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Resilient: Rigid core continues to set new standards

April 2/9, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 21

By Ken Ryan

 

Even seasoned flooring executives are stunned at the growth of the rigid core subsegment that burst onto the scene less than two years ago and has morphed into a super cell of flooring.

Jimmy Tuley, vice president, residential resilient business, Mannington, just returned from Domotex Asia where he saw scores of new entries. “We saw combinations of wood on rigid core; some with mineral core to give it different properties... there is a lot of innovation happening. The pace of change right now is just amazing, unbelievable really.”

Jeff Francis, resilient category manager, Shaw Industries, and a 14-year industry veteran, added, “The rate of change in resilient rigid core is so significant it is challenging just to stay ahead of the pace. Based on the velocity of growth, I don’t see it receding at all.”

Francis said he sees rigid core continuing to take market share from soft surface as well as hard surface—laminate, wood and even glue-down LVT. “We see growth accelerating, and in the next 12-24 months, even as fast as the innovation is coming, we see more of it.”

David Sheehan, senior vice president, product management, Mohawk resilient, said he has been “astounded” by the growth of rigid vinyl. “It is definitely a product that has become the darling of the industry. Just as LVT in general was the go-to product for RSAs and dealers, rigid has become that go-to product.”

Rigid core, or SPC (solid polymer core), is made of a composite core construction, a step up from solid LVT, with a higher filler content and higher density without any foaming agent creating air bubbles in the core. The result is a thinner, harder and stiffer plank. Rigid core products are primarily suitable where higher indentation resistance is required and extensive exposure to sunlight/heat can occur.

This broad definition does not stop flooring companies from putting their own marketing spin on their iterations.

Following is a look at some of the newest offerings in rigid core flooring.


Armstrong
Rigid Core Vantage from Armstrong Flooring includes such features as registered embossing in elongated 9 x 60 and 7 x 60 planks and accentuated painted bevels. The line comes with a commercial-specified 20-mil wear layer and urethane coating, and is noted for its dent resistance thanks to a solid polymer core. Vantage is supported by a premium natural cork underlayment for reduced sound transmission. Armstrong said installing Rigid Core Vantage has been made easier with a new drop-lock system. It has been tested for use in fully enclosed three-season rooms where the expected post-installation temperature range falls between 32°F and 100°F. Rigid Core Vantage will be available to retailers in June.

CFL/FirmFit
FirmFit XXL boasts long and wide planks featuring synchronized embossed-in-register technology. “FirmFit was one of the first to launch long and wide rigid core planks that feature an extremely realistic embossed and register synchronized texture in a large way,” said Thomas Baert, CFL president. “The rigid core category is moving forward extremely fast and improving style and designs, which is bringing the category closer to real wood looks and textures. FirmFit XXL is the next step.”

FirmFit XXL, which will be in stores early summer, is backed by warranties on performance on massive installation surfaces without use of transition moldings. It is dent resistant and sun proof.

Congoleum
Triversa’s triple-layer construction delivers exceptional durability with a 20-mil wear layer, stability through a waterproof rigid core and versatility with cork backing for sound mitigation. A SmartLock clic system allows for easy floating installations. Triversa ID offers extensive design options, including mixed-width woods, longer planks, enhanced edge treatments and tile visuals.

Dixie Group
Dixie is one of the newest entrants into the rigid core space but is determined to make a lasting impression, according to Dan Phelan, vice president of marketing and hard surfaces. For 2018, the Dixie Home and Masland brands are coming out with 16 new offerings, all Stainmaster PetProtect with action traction. “We are filling in some gaps in colorations,” Phelan said. “We have fashion-forward colors in gray and taupe, and we are now adding heavier distressed looks.” New size options in Dixie Home (7 x 60) and Masland (5 x 60) are in addition to a 9 x 60 offered by both. Masland’s Big Sky line offers a 28-mil wear layer.

What’s different here is the company’s path to market is through limited retail distribution. As Phelan explained, “Do you want to enter the market for the sake of entering, or do you want to enter with something special? Stainmaster adds to our position in the marketplace. It’s working for us, and our limited distribution model is very powerful. We’re off to a really good start.”

EarthWerks
Noble Classic Plus SPC from EarthWerks boasts an array of high-dimension oak patterns with EIR. The assortment comes in 8 x 48 planks as well as a 9.5 x 60 tile for an even more dramatic appearance—each with cushion backing.

For customers looking for a glue-down application, these same designs and sizes are also available in a 3mm x 20 mil dry back version called Wood Classic II.

Inhaus
Sono is Inhaus’ latest innovation in waterproof dimensionally stable flooring. The German-made product comes with proprietary technology and features high-definition digital printing. The printing process enables vastly improved color variations and a 5% plank repeat, the company said, resulting in a uniquely appealing installation. The core is highly resistant to heat and cold, is waterproof and has an angle fold locking system for ease of installation. The patented ceramic composite core is free of PVCs, formaldehyde and all other additives.

IVC
Urbane, which will be launched in the second quarter through distribution, will be part of IVC’s rebranded Waterproof Solutions display, which replaces Moduleo. Sheehan explained the company is trying to communicate the inherent waterproof nature of the offerings with the three-product display that also includes Horizon and Embellish. Described as a classic flexible offering, Horizon is a 20 mil, 4.5mm construction available in click and glue down. The trade up is Embellish, a flexible LVT that Sheehan called a very significant offering. “We’re not labeling the products, we’re creating a good/better/best trade-up story,” he said.

Urbane is a rigid offering that IVC expects will drive a lot of traffic and enthusiasm. Glass is used to make the product more dimensionally stable. All three products are suitable for three-season rooms capable of handling extreme temperatures.

Mannington
Tuley said he sees the WPC and SPC segments “splitting” as new technologies emerge to create separation. AduraMax Prime is an SPC targeted at the builder/multifamily segment. AduraMax Apex offers a long and wide plank and is embossed with a painted bevel. Mannington also plans to launch Adura Rigid, an SPC with pad attached. “For the most part, these products are variations or improvements on LVT to solve very particular problems,” Tuley said.

Marquis
Marquis’ newest rigid core product offering, Geneva, provides a print with great color movement and depth. Featuring multi-width look patterns representing a new urban twist to a rustic look, Geneva comes in a 7 x 48 board with a 4mm SPC core and 20 mil ceramic bead wear layer finished with a 1.5mm closed-cell IXPE attached cushion.

Metroflor
Engage Inception, Metroflor’s new SPC product, expands the company’s portfolio of LVT flooring solutions that address all relevant categories—glue down and a variety of floating platforms such as Grip-Strip (Konecto), Solid Vinyl Clic (Engage), WPC (Engage Genesis) and now SPC (Engage Inception).

The new Engage Inception line is intended to serve as an entry-level, SPC product suitable for multifamily, residential and commercial environments dependent on the wear layer chosen. It is stiffer and denser than WPC, offering favorable dimensional stability characteristics, thereby enabling greater resistance to temperature changes and indentations. Beyond improved dent resistance, the premium attached high-density polyethylene foam underlayment provides sound absorption, reduces transmitted sound and foot fatigue and helps to conceal subfloor imperfections.

Mohawk
2018 promises to be a big year for Mohawk in the area of rigid core. Starting with SolidTech, its flagship line with less than one full year in the market, Mohawk is readying a slew of new rigid offerings from its U.S. production facility that will be a fully integrated rigid core plant. “Customers are getting in line for this,” Sheehan said. “Mohawk has invested a huge amount of capital toward this category. We feel we have the right products and are positioned well in each of our channels.”

