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NeoCon turns 50: Design, innovation take center stage at milestone event

By Lindsay Baillie

Chicago—NeoCon, one of the largest commercial interior design shows in North America, concluded its 50th edition last month, drawing in more than 50,000 attendees—a 5% increase from 2017. The Mart in Chicago was bursting with 140 showrooms, where roughly 350 exhibitors showcased the latest and greatest in corporate, hospitality, healthcare, education and retail design.

According to show management, the show floor was completely occupied, which was in keeping with NeoCon trends seen over the past 10 years. What’s more, flooring was the second highest represented commercial industry. “The fact that this was our 50th edition added a lot of buzz and energy,” said Byron Morton, vice president of leasing, NeoCon.

The scores of A&D professionals in attendance echoed those sentiments. “We could tell from the energetic crowds at The Mart that the excitement of NeoCon was at an all-time high this year,” said John Hopkins, principal and design director, IA Interiors Architects’ Chicago office. “We loved that there was such a focus on acoustic solutions—it’s an undervalued component when it comes to privacy, workplaces and open environments. We also noticed there were a lot of natural materials and finishes, a welcome return after the influx of the cold, industrial materials of the past few years.”

Angie Lee, AIA, IIDA, principal, design director-interiors, FXCollaborative Architects LLP, New York, agreed. “I have attended NeoCon for the last three years and continue to be impressed by the immense energy and creativity of the manufacturers, designers and associations. I saw a range of products implementing unexpected, thought-provoking uses of color, pattern and texture.”

Vendors attributed much of that enthusiasm to three primary factors—the strength of key end-use market sectors, the bevy of new products that provide both aesthetic and performance solutions, and positive trends in non-residential construction spending.

“Traditional hard surface markets like retail and healthcare still are very strong, and non-traditional markets such as offices and hospitality are shifting toward hard surfaces in many areas they did not consider before,” Robert Brockman, segment marketing manager, commercial, Armstrong Flooring, told FCNews.

LVT in particular is driving commercial flooring consumption across several end-use markets as it continues to exceed the growth of the once-dominant broadloom sector. This is especially the case in hotels. “Most hospitality end users are also looking to make a change to something more timeless in terms of pattern and color,” noted Al Boulogne, vice president, commercial resilient business, Mannington Commercial. “That, coupled with the easier maintenance requirements, make it an ideal product for these environments.”

But it’s not just hospitality that’s driving LVT specifications. Observers say healthcare holds the biggest growth potential for LVT, especially in areas such as hotel lobbies, hospital corridors and senior living spaces. “Slip/fall issues help LVT vs. other hard surface options,” said Paul Eanes, vice president of new business development, Metroflor.

Product trends
The vast array of innovative new products on display at the show reflected diverse requirements of architects, specifiers and designers. To keep up with demand, flooring manufacturers are developing new products across both hard and soft surface arenas that appeal to multiple commercial sectors at a time. In addition to developing products that fulfill “resi-mercial” demands, manufacturers are incorporating more pops of color to assist designers in creating unique, productive spaces.

In terms of hard surfaces, manufacturers continue to incorporate sustainable, biophilic design, with resilient flooring mimicking stone, cement, wood and other natural looks. Armstrong Flooring, for example, rolled out a heterogeneous sheet product called Mixers, which was inspired by the vibrant colors of different cocktails. Focused on its heterogeneous and homogeneous sheet lines, Armstrong presented attendees with new products that boast equal performance. “The update there is two fold,” Brockman stated, adding that designers can specify both sheet lines together without performance issues. “It’s not only new designs and patterns, but Diamond 10 technology has been added to the heterogeneous line.”

New to NeoCon, Cleo Contract—a Congoleum brand—highlighted its non-vinyl, non-PVC product. Made up of 85% limestone, Cleo has an ultra-low VOC, high-performance clear coating for durability and performance. What’s more, its visuals are digitally printed, which allows the company to produce custom looks. To help designers show what the product looks like after a complete install, Cleo Contract developed digitally printed papers that can be updated in real time with the current SKUs, according to Kurt Denman, chief marketing officer and executive vice president, sales, Congoleum.

Also riding the non-vinyl train is Mannington Commercial with its latest non-vinyl alternative resilient tile, Cirro. Offered in 20 visuals and four different sizes in tile and plank formats, Cirro can be installed using traditional resilient adhesives.

Also new from Mannington is Northern Wonders, which was inspired by a designer’s visit to see the Northern Lights. “Its colors and design are a culmination of ideas developed during the trip,” said Whitney LeGate, business manager, commercial LVT, Mannington. The product is available in nine colorways.

Over at the Karndean Designflooring space, the emphasis was on designer education as well as the seemingly endless options available through its Korlok, glue-down and loose-lay products. The company’s grout strips, available in 16 colors, were installed in the booth to show how to incorporate fake grout lines as well as pops of color to a SKU. “We’ve expanded our solid color offering to allow for both bold, saturated pops of colors and pastels to align with 2019 color forecasts, great for projects that require an elevated brand identity or to add a bit of whimsy,” said Jenne Ross, director of marketing. “We’re excited that these custom colors will be available on-demand and custom cut at our Pittsburgh facility.”

One of the products Raskin Industries showcased was Ceramix, a resilient tile with built-in grout lines that’s available in a variety of visuals, including stone, marble and concrete. “We have 36 x 36 tiles that give you a really clean smooth concrete look,” said Ted Rocha, vice president of sales. “It would be something that you’d see in an Apple store, for instance.”

Aspecta released its Aspecta 10 line, a premium multi-layer flooring with Isocore technology. The new offering features a 28mil wear layer and can be installed floating corner to corner—thanks in part to its innovative vertical locking system. “This is the Rolls Royce of multi-layer flooring,” said Marcel Kies, global CEO, Aspecta. “What we’ve tried to create is a good, better, best product.”

Shannon Specialty Floors displayed its new Naturescapes line, which was designed with the help of Jason McLennan, author, founder and creator of the Living Building Challenge. Naturescapes, he explained, is a resilient flooring product made with organic polymers. “It’s not vinyl, it’s free of all Red List chemicals and it’s the first Living Product Certified resilient flooring in the industry. This product class is highly sought after.”

