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Hardwood price hikes slated for April, May

March 19/26, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 20

By Reginald Tucker

Price increases on select brands of hardwood flooring are scheduled to take effect this spring.

Armstrong Flooring plans to initiate a 5%-7% price hike on solid hardwood products in the United States and Canada in May. “We have experienced significant increases in raw material costs, with lumber inflation across wood species and grades, coupled with energy, transportation and operating cost inflation,” Brent Flaharty, senior vice president of sales, North America, explained. “Rising natural gas and electricity prices are increasing our manufacturing facility operating costs, and fuel and transportation rates are rising, thereby impacting our delivered cost.”

Hardwood prices are also going up at Shaw Floors. Beginning April 2, the company will institute a 10% increase on its solid products. Tim Baucom, executive vice president of Shaw Floors’ residential division, also cited significant increases in the cost of solid hardwood raw materials in the last several months. “We have done our best to absorb these increases since they began in mid-2017 while continuing to provide superior products—at the same price—to our customers. After months of resisting, we must now raise prices to cover the cost of raw materials needed to make our solid hardwood products.”

Other major suppliers are taking a wait-and-see approach. “We are not planning any price increases at this time,” said Dan Natkin, vice president, hardwood and laminates, Mannington. “But we are monitoring raw material prices very closely.”

Canada-based Mercier, which raised prices on solids back in January, is holding for now. “We aren’t planning any increases

at the moment,” said

Wade Bondrowski, director of sales, U.S. market. “However, a couple more increases [on the supply side] and we may be forced to.”

Mohawk Industries told FCNews that it is not its policy to comment on any inquiries regarding price increases.

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Cali Bamboo debuts herringbone style, new colors

San Diego, Calif.—Cali Bamboo has launched seven new bamboo floors, including two made for herringbone style installations. All new floors feature a solid Fossilized bamboo construction—Cali’s proprietary manufacturing technique yielding floors with Janka hardness scores of over 5,000.

The two new Herringbone styles—Riverwood and Outer Banks—both bear a smooth wood grain, with Riverwood wrapped in a subtle storm cloud gray and Outer Banks glowing from a calming palm brown. Outer Banks also comes in a traditional 6-foot-length plank with tongue-and-groove milling. The four additional new colors—Bourbon Barrel, Savanna, Bordeaux and Treehouse—come in traditional planks. All are tongue-and-groove with the exception of Bordeaux, which has a click-lock construction.

“We put a massive effort into spotting and acting on trends before they hit the broader North American market and have been tracking parquet-type patterns like herringbone in Europe,” said Doug Jackson, president, Cali Bamboo. “The time was right to grow among high-style clientele while giving our customers this popular flooring option along with all the strength our Fossilized bamboo is known for.”

As with all Cali Bamboo Fossilized flooring, the seven new styles feature a 10-coat scratch resistant finish, ideal for spaces with heavy traffic or large pets. Planks are safe for the home and have ultra-low VOC with no added urea formaldehyde. The flooring is also backed by an industry-leading 50-year residential warranty and a 15-year commercial warranty.

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Armstrong Flooring enacts price increases

Lancaster, Pa.—Armstrong Flooring will initiate a 5%-7% price increase on solid hardwood products in the United States and Canada in May 2018.

“Over the past several months, we have experienced significant increases in raw material costs, with lumber inflation across wood species and grades, coupled with energy, transportation and operating cost inflation,” said Brent Flaharty, senior vice president North America sales. “We expect this cost pressure to continue throughout 2018.”

Flaharty added, “Rising natural gas and electricity prices are increasing our manufacturing facility operating costs, and fuel and transportation rates are rising impacting our delivered cost. In spite of every effort, we can no longer fully absorb the extent of these increases.”

Learn more at www.armstrongflooring.com.

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Mannington in lockstep with design trends

Product development process feeds off cues in fashion, home decor

February 5/12, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 17

By Reginald Tucker

 

Salem, N.J.—At Mannington no product is brought to market without the requisite research, forethought and consideration of retailer needs and consumer trends and designs. FCNews got a glimpse of that extensive creative design and development process at work at the company’s in-house design showroom at its facilities here during a special Surfaces product preview event.

Presented here are some of the highlights across several product categories.

Adura Apex
Rooms that are prone to spills and wet messes can still have the look of wood (plus the exceptional performance of a luxury vinyl tile) with Mannington’s new Adura Max Apex. “Our Adura Max Apex floors deliver the look of real wood with formats that include wide widths and long lengths as well as variable widths and lengths,” said Joe Amato, vice president of residential styling. “This mix of renewed classic and on-trend designs capture the essence of real wood in ways we once could only imagine.”

