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Wood: U.S. ‘domestic exotics’ broaden their appeal

September 11/18, 2017: Volume 32, Issue 7

By Reginald Tucker

 

Screen Shot 2017-09-15 at 3.46.08 PMAs demand for certain “tropical exotic” hardwood floors softens in the U.S., the popularity of several domestic exotic species has been steadily rising, industry observers say. While there continues to be niche market opportunities for tropical species such as Brazilian cherry, Santos mahogany and the like, more American consumers are leaning toward homegrown species such as birch, hickory and walnut, manufacturers say.

One of the primary drivers behind the market shift, which began in earnest about 10-12 years ago, is a change in preference of wood plank formats and construction. Many tropical exotics—known for their density and durability—perform well and look great. However, trends in the U.S. have leaned toward more textured, rustic and casual looks whereas many exotics convey a more formal, smooth appearance, experts say. Today tropical imported exotics tend to perform well in niche, regional markets as opposed to national, wide-scale acceptance.

Observers say the rapid rise in popularity of wider, longer planks also contributed to increased consumption of domestic exotic species. As manufacturers tell it, many of these popular looks such as birch, hickory and walnut lend themselves to extra long planks and wider boards. The reason being: wider, longer boards naturally show much more of the variation and character inherent in a lot of these domestic exotic species. Combine that with the incorporation of various surface texture techniques such as hand scraping, wire brushing and cerusing, and you have a winning recipe.

“Consumer preference continues to move toward wider and longer on the engineered side,” said Dan Natkin, vice president, hardwood and laminates, Mannington. “Demand for these types of products has really driven some changes, both in terms of investment in the U.S. as well as products sold in the market.”

Following are some of the U.S. domestic exotic products trending today.

American OEM
In keeping with its “Made-in-the-USA” mantra, American OEM offers popular domestic species, including hickory—both rotary peeled and sliced face—and walnut. The company sources classic hardwood from sustainably managed forests across North America. It then creates flooring products designed to showcase the rich natural colors, textures and features of each species. “When consumers buy our American-made hardwood, they can be sure they are buying the best flooring possible at a value unmatched in the industry,” said Allie Finkell, executive vice president.

Armstrong
Armstrong adds engineered hickory to its Prime Harvest and American Scrape collections. Featuring a range of colors, Prime Harvest easily coordinates with furniture, wall colors and other décor elements.

Conversely, American Scrape’s rustic texture complements hickory’s distinctive graining and knots. Additional Armstrong hardwood offerings—including Rustic Restorations and Woodland Relics—feature hickory and/or walnut and birch.

Johnson Hardwood
Popular species like birch and hickory populate the Frontier and Pacific Coast collections from Johnson Hardwood. Frontier’s offering consists of four colors in birch (Homestead, Tomahawk, Dakota and Bison), while Pacific Coast features eight colors covering a wide spectrum. Both are available in 5-inch-wide planks.

Mannington
Hickory and walnut species permeate several popular collections from Mannington, including the namesake American hickory, Blue Ridge hickory, American walnut and smokehouse hickory lines. Hickory, the hardest American wood, is known for its rich character and distinct graining. Versatile and adaptable, this floor is an ideal upgrade or addition to any room. Meanwhile, walnut—a species found in exclusive furniture lines—is among the most cherished of all American hardwoods.

Mercier
Mercier’s Element series—part of the Elegancia collection—has been expanded to include American walnut. The addition supplements existing domestic exotic species such as hickory and yellow birch. By design, the species highlights the wood’s natural, random character. The product’s black and blonde nuances create highly versatile floors designed to blend with virtually any style.

Mohawk
Weathered Vision, one of several newly launched products from Mohawk, aims to capture classic Americana and the rustic beauty of old structures such as barns. The collection, which features deep, sandblasted texture and heavy wire-brushed planks, characterize this homage to countryside living. Weathered Vision is available in popular long, wide planks (as broad as 7 inches in random lengths up to 6 feet) to satisfy consumer demands.

Mullican Flooring
Several collections in Mullican Flooring’s offering of trendy products have been expanded to include hickory, birch or walnut. For instance, the Merion and Devonshire and collections—both 3⁄8-inch-thick engineered products—feature hickory, while Castle Ridge, also 3⁄8-inches thick, is available in birch and sports a hand-sculpted surface texture. The Nature collection, a 3⁄4-inch-thick hickory product, has a lightly wire-brushed surface texture.

Shaw Floors
The Epic Plus collection of long 9¼ x 82½-inch-wide hardwood floors from Shaw Floors is stacked with domestic exotic species. Landmark walnut features two colors, while Landmark hickory offers a trio of captivating colors that add a multi-dimensional, time-worn feel. By comparison, Landmark hickory scraped includes a pair of colors complemented by soft, subtle texturing and hand staining. Lastly, Fremont hickory features scraped texturing that accentuates and highlights the wood’s natural grain, knots and rustic character. Six colors are available.

