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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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Ava by Novalis joins mindful Materials library

Toronto, Canada—Novalis Innovative Flooring’s specified commercial LVT line, AVA, will now be part of the mindful Materials. This searchable database provides a common platform for manufacturers to communicate with transparency about their products to the entire design industry.

“We are delighted for our AVA products to now be listed on this database,” said Melissa Quick, commercial product and marketing manager, North America for AVA. “Our designer customers will now be able to more easily find us and specify AVA for their Living Building Challenge, WELL or LEED projects.”

All AVA products meet or exceed worldwide certifications for sustainable manufacturing practices, as well product health and safety concerns. Earlier this month, all AVA flooring products achieved Greenguard Gold certification standards.

“Being in mindful Materials is part of our continued commitment to be the LVT brand of choice for the A&D community,” Quick said. “And we plan many more green announcements in the coming year.”

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Greenbuild 2017: Short but select group of flooring exhibitors come with an agenda

November 20/27, 2017: Volume 32, Issue 12

By Steven Feldman

 

Screen Shot 2017-11-27 at 1.41.43 PMBoston—Flooring companies were few and far between as 700 exhibitors convened here earlier this month at Greenbuild, billed as the world’s largest conference and expo dedicated to green building. But those who did make the trip to Beantown came with a purpose. From demonstrating a commitment to sustainability and transparency to the concept of biophilia, a select group of flooring manufacturers saw the value in getting in front of the 20,000-plus attendees.

Greenbuild’s basic value proposition is clear: Sustainable building practices as they relate to work and living environments are good for the bottom line. These are businesspeople who see the opportunity to help improve the planet while growing a successful enterprise.

Mohawk, which occupied more real estate on the show floor than any other flooring manufacturer, came to Greenbuild as a Platinum sponsor and to demonstrate its holistic approach to sustainability. In fact, this marked the first time every aspect of sustainability came together—both residential and commercial, according to George Bandy, vice president of sustainability. As such, Mohawk was putting the spotlight on Air.o on the residential side and Lichen on the commercial side.

According to Seth Arnold, vice president, residential marketing, Mohawk’s messaging perfectly aligned with the theme of Greenbuild 2017: All in. “That message is perfect because we look at providing economically viable solutions—solutions that appeal to consumers and solutions that appeal to our retail partners—and provide us with a supply advantage. Air.o is the perfect product to demonstrate that holistic, ‘all in’ approach to sustainability. It provides installation advantages, it provides consumer appeal, the economics are reasonable and ensures Mohawk a future supply chain of recyclable flooring.”

While Greenbuild is geared more toward a commercial audience, Arnold said everyone Mohawk talked to was fascinated by what it is doing with Air.o because it truly embodies the vision of a closed-loop approach to the category. “I think people have aspired to have a product like this for years.”

Mohawk, Bandy added, came to Greenbuild with another important purpose: to listen and learn. “We are here because this is where our customers are. In order to create the right products and solutions, you have to hear what they are looking for. We need to know what we need to do better, how to position our brand.”

Metroflor
Metroflor was making its Greenbuild debut with multiple goals, according to Rochelle Routman, LEED AP, O+M chief sustainability officer, and that ranged from transparency to biophilia. “First, we want to demonstrate our commitment to sustainability, especially with a focus on transparency and our leadership in the resilient flooring industry. We also want to show the sustainable attributes of vinyl and how the product can be made with a lower environmental impact.”

Transparency has been at the forefront of Routman’s efforts throughout her career, most recently in a similar position at Mohawk between 2012 and 2016. However, she said those transparency initiatives had not spread to resilient flooring as there have been multiple Declare labels issued for carpet but not resilient flooring.

According to Routman, there are a few reasons for that. “First, many manufacturers don’t want to divulge what’s in their products. Second, many resilient products are made in Asia and many companies who market resilient products in the U.S. do not have the longstanding relationships with their Asian suppliers, unlike Metroflor. We trust our suppliers completely. We know what they are telling us is truthful.” To illustrate, Metroflor owns the first Declare label for a rigid core product.

