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Contract: State of the industry—Key end-use sectors drive specifications

May 28/June 4, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 25

By K.J. Quinn


In many ways the commercial contractor flooring market is like an onion—as you delve into each sector, one layer at a time, you start uncovering macro issues impacting flooring choices that go beyond traditional metrics. Sustainability, wellness principles and environmental impacts are among the major factors affecting facility design across the board, experts say.

“Manufacturers have increased focus on the impacts of their products on occupant well-being and productivity, offering a wider range of aesthetic and functional solutions to deliver against the requests of designers’ clients,” said Matthew Miller, president, Interface Americas.

Industry projections indicate the commercial market is on pace to experience similar growth as last year, with some segments faring much better than others. To put it in perspective, soft surfaces generated an estimated $3.6 to $4 billion in sales and upwards of 300 million square yards last year, according to industry estimates. Carpet tile claimed approximately 50% of volume and 60% of the value over broadloom—increases of 9% and 10%, respectively, over 2016.

Many trends that impacted commercial segments last year are carrying over into 2018. “I think the market for carpet will continue to lose share to hard surfaces,” said Brenda Knowles, vice president of marketing for Shaw Industries’ commercial business. “We’ll continue to see an emphasis on product design across all segments and more offerings that combine soft and hard surfaces.”

Nonetheless, there is still a good amount of broadloom being sold into commercial spaces, especially in sectors that demand a luxurious look and feel underfoot. “We still see some higher-end broadloom sold to the hospitality, legal and financial services sectors,” observed Richard French, vice president of sales, Bentley Mills. “At the high end of the spectrum, carpet tile is still not able to meet aesthetic needs.”

Hard surface seizes share

The market size for hard surfaces is nearly as much as carpet, estimated at $3.7 billion in sales. But that’s where the similarities end. Sales and volume grew by double digits, led by ceramic tile and stone ($1.45 million in 2017 sales), rubber ($650 million) and luxury vinyl tile ($600 million), according to industry estimates.

LVT is the fastest growing sector, with sales rising by double digits and usage expanding across all segments. “Hard surface growth in the commercial segment is being driven by LVT and ceramic,” Jeff Fenwick, president and COO, Tarkett North America, told FCNews. “LVT is showing up in more commercial spaces and design features of ceramic are taking it out of the ‘back of the house’ and letting it be utilized in other spaces.”

VCT, estimated at $250 million in 2017 sales, and sheet goods, which generated about $300 million, remain viable options. Healthcare and education, long strongholds of the sector, are reportedly losing market share. Hardwood, laminate flooring and linoleum are being specified for certain niches, although each category accounts for only a small percentage (less than 5% apiece) of the overall commercial market, statistics show. “For people who want that visual a little different and want to make more of a statement than a neutral gray floor, then linoleum is your answer,” said Denis Darragh, vice president, North America, Forbo Flooring.

While LVT dominates the headlines, one category maintaining steady growth is ceramic. While it’s difficult to determine sales and volume due to fragmented distribution channels, anecdotal research indicates tile commands approximately 15% of total commercial flooring sales and volume, with specified contract accounting for about 70% of the business. Growth rates are projected to mirror last year, when the category grew an estimated 6% in sales and 5% in square footage.

End-use activity

There are diverse applications for flooring within the five major sectors of the commercial business, the majority of which (an estimated 70% to 75%) is specified contract and the remainder Main Street commercial applications. Each has its own set of issues, trends and requirements which, in some cases, are unique to specific areas. As such, flooring choices and volume are expected to vary this year in some segments while remaining constant in others, industry watchers say.

“Traditional hard surface markets like retail and healthcare still are very strong, and non-traditional markets such as offices and hospitality are shifting toward hard surfaces in many areas they did not consider before,” said Robert Brockman, segment marketing manager, commercial, Armstrong Flooring.

The largest sector remains corporate/offices, representing roughly 40% of commercial flooring sales. Design strategies have traditionally centered on integrating natural elements into work spaces that help energize employees, encourage collaboration and make them feel more at home. “The goal is to leave work at the end of the day feeling recharged,” said Sharon Steinberg, AIA, LEEP AP, a principal architect at Stantec’s Houston office. “The design of the space, including flooring materials, can contribute to these feelings.”

Carpet tile has emerged as the top flooring choice, representing an estimated 55% to 60% share of the segment. “Carpet tile reduces sound transmission and provides underfoot comfort,” Interface’s Miller stated. “Carpet tile is also easy to upkeep and maintain—and since it is modular, it can easily be replaced or redesigned, providing the flexibility to update or refresh flooring as needed.”

Industry observers report the use of hard surfaces such as LVT, hardwood, porcelain tile and polished concrete is expanding beyond coffee and bar/break areas and into more diverse office environments. “While tile usage is typically limited to areas such as lobbies, bathrooms and kitchenettes, we predict there will be more tile being used in traditionally unexpected spaces,” said Gianni Mattioli, executive vice president, product and marketing, Dal-Tile. He cited advancements in the tile printing technology space as one of the primary reasons.

Another sector to watch is healthcare, which some believe represent the greatest growth potential for LVT. “Slip/fall issues help LVT vs. other hard surface options as well as infection control,” said Paul Eanes, vice president of new business development, Metroflor. “The segment is now more receptive to LVT in most places except operating rooms.”