Due out soon is True Design, a collection of neat visuals with features such as EIR, painted bevels and longer planks. Within the collection, Blended Tones boasts a 22-mil wear layer with a painted bevel. “The reason we do embossed in register is not to prove to the market that we can do it, but to make the product look real,” Sheehan explained. “We feel we have done that with the True Design collection.”

Both the second and third quarters will be active for Mohawk as it aggressively expands its rigid portfolio. As Sheehan explained, “If rigid is the fastest growing segment, the only way to keep pace and grow your market share is to aggressively invest in your category. We are going to aggressively expand our offering and grab market share with the right product along with the right visuals and price points.”

Karndean
Korlok Select, the company’s rigid core line, took two years to develop but was worth the wait, according to Emil Mellow, director of public relations. “Everything we put in there is top end.”

Korlok’s rigid core line comes fully equipped with K-Core technology, a pre-attached acoustic underlayment, K-Guard+ surface protection, HoldFast 5G locking mechanism and warranty. Its 9 x 56 plank matches that of other suppliers. “We found that anything longer than that logistically doesn’t work for a couple of reasons,” Mellow stated. “The box size becomes too heavy and unwieldy to handle, the retail shelf bins are not big enough to accommodate the planks, and the installation becomes very difficult. You need two people and that defeats the whole purpose of easy assembly.”

While most companies, including Karndean, attach numerous bells and whistles to their rigid core products, occasionally they dial back the features to hit a desired price point. That was the case with the Reserve line, which comes out in May. It launches with a stacker option or waterfall display for dealers.

Novalis
Its newest rigid core product, Serenbe, is part of the NovaFloor line with high density core (HDC) technology. It has 24 styles in planks and tiles—including a new 12 x 36 tile. Serenbe also features Novalis’ newest advancement in protection, patent-pending NovaShield.

NovaFloor HDC is an extruded solid vinyl that provides all the popular attributes of rigid core: waterproof, dent resistance and ease of installation over common subfloor imperfections. “We equipped it with an attached foam underlayment as a sound barrier and added comfort underfoot,” said Steve Erlich, vice president of sales and marketing. “So, if you’re a dealer, you will want this product line on your retail floor. It’s the whole package.”

Phenix
Bold Statement from Phenix is a Stainmaster PetProtect SPC in seven colors, five planks and two tile options. Velocity is a 9 x 60 SPC rigid core that combines Corex technology with an EVA foam backing to eliminate additional underlayment. “Both products have some unique features and benefits,” said Chris Johnson, senior vice president of sales. “Our Bold Statement is [among] the only PetProtect SPCs on the market. It also has the Stainmaster PetProtect finish, so it provides superior scratch resistance and pet action traction.”

Velocity is a 22-mil product that is extra wide and long but is also available in a 12 x 24 tile. “We have worked hard to develop a rich and diverse color palette for both products, so just about any home can find something within Velocity that fits their space,” Johnson said.

Quick-Step
EnduraTek and EnduraTek Ultra, the company’s newest rigid core offerings, will be sold through distribution. These unique tile visuals are constructed of an internally routed grout line that renders the product incredibly real, according to the company. “It gives the visual appearance of a 12 x 24, when in fact it is a 12 x 48 plank.” EnduraTek Ultra is slated for the second quarter. “We have rigid flowing everywhere,” Sheehan said.

Raskin
Raskin Industries is promoting its eight-layer rigid construction in which each layer is engineered to provide more stability. “It’s the best of both worlds—waterproof rigid with no air or foam, and no adhesives since we fuse the layers as we use heat and pressure,” said Michael Raskin, president. “It’s critical to have multiple layers.”

A new product, Solid Gencore, is made from Raskin’s proprietary acrylic composite structure used as its core layer to provide maximum stability and impact resistance. “Acrylx has no foam or air, making it denser than a WPC-type multilayer product. We use advanced technology-grade resins that are used specifically to provide stability against heat and cold temperatures.”

New to the market is Acrylx Select, available in five colors. The line is meant to be price competitive with the added benefits of soundproof backing and anti-mildew. It is 100% waterproof as well. Lumination Velocity, another new offering, will have 10 colors in a 4mm with a 1mm Gcore backing. This collection will include registered embossing and will be showcased in a new display with large boards. The line consists of stone, multi-plank looks and 60-inch planks. “It’s hard to differentiate, so it’s important to sell the latest and best technology that will stand up to the hype,” Raskin said. “We feel our product construction and ability to design the colors and styles that sell will offer customers the right products.”

Shaw
Shaw Industries is another major mill that has invested heavily in the rigid core business primarily with Floorte.

Floorte Pro, a new tile rigid core product, launched with 20 SKUs. The waterproof, click product features a lacquer bevel. “There is a trend toward smaller grout lines, which we can do with this product,” Francis said. “The response has been great. This opens it up to mud rooms and bathrooms.”

Overall, Floorte Pro offers a diverse portfolio of visuals ranging from hardwood to tile looks. Mineral Mix, for example, strikes a balance between contemporary concrete and linear metal looks for a chic aesthetic. Each tile has visual grout applied for a quick installation that does not require traditional grout. Blue Ridge Pine is a rich heart pine visual that captures the contrast, character and uniqueness found in natural hardwood.

Tarkett
Tarkett’s new ProGen collection is the next generation of rigid core luxury vinyl flooring that provides superior impact and indentation resistance. The product also demonstrates superior durability over traditional WPC, according to the company.

ProGen’s unique compact core design makes installation easy by providing the flexibility to adjust to tight spaces, while maintaining enough rigidity to allow for installation over imperfect subfloors. This new collection has a 20-mil, commercial-grade wear layer and enhanced polyurethane layer that allow ProGen to resist scratches and the rigors of modern life. In addition, its high-density foam backing reduces unwanted noise.

USFloors
Piet Dossche, founder and CEO, said there were 65 Chinese manufacturers exhibiting rigid core products at Domotex Hannover in January, a testament to the incredible momentum of the subcategory. “This is not a fad, this is just the beginning,” he said at a recent symposium. “Composite waterproof flooring will be the high double-digit growth engine in hard surfaces for the next five years.”

To that end, USFloors is striving to keep its market-share-leading position among suppliers. The company launched COREtec Pro Plus in Q4 2017 and COREtec Pro Plus Enhanced in January. Both are of SPC construction. USFloors will introduce COREtec Stone in the summer with upwards of 40 SKUs. “Attention to detail and design is what makes Pro Plus and Pro Plus Enhanced stand out from the crowd,” said Jamann Stepp, director of marketing and product management. COREtec Pro collections include a double extrusion process with a 1mm cork attached pad. Pro Plus Enhanced also incorporates a four-sided enhanced beveled edge for added realism. As for the forthcoming COREtec Stone, attention to detail will again be key. “The decors, including the tech and spec data that is employed in the Pro Plus collections, along with a proprietary protective coating to prevent scratching and abrasion, will set COREtec Stone apart from the rest,” Stepp said. “We see COREtec Stone as tile reinvented.”

Wellmade
Wellmade continues to expand its Nouveax en vogue HDPC vinyl plank collection. The rigid core features Wellmade’s co-extrusion technology and includes standard and wide/long plank options. Wear layers are available in 8-, 12-, and 20-mil options. Wellmade has added new design options for 2018, including character-driven muted gray and brown tones with enhanced texturing on the hardwood side, and contemporary travertine looks in stone. “Dealers have pleased with our competitive pricing, ease of installation and superior overall performance,” said Steve Wagner, director of marketing.