Screen Shot 2017-11-27 at 1.42.43 PMTransparency at Metroflor extends to its Asian factories. “That is an unheard of topic of conversation,” Routman added. “We open the doors of our factories to customers.”

Because Metroflor is so concerned about the ingredients in its products, it will not accept vinyl from external sources. “That is counterproductive and can create risk for the company,” Routman noted. “Other companies are doing that because it can lower the price of the product. Our goal is to have a pure, clean product, and you can’t do that unless you have a trusting relationship with the factory.”

Metroflor at Greenbuild was also talking about biophilia, which is basically this innate feeling for the love of nature. “We have evolved over time with nature being a central part of our lives,” Routman explained. To illustrate the point, Metroflor had some natural vegetation and actual hardwood in its booth. “The space on an emotional level creates a feeling of refuge—an enclosed, safe place.”

Shaw Industries
Shaw Industries took a different approach to Greenbuild 2017 than in years past. Rather than showcase the sustainability attributes of its products, the company decided to host multiple educational sessions on Cradle to Cradle certification, a cause that Shaw has championed for years. It even had the father of Cradle to Cradle, architect William McDonough, as one of its presenters.

“For years we have been a gold sponsor at Greenbuild,” said Paul Murray, vice president of sustainability, “and we would have a booth. You engage with a few people who would stop by. This year we thought it was time to up our education outreach. So when the U.S. Green Building Council offered us a learning lab, and we got to choose the topic, Cradle to Cradle was an obvious choice.”

The growing trend has gone from recycled content as the most frequently asked question to what’s in it, he said. “It’s all about material health, and Cradle to Cradle is a leader in third-party certification.”

With the USGBC now promoting this certification, Cradle to Cradle will move from niche to something that will be driven through the whole green building community. Thus, every session at the Shaw booth included some aspect of Cradle to Cradle, from how Shaw was using it in the marketplace to the city of San Francisco writing it into specifications.

Altro
Sheet vinyl manufacturer Altro came to Greenbuild to talk about its sustainability message and the products it offers surrounding that, according to Richard Finnegan, marketing manager.

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NeoCon East: Vendors showcase broad range of products, designs

November 20/27, 2017: Volume 32, Issue 12

By Lindsay Baillie

 

Screen Shot 2017-11-27 at 10.33.49 AMPhiladelphia—With roughly 5,000 attendees and more than 150 exhibitors, NeoCon East provided the commercial interiors community another opportunity to engage on the East Coast during the fall season. The two-day show, which took place here at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, Nov. 15–16, featured four keynote speeches, more than 25 CEUs and countless opportunities for attendees to network and learn about the latest commercial products.

“Exhibiting companies gained valuable direct contact with key architects, designers and major corporate and government end users, while attending professionals gained insight and access to the latest ideas and innovations in the industry,” said Julie Kohl, vice president, exhibitor sales, NeoCon Shows. “Many exhibitors have already reported strong project leads and business opportunities as a result of the 2017 edition.”

Of the 150 exhibitors, a handful were flooring manufacturers touting their latest and greatest products of 2017. Among them: Altro, Atlas Carpet Mills, Ava by Novalis, Mannington, Patcraft, Shaw Contract and Tarkett. Product introductions ran the gamut from hard to soft surfaces.

For Richard Burn, floors product manager, Altro, NeoCon East provides an important opportunity to show product. “It’s good to be at this show because we get to see customers we do business with and show them the new products.”

Altro highlighted some of its more vibrant products with new concrete, linen, salt and pepper designs. “The market has been very receptive to them,” Burn said. “We’ve had quite a busy year with our LVT and sheet products. We’ve also launched new wood products and expanded our ranges to offer acoustic variances.”

NeoCon East provided Atlas Carpet Mills the opportunity to show off new products and tease new collections currently under development. “We have the Epic collection coming out at the end of this month,” said Sheila Berg, marketing manager. “And our latest collection, Connections, is on the floor today. Our product line now includes broadloom, carpet tile squares, carpet tile planks and area rugs.”

But product is not the only new “news” at Atlas. “We freshened up our logo with a new color and our website has a new look,” Berg added.

Ava by Novalis highlighted its latest introductions, SMPL and SPRK, which are phthalate free and 100% recyclable. SMPL is a high-performance core (HPC) floating floor that has a cork underlayment for improved acoustic performance. SPRK is offered in 38 colorways, has a 20 mil wear layer, 2.5mm overall thickness in an 18 x 18 format. SPRK boasts an antimicrobial coating, increased scratch and scuff resistance and excellent stain and fade resistance. In addition, it is easy to maintain and has a 10-year commercial and lifetime residential warranty.

Screen Shot 2017-11-27 at 10.33.55 AMMannington focused on commercial intros reflecting soft, sophisticated color palettes with products that are useable in multiple applications. Highlights included: the Portland collection—a 12 x 48 carpet plank product—and its Origami collection as well as new visuals from its Amtico line. “All of the products we’re here today are those we showed at NeoCon in June,” said Heather Kane, commercial product design supervisor. “The focus here was toward a corporate marketplace, more broad-based.”

Patcraft’s booth showcased both hard and soft surface products. Its carpet offerings included collections such as Nocturnal, Backlit and Color Filter, which can be used together or separate to create depth, while included Subtractive Layers, a vinyl flooring line, highlighted the hard surface offerings.

“Subtractive Layers is made from our designer Kelly Stewart, who actually took a painting, blended the colors and used a comb to create texture,” Jeff West, vice president of marketing and product development, explained. “Most people want to feel it because it has all of this texture. It is a 5mm thickness—the same as carpet tile—so you can install it right next to carpet tile without having to use a transition strip.”

Shaw Contract took the wraps off Emergence and Off the Grid. The former—which was illustrated using pixelated rose patterns accompanied by larger rose-patterned images—represents a play on traditional patterns, while Off the Grid was inspired by nature and relaxation. To highlight the product, Shaw Contract’s booth included photographs of mountains, caves and rock formations.

On the soft surface side, Tarkett showcased Color Knit, a new multi-color soft surface, as well as its Powerbond line. “Powerbond performs and lasts,” said Noelle Omer, public relations and social media manager, Tarkett North America. “It is part of our sustainability story in that it helps with indoor air quality and is recyclable.”

For hard surfaces, Tarkett put the spotlight on Transcend, its new loose lay product, as well as its digital print LVT. “Our digital print LVT is what everyone is coming in to touch,” Omer explained. “We introduced digital print last year at NeoCon. With More than Wood we’re showing all that you can do with wood looks. It’s all made in the States and made to order.”

No NeoCon East for 2018
Show officials announced the cancellation of NeoCon East 2018. Instead, the event will resume in 2019. “The team is currently working with key stakeholders and partners to assess and design a post-NeoCon/fall season show that continues to provide a platform to connect the industry while addressing its most current and relevant topics and opportunities,” Kohl said. “New event details including dates and location will be available in the coming months.”

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‘Pillars’ fortify Karndean’s corporate culture

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

By Ken Ryan

 

Screen Shot 2017-09-15 at 2.49.32 PMIn its 40-plus years, Karndean Designflooring has developed and maintained a closeness whereby every person has a voice. Even as it grew the company never lost sight of the importance of empowerment, where everyone from CEO Larry Browder to the warehouse worker had a say.

That corporate culture led Karndean to roll out its “4 Pillars” initiative, which covers product, selection, service and brand. “Every company has a corporate mission; we want to ensure that everyone in the company is working toward the same goal,” said Emil Mellow, director of public relations and communications. “We have always included staff on where we are going as a company. You grow to 172 people…how do you grab everyone’s opinion? The fact is every employee here touches all four of these pillars and is focused on helping us achieve our goal of becoming the leading global brand.”

The spirit of teamwork was evident at a recent meeting to discuss product design. A woman who helps produce the merchandising sample boards presented an idea on how to better streamline the production of the boards. “Although we have grown to employ approximately 100 full-time employees at our Export, Pa., facility alone, this new initiative makes our vision for the company clear to all our employees so that we can achieve these shared goals together,” Browder said.

The pillars in summary:

Product. It all starts and ends with quality product. To Karndean, quality products mean low callbacks for retailers and low claims. As a team they go through the entire process—designs, color, marketing, fashion trends—often working two to three years ahead of a product launch. “The reason is it takes time to perfect the technology, perfect the designs to deliver a high-quality, high-performing product at a competitive cost,” Mellow explained. A good example of that is Korlok, the company’s newest LVT line.

Selection. “We are solution providers, that is why selection is so important,” Mellow stated. “No matter your circumstances there is Karndean to service your needs.” Whether it is floating floors for subfloor situations, glue-down or LooseLay, Karndean strives to pick the right flooring solution without ever having to compromise to get a quality floor.

Service. Karndean keeps its inventory levels plentiful through three distribution centers that provide 48-hour turnaround time on products, and POS/merchandising. As Mellow explains, “You cannot be hard to do business with; we are very in tune to this. We have millions of square feet available. We have the inventory levels to fill the orders, and we have the POS materials to service our dealers.”

Brand. What does Karndean Designflooring’s brand represent? For many it translates into a trusted name with 40 years of experience. “We are partners with our retailers and commercial buying groups [i.e., Fuse Alliance],” Mellow said. “To the retail world we are a player, a big player. In the LVT world we are a known quantity, a brand associated with good design. We believe we are an industry leader in each of these pillars. No one has the design components, the stocking levels, etc., that we have.”

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Stepevi debuts 'Sparkle' rug collection

STEPEVI-Bellevue-cut-out
Stepevi’s Bellevue from the Sparkle collection.

New York—Stepevi will celebrate the beginning of summer with the launch of its new collection Sparkle. Inspired by the metallic quality of fine lurex fibers, Sparkle lends a tasteful touch of opulence to any space and can be customized to any size and/or shape.

Produced using a new tufting technique, the handcrafted rugs feature superior silk, wool, viscose and metallic lurex materials that, when combined, give the collection its appearance and namesake. The result of this intricate process is a chic rug with glistening features that is an asset to any room. The collection is available in seven designs: Bellevue, Chess, Floral Cream, Floral Multi Color, Lago, Piano and Sketch. The shimmer of the lurex adds a layer of dimension to each of the different styles, which range from geometric to floral designs.

With a wealth of experience, Stepevi melds history, style and innovative uses of textures in its new collection, which will be on view at the brand’s NYC showroom (147 Wooster Street, SoHo).

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Torlys launches new CorkWood product

Screen Shot 2017-05-16 at 11.30.30 AMToronto, Canada—Torlys has launched a new type of flooring called CorkWood. The product is a specially engineered floor that has been created to bring together all the best features and benefits of other types of floors in one superior, all-inclusive product—combining the look of wood, the durability of laminate and the comfort of cork.

The top layer of Torlys CorkWood is made of a high-definition digitally printed compressed layer of cork in realistic patterns of oak and walnut. This new program is offered in two collections: CorkWood Designer, featuring extra-long 6’ planks in nine on-trend colors, and CorkWood Elite, in planks almost 4’ long and in five colors.

CorkWood is engineered with a durable HDF smart core for dent resistance and a 3mm (Designer) or 2.5mm (Elite) thick top layer of compressed cork. The polyurethane finish is equivalent to AC4 laminate and the sophisticated printing process makes CorkWood more fade resistant than its traditional counterparts. This means it will perform like laminate and retain the hardwood look for years to come.

Along with the compressed cork top layer, the new product includes the Torlys CorkPlus attached underlay for added warmth and sound insulation. The CorkPlus underlay is infused with Microban antimicrobial product protection that inhibits the growth of mold and mildew. This program, along with all other Torlys cork collections, is FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified, ensuring the wood and cork used in the manufacturing process comes from responsibly managed forests.

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My take: It’s not about the product but rather the process

May 8/15, 2017: Volume 31, Issue 24

By Steven Feldman

 

Screen Shot 2016-07-15 at 3.46.11 PMFrom time to time I am asked to speak at an industry event. One of the things I like to do is give retailers ways to look at their businesses by using other industries and consumer goods to illustrate key points.

One point I always look to drive home is any product that focuses on itself rather than the process of distribution will become a commodity. Why? Because product can be easily copied whereas a process is harder to emulate.

For example, if McDonald’s only talks about the beef in the burger they’re going to lose market share because a hamburger is a commodity. Dave Thomas, the former owner of Wendy’s, taught us that lesson. He spent $38 million attacking McDonald’s with an advertising program called “Where’s the Beef?”—a pure product advertising push that destroyed the burger market. McDonald’s responded with “Buy one, get one free.”

Then, owner Ray Kroc further responded by asking two questions: Who is our primary, long-term, lifestyle, value customer; and what is their highest need? The best customer at McDonald’s is not the old man drinking a $1 cup of coffee reading a free newspaper. The right answer is 2.3 children in the back of a mini-van with two dysfunctional parents driving. What’s the most important thing you can do for the parents? Give them more beef in the burger, or shut the kids up? A McDonald’s franchisee in Kansas City came up with the answer to Where’s the Beef? It was called the Happy Meal. Put a hamburger, French fries and a Coke along with a little toy in a fun bag and the kids are content. It created differentiation through the delivery of that burger and circumvented commoditization.

Here’s another example from the food industy. Do you know what Domino’s Pizza specializes in? Ask Tom Monaghan—who founded the company in 1960 and sold it for $1 billion in 1998—who he was, and he’d tell you he was the No. 1 pizza delivery guy in North America. He didn’t focus on the pizza, he focused on the process. “I don’t care about the product; I care about the delivery.” Why? “I discovered that nobody calls me who isn’t already hungry. I’m not telling them how many kinds of pizza they can buy or how good it tastes. That would be stupid. I’m telling them how fast they can get it.” He differentiated himself through the process of delivery with an ad program stating, “Thirty minutes or it’s free.” He could have delivered anyone’s pizza.

Last example. Who wants to rent a car? No one, that’s who. People who have to rent a car care about one thing: getting the heck out of the airport. The value of going to a rental car company is not the car. Each company’s cars are more or less the same as the next company. Yet the same car that’s $59 at Alamo is $79 at Hertz. Hertz charges $20 more to get you out of the airport faster. It’s a destination management company. It’s also one of few rental agencies making money. A bunch of rental car companies have filed for bankruptcy over the last two decades. Why? Because they couldn’t figure out how to build value into the rental of an automobile. That’s because there is no value. It’s a commodity. The value is how they get you where you’re going and how they retrieve that automobile.

So what is the lesson to be learned here? The focus can’t solely be on the products you have on your showroom floor. The guy down the street has the same or similar products. If that’s all there is then it becomes a price game. To really win, it has to be about things like service, showroom, experience, speed of installation, solving of problems, likeability. That’s how you win.

 

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Crossville’s Handwritten collection invites custom, creative designs

Handwritten by Crossville - laundry roomCrossville, Tenn.—Crossville has introduced Handwritten, a wall tile collection inspired by artisanal craftsmanship. With its range of creative shapes, sizes, and colors, this line empowers designers to create truly custom installations for commercial and residential interior walls.

“In a nod to the makers’ movement and with a love of handmade artistry, this line not only captures the look of handmade tile but comes with a wealth of decorative options that lets designers invent their own unique patterns and leave their signature on every installation,” said Lindsey Waldrep, Crossville’s vice president of marketing. “Importantly, the line is produced for consistent execution—so we have a handmade look in tiles that are predictably proportioned and meet quality standards. That means designers can specify Handwritten with confidence that the tiles will be easy to work with in installation while also providing visually interesting, nuanced style.”

Handwritten’s color options support the unbridled creativity of this collection. The palette features nine hues ranging from bold tones to classic neutrals: Unscripted (super white), Inkwell (dark blue), Love Letter (orange), Gold Leaf (yellow), Private Affair (suede), Post Card (putty), Par Avion (light blue), Pen Pal (green) and Dear Sir (dark brown).

This modern, versatile color palette comes to life in the gamut of size and shape options. Field tile sizes are 3 x 6 and 3 x 12. Pickets offered in both gothic and standard interpretations come in 3 x 6, while diamond and leaf mosaics are mesh-mounted on 12 x 12 sheets. Handwritten offers a complete trim package including bullnose, dome and arrow liners, and chair rails to finish installations in refined style.