Ceramic, porcelain and terrazzo tile are commonly found in hallways, making it easier to maneuver rolling equipment and mobile aids. “The health benefits and low maintenance of tile makes it ideal for this space, and our advancements in manufacturing have allowed us to make tile slip resistant through our proprietary StepWise technology, catering to residents’ safety needs,” Dal-Tile’s Mattioli said.

Fashion and function are paramount in hospitality, an industry reportedly investing millions of dollars to remodel their properties. It is expected to remain a bedrock segment for broadloom in particular as high-end products are the norm for guest rooms and public areas. “People still want to feel a soft surface when they hit the floor,” Shaw’s Knowles pointed out. “So even though the trend is towards hard surface, we’re seeing a combination of the two—and we’re providing solutions for that.”

LVT is reportedly growing at a faster rate than broadloom as the product gains wider acceptance, especially in guest rooms. “Most of these hospitality end users are also looking to make a change to something more timeless in terms of pattern and color,” observed Al Boulogne, vice president, commercial resilient business, Mannington Commercial. “That, coupled with the easier maintenance requirements, make it an ideal product for these environments.”

Further fueling usage is hotel owners’ interest in switching to interior decorating products that blend with the latest design styles and last longer—a big reason why ceramic is making inroads. “Designers in the hospitality space demand unique designs, and we are taking style and design to the next level through our latest introductions,” Dal-Tile’s Mattioli said.

One segment at the forefront of design is retail as end users not only seek products that are trendy, but also address performance/functional issues.

“You can create a pattern in a hardwood or stone look that leads you into different departments of the retail store,” noted Milton Goodwin, vice president of commercial sales, Karndean Designflooring. “There’s a lot of mixing and matching of SKUs.”

Even the education sector is getting a little more sophisticated in terms of the design aesthetic, observers report. “It’s copying what we’ve seen in other public segments by trying to become a little more trendy with their looks,” Mannington’s Boulogne stated. “So that pushes more and more business to the LVT category, where there are more design opportunities.”

R&D efforts center on beefing up performance levels to ensure flooring meets the varying needs of each space. “Designers can take LVT into places that maybe they hadn’t considered before,” added Melissa Quick, product and marketing manager, AVA by Novalis Innovative Flooring. “All of this has contributed to more confidence in the use of LVT in Main Street and specified spaces.”




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Resilient: LVT—A five-tool player that’s finding comfort in virtually all segments

October 9/16, 2017: Volume 32, Issue 9

By Ken Ryan


In baseball, a five-tool player excels at all the fundamentals. In flooring, that five-tool “player” would be LVT—a rare product rich in features and versatility suitable for virtually all commercial and residential segments—from Courtyard Marriott hotel rooms to residential basements.

LVT (including WPC and rigid core products) has been growing at a double-digit rate for the past several years, during which time it has expanded its reach across all segments.

Property Management
Screen Shot 2017-10-17 at 9.51.30 AMSimply put, LVT has succeeded in the property management channel because it provides longer life than carpet. That’s according to Jerry Hosko, president and COO of Redi Carpet, which bills itself as America’s largest multi-family flooring provider. LVT has been widely accepted on first floor units of apartment communities because there are no acoustical issues to be concerned with. “It is not being used as widely on upper floors for the acoustic reasons although the underlayments on the market have helped somewhat,” he said. “WPC is not used as much due to additional cost above and beyond standard LVT products, but it is gaining acceptance in certain applications and is expected to gain more interest for its waterproof qualities, especially in the wake of recent flooding.”

John Kelleher, president of the property management division of Rite Rug, a large retailer, said LVP has really taken over the new construction of apartments and renovation, supplanting carpet and VCT. “Eight years ago LVP started to come around, and the last five years we have seen tremendous growth in that product. It has gotten better as far as development, and I think it is going to continue. It is a big product for us in property management and continues to grow thanks to the innovation of the plank.”

Gary Russo, owner of United Flooring and Paint, a flooring contractor, said ease of maintenance was a huge factor in United’s ability to get quick product placement for customers in its St. Louis and Chicago markets. As he explained, “Typically a plank can be pulled up and replaced, although many times with direct glue-down plank, the substrate can be damaged when the flooring is removed.”

Russo noted that easy cleanup is another reason for the success of vinyl plank.

Residential replacement
Among hard surfaces, hardwood flooring is the aspirational product of choice for most consumers. In fact, it’s not at all uncommon for a consumer to walk into a flooring store, ask for hardwood flooring and leave with LVT/WPC. “People are buying it because of the way it looks,” said Larry Noel, president of sales for retail for Rite Rug, citing the incredible realism.

Screen Shot 2017-10-17 at 9.51.38 AMOf course, LVT goes well beyond aesthetics. LVT is a much more family-friendly product than wood or laminate, proponents say. “LVT provides style with much more realism than laminate,” Noel said. “You don’t hear the tapping sound you get with laminate when you walk over it, and LVT is more forgiving than laminate.”

LVT is finding usefulness in virtually every room of the house these days, and some of these homes are large and expensive. Noel shared that Rite Rug just secured a project on a $2.2 million home in Columbus, Ohio, in which the homeowner requested LVT be installed in his basement.

Specified commercial
LVT/P wasn’t always the product de jour for the commercial segment, and in some LEED buildings, designers are hesitant to specify LVT because it contains PVCs, and therefore is not a truly sustainable product. However, concern over constant maintenance, scratches and moisture have steered some commercial establishments away from real wood and put LVT in play.