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Rigid core continues to set new standards

April 2/9, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 21

By Ken Ryan

 

Even seasoned flooring executives are stunned at the growth of the rigid core subsegment that burst onto the scene less than two years ago and has morphed into a super cell of flooring.

Jimmy Tuley, vice president, residential resilient business, Mannington, just returned from Domotex Asia where he saw scores of new entries. “We saw combinations of wood on rigid core; some with mineral core to give it different properties… there is a lot of innovation happening. The pace of change right now is just amazing, unbelievable really.”

Jeff Francis, resilient category manager, Shaw Industries, and a 14-year industry veteran, added, “The rate of change in resilient rigid core is so significant it is challenging just to stay ahead of the pace. Based on the velocity of growth, I don’t see it receding at all.”

Francis said he sees rigid core continuing to take market share from soft surface as well as hard surface—laminate, wood and even glue-down LVT. “We see growth accelerating, and in the next 12-24 months, even as fast as the innovation is coming, we see more of it.”

David Sheehan, senior vice president, product management, Mohawk resilient, said he has been “astounded” by the growth of rigid vinyl. “It is definitely a product that has become the darling of the industry. Just as LVT in general was the go-to product for RSAs and dealers, rigid has become that go-to product.”

Rigid core, or SPC (solid polymer core), is made of a composite core construction, a step up from solid LVT, with a higher filler content and higher density without any foaming agent creating air bubbles in the core. The result is a thinner, harder and stiffer plank. Rigid core products are primarily suitable where higher indentation resistance is required and extensive exposure to sunlight/heat can occur.

This broad definition does not stop flooring companies from putting their own marketing spin on their iterations.

Following is a look at some of the newest offerings in rigid core flooring.

Armstrong

Rigid Core Vantage from Armstrong Flooring includes such features as registered embossing in elongated 9 x 60 and 7 x 60 planks and accentuated painted bevels. The line comes with a commercial-specified 20-mil wear layer and urethane coating, and is noted for its dent resistance thanks to a solid polymer core. Vantage is supported by a premium natural cork underlayment for reduced sound transmission. Armstrong said installing Rigid Core Vantage has been made easier with a new drop-lock system. It has been tested for use in fully enclosed three-season rooms where the expected post-installation temperature range falls between 32°F and 100°F. Rigid Core Vantage will be available to retailers in June.

CFL/FirmFit

FirmFit XXL boasts long and wide planks featuring synchronized embossed-in-register technology. “FirmFit was one of the first to launch long and wide rigid core planks that feature an extremely realistic embossed and register synchronized texture in a large way,” said Thomas Baert, CFL president. “The rigid core category is moving forward extremely fast and improving style and designs, which is bringing the category closer to real wood looks and textures. FirmFit XXL is the next step.”

FirmFit XXL, which will be in stores early summer, is backed by warranties on performance on massive installation surfaces without use of transition moldings. It is dent resistant and sun proof.

Congoleum

Triversa’s triple-layer construction delivers exceptional durability with a 20-mil wear layer, stability through a waterproof rigid core and versatility with cork backing for sound mitigation. A SmartLock clic system allows for easy floating installations. Triversa ID offers extensive design options, including mixed-width woods, longer planks, enhanced edge treatments and tile visuals.

Dixie Group

Dixie is one of the newest entrants into the rigid core space but is determined to make a lasting impression, according to Dan Phelan, vice president of marketing and hard surfaces. For 2018, the Dixie Home and Masland brands are coming out with 16 new offerings, all Stainmaster PetProtect with action traction. “We are filling in some gaps in colorations,” Phelan said. “We have fashion-forward colors in gray and taupe, and we are now adding heavier distressed looks.” New size options in Dixie Home (7 x 60) and Masland (5 x 60) are in addition to a 9 x 60 offered by both. Masland’s Big Sky line offers a 28-mil wear layer.

What’s different here is the company’s path to market is through limited retail distribution. As Phelan explained, “Do you want to enter the market for the sake of entering, or do you want to enter with something special? Stainmaster adds to our position in the marketplace. It’s working for us, and our limited distribution model is very powerful. We’re off to a really good start.”

EarthWerks

Noble Classic Plus SPC from EarthWerks boasts an array of high-dimension oak patterns with EIR. The assortment comes in 8 x 48 planks as well as a 9.5 x 60 tile for an even more dramatic appearance—each with cushion backing.

For customers looking for a glue-down application, these same designs and sizes are also available in a 3mm x 20 mil dry back version called Wood Classic II.

Inhaus

Sono is Inhaus’ latest innovation in waterproof dimensionally stable flooring. The German-made product comes with proprietary technology and features high-definition digital printing. The printing process enables vastly improved color variations and a 5% plank repeat, the company said, resulting in a uniquely appealing installation. The core is highly resistant to heat and cold, is waterproof and has an angle fold locking system for ease of installation. The patented ceramic composite core is free of PVCs, formaldehyde and all other additives.

IVC

Urbane, which will be launched in the second quarter through distribution, will be part of IVC’s rebranded Waterproof Solutions display, which replaces Moduleo. Sheehan explained the company is trying to communicate the inherent waterproof nature of the offerings with the three-product display that also includes Horizon and Embellish. Described as a classic flexible offering, Horizon is a 20 mil, 4.5mm construction available in click and glue down. The trade up is Embellish, a flexible LVT that Sheehan called a very significant offering. “We’re not labeling the products, we’re creating a good/better/best trade-up story,” he said.

Urbane is a rigid offering that IVC expects will drive a lot of traffic and enthusiasm. Glass is used to make the product more dimensionally stable. All three products are suitable for three-season rooms capable of handling extreme temperatures.

Mannington

Tuley said he sees the WPC and SPC segments “splitting” as new technologies emerge to create separation. AduraMax Prime is an SPC targeted at the builder/multifamily segment. AduraMax Apex offers a long and wide plank and is embossed with a painted bevel. Mannington also plans to launch Adura Rigid, an SPC with pad attached. “For the most part, these products are variations or improvements on LVT to solve very particular problems,” Tuley said.

Marquis

Marquis’ newest rigid core product offering, Geneva, provides a print with great color movement and depth. Featuring multi-width look patterns representing a new urban twist to a rustic look, Geneva comes in a 7 x 48 board with a 4mm SPC core and 20 mil ceramic bead wear layer finished with a 1.5mm closed-cell IXPE attached cushion.

Metroflor

Engage Inception, Metroflor’s new SPC product, expands the company’s portfolio of LVT flooring solutions that address all relevant categories—glue down and a variety of floating platforms such as Grip-Strip (Konecto), Solid Vinyl Clic (Engage), WPC (Engage Genesis) and now SPC (Engage Inception).

The new Engage Inception line is intended to serve as an entry-level, SPC product suitable for multifamily, residential and commercial environments dependent on the wear layer chosen. It is stiffer and denser than WPC, offering favorable dimensional stability characteristics, thereby enabling greater resistance to temperature changes and indentations. Beyond improved dent resistance, the premium attached high-density polyethylene foam underlayment provides sound absorption, reduces transmitted sound and foot fatigue and helps to conceal subfloor imperfections.

