February 13/20, 2017: Volume 31, Number 18
By Steven Feldman
Las Vegas—Six companies were voted best of class in the sixth annual Best of Surfaces competition co-sponsored by Floor Covering News and Informa, owners and operators of the International Surface Event. The awards have become the benchmark for new product excellence and booth design at the industry’s premier trade show.
The winners were:
- Innovation: Mohawk’s Airo
- Style & Design: Provenza’s Colour Nation
- Sustainability: Wirebrushed from Satin Flooring
- Technology: Inhaus’ Sono
- Best Booth Design (over 1,200 square feet): Armstrong Flooring
- Best Booth Design (under 1,200 square feet): NCC/Goton Tiles
The judging was initially conducted by a panel of retailers who were tasked with narrowing the many entrants in each category to six finalists by the start of Surfaces. Specifically, they were each asked to explore all submissions and select their top six that best represented the category in which they were entered. The most popular selections by consensus in each category made it to the final round, which were viewed on the first day of Surfaces—in some cases by the original judges and this year, for the first time—by select retailers who agreed to offer their time and input.
The category winners were:
Airo from Mohawk
While manufacturers came to Surfaces with innovative products in droves, at the end of the day the judges agreed none was more innovative than Airo from Mohawk. Why? Because they agreed with Mohawk’s claim it had launched a new subcategory for carpet: Unified Soft Floorcovering.
Airo is a unified soft flooring product made solely with PET recycled content. “Airo is important to retailers because it offers a simpler-to-install, easier-to-maintain, better performing and more sustainable soft surface,” said Tom Lape, president of Mohawk Residential. It is also hydrophobic and absorbs zero moisture, liquid and odor.
Part of Airo’s easy installation stems from how the product is made. Unlike other types of soft flooring, Airo features a simple, two-part design unified by a single polymer. The PET fiber is constructed on a premium cushioned backing using an innovative, tension-free process. Airo is not stretched during production. Rather, it is belted and relaxed, freeing the product from tension. It requires no additional cushion, tack strips, power stretching or iron seaming.
“The development of Airo represents us looking at soft flooring from the consumer backwards instead of the manufacturing plant forward,” Lape said. “We want to look at what the consumer values and run with that.”
Sono from Inhaus
While the entire flooring world was introducing their respective spins on the waterproof flooring category, the judges found Inhaus’ Sono to be fundamentally different than the WPCs currently on the market as it is a homogenous product made in a one-step manufacturing process featuring Inhaus’ patented Ceramin technology.
According to Derek Welbourn, CEO, Ceramin produces a homogenous product where the core is formed with ceramic powder and polyolefin without extrusion—and that’s it. The manufacturing process has been uniquely designed to use low-pressure heat rather than chemicals to create a finished core. That results in a product that has no internal pressure that needs to be controlled; it is naturally stable. The main advantage is there are no plasticizers or phthalates of any kind, and the product does not contain any formaldehyde. The resulting product is waterproof, highly stable with both heat and humidity.
“It has been a long time in development for Sono, and we are proud of the work we have done,” Welbourn said, adding receipt of the award was highly appreciated by the entire Inhaus team. “To see the value of what our people created is very rewarding.”
Inhaus believes Sono caught the eye of judges for its technical characteristics combined with the fact that it simply resonated with attendees. “The thing that made Sono exciting is the visuals just look better,” Welbourn said. “We have the one-two punch of high definition printing complemented by a transparent lacquer system. To our knowledge there isn’t a product out there with these visuals.”
Style & Design
Colour Nation from Provenza
It seems with every Surfaces that passes, manufacturers are continually raising the bar on their products’ visuals, no matter the category. This year was no exception; categories that replicate others are narrowing the gap between faux and the real thing, while innovation in wood and tile looks are reaching new heights. But when the dust cleared this year, the judges agreed they had never seen anything like the Colour Nation Lighthouse Cove collection from Provenza. The line features multi-color, multi-layered paint options in a variety of colors, handscraping, aging and weathered techniques in a wide plank European oak.
“Winning the award was a fantastic surprise as we have been doing this for years,” said Ron Sadri, president. “We always do our best to make the most exciting floors possible, but this year I think we knocked it out of the park. We’re very appreciative and excited.”
Sadri believes the judges selected the Colour Nation Lighthouse Cove collection due to its unique look and historic inspiration. “It’s a one of kind product that has not been seen before. The inspiration came from 100-year-old floors from Europe where homeowners used to paint their floors and change the colors every year. They would put red paint on top of the white, then blue on top of the white and so on. We set out to replicate that look.”
Engineered wood from Satin Flooring
Entering the Best of Surfaces competition for the first time, Satin Flooring took home the hardware for Wirebrushed, part of the Generations engineered wood collection. The judges particularly liked the fact the product was treated with Satin’s proprietary, non-allergenic, formal-dehyde-free Eco-Last finish with UV protection and an anti-microbial finish, which prevents bacterial and fungus growth. The line is made in Canada and uses only North American wood.
“Winning the award means a great deal to us,” said Dennis Mohn, director of U.S. sales. “Satin Flooring only uses lumber from well-managed North American forests, and 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.”
The fact that Satin Flooring places such a strong emphasis on sustainability played into the judges’ selection, the company surmises. “Nothing goes to waste at Satin Flooring,” said Ingrid Mancini, senior marketing manager. “We use virtually all parts of the lumber in our wood flooring products. A great example is our proprietary SolidFused technology, which is used in our engineered flooring production. All our lumber is used in the substrate; wood chips left over in production are ground into sawdust, which in turn is used to generate heat for our drying kilns and to warm our plant.”
Best booth over 1,200 square feet
Armstrong came to Surfaces for the first time as an independent, stand-alone company under the Armstrong Flooring banner. Aside from showcasing its latest product innovations, the judges cited the clean, well-designed space that was both engaging and airy. Two demo areas, with screens televising the action, showcased industry-leading performance and installation solutions. Amstrong also was focusing on providing tools and programs for retailers to create consumer demand, including new merchandising solutions.
“In our first Surfaces as an independent company, our booth was both a productive selling space and bold celebration of our continued commitment to innovation,” said Ebeth Pitman, director, brand marketing, Armstrong Flooring. “The booth was buzzing with excitement around new and innovative products, including first-of-its-kind PRYZM waterproof luxury flooring, residential vinyl sheet with patent-pending Diamond 10 Technology and the latest beautiful, high-performance wood designs. As always, we are focused on building deeper connections with our distributor partners and in our commitment to serving aligned specialty flooring retailers with our high impact Elevate program.”
Best booth under 1,200 square feet
Rick Gray, sales manager for Goton Tile, said the company’s objective for this year’s booth at Surfaces “was to create a good flow pattern that would allow customers to view our new products, even with several customers in the booth at the same time.”
Judging by the booth traffic during the three-day event, Gray can safely say it was mission accomplished. “We were honored to be chosen for best booth design. Surfaces is a great venue to gauge what will be the hot sellers for the upcoming year. In particular, we received great feedback on our Coastwood and Saddlewood introductions.”
NCC owns and operates a state-of-the-art porcelain tile production facility in Foshan, China, which produces upwards of 100,000 square feet of product per day, the company said. Goton Tiles is NCC’s distribution arm in the U.S., based in Fullerton, Calif.
More than 120 companies entered a product or booth in the Best of Surfaces competition, easily surpassing the prior record set two years ago.