LVT is also gaining ground in hospitality. For years, designers would only specify carpet for guestrooms in hotels. Today, LVT is being paired with area rugs in many hotels, especially boutique properties and limited service brands like Courtyard Marriott. 

Marriott is even using LVT in the bathrooms of new properties.

Cost and time spent on a project are factors when specifying products. In LVT businesses see a faster, less-expensive turnaround and save money on labor. They also don’t have to shut down as long to accommodate lengthy acclimations or installations.

Angie Clarkson, LEED AP BD+C, a registered interior designer at architecture and interiors firm LWPB, weighed the pros and cons of LVT vs. other hard surface products. “On one hand, LVT is never going to feel the same underfoot as a natural hardwood floor. Any imperfections in the substrate will certainly transfer to the surface, just like any 1⁄8-inch-thick product. On the other hand, it gives designers a world of exotic wood species at their fingertips. You want the look of endangered African rosewood? You’ve got it without the long lead times or the ecological guilt.”

Many builders would rather install hardwood floors or ceramic tile for entryways, great rooms, kitchens and bath areas because it raises the value of the home. Increasingly, however, LVT is being used in new construction given the product’s relative affordability and realistic looks of stone and wood. What’s more, LVT is easier underfoot than wood or ceramic and individual tiles and planks that get damaged can be more easily repaired.

Eastwood Homes, Charlotte, N.C., offers luxury vinyl planks in several divisions and has received positive feedback. “Our homeowners love LVP because it gives them the look of real wood in a material that is even more durable than wood,” said Clark Stewart, president. “When installed correctly, LVP is impervious to water and holds up incredibly well to the wear and tear of real life.”

Stewart called LVP “a dream come true for dog owners, parents or anyone who appreciates low-maintenance, high-durability flooring.”

Main Street
Small businesses are playing a pivotal role in the growth of the U.S. economy. These Main Street businesses—whether they are small retail shops, professional offices, restaurants or cafes—all have one thing in common: They need a durable, beautiful floor that’s low maintenance. LVT, engineered with more durability than what would normally be considered adequate for residential, has found a home in Main Street, and flooring dealers are seizing this channel opportunity.

“In Main Street LVT/WPC—with its durability—is quickly replacing VCT as a mainstay floor,” said Mike Foulk, president of Foulk’s Flooring America, Meadville, Pa. “The wood looks and tile visuals give the designers added decorating possibilities. The ease of maintenance is a welcome feature for the end user.”

Casey Dillabaugh, president of Dillabaugh’s Flooring America, in Boise, Idaho, said many Main Street jobs have imperfections in some of the spaces; as such, a product with flexibility like LVT can fill that need. “It’s simply the most practical given the different installation options and should the space have stringent guidelines on what is and is not allowable. Add in how easy LVT is to replace and/or repair and clients see even more benefit.”


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Main Street market paved with opportunities

June 5/12, 2017: Volume 31, Issue 26

By Ken Ryan


Screen Shot 2017-06-09 at 10.56.33 AMU.S. Census Bureau data showed businesses with fewer than 20 workers made up 89.6% of American businesses in 2012. Factor in 23 million non-employee (sole proprietor) businesses, and the share of U.S. enterprises with 20 workers or less workers is a staggering 97.9%.

In short, small business means Main Street business. As the economy improves and consumer confidence rises, flooring executives are seeing more opportunities for manufacturers and retailers to seize.

“Over the last five years Main Street has rapidly evolved with product preferences ever shifting toward modular solutions in carpet tile and resilient,” said Quentin Quathamer, commercial brand and marketing manager for Philadelphia Commercial, a Shaw division. “Improved aesthetics and product design—combined with ease of maintenance and selective replacement that extends product life cycles—has made this market even more dynamic than ever.”

The consensus is the flooring industry is more vested in Main Street because of largely untapped profit opportunities. Some dealers say Main Street opportunities can be as easy as having a two-minute conversation with your dentist looking to tile his waiting room. “The retailers we have partnered with realize the opportunity in higher profits and quicker pay—unlike typical bid projects,” said Keith Wiethe, channel manager–Main Street business, Mannington. “Main Street offers another channel that maybe a retailer hasn’t explored, and it affords him the opportunity to cross-germinate into another channel diversifying his reach.”

As part of its retail support program for Main Street, Armstrong Flooring developed Elevate to help specialty flooring retailers grow and capitalize on the burgeoning Main Street business. “In conjunction with our distributor partners we are aggressively engaging the specialty flooring retailer in Main Street,” said Lisa Kronmuller, channel marketing manager.

Chris Post, director of sales operations for Mohawk, said the steadily improving economy will start driving more growth into Main Street channels. “As residential soft floor covering has softened in the marketplace, more dealers are looking for other profitable categories to grow their business. Increased earning potential with larger average selling price and more units ordered per job as compared to residential products makes Main Street commercial a great opportunity.”

Screen Shot 2017-06-09 at 10.58.10 AMTo help its dealers succeed in Main Street, Mohawk introduced multiple resilient sheet and LVT products along with new carpet tiles—product types that represent the fastest growing segment of the market.