Wickham Hardwood
Mountain Home collection from Wickham offers an authentic distressed look due to hand-scraping techniques by the artisans in the tradition of Renaissance-era woodworking. New planks are hand sculpted, one at a time, to create unique custom flooring of timeless originality and distinction. No two planks are alike. Species available include birch, cherry and walnut.

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Wood: Category finds a new home—on the walls

Vertical applications coordinate, contrast with floors 

May 8/15, 2017: Volume 31, Issue 24

By Reginald Tucker

 

Screen Shot 2017-05-15 at 2.38.08 PMUsing flooring materials on the walls is by no means a new concept. Tile manufacturers have been doing it for years, and laminate flooring suppliers have also recently started to get in on the act. Now hardwood flooring producers are having success by finding multiple uses for their products by dressing vertical surfaces to either complement a particular commercial or residential interior, or to better coordinate with a given hardwood flooring collection or pattern.

“Wood on the walls is a trend that will continue and grow as it is a way to get color and texture on the walls while maintaining a monochromatic look,” said David Holt, senior vice president, Mohawk. “Also, it is much easier to change wood and laminate walls than ceramic walls.”

But the best part about using existing hardwood planks or strips on the walls is you don’t have to necessarily redesign the product. “All of our hardwood collections are perfect for vertical applications,” Holt explained.

In that same vein, engineered wood floors from Shaw are also approved for wall installations. “Coveted wood visuals offer a rustic, natural charm in these non-traditional applications,” said Natalie Cady, hardwood category manager.

Other major manufacturers are encouraging retailers and designers to utilize hardwood flooring in unconventional ways. At USFloors, for instance, the company’s popular Castle Combe line of handcrafted floors is suitable for both horizontal and vertical installations. The natural oil finishes provide the look and feel of an ancient reclaimed floor and combines it with the modern performance features of a 21st century engineered floor. According to Jamann Stepp, director of marketing and product management, the wide portfolio of products allows customers to make a bold design statement when installed on vertical surfaces. “This allows the designer or homeowner to make a personal statement or add a customized element to the home.”

The operative word here being “custom” when it comes to wall installations. So says Ron Sadri, principal owner of Provenza Floors, which specializes in unique, one-of-a-kind hardwood floors in colors, patterns and designs that can’t be easily shopped. The company, he said, extends that design capability to that area of its business that produces wall coverings.

Customers looking to coordinate their hardwood flooring installations with accents walls have no shortage of options. The Cabin Pine series from Mercier, for example, matches well with the company’s long-plank, rough-textured boards. “Whether the consumer is looking to add to the rustic charm of her home, or simply give a bit of pop to an otherwise bland space, she will find the perfect look and feel in one of the six featured colors that will harmonize beautifully with the rest of the decor,” said Michel Colin, director of marketing. “You can’t ignore the lightness of pine boards when looking for a quick and easy install, as they can simply be glued to the wall.”

Screen Shot 2017-05-15 at 2.38.01 PMBelieving this is a trend that’s going to have legs, several manufacturers that have developed specific programs and collections for wall applications are putting significant marketing, promotional and product development resources behind those collections. Case in point is DuChâteau, which presents an exclusive line of wall coverings and doors by architect, builder and entrepreneur Joe Langenauer, who has been creating artistic interior wall coverings and doors since DuChâteau’s inception. The combination of the designer’s vision, style and experience with DuChâteau’s innovative finishing techniques paved the way for the official launch of DuChâteau wall coverings and doors divisions in 2013. According to Jose Alonso, creative director, each product Langenauer designs is infused with his cosmopolitan Mexican roots and heavily influenced by modern European trends. “His door designs are all created within the precepts of modern design, contemporary architectural lines, combining woods, leathers, fabrics, metals and other materials usually found in European luxury sports cars.”

Coming from an architectural background, Langenauer notes, “You learn to understand and appreciate the power of a proud line or the delicate nature of a well-planned curve.”

DuChâteau is not the only company putting a major thrust behind its wood-for-walls program. Via the launch of its Rowlock Plus wall coverings line in 2016, Johnson Hardwood Floors is looking to leverage the still-strong consumer demand for hardwood in general. Rowlock Plus wood wall panels are constructed from all natural wood materials. Each undressed wood piece is sanded and stained by hand to preserve the native design and characteristics of the wood species. Species include acacia, hickory, oak and walnut; a plantation pine backer layer provides additional durability.

Screen Shot 2017-05-15 at 2.38.18 PM“Johnson Hardwood’s Rowlock Plus is the newest transformation from its predecessor, Rowlock,” said Silver Pae, director of marketing. “Maintaining the elegance of all natural wood, we’ve also created a variety of styles to suit the tastes of our ever-changing generations. From vintage to modern and even eclectic, Rowlock Plus provides a diverse approach for those who want to have a unique design to their home while bringing out their own personal vision.”

While installers are already familiar with common methods of installing wood flooring, manufacturers provide in-depth instructions to make sure the job goes smoothly. For instance, Johnson Hardwood provides specific instructions covering virtually every facet of the installation, from calculating materials, locating the wall studs and spreading the glue to installing the panels and end caps.

Johnson Hardwood’s Rowlock Plus line was a big draw at its Surfaces booth in 2016—the year in which the company earned an award in the “Best Booth over 1,200 square feet” category. The 3,500-square-foot booth was the brainchild of Yuying Chiu, a design consultant for the company. According to Bill Schollmeyer, CEO of Johnson Hardwood Floors, the objective was to achieve an easy flow that encouraged customers to browse through the different areas. “We focused on vignettes that highlighted our Rowlock product to show some creative settings, both residential and commercial,” Schollmeyer said. “We wanted to showcase a mix of current products that are strong sellers—like English pub and Alehouse—innovative new products like Rowlock, and concept products like many of the oil finish colors that we showcased.”

Cabin Pine wall accents from Mercier's Nature Collection.
Cabin Pine wall accents from Mercier’s Nature Collection.

 

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Floorco Distribution enters the WPC category, partners with Johnson Hardwood

distribution_logo_high_resBaltimore, Md.—Floorco Distribution, a division of Floorco LLC, has strengthened its product portfolio and partnered with Johnson Hardwood to distribute premium, waterproof engineered vinyl flooring featured in the Waterfront collection.

“WPC is the fastest growing floor covering category,” said Ron Conley, president of Floorco Distribution. “As we continue to grow and gain market share in the Mid-Atlantic, securing an innovative WPC flooring product assortment was our next strategic move to strengthen our position. Partnering with Johnson Hardwood, a trusted brand name in the industry, to exclusively distribute their high-quality Waterfront WPC with waterproof core broadens our next-day delivery product offering.”

2y_1067JH_Waterfront_headerFor their growing network, Floorco Distribution’s retail partners will now have access to Johnson Hardwood Waterfront WPC with next-day delivery service available. “The demand in our market for a competitively priced upgrade from traditional LVT flooring is huge,” Conley said. “Our customers have been eager for more options and are excited to now have Johnson Hardwood branded Waterfront WPC available at the right price with quick-turn service.”

Floorco Distribution is a subsidiary of a larger global company, Floorco LLC. They provide innovative merchandising, quality customer service and next-day delivery of premium floor covering products.

 

 

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Compliance: Manufacturers reinforce their commitment to health, safety, environment

October 24/31, 2016: Volume 31, Number 1

screen-shot-2016-10-31-at-4-26-51-pmWhen the CBS program “60 Minutes” ran its initial expose on Lumber Liquidators and problems associated with imported laminate flooring from China in 2015, ripples echoed through the marketplace. On one hand, consumers voiced their concerns about product safety, calling into question the credibility of a retail brand name they had come to know and trust. At the same time, specialty floor covering retailers doubled down their efforts to work more closely with suppliers and vendors to ensure the products they sourced and developed did not poise health risks to customers.

Manufacturers, for their part, responded immediately by providing chain-of-custody documentation as well as relevant environmental and operational certifications to demonstrate their compliance with regulatory statutes pertaining to the production of laminate as well as engineered hardwood flooring products. Many companies also saw the situation as an opportunity to promote the advantages of domestically made products.

While there was no similar “lightning rod” environmental issue dominating headlines in 2016, responsible suppliers are not resting on their laurels. Rather, many are taking the opportunity to reinforce the message that they are continuing to meet or surpass the guidelines and federal/local regulations governing the manufacturing of engineered floor coverings. Following are some examples of how suppliers are keeping it clean by meeting or exceeding environmental compliance standards.

American OEM
American OEM is proud to say its products are “American-made to American standards.” Why? Because it is the company’s belief that American manufacturers are held to a higher level of expectations—from consumers, the government, American competitors and trade associations. In fact, American OEM recently announced it is CARB 2 exempt due to the fact that it has consistently tested within compliance over time.

In addition, American OEM management sits on the boards of directors of the National Wood Flooring Association, the Hardwood Plywood and Veneer Association and the Hardwood Federation. American OEM actively engages with these associations to understand and follow best industry practices. It uses their labs for testing and manufactures according to their standards, ANSI/HPVA EF 2012. The company advocates alongside its peers for industry positions within the D.C. establishment. It was involved in the industry’s efforts to engage with CARB to develop a practical and enforceable formaldehyde standard. American OEM also supports industry engagement with the EPA to adopt a similar standard for the rest of the country, which it believes will be coming in the near future. The company believes a minimum level of compliance is a good thing for the industry because it instills trust that its products are safe as well as beautiful and durable.

Armstrong
Armstrong has been in business over 150 years and has always stood by its products, making and selling flooring with integrity. Each company is different and, like anything else, it would be wrong to assume all manufacturers, Chinese or domestic, behave the same way. The best way to demonstrate compliance is through testing. In the case of laminate, Armstrong sources product for both Armstrong and Bruce brands. They are made to company specifications, which require adherence to all environmental, health and safety regulations, including formaldehyde emissions, U.S. Federal government mandates and state regulations such as the California Air Resources Board (CARB 2). Armstrong’s suppliers have their products tested at independent certified labs and then regularly provide the test results.

Armstrong only accepts products that are certified to meet CARB requirements. In addition, on an annual basis the company randomly tests its products at the Hardwood Products Veneer Association (HPVA) lab in Virginia for Occupational Safety and Health Administration requirements. As always, Armstrong is committed to providing the best quality, safest products by taking the steps necessary, including meeting and even exceeding regulatory requirements.

Armstrong has supply agreements in place requiring suppliers to follow CARB regulations. In addition to those agreements, the company is committed to taking actions to make sure it sources compliant products, has certificates and labels product properly. To support these initiatives, Armstrong has sourcing managers on the ground in China and product stewardship personnel in Lancaster, Pa., who ensure product compliance and regularly monitor that testing and certifications are up to date.

Johnson Hardwood
screen-shot-2016-10-31-at-4-26-45-pmJohnson Hardwood only sources from responsibly harvested forests in the U.S., China, Brazil and Canada. Government regulations in all of these countries have become much more stringent over the last decade, and Johnson Hardwood supports their efforts to protect their forests. China’s Council for International Cooperation on Environment and Development regulates sustainable development through environmental policy and reform. There are Six National Key Forest Programs regulated by China’s State Council that include the promotion of economic development, natural resource management and environmental protection, taxation and regulation of timber markets as well as international trade and investment.

“Years ago, there were many doubts about products produced in China,” said Bill Schollmeyer, CEO of Johnson Hardwood. “As quality and design improved, those concerns were pretty minimal. There was an uptick in questions about formaldehyde when the Lumber Liquidators story broke [in 2015], but I feel the impact against the more legitimate, well-known companies like Johnson was pretty minimal. It’s probably a different story for smaller, unknown companies.”

Similarly tough standards are also enforced in other countries. For instance, to comply with global sustainability, Brazil adheres to forest certification as regulated by the Forest Stewardship Council. Meanwhile, Canada’s forest and lumber industry is regulated by the Canada Environmental Protection Agency. The United States, through the enactment of the Lacey Act, has helped other countries by preventing the importation of any hardwood product that is not legally harvested according to the rules of its country of origin. The Lacey Act requires end users of endangered wood to certify the legality of their supply chain all the way to the trees. If an importer knowingly imports tainted wood that has been illegally cut down for lumber, they may face enforcement by the Environmental Investigation Agency and the U.S. Department of Justice.

Lauzon
Long before it became fashionable, Lauzon made a commitment to building a business around environmental and social responsibility. Lauzon set out to rigorously adhere to forestry stewardship best practices and hold itself to the highest environmental standards. As stewards of nearly 2 million acres of forest, Lauzon carefully plans and executes all of its harvests and works tirelessly to do things right, from forest to floor.

Whether Canadian or imported, Lauzon chooses only wood sourced from sustainably managed forests. Lauzon’s portfolio even includes a selection of FSC-certified products such as its Canadian hard maple, which boasts one of the shortest carbon trails in the industry. Lauzon is also ISO 14001 certified for environmental management practices and Rainforest Alliance Certified, which guarantees the product purchased has been grown and harvested according to environmentally and socially responsible practices. In addition, the company’s state-of-the-art sawmill allows it to precisely calibrate production for high yield use of every block of wood.

To minimize the environmental footprint, Lauzon implemented a zero waste policy.

All of Lauzon’s hardwood floors are manufactured without solvents, VOCs or formaldehyde, are fully compliant with CARB 2 and meet the strictest standards for toxic emissions. Lauzon flooring has been tested according to ASTM E1333-02 standards for formaldehyde emission, and the results indicate an emission level so low it is barely within the detection limit of 0.003 ppm.

Mannington
All applicable Mannington flooring products comply with the California Air Resource Board’s (CARB) Airborne Toxic Control Measure (ATCM) 93120 Title 17, California Code of Regulations, and meet or exceed CARB 2 standards. The vast majority of Mannington flooring is also FloorScore IAQ certified, which means the products are independently certified by Scientific Certification Systems to comply with the emissions criteria of the California Section 01350 program. Both CARB and FloorScore test for formaldehyde. Any product that has met these stringent standards is considered a low-VOC product that will contribute to good indoor air quality.

Looking at individual product categories, Mannington laminate flooring is 100% made in the U.S. at its manufacturing facilities in North Carolina. The products are certified to a standard set by the North American Laminate Flooring Association (NALFA) called the NALFA LF-01 standard. In the hardwood category, more than 80% of Mannington’s engineered hardwood products are made in the U.S. at its manufacturing facilities in Alabama and North Carolina. All domestically produced Mannington hardwood products are FloorScore IAQ certified while all imported hardwood flooring products have been tested and comply with CARB 2. In resilient, Mannington sheet, Adura and porcelain do not contain formaldehyde. Furthermore, all three product categories have been certified to the FloorScore IAQ standard.

Mannington has a long-standing commitment to quality and safety. All of its products have passed third-party environmental testing and meet or exceed the highest standards in the industry.

screen-shot-2016-10-31-at-4-27-13-pmMercier
Mercier Generations products are Greenguard Gold Certified—the highest environmental certification on the market—and are made using 100% pure soybean oil. Mercier Generations flooring passes stringent environmental tests at every step in the finishing, dying and varnishing process in order to meet that standard. The Greenguard Gold Certification requirements comply with California’s Department of Public Health Services Standard Practice for Specification Section 01350 (California Section 01350) for testing chemical emissions from building products used in schools and other environments. Formerly known as Greenguard Children & Schools Certification, the standard offers a strict certification criteria, considers safety factors to account for sensitive individuals and ensures a product is acceptable for use in environments such as schools and health care facilities.

Beyond that, every adhesive used in Mercier’s engineered products are free of urea-formaldehyde and hardwood plywood used in Mercier’s engineered products are CARB 2 compliant. In addition, laboratory tests reveal that Mercier Generations finish does not have any formaldehyde emissions and performs beyond the LEED norm and the environmental certification choice program regarding VOCs.

Mirage
Since 1983, Boa-Franc, the makers of Mirage hardwood floors, has advocated a management policy based on five fundamental values: passion, innovation, integrity, commitment and respect. At Mirage, everything is done with one eye on sustainable development because the company firmly believes there is no better way to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Its corporate values and strategies were geared toward sustainable development from the very beginning.

Some examples of this stewardship in sustainability measures include the procurement from vendors who practice responsible forestry methods according to the Lacey Act. In complying with this law, Mirage makes international environmental protection a priority as part of its approach to sustainable development. The Mirage brand guarantees customers peace of mind by providing them with hardwood floors made from natural resources that are soundly managed and legally harvested.

Furthermore, all Mirage products are manufactured in North American facilities, which enables complete control in all facets of production, including meeting implemented ISO-9001 standards. Mirage products are also FSC certified, meaning the raw materials used in the manufacturing process have been inspected and legally harvested in non-genetically modified forests where traditional and civil rights are respected.

Mohawk
screen-shot-2016-10-31-at-4-30-53-pm
Mohawk’s commitment remains to responsibly manufacture and provide the highest quality engineered hardwood and laminate floors that meet strict U.S. guidelines. Products across the Mohawk Hard Surface, Quick-Step, Columbia, Century and Pergo portfolios have earned the following health and sustainability certifications: CARB Phase 2, NALFA and FloorScore. In addition, all of Mohawk’s hardwood flooring is Lacey Act compliant, ensuring the timber used is responsibly harvested from sustainable forests, and Appalachian Hardwood Manufacturers (AHMI) has verified data from the U.S. Forest Service that Appalachian Hardwood Territory timber—which Mohawk uses in select hardwood flooring lines—is sustainably certified.

At Mohawk, it is a priority to make certain the products retailers receive surpass the most rigorous testing. Mohawk, Quick-Step’s Q-Wood, Pergo, Columbia and Century domestically produce engineered hardwoods utilizing technologies such as PureBond, an innovation that replaces formaldehyde adhesives traditionally used in the manufacture of engineered wood products and eliminates formaldehyde emissions associated with UF adhesives. Also, Quick-Step, Pergo, Columbia and Mohawk’s patented glueless Uniclic Technology provides fast, easy installation of laminate planks without adversely impacting indoor air quality.

Shaw
Shaw Floors has a long-standing commitment to sustainability, and it carefully considers the impact of its products throughout their lifecycle on the environment and on society. Shaw examines the ingredient materials, the impact of its supply chain, the use of natural resources, and the ability to recover and recycle its products. The company manufactures many of its own products and sources from strategic partners in the U.S. and internationally to offer a broad portfolio of products to meet diverse customer preferences. In doing so, the company sets high standards for itself and its suppliers. Shaw takes numerous steps to verify that its products—regardless of where they are manufactured or who makes them—meet customers’ high expectations. These steps include: performing manufacturing site inspections to ensure suppliers meet the same high-quality standards Shaw observes; setting raw material specifications that restrict the use of certain chemical substances of concern; and ensuring all products meet the indoor air emissions requirements of California Department of Public Health (CDPH) Standard Method V1.1 (2010).

screen-shot-2016-10-31-at-4-31-00-pmShaw laminate and engineered hardwood products are third party tested and meet or exceed CARB 2 requirements. These include CARB 2 and GREENGUARD Certification, which gives assurance that products designed for use in indoor spaces meet strict chemical emissions limits, including formaldehyde. All of Shaw’s hardwood and laminate products—regardless of where they are manufactured—are independently verified by Underwriter’s Laboratories as part of its voluntary participation in the GREENGUARD program. In addition, Shaw also has its products assessed for material health and other sustainability attributes under the voluntary Cradle to Cradle Certified Products Program. Shaw’s laminate products are in the process of undergoing C2C certification assessment. Lastly, Shaw maintains compliance with Lacey Act, which stipulates that wood must be legally sourced, harvested and delivered.

Wickham
Wickham Hardwood Flooring puts a strong emphasis on the issue of compliance.

Located just outside of Drummondville in Wickham, Quebec, the company has always been committed to looking out for the environment and its customers’ well being and peace of mind since its inception in 1989. That peace of mind comes from working with some of North America’s most reputable lumber suppliers over the past 25 years—companies that stand behind their products and have gained a level of trust that is so important in today’s marketplace. Many of Wickham’s lumber suppliers are FSC certified and practice the highest standards of sustainable forestry.

Wickham flooring is produced entirely in North America, where forest management and timber production are subject to the strictest environmental laws and regulations in the world.

Customers can rest assured knowing not only where Wickham obtained its flooring, but that the company was able to keep track of each and every load. In addition, Wickham Hardwood Flooring has continued to stay on the forefront of the newest and safest finishes the industry has to offer. The company has chosen two prominent companies to partner with on its oil finishes—Akzo Nobel and Woca. Akzo and Woca are widely known as innovators and manufacturers of the best finishes. The Woca UV oil finish, for example, features plant-based oils and zero VOCs, while the Akzo Nobel UV finish Wickham uses on all its smooth floors boast the lowest VOCs.

 

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Johnson Hardwood opens new manufacturing plant in Vietnam

October 10/17, 2016: Volume 31, Number 9

By Reginald Tucker

screen-shot-2016-10-17-at-10-08-34-amJohnson Hardwood Floors announced the start-up of its new 80,000-square-foot, multi-million dollar plant in Saigon, Vietnam. Approximately 175 people—including government officials and a mix of distributors and dealers—were on hand for the plant tour.

“The plant was built brand new from the ground up, with state-of-the-art manufacturing and finish line equipment,” said Bill Schollmeyer, CEO of Johnson Hardwood Floors. “The ultra-modern facility includes production lines for core assembly, milling/profiling, hand scraping, traditional and alternative finishes and automated climate control technology.”

One of the standout features of the new hardwood flooring plant is a finishing line spanning 150 meters. Here, specialized workers can—depending on the product line in production—manually apply different stains and finishes on the planks. According to Johnson Hardwood, the daily target production capacity is 300,000 square feet—up from an initial 60,000 square feet. More importantly, the new facility is 100% CARB-2 certified, Lacey Act compliant and utilizes only responsibly harvested species.

“I’ve seen a lot of wood floors in my lifetime; this is about as modern a plant as you can get,” said Marty Ackerman, sales manager for Michael Halebian, a Johnson Hardwood Floors distributor who was on hand for the tour. “One of the things they had in the plant that was really interesting was a dedicated section where the workers actually hand-rub the stain into the planks. They make sure the stains cover the sides and the bevels. It’s pretty cool to watch the way they operate.”

Sean O’Rourke, vice president of hard surfaces at Avalon Flooring, which operates retail locations in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware, was similarly impressed. “Even though there’s a lot of modern equipment in the plant, they are still doing some surface texturing manually. With some manufacturers you can’t always tell if the products are partially scraped by machines or entirely done by hand. But the Pub Series from Johnson Hardwood is completely hand scraped; you would not believe the amount of work it takes to scrape one board. If homeowners and end users saw what went into hand scraping a product I think they wouldn’t balk at the price so much.”

Johnson Hardwood’s core dealer and distributor partners weren’t the only people tagging along for the plant tour. The group also included what Schollmeyer described as a “large contingent” of lumber suppliers. Given the potential estimated capacity of the new plant, private-label arrangements are not out of the question. “With an operation of this size, we plan to make products for other manufacturers who can benefit from our efficiencies,” Schollmeyer explained.

Workers at the plant handle some tasks manually, including staining and hand scraping.
Workers at the plant handle some tasks manually, including staining and hand scraping.

The new plant is also paving the way for enhancements and updates over the course of the coming weeks and months and even longer term. Johnson Hardwood is preparing to break ground on a plywood production facility adjacent to the flooring mill. A larger-scale production shift is also expected further down the road as a result of the new facility coming online.

“With the exception of our ¾-inch solid products, we will eventually transition all production [from China] to our new facility,” Schollmeyer told FCNews.

Well-rounded program

While the new factory was the focal point of the trip, it wasn’t the only purpose. Given the captive audience, Johnson Hardwood used the event as an opportunity to obtain feedback on some “potential” new products. It also gave dealers and distributors the chance to talk shop.

The new plant features am advanced, automated finishing line.
The new plant features am advanced, automated finishing line.

For dealers like Avalon Flooring, which has been carrying the manufacturer’s products for about nine years running, the exchange of information was invaluable. “The trip gave us an opportunity to speak with several Johnson Hardwood distributors and direct dealers to find out what’s going on in other parts of the country,” O’Rourke said.

The weeklong event also included a visit to Taipei, Taiwan, where attendees toured Ho Chi Minh City and took part in a dinner cruise on the Mekong River. “Saigon is starting to look like other major cities throughout the world with all the high-end shops, upscale hotels and banks,” O’Rourke observed. “Although it’s a Communist country, it’s good to see Vietnam is on the move.”

 

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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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Recession decisions help Johnson Hardwood to survive, prosper

January 19/26, 2015; Volume 28/Number 15

By K.J. Quinn

Screen Shot 2015-01-19 at 4.11.15 PMIt has been said some of the greatest regrets for industry leaders are risks they didn’t take. Such is not the case with Johnson Hardwood, a company which faced a crossroads during the recession, and made difficult decisions which enabled it to prosper while positioning the supplier for future growth.

“Going back six to seven years ago, we heavily relied on distributor sales, and a small portion of our business was selling to dealers direct,” recalled Bill Schollmeyer, CEO. “When the economy changed and things slowed down, we realized we had to redesign ourselves a little bit.”

Johnson, a producer of premium hardwood flooring, distributes its products to the U.S. and Canada. Prior to the onset of the recession in the fall of 2009, Johnson sold almost exclusively through distributors and saw no reason to change. But when Hoboken, its top Texas distributor, closed its offices, Johnson made the decision to sell direct to the Texas and Louisiana areas.

The move turned out to be the precursor for a shift in its distribution philosophy, as the company later expanded direct-to-dealer efforts in its home state of California, as well as western Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana and parts of Kentucky.

“Johnson always had the ability to stay flexible and be decisive because of our size and lean corporate structure,” Schollmeyer told FCNews at the time. “I plan to capitalize on these core strengths to develop the best method of distribution for each market in which we compete.”

In 2010, Schollmeyer was promoted from vice president of sales to his current role, responsible for overseeing the company’s U.S. operations.

While Johnson was undergoing its distribution changes, the recession began to take hold, significantly impacting the flooring distribution business as a whole. Some wholesalers struggled to keep their heads above water as the builder and residential remodel markets plummeted, while others went out of business.

“When the economy changed, distributors were pulling back inventory,” Schollmeyer recalled. “Sample and display costs affected our business tremendously. We probably were too heavily reliant on distributors, so we made the switch.”

Johnson moved forward with its plan to sell direct to dealers in most geographical regions as the company sought to gain more control of its distribution and create a more balanced sales mix. “That was a tough thing to do,” Schollmeyer said. “We kept certain distributors who were good and replaced others who didn’t fit our needs as well as a direct sales force.”

Johnson did not totally abandon selling products through wholesale distribution. Tri-State, Derr, Mastercraft, Interstate and New England Floor Supply are among the distributors still carrying the Johnson line. This channel represents approximately 50% of Johnson’s sales.

“Johnson has been a very good partner with Derr,” said Rick Holden, Derr’s COO. “The products are well made and have visuals that consumers desire and offer good value. The company has continued to add new items to meet color and design trends.”

Screen Shot 2015-01-19 at 4.11.08 PMInvestment in the future

Johnson sought to stay aggressive to grow the business during a time when sales and profits were down and most companies were cutting back. The company invested in the logistical services and manpower necessary to support its customer base.

“The hardest part was executing in terms of production, inventory and merchandising,” Schollmeyer said. “We added marketing staff and we hired a sales force consisting of 16 field sales reps.” Johnson recently opened an East Coast warehouse and maintains company-operated distribution centers in California, Texas and Pennsylvania.

As if surviving the rough economic climate wasn’t difficult enough, Johnson faced additional challenges in delivering distinctive, high quality products while providing strong sales support—a balancing act not every direct-to-dealer supplier is able to pull off successfully.

“We made investments in more inventory, and in our marketing and merchandising operations,” Schollmeyer noted. “We assumed more credit liability on the dealer side. It was a tough but necessary decision which worked out well, for the most part, as we have very good customers.”

Indeed, Schollmeyer cites Johnson’s long-standing relationships with its retail partners as being integral to its success. “Dealer penetration means more display placements and promotions built upon what we already have. We’re not looking for additional distributors other than private label sourcing, which we do in several areas right now.”

The working relationship dealers maintain with Johnson is one built on communication and trust. “I have been doing business with Johnson for around six to seven years and have had the same sales representative the entire time,” noted Sean O’Rourke, vice president of sales for hard surfaces, Avalon Flooring, Cherry Hill, N.J. “It enables Avalon to get better service and, in turn, Johnson products are well established on the showroom floor with salespeople.”

One relationship that quickly evolved the past few years is Johnson’s partnership with Carpet One, the retail selling group operated by CCA Global Partners. During this time, the number of Carpet One stores serviced by Johnson expanded from a regional to national basis.

“We started slowly and it developed into what they call a ‘core vendor’ relationship, where we are now involved with Carpet One dealers everywhere in the country,” Schollmeyer explained. “The business has grown tremendously in both sales as well as the relationships with some of the best dealers out there.” In certain markets, Carpet One dealers have access to private label merchandise from Johnson, in addition to the 100-plus SKUs available to the company’s dealer network.

Product development

With its attention focused primarily on servicing floor covering dealers, Johnson works to supply them with on-trend, unique products by sourcing durable hardwood species from around the world. “Johnson has really changed from being an exotic hardwood supplier to an all-around hardwood supplier/importer,” O’Rourke noted.

According to Schollmeyer, the company set out to be a market leader that adheres to product quality and service. “Our strategic objectives are to continuously stay ahead of the curve with unique product designs. Innovation, design and styling are the key things, plus deeper penetration in the markets we’re already in, whether it is dealer direct or through distributors.”

In 2010, Johnson undertook a study to determine what consumers and designers were looking for. It found consumers wanted to make bold statements with continuous pieces of hardwood that enabled spaces to look longer, wider and provide a less distracting flooring pattern. Johnson’s product development team utilized its creativity to create flooring products that met this need, one of which included the Tuscan Series, an engineered hand-scraped product.

“The ¾-inch solid Renaissance hand-scraped product and the Tuscan engineered, random-width, hand-scraped offering are our best sellers,” Derr’s Holden said. “They [offer] excellent visuals for our market and at acquisition costs that allow everyone to make a reasonable margin.”

Among Johnson’s top sellers are its signature ForeverTuff line and higher fashion, hand-textured products. “The ForeverTuff product lines have been excellent, as they are truly commercial quality with the styling and taste to go residential as well,” said Harvey Johnson, owner of Mastercraft Flooring Distributors in Miami.

Whether exotic or domestic, Johnson travels the globe in search of unique grain patterns, durable woods and responsibly harvested trees. Each flooring plank is precision milled, hand crafted and hand stained to produce an exceptional product.

At Surfaces Johnson plans to roll out two new wood lines —Ale House and Noble Castle —which it anticipates will have a positive impact on business.

 

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Johnson Hardwood debuts bigger, bolder planks

Johnson Hardwood took a step back to study what consumers and designers are looking for and determined that bolder is better for new flooring trends; the company has added 7-foot long planks to their 2013 product line.

Consumers are looking to make bold statements with continuous pieces of hardwood that make spaces look longer, wider, and provide a less distracting flooring pattern. Johnson has reacted to this demand by creating the English Pub series that consists of 7-foot long by 7 ½-inch wide planks. Hand sculpted in the Johnson Hardwood product tradition, the concept is modern with a craftsman twist, taking the idea from reclaimed, naturally worn wood that has been refinished for modern day use. The English Pub series is available in a wide variety of rich colors and includes both maple and hickory wood species. Continue reading Johnson Hardwood debuts bigger, bolder planks

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Recycling effort a success at Surfaces|StonExpo/Marmomacc Americas

Volunteers from Las Vegas Habitat for Humanity stack vinyl flooring donated by a Surfaces exhibitor.

Dallas — Being “green” has become the new way of exhibiting at Surfaces| StonExpo/Marmomacc Americas (S2). For the second year, S2 partnered with Mountain Re-Source Center and Tile Partners for Humanity on a recycling initiative focused on post-show product donations at the close of the three-day event, held Jan. 29 to 31 in Las Vegas at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center.

Mountain Re-Source Center solicited all S2 exhibitors prior to and during the show. The participating exhibitors were very generous, offering thousands of square feet of material which filled seven 53-foot semi-trailers to capacity, more than doubling the donations from last year’s inaugural initiative. Continue reading Recycling effort a success at Surfaces|StonExpo/Marmomacc Americas

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Specialty vendor, Stainmaster roll buy in spotlight

Las Vegas—When the National Floorcovering Alliance (NFA) meets here each year on the morning prior to Surfaces, one of the primary goals is to expose its members to vendors not present at the group’s two major gatherings in the spring and fall. Referred to as tier 2 suppliers, members have the opportunity to spend three hours with “specialty vendors” in a table-top trade show format, allowing them to fill in gaps and/or further differentiate their product lineup from their competition. Continue reading Specialty vendor, Stainmaster roll buy in spotlight