Mohawk

2018 promises to be a big year for Mohawk in the area of rigid core. Starting with SolidTech, its flagship line with less than one full year in the market, Mohawk is readying a slew of new rigid offerings from its U.S. production facility that will be a fully integrated rigid core plant. “Customers are getting in line for this,” Sheehan said. “Mohawk has invested a huge amount of capital toward this category. We feel we have the right products and are positioned well in each of our channels.”

Due out soon is True Design, a collection of neat visuals with features such as EIR, painted bevels and longer planks. Within the collection, Blended Tones boasts a 22-mil wear layer with a painted bevel. “The reason we do embossed in register is not to prove to the market that we can do it, but to make the product look real,” Sheehan explained. “We feel we have done that with the True Design collection.”

Both the second and third quarters will be active for Mohawk as it aggressively expands its rigid portfolio. As Sheehan explained, “If rigid is the fastest growing segment, the only way to keep pace and grow your market share is to aggressively invest in your category. We are going to aggressively expand our offering and grab market share with the right product along with the right visuals and price points.”

Karndean

Korlok Select, the company’s rigid core line, took two years to develop but was worth the wait, according to Emil Mellow, director of public relations. “Everything we put in there is top end.”

Korlok’s rigid core line comes fully equipped with K-Core technology, a pre-attached acoustic underlayment, K-Guard+ surface protection, HoldFast 5G locking mechanism and warranty. Its 9 x 56 plank matches that of other suppliers. “We found that anything longer than that logistically doesn’t work for a couple of reasons,” Mellow stated. “The box size becomes too heavy and unwieldy to handle, the retail shelf bins are not big enough to accommodate the planks, and the installation becomes very difficult. You need two people and that defeats the whole purpose of easy assembly.”

While most companies, including Karndean, attach numerous bells and whistles to their rigid core products, occasionally they dial back the features to hit a desired price point. That was the case with the Reserve line, which comes out in May. It launches with a stacker option or waterfall display for dealers.

Novalis

Its newest rigid core product, Serenbe, is part of the NovaFloor line with high density core (HDC) technology. It has 24 styles in planks and tiles—including a new 12 x 36 tile. Serenbe also features Novalis’ newest advancement in protection, patent-pending NovaShield.

NovaFloor HDC is an extruded solid vinyl that provides all the popular attributes of rigid core: waterproof, dent resistance and ease of installation over common subfloor imperfections. “We equipped it with an attached foam underlayment as a sound barrier and added comfort underfoot,” said Steve Erlich, vice president of sales and marketing. “So, if you’re a dealer, you will want this product line on your retail floor. It’s the whole package.”

Phenix

Bold Statement from Phenix is a Stainmaster PetProtect SPC in seven colors, five planks and two tile options. Velocity is a 9 x 60 SPC rigid core that combines Corex technology with an EVA foam backing to eliminate additional underlayment. “Both products have some unique features and benefits,” said Chris Johnson, senior vice president of sales. “Our Bold Statement is [among] the only PetProtect SPCs on the market. It also has the Stainmaster PetProtect finish, so it provides superior scratch resistance and pet action traction.”

Velocity is a 22-mil product that is extra wide and long but is also available in a 12 x 24 tile. “We have worked hard to develop a rich and diverse color palette for both products, so just about any home can find something within Velocity that fits their space,” Johnson said.

Quick-Step

EnduraTek and EnduraTek Ultra, the company’s newest rigid core offerings, will be sold through distribution. These unique tile visuals are constructed of an internally routed grout line that renders the product incredibly real, according to the company. “It gives the visual appearance of a 12 x 24, when in fact it is a 12 x 48 plank.” EnduraTek Ultra is slated for the second quarter. “We have rigid flowing everywhere,” Sheehan said.

Raskin

Raskin Industries is promoting its eight-layer rigid construction in which each layer is engineered to provide more stability. “It’s the best of both worlds—waterproof rigid with no air or foam, and no adhesives since we fuse the layers as we use heat and pressure,” said Michael Raskin, president. “It’s critical to have multiple layers.”

A new product, Solid Gencore, is made from Raskin’s proprietary acrylic composite structure used as its core layer to provide maximum stability and impact resistance. “Acrylx has no foam or air, making it denser than a WPC-type multilayer product. We use advanced technology-grade resins that are used specifically to provide stability against heat and cold temperatures.”

New to the market is Acrylx Select, available in five colors. The line is meant to be price competitive with the added benefits of soundproof backing and anti-mildew. It is 100% waterproof as well. Lumination Velocity, another new offering, will have 10 colors in a 4mm with a 1mm Gcore backing. This collection will include registered embossing and will be showcased in a new display with large boards. The line consists of stone, multi-plank looks and 60-inch planks. “It’s hard to differentiate, so it’s important to sell the latest and best technology that will stand up to the hype,” Raskin said. “We feel our product construction and ability to design the colors and styles that sell will offer customers the right products.”

Shaw

Shaw Industries is another major mill that has invested heavily in the rigid core business primarily with Floorte.

Floorte Pro, a new tile rigid core product, launched with 20 SKUs. The waterproof, click product features a lacquer bevel. “There is a trend toward smaller grout lines, which we can do with this product,” Francis said. “The response has been great. This opens it up to mud rooms and bathrooms.”

Overall, Floorte Pro offers a diverse portfolio of visuals ranging from hardwood to tile looks. Mineral Mix, for example, strikes a balance between contemporary concrete and linear metal looks for a chic aesthetic. Each tile has visual grout applied for a quick installation that does not require traditional grout. Blue Ridge Pine is a rich heart pine visual that captures the contrast, character and uniqueness found in natural hardwood.

Tarkett

Tarkett’s new ProGen collection is the next generation of rigid core luxury vinyl flooring that provides superior impact and indentation resistance. The product also demonstrates superior durability over traditional WPC, according to the company.

ProGen’s unique compact core design makes installation easy by providing the flexibility to adjust to tight spaces, while maintaining enough rigidity to allow for installation over imperfect subfloors. This new collection has a 20-mil, commercial-grade wear layer and enhanced polyurethane layer that allow ProGen to resist scratches and the rigors of modern life. In addition, its high-density foam backing reduces unwanted noise.

USFloors

Piet Dossche, founder and CEO, said there were 65 Chinese manufacturers exhibiting rigid core products at Domotex Hannover in January, a testament to the incredible momentum of the subcategory. “This is not a fad, this is just the beginning,” he said at a recent symposium. “Composite waterproof flooring will be the high double-digit growth engine in hard surfaces for the next five years.”

To that end, USFloors is striving to keep its market-share-leading position among suppliers. The company launched COREtec Pro Plus in Q4 2017 and COREtec Pro Plus Enhanced in January. Both are of SPC construction. USFloors will introduce COREtec Stone in the summer with upwards of 40 SKUs. “Attention to detail and design is what makes Pro Plus and Pro Plus Enhanced stand out from the crowd,” said Jamann Stepp, director of marketing and product management. COREtec Pro collections include a double extrusion process with a 1mm cork attached pad. Pro Plus Enhanced also incorporates a four-sided enhanced beveled edge for added realism. As for the forthcoming COREtec Stone, attention to detail will again be key. “The decors, including the tech and spec data that is employed in the Pro Plus collections, along with a proprietary protective coating to prevent scratching and abrasion, will set COREtec Stone apart from the rest,” Stepp said. “We see COREtec Stone as tile reinvented.”