Flooring dealers said succeeding in Main Street commercial requires networking on the local level through local civic organizations such as the Chamber of Commerce. It also requires being proactive in getting to know local business owners/decision makers. “Then it comes down to having samples with great pricing readily available when the customer calls,” said Carlton Billingsley, president/owner of Floors and More, in Benton, Ark. “Knowing the availability of products for quick shipping, and the ability to have installation technicians available for nights/weekend work is key since this work is typically done when the business is closed.”

What’s new
Flooring companies have ratcheted up their R&D efforts to take advantage of the market opportunities Main Street provides. Mannington is updating its Main Street merchandising in 2017 with new products including a commercial rigid core product with FloorArmor. Wiethe said the company is also introducing a performance-driven product that will allow retailers to upsell typical VCT customers.

Since entering the Main Street space, Engineered Floors’ Pentz Commercial brand has grown by leaps and bounds, the company said, with strong response seen in its nylon modular and broadloom offerings.

New this year from Engineered Floors is an APEX SDP commercial polyester fiber system that features a high-performance PET engineered specifically for commercial-grade performance.

Carpet tile and resilient products have led the way in Main Street commercial, and some companies are combining the two. Philadelphia Commercial rolled out its specified resilient line to its sales force this spring. “Furthermore, the introduction of our newest Design Smart collection featuring our StrataWorx backing has opened up a whole new realm of possibilities for carpet tile,” Quathamer said. “It’s an exciting time to be in this business segment.”

Foss Manufacturing, known for its innovative on-woven fabrics and specialty synthetic fibers, introduced an all-in-one Smart Transformations carpet tile display offering a large selection of Main Street products with an interactive presentation of the Foss exclusive Peel & Stick technology. The display also has a demo of Foss’ goof-proof installation system and a complete set of architect folders.

“We’ve seen an uptick in Main Street businesses buying carpet tiles as a fast, easy and cost-effective way to improve and update the look and feel of their storefronts,” said Brian Warren, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Foss. “Main Street businesses that have been sitting on money are seeing more customers come in and finally feel comfortable investing back into their spaces.”






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Armstrong seeks to ‘Elevate’ sales

Main Street program offers product, sales tools, training

January 16/23, 2017: Volume 31, Number 16

By Reginald Tucker

 Screen Shot 2017-01-16 at 12.09.51 PMEarly adopters of Armstrong’s Elevate line of Main Street-driven products (FCNews, Nov. 21/28, 2016) are hopeful it will translate into more business opportunities and, thus, additional sales. The program not only offers a diverse product assortment that draws from the company’s extensive residential and commercial portfolio, but it is also heavily supported by training assistance and certification opportunities as well as sales tools and merchandising systems.

“Elevate offers retailers a distinct advantage in driving store traffic and maximizing the in-store experience and enabling the sell through in their markets through an aligned connection with Armstrong,” said Tom Cole, senior manager, specialty retail strategy and channel marketing. “It starts with key differentiators from Armstrong Flooring. The first one is new products and industry-first innovation and design. We really talk through that story and have designed specific products for specialty retail they won’t find in other channels.”

A key part of the Elevate program, according to Cole, is the ability to gauge client interest and, by extension, lead generation. “We have put together promotions throughout the year to support the retailers’ efforts, be it local advertising or national consumer ads. A big piece of that is delivering the leads and increasing the conversion rate of qualified leads. It’s about offering support to the Elevate retailer to increase his brand visibility.”

It’s a big draw for retailers like Barry Macentire, owner and CEO of Georgia-based Dalton Wholesale. “The best thing about it is the lead generation. We get leads every week, we get reporting on it and Armstrong does advertising on our behalf to get customers into the store.”

Another benefit of the Elevate program is its flexibility, particularly as it pertains to available options in merchandising Main Street commercial products on the showroom floor. “It’s not a cookie cutter program,” Cole said. “We have small, medium and large displays, and we put together marketing programs for the retailer based on his needs. It’s completely customized.”

For dealers who might be new to the Main Street market or perhaps looking to further develop their commercial business, Armstrong provides guidance and training. The company offers what it calls a “best practices playbook” based on the experiences retailers have developed over the course of the first year of the Elevate program’s existence. “The best practices playbook really helps the store owner get into the Main Street business by showing them what has worked for other dealers who have been successful,” Cole explained.

It’s a helpful tool for retailers like South Carolina-based Greer Flooring, where Tim Reynolds, general manager, is looking to increase his share of sales generated by Main Street clients. “The program works, and the folks at Armstrong have been very helpful by providing the customer service and support that we need,” he said. “We see the potential in developing our commercial customer base, and we’re hopeful this program will help us grow.”

Armstrong, for its part, will continue working closely with dealers to help them along the Main Street market learning curve. “We’re really making it a priority to build a stronger connection with our customers across all channels,” Cole said. “We’re doing that by reorienting our culture at Armstrong to be more customer driven and building the voice of the customer in all aspects of our business. We understand that building strong channel partnerships by helping our customers grow their sales and profits is critical to our success.”



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Suppliers seize emerging opportunities on Main Street

May 23/30, 2016; Volume 30, Number 24

By Ken Ryan
Screen Shot 2016-06-03 at 3.52.39 PMSmall business has been the catalyst for the modest growth in the United States following the economic downturn. That trend bodes well for a Main Street commercial sector that includes small retail shops, cafes and other enterprises that are experiencing an uptick in business activity.

