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Dal-Tile earns Star of Excellence safety award

Dallas—Dal-Tile’s production facilityin Muskogee, Okla., was recently recognized by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for “zero recordables and zero lost time accidents” during 2017. OSHA’s Voluntary Protection Program awarded Dal-Tile’s Muskogee team with the covetted “Star of Excellence.” This award is the highest level of achievement given by OSHA.

“Safety remains a core value of our organization and is expected from each team member everyday as we proudly produce quality products at all of our facilities,” said Guy Hargrove, senior safety manager, Dal-Tile. “Dal-Tile is known for the respect and caring it shows team members and this extends into the realm of safety. We view the safety of our employees as a non-negiotiable value that will always be an integral part of our manufacturing processes.”

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Armstrong Flooring promotes several employees

Deborah Lechner

Mike Penney

Denise Bird

Lindsey Groft

Lancaster, Pa.—Armstrong Flooring has announced several new promotions. The new titles and roles are as follow:

Debra Lechner is now vice president, marketing, and will be responsible for the teams that handle channel management, advertising, public relations, social media, digital marketing, creative services, customer insights, merchandising and sustainability. She previously was channel marketing director and has worked for the company for 16 years.

Mike Penney was promoted to vice president, commercial strategic accounts. He will be responsible for the sales team that serves customers in the retail, healthcare, senior living, hospitality and office market segments. He previously was director, commercial strategic accounts, and has worked for the company for 18 years.

Denise Bird is now vice president, customer service. In her new position, Bird will be responsible for customer service, technical services, data management and orders and shipments. She previously was director, customer service, and has worked for the company for 34 years.

Lindsey Groft was promoted to vice president, human resources. Groft will be responsible for the HR teams supporting Armstrong Flooring’s manufacturing plants, research and development, marketing and leadership development program. She formerly was director, human resources, and has worked for the company for 16 years.

“I’m pleased to announce these promotions and recognize the ongoing contributions that Denise, Lindsey, Deb and Mike are making to Armstrong Flooring,” said Don Maier, chief executive officer. “We are fortunate to have leaders who are dedicated to developing teams to fuel the success of our company and our customers.”

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Ardex invests in DTA

Aliquippa, Pa.—The Ardex Group has attained a strategic stake in DTA, a quality tools, trims and machinery provider for the wall and floor market.

DTA was established in Australia in 1976. The company manufactures, imports and distributes high-end tools, trims and machinery throughout Australia, New Zealand and the United States. Dedicated to delivering innovative, dependable products, DTA focuses on servicing the professional contractor.

“This joint venture is an exciting addition to the Ardex strategy of system solutions,” said Mark Eslamlooy, CEO, Ardex Group. “The burgeoning synergies we develop with DTA will present additional value to our customers.”

DTA will continue to operate independently from the Ardex companies in the U.S., Australia and New Zealand. There are no planned changes to personnel in either company.

 

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Carpet: From stain and soil protection to cleaner homes

February 19/26, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 18

By Ken Ryan

 

Carpet that offers stain and soil protection is no longer merely a trend but a standard feature offered by mills throughout the industry—albeit with new iterations being added continuously. Today’s push is also about providing a healthier home environment, with some companies highlighting products that offer hypoallergenic and antimicrobial properties.

Flooring executives say this trend was borne out of extensive consumer research. For example, Chris Johnson, senior vice president of sales, Phenix Flooring, cited a recent Gallup poll finding that 89% of consumers are already using an antimicrobial or antibacterial product at home. “We know consumers are looking for products that work harder and have added benefits beyond what’s expected,” he said.

To that end, in 2017 Phenix introduced its Cleaner Home collection in partnership with Microban, a leader in antimicrobial technology. Additives are infused into the carpet, protecting against the growth of stain and odor-causing bacteria and mold. The collection also features built-in SureFresh odor capture technology designed to eliminate common household smells that can linger.

“In 2018 we are expanding the collection with three new carpet products, so consumers now have even more options from which to choose in order to outfit their home with the cleanest, hardest working carpet,” Johnson said.

Mohawk Industries also conducted expansive consumer research and uncovered some interesting data to use in its own product development. For one, hypoallergenic flooring actually attracts consumers to the soft flooring category and, in fact, doubles the percentage of people who are considering carpet into actual buyers. “In the last 10 years of research I have not seen anything that doubles purchase consideration, at least not for carpet,” said Seth Arnold, vice president, residential.

Mohawk’s research also found that 69% of people who are in the market for flooring replied “yes” to a question as to whether anyone in their household has a breathing or respiratory condition (including allergies). “What we found is the market size for hypoallergenic is as large as the market size for pets,” Arnold noted. “There is also a similarity; people are emotionally attached to their pets. There is also an emotional connection to a product that can help relieve symptoms from breathing issues.”

Consumers are more interested in health and well-being than ever before, and that includes the foods they eat, their exercise routines as well as the products they purchase. Studies show that nearly 30% of consumers would be willing to pay more for a product in their home that offered health benefits for all members, including their pets.

According to Teresa Tran, director of soft surface portfolio management for Shaw Floors, being able to clean your carpet effectively makes a huge difference in the goal of having a healthier home. “Most spills are caught hours, maybe even days, later,” she said. Shaw’s answer is R2X, a stain and soil repellant wherein stains are kept on top of the fiber as long as possible. That’s where its LifeGuard backing comes into play. According to Shaw, the product is engineered to prevent liquid from seeping into the subfloor. “This gives consumers peace of mind and the cleanest carpet for healthy living,” Tran noted.