Wellmade

Wellmade continues to expand its Nouveax en vogue HDPC vinyl plank collection. The rigid core features Wellmade’s co-extrusion technology and includes standard and wide/long plank options. Wear layers are available in 8-, 12-, and 20-mil options. Wellmade has added new design options for 2018, including character-driven muted gray and brown tones with enhanced texturing on the hardwood side, and contemporary travertine looks in stone. “Dealers have pleased with our competitive pricing, ease of installation and superior overall performance,” said Steve Wagner, director of marketing.

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NRF prioritizes service for partners at NEFM

April 2/9, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 21

By Steven Feldman & Mara Bollettieri

Uncasville, Conn.—Winter turned to spring on March 19 as things were heating up at NRF Distributors’ New England Flooring Market (NEFM). With 110 vendors showcasing their latest wares to an estimated 320 customers, Terry Gray, vice president of marketing, was anticipating the one-day event to generate $3 million in business. Every vendor offered some type of special to encourage retailers to make the trip to NEFM and spend.

“This is their local Surfaces,” Gray told FCNews. By her count, only 10 retailers who signed up for the NEFM attended Surfaces. “Instead of flying to Vegas and spending all that money, they can spend a night here and buy new displays and meet executives of the brands they sell.”

The NEFM concept began nearly 40 years ago, when it was held in NRF’s Augusta, Maine-based warehouse. The market eventually outgrew the venue and has been held in casinos for the last 10 years, attracting customers from Maine to Pennsylvania. NRF now hosts three markets a year for its customers—two in Connecticut and one in New York.

One initiative the distributor was focusing on at this event was its newly launched social media platform, NRF Social, which aims to help retail customers build their Facebook and Twitter presence. Michael Gallicchio, social media manager of NRF Social, explained how the program familiarizes itself with the retailer and adapts to his or her specific community and product line. This allows the program to produce a library of personalized content. “What we try to do is engage the community through social media in the name of the retailer and target people who are showing the tendency toward home improvement services. Once we do that, more than likely when people go to buy flooring, they’re going to be thinking about the local retailers first.”

The program costs anywhere from $99-$149 a month depending on the level of service. Ninety-nine bucks a month includes posting content and pictures; for $149 a month, retailers receive content plus paid Facebook ads. Gallicchio emphasized how putting money behind Facebook advertising can be extremely beneficial to a retailer’s business. “For hardly any money, comparatively speaking to what existed 20 years ago—when people spent thousands of dollars in ads—you can deliver a branded message with pictures, specs and product knowledge that will help people make decisions on the fly.”

Around 30 to 40 stores have signed on to NRF Social since its launch in October, and at least a dozen more were added at the show, Gallicchio shared. “NRF had the foresight to not guess what consumers do. We studied it.” The platform allows retailers to maximize their time on the floor with customers while the social media experts handle the advertising.

NRF’s social media team held a four-month pilot program, where it tested numerous types of messaging and online advertising through social media platforms. The data collected from this study revealed what consumers best respond to, so a local retailer can hyper-locally target consumers in his or her community.

NRF has also launched a campaign promoting the “shop local” movement with service, honesty, options and pricing providing the basis for the acronym SHOP. NRF has adorned the back door of its 68 trucks with the signage and is also providing POP material in the form of stickers to retailers. “The idea is to get people to buy specialty flooring products from their local retailer,” Gray said. “It’s a way to drive more traffic into stores. We are driving the fact local stores do it better.”

NRF is also using its trucks to promote its vendors. For example, 28 trucks sport the Tarkett logo and a large room scene visual plastered on the side. “We’ve been doing that since 1988,” Gray said. “We don’t know of any other distributor doing that. It’s the best advertising you can get. That will last 12 years; the trailer will die before the label comes off.”

Gray noted that NRF was up about 6% in 2017 and, like just about everyone, is riding the crest of the LVT/WPC/SPC wave. Beauflor and Raskin are new vendors joining Tarkett, which NRF has handled for five years. “Actually, the last two or three years have been great,” Gray said.

That is not to say NRF is strictly growing because of hard surface. Gray pointed out that carpet is still a big part of the distributor’s overall sales. “Carpet remains 30% of our business. I have carpet in stock all the time.”

Service with a smile 

Service has been, and always will be, something Gray believes is an NRF hallmark. “Truck drivers deliver to every single store twice a week—roll goods, boxed goods, palletized goods. Generally speaking, customers never have to wait more than a week for anything. We even have 400 customers who have given the truck drivers keys to their stores, so they can deliver early in the morning. Sometimes we even start the coffee maker.”

Delivery of product begins long before NRF drivers show up on a retailer’s doorstep. In many cases, product comes from overseas, which requires astute management to ensure proper inventory. “If you are buying containers from China, you must factor in how many weeks and months it takes to get product,” Gray noted. “You need 15 to 18 weeks inventory if it’s coming on a container. You have to have a purchasing system for all the different items. You have to factor in all the nuances of each product lines.”

Retailers attending the NEFM attested to NRF’s focus on service. Jeff Hosking, owner of Payless Floors, North Attleborough, Mass., shared the advantages of using the distributor for his local business. “The pricing is better when you buy it in bulk, and they’re great people to deal with. We’ve worked with them now for a lot of years, and we’ve found them to be very honest when we have an issue. They back up what they say. They help us sell our customers with product knowledge and offer training.”

When asked what separates NRF from other distributors, Hosking did not hesitate to respond. “They’re more attentive. The service is 100% better than most of the other distributors.”

Even retailers who are new to the game are impressed with the service NRF provides. Eileen Nash and her husband, Dylan O’Malley-Joyce, recently opened The Floor Works in Bethlehem, N.H. She shared how they recently had a problem with some of their flooring and NRF resolved the issue. “The manufacturer blamed the installer, so NRF got us an inspector. It turned out to be a flooring defect, and NRF had everything fixed [just] like that.”

As an added bonus, NRF has a printing department and another that handles sampling for wood and ceramic. NRF also offers its customers products to sell on a private-label basis. “We always thought it was important for customers to have their own lines,” Gray said. “Everyone can go on their phones and say, ‘I can buy it cheaper.’ But private-label products can’t be shopped.”

Manufacturers also attest to the value NRF provides. “They’re just efficient,” said Stephan Guindon, executive director, NA, Venture Carpet. “The reputation they’ve built in the marketplace is something I haven’t seen in other areas of the country.”

If reputation is No. 1, then product knowledge is a close second. Bruce Hammer, vice president of sales at Ribadao Wood Boutique, was one who commended the distributor’s familiarity of his products. “They have an extremely knowledgeable sales staff that can talk in depth about the unique species we offer.”

Raskin Industries is a relatively new supplier, only four months into the relationship. “I would say they dominate New England more than any other distributor dominates their own marketplace,” said Ted Rocha, vice president of sales. He likened his partnership with NRF to being a part of an extended family. “They have great support from areas that are very difficult to get to.”

Mike Lewandowski, general manager of American Olean, is also pleased with NRF as a distributor partner. “They support all our new launches and every effort we do in the market.”

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Spring promos help dealers shake off winter blues

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

By Lindsay Baillie

 

Even though the winter weather is still putting up a fight in certain areas of the United States, flooring manufacturers and buying groups are getting into the spirit of the impending spring season with exciting seasonal sales and promotions.

Following are a few promotions and sales going on now.

