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Portanova joins KronotexUSA as president, CEO

Zeb Portanova headshotBarnwell, S.C.—KronotexUSA, a leading manufacturer of laminate flooring products, has appointed Zeb Portanova as president and CEO, effective February 1. KronotexUSA is a subsidiary of the Swiss Krono Group headquartered in Lucerne, Switzerland and operates a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility here.

“Zeb is a proven leader with deep operations, technology and business experience,” said Max Von Tippelskirch, member of the Swiss Krono Group management board. “He is well known for his collaborative style of leadership with partners, customers and employees. We are looking forward to the energy and creativity he will bring to the U.S. operation.”

Portanova succeeds Norman Voss, who has served as KronotexUSA interim CEO since March 2014. Voss will remain with the company as a member of the board of directors and will continue to be actively involved in future expansion, investment and raw material sourcing activities for KronotexUSA.

“I am very pleased that Mr. Voss will remain in an active role on the board and I look forward to having his experience and guidance as we move forward,” Portanova said.

Prior to joining Kronotex USA, Portanova held a variety of leadership positions at Eli Lilly and other nonprofit and for-profit companies.

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KronotexUSA holds charity golf event in memory of employee

Screen Shot 2015-06-09 at 9.29.45 AMBarnwell, S.C.—KronotexUSA, one of the leading U.S. laminate manufacturers, dedicated its employee golf tournament to honor a recently deceased employee. The Dean Scarbeary Memorial Golf Tournament for Charity is scheduled for June 27 and has already raised more than $7,500.

Scarbeary, receiving lead at KronotexUSA’s laminate flooring plant here, was one of the organizers of the annual employee golf tournament and worked at the plant for nine years.

The funds raised will be donated to the Barnwell County First Responders who tried to save Scarbeary during the house fire that claimed his life. “Our company has put down deep roots in Barnwell since building our 575,000-square-foot facility here in 2005,” said Jeff Martin, human resources manager for KronotexUSA. “We see this as just another way to thank those in our community who tried to help one of our own.”

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Brisk fall for new product introductions

Volume 28/Number 6; September 1/8, 2014

By Ken Ryan

Screen Shot 2014-09-11 at 9.36.31 AMSurfaces remains the preeminent launch pad for new flooring products, but the fall selling season for 2014 is proving to be fairly brisk as well with several manufacturers introducing new offerings for distributors and the specialty retail channel.

For example, Armstrong is beefing up its signature laminate and hardwood flooring lines. The company is adding to its Architectural Remnants laminate collection with Global Reclaim, 18 unique planks blending reclaimed exotic wood looks—apple wood, eucalyptus and maple—with dusty blush tones.

Within its Rustics Premium collection, Armstrong is introducing Forestry Mix, “a harmonious blend” of hickory, white oak and red oak, along with three colors, all with 24 planks displaying the varied stain characteristics of each species. To round out the new laminate offerings, Millwork Block features 18 planks that resemble premium oak strips, assembled into planks, glazed with stain and enhanced by an undulating surface treatment.

In addition, Armstrong is adding walnut and cherry to its popular American Scrape hardwood collection. The new floors have a lighter, more refined scrape with rich colors and wide planks resembling a vintage hand-scraped floor. The new walnut and cherry floors—available in 6-inch wide planks—include a light scraping style combining hand-crafted and timeworn textures.

Congoleum

Timeless from Congoleum is a new luxury vinyl plank and tile line scheduled to launch in October. Inspired by nature, Timeless recreates the finest intricate graining and textures with more than 100 wood and stone options that range from refined to rustic. The line features 45 Degree, a diagonal plank design that allows for a full diagonal floor or a unique herringbone or chevron. The Impressions collection from Timeless combines classic wood visuals with a natural leaf pattern overlay. These designs can be used alone or in combination with the Hickory pattern for a customized look.

DuChateau

Two new fall introductions are Olde Grey from the Riverstone collection and Weathered Black from Vinyl Deluxe Click. Olde Grey is an evolution of hand-sculpted hardwood flooring that blends in with both old and new interiors. Hand distressing and raised knots give Riverstone “a raw and organic contour that feels rustic yet modern,” the company said.

Olde Grey includes light and dark shades, hand sculpting around the wood knots, and wire brushing to create a finer texture.

Vinyl DeLuxe Click, DuChateau’s signature LVT featuring realistic texture, pattern and color, is intended to create the rich warmth of natural hardwood in a durable, low-maintenance alternative to its wood flooring collections.

FloorFolio

FloorFolio Industries is debuting a click flooring product for the first time. FloorFolio Click is marketed as a durable installation system featuring a snap-and-lock method with no need for an adhesive.

