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Resilient: In a contested field, sheet vinyl still competes on value, visuals

June 11/18, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 26

By Mara Bollettieri

 

There’s no denying that LVT and WPC have nipped some market share from sheet vinyl, but by no means is the workhorse subcategory down for the count. Although other resilient formats are growing in popularity, the product still has a place in the flooring industry today, offering benefits to residential and commercial markets.

Thanks to new technological enhancements and product design innovations, resilient sheet is showing it can hold its own against the onslaught of hard surface competition both within and outside the category.  “WPC is getting all the attention today, but sheet vinyl has been waterproof since long before WPC came on the market,” said Mary Katherine Dyczko-Riglin, product manager of residential sheet vinyl, Mannington.

Mannington is working to remind retailers and consumers of the many benefits of sheet vinyl, such as its durability and ease of maintenance. With the company’s Revive collection, it’s promoting these positive attributes while providing dealers with unique and on-trend visual options to make it more appealing to customers. Dyczko-Riglin also emphasized the affordability of the product as a key benefit. “The key to sheet’s success is to remind people that it has those great features and benefits,” she explained.

Other industry executives believe enforcement is the key. “We are continually reminding our customers of the advantages of sheet vinyl—installation ease, quiet, comfortable, durable, inexpensive and future flexibility,” said Liz Marcello, director of residential products–marketing, Tarkett. To that end, the company plans to launch a new sheet vinyl product, TruTEX, which has the ability to dissolve moisture and is mold and mildew resistant while providing strength. According to Marcello, with this new sheet vinyl product, Tarkett is hoping to “create more excitement” around this flooring category.

Mannington and Tarkett are not alone. IVC, a Mohawk brand, is doing its part to keep sheet top of mind. “The attributes of sheet vinyl, such as durability and waterproof features, all go hand in hand with still offering the most economic resilient product in the category,” said Amie Foster, senior product director, IVC U.S.

Suppliers are also leveraging sheet vinyl’s other attributes. “The versatility of sheet vinyl makes it an ideal solution for any number of residential, commercial and project-oriented applications,” said Kurt Denman, chief marketing officer and executive vice president of sales, Congoleum. “This multi-tasking capacity has allowed sheet vinyl to journey into builder, multi-family and residential-remodeling applications.”

Emphasis on design

Technological advancements have allowed manufacturers to deliver updated sheet vinyl looks that have more realistic visuals. Many suppliers are leveraging new printing techniques to deliver stylish visuals that today’s consumers demand.

“Sheet vinyl’s upgraded visuals and its competitive pricing make it a competitive flooring option,” said Clark Hodgkins, director of resilient, Shaw Floors. “This isn’t the dated vinyl sheet that once graced the kitchens and bathrooms of old.”

Advancements in printing technologies, according to Hodgkins, allow for new pattern creations and gives sheet the ability to better mimic popular visuals like wood and tile. He believes costumers can get beautiful visions at a “fraction of the cost,” compared to other resilient flooring. In particular, he cited Shaw’s DuraTru sheet line, which features realistic visuals.

Other manufacturers are also leveraging technology to render improved looks. “Products like Mannington’s sheet vinyl are highly styled with embossed-in-register, realistic visuals—in all constructions,” Dyczko-Riglin explained. “If you think about it, sheet vinyl is also the ultimate long and wide product as well.”

A case in point, according to Dyczko-Riglin, is Mannington’s Revive collection—a line that draws its inspiration from natural materials. “Revive patterns are inspired by popular porcelain looks, which are making consumers do a double-take,” she said. “It allows them to get the aesthetic they are looking for.”

Equally important as aesthetics, supplier say, are the performance advantages resilient sheet provides. This is particularly critical in situations where hygienic conditions are a major requirement, such as healthcare applications.

“Vinyl sheet floors are seamed by heat welding, which fuses the sheet together and creates strong, clean, aseptic seams that resist the penetration of dirt and moisture,” said Dave Bailey, associate product manager, Armstrong Flooring. “New material and coating technologies have enabled a wider range of colors and patterns, better wear resistance, reduced maintenance requirements and improved chemical and stain resistance.”

Like many products in its lineup, Armstrong’s sheet vinyl products have been enhanced with its signature Diamond 10 technology. According to Bailey, the technology boasts resistance to stains, scratches and scuffs while providing high-indentation performance.

IVC’s Foster feels sheet vinyl has the advantage in this regard. “Visuals continue to challenge the best LVTs, hardwoods and ceramic looks, so the consumer is getting an economic product with enhanced visuals.”

End-use applications

A majority of the suppliers told FCNews that an advantage of sheet vinyl is the product’s ease of installation. This attribute makes the product suitable for a range of applications and environments, be they residential or commercial.

Beauflor, for instance, is seeing its Blacktex fiberglass sheet vinyl being installed in the builder and property management segment. That’s due in no small measure to the product’s exclusive black-textile backing, which allows for loose lay installations up to 500 square feet. “Manufactured housing and RV markets love Beauflor’s sheet for our proprietary 16 foot, 4-inch width capability on a dimensional stable, cold-crack proof, waterproof and flexible construction,” said Michael Finelli, director of strategy, product and marketing.

Then there are products like Forbo’s Marmoleum, which is being installed across a range of both commercial and residential applications. “This USDA- certified, 100% bio-based product also fits the bill for sustainable-minded customers looking for healthy flooring options,” said Lori Lagana, marketing manager, Forbo Flooring. “It’s ideally suited for a variety of commercial and residential applications, ranging from patient rooms, classrooms, hallways and boutiques, to kitchens, bedrooms and family rooms.”

