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NRF market moves forward with sales and optimism

March 30/April 6, 2015; Volume 28/Number 20

By Ken Ryan

Screen Shot 2015-04-03 at 12.11.05 PMLedyard, Conn.—The snow was still piled high in northeast Connecticut, but inside Foxwoods Resort & Casino spring was in the air as NRF Distributors hosted its annual North East Flooring Market (NEFM). Indeed, “spring fever” was the theme as NRF rolled out the hottest new products to “thaw out” its Northeastern retailers, the vast majority of whom dealt with a serious case of cabin fever this past winter.

In all, 320 dealers and more than 1,000 people turned out. “Every year we keep adding vendors,” Norman Pomerleau, founder and chairman of NRF, told FCNews.

Exhibiting vendors included Quick-Step, Lexmark Carpet Mills, Hallmark Floors, Somerset Hardwood Flooring, Tarkett, Johnsonite, Marazzi, EarthWerks, Interceramic and Foss Manufacturing.

“We’re mainly here to show new product and new displays, and sell displays and stock—a lot of stock,” Pomerleau said. “When this show started we had carpet and cushion; now we are adding everything.”

While NRF is well established in hardwood flooring and getting stronger in LVT and ceramic tile, Pomerleau admits he is a carpet guy at heart. “It’s still the best thing out there,” he said. “I’m still a big fan. I see nothing wrong with carpet; there are so many applications where carpet is the better surface.”

At the spring sale, Godfrey Hirst’s new Stainmaster PetProtect line and Lexmark’s Tailored by Lexmark three-dimensional carpet were big hits.

“Tailored is such a unique product,” said Terry Gray, senior vice president of marketing for NRF. “The consumer feels three different densities. It is the nicest looking carpet I have seen in a long time, and it’s not extremely high priced. We sold 100 racks already today, and it’s not even noon. Everyone who sees it wants it.”

More than 60 NRF sales personnel fanned out across the large Foxwoods banquet room to help vendors showcase their goods. Manufacturer executives on hand were impressed with the action on the floor.

“The traffic was strong, customers were buying, and we sold a nice volume of product,” said Paul Stringer, vice president of sales and marketing at Somerset. “The show is a first-class event. The NRF sales reps worked with our sales group, and I always enjoy watching the energy and confidence they exhibit selling the Somerset brand. Of course, NRF and Somerset have a long and successful history, and we enjoy a close relationship to the management at NRF. In today’s fast-paced, iPhone environment, people forget about relationships. We try not to. They don’t either.”

For Foss Manufacturing, which showed off its peel-and-stick adhesive tile, NRF represents the company’s lone distribution outlet in the Northeast. And that’s perfectly fine with Foss president Mike DeGrace. “We’re busier here than we were at Surfaces. In a word, this show is fantastic. Some of the comments I heard were, ‘Best new product I have seen in years’ and ‘Most innovative.’ We sold twice as many racks as the goal I set.”

Most dealers were there to buy. However, Phil Oropallo, owner of Syracuse Carpet & Flooring in Syracuse, N.Y., who has been coming to NRF markets for 17 years, uses the March event to plan his buying season. “Our main goal is to look at all the different products here and plan accordingly over the next six to eight months. We will pick up a couple of new wood lines at the show, specifically Owens and Hallmark.”

Joe and Debbie Marotta, co-owners of Personal Touch Flooring in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., said the handscraped collection from Hallmark has been a home run for their business. “Heirloom was a big hit; it comes in oak, hickory and maple, all 5 inches and wider. The product just sells itself,” Joe Marotta said. “Once we had two or three of the Hallmark lines, we decided we had to have every floor it offers—that is how much we believe in Hallmark’s floors.”

Personal Touch Flooring has a similarly strong relationship with Tarkett. “It has made our business very successful. Personally, I want a company you can talk to. The relationship with Tarkett works very well.”

Donna Marotta said their business has been greatly enhanced by their association with NRF. “The best decision we made 20 years ago was to put all of our eggs in the NRF basket. They take care of you.”