Roppe highlighted multiple products at the show, including its Northern Parallels Chevron LVT planks available in a 9¼ x 59¼ format in three color ranges. According to Dee Dee Brickner, marketing manager, the line reflects strong demand for one of the most popular patterns—a directional pattern that’s often seen in real hardwood installations. “By offering a left and right design, these floors can also be laid in the same direction to create another unique look by using only one side.”

Looking beyond LVT, manufacturers in the rubber segment also looked to generate some buzz by showcasing products in on-trend, vibrant colors. Suitable for multiple applications, these manufacturers have developed customer cut and base profile programs to provide designers with greater options.

Then there was American Biltrite’s AB Pure, which features its signature Nfuse technology (Here, the coating that is applied directly into the flooring.) “Normally you would take [a rubber floor] out of the box, glue it down and then you’d scrub and clean it to release the mold agent,” Mark Tickle, director of marketing, explained. “With AB Pure, once you lay it down you use a damp mop on the surface. Then as soon as the adhesive has cured you can have people on it.”

Flexco is incorporating different wood-look visuals as well as new rubber plank sizes to its portfolio. “We’re also going to be launching some of our new base profiles, which is catching a lot of people’s interest,” said Haley Plank, marketing manager. “We’re also working on sustainability for our products. We have two new HPDs coming out for our rubber tile and treads.”

Procedo Flooring’s new Maxime rubber flooring line—available in eight colors in a 24 x 24 tile format—was designed to be installed across multiple settings, including educational facilities, sports facilities and retail areas. “We also started doing water jet cuts on the product for greater design options,” said Pierre Lefort, national sales manager.

All shapes and sizes
“Some of the coolest things in floor covering,” noted NeoCon’s Morton, “has to be the different shapes and textures” on display at the show. To that end, Tarkett showcased several products ranging from Pentagonals, which won a Best of NeoCon Gold, and Woven Fringe, a Best of NeoCon Platinum winner.

According to Terry Mowers, vice president chief creative officer, Pentagonals features rubber in a way that highlights a wide range of design possibilities. “You can get whatever color palettes you want within the system and a variety of shapes.”

Woven Fringe complements Tarkett’s rubber offering by providing a resi-mercial solution that is part of the company’s area rug program. According to Mowers, the product’s neutral color palette fits right in with current trends. “We’re seeing grays moving to healthcare in combination with other colorings. We’re also seeing grays getting warmer but we’re not seeing them move that far away.”

As hard surfaces continue to gain more share across various commercial markets, end users are incorporating more area rugs in their designs. At the same time, carpet tile is also gaining steam. New soft surfaces continue to follow sustainable, biophilic design while brightening up spaces with hints of color.

Case in point: Aquafil’s booth displayed clothing and carpet featuring Econyl fiber. According to Kathy Long, brand communications manager, the booth was designed to show how fashion and carpet flow together. “We’re trying to show the endless possibilities of Econyl,” Long said. “We have 28 new colors to the Econyl collection—new neutrals and pops.”

Patcraft highlighted Dichroic, a PET carpet tile made from recycled plastic bottles. “We’ve worked on two products to pull plastic waste out of the environment,” said Kieren Corcoran, director of performance markets. “We’ve taken the bottle chip that can’t be recycled and turned it into fibers. We can then recycle it again at the end of its life back into pellets.”

EF Contract, which made its NeoCon debut, highlighted several carpet collections, including Rust Dye. “What we did was take metals and went through the process of rust dying them and capturing what they leave behind as they decay,” Susan Curtis, vice president, design and marketing, explained. “We’re all about tile, skinny planks and giving the designer flexible to design their own patterns.”

New to Mannington’s broadloom products is Moire, a carpet tile offering developed in conjunction with installation artist Gabriel Dawe. Moire mimics an installation Dawe completed in The Mart, which featured 30 miles of colorful fiber organized in prism format. Interestingly, the installation changed its colors as attendees passed by.

Mohawk put the spotlight on several new soft surface offerings, including Sunweave, a collection of woven broadloom and rug products featuring Heathered Hues Duracolor premium nylon, and Crafted Convergence, which draws on influence from Native American pottery and baskets to everyday Japanese and African garments. “With Crafted Convergence, we’re starting to transfer more hospitality looks into the workplace,” said Mark Oliver, vice president, workplace and retail. “The other beauty is it’s broadloom, but we’re also offering it as a rug.”

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NeoCon Preview

May 28/June 4, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 25

By Mara Bollettieri

 

This year NeoCon celebrates its 50th anniversary of showcasing innovative flooring designs for the commercial contract market. The three-day event kicks off June 11 at the Merchandise Mart in Chicago.

The exhibition will feature thousands of new flooring products from a plethora of manufacturers and includes 100 CEU seminars, various programs, special anniversary celebrations, marquee presentations and more.

Following are some of the latest commercial products that will be on display during the show.

Aquafil USA

Econyl regenerated nylon opens up endless possibilities for architects, designers and carpet producers seeking a synthetic covering or carpet that performs beyond expectations.

With the addition of 28 new colors, Econyl yarn is now available in 170 options, all eligible for LEED points. Designers can create performance-driven carpets with Econyl while giving their clients an innovative sustainable solution.

According to Aquafil, Econyl regenerated nylon means no waste, no new resources—just endless possibilities.

Altro Floors

Altro Orchestra resilient flooring has been engineered to create the ideal environment to heal, learn and live. For demanding areas with constant foot traffic, this vinyl sheet provides comfort underfoot and sound reduction. With a grand palette of 40 colors, designers can create the right atmosphere for their spaces.

Altro Orchestra is a 2.8mm sheet vinyl made with 22% rapidly renewable, bio-based content and is certified for low VOCs, thereby helping facilities achieve LEED goals.