Abbey Carpet & Floor/Floors to Go

Abbey Carpet & Floor and Floors to Go members are preparing for the national sale events taking place in May. When consumers are looking for the perfect place to purchase their new floor, Abbey makes sure its members have every opportunity to be top-of-mind with buyers. The campaign, developed with the support of Abbey’s supplier partners, offers consumers discount pricing in every product category.

Armstrong

Armstrong Flooring is hosting its “The Floor is Yours” spring promotion March 19 through May 14. During this period, consumers have the chance to save up to 10% on select hardwood, LVT and resilient sheet flooring collections as well as Alterna engineered tile, many of which feature the company’s Diamond 10 technology.

To qualify, the purchase must be made during the promotion period from a participating Elevate or Impact retailer. The maximum discount is $500 in the form of an Armstrong Visa card.

Carpet One

Carpet One’s second spring promotion highlights one of its most popular brands, Relax, it’s…Lees. The group will be relaunching the brand with 32 new products and special introductory pricing. The promotion will be supported by discounted pricing and consumer financing offers.

Carpet One will provide retailers with TV, radio, print and digital assets to support the promotion on a local level. The group will also support the promotion on the group’s website, Houzz, Facebook and a national paid search campaign. Carpet One’s promotional message will be “Lees—a carpet like no other,” offering the consumer a 25-year, no-exclusions stain warranty.

CarpetsPlus Color Tile

The CarpetsPlus Color Tile Spring into Savings sale comes into full bloom during April and May in member stores across the country. Select styles of their popular Destination brand carpets made with Anso nylon are being featured in this sale at participating dealer locations.

Members are also signing up for the second annual Shop for the Paws Animal Welfare and Rescue Awareness event, which will run after the group’s Spring into Savings sale. During this event, members donate money raised to their choice of local animal welfare charities. Many locations also collect dog and cat food, bedding, toys and additional monetary donations.

Couristan

Couristan’s annual Outdoor Living Merchandising promotion is taking place March 19 through June 30. The promotion offers deals on the company’s full assortment of indoor/outdoor area rugs as well as two dynamic merchandising display options.

Also, back by popular demand, Couristan is offering its Outdoor Living Merchandising display box free with an initial order of 20 area rugs from its Afuera, Cape, Dolce, Monaco, Monte Carlo and Recife collections (size requirements apply).

Invista

Invista is hosting its 2018 Stainmaster brand Celebrate Spring Sweepstakes, which is set to run April 1 through May 31. During the sweepstakes, five customers who purchase Stainmaster PetProtect luxury vinyl flooring will win up to $10,000 back on their purchase and installation (excluding sales tax and delivery charges). Consumers can enter online at stainmastersweepstakes.com. Note: One entry per individual per purchase allowed. Winners will be chosen July 31.

Karastan

Quality, beauty and craftsmanship have all been a part of the Karastan legacy, and this year the manufacturer proudly celebrates its 90th anniversary of offering high-styled, quality floor coverings. Karastan’s 90th Anniversary Sale kicked off March 1 and continues through March 31, offering extensive promotional campaigns for Karastan retailers. Consumers can take advantage of savings on Karastan styles ranging from beautiful wool to family-friendly SmartStrand Forever Clean styles.

Lastly, from April 26 to June 2, Karastan will celebrate National Karastan Month. This sale promotes a consumer rebate offer to entice luxury buyers to purchase floor covering.

Mannington

One Mannington retailers can take advantage of the company’s “Spring into Summer Sale,” which runs from May 15 to July 4. For specific details about the promotion, One Mannington retailers are encouraged to contact their local distributors.

Mirage 

Boa-Franc, maker of the Mirage brand of hardwood flooring, is offering a Play & Win with Mirage Spring 2018 rebate for customers across North America (valid in the U.S. and Canada, excluding Quebec) at all participating Mirage dealers from April 16 to June 9.

During this promotion, consumers will have the chance to save $0.50 to $1 per square foot  on Mirage flooring by playing an online game. This offer is valid on all Mirage products, regardless of species, color or width.

For more on the rules, visit miragefloors.com/rebate on or after April 9.

Mohawk

Mohawk’s Spring All Pet Sale, running from April 12 to May 24, aims to drive consumer awareness of the company’s Pet Protection warranty, covering all pets, all accidents, all the time. During the sale period, Mohawk will drive traffic to its participating retail partners by incentivizing in-market consumers with an in-store rebate and special financing offers. Mohawk also provides a variety of product discounts for its participating retail partners.

The promotions don’t end there. To seamlessly connect the online, in-store and product experience—and ultimately encourage retailer success—Mohawk has also featured this sale on Omnify.

Raskin

Raskin Industries plans to host two spring promotions for its dealers—one for Loft and the other for Ceramix. From March 15 through May 15, dealers have the opportunity to earn $5 on each carton of Loft purchased for residential use.

In addition, from April 1 through June 1, dealers can earn $5 on each carton of Ceramix purchased for residential use. Both rebates will be applied to an American Express card.

Shaw

From April 2 through May 12, Shaw will host its Spring for Green sale. Consumers will have the opportunity to earn up to $500 off on qualifying Shaw Floors products in the form of a manufacturer’s rebate. Note: The promotion is valid on a minimum of 500 square feet of qualifying products.

Shaw’s rebate aims to give participating retailers a competitive advantage in their respective markets as Shaw is covering 100% of the costs. Shaw Flooring Network retailers who registered on ShawNow by March 11 are eligible for the promotion.

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Distributors proclaim Ceramix by Raskin a home run

January 22/29, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 16

By Ken Ryan

 

Raskin Industries’ new built-in grout loose lay LVT, which will debut at Surfaces this week, is a product that must be seen to be fully appreciated, according to distributors who are carrying the line.

“The Ceramix product line from Raskin is a continuation of Michael’s [Raskin, president] gift of style and design,” said Bob Weiss, CEO of All Tile, a top five wholesaler. “Ceramix has a visual unlike any other that is available in the market. The product needs to be seen to fully understand the great job Michael did on the colors and textures.”

Ceramix will be shown at Raskin’s booth, #2613, at Surfaces. The product was shown at last year’s show to get feedback. The advice was to make the grout lines thinner. “A product launch like this is a big investment; you don’t want to launch something without good feedback,” Raskin said.

Based on distributor response, the product is ready for prime time and poised to be a big hit. T&L Distributing, a top 20 wholesaler, previewed the product at its vendor show in Dallas earlier in January. “The reaction was tremendous,” said Scott Carson, director of products and marketing. “The dealers loved the visuals, the tiles and the planks. We see it as helping them with an installation solution.”

With lead time on some ceramic tile installations approaching eight weeks, Ceramix—with the realistic look of the grout—provides dealers with an alternative product that can be installed in a day or two. “The overall visual you get with the plank and the grout line is stunning,” Carson said. “It’s going to fill a need for the dealers because of the lack of installers out there.”

Observers say there have been other products that had grout lines attached to the product but not to the level of realism that is within this product line. “Porcelain tiles that look like wood planks have been very popular over the past few years,” Weiss said. “Ceramix has taken that trend to the next level by replicating the look and performance of the porcelain installation, but offering it in a flexible vinyl format. This allows for easier installation and a beautiful finish.”

Ceramix will be launched with 12 SKUs, including eight planks. Ranging in format from 7 x 48 to 36 x 36, the planks, according to Raskin, “look like they should be in the Apple store. The younger market wants that modern look—a nice subtle pattern that’s suitable for a loft or industrial look.”