Unlike the typical commercial segment, Main Street is fragmented with many different venues requiring a diverse product assortment. For many manufacturers, that represents a valuable opportunity to fill a niche.

“These Main Street businesses all have one thing in common: They need a durable, beautiful floor that’s low maintenance,” said John Wu, president and CEO of Novalis Innovative Flooring.

Novalis is among those companies seizing that market opportunity with the expected launch of Abberly and Davidson, lines intended for typical Main Street environments. Abberly will be available in both direct-glue installations as well as a floating click format. Davidson is a direct-glue installation that piggybacks on the design trend in concrete and rough timber looks that complement the clean lines, chrome, glass and metallics that are popular today.

“Our aim is to bring exciting and practical flooring solutions to the small business market because we believe the floor says as much about the quality of the business as the lighting, wall coverings or furnishings,” Wu explained.

Novalis Innovative Flooring is far from the only manufacturer looking to capitalize on the resurging Main Street market. For Shaw Floors, Main Street projects present an ideal opportunity for flooring retailers to diversify their customer base and meet the needs of local commercial customers. But it also requires them to have the necessary technical product knowledge to respond to customers’ expectations and needs with the correct specifications. “Commercial environments require high-performance products that will withstand foot traffic,” said Quentin Quathamer, commercial brand and marketing manager for Shaw’s Philadelphia Commercial division. “The Main Street commercial market is very diverse, and Shaw provides a wide array of choices to meet those varied end-user needs.”

Screen Shot 2016-06-03 at 3.52.55 PMQuathamer cited Shaw’s 5th & Main LVT collection as a good example of a fashionable product engineered to withstand the rigors of any commercial environment—including Grand Central Station, where it was first installed. Today it is found in commercial areas such as churches, boutiques, barber shops, banks, schools and hospitals—150 styles and colors in all.

As is the case with the residential sector, luxury vinyl tile has found a home in Main Street. In fact, notes Keith Wiethe, channel manager–Main Street, Mannington, LVT is on the verge of taking over the segment on the strength of its easy installation, striking visuals, flexibility and durability that lends itself to so many commercial applications. “There will be a changing of the guard where LVT will be the chosen product, and we expect this growth to continue for the next few years,” he said.

If LVT is choice No. 1, carpet tile is 1A in Main Street applications. Chris Post, director of sales operations, Aladdin Commercial/Mohawk Industries, said the company expects double-digit growth in Main Street, with a 25% growth rate in carpet tile—a subcategory that is often be paired with LVT for maximum flexibility. “Carpet tile and LVT work together because probably every application will have both of those products,” Post explained.

In yet another pairing, Mohawk is adding LVT and resilient sheet to its existing Aladdin Commercial Display. Mohawk is also launching resilient sheet manufactured through IVC via the Visionary Collection. The line features five soft, organic visuals that are textile-inspired along with natural wood grain looks that create a warm and comforting environment, Mohawk stated. The collection is constructed for light commercial and residential spaces and offers excellent performance, durability as well as resistance to wearing and staining by virtue of the company’s M-Force enhanced urethane finish. Post said Mohawk will sample these in rack cards to go in its commercial display and in architect folders along with room scene photography to show how well the product coordinates with its carpet tile and broadloom products.

Screen Shot 2016-06-03 at 3.53.03 PMAnother new entry is EnviroStrand, a 100% solution-dyed PET fiber made with Mohawk’s Continuum process that uses the highest grade FDA-approved PET bottle resins and requires less energy to produce. Among its many benefits, Post said, EnviroStrand SD has a Class I rating for improved flammability and smoke density.

In the next month Mannington will be implementing a new premium product it believes will open new end use applications within the channel. “Primarily we have effectively communicated our Quantum Guard HP message, and schools are now seeing the benefits of reduced long-term life cycle costs compared to other resilient products,” Wiethe said. “Interestingly, we actually have seen residential interest in our commercial LVT products. Most of that boils down to visuals.”

Mannington is capitalizing on Main Street growth through its Madison, Ga., manufacturing facility, which has now been expanded three times with the potential for additional space. “Our Amtico acquisition brought us 50 years of manufacturing experience—and there is no substitution for experience,” Wiethe said. “Our combination of manufacturing expertise and our domestic facility will provide us the opportunity to continue to lead.”

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Tapping into the light, local commercial market

May 25/June 1, 2015; Volume 29/Number 4

By Amanda Haskin

Screen Shot 2015-05-29 at 3.40.47 PMWhen businesses were fighting their way out of the recession and housing crisis, many flooring retailers found a glimmer of hope in Main Street commercial work. Lying somewhere between residential and large-scale commercial jobs, Main Street continues to be a lucrative segment as the economy is picking up and small businesses are opening, reopening and remodeling.

“There’s more pressure to make your business look good,” said Mike Blanton, owner of Dalton Carpet One in Athens, Ga. “We’re coming out of the recession. People are starting to spend money and they want to feel good when they do so.”

As flooring retailers need to be diversified, it is inarguable that Main Street is an essential piece of the puzzle for businesses looking to grow. Not only does it provide stability in the face of a fluctuating economy, but it also provides retailers an opportunity to separate themselves from the competition, as there are dealers still not tapped into this market.

For many retailers the hardest part is getting started. Blanton believes Main Street should start off as a natural extension of residential business. “You do someone’s house and they happen to be a doctor or lawyer looking to redo their office,” he said. “Or maybe they’re on a committee for their church and they’ve had a good experience with you. It starts with doing a good job at retail.”