American Biltrite

ABPure rubber flooring tiles with Nfuse technology are ready to use right out of the box. The patent-pending treatment allows foot traffic immediately after installation. This tile requires time-consuming set up; is extremely durable against soiling, staining and scuffing; significantly reduces installation downtime; is easier to clean and is declared Red List free.

Cleo Contract

Cleo Contract is a patented construction that combines engineered performance with visual artistry. It has a waterproof, flexible core that is 85% limestone and contains zero PVC, plasticizers, phthalates or chloro-chemicals. Solvent-free, high-fidelity digital imaging offers nearly unlimited design possibilities with nuances in shading and detail. An ultra-low VOC, high-performance clear coating delivers durability and performance.

DuChâteau

DuChâteau’s Vinyl DeLuxe Grand offers unique visuals and a European aesthetic in a durable and low-maintenance flooring option. Available in 7- and 9-inch-wide plank formats, Vinyl Deluxe Grand is the latest chapter in luxury engineered floating floors with LuxCor waterproof core, easy click installation and attached HushWalk underlayment. This collection captures the beauty of wood and appeals to residential and commercial customers.

EF Contract

New materials for product development often focus on a single feature—lightweight, durable, tech-enabled. The EF Contract Design Studio played with these concepts in its new Kicks collection, inspired by innovative materials and interpreted through the company’s own innovative tufting and high-performance backing technologies. These inspirations produced a collection that is versatile, while the modular formats enable designers to create complex installations as well as unified, simple fields of texture.

Fletco Carpets

LockTiles is a unique carpet tile shape with laser-cut edges that interlock to fit together in all directions, meter for meter, no matter the size of the area. LockTiles guarantees an effective installation with a homogeneous surface, making the joints less visible. It is for users who want the best in flat-woven carpet tiles and its advantages yet still desire the look of broadloom.

Flexco

The FreeFlex rubber tile collection embodies true flexibility. A variety of new sizes offer patterns and textures with the durability and resilience of rubber. Sizes include: 6 x 36, 12 x 36 and 18 x 36, These additional sizes complement the company’s existing collection of 12 x 12, 18 x 18 and 36 x 36 tiles.

Johnsonite

Pentagonals from Johnsonite, a Tarkett brand, is a collection of three distinct shapes created with Cradle to Cradle certified rubber flooring. Johnsonite has turned three convex polygons into rubber tiles; each is available in Johnsonite’s full rubber flooring line, meaning designers can choose from nearly limitless textures and colors to create truly unique flooring. Rubber flooring is naturally slip resistant with shock-absorbing qualities as well as acoustic properties. The line is also sustainable.

Karndean Designflooring

Textum from the Opus collection was inspired by forms in concrete. It was created as a hybrid abstract wood visual that combines the grain detailing and plank format of traditional European oak flooring with the effect of imprinted concrete. These 36 x 6-inch planks act as a wood visual but can also be used with design strips to create the look of porcelain tile without the practical drawbacks. It features a 20 mil wear layer and a 15-year commercial warranty.

Mannington Commercial

The Cirro collection, a non-vinyl alternative to LVT, is a thermoplastic composite resilient tile that offers the same versatility as LVT. Cirro does not contain any ortho-phthalate plasticizers and is a low-emitting product. In addition, its sustainable construction features recycled content. Available in 20 visuals, it’s designed to bring beauty and sustainability to any space. Featuring 16 wood visuals in 71⁄2 x 48 and 41⁄2 x 36 plank sizes, two stone patterns and two abstract visuals in 18 x 18 and 12 x 24 tile sizes.

Metroflor

Metroflor will showcase the new Aspecta Ten Tilt and Tones collection. The latest LVT design breakthrough pairs four new geometrically and biophilically inspired Tilt tiles with the neutral Tones tile palette. The 24 x 24 tiles are presented in four color groups, each consisting of unique Tilt tile designs that can be paired with two companion Tones tiles. The line is suitable for most commercial environments.

Mohawk Group

Pivot Point ERT responds to a world population that continues to urbanize with patterns and colors inspired by nature and an alternative chemistry, Red List-free, PVC-free enhanced resilient tile. Using biophilic principles, its design motifs can contribute to reducing stress, enhancing creativity, improving well-being and expediting healing. It features wood, textile and stone visuals, and is designed to achieve Living Product Challenge Petal Certification.

Raskin Industries

Raskin’s Elevations AcoustX meets the demand for something unique in the flooded LVT market with fashion-forward, proprietary designs created by Michael Raskin, CEO. The enhanced aesthetics of AcoustX complement the product’s performance.

AcoustX’s pre-attached underlayment offers an acoustic solution while reducing installation time (no sound-abatement layer is required). AcoustX can be installed over most existing hard surface floors. As part of its construction, it includes a solid fiberglass sheet.

Shannon Specialty Floors

Teknoflor Naturescapes HPD is the brand’s first organic sheet good made with ecuran, an organically derived polyurethane composite material processed from plant-based oils such as castor oil and naturally occurring minerals like chalk. This resilient sheet flooring has all the advantages of sheet vinyl—durability, easy maintenance and versatility—without the PVC. It comes in 24 designs across three distinct styles that can be used independently or together.

Shaw Contract

Haven is a collection of modular carpet tiles designed to add the comforts of a residential space to the contract market. It conveys the warmth of the home in all places where people connect with colleagues and friends by utilizing color, texture and pattern. By blurring old distinctions between domestic and commercial spaces, it embraces a more nuanced understanding of how society lives today—finding home wherever creativity takes the end user.

Tandus Centiva

Tandus Centiva, a Tarkett brand, will exhibit Color Play—a product based on the company’s latest design research in education and healthcare spaces. The palette includes 24 hues in each of the three pattern options for a total of 72 product solutions. Color Play features Tarkett’s TechTonic—a shift forward in performance for hard surface floors. Its advanced new polyurethane technology is super tough and resists scratching, abrasions, scuffing and staining.