Ceramix features a 5mm wear layer and offers the G88 advanced antibacterial/anti-fungal finish. The product is shipping this month, and Weiss is among those ready to go to market. “We are excited to offer the line to our customers so they can be first to market with a great product with a competitive difference from other products in the marketplace.”

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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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Resilient: State of the industry—LVT, WPC remain primary drivers of category growth

July 31/Aug. 7: Volume 31, Issue 4
By Lindsay Baillie

The resilient category continues to follow its blazing path from 2016 with aggressive growth just six months into 2017. Industry observers attribute this activity once again to the industry’s “darlings”—LVT, WPC and rigid core.

Screen Shot 2017-08-07 at 11.14.42 AMBased on FCNews research, LVT and its subcategories accounted for 42.3% of residential volume and 67.6% of residential dollars in 2016. Observers expect numbers in 2017 to reflect similar—if not more—control of the category. In 2016 the resilient category as a whole saw a 19.7% increase ($3.499 billion) over 2015’s $2.924 billion. This percentage is almost four times the growth of the overall industry. In addition, resilient captured 16.5% of the total flooring industry in dollars—the highest among all hard surfaces. Industry experts predict resilient numbers for 2017 will continue to rise, especially as waterproof products capture consumer interest.

In fact, many of the fiscal trends seen in 2016 have continued into the first half of 2017. For example, most experts have noticed residential sheet is still relatively flat, and felt is continuing to lose market share to fiberglass. Meanwhile, LVT continues to gain market share at the expense of sheet and other flooring types such as laminate and hardwood. Furthermore, LVT and its subcategories continue to gain market share as more manufacturers ramp up U.S. production for faster lead times and greater product control. Lastly, with the soaring popularity of WPC-type floors, more companies are adding rigid core to their portfolios.

Overall, success in this category is often attributed to the various innovations in printing and design, allowing manufacturers to create visuals that are almost indistinguishable from the natural materials they mimic. In addition, these designs can be achieved at a fraction of the cost. “Style is the point of entry to any design decision, but then cost quickly becomes a factor,” said Gary Keeble, director of marketing, Metroflor. “The ease of installation, the durability of LVT and associated easy care and maintenance have all assembled in a bit of a perfect storm.”

Looking at the trends, it’s easy to see why the industry is bullish about the category’s growth in 2017. “As a luxury vinyl specialist, 2017 has fared very well for us, both in terms of our glue-down products and with the introduction of our rigid core product line,” said Larry Browder, CEO, Karndean Designflooring. “The tremendous growth LVT has experienced confirms what we’ve known all along: Luxury vinyl provides the beauty and realism of natural wood and stone in a more practical format.”

All types of manufacturers, even those that produce multiple types of flooring, have seen impressive increases so far. “Resilient continues to be a very strong category for Shaw and is showing no signs of slowing down in 2017 or the foreseeable future,” said Clark Hodgkins, resilient director.

Sheet, felt feel the squeeze
FCNews research shows residential sheet vinyl had a less-than-stellar year in 2016—coming up relatively flat with a 0.2% decrease compared to 2015. Most industry observers attribute this subpar performance to the rise in demand for LVT, WPC and rigid core products.

“Sheet vinyl has lost share to LVT for several reasons,” explained John Wu, CEO, Novalis Innovative Flooring. “More manufacturers are adding LVT to their product offerings, so LVT is promoted more than sheet vinyl. Secondly, handling and installation [of LVT] is easier, especially for DIY applications.”

Screen Shot 2017-08-07 at 11.15.10 AMEasier installation is one major factor sheet vinyl manufacturers need to consider when developing new products, according to executives such as Jeff Fenwick, president and COO, Tarkett North America. As it stands today, “[installing] sheet product requires a level of expertise that tile does not.”

Fenwick also believes improvements in design are needed to help capture the consumer’s eye and break the stereotype that sheet vinyl is “what’s laid down in grandma’s kitchen.”

While some experts see the slight decline of sheet continuing in 2017, many manufacturers believe the category is still viable.

“There’s some softness on the sheet vinyl side but we firmly believe in the category,” said David Sheehan, senior vice president of product management, IVC—a division of Mohawk Industries. “Sheet in general is going to have to innovate. As manufacturers of sheet we need to do a better job of stepping up by innovating not only from a product standpoint but also in terms of how we talk about these products.”

For some manufacturers sheet still holds a certain value proposition. “Sheet is still the best value per square foot in flooring,” said Kurt Denman, chief marketing officer and executive vice president of sales, Congoleum. “This is the original waterproof flooring and it delivers an exceptional value.”

Instead of simply dismissing the segment most sheet vinyl manufacturers are working on ways to innovate their product offerings to compete with LVT, WPC and rigid core. Investments in manufacturing, processes and technology are ways suppliers are seeking to re-invigorate the segment.

“Regardless of what the market is doing, we’re focused on growing our business by bringing innovative products to market,” said Matthew Savarino, senior product manager, resilient sheet, Armstrong Flooring. “We have already introduced new innovations in 2017, specifically Diamond 10 technology across select residential and commercial sheet.”

Sheet innovation at Mannington Mills involves finding answers to the question: How can the company push style and design? “You can make really innovative looks with sheet vinyl,” said Jimmy Tuley, vice president of residential resilient. “I know that has not been the popular perception in the past, but if you look at a couple of our new collections they really do a fantastic job of mimicking incredibly high-end looks with embossed in register, very realistic visuals at a very reasonable price point.”

Despite the overall segment’s slight decline, some manufacturers reported seeing an uptick among their sheet offerings. “We continue to see good strong performance and actually growth out of our sheet category,” Denman noted. “We’ve spent a fair amount of time really targeting the builder/multi-family market. A couple of years ago we introduced the ArmorCore line, which was designed specifically for them. We’ve invested [heavily in] the category and we continue to see growth.”

Just as sheet continues to fight against LVT and its subcategories for market share, felt continues to battle fiberglass. In 2016 fiberglass saw a 4.8% increase in dollars while felt was down 6%, according to FCNews research. Most manufacturers see this flip from felt to fiberglass continuing through 2017, but do not see felt completely disappearing.

“Growth in felt market share is going to come from specific market segments,” Armstrong’s Savarino explained. “Felt-based products still provide, generally speaking, greater durability over fiberglass-based vinyl sheet. The comfort tradeoff has won out with homeowners—which is why we have seen such a large shift in the market [to fiberglass], but segments such as property management and builders still put a high value on rip, tear and gouge performance. The installation benefits of fiberglass over felt have also been swaying some buyers in that segment, but picking between durability and ease of install is still a tough decision for many customers.”

LVT output rises
LVT is still singing 2016’s hit song as it continues to drive category growth and take market share from other categories. Based on FCNews data, LVT had a strong year in 2016, capturing 48.1% of residential market share in dollars. With only six months left of 2017 most manufacturers are reporting strong growth in LVT. This is most commonly attributed to the aggressive nature of it subcategories—WPC and rigid core.

As LVT remains a category favorite more manufacturers are expanding into domestic production. Experts have taken notice of the increase; however, most do not expect import production to disappear.

Screen Shot 2017-08-07 at 11.14.53 AM“With the significant growth in the category, both domestic and import production will continue to expand,” said Lindsey Nisbet, head of product marketing and development, EarthWerks. “With the increased demand on the market today, many are finding it possible to produce in the United States. However, the technology for this category continues to be derived from Asia, as well as many of the components that make up the products. I foresee a nice balance of the category across the globe.”