At the same time, he advises retailers to be aggressive and go out and find work within the community. “Like most things in life, just do it. Make some contacts—call all the purchasing guys at your local hospitals and find out where they’re buying their product. Find commercial installers you can work with. Start locally and go ask for it.”

Gary Mazza, president of Mazza’s Flooring America in Hammonton, N.J., agrees you have to put yourself out there. “You can’t just wait for people to come to you. You have to go out and knock on doors, and you can’t be afraid to travel outside your market. I take care of the whole state of New Jersey, and if I have to go into Manhattan or Pennsylvania, I will.”

Another aspect of excelling on Main Street is product knowledge. Retailers need to understand their products and how they perform, and they need to be able to provide the right recommendations.

“It’s not about selling [customers] something because they like the color; it has to be conducive to their needs and where they’re putting it,” said John Pape, owner of John Pape Floor Coverings in Pittsburgh.

Retailers said the products that seem to sell the best on Main Street are carpet tile, LVT and ceramic tile. Mazza uses primarily carpet tile, particularly with his work in many local schools, but has used LVT in nursing homes, grocery stores and even a bowling alley.

“It gives you a wood look or ceramic tile look with cheaper maintenance down the road and a warmer feeling,” he said. “If I used a hardwood, a woman’s high heels would create all those little indentation marks. With LVT, you don’t see that.”

Pape has found that floating floor products sell particularly well on Main Street. “I like USFloors’ COREtec products and Shaw’s Classico and Premio planks. We’ll also do some IVC products. [Customers] are looking for waterproof cores, products that are commercially rated and can go over imperfect subfloors.”

Blanton added that wood looks in ceramic tile are very popular right now, so he uses them for entryways, hallways and other areas that see a lot of traffic.

Major manufacturers understand the importance of Main Street commercial business, and have introduced products specifically designed for this segment. For example, Mannington Commercial has its Core Elements line created for CCA buying groups, Mohawk offers its Aladdin Commercial brand, and Shaw has 5th and Main resilient and Philadelphia Commercial.

Retailers also stress that installation becomes even more important for transitioning into more Main Street jobs. “You need to have good people around you for installation,” Pape noted. “We have all-star installers who can handle wood, carpet, ceramic, backsplashes, custom work, really anything. Having a good labor force behind you is definitely the key.”



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Main street: Carpet tile, LVT lead the hit parade

May 25/June 1, 2015; Volume 29/Number 4

FCNews reached out to flooring retailers to find out which products provide the biggest boosts for their Main Street business. Following is a selection of some top sellers.

 Product: LVT

Name: VersaFit/Urbanality

Company: Shaw

Both VersaFit and Urbanality are part of Shaw’s 5th and Main Collection, which offers 150 styles and colors.


Product: Carpet tile

Name: Gallery Mix

Company: Mohawk

Constructed with Mohawk’s ColorStrand carpet fiber, Gallery Mix is available in a 24 x 24 format. The carpet tile features a patchwork overlay pattern.


Product: LVT

Name: Natural Creations

Company: Armstrong

Natural Creations with I-Set Installation is a non-wet adhesive system factory applied directly to the LVT.


Product: LVT

Name: Nature’s Path

Company: Mannington

Nature’s Path LVT is offered with Mannington’s LockSolid technology that retailers say dramatically reduces installation time.


Product: Broadloom carpet

Name: Defender

Company: Aladdin Commercial

Defender is Aladdin’s best selling broadloom product. Constructed of olefin level loop, Defender is ideal for budget-conscious end users.


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Main street: Positioning product differs from residential

May 25/June 1, 2015; Volume 29/Number 4

By Nadia Ramlakhan

Screen Shot 2015-05-29 at 3.34.37 PM Floor covering retailers with years of experience in the business know that when it comes to closing a sale, half the battle is having the right displays. While basic showroom guidelines are still necessary to sell Main Street products, there are some differences that should be noted.

Separate it from residential

Dealers don’t mix their wood products with carpet, so why should Main Street be any different? These products should be set up in a designated area away from offerings suited for residential use. Although homeowners are beginning to buy commercial products like carpet tile for areas such as basements, playrooms or home gyms, small business owners in the market for flooring don’t want to waste their time browsing through products that can’t do the job.

“You need an area that is dedicated to commercial,” said Rick Smith, commercial manager for Watkins Floor Covering in Jacksonville, N.C. “It should be consolidated in one geographic area so customers don’t have to wander all over the store to find various products.”

Create space to work

Unlike residential jobs, putting flooring down in small businesses often involves working with multiple rooms: lobbies, waiting areas, restrooms, break rooms, etc. Consequently, dealers and customers have to work together to find the best product for each room and create a schedule that allows for a timely installation without shutting down the business. Smith suggests creating a workspace where the customer can see various options. “We have a conference table where we can spread everything out,” he said. “It’s centrally located and has plenty of room to move things around. It’s really convenient for the customer to go over a wide array of choices, especially if she wants coordinating colors or looks in different rooms.”

Offer guidance

Main Street customers aren’t browsing; chances are if they are in the market for flooring they want the job done as quickly as possible. “People who come in looking for our Main Street products are not browsers,” said Chris Williams, president and owner of OC Floor Gallery in Ocean City, Md. “They say, ‘I have a dentist’s office and I’m looking for something durable.’”