 

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Made in the USA: U.S. suppliers leverage advantages of domestic production

April 30/May 7, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 23

By Mara Bollettieri

Many domestic flooring suppliers cite numerous advantages in producing stateside. A huge benefit that Don Finkell, CEO of American OEM, pointed out is the ability to respond quickly to changing design trends in the industry. “We are closer to the market, so we are more aware of consumer preferences,” he explained. “In addition, consumer trends favor locally made products. American made has become a whole movement of its own.”

Others cite much shorter lead times as being a key benefit. “We have the ability to deliver product for large installations within four weeks,” said Michael Raskin, CEO of Raskin Industries. “In addition, we can fill in our domestic inventory to support distribution and our distributors can bolster their supplies if needed, which provides excellent support and turnaround.”

Matt Rosato, director of portfolio management, Anderson Tuftex, concurred. “When you have domestic production vs. something that’s sourced overseas, we are more agile and able to quickly hit lead times, especially for some project work. If it’s overseas, you’re looking for, after production time, 12-16 weeks of transit time into the U.S., where we can turn it around in a couple of days.”

For executives like Jimmy Tuley, vice president of residential resilient, Mannington Mills, being able to innovate and bring products quickly to market go hand in hand. “We’re also in control of our process. It’s one of the cores of Mannington—to be able to control your own destiny. And when you produce, you control that whole supply chain.”

Tom Lape, president, Mohawk Residential, can attest to that notion. Mohawk Industries is in the middle of a major push toward domestic production, with $700 million invested in five different plants. He noted that 90% of what the company produces is being sold right here at home. Beyond that, he said, “there is a high level of supplier reliability; the more you in-source, the more you create a more reliable customer and there are fewer big surprises.”

Onshoring creates jobs

Opening plants here at home, suppliers say, has increased the number of employees that suppliers need to hire. Paul Stringer, vice president of sales and marketing, Somerset Hardwood Flooring, shared that the number of employees has increased exponentially over the years now that the company has onshored production. “I started work at Somerset in 1999. At that time, we had roughly 225 employees; today, we employ more than 900 people throughout all of the Somerset operations.”

The creation of more jobs, in turn, sparks work in other industries as well, executives say, thereby stimulating the overall American economy. Mannington’s Tuley illustrates how opening plants throughout the U.S. has done precisely that. “If you look at a plant that’s growing and expanding, chances are there’s a restaurant in that area that’s opening, there are roads that are being worked on—all sorts of service industries spring up around manufacturing facilities.”

Anderson Tuftex’s Rosato also believes there’s a direct correlation between plant openings and the creation of jobs in surrounding communities. “We have a large project in Alabama with Shaw that we are investing millions of dollars in, stimulating local jobs in that state as well as other states in which we manufacture—be it California, South Carolina, Tennessee or Alabama. This is definitely impacting and increasing the workflow and job creation in those states.”

Don Maier, president and CEO, Armstrong Flooring, also feels his company is contributing to the increase in jobs in certain states. “Our domestic manufacturing supports local jobs, and we are a significant employer in many of the communities where our U.S. plants are located,” he stated.

Inherent challenges

Despite all the advantages to onshoring, there are some inherent challenges. The most prominent is the void associated with the rise in manufacturing job openings vs. the lack of a skilled workforce to fill those positions. Somerset’s Stringer can attest. “I think this new generation has frowned on factory work or production work,” he told FCNews. “Young people today want to work on computers or sit in front of a screen. They don’t see themselves doing physical labor.”

Vance Bell, chairman and CEO, Shaw Industries, concurs that finding employees in this modern age is difficult. However, he said, the company is trying to encourage people to work in this field. “We believe we have an opportunity to educate students about the rewarding careers available in manufacturing and the diversity of career paths they can take here at Shaw.”

But even in cases where you have skilled employees, there’s still somewhat of a learning curve—especially when opening up a new plant. “It’s extensive and it takes time to train people, to get equipment exactly how you want it,” Mannington’s Tuley said. “It’s a major undertaking to be able to do manufacturing in the U.S.”

Other challenges that suppliers face is the competitive pricing of products from overseas. “The most notable is the battle against cheap imports,” said Frank Douglas, vice president of business development, Crossville.

Some consumers, he noted, are indifferent when it comes to the whole Made in the USA movement, opting instead for less expensive goods.

Potential impact of tariffs

Many flooring industry executives say it’s too soon to tell whether policies instituted by the Trump Administration have helped accelerate domestic production (see related story on page 20). On some level, though, many feel the mere threat of U.S. tariffs on some Chinese imports could indeed enhance domestic production.

According to Gregg Link, senior director of product management, Dal-Tile, those who make products overseas may be at a disadvantage if these tariffs are enacted. But that’s a big if. “For those that don’t have manufacturing capability and have a heavier reliance on sourced goods—and in particular China—that’s obviously going to be something that they’re going to question,” he said. “I don’t think there’s any definite direction.”

American OEM’s Finkell sees the threat of tariffs on some imported goods as beneficial to Made in the USA. “I do believe that uncertainty around what President Trump will do with tariffs is helpful to the domestic industry. Prudent buyers are increasingly hedging their bets so as to not to have all of their eggs in the import basket if a trade war breaks out or significant tariffs are imposed on imported wood floors.”

Mannington’s Tuley is uncertain about the threats as well but feels those who onshore have the upper hand. “It’s so difficult to tell in our current environment what could happen. Certainly, tariffs could change the pricing structure of flooring products if they’re taxed in certain ways. And that could give companies that manufacture in the U.S. an advantage. But it’s so hard to predict what’s going to happen.”

Shaw’s Bell feels that regardless of whether the tariffs happen or not, Made in the USA is the way to go. “We just believe it makes economic sense for any company to have some level of in-market production for their products,” he said. “That is the overall trend globally.”

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Gilford-Johnson meeting ranked ‘best one yet’

March 19/26, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 20

By Ken Ryan

 

“Driving Performance Together in 2018” was the theme of Gilford-Johnson’s ninth annual Advantage Partners conference earlier this month. Judging by the robust turnout—100 flooring dealers, 19 vendors and 208 total attendees—the one-day meeting was a resounding success.