“Even though FloorFolio is late in the game to launch our click product, we felt we needed to be able to introduce a product that conformed to our core values of this company,” said Michael Freedman, president and CEO. “With FloorFolio Click, it certainly lives up to those expectations.”

FloorFolio Click is available in all wood and stone collections.

Horizon Floors

Horizon Floors is expanding its Montage European Oak series with the introduction of the Ferno collection, a distressed, handcrafted, lightly brushed hardwood floor with an eco-friendly natural oil finish. “Each plank enhances the inherent grain patterns of European oak and creates a classic look,” said Alex Shaoulpour, president.

Ferno will be sold through the company’s national distribution network.Screen Shot 2014-09-11 at 9.37.01 AM

Inhaus/Classen

Inhaus by Classen is taking the wraps off a high-tech flooring product called “Neo,” which is Latin for “new.” Neo is created with wood-based biological materials without PVC, is free of chemicals such as chlorine or phthalates and is highly water resistant.

The product combines natural wood and food-safe polypropylene to create a highly stable substrate. The new production technology enables successful manufacturing without the use of additives such as plasticizer or chlorine and has the added benefit of no additional chemicals to off-gas into the home or environment.

“We view Neo as having the good attributes of laminate,” said Derek Welbourn, CEO. “The product is very robust and scratch resistant. It installs like a laminate, snaps together like a laminate but is similar to floating LVT, and highly water resistant.”

IVC US

IVC US is looking to “breathe new life” into the laminate category with Balterio—36 products arranged in three different style categories, including Traditions, Heritage and Metropolitan, with 12 new SKUs in each line.

The products are available in 8mm and 12mm thickness and varying plank sizes. Balterio offers a high-density core for dimensional stability, and is wear and moisture resistant. With IVC US’ PressXpress click locking mechanism, which was developed in-house, Balterio’s installation can be completed up to 50% faster than that of other laminate products.

Karndean

Karndean is launching LooseLay Series 3 with six new SKUs. Jenne Ross, product manager, said the new release is due to “overwhelming demand.” The products launch in mid-October.

Karndean is also introducing a new line of design strips compatible with the company’s portfolio of glue down planks and tiles. “Our design strips create a customized look that coordinates with any interior finish,” Ross said. “Furthermore, they are made from LVT, which means there’s no need to worry about cracking, discoloration or harboring dirt.”

In conjunction with these new products, Karndean is offering a bi-fold presenter sales tool. Each bi-fold presenter includes a physical sample of the new strips to help retailers sell Karndean product.

Kronotex

The company is making a big splash with its new American Concepts laminate flooring. The 57-SKU collection encompasses 7mm square edge to 12mm embossed-in-register handscraped products with a four-sided bevel and attached pad.

American Concepts’ “best of the best” wood visuals are intended to give independent dealers a brand and collection that will resonate with customers, and appeal to those who want to buy Made in the USA products.

Metroflor

For fall 2014, Metroflor will introduce Engage Premier Plank. With a 4.0mm gauge and an 8 mil wear layer with ceramic bead, Premier rounds out the “good” level of the company’s good (Premier)/better (Engage Essentials)/best (Engage Select and Reserve) platform.

The nine Engage Premier SKUs consist of maple and weathered, distressed oak looks with a fashion-forward modern wash.

“The Engage spectrum comes full circle with the addition of Premier,” said Russ Rogg, Metroflor president and CEO. “Its residential good looks coupled with Engage LVT’s performance attributes— easy, fast installation and low maintenance—offer the perfect package for both residential and light commercial applications, especially multi-family units and private offices.”

Engage Premier Plank is warrantied for 12 years residential, three years light commercial.

Screen Shot 2014-09-11 at 9.37.33 AMMirage

Mirage has expanded its accessories portfolio with a new square-edged stair nosing line. The principal advantage of the new collection is its ability to adapt to contemporary designs without sacrificing the sturdiness and quality of Mirage moldings. The product is available on maple and red oak in 5- and 6 ½-inch widths with semigloss and Cashmere finishes in seven colors.

Mirage has also expanded its Imagine and Herringbone collections. The Papyrus, Linen and Rock Cliff lines in Imagine are now available in 3¼- and 4¼-inch widths on Old Maple with Cashmere finish. The company’s successful Herringbone Collection now includes a 5-inch width. Fourteen color options on different species within Herringbone are now available on special orders of at least 500 or 1,000 square feet, depending on the product.

Mohawk

The demand for commercial business continues to expand, particularly for modular carpet. To take full advantage of this opportunity, Mohawk’s Aladdin Commercial unit is launching six new products for specialty dealers.

Contemplate features seven solution-dyed nylon colorations that interweave to create visual depth and surface interaction.

Ruminate is an elongated, variegated loop pattern consisting of seven mottled multi-colorations.