Tarkett’s Marcello sees its FiberFloor being used in multiple rooms in the home for single families. She believes it’s the ideal floor for kitchens, bathrooms, great rooms and/or laundry rooms. She also mentioned its usage in multifamily homes as well, where it is typically installed in spaces that see a lot of use and foot traffic. Also, when paired with its ProSheet Plus 3 product, Tarkett’s FiberFloor and TruTEX sheet vinyl products have the ability to be installed over existing floors. Since TruTEX is moisture resistant, along with being resistant to both mold and mildew, it works in areas that tend to get wet, such as basements, laundry rooms and bathrooms, Marcello added.

Mannington’s sheet vinyl, according to Dyczko-Riglin, is going down in wet areas such as kitchens, laundry rooms, mudrooms and bathrooms.

All of this is no surprise given the category’s waterproof attributes. Shaw Floors’ Hodgkins believes these qualities make sheet vinyl the go-to product for areas of the home that are prone to spills, messes or accidents. “Consumers don’t have to worry if their beloved pet tracks mud through the house or their children make a mess—Shaw’s DuraTru sheet vinyl will maintain its look and shape,” he explained. Shaw’s sheet goods, he noted, features OptiClean technology—an innovation that offers an extra boost of stain resistance.

But sheet vinyl is not just a utilitarian floor as far as installation, maintenance and upkeep are concerned. At the end of the day, proponents say, consumers will select the product because they love the way it looks, along with its suitability for a variety of installation scenarios.

“We’re seeing ArmorCore installed throughout a living space—including entryways and hallways—because of its visual continuity across multiple substrates and subfloor conditions,” Congoleum’s Denman said. He sees this as partly due to the trend of open-concept living in homes, and the continuity of a singular floor to “visually open up smaller spaces.”

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My take: The next big thing is more than a century old

March 27/April 3, 2017: Volume 31, Issue 21

By Steven Feldman

 

Screen Shot 2016-07-15 at 3.46.11 PMEveryone is always seeking “the next big thing.” It’s the way of the world. In the mid-’90s it was laminate. Years later it was Konecto and click LVT. Then came the soft carpet craze. More recently it was USFloors and WPC. These days everyone is trying to build a better WPC mousetrap, whether that means rigid core or some other take on the innovation.

But the next big thing may actually be an old thing—150 years old to be exact. That’s when Forbo introduced the world to an innovative product called linoleum, and today the company, which basically owns the U.S. healthcare and education segments with the product, is refocusing on the residential side for a number of solid reasons.

OK. I already know what you’re thinking. I’m insane. Possibly, but not in this case. You’re thinking linoleum has a bad connotation. People associate it with those outdated, inexpensive floors that hearken back to the days of sitting around your grandmother’s kitchen table. Yes, the word is lost in American vocabulary. Yes, the average flooring dealer defines linoleum as cheap vinyl with a felt or asphalt back. But I’m going to share with you a little secret that Denis Darragh, Forbo’s general manager of North America, told me recently: If someone invented linoleum today, people would think it’s one of the coolest products ever made. But because it was created 150 years ago, that is not the case. There are no plasticizers. It has been phthalate free for 150 years.

Many of the top retailers in the country are having success selling linoleum in 2017. These include members of the National Floorcovering Alliance. The secret: training retail sales associates on the benefits—and unique attributes—of linoleum and conveying those qualities to the consumer. Done successfully, this is a viable product with which store owners can make a healthy margin.

Most people understand linoleum as a sustainable product. And that has been a driver on the commercial side. But the question you need answered is, how does linoleum bring value residentially?

Forbo, which markets its linoleum as Marmoleum due to the aforementioned connotation, has a clear understanding of why consumers are buying, the result of extensive consumer research. The two main selling points:

  1. Color and design. If I walked into your showroom I would find a litany of gray and beige. Linoleum offers a whole lot more.
  2. Health. Linoleum is arguably the healthiest floor you can install, especially as it relates to children with allergies.

So what’s the problem? In a word, education. Tim Donohue, who heads up residential sales for Forbo, told me the key is helping dealers understand the difference between linoleum and LVT. Many people think they are interchangeable. But because retail salespeople don’t understand the differences, they have a hard time taking customers to a Marmoleum display; rather, they take that consumer to LVT because it is the path of least resistance.

So educating all of you will be a focus for Forbo this year. You will learn of linoleum’s durability; even commercially there is a 30-year wear warranty. Because, just like concrete, the product becomes more durable over time.

You will learn the many issues linoleum can solve for the consumer with respiratory issues or with small children who want to avoid some of the possible dangers with other types of products.

At the end of the day, it is the lack of knowledge that drives people away from linoleum. As Darragh said, “We know every sale we get is because the consumer wants it.”

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Forbo launches online Floor Planner

Hazleton, Pa. – Forbo Flooring Systems is pleased to announce the launch of its new interactive online Floor Planner. Available on Forbo’s website, the new design tool allows users to get creative by selecting a room scene and changing the flooring material and wall color. The tool features Forbo’s full collections of Marmoleum sheet and tile, Flotex sheet and tile, and Eternal project vinyl, along with a broad selection of commercial and residential room scenes. Continue reading Forbo launches online Floor Planner

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Industry's top selling products vary by region

Most products cross all boundaries when it comes to popularity—big screen TVs are in demand in New York as much as they are in California or Florida.

But when it comes to home decorating items like flooring, where a person lives in the U.S. plays a major role not only on the types of products bought but the particular styles used to spruce up the home. For example, houses in the Northeast are often decorated in more traditional looks while those in the Southwest incorporate more of the region’s Native American heritage in their decors. Continue reading Industry's top selling products vary by region