“More people, more customers and a great deal of optimism and energy—probably our best one yet,” said Dennis Cook, president and CEO of Gilford-Johnson, ranked No. 17 among FCNews’ top 20 distributors with $90 million in sales.

Cook, who returned to the helm of Gilford-Johnson to replace Scott Roy, said the event, which included a trade show and awards dinner, was refreshing because he was able to spend quality, one-on-one time with customers. “That was my primary objective—trying to understand some of their issues. I certainly went around to all of our vendors and thanked them for their participation. Most of the customers I spoke to had really good years in 2017, from 5% up to a 15% increase, and some even more than that. They were quite enthused about 2018. We are certainly excited about 2018 as well.”

Rob Purkins, senior vice president of sales for Gilford-Johnson, who has been at all of the conventions, concurred. “I believe this was the best Advantage Partner event we have hosted in the nine years of the program. We had a great turnout. Our dealers were optimistic about business, and every vendor at the show was swamped the entire day.”

The event was held at the Belterra Casino Resort & Spa in Florence, Ind., just over the Kentucky border. However, attendees traveled by automobile from as far away as Georgia. “We had people from Atlanta, east Tennessee, Nashville,” Cook explained. “We had some people drive from as far away as Atlanta and Dalton to come to the show.”

Many attendees were first-timers, which Cook saw as an encouraging sign for a distributor that boasts an impressive array of suppliers—among them Raskin Industries, Inhaus, Johnson Hardwood Floors, IVC, EarthWerks, Beauflor, Tarkett/Johnsonite and Somerset.

Jodie Doyle, vice president of product management for Gilford-Johnson, said the Advantage Partners event is an opportunity to showcase the latest and greatest products that will hit retail stores in the coming months. “We were really happy to show off the Johnson Premium Reservoir collection, which is our first entry into the waterproof wood segment. The response to that product and all of our new introductions was really gratifying.”

Bill Schollmeyer, CEO of Johnson Hardwood, called it a “great dealer function,” adding, “It’s been a while since I’ve attended a dealer function for a major distributor and it was fun to be part of it. You really get a feel for the relationships Gilford-Johnson has with their customers.”

Cook, who had retired to Alabama but remained a director at the company, was asked to return at the beginning of the year. He said he is happy to be back and will be there as long as needed. “I was asked the question of how long I will be staying a number of times during the meeting,” he recalled. “I have no time frame. My goal is to make this company flourish. We have a lot of opportunities that we can take advantage of.”

At the evening awards ceremony, Carpet Specialists of Louisville, Ky., was named Gilford-Johnson Dealer of the Year for 2017.

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Distributors applaud Raskin’s eye for design

Founder’s knack for styling, hot trends raises the bar

November 6/13, 2017: Volume 32, Issue 11

By Ken Ryan

 

Screen Shot 2017-11-13 at 9.48.46 AMSome flooring distributors openly worry that LVT and its subsegments WPC and rigid core—popular and successful though they may be—are becoming another commodity category with low barriers to entry. Others are concerned about what they view as a “sea of sameness” that permeates the landscape.

There are some companies that will never be confused with the status quo. One in particular is Raskin Industries, an innovator praised by its distributor partners for bringing freshness to the category with true style and design.

Eric Parrish, president of Midwest Floor Coverings, with four locations in three Midwestern states, explained the process to make designs for LVT/WPC/rigid core is not expensive for suppliers because it is a digital process. However, he noted, to actually make products requires steel plates to press the texture into the product, which can be very expensive.

In many respects, Raskin is willing to go that extra step. “There are digital film libraries for anyone to make a selection from,” Parrish said. “If you go to any of the flooring trade shows you are likely to see the same designs used by 80% of LVT manufacturers. Michael Raskin is unique by controlling the design process and putting his own stamp on color tones and trends for North America by investing in the plates.”

An example of that innovation would be Acrylx, a solid surface waterproof LVT product that Parrish began carrying earlier this year. “There is a flood of names confusing the market and consumers on what they are buying. People hear LVT, LVP, WPC and rigid core and wonder which is best. Acrylx is genius; it is what is best from each of those products. Instead of taking quality out like so many others do, Raskin puts integrity in by giving the products stability and a great hand.”

This month, Raskin Industries introduced a new branding effort to focus attention on the founder’s design expertise. “Design By Raskin” celebrates a series of Raskin hits. Among them are: Elevations, a fiberglass-reinforced, loose lay LVT; Acrylx; Ceramix, which will be introduced in late 2017/early 2018; and Acoustx—a soundproof loose lay LVT product slated for introduction in 2018.

Gilford-Johnson Flooring, a top 20 distributor, jumped on board with Raskin early on and has not looked back. “Our goal is to introduce our customers to the most state-of-the-art products, but they have to look the part and the consumer has to desire those looks,” said Jodie Doyle, vice president, product management. “Michael has always had the knack to move one step ahead of the market and really understand what consumers want from their floor. Having the visuals consumers want makes our job so much easier.”

Raskin has earned high praise from other distributor partners as well, including T&L Distributing of Houston, which carries Acrylx as well as FloorNation, Raskin’s first domestically produced LVT line. “Michael has dedicated his career to trying to make the perfect product—his sense of style and his dedication to making his products unique are difference makers,” said Scott Carson, director of products and marketing. “In my six years of having the pleasure of getting to work with Michael, he takes great pride in providing his distributors product visuals that we’ve never seen from anyone else. Raskin is in touch with tomorrow’s colors and understands the wants of today’s consumer. He does an incredible job at blending the two together.”

Raskin’s distributor partners also applaud his marketing prowess. J. Michael Welch of E.J. Welch Co. Earth City, Mo., said the industry too often gets caught up on price. But that’s not the case with Raskin. “Of course, certain segments of the market are price driven but overwhelmingly consumers buy based on color and design—which is why Raskin continues to prosper. He knows color and design. His styles are always at the front, in my opinion.”

But this is not the only consideration, Welch notes. “Equally important is performance and service, and we continue to have both after five years with Raskin. We jumped on early as a distributor and we’ll keep delivering as long as LVT is sold.”