Apex Adura debuts in six new colors: Aspen, a rich, refined European Oak design; Chart House, which conveys a shiplap design; Hilltop, a traditional reclaimed hickory look; Hudson, an urban chic visual; Napa, a character oak design with a classic European ceruse finish; and Spalted Wych Elm, a versatile design in 8 x 72-inch planks that easily transitions from traditional to contemporary settings.

Luxury vinyl sheet (LVS)
What’s old is new again, so the expression goes. Mannington’s Revive LVS collection gets three new looks that feature updated spins on classic and vintage looks, including floors with highly decorative surfaces.

“Mannington floors are designed to be lived on,” said Terry Marchetta, director, residential styling. “Our new sheet vinyl collection reflects that philosophy by marrying style with easy maintenance in our interpretations of on-trend looks in home design.”

Designs include: Oceana, a modern spin on classic Carrara marble; revive tapestry, a fresh take on classic decorative tile; Versailles, inspired by the well-traveled pathways of the iconic French palace for which it is named; Millcreek, inspired by reclaimed timber found in an old grain mill; and Patina, which delivers the authentic look of naturally aged concrete in easy-care LVS style.

Laminate
Mannington’s confidence in the mature but still relevant laminate category is reflected by its commitment to bringing retailers products that provide trade-up opportunities. The company aims to do just that with the latest additions to its Restoration Collection.

Highlights include: Hillside Hickory; already one of Mannington’s best-selling hickory plank designs, this line spins contemporary, creating a floor that works well in modern farmhouse and neutral Scandinavian settings, according to Cristen Del Bove, senior stylist. Then there’s Palace Plank, which combines the timeless beauty of wide plank European white oak with state-of-the art technology for a floor infused with authentic color, texture. Lastly, Palace Chevron is a look that dates back to 17th century France.

Hardwood
Mannington’s already extensive hardwood lineup gets a quintet new designs this spring. Additions include Carriage Oak, which captures the essence of worn painted wood from vintage carriage houses but in an updated, contemporary color palette; Foundry Hickory, which features subtle wire brushing enhanced by a triple-stained effect; Tribeca Oak, which offers a refined urban look with subtle wire brushing and multiple stain layers; Cider Mill Hickory, which combines the charm and nostalgia found in a vintage cider mill. A unique hand staining technique showcases the natural color variation, ranging from light to dark, on each plank; and Cider Mill Oak, which captures the spirit a of wood found in old mills.

 

 

 

 

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Armstrong sets diamond standard in solid hardwood

Lancaster, Pa.—Armstrong Flooring is extending its exclusive Diamond 10 technology to a new solid hardwood collection, Appalachian Ridge, which takes the warmth of wood to new heights with on-trend looks, rich colors and lush textures. With Diamond 10 technology, Armstrong Flooring is able to deliver a solid hardwood that is more versatile and durable for homeowners with busy lifestyles.

Appalachian Ridge transcends the typical. Scraped and brushed artisan effects are harmonized with gentle sanding to create a refined, tactile canvas, brought to life with carefully selected stains and color washes. This fusion of soft focus texture and unparalleled, multi-tonal colors creates a designer floor with subtlety and sophistication.

“Our research consistently shows solid hardwood is the most coveted flooring choice by consumers for its timeless beauty and the considerable value it adds to a home,” said Michael Bell, vice president – wood. “But, a factor preventing some from purchasing is concern over scratches and maintaining that beauty over time. When investing in hardwood, consumers seek peace of mind that their floor will look beautiful for the long term. For many consumers, scratch is a top factor when considering the durability of the floor.”

Both Appalachian Ridge and Paragon are made from 100% solid Appalachian hardwood with patent-pending Diamond 10 technology. Unlike many protectants that can leave a cloudy finish, Diamond 10 technology provides clear scratch protection allowing the natural allure and beauty of the wood to shine through. It forms a hard traffic-and-wear-resistant barrier on the surface that also protects the wood from soils and stains.

For information, visit armstrongflooring.com.

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Distribution: Despite threats from LVT/WPC, segment hold its own

November 6/13, 2017: Volume 32, Issue 11

By Ken Ryan

 

Screen Shot 2017-11-13 at 10.04.14 AMPrior to the explosive growth of LVT/WPC, hardwood was the hot product in the hard surface flooring segment. In fact, 2012 and 2013 saw some of the largest increases in the wood category, with double-digit gains each year.

Since then wood has continued to grow, albeit at a declining rate. Some observers surmise that this slow growth, which in many ways mirrors the overall flooring industry over the past five years, is the new normal. “I think wood growth is going to level off for the industry in the low single digits going forward,” said Torrey Jaeckle, vice president of Jaeckle Distributors, Madison, Wis. “What we are seeing is the wood jobs we are getting are larger average sizes, which has a positive impact on growth. The average order size (in square feet) is up 15% from several years ago. Wider widths and scraped product continue to show steady gains, and while you can get those same looks in a number of different product categories now (LVT, ceramic, laminate), real wood still remains an aspirational product for many consumers and will continue to do so. I think what we are seeing is the designs of other products have become so good now some consumers are becoming more willing to give up the real thing for the wear, maintenance and other benefits these other products offer.”

Another leading distributor suggested wood flooring “will never be back to where it was.” His view is the pace of new home builds is down 60% from its peak in 2007 and will be hard-pressed to match the pre-recession levels anytime soon given the shortage of skilled labor that is impacting construction. “The peak of home building is when wood really shined,” he said. “New homes drive building flooring contractors. I don’t know that the builder market will have exuberant growth but I expect it to climb in the low- to mid-single digits.”

Based on the percentage of business distributors still do with hardwood, they are clearly still bullish on the category. Many of the top 20 have wood portfolios in the 25%-35% range; some are lower; a few much higher. Scores of consumers still want genuine wood, not something that merely replicates it. “What we are noticing is wood styling trends seem to be changing quickly. It’s imperative for us to work with our suppliers to provide the latest and greatest looks,” said Chip Moxley, president of Tingle Flooring, Lees Summit, Mo.

Several wholesalers said they have seen a significant shift toward engineered wood vs. solid, and others have seen a steady increase in their unfinished wood business as well.

For Galleher, William M. Bird, Belknap White, All Tile and others, wood remains a constant. It is the largest segment for each of these wholesalers. In its New England market, Belknap White executives says customers remain passionate about solid wood, whereas in its southern area more engineered is being sold.

Laminate
For most top 20 distributors, laminate represents well south of 10% of their product mix, with several saying it is now 5% or less. “Laminate is taking a severe dive,” one prominent West Coast distributor told FCNews.

Blame it on the success of LVT/WPC, which has eroded virtually every other category. But while some have given up on laminate, there are those who are encouraged by new developments, in particular some of the new water-resistant offerings.

Mannington’s Spill Shield, for example, was cited as a product that offers true differentiated advantages. “Laminate has surprisingly held its own because it has been embraced by the builder channel,” said Jeff Striegel, president of Elias Wilf, Owings Mills, Md. “[The 12-mil format] has made them more comfortable. You can get the wood visuals at a fraction of the cost. It is a much more durable floor from the time it goes in to the time the homeowner takes over [occupancy of the home].”

Distributors who have not abandoned the category have picked up share from those who have. For Herregan Distributors, Eagan, Minn., laminate is still 10% of its business.  “Laminate is showing some positive trends because of stronger moisture warranties,” said Pat Thies, vice president of sales and marketing.

 

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Spotlight: Southwind provides retailers with the complete package

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

By Lindsay Baillie

 

Southwind Carpets, a division of Cherokee Carpet Industries, has been known for providing a range of residential and Main Street commercial carpets to dealers throughout the U.S. and abroad. Since its hard surface division launched in 2015, the company has added LVP, WPC and hardwood collections to its portfolio—providing retailers with the complete flooring package.

Southwind’s leap into hard surfaces occurred when the company saw an opportunity for a smaller business to take stock in the marketplace, said Randy Hatch, president and CEO, Cherokee Carpet Industries. “We felt there was an opportunity for an alternative to a lot of the big guys that are out there—specifically a need for a company that focuses on providing great service to our retailer base as well as focusing on quality and making sure we are perceived that way by our customer.”

Even though the company is innovating in the hard surface arena it has not forgotten about the success of its soft surface offerings. Southwind launched its first soft, polyester fiber into the market in January, which is receiving positive feedback from retailers.

Hardwood Displays - Southwind“We’ll continue to introduce new products on both sides,” said Richard Abramowicz, executive vice president and chief marketing officer, Cherokee Carpet Industries. “We try to coordinate everything we do in hard surfaces with our carpet offerings. We look at making quality products that are dependable and available to the customer.”

As a smaller flooring manufacturer, the company prides itself on offering its retail partners more personalized attention. In fact, Southwind takes the time to listen to consumer needs before developing new products. “We want to stay competitive in the marketplace and make sure we provide whatever flooring products the customers are asking for,” Hatch explained.