Sweeping Gestures reflects the random, flowing weathering that occurrs in nature, while Onward Bound is based on urban architectures and landscapes.

Lastly, Commingle and Compound is composed of neutral colors mixed in with randomly chosen end-of-lot yarns diverted from Mohawk’s excess yarn lots.

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Made in the USA: Domestic messaging speaks volumes

Volume 27/Number 26; April 28/May 5, 2014

By Ken Ryan

Ten years ago, IVC Group was a Belgian-owned and based, privately held flooring manufacturer looking to break into the North American market. Today, IVC US appears as American as apple pie; the Dalton-based U.S. division has incorporated Made in the USA into all its merchandising, which has enabled the company to carry this story directly to the retailer and consumer.

“In the last three years we have been updating all our graphics, messaging and marketing collateral to include the Made in the USA icon, complete with American flag,” said Bart Rich, senior vice president of marketing. “The Made in the USA message speaks volumes.”

While IVC is a relative newbie to the U.S. market, the flooring industry includes such legacy companies as Armstrong, Mohawk and Mannington, which collectively have more than 300 years of U.S. manufacturing under their belts. Others, such as Shaw Industries and Anderson (now under Shaw), have been major producers for decades.

Flooring companies with deep roots in the U.S., as well as those relatively new to the market, are voicing their U.S. message in big ways and small, both internally and externally.

Some executives believe the deep pain caused by the Great Recession, coupled with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, have rallied Americans to get behind U.S.-made products and companies.

A study by Perception Research Services found that shoppers are motivated by Made in the USA claims on packaging, with most consumers saying that they are more likely to purchase a product after noticing a Made in the USA label on it. The research also ascertained that the primary reason shoppers are more likely to purchase Made in the USA products is to help the economy.

Some flooring executives said the industry must do a better job articulating that message. “Honestly, I don’t feel the flooring industry as a whole does a great job at promoting Made in the USA–and it’s a message that should be encouraged,” Rich said. “Consumers may have assumptions about where certain flooring products are made, but why leave them assuming? We as an industry need to take the assumptions out of the equation and tell the story of Made in America–because it’s important to a lot of consumers.”

David Duncan, senior vice president of marketing and sales operations at Mohawk, said the industry must be clear and transparent in clarifying what is actually meant by Made in the USA. “Made in America should mean the products are sourced, produced or assembled, and finished in the U.S.,” he said. “There should be no confusion in these facts. And at the local level, retailers and salespeople should take the time to familiarize themselves with Made in America products and promote these to their respective customers.”

Mohawk promotes Made in America on carpet, carpet tile, cushion, hardwood, laminate, ceramic and area rugs. For example, consumers choosing Mohawk carpet or hardwood floors can select “Made in USA” as one of many features of their floors; using “Made in the USA” as a search factor on MohawkFlooring.com allows shoppers to instantly see numerous floors that are produced domestically. These products are also labeled as American-made products.

Armstrong, which has been manufacturing flooring in the U.S. for more than 100 years, in 2013 introduced the American Scrape hardwood collection. Inspired by the rugged beauty of the American landscape, a portion of the sales from the American Scrape collection is dedicated to supporting Homes for Our Troops (HFOT), a national nonprofit, non-partisan organization that builds specially adapted homes for the nation’s severely injured veterans.

Mannington points to the fact that it makes flooring in nine communities across the U.S. The company says on its website that it is “deeply committed to the places where we work and to manufacturing quality, American-made products. When you order flooring from Mannington, you’re part of this mission.”

Kim Holm, president of Mannington Residential, told FCNews, “The Campbell family is very committed to Made in the USA. We enjoy a reputation as a Made in America, family-owned, 100-year-old company. We get some credit for that. We talk about it at every opportunity at the trade level.”

Several other companies are promoting their American heritage, too, whether in advertising collateral, website or social media. Founded in 1946 as Standard Plywoods, Anderson Hardwood has been manufacturing hardwood flooring in the U.S. for more than 60 years. As the family business grew, with successive generations of Andersons coming on board to run the company, it stayed committed to Made in USA manufacturing.

Since 1967, Shaw Industries (Anderson’s parent company) has offered Made in the USA products, and the company continues the tradition today with the majority of its floor covering being American-made.

Kronotex, which is not rooted in the U.S., has nonetheless jumped on the bandwagon. “We’re not just newcomers to Made in America,” a company blog said. “We were staking out property and planning our first U.S. laminate flooring production lines long before it was ‘cool’ to do so.”

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State of the industry: Laminate holds its own at the sweet spot

Screen Shot 2014-03-10 at 10.31.19 AM

Volume 27/Number 21; March 3/10, 2014

By Jenna Lippin

The expression “no news is good news” proves to be true when considering the laminate flooring market in 2013. The consensus among industry executives suggests the category posted low single-digit increases in both dollars and square footage, contradicting the sentiment on the part of some that laminate is about to be placed on the endangered product list.