When Mohawk introduced Air.o in 2017—ushering in a new category called Unified Soft Flooring (USF)—the product was touted for its strength, flexibility, dimensional stability and ease of installation. It checked all those boxes. However, since it is also made of 100% PET, Air.o’s fibers don’t absorb moisture, which helps prevent the growth of allergens, the company stated. Air.o’s construction also provides better airflow and releases dust and dirt more easily when vacuuming.

While Air.o is the fresh new star in Mohawk’s soft surface galaxy, its SmartStrand collection continues its legacy of providing enhanced protection against pet stains and the like for consumers. As Arnold explained, “Nylon protection can wear off over time but  SmartStrand is built in and never washes off. When we enhanced SmartStrand with Forever Clean we added nanotechnology.”

This fiber treatment,  called Nanoloc, repels dirt, dander, spills and stains before they reach the fiber. Mohawk offers an All Pet Protection guarantee with the line.

New introductions
Bellera is Shaw’s new premium soft surface introduction for 2018. The product comes with a specialized dye chemistry and LifeGuard backing system to give the line exceptional durability, the company stated. Shaw offers a

“No Surprises, Worry-Free Warranty” on the product.

Phenix’s Cleaner Home collection includes 10 new carpets, all with antimicrobial protection for the life of the product. Additionally, Cleaner Home was developed with a highly engineered PET yarn.

Foss Floors’ DuraKnit products are constructed of 100% post-consumer drinking bottles that render the product completely stain resistant and hydrophobic, the company stated. Featuring a patented DuraLock technology, which is guaranteed to never fray, unravel or zipper, the carpet is pet friendly.

“Our carpet tiles feature a peel-and- stick adhesive that is VOC free,” said Brian Warren, executive vice president of sales and marketing. “These tiles are all fiber from top to bottom. We have eliminated the need for smelly, VOC-laden adhesives and difficult installs.”

Warren said he can vouch for these products from personal experience. “I have four shelter rescue dogs and a cat. Believe me, these attributes are important and when combined with the inherent stain resistance of our Natural Touch PET fiber, these products are Fido-proof.”

At Surfaces Engineered Floors sought to educate retailers on PureBac with Ultra-fresh protection. This innovative treatment aims to inhibit the growth of bacteria and fungi responsible for creating unpleasant smells and staining in textile and plastic products. By controlling unwanted microbes, Ultra-fresh antimicrobials keep products fresh, hygienic and odor free.

The effort to keep soft surfaces free of soil and stains has existed for decades and is not a new trend. In fact, protection for carpet dates back to the 1950s, when 3M first worked on a chemistry that would later be introduced as Scotchgard Protector. To this day Scotchgard Protector remains a premium antidote to stain and soils. When applied at the mill, Protector is done in a one-step- application process that treats the entire carpet fiber from top to bottom. The deeper the penetration, the better the resistance to stains, which means the carpet is easier to clean.

With the help of national television commercials, Invista’s Stainmaster brand was launched in 1986 and became arguably the most recognized brand in flooring. Over the years, Stainmaster has evolved with new treatments and protection systems, most recently the PetProtect carpet and cushion system featuring a breathable moisture barrier that helps prevent spills and accidents from penetrating the padding and subfloor. PetProtect is now used on both soft surfaces (carpet and rugs) and LVT. Invista also markets Stainmaster Active Family and Stainmaster LiveWell. The latter is a carpet and cushion system designed with AllerShield technology to help reduce the bonding of allergy-aggravating particles into the carpet fibers.

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CFI expands footprint in Canada

Forney, Texas—The International Certified Flooring Installers Association (CFI) continues to expand its presence in Canada. A new free-standing facility in Toronto, Ontario, will open in April and be overseen by James Lee Senter, president, Canadian Flooring, Cleaning & Restoration (CFCRA), and Sharon Fenton, executive director, CFCRA.

Fenton and Senter will oversee membership and trainings for the entire eastern region of Canada out of the new facility. The grand opening will include an introduction to four new introductory CFI installation courses including: Moisture and Substrate Floor Preparation, Residential-I Installation Training and Certification, Hardwood-I/Laminate-I Installation Training and Certification and Resilient-I Residential Training and Certification.

“The CFCRA is very proud to be a partner with CFI in Canada,” said Senter. “We believe opening a CFI division in eastern Canada will benefit everyone including the flooring manufactures, their retailers, the flooring installers and most of all the consumers.”

In addition to the introductory class line-up, the Canadian outpost will be offering a full slate of CFI classes in all categories of flooring. Coursework will include carpet, ceramic tile, resilient and hardwood/laminate. All classes will be taught by certified CFI instructors who were trained by lead CFI instructors based in the United States.

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Surfaces Resilient Coverage: Innovations aim to add simplicity to the buying and selling process

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

By Lindsay Baillie

 

There’s a common thread among the plethora of new resilient flooring products introduced at Surfaces: They all aim to make it easier for retailers to sell and consumers to understand.

A majority of the manufacturers at the event noted that the resilient market is saturated with products—a phenomenon that can cause confusion for distributors, retailers and consumers alike. To address this issue, manufacturers are providing retailers and distributors with updated styles and newer product constructions in conjunction with greater education, explicit branding and unique product stories.

Education and innovation was a focal point of Karndean Designflooring’s 2018 introductions, which entailed new SKUs across three formats: glue down, loose lay and rigid core. The ultimate goal, the company said, is to encourage retailers to rethink flooring. “We’re trying to get retailers to see flooring differently, design flooring differently and specify flooring differently so that they have a way of making more margin and really beating out the competition,” said Emil Mellow, director of public relations.