A showroom means little if the customer can’t navigate it, so be sure to offer help every step of the way. Sales associates should lead customers to the best Main Street product to suit their needs and help them make selections. “We walk them through the entire process,” Williams said. “The Main Street customer is usually asking for help, so we’re very hands-on with the selection process. We take them through the pros and cons and if they come in with a designer we show her where everything is.”

Architectural folders

Screen Shot 2015-05-29 at 3.34.29 PMArchitectural folders are key during the Main Street sales process. While residential customers want to see product down on the floor, feel samples and visualize it in their own homes, commercial customers have more factors to take into consideration. “We use a lot of architectural folders that leave the store and go home with the prospective client,” Smith said. “Doctors, dentists and attorneys in particular want everyone to look at options. Most of them don’t even pick the product themselves; they either have an office manager or a wife who’s more in tune with colors and design.”

Architectural folders usually contain room scenes, which are essential for Main Street customers. It allows them to see the development of the patterns when planning for multiple rooms.

Feature a wide variety

In the past, Main Street customers were more concerned with price and paid very little attention to style and design. Recently, fashion has become more prominent in the industry and is a major influence on the buying decision. With so many styles, colors and patterns available for commercial use today, dealers should offer a wide selection in their stores and not be afraid to offer upgrades.

“Business conditions are improving rapidly,” said Troy Wonnacott, owner of Bassett Carpets in Longmont, Colo. “Shopping for floors used to be, ‘What can we get for the least amount of money?’ The options weren’t very pretty and customers understood the floors would have to be replaced in two to five years. Now, business owners and managers are looking at higher value products for longer terms. They are more willing to spend on the front end for a fashionable product and understand they can get 15 or more years of wear out of it.”

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Taking advantage of the local markets

May 25/June 1, 2015; Volume 29/Number 4

By Nadia Ramlakhan

Screen Shot 2015-05-29 at 3.32.35 PMDealers often cite the Main Street commercial market as the next step to grow their businesses because it helps with balancing cash flow. But many of them are still hesitant to take advantage of the market and are missing out on quite a few benefits. For some, it’s troublesome to decide which products to take on while others aren’t sure if they can find the time. Surprisingly, breaking into the business is fairly simple, especially because experienced retailers agree that having commercial products available in the store is all it takes. Following are some tips to get started.

Product knowledge is key

Being knowledgeable about commercial products is paramount when getting into the Main Street business. It’s not just about durability—working in a commercial space comes with certain difficulties that aren’t faced when working in a home. For example, the retailer must be aware of electrical wiring running through flooring or outlets on floors, and must be able to pair the customer with a product to fit her needs.

“What benefitted me the most was my product knowledge,” said John Boyajian, co-owner of A.J. Rose Carpets & Flooring with multiple locations in Massachusetts. “We not only help [customers] with design, but knowing what products are the right fit for them based on what they tell us is important. If an attorney has a 2,000-square-foot office, you have to know your products and be able to suggest something like a border in the conference room to set the space apart.”

Look for business

Rather than waiting for customers to come along, Boyajian recommends looking for business nearby. “With Main Street there are so many ways to go. You have shops, apartment complexes; drive around town and make yourself familiar with the buildings.” Network with past customers and let them know you do commercial work in addition to residential. If they are happy with previous jobs, there’s no reason for them to look somewhere else when they are ready to remodel their businesses. It’s also a good idea to leave business cards with storeowners in the community.

Be prepared to work off hours

While homeowners tend to make themselves scarce during the installation process, most small business owners don’t want to close down even for a day or two, so most of the work needs to be completed during weekends and late nights. “It’s a little more difficult with Main Street,” said Jim Mathews, owner of Carpet Corner in Kansas City, Kan. “When you’re doing one room in the house, [customers] will either leave or go into another room, whereas most small businesses can’t afford to lose revenue if they shut down for a day.”

Manage your money

In general, Main Street commercial jobs mean larger invoices; however, the payment doesn’t come until after the job is finished. Retailers recommend starting off with smaller jobs to keep track of cash flow and still be able to pay installers on time. “If you get into large commercial work you need very good financial backing,” Mathews said. “You could have a lot of commercial work and have a lot of money on the books but then find yourself as a bill collector trying to actually get the money in your hands.”

Take advantage of carpet tile

Carpet tile is continuing to gain popularity in commercial segments due to its convenience and ease of installation. Since Main Street jobs often involve moving furniture around, carpet tile makes the job a little easier and can be installed while the business is open. “We just did a police station in Kansas City,” Mathews continued. “Carpet tile is fast and convenient. We moved desks over to one half of the room, installed the carpet tile and then moved all the desks over to the other half. They were able to go about their daily routines with less disruption.”

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Carpet tile provides solutions for light commercial

May 25/June 1, 2015; Volume 29/Number 4

By Jenna Lippin

Screen Shot 2015-05-29 at 3.30.05 PMCarpet tile continues to find favor in Main Street applications for a number of reasons, with experts citing characteristics like design flexibility, selective replacement, less waste material and ease of installation. It is easy for dealers and end users to sell and move the product in terms of shipping and handling as well, and is typically more readily available than other flooring options. Designed for light commercial applications, carpet tile can also stand up to varied levels of traffic in public spaces.