Mannington is a company dedicated to U.S. production and has seen success from its acquisition of Amtico. “It’s important for several key suppliers to be able to produce here in the U.S.” Tuley explained. However, he also sees a need in the industry for balance between domestic and import production, specifically in regards to keeping up with consumer demands. Tuley cited the rapid expansion of the market and the need for technical innovations as some of the reasons for a balance strategy.

Manufacturers invested in domestic production see a number of benefits that are not always available when importing. A few examples include greater product control, faster lead time and a Made-in-the-USA story.

“In today’s market end users and consumers want product faster,” said Michael Raskin, president and CEO of Raskin Industries. “Domestic production provides shorter lead times. Another point to consider is younger consumers with children are asking where the product is made and the perception is ‘made in the USA’ is better quality and safer. It’s also very hard to guess right with inventory management since we are in a fashion business and as trends develop, distributors and retailers can react much faster with supply/demand when product is made in the U.S.”

For some, the issue is not so cut and dry. For instance, Jamann Stepp, director of marketing and product management for USFloors, there are both positives and negatives to domestic and import production. In addition to the benefits listed previously, Stepp cited greater quality control with domestic production. When importing, he explained, a manufacturer is able to eliminate the capital required to set up, run and maintain a manufacturing operation.

Others see more benefits in importing products. “Importation can actually be more flexible and responsive to the needs and trends in the marketplace,” Novalis’ Wu explained.

Even though importing products may result in longer lead times and less control over manufacturing, the vast majority of LVT products are still coming from overseas, observers say. “If you’re importing it allows for quicker response for changes in construction processing,” Congoleum’s Denman said. “There’s no capital expense investment. You can also get fairly competitive bidding between [businesses]. The number that exists allows a brand to have a lot of choices and opportunities to building the product that it wants.”

In addition to the increase of LVT domestic production, some manufacturers are also bringing rigid construction to the U.S. One in particular is IVC, which announced last year that it is building a rigid plant in Dalton.

“We expect to be up and running the first part of 2018 and getting product out through the latter part of 2018,” IVC’s Sheehan reports. “We’re going to be at the lead of that movement which makes sense from a lead-time standpoint and not having to tie up a lot of inventory, work, capital and being able to serve the needs of our customers in a better fashion.”

Even though a growing number of manufacturers are investing in U.S. production, some say the effects of their shift away from importing has yet to be felt. “Most of these factories are still coming on line,” Metroflor’s Keeble said. “With that said, the overwhelming majority of LVT sold in the USA remains imported, and with the category growing as it has, imports will likely remain a very large part of the overall market.”

WPC’s performance edge
Experts predict the aggressive growth of WPC and rigid core products will continue as long as waterproof products continue to capture the hearts and eyes of consumers. As these subcategories achieve meteoric growth other flooring categories will continue to lose overall market share.

“The growth in LVT has come at the expense of many categories including sheet vinyl, hardwood and especially laminate,” Karndean’s Browder said. “With the advent of WPC/rigid core, laminate is taking an even bigger hit. The fall of laminate flooring due to water and noise issues created a market for WPC and rigid core products.”

The success of WPC and rigid core can be attributed to multiple factors including the categories’ abilities to solve certain performance problems. “Rigid core products have helped to solve for additional challenges that regular LVT could not,” said Jeremy Kleinberg, senior product manager, Armstrong Flooring. “For example, telegraphing of minor subfloor texture.”

Ongoing developments
In 2016 WPC and rigid core products saw what many industry experts have called phenomenal activity. In fact the subcategories, combined, have more than tripled in volume from 2015. Most industry experts expect this growth to continue well into 2018.

Screen Shot 2017-08-07 at 11.15.01 AM“I wouldn’t be surprised if WPC/rigid core becomes the larger sub-segment of LVT,” IVC’s Sheehan said. While he sees these subcategories still gaining market share, he does expect the WPC/rigid core craze will eventually level off and allow for an increase in sheet market share.

As fairly new subcategories, WPC and rigid core are expected to see at least two more years of aggressive innovation. In fact, Mannington’s Tuley sees these subcategories still in the early, steep part of the growth curve.

“There’s also a significant amount of innovation that’s going to be coming,” he added. “I wouldn’t think that even in the next two years that will stop. You will see a significant number of entrants moving away from WPC and going toward rigid core.”

Tuley has a good point. As WPC and rigid core continue to grow, more manufacturers are adding the products to their resilient offerings. New rigid core and WPC introductions—as well as additions to existing collections—are already being brought to market only six months into 2017. For example, Novalis has introduced its High Performance Core (HPC Technology) line for WPC/rigid LVT. Wu sees these newer introductions taking market share from other categories as well as developing a greater presence in the commercial sector.

Manufacturers such as Karndean have developed new rigid products to meet dealer demands. “Our dealers had been asking for a rigid core product with Karndean designs,” Browder said. “With Korlok we have the perfect combination of industry-leading technology and our renowned design quality.”

Shaw Floors has also taken advantage of the success of WPC and rigid core with a mid-year launch of the company’s new Floorté PRO collection.

WPC and rigid core have managed to attract almost every manufacturer. One concern regarding these products is the possibility they might cannibalize traditional LVT. According to the experts, higher-end traditional LVT may take a hit; however, low-end LVT should be able to withstand the “perfect storm,” as one executive described it.

“While multi-layer flooring is definitely taking share over the click options of LVT, the traditional glue-down LVT is also growing,” EarthWerks’ Nisbet explained. “The multi-layer flooring options are taking place of the original click LVT, as well as alternate flooring categories. With the enhanced technologies and realistic attributes of these designs, the affordability and performance of multi-layer flooring, the vinyl option has become a clear competitor in the overall choice for flooring.”

USFloors’ Stepp doesn’t see the subcategories cannibalizing LVT; rather, they are providing the consumer or end user with various choices. “[WPC/rigid core] merely offers the end-user and consumer a choice based on functionality, application and budget. The consumer will make the choice as to what best suits her needs in terms of performance, fashion and cost.”

 

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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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My take: Random ramblings from NeoCon

July 3/10: Volume 32, Issue 2

By Steven Feldman

 

Screen Shot 2016-07-15 at 3.46.11 PMHow can 2017 have less than half of it remaining? Time really does fly. Walking around NeoCon last month made me realize just that. There was no way we could be five months removed from Surfaces. Then again, show management is probably saying there is no way it’s been five years since they changed the name to TISE, or The International Surface Event, and I still refer to it as Surfaces. (That’s because most of you do, too.)

Anyway, as the ADD kicks into high gear as the years go by and my brain goes in 100 different directions, here was what I was thinking about on the plane ride home from NeoCon:

If only I booked the 1:30 or 4:30 and not the 2:30, we wouldn’t have been stranded an extra day in Chicago… Kudos to Metroflor for going the extra mile in creating awareness for its Aspecta brand with a public area on the first floor of the Merchandise Mart where attendees could stop in and get a smoothie. This in addition to a well-attended party at the Godfrey… Encryption, the subway tile-looking carpet tile planks from Milliken, is an innovative design… Does anyone know how to fold a fitted sheet?… Great to see old friend and former Bentley boss Anthony Minite heading up the U.S. operations for Denmark-based Fletco. There’s a good story there…

Impressed with the huge Tarkett/Tandus Centiva/Johnsonite/ Desso space on the third floor. Bringing everything together makