiring resources, we have a special responsibility not just to our environment but also to each other.”

Many Canadian distributor partners generally believe all these attributes—product quality, attention to detail, responsible use of natural resources—translate into products that provide higher margin opportunities with low claims rates. “Wickham has allowed us to grow our business by leaps and bounds,” Installers Warehouse Dupra said. “By stocking the Wickham line, we have easily doubled our bottom line.”

Posted on

Carpet pushes back against hard surface

July 3/10: Volume 32, Issue 2

By Ken Ryan

 

Screen Shot 2017-07-10 at 2.29.45 PMCarpet’s share of the overall flooring market has dropped from 50.9% of dollars in 2006 to 41.5% in 2016, according to FCNews estimates. While the downward trend has not been dramatic, it has been steady and consistent.

Carpet mill executives don’t need to look at statistics to know what is happening in the marketplace. The big ones (i.e., Mohawk and Shaw) have already transformed into total flooring solutions companies, well positioned to take advantage of any flooring trend. As Seth Arnold, vice president of residential marketing for Mohawk Industries, explained, “We are not working to stem the tide on anything. Our business is about meeting consumer demand wherever that may be.”

The smaller mills have options, too. Some have entered the hard surface category; others are contemplating such a move. And there are some who have stuck to their soft surface knitting, redoubling their efforts to deliver differentiated product.

So what are carpet mills to do about combating the inexorable gains of hard surface? Some advocate promoting the benefits of carpet. “It’s softer, warmer, more comfortable, quieter and safer than hard surfaces,” said T.M. Nuckols, executive vice president of the residential business for Dixie Home. “We also make beautiful styles and designs that can complement the many looks available in hard surfaces.”

Rodney Mauter, executive vice president, Lexmark Residential, has his own ideas. “We must keep driving the positives of carpet; after all, no one takes a nap on a hardwood floor, no one plays with the baby or puppy on a tile floor.”

Others say it is the carpet industry’s duty to continue to explore innovation and technology. “Whether it’s through style, design or performance, soft floor covering will continue to evolve and develop and ultimately remain a viable flooring option to consumers long into the future,” said Mike Sanderson, vice president of product marketing, Engineered Floors.

Soft, durable carpet provides a healthy profit margin for flooring dealers, especially when sold with pad. Some observers say the industry needs to drill down on that. “First and foremost, we need to put an end to the continuation of the race to the bottom in terms of PET pricing and overall devaluation of the category,” said Brad Christensen, vice president, soft surface category management, Shaw Floors. “The industry collectively needs to do more to promote the many benefits of soft surfaces, none more tried and true than its value compared to other surfaces. We don’t need to give it away.”

Other mills find focusing on a particular niche is beneficial. Stanton, for example, has grown its business by being selective about its patterns and offerings. “It’s about being thoughtful about the design part of it,” said Jonathan Cohen, CEO. “You can use existing technology that is out there to create something fresh. We can step it up a couple notches and produce something that is really good looking.”

Indeed, executives say there is no substitute for continually innovating to create new and compelling products. “Homeowners are no longer interested in 50 shades of beige,” Mauter said. “They demand every room of the home to denote personal style while providing comfort and performance. Easy care and maintenance is also important; products must clean easily and last.”

Ongoing initiatives
Research indicates that consumers shop by look and feel rather than fiber type. To that end, carpet mills are developing products that look great and can withstand high-traffic areas. That is no easy feat, but driving innovation is the only way to keep carpet relevant, executives say. “Carpet can be on the cutting edge of home décor,” Dixie’s Nuckols said.

Screen Shot 2017-07-10 at 2.30.06 PMTo address the hard surface opportunity for soft surfaces, Phenix has introduced a line of products that speaks to specific needs and that provide unique solutions for the consumer. In 2017 it introduced more patterns and textures to address the fact that carpet is often being used within individual rooms—as opposed to the entire home. “It allows the consumer to use carpet as a focal point of the room’s design,” said Mark Clayton, president and CEO of Phenix Flooring. “We also recognize the fact that broadloom carpets are often being used to create one-of-a-kind area rugs that can be used in conjunction with hard surfaces, so this provides additional opportunities to expand pattern and textural designs.”

Other companies are combining hard surface and soft surface in the same display systems to create a coordinated look for the home. Shaw’s TruAccents carpet collection pairs bold styles and patterns with hard surface visuals on a single merchandiser. “We understand that consumers want both hard and soft surface products in their homes, and this gives them a convenient, one-stop destination for ease of shopping and comparison,” Christensen said.

Mohawk is a total flooring company, and within that scope carpet remains a very significant piece of business. “How do we keep carpet part of the conversation?” Arnold asked. “The relentless focus we have on innovation, which is true of all our categories, is really true of carpet. We invest to stay competitive. The success we have with SmartStrand and all the innovations we brought to market has allowed us to keep carpet a profitable category.”

For companies that don’t have the depth and breadth of a Mohawk or Shaw, there are still niches to fill. Foss, for example, has focused on promoting non-woven, needle-punch broadloom and carpet tile products as an appealing and affordable accessory—or outright alternative—to traditional flooring. “Many consumers who prefer hard surfaces are attracted to our products because of their beauty and warmth combined with the attractive look and durability of a low-pile floor,” said Brian Warren, senior vice president of sales and marketing. “Not to mention, our products provide the consumer with a higher level of affordability and versatility because they work in virtually any application or market.”

Advice for dealers
While carpet manufacturers continue to explore ways to recoup market share, executives also believe flooring dealers can do their part to help combat the growth of hard surfaces. Strategies range from offering custom rugs made of broadloom to creating vignettes showing stairs with carpet inserts to upselling customers to better goods.

Screen Shot 2017-07-10 at 2.30.16 PMLexmark’s Mauter, for example, said his company coaches its retailers to think outside the norm by using different patterns with the same colorway to create subtle differences throughout the home without the need to change paint color or furniture. He also suggested making custom rugs out of broadloom to facilitate room size and dimensions and to create additional revenue.

Mohawk, for its part, emphasizes “X-plusing,” which is educating and selling the consumer on why trading up makes sense. As Arnold explains: “A consumer walks in and is planning to spend ‘X’ and instead of being traded down to lower priced goods—which are often lower-quality goods and reinforces the notion that carpet isn’t made well—offering a smaller selection of better quality product rather than a sea of sameness would be a better option. It’s about great marketing and storytelling. If you provide that customer with a compelling reason to trade up to a premium product like SmartStrand Silk you can X plus them 10%, 20%.”

Arnold said the successful retailers understand that less is more and having the right product at the right price point is key. “You have to set up your showroom for trade-up possibilities and allow consumers to feel the difference. Telling compelling stories and presenting extraordinary product is the formula for retailers.”

Clayton advised retailers to remind the consumer of the true benefits of carpet and hard surfaces and be sure they understand the potential challenges of each product. “Some consumers and their lifestyles would actually benefit from the utilitarian benefits of soft surfaces, not to mention the design opportunities.”

Shaw’s Christensen suggests retailers can help drive excitement by touting the many styling benefits and performance features. “Carpet today has a compelling performance story while also offering breathtaking visuals in a wide array of styling options. Retailers can continue listening to the needs and concerns of consumers and establish credibility by suggesting the right flooring solution for every space and every consumer appetite. There is no doubt that carpet will continue to play an important role for consumers. People forget that carpet is the largest category and still has a dominant position in peoples’ homes, and carpet remains a very import product to help drive this.”

Posted on

CarpetsPlus names Karndean Designflooring Hard Surface Supplier of the Year

Karndean-Designfloor_logo-2-col-on-white-background-1024x270Export, Pa.—Karndean Designflooring, a market leader in luxury vinyl tile (LVT) flooring was named Hard Surface Supplier of the Year by the CarpetsPlus membership at the group’s annual summit in Atlanta on Feb. 27.

The award recognizes the supplier who has had the best overall performance in the past year. Award recipients were voted on by the CarpetsPlus Color Tile membership, comprised of approximately 400 retailers. More than 50 suppliers were eligible to receive this distinction.

The awards presentation was a culmination of a successful weekend for Karndean at the CarpetsPlus summit. Karndean sponsored the welcome cocktail party for the summit on Saturday night, participated in the Emerald Sponsor luncheon on Monday and was presented with the award Monday evening. Throughout the past year, Karndean has worked with CarpetsPlus to produce “Design Destinations,” a privately labeled display, which made its debut at the summit. Karndean was the only LVT supplier to be included in the Design Destinations program.

Karndean Designflooring joined the CarpetsPlus Color Tile group in 2012. The CarpetsPlus Color Tile group was established in 1996 and provides independent retailers with a menu of professional tools to grow a successful floor covering business, including product and sales training, national pricing and rebates, and member and consumer websites.