 

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Distributors give thumbs up to Raskin’s Acrylx

July 31/Aug. 7: Volume 31, Issue 4
By Ken Ryan

Screen Shot 2017-08-07 at 11.37.23 AMAs the WPC/rigid core subsegment of LVT continues to rise in popularity, flooring distributors are looking to get in on the action by partnering with suppliers who can deliver best-in-class looks.

Raskin Industries’ Acrylx, a solid surface waterproof floor, fits that bill, they say.

“We are amazed by the rapid industry shift to the rigid category and were lucky enough to partner with Raskin early on the Acrylx offering,” said Jodie Doyle, vice president of product management, Gilford-Johnson Flooring, a top 20 flooring wholesaler. “It’s one thing for customers to hear about rigid but never see the product. We hit the ground running with Acrylx, and our customers and sales reps are excited to be on the leading edge of a booming category. There are very few suppliers actively selling the product in the market with inventory in the barn, but we have it here in the states and the early returns have been tremendous.”

Acrylx is the first Raskin line for distributor Abraham Linc, which carries Premier Home, Premier XL and Premier G-Core XL. Abraham Linc, which services the Mid-Atlantic region, discussed carrying the lines with Raskin at Surfaces in January; it started shipping Acrylx in June.

AJ Warne, director of resilient sales for Abraham Linc, said the feedback has been great. “Premier Home is their entry level collection but features a high-end look, and it has a style and design that is superior to many products at similar price points, especially for that construction style.”

Gilford-Johnson’s Doyle noted that in a market with so many competing rigid core products, cutting-edge looks could be a key separator. “That’s one of the main reasons we have partnered with Michael Raskin and his team—because everyone knows that when Michael’s name is behind the product, you are going to get tremendous visuals and the fashion-forward looks that today’s consumer demands.”

Available in three collections—Premier Home, Premier XL and Premier G-Core XL—Acrylx’s high-density core is made of pure materials and minerals that are tightly bonded with polymers to create a solid core that is more impact resistant and denser than most other flooring.

Premier Home is available in eight oak and distressed wood grain designs and is available in 6 x 37 formats with a 12-mil wear layer. Premier XL is showcased in four wood grain traditional visuals in a 9 x 60 plank with a 20-mil wear layer. Premier G-Core XL collection features a G-Core sound barrier backing for added acoustical absorption; it is also available in a 9 x 60 plank and 20-mil wear layer. It comes in four handscraped wood grain designs.

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Raskin Industries expands via To Market acquisition

Objective is to bring proprietary products to array of channels

July 3/10: Volume 32, Issue 2

By Steven Feldman

 

Screen Shot 2017-07-10 at 2.51.08 PMNew York—Raskin Industries earlier this year acquired the assets of To Market, a direct-to-design chain supplier, and will work in concert with company founder and industry icon Phil Wexler to continue developing unique, proprietary products that offer more profitability.

The acquisition of To Market, which specializes in LVT but also sells recycled rubber and cork, opens up a new channel for Raskin. “I’m all about design, color and innovative products,” said Michael Raskin, president. “That is also the hallmark of To Market. So the acquisition is synergistic in that it affords me the ability to build the Raskin brand as a leader in color and design through multiple markets and channels. This gives me another outlet for my creativity.”

Raskin will design products exclusively for To Market with Wexler, who in 1979 founded Bentley Mills, quickly becoming a style leader on the West Coast.

Raskin felt he needed to have a stronger presence in the A&D community. “I saw where the market was going; it was going to become much more competitive. The majors would only continue to get better at it because they have the resources to put more feet on the street. I felt I needed to have a hands-on approach to have the ability to compete.”

Raskin Industries already sells product into the commercial market through its distribution network, but he plans on differentiating To Market through branding. “Raskin is more like the hip brand you would see in Brooklyn, and To Market is the refined brand you might see on Madison Avenue.”

To Market will likely evolve into Raskin’s premium brand with higher price points. But make no mistake: Unique design will be at the cornerstone of both brands. “I want to bring excitement to this industry,” Raskin explained. “Think John Varvatos. I want to bring that to the flooring industry.”

Despite the two brands, Raskin sees minimal overlap in product, and only in areas where there is no distribution for the Raskin brand. “My job is to provide the ammunition and profitability—the proper marketing tools and designs—to my customers, whether they are distributors, distributor reps, commercial sales force or our exclusive sales agents on the To Market side to be successful.”

To Market will now be based at Raskin’s Deerfield Beach, Fla., headquarters but its Oklahoma City warehouse and offices will remain open. In addition, key personnel— including Wexler, who remains president, and Alex Lapree, vice president of sales—is staying on.

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Distributors rally behind Raskin’s FloorNation

May 22/29, 2017: Volume 31, Issue 25

By Ken Ryan

Screen Shot 2017-05-30 at 10.49.27 AMWith the luxury vinyl tile market bursting at the seams with so many new products entering the fray, distributors are tasked with seeking out products that offer true differentiation.

In Raskin Industries’ FloorNation, wholesalers say they have found a winning combination—a line offering great style and design, coupled with a made-in-the-USA story. FloorNation is a phthalate-free, virgin vinyl flooring available in three collections: Freedom, Pride and Glory, all featuring the company’s G88 advanced coating system.

Although FloorNation has been out for more than a year, some locations are seeing it for the first time. Such is the case in the Rocky Mountain region, where Midwest Floors, a Salt Lake City-based distributor, just introduced the line. “It’s been a huge success,” said Eric Parrish, owner. “Our customer base is most excited to have a product that focuses on quality and service. We all want something unique and original, and that is what Michael Raskin has done. He has taken time to see the trends and color tones that influence our North American market and then made his own color offering to complement our wants and needs with the Raskin line. Add in the fact that it’s made in the USA and you have a story worth telling and then selling.”

Ted Rocha, director of sales for Raskin, has worked on expanding the company’s distribution network since joining the company in 2016. He was particularly impressed with Midwest Floors’ rollout. “Midwest has never launched an LVT line like ours; their eyes are wide open. They really got behind it and have gotten out of the gates very fast. They are in a small market but it is amazing how much they dominate their market.”