“Carpet tile can withstand the heavy foot traffic of commercial environments,” said Quentin Quathamer, commercial brand and marketing manager, Philadelphia Commercial, a division of Shaw Industries. “Product development and innovation have brought down material costs, and due to the modular nature of the product there is less waste which further lowers project costs. Carpet tile is also easy to install and repair, requiring minimal business disruption. This is particularly appealing to Main Street customers, who are often small business owners for whom business downtime can have significant financial impact.”

Chris Post, director of sales operations for Aladdin Commercial, a Mohawk brand, said the use of carpet tile in Main Street environments is unlimited. “We see it in educational settings such as schools and libraries, doctors’ offices, restaurants, retail shops, churches. A lot of it has to do with there being less disruption in the workplace.”

Ken Leviner, director of business development for Aladdin, added, “A major feature of carpet tile is occupied space. You can get into some areas overnight and just replace the flooring with carpet tiles. With the adhesives we use there are less odors and VOCs, so the workplace can be right back up the very next day. It helps diffuse the installation dilemma, and is ideal for selective replacement. Typically with carpet tile, if properly maintained, you’ll see a life of about 15 or 16 years where a similar visual in broadloom typically lasts only seven to eight years before it ‘uglies out’ and the end user gets tired of it.” Making the process even easier, some companies are now offering floating carpet tile options that can be installed over existing flooring.

John Wells, president and CEO, Interface Americas, said the company continues to build a case around carpet tile as the surface of choice for all commercial applications, including Main Street. He noted that acoustics are becoming an issue in Main Street settings in which hard surfaces are installed throughout. He cited recent studies suggesting that louder noise has either hurt productivity in offices or even hurt business. This helps the idea of at least integrating carpet tile for a productive and conducive work space in a Main Street application.

To help make Main Street carpet tile more accessible in the showroom, manufacturers have tailored displays to help these specialized products stand out. Post said he has often seen commercial products “in a back room somewhere or lost in a sea of architect folders.” Aladdin has separate displays for Main Street carpet tile instead of having them roll into existing commercial merchandising. “People selling Main Street have three to five go-to products. They have a comfort level with them because they’ve done a few jobs with them, or have talked about them more, or have them laid out on the showroom floor for demonstration purposes. You can’t communicate broadloom that same way.”

Philadelphia Commercial offers a self-contained carpet tile display system, which provides the key elements a retail sales associate can use to help Main Street customers make a purchase decision, Quathamer explained. “Visualization tools are key with carpet tile. Often there is not the same sort of common repeats as there are in broadloom. And because you can mix and match carpet tiles with various accent tiles or create new patterns by turning some of the tiles in different directions, we offer visuals with our display to showcase the different looks that can be created with multiple installation methods and patterns. It helps paint a picture of what’s possible for the customer.”

Design possibilities are another benefit of carpet tile, allowing for customization that isn’t possible with broadloom. To help illustrate this advantage, retailers can create vignettes with carpet tile in the designated commercial/Main Street area of the showroom. “This allows the retail sales associate to showcase the beauty and durability of carpet tile,” Quathamer added. “And they create an interactive demonstration area to illustrate the ease of installation—changing the design on the spot for the customer.”

Leviner noted that end users can simply do more with carpet tile, including creating a border or inserting a rug visual in a hard surface floor. “You’re seeing more and more commercial carpet being put on dealers’ floors. They like to showcase this kind of product. Plus it’s easier for them to change out. They can create new patterns every six months. They can throw in an accent color to change up a showroom. I’ve been in showrooms that had the same carpet for 30 to 40 years because the dealers say it’s a pain to move displays and disrupt the floors. Like the end users in Main Street, they don’t want to disrupt their businesses. Once they see they don’t have to, they can communicate the benefit to the customer.”

In differentiating carpet tile from other Main Street product options, Quathamer said dimensional stability is key. Therefore, the manufacturing process for carpet tile is much different than that of broadloom, both in terms of tufting and backing. “If you simply cut broadloom carpet into squares, it would shrink, cup, curl and not provide the tear, tensile or delamination strength required for even the lightest foot traffic. With carpet tile, each tuft is woven and locked into place and supported by a sturdier backing.”

According to Leviner, the real performance attribute for carpet tile is its backing. “The backing itself is the shock absorber. It absorbs much of the impact of foot traffic, taking emphasis off of the fiber. You don’t need a 26 oz. or 28 oz. product; if that was necessary you would see wholesale prices of $26 to $28.” Carpet tile in lighter face weights is becoming increasingly popular, many coming in at lower than 20 oz.

Quathamer anticipates carpet tile continuing to be a poplar flooring choice for Main Street customers. He noted that carpet tile has traditionally been constructed with nylon fiber to meet the performance needs of commercial spaces, but options with polypropylene face fiber are becoming more preferred. Therefore, “it will be increasingly important for retailers and Main Street customers to understand the technical performance of these products, which are well suited for areas with very light foot traffic.”

To meet increasing demand in the Main Street market, Aladdin has added coordinating LVT to its collection of both carpet tile and broadloom. With a “solutions-based proposition,” the company is making sure color families and products work together. “What’s driving carpet tile is the end user who wants to see somewhat of a simplified selection process,” Leviner concluded. “A one-stop shop with a dealer who is partnered with a flooring manufacturer. We have that dealer’s back and know the right product for every end-use area.”