Retailers such as Amanda Dagnan, office manager at Factory Carpet Warehouse, Knoxville, Tenn., have noticed the benefits of working with a smaller company. “We have carried Southwind for as long as I have worked at Factory Carpet—at least 15 years. Southwind is a small mill just like our business. It is nice to pick up the phone and get the same people every time or know exactly who to talk to when there is a question or issue. Their carpet line is eco-friendly and outperforms most of the bigger mills. Plus, they are able to keep their prices lower since they are a small business.”

Factory Carpet Warehouse is finding success with selling not only the company’s carpets but also its hard surfaces. “Southwind’s LVP is our best-selling floor,” Dagnan added. “We have never been one to stock hard surface; however, we have been through approximately 50 pallets since its line was introduced. We have not had one installation problem or one complaint about wear and tear. We even tested the waterproof capabilities by breaking a water line in a customer’s house.”

Ernie Cavender, owner of Cavender’s – The Interior Company, Cookeville, Tenn., has carried Southwind carpet for more than 25 years and recently started selling the company’s hard surfaces. “I was a little bit surprised when Southwind announced it was going into hard surface, but my experience with the products has been nothing but positive. We started with a couple of hard surfaces and we’ve been very successful with selling them.”

In addition to a wide range of products, Southwind offers retailers good quality, strong price points and the opportunity to increase margins, Cavender explained. Combine these points with the company’s desire to give retailers personalized attention and, as Cavender said, “It’s about a relationship rather than just a sale.”

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In Style: Wood design forecasting—Hitting the mark takes good timing

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

By Reginald Tucker

 

Normandy_Oak_Brulee_1_Det_altFashion and style play a key role in the development of today’s floor covering products, and hardwood is no exception. While the correlation is well documented, many would also argue that the development of hardwood looks, patterns, colors and styles are largely a function of regional tastes irrespective of overarching, global fashion trends. The key for many suppliers, experts say, is finding just the right balance.

“Wood flooring trends have a bigger connection to regional trends more so than fashion trends,” said Joe Amato, vice president of residential styling, Mannington. “An example would be areas of the Midwest region that is still supporting refined rustic looks, but sections of the East Coast now moving to urban looks that are less rustic, with less character.”

With the tendency for fashion trends to literally come and go, how does one go about developing a product lineup several years in advance of product roll-outs that might not be in tune with regional or local tastes by the time the products are officially launched? “The biggest challenge is always developing a product inspired by a home fashion trend that’s too early for the market,” Amato explained, citing the rise in popularity of the color gray in markets around the world prior to catching on in the U.S.

Accurate trendspotting not only applies to pinpoint, precise color forecasting. As Amato explained: “In addition to color we follow wood formats, surface texture, wood species and surface gloss and try to time the development to the market needs. You don’t always need to be the first but you need to be ready to respond when the timing is right.”

That begs the question: Are retailers truly conscious of the correlation between fashion and styling with respect to how they prospect or close sales on a daily basis? If retailers embrace the fashion story in simple terms of current home fashion trends, according to Amato, they can truly justify and sell the corresponding looks and styles from the manufacturers. “Mannington goes to great lengths to create hardwood products that coordinate with the popular home fashion trends, but we need the retailer to emphasize the connection. We try to provide retailers the necessary tools to educate the consumer and tell the fashion story to make it a part of the selling experience.”

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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.

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Armstrong Flooring launches Paragon solid hardwood

Armstrong Flooring Paragaon Solid Hardwood 4Lancaster, Pa.—Armstrong Flooring is revolutionizing the hardwood flooring industry with the introduction of Paragon solid hardwood with Diamond 10 technology, offering the timeless beauty of genuine hardwood and the ultimate in scratch resistance.

Paragon hardwood is made from 100% solid Appalachian wood and offers today’s most in-demand wood colors and textures. The collection features a variety of choices in both high- and low-gloss finishes. Three popular looks include smooth hardwood, for a timeless, consistently beautiful look; scraped, for richly textured floors that are full of character and built for rugged durability; and brushed, planks that are textured by gently removing the soft portion of the wood for a natural visual full of depth. All Paragon floors come with a lifetime limited residential warranty.

Martha King, world champion competitive wood chopper, is the brand ambassador for Paragon in Armstrong Flooring’s “The Floor is Yours” campaign, which includes television commercials on HGTV, digital advertisements, social media content and in-person activations. Whether selecting, chopping, cutting or generally imposing her will on wood, Martha perfectly represents the refined beauty and world-class toughness of Armstrong Flooring hardwood.

For more information, visit powerofparagon.com.