Gilford-Johnson Flooring, a top 20 distributor, has carried the FloorNation line for several months and reports brisk activity. “What makes FloorNation so attractive for Gilford-Johnson is you have a concise product offering in the hottest category in flooring,” said Jodie Doyle, vice president of product management. “When you add Michael’s ability to bring popular, cutting-edge decors to the product line and the made-in-the-USA story, that’s a really great combination for a distributor and a tremendous value proposition for our customers.”

Doyle said Gilford-Johnson retailers have “eaten up” the Glory product line, which boasts a 4mm thickness and 20-mil wear layer. The line also features an extra wide (9.25 x 59.25) extra long format available in five colors. “There are three great selling stories in the FloorNation line, but Glory has been an absolute home run with our customers.”

Market expertise
Distributors credited Michael Raskin and his team for their extensive LVT knowledge as well as their ability to listen to the challenges distributors face and focusing on bringing solutions to the market. “With quality, service and price you can only pick two—and we went with Raskin Industries and their call for quality and service,” Parrish said. “Too often price is the story that is sold, but as a homeowner or a business owner we would never put in the cheapest product if we were educated on what makes other products better. At the end of the day someone can disagree with my opinion, but the fact is design matters and Raskin is proving that with FloorNation.”

Parrish added that the made in America angle is a very big deal from a logistics standpoint and should not be discounted. “Managing inventory from containers is a constant juggling act and one that is never perfect. To take a 20-week lead time out of the equation is a solution that everyone is looking for.”

Scott Carson, director of products and marketing for T&L Distributing in Houston, said the domestic production of FloorNation has made a huge difference in his company’s ability to service customers on a timely basis. “The product is being built in Ohio, and they are carrying product in Ohio. I can have the product in one to two weeks as opposed to 8-10 weeks [if imported]. That is huge for my business.”

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Raskin Industries launches Acrylx, gains new distributor

IMG_3563Boca Raton, Fla.—Raskin Industries recently had its first Acrylx product launch, which brings a new category of solid surface waterproof flooring to the industry.

Along with the launch, Raskin Industries has brought on Abraham Linc as the company’s newest distributor. According to Raskin Industries, Abraham Linc’s company culture perfectly matches the manufacturer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Executive Forecast: Resilient–LVT/WPC expected to continue its strong surge well into the new year

December 5/12, 2016; Volume 31, Number 13         

By Ken Ryan

 

The double-digit growth that has catapulted the LVT category in recent years is expected to continue in 2017, buttressed by the rise of rigid core products (also known as WPC). The lone caveat may be the very success of LVT, which is ushering in a new wave of players looking to grab a piece of this ever-expanding market.  

Larry Browder, CEO, Karndean Designflooring
screen-shot-2016-12-16-at-9-48-47-amWhat is your projection for category growth next year?
All indications show the category will again grow around 15%.

What segments and/or products will fuel this growth?
Commercial and retail will continue to be strong. Glue down or dryback products will see success in all categories while floating floors will drive the largest growth. Premium products within the rigid WPC segment will drive significant growth and create good margin opportunities.

What is the predicted growth of your company in 2017?
Karndean has enjoyed significant growth year after year due to our Designflooring strategy and customer-partnership philosophy. We fully expect that to continue in 2017 and beyond.

What is the “X factor” that will impact business next year?
The recent U.S. Presidential election and the [carry over] effect over the next four years remains to be seen.

Where do you see opportunities for next year? Challenges?
In 2016, Karndean made significant investments to increase our inventory, production, service and sample capabilities with the expansion of our U.S. headquarters outside Pittsburgh. This will allow us to meet the challenges of increased competition.

What are some of your biggest initiatives for 2017?
The new product launches we have scheduled will expand our product selection beyond dryback and loose lay floors to include Karndean Korlok, a premium, rigid-core format that will provide superior retail, commercial and consumer benefits.

 

Kurt Denman, CMO/executive VP – sales, Congoleum
screen-shot-2016-12-16-at-9-48-52-amWhat is your projection for category growth next year?
Overall I believe the category will continue to see modest growth in the range of 3-4%.

What segments and/or products will fuel this growth?
Rigid core products will lead the category growth, particularly as variations intended to address specific price points and segments are introduced. We plan to introduce additional variations in construction and design options that are worlds apart from anything out there.

What is the predicted growth of your company in 2017?
The past couple of years we have enjoyed steady growth and are planning to outpace category growth. Our plans are for growth in excess of 5%.

What is the “X factor” that will impact business next year?
This shouldn’t be a surprise but the Presidential campaign has been such a distraction. Policies of the new administration and consumer confidence will determine the strength of the overall economy and ultimately industry performance.

Where do you see opportunities for next year? Challenges?
We have seen meaningful growth in the builder and multi-family segments. ArmorCore, our limestone-based sheet product, was specifically created to meet the needs of these segments and has done a tremendous job in helping us take market share.

What are some of your biggest initiatives for 2017?
First is innovation. We’ve seen through the rise and popularity of rigid core products that to drive growth we must continue to focus on finding new and exciting ways to solve old problems. That’s true in product construction and design.

 

Piet Dossche, CEO, USFloors
screen-shot-2016-12-16-at-9-48-56-amWhat is your projection for category growth next year?
I expect for the LVT/WPC category to continue its high double-digit growth.

What segments and/or products will fuel this growth?
Opening price point, dryback, glue-down LVT and WPC will be the main catalyst for this growth. The solid click LVT segment will see its growth stagnate as the more stable composite core construction of the WPC will eventually become the click, floating LVT floor of choice.

What is the predicted growth of your company in 2017?
We are again expecting to strongly outpace the industry’s category growth in 2017, just like we have done in the last three years. Our COREtec product collections are still showing strong upward momentum, with several new collections being launched during Surfaces and early 2017.

What is the “X factor” that will impact business next year?
Clarity on trade agreements and Chinese currency policy will take some of the angst away on the LVT being imported from China.
Overall political stability and clear direction will stimulate the consumer to build, renovate and buy new flooring.

Where do you see opportunities for next year? Challenges?
The acquisition of USFloors by Shaw Industries will provide us with tremendous opportunities to streamline and fine-tune our business. The strength of Shaw’s operational excellence and distribution will be a strong addition to our speed to market and creative DNA.

What are some of your biggest initiatives for 2017?
USFloors’ start-up of the first WPC manufacturing plant in the U.S. will be by far the biggest initiative we will be undertaking in 2017.

 

Paul Murfin, CEO, IVS US
screen-shot-2016-12-16-at-9-49-02-amWhat is your projection for category growth next year?
We do the resilient category a disservice when we put all products in one bucket. You are going to see double-digit growth for LVT. However, on the sheet vinyl side, we show negative growth for felt. All together we see high single digits for resilient.

What segments and/or products will fuel this growth?
LVT enjoyed a superb year in 2016. I don’t see anything to prevent that growth from continuing. It is still the fastest growing product segment in the industry, and when I talk about LVT I include these rigid-type products (WPC), which are driving a good portion of that growth as well.

What is the predicted growth of your company in 2017?
My goal and expectations would be to do better than [the overall] market growth.

What is the “X factor” that will impact business next year?
While people are talking of LVT growing rapidly it is also the most crowded category in the industry. This growth rate is not necessarily something you can take for granted. Companies will have to continue to focus on differentiation and value relative to other product categories.

Where do you see opportunities for next year? Challenges?
There is opportunity for Mohawk resilient to leverage our LVT factory, which is now established and starting to make product in a fairly healthy manner. We are looking forward to taking advantage of that capacity, which we have not had at our disposal before.

What are some of your biggest initiatives for 2017?
We have a variety of product plans across all of our distribution channels. New products and initiatives for IVC include refreshing our Flexitec sheet vinyl line and transitioning our LVT from Belgium production to U.S. manufacturing.

 

Michael Raskin, CEO, Raskin Industries
screen-shot-2016-12-16-at-9-49-06-amWhat is your projection for category growth next year?
We are projecting 15% growth for 2017.

What segments and/or products will fuel this growth?
Dryback will continue to grow, but the floating products will continue to increase due to ease of installation and contractors looking to reduce the cost of floor prep. Click and loose lay products will continue at higher growth rates. There will be more variations of rigid products.

What is the predicted growth of your company in 2017?
We expect our volume to be double of the overall category growth. We expect to be at 30% growth rate due to new distributors, growth from our existing distribution and domestic production expansion. We will launch our waterproof, rigid LVT products.

What is the “X factor” that will impact business next year?
Assuming the playing field is even, the “X” factor will be companies that deliver design, color and consistent quality. You will see a stronger divide between brands driven by design vs. low price LVT brands. The companies in the middle will find it harder to maintain market share.

Where do you see opportunities for next year? Challenges?
The expansion of our domestic offerings will provide exclusive designs and the ability to reduce delivery times. By offering more domestic products we keep our supply chain diversified in case there are trade sanctions imposed or cost increases from freight or overseas suppliers.

What are some of your biggest initiatives for 2017?
To strategically select products that are imported vs. made in the USA and collectively inventory with our distribution partners to maximize our logistics.

 

Russ Rogg, CEO, Metroflor
screen-shot-2016-12-16-at-9-49-12-amWhat is your projection for category growth next year?
Specific to the LVT category, we anticipate total blended growth will be in the 10% range, i.e., “blended” across all segments and all LVT product types/categories.

What segments and/or products will fuel this growth?
All segments will grow but not at the same rate. Floating LVT—rigid-core floating LVT in particular—will outpace all other categories with accelerated growth. This growth in the rigid-core category will come from all [residential] segments and certain commercial segments.

What is the predicted growth of your company in 2017?
We are planning for a 10% increase. With the continued growth of our Aspecta commercial LVT brand specifically related to two new collections that we’ve added (Aspecta Ten featuring Isocore Technology and Aspecta One, a new line of dryback commercial LVT).

What is the “X factor” that will impact business next year?
The “X” factor for Metroflor is to simply execute the various initiatives that we have already begun or have planned. Aspecta Ten, our commercial rigid-core product, has only begun to see exposure during the fourth quarter, so there is a lot of runway for this brand/collection.

Where do you see opportunities for next year? Challenges?
The two greatest opportunities for Metroflor are tied to our plan to engage with and create closer relationships with our Aligned Dealer Network. Through this effort, we desire to establish our Isocore platform as the market-leading technology in the rigid-core category.

What are some of your biggest initiatives for 2017?
We want to continue to invest in and grow our Aspecta business. In two and a half years, we’ve gone from a conceptual new commercial LVT brand to having nearly 200 SKUs across three collections: Aspecta Five, Aspecta One and Aspecta Ten.

 

John Wu, president and CEO, Novalis Innovative Flooring
screen-shot-2016-12-16-at-9-49-16-amWhat is your projection for category growth next year?
We predict the LVT/WPC category will continue to grow at a double-digit pace through 2017.

What segments and/or products will fuel this growth?
We still see continuing growth in the specified commercial segment and the Main Street commercial segment. We also believe the WPC category will continue to push forward residential volume in 2017.

What is the predicted growth of your company in 2017?
Novalis will continue to grow at a double-digit rate internationally.

What is the “X factor” that will impact business next year?
In the U.S. there will be a new Presidential administration, so the “X” factor will be to see how this new administration’s policies and changes will affect the U.S. and world economy.

Where do you see opportunities for next year? Challenges?
LVT continues to be a huge opportunity, especially for Novalis and other large and experienced players. The challenge is to continually innovate. We have some interesting developments in that area for 2017. The other challenge the LVT industry faces: increased raw material costs.

What are some of your biggest initiatives for 2017?
Continued growth in the areas we started in the last half of 2015 and through 2016—commercial, Main Street and our high-performance core (WPC) product.