Part of rethinking flooring involves a complete understanding of how Karndean’s products work together to create designflooring. “With our new SKUs, we’re trying to push design differently,” Mellow explained. “For example, with Korlok, we tell retailers you can blend SKUs.”

Mohawk’s new sheet vinyl lineup is bringing awareness to a product category that has consistently been losing market share to LVT, WPC and SPC. According to Angela Duke, senior brand manager, Mohawk, the company still sees a market for sheet vinyl and so should retailers. “This is one of the most durable floors. It is one of our highest margin products because of its lower price.”

Mohawk’s new sheet vinyl features a new technology called ClearGuard, which aims to show consumers how easy it is to clean the product. Duke explained dealers should also take advantage of the product’s waterproof qualities. “We’re seeing a lot of push for this product in different areas such as laundry rooms, basements and bathrooms.”

Educating dealers on product features is also a key point for Forbo. The manufacturer’s Marmoleum with click cinch lock is available in a wide array of colors, allowing retailers to offer consumers something out of the ordinary. What’s more, dealers can mix and match the square and plank formats to create unique flooring designs. “What if you could get a click product that is easy to install and with more vibrant colors?” asked Tim Donahue, residential national sales manager. “You’re not going to get these colors in an LVT.”

Forbo has also added FlowTex to its product portfolio. To create the texture of FlowTex the product is “flocked,” a manufacturing process that combines a PVC backing, a layer in between and an adhesive on top, followed by a magnetic charge that activates the product. Once the product is dried, it becomes  impenetrable to water, Donahue said. “FlowTex is a textile version of a resilient and is actually closer to a hard surface than a carpet.”

Fusion, the distribution division of USFloors, is focused on educating its customers on the positives of doing business with the company. “We offer completely different colors and SKUs than USFloors,” said Jim Nielsen, vice president of sales. “We cover all of the bases with this category, and we’ll stay at the very forefront of technology and give our distributors service and compassion.”

The company’s two investments for 2018 are its enhance bevel WPC and SPC. “These are higher end, design-focused products,” Nielsen explained. “They’re very realistic looking compared to what we’ve had in the past. We’ve also attached a pad, which provides more comfort and is sound deadening. Distributors will be able to get more premium price on these products than what is out there.”

Happy Feet also emphasized the importance of educating the retailer on the benefits of partnering with the right manufacturer, going beyond product specs. In addition to the company’s new products such as Blockbuster and Gladiator, Happy Feet boasts competitive pricing, shipping within 24 hours and unmatchable inventory. “We want to help retailers make money,” said CJ Johnson, sales.

What’s in a brand?

Some manufacturers introduced new products at Surfaces that aim to help strengthen brand recognition in consumers and make it easier for dealers to better identify products in a saturated market. Case in point is Armstrong, which is looking to leverage its Diamond 10 technology to create brand awareness with consumers. “We’re pushing our Diamond 10 technology, which is a differentiating factor,  to bring consumers into retailers’ stores,” said Morgan Hafer, product manager for Alterna. “It’s being used in shows on HGTV and throughout social media to [drive] brand awareness.”

EarthWerks is also using its branding to make it easier for retailers to distinguish between different sizes of products. The company showed Noble Classic Plus and Plus XL as well as Parkhill and Plus XXL. Plus XL and Plus XXL represent thicker, longer versions of their respective lines.

“At EarthWerks we say style, availability and service you can trust,” said Lindsey Nisbet, strategic marketing and product development. “Our style is getting better every year; with respect to service, we have some of the best distribution.”

Quick-Step and IVC are also making it easier to identify their resilient products. Quick-Step has updated the products it sells to focus less on the product lines and more on its attributes. The company is now using the term “EnduraTEK” for its resilient products. “We consider resilient as the entry into hard surface,” said Jason Sims, senior brand manager, Mohawk Industries. “All of our flexible product is called EnduraTEK. As you trade up, the rigid offerings are called EnduraTEK Ultra.”

Quick-Step is doing its best to provide distributors with better and best offerings within the resilient category. “What we’re featuring this year is the ability for them to trade up within the category from flexible to rigid,” Sims said. “We are also offering for the first time flexible LVT tile that has a hidden grout line. You can mix them and it quickly installs. These are all available on one display as well.”

IVC is updating its brand to reflect the resilient category. The company showed its new Artera and Millright lines, both sheet vinyl, as well as Urbanne, its new flexible tiles. Sims explained that the word “resilient” not only describes the category, but also highlights what the segment can ultimately provide consumers. “We have positioned our brand as uncompromised design for life. We bring a different design element to everything we do.”

While some companies are promoting various product names to drive brand recognition, others are looking to better leverage their own corporate identities. DuChâteau, primarily known for its innovations in hardwood for flooring and wall applications, has expanded its reach to include luxury vinyl plank products. “We conducted extensive research with designers, architects, contractors and homeowners to see where they wanted to go with more luxurious and distinctive flooring designs,” said Misael Tagle, CEO and co-founder of DuChâteau. “The craftsmanship and fashion-forward designs of our new collections meet their needs.”

The manufacturer’s new Atelier Series’ Sovereign edition features the sought-after signature aesthetic of European-style exclusive designs in a glue-down vinyl plank. Then there’s the Vinyl Deluxe Grand collection with LuxCor technology, followed by the Vinyl Deluxe Classic collection. Rounding out the offering is the American Guild collection, which features classic colors and a contemporary American design aesthetic with the realistic look and feel of wood and stone.

Congoleum is looking to take branding a step further with the creation of CLEO Home—a separate, standalone brand that features healthy and environmentally conscious flooring. According to Kurt Denman, chief marketing officer and executive vice president of sales, CLEO Home is intended to help consumers who might be struggling with design confidence.

“We wanted to create something from a designer standpoint that really appealed to the consumer. We have great brand recognition with Congoleum, with our legacy products. This new foray into the marketplace is a great way to connect with the next generation.”

CLEO breaks down into three different layers. The base is 85% limestone and the other 15% is a binder that is not made with PVC. The top layer is digital imaging with a high-performance coating. “When you get rid of PVC you get rid of plasticizers, phthalates and all the things that are perceived as negative words in the industry,” Denman explained. (Incidentally, Congoleum was honored for a Best of Surfaces award in sustainability for CLEO Home.) “This product is 100% manufactured in the U.S., so we’re not relying on print films shipped from China.”

A compelling story
Manufacturers are not only developing unique product stories to help differentiate offerings, they are ultimately providing retailers with product education and strong brands. Mohawk, for example, has updated its campaign for SolidTech to play up the product’s resistance to hurricanes. As Duke explained: “We have a good story from a builder in Dallas who put SolidTech in one of his model homes; after the hurricane hit the dealer was able to salvage the floor in the model home, clean it up and reinstall it without any problems.”

Armstrong has developed its own story for its Alterna plank product—an engineered tile now available in a 6 x 36 plank format. “We call it Alterna because it is an alternative to ceramic and tile,” Hafer explained. “The story behind engineered tile is its more durable and comfortable to live on and easier to install than real tile. Alterna plank also features our Diamond 10 technology.”

Product story is also key to Beauflor’s new introductions, Blacktex and Boardwalk. The former is a roll product that can also be merchandised with boards and marketed as either a sheet vinyl or LVT product. The textile backing provides users with some of the benefits and features of LVT. Meanwhile, Boardwalk is a rigid click, loose-lay product with an attached pad.

“Our Blacktex sheet product is really the original waterproof product,” said Johnny Barnes, general manager. “If you look at the top layer, you can achieve some of the visuals with this line that you can’t necessarily achieve with the WPC products.”

Boardwalk, initially available in 14 SKUs, is equally rich in terms of aesthetics. “We have several dimensions and three SKUs that are random width,” said Nick Brown, vice president of sales North America. “There are all these different products within the collection, but they’re all at the same price point.”

Raskin Industries’ Ceramix, the company’s built-in-grout, loose-lay LVT, has its own story—one built on ease of installation. According to the manufacturer, the offering allows retailers to sell a grouted tile look without the headache of a typical tile installation. What’s more, Ceramix, which made its official debut at Surfaces 2017, earned a Best of Surfaces award for innovation at this year’s event.

Michael Raskin, founder and president, said the realistic look of the grout is a difference maker. “You can’t tell it is not ceramic, and with labor as a big issue in the market—the labor is sometimes two to three times more than the product—this can be put in with a perimeter install. It’s also warmer, slip resistant and doesn’t shatter.”

Novalis continues to push its environmentally friendly products with the development of Serenbe, a SPC product boasting high-density core technology, NovaShield coating and an attached pad. “Serenbe is ultra-realistic,” said Steven Erlich, vice president of sales and marketing. “There are ceramic planks and herringbone patterns to name a few. In addition, all of our products are pressed with a rolled edge, or groutable edge.”

Nox U.S. highlighted its new Genesis technology at Surfaces. The new line, the company said, creates a bridge between WPC and SPC products. ““WPC is growing for everyone but there are challenges with indentation and brittleness,” said Eric Erickson, senior vice president sales and marketing North America. “Also, everyone is chasing SPC but it’s really heavy and stiff. What we’ve been able to do is develop new technology in our core so that it is a little less dense and as you move up layers it becomes denser like a rigid product. This is an 8mm product and it feels the same weight of WPC but has the performance of rigid.”

Mills flood the arena
Engineered Floors, previously a carpet-only company, officially debuted Revotec, a high-density, rigid-core floating floor featuring tile visuals with a realistic grout line embedded; and Triumph, a click floating floor that employs high-density core technology for improved dimensional stability and better indentation resistance. “Our plan is to be a player in this segment,” said Brandon Kersey, brand manager for Main Street commercial and hard surface. “We are transitioning to the new version of rigid core, and we think Revotec can take us to another level.”

The acquisition of Beaulieu’s assets helped EF enter hard surfaces since the former company was already in the WPC space. Ana Torrence, product manager, hard surfaces for EF, said Revotec looks like real grouted tile. She cited other advantages: “It’s a really fast install. It is a better alternative than stone or ceramic in terms of installation time.”

A year after entering the LVT category, Phenix Flooring is doubling its assortment of PetProtect LVT, rigid core, click and loose lay offerings. In 2018, Phenix will market two display fixtures that blend hard and soft surfaces. The fixtures were consolidated into smaller footprints to provide design flexibility and allow every SKU to be merchandised differently. “We’re a year into hard surfaces, and I can tell you we are committed to it,” said Mark Clayton, president and CEO.

Marquis Industries made its mark 10 years ago as a mid-sized mill that ventured into LVT.  The company did not enter the category for the sake of it; its executives traveled the globe extensively to source the right raw materials and ensure quality control was followed along the way. “When you spend half a million bucks on an opening order you better be right,” said Larry Heckman, CEO. “If you don’t anticipate it correctly, you can be out of stock three to four months and you never get caught up. We took it seriously.”

Marquis’ 2018 offerings include two 5-foot-long x 9-inch wide rigid core lines—Whispering Pines and Biltmore Classic—with a 20-mil wear layer. The Dalton-based company opened a new building in Georgia devoted entirely to hard surfaces. It also has an existing West Coast distribution center to service customers. The mill still maintains a two-thirds to one-thirds split in favor of carpet.

The Dixie Group began as a yarn company that transitioned into a carpet manufacturer that is transforming into an all-surface supplier—all the while doing it in a way that best represents the Dixie, Masland and Fabrica brands. In 2017, Dixie was one of two companies (Phenix was the other) licensed to sell Stainmaster PetProtect LVT products. The launch exceeded expectations and now Dixie and Masland are coming out with eight new styles each for high performance core, including wood planks with a painted beveled edge.

“A lot of our good customers were moving with the market into hard surface categories like luxury vinyl and we felt like we had an opportunity to enter that market and could be relevant,” said T.M. Nuckols, president of the residential division, the Dixie Group. “We tried to take the right approach from a distribution standpoint to create a profit opportunity for our partners.”

Southwind is another traditional carpet company that made the leap when LVT got hot. The company unveiled Authentic Tile, an SPC core product that has the feel of ceramic tile along with the heft (each 8-piece carton weighs 40 lbs). “It has been very well received at the show,” said Tim Gilmore, Southeast regional vice president. “Several big dealers are taking it on.”

Wellmade Flooring is pushing its Opti-Wood Flooring line with Hydri-HDPC technology and the PowerShield moisture protection system, which company officials say is the difference maker. Wellmade showed 16 SKUs in poplar, eucalyptus, hickory, oak and bamboo. Steve Wagner, director of sales and marketing, does not believe the LVT/WPC/ SPC market is saturated just yet. “I think there is a home for everybody who can come to market with different formulas.”

 

COREtec Stone: The next big thing?

By Ken Ryan

Piet Dossche knows a winner when he creates one. Five years ago, despite serious doubts from some well-respected retail executives, the USFloors’ founder and president launched COREtec and predicted success. He got it—in spades, helping to launch a category that has surpassed $1 billion in sales.

“People said it wasn’t going to work,” he recalled of COREtec. “I was saying, ‘Good, keep thinking like that.’” COREtec was a runaway hit and helped launch the breakout success of the LVT sub-segment.

Dossche has similar expectations for COREtec Stone, which the company showed at Surfaces 2018 as an alternative to ceramic and porcelain tile. The product—a composite/SPC engineered tile—is expected to be ready for market in the second half of 2018. “This is going to be huge,” Dossche said. “It is going to bring solutions to the ceramic tile category.”

Ceramic tile is a growing business, but it has issues. For starters, ceramic tile is heavy and may not be appropriate for certain installations; it is cold and can crack or break easily; it is a time-consuming installation process, and it is also an expensive installation with special tools needed, critics say. Sometimes the cost of the installation is more than the materials. It is also messy and expensive to remove ceramic or porcelain tile.

Enter COREtec Stone, which is lighter, warmer, cheaper and easier to install with no grout needed, easier to remove and more comfortable to walk on because of its attached cork backing. Plus, it doesn’t break.

Dossche, who believes this segment could grow to be a $500 million business in a few years, is optimistic. “If you bring to market a good-looking product that solves issues you have a winner. Composite weatherproof flooring will be the high double-digit growth engine in hard surfaces for the next five years.”

 

 

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Surfaces Wood Coverage: New finishes, formats steal the show in Vegas

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

By Reginald Tucker

 

Hardwood flooring suppliers across the industry are combining creativity and technology as they seek to develop the next generation of products that will compete against the likes of WPC, LVT and rigid core floors.

Case in point is the staining technology employed by Hearthwood in the manufacture of its Controlled Chaos and Dynamic Earth lines. Designed to mimic a process known as reactive staining—whereby chemicals are used to manipulate the visual appearance of a hardwood floor—the technology Hearthwood employs is able to produce more consistent results. As Allie Finkell, executive vice president, explains: “Some of the chemical reactive staining processes are really hard to control, making it difficult to be consistent across production over time and from run to run. But we’ve been able to recreate the highlights of those chemicals utilizing a regular water-based UV-cured stain, which is done in our Tennessee plant with low-emitting finishes.”

Controlled Chaos features a light wirebrushed finish on white oak for a more contemporary look in a 7-inch-wide x 8-foot-long format in colors ranging from, in Finkell’s words, “shocking to subtle.” Meanwhile, Dynamic Earth, which is also in a sliced white oak product, has more of a reclaimed, scraped texture. “Our handscraping technique is not the old, machine-scraped process that’s common in the industry,” Finkell explained. “Our process delivers more of that reclaimed barnwood look. This way the customer gets a modern format in long lengths and wide widths, but she can still pick a timeless color so she’s not going to get sick of looking at the color.”

The latest offerings from Provenza also represent a play on color and texture. Several new additions are being added to the Lighthouse Cove line, which is part of the award-winning Colour Nation collection, which took home a Best of Surfaces award in 2017.  “We are bringing in white oak product from Europe in a format and range that appeals to all levels of consumers,” said Ron Sadri, principal owner.

Also new from Provenza is the Dutch Masters collection—a portfolio of unfinished European species that are stained at the company’s facilities in the U.S. “Dutch Masters falls under our custom collection category, which is exclusive to us,” Sadri said. “These products provide better margins for dealers; it’s not going to be in every store and it’s very exclusive.”

Other European-inspired lines come courtesy of The Dixie Group, which showcased its first hardwood line, Fabrica Fine Wood Flooring. The Fabrica collection will feature 70 SKUs—40 for the floor and 30 companion SKUs for wall covering. The line will include French oak, maple and birch—with a style and quality consistent with the Fabrica brand promise, said T.M. Nuckols, president of the residential division of The Dixie Group. Each flooring panel features the letter ‘f’ for branding purposes. “We are sourcing the product both domestically and in Canada and Europe to create the assortment,” Nuckols said.

The Fabrica wood line will be launched initially in the Southeast U.S., and will be priced at the upper end of the market. “We are restricting distribution—not everyone is going to have it,” said Dan Phelan, vice president of marketing, residential division, The Dixie Group. Those that do get the line will primarily be high-design retail flooring stores. “We feel the wood line fits for Fabrica because it is consistent with the high-end quality of Fabrica’s name.”

HF Design is also playing the quality card, but with a twist—making its floors more accessible to mainstream consumers. To that end, the company took the wraps off two new collections: Pacific Point, a 7⁄16, 3⁄8-inch, 6-inch wide product that’s thermotreated and topped with a  urethane finish, and Brentwood Hills, which is a step up 5⁄8 platform, 7 inch wide.

High-end looks at an affordable price was also the inspiration for the latest offerings from USFloors. While its name may be associated with the wildly successful launch of the COREtec brands, USFloors wants retailers to know it is a bona fide player in the hardwood sector as well. To that end, the company is unveiling a total of 56 SKUs across various collections and formats.

“Our biggest launch right now is our Natural Woods line, where we took some of our best-selling products in the Castle Combe oil finished lines an put an acrylic finish on them,” said Jamann Stepp, director of marketing and product management. “You still have that oil finished look without all that gloss in there.”

EarthWerks, historically known for its LVT offerings, is also looking to make some noise in the hardwood arena. The strategy, according to Brenda Cashion, who heads up hardwood product development and marketing, is twofold: Expand EarthWerk’s wood program beyond Texas into other markets around the country, while positioning the Pinnacle brand as an upper-end “designer” offering.

“The EarthWerks hardwood brand has always been in our distribution footprint paired with the LVT teams,” she explained. “Now we are taking a select group of products nationally. We had to reengineer and redevelop those products to give them a broader appeal nationally.”

Whereas EarthWerks wood is being positioned as the “meat and potatoes line,” Cashion said, the Pinnacle offering will be positioned as a high-style designer driven. Standouts include Country Estate, which features a natural, almost unfinished, matte look, and Grand Reserve, which is a hefty 4mm dry-sawn face with a suggested retail price point of $5.99 per square foot.

Over at the Satin Flooring space, the company put the focus on red and white oak species in a 7-inch-wide format, mostly engineered. “We’ve been happy with the feedback,” said Dennis Mohn, director of marketing. He cited interest from top distributors such as NRF and Galleher “We also sell some unfinished solid products to certain markets such as Chicago.”

New formats are also coming out of the Preverco camp. The company is putting the spotlight on Max 19, a ¾-inch thick engineered product featuring a 4mm top wearlayer on a ½-inch-thick vertical quartersawn softwood core, backed with a 2mm bottom panel for balance. Right below that is a 5⁄8-inch thick engineered product featuring a 2mm top layer on a 9⁄16-inch five-layer construction. range of budgets.

Wading into water
SEM Group showcased Aquawood, the company’s waterproof hardwood line. The product is patent pending in 14 countries and features real hardwood on a waterproof core. “Not only is it waterproof, but it’s also great in extreme climates,” said Nathan Carter, product sales/development and hardwood specialist. “We have two versions available: Elegant Traditions is our 7½- inch wide 3⁄8 product and we just launched Carson—our 5⁄16 overall with a click and pad attached.”

Both versions are fully submersible in water and can be maintained just like tradition hardwood floor. What’s more, the products contain zero repeats.

In that same vein, Uniboard offers Aqua Allira, a waterproof engineered wood flooring made of a rigid core and a real veneer overlay. According to Daniel Seguin, product development manager, it marks the next generation of Allira engineered flooring, which produced by transforming 100% reclaimed pre-consumer wood fibers into a coreboard. Allira products use specially-formulated HDF panels that offer greater resistance than a plywood core, he noted.

Focus on green
Suppliers are also leveraging wood’s environmental story. For instance, Lifecore has developed a unique selling story to help retailers increase margins. Lifecore created Ai.r with no added formaldehyde to its adhesive, According to Jim Fiore, vice president North America, Samling Global USA, the product is 70% below the current CARB 2 regulations. “We’ve also been awarded the Indoor Air Quality Certification which is unique and we’re proud of that. Our focus when we were launching this line was giving the retailer something that would be of value to them and have a story behind it. With this line, it’s all about not having to compromise.”

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Armstrong severs ties with William M. Bird

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

By Ken Ryan

 

Lancaster, Pa.—Armstrong Flooring has ended its partnership with Southeast distributor William M. Bird, a relationship that dates to 1936 when Bird began distributing Armstrong floor coverings and building materials as its entree into flooring distribution.

“Ending an 82-year relationship is not something you ever expect; however, William M. Bird is prepared and positioned to handle this transition,” Maybank Hagood, CEO, told FCNews.

Hagood said its house brand products, including Palmetto Road and Azalea Lane, as well as its portfolio of branded lines like Roppe, Metroflor, Tarkett and Somerset, will provide the wholesaler with the flexibility to bring new products to Bird customers “that provide the highest level of value and quality in wood, LVT, WPC, rigid core and laminate products. Our core values as a company have always driven our decision-making and how we partner with our customers with the right products. That will not change at all. We have always been committed to an exceptional salesforce, cutting-edge technologies via our online tools and dynamic warehousing and logistics to assure our customers that when they call us they will be served by a team driven to help our customers succeed.”

Hagood said it is “probably premature at this point” to comment about any potential future partnerships. However, he did note, “We have had some great conversations in the last couple of weeks and we look forward to finalizing and announcing soon the next generation of brands that will help serve to define William M. Bird for the future.”

Hagood put a positive spin on the separation with Armstrong—its longest-standing supplier—saying, “a change like this will allow us to deepen our existing strategic partnerships and continue our mission to deliver the right products and services, to the right customer, at the right time.”

In light of the Bird changes, Armstrong will expand the territories of three of its existing distributors as part of its strategy to improve service to retailers.

The changes, which will become effective April 1, 2018, are as follows:

  • J.J. Haines, which handles the Mid-Atlantic region, will now also serve the Southeastern U.S., including parts of South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee and the Florida panhandle.
  • Derr Flooring, which also covers the Mid-Atlantic region, will begin serving parts of northern Virginia with the Bruce brand in a dual-distribution capacity with J.J. Haines.
  • Ohio Valley Flooring, which services Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky, will expand into western Pennsylvania.

“We are committed to aligning ourselves with the distribution partners that are best positioned to support our growth strategy,” said Don Maier, Armstrong Flooring president and CEO. “We are excited by J.J. Haines’ ongoing investments in distribution infrastructure and logistics technology, and the level of service and responsiveness it can bring to the independent retailers who sell Armstrong products. We are equally pleased to reward the exceptional performance and service that Ohio Valley and Derr Flooring deliver for us every day.”

Maier also addressed the separation from William M. Bird. “We value their role in our company’s development over the years and the service they have provided to customers. We look forward to working with our distributor partners over the next few months to ensure a smooth transition.”

Empowering distributors

In a separate announcement, Armstrong said it is empowering its distributors with increased responsibility for marketing, merchandising and sales of its residential flooring products, focusing resources to drive growth with national retail and commercial customers.

“Since we launched Armstrong Flooring as an independent company in 2016, one of our core objectives has been winning with distribution—to grow sales and market share by rebuilding and leveraging our distributor relationships,” Maier explained. “We’ve made tremendous progress to further enhance these partnerships, and we are confident we are working with distributors who can most effectively advance our growth strategy.”

Shifting elements of its residential marketing and merchandising responsibilities to its distributors, Maier explained, is intended to increase efficiency, move decision-making closer to the customer and improve speed-to-market. As distributors take on additional responsibilities, the company plans to increase investments in national retail and commercial accounts, specifiers, architects, designers and contractors.

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Innovation is the name of the game at TISE

Retailers embrace enhancements in durability and design

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

By FCNews team

 


Las Vegas—Another year, another Surfaces in the books. But it’s anything but old hat. Suppliers across a broad range of categories showcased head-turning innovations in terms of both surface visuals and product performance.

“I was more impressed with what technology can do than any single product at the show,” said John Toliver, owner, Toliver’s Carpet One, Tempe, Ariz. “The new technology that is coming out is creating [excitement] for all these new products.”

Much of that buzz was focused on manufacturing processes designed to help products better withstand water incursion—clearly a nod to the damage inflicted by hurricanes and major storms over the past few years. “The hot topic this year was waterproof everything—LVP, WPC, even wood and carpet had some tie in to water resistance,” said Nick Freadreacea, president, The Flooring Gallery, Louisville, Ky.

Another new product technology that had everyone buzzing was the Magnetic Building Solutions (MBS) system unveiled by the World Floor Covering Association (WFCA). “I thought it was the most revolutionary product at the show,” said Brian Witkin, executive vice president of sales, Avalon Flooring, Cherry Hill, N.J. “Long term, I believe that product will do very well in the market.”

Dave Snedeker, divisional merchandise manager-flooring, Nebraska Furniture Mart, Omaha, Neb., is in agreement, adding, “I welcome the innovation for our industry.”

Freadreacea also sees the potential of MBS, predicting rapid acceptance of the system. “I am sure by next year it will be the thing to see and virtually every category will be available with that installation system.”

For dealers like Craig Phillips, president, Barrington Carpet & Flooring Design, Akron, Ohio, MBS simply “stole the show.” He believes the new magnetic system will work for the installation of all flooring types and make it very easy to change from one flooring or wall covering type to another with no new prep. “It will probably impact the commercial market the greatest as it can greatly reduce down time for a business that is undergoing flooring/wall renovation,” he added.

Following is an overview of the major trends across the most popular categories (See each respective product section for more specific details on new introductions.)

Carpet
The issue of a shrinking carpet category may be of concern for some mills, but at Mohawk the segment shines brightly with new innovations including Air.o and perennially stalwarts like SmartStrand providing flooring dealers with profit opportunities in soft flooring.

Air.o, which is positioned as an alternative to traditional carpet (Unified Soft Flooring), debuted in the second half of 2017 as a product line that delivers multiple benefits for retailers (ease of installation, demonstrable selling points) and consumers (hypo-allergenic properties that allow a home to “breathe”).

For Mohawk, 2017 was about educating its retailers on Air.o; in 2018 it will be driving that message to consumers.

“There are people who want soft flooring but feel they can’t have it—but they can,” Seth Arnold, vice president of residential, told FCNews at Surfaces.

In its research, Mohawk found that nearly 70% of consumers say they suffer from allergies—or some type of respiratory condition. “Twenty-five percent considered a carpet purchase before hypoallergenic was introduced and that number doubled after hypoallergenic was introduced [in the conversation],” Arnold noted, citing the study.

The upshot: hypoallergenic flooring draws consumers to the soft flooring category.

Air.o features a simple, two-part design unified by a single polymer. The 100% PET fiber is constructed on a premium cushioned backing using an innovative, tension-free process. Air.o is important to retailers because it offers a simpler-to-install, easier-to-maintain, better performing and more sustainable soft surface.

Mohawk spent over four years developing and refining the Air.o production process to prepare for this launch.

Twelve years ago, Mohawk introduced another significant innovation in SmartStrand, which offered durability, stain resistance and luxurious softness.

“SmartStrand—a strong product, strong brand and consistent story telling creates a winner,” Arnold stated. “We had a fantastic year in 2017. We’re grown, we’ve taken share; it’s been a success story for us.”

Mohawk is adding ActiveFresh technology to its SmartStrand Silk line in 2018. The technology is notable for being able to neutralize and eliminate odor-causing bacteria.

Resilient
In the resilient category, a recurring theme emerged at Surfaces: With all the variations of WPC, LVT, etc., products available on the market, suppliers are focusing their attention on making it easier for retailers to sell and for consumers to understand. Many resilient suppliers agree the market is saturated with products, which can cause confusion for everyone across the supply chain. To address this issue, manufacturers are arming retailers with the knowledge to help them differentiate between technologies and brands.

“The explosion of that category is incredible, and it seems like everyone we spoke to had an LVP/WPC line,” said Dan Mandel, president, Sterling Carpet & Flooring, Anaheim, Calif.

Other dealers attest to the rapid proliferation. “It’s very apparent to me that the industry is doubling-down on WPC/rigid core,” said Eric Langan, president of Carpetland USA, Davenport, Iowa. “Everybody has it, or will have it, and most are investing in how they can produce or import more of it. This will be a very competitive product category going forward.”

Already, some dealers have chosen a few favorites. “I’ve enjoyed Armstrong’s portfolio of products,” said Richard Higgins, Dalton Wholesale Floors, Adairsville, Ga. “The whole market is moving toward the waterproof LVTs; everything is now waterproof.”

Barrington Carpet & Flooring Design’s Phillips has his picks as well. “We were very impressed with Mannington’s launch of Adura Apex.” He also likes Revotec. “This rigid core product has some nice visuals with a very realistic grout line. This product and others that  DreamWeaver [from Engineered Floors] introduced on the LVT side will give them an opportunity to take market share.”

Wood
Refusing to take a backseat to the rapid rise in popularity of competing hard surface products, wood flooring suppliers across the industry are combining creativity and technology as they seek to develop the next generation of products that will compete against the likes of WPC, LVT and rigid core floors. Innovations range from advanced finishing techniques that enhance natural hardwood visuals to alternative core materials designed to boost dimensional stability. Examples include innovations in reactive staining and thermal heat treating combined with wirebrushing techniques and subtle handscraping. Suppliers are also integrating different constructions into the core of their products (i.e., HDF, SPC, etc.) in a move to improve the product’s overall dimensional stability and resistance to moisture.

Tile
Ongoing investments in R&D and improved capabilities across manufacturing footprints are expected to pay off for ceramic tile makers. Specifically, advances in digital printing are enabling producers to introduce game-changing formats and designs that meet consumer and commercial end-user needs for performance, styling and sustainability.

Ongoing investments made by tile suppliers are bolstering production efficiency and speed to market while creating new, value-added products. One trend in particular seems to be the move toward bigger sizes. Large slabs with infinite design possibilities due to printing technologies were seen all over the showroom floor in varied thicknesses that could be delegated to floor, wall or countertop applications.

Laminate
Waterproofing run amok. That’s how some attendees described the atmosphere across many booths at the show that featured some form or demonstration of the product’s newfound resistance to moisture and water damage. In some ways it represented a throwback to the early days of laminate flooring in the U.S.—a time when the major players in the category were jockeying for a leadership position and market share by touting their respective product’s perceived indestructibility.

So far, retailers don’t seem to be put off by all the claims. “Waterproof seemed to be the theme of this year’s market again, and Mohawk and Quick-Step took things to the next level with their waterproof wood introductions,” said Eric Mondragon, hard surface buyer, R.C. Willey, Salt Lake City, Utah.

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Shaw acquires Scotland-based carpet tile manufacturer

Dalton—Shaw Industries has acquired Scotland-based carpet tile manufacturer Sanquhar Tile Services (STS). This acquisition expands Shaw’s carpet tile footprint to meet the needs of its global customers—complementing the company’s carpet tile manufacturing facilities in Cartersville and Adairsville, Ga., and in Nantong, China.

STS will continue to serve its customers as part of Shaw’s commercial flooring division. STS’ established and experiences leadership team and associates will continue to operate the business—with manufacturing capabilities from tufting through cutting—as part of Shaw.

Shaw, founded 50 years ago, and STS, which has been manufacturing carpet tile for 45 years, share cultures of innovation, service and long-tenured, experienced associates.

“This acquisition positions Shaw as a global carpet tile provider,” said Vance Bell, chairman and CEO of Shaw. “STS will be an important part of our commercial business, and we will make substantial capital investments to enhance and modernize their operations. We’re proud to count STS associates among the 22,000 individuals at Shaw who are working to create a better future for our customers, our communities, our company and each other.”