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NALFA celebrates 20 years of leadership, innovation

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

By Reginald Tucker

 

Screen Shot 2017-09-15 at 2.30.49 PMNew York—Current and long-time members of the North American Laminate Flooring Association (NALFA) convened here earlier this month to mark a significant milestone—20 years in the business. The event included an update on the standards-setting group’s objectives and goals, a recap of the state of the laminate flooring industry and, most importantly, the unveiling of a new website more indicative of 21st century technology.

The improved website—nalfa.com—sports a brand new look and feel with updated content and improved mobile access. It is designed to enhance the experience of consumers, trade professionals and industry members.

“We are excited about the redesign of our website,” said Dan Natkin, NALFA president. “We have worked hard to make the website user friendly for consumers who are researching their floor options while continuing to be the voice for the laminate flooring industry. We are proud of the final product.”

A few highlights of the revamped site:

Fresh new look. Reflecting a more modern 21st century feel, the new-look nalfa.com site—which features the NALFA 20th anniversary logo atop the homepage—provides easier navigation by using the top tabs or clicking on the photos. “Consumers can also view all images on one site instead of clicking through to the various members’ sites,” said Barbara June, who in addition to handling legal/marketing matters for Swiss Krono also serves on the website committee.

More consumer oriented. More consumers are conducting research online before they buy. To that end, the site reflects the customer as opposed to NALFA corporate.

Better responsiveness. “We didn’t have a responsive, mobile-friendly website—now we do,” June stated.

Screen Shot 2017-09-15 at 2.31.18 PMThe next step in the site’s evolution, according to June, will entail a search tool that lists all certified laminate installers by state.

“I would like to thank all the members for their time and input, especially Dan [Natkin], Travis Bass [executive vice president, Swiss Krono] and Roger Farabee [senior vice president, laminate and hardwood, Mohawk]. They went above and beyond the call of duty.”

State of the industry

In his address to members and guests in attendance, Natkin provided an overview of the laminate category in the U.S. “In 20 years it has become a $1 billion-plus industry. Members in this industry employ hundreds of people who are involved in the production of laminate flooring, and

the retailers and installers employ thousands who service the end customer.”

He also reminded attendees how the category has withstood intense pressure from competing flooring segments, particularly wood, LVT and, now, WPC.

“People forget laminate is one of the most environmentally sound products—and that’s coming from a wood guy. Laminate comprises 95% renewable content.”

More importantly, Natkin cited the high level of cooperation of NALFA membership, which includes the likes of Arauco, Armstrong, DMX Underlayment, IVC U.S., Kronospan, MP Global Products, Mannington, Mohawk, Pak-Lite, Pergo, Quick-Step, Sealed Air Floor Care Products, Selit Foam Solutions, Shaw Floors, Swiss Krono and Torlys. These companies, he said, represent the vast majority of laminate flooring sold in North America.

“There is a higher level of engagement in NALFA than any other trade organization in which I’m involved,” Natkin stated. “And as we enter our third decade of existence we’re continuing to serve as the police of the industry. We’re unique in that we are led by the members. The individual voices come together as the collective voice of NALFA. Each leader in this room dedicates an amazing amount of time, effort, energy and passion toward advancing our message around the goals of standardization and the benefits of laminate flooring to both the consumer and the industry.”

Not the same old laminate
“Both regular and associate NALFA members are continuing to invest millions of dollars in the production of laminate flooring in support of continued demand among consumers,” Natkin said. He cited a number of innovations, including water-resistant coreboard technologies, improved visuals and surface technologies. “It’s not the laminate flooring of 20 years ago,” he told attendees.

Mohawk’s Farabee agreed, adding the group is focusing on building a platform for the future. “It’s our job to remind people of the incredible benefits this category offers. It’s a wood-based product; it’s the most durable hard surface product outside of ceramic; it’s the easiest to install; it’s the most cost effective product on an installed basis; and it offers the most realistic visuals of any ‘replica’ product on the market. For consumers today, the potential for future sales is greater, particularly as we focus on new aspects such as moisture resistance. There’s a role for the laminate category to play with respect to the new products that are starting to emerge.”

 

Tribute to a colleague and a friend

Screen Shot 2017-09-15 at 2.33.22 PMNew York—The 20th anniversary celebration of the North American Laminate Flooring Association (NALFA) came to a close with a touching tribute to Bill Dearing, the man who served as its president from the group’s inception in 1997 until his passing in late 2016. Dearing, who not only presided over NALFA’s evolution but was also instrumental in bringing the Pergo brand to the U.S. market, lost his battle with cancer at the age of 75.

“We are members today because of Bill,” said Peter Barretto, president of Torlys, a long-time NALFA primary member. “He was a class act and gave to everyone in this room. He was the glue.”

Dan Natkin, current NALFA president who also serves as vice president of hardwood and laminate at Mannington, concurred. “Bill was always there for you if you needed anything. I considered him a colleague and a good friend.”

Natkin credited Dearing for bringing standardization to the laminate industry, eliminating the “Wild West” mentality that existed around claims. “He lived and breathed laminate flooring; he was passionate about it. He became synonymous with laminate flooring.”

Jack Boesch, marketing director for MP Global Products, a long-time NALFA associate member, recalled his early interactions with Dearing. “We were the first company outside the flooring manufacturers to get involved with NALFA, so naturally I asked a lot of questions about the laminate category. Bill welcomed me with open arms.”

Lars von Kantzow, former CEO of Pergo, hired Dearing in 1990 to help launch the Pergo brand in the U.S. “Dearing was literally Pergo’s first sales rep for Pergo,” he said (FCNews, Oct. 24/31, 2016). “He mapped out our distribution strategy and made the first contacts. He brought in retailers Carpet One and Color Tile, and then distributors such as Misco Shawnee, Bayard and William Bird. He was absolutely instrumental in putting Pergo on the map.”

Many industry members and associates were on hand for the tribute, including Roula Dearing, Bill’s wife of many years.