Thanks to improvement in the U.S. housing market, refreshed product design and rising hardwood prices, laminate is firmly holding its place in the market. “There’s been a revitalization of the category,” said Dan Natkin, Mannington’s director of hardwood and laminate. “We’re doing things with visuals that we weren’t doing five to 10 years ago. Also, price increases in hardwood have helped create a spread between upper-end laminates and low-end woods. From my own experience, from retail or builder, you can get entry-level oak or a nice laminate at one price, and on the showroom floor people are choosing laminate.” Continue reading State of the industry: Laminate holds its own at the sweet spot

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Kronotex certified to ISO quality standard

Screen Shot 2014-01-23 at 12.22.40 PMBarnwell, S.C. — Kronotex USA said its quality management system has been certified to comply with ISO 9001:2008.

The standard represents an international consensus on good management practices with the aim of ensuring that the organization can repeatedly deliver the product or services that meet a client’s quality requirements.

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Environment, safety at head of domestic production

Volume 26/Number 25; April 29/May 6, 2013

By Matthew Spieler

Flooring manufacturers such as HomerWood have been honored for their environmental activities.

Few countries, if any, have as many laws as the U.S. regarding the protection of the health and safety of its people and the environment, from the federal level to local municipalities. In addition, green building rating systems have put a greater emphasis on how far a product travels, rationalizing the closer it is to the jobsite, the less energy required to get it there.

While some may complain about the abundance of regulations, the flooring industry, in many ways, has deemed these rules advantageous to producing products in the U.S.

Randy Merritt, president of Shaw Industries, said the company’s commitment to safety, health and the environment spans past compliance. “Our sustainability practices go beyond basic federal or state requirements. We aim to be an innovation leader, producing products that minimize waste, utilize renewable energy in production when possible and safeguard our natural resources. Shaw has recycled more than 600 million pounds of post-consumer carpet from 2006 through 2011, a major milestone for the growth of carpet reclamation.” Continue reading Environment, safety at head of domestic production

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Quality control: Key advantage to local mill production

Volume 26/Number 25; April 29/May 6, 2013

By Matthew Spieler

With production in Barnwell, S.C., Kronotex is able to check for quality control, something extremely important for producing goods under the Formica brand.

Dalton—Mohawk is hitting the road this year and taking its SmartStrand with DuPont Sorona with it. The mill will continue to prove SmartStrand’s performance attributes in the coast-to-coast “License to Spill” carpet showdown tour in partnership with the nationally syndicated lifestyle television show, “The Better Show.”

The tour, which will make at least 12 stops, will showcase the cleanability and performance of SmartStrand at festivals and home show events. Attendees are invited to spill everything from ketchup and Kool-Aid to wine and coffee on SmartStrand carpet to see if it will clean with just water or mild detergent. Mohawk will promote its local Floorscapes and ColorCenter members at each tour stop and encourage consumers to visit their nearest aligned retailers to take advantage of promotional offers. Continue reading Quality control: Key advantage to local mill production

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Industry starting to tout Made in the USA message

Volume 26/Number 25; April 29/May 6, 2013

By Matthew Spieler

Marketing Made in the USA has become an important component to manufactuers’ promotional activities.

Style, performance and price are still the main drivers of consumer purchases, but as more Americans express a desire for domestically produced goods it is becoming increasingly important for companies that make their products in the U.S to market that fact.

Flooring is no different, and the industry is starting to take that message to heart with more companies making Made in the USA part of their marketing initiatives.

“Does the industry as a whole do a good job promoting Made in America? asked George Kelley, president and CEO of Kronotex, maker of Formica branded laminate floors. “No. Our job is to market this more aggressively. The Formica brand is celebrating 100 years of U.S. roots; we have to get the distribution and retail community excited and proud to emphasize Made in America as a positive when working with their customers. We strongly believe consumers are looking for reasons to buy American-made products.” Continue reading Industry starting to tout Made in the USA message

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Made in the USA: Domestic doesn’t have to mean more expensive

Volume 26/Number 25; April 29/May 6, 2013

By Matthew Spieler

For companies like Armstrong, which has 14 U.S.-based factories, local production provides numerous cost benefits, such as greater speed to market.

One of the main reasons companies have cited for exiting the U.S. in favor of making or sourcing their products internationally is price, namely the cost of labor and regulations, which they say hamper their ability to effectively compete with products coming from countries that do not put a value on either.

While this is something with which it is hard to argue, many flooring companies point out the cost differential is not as steep as most think, allowing them to offer products and services equal to or better than those that are imported. Continue reading Made in the USA: Domestic doesn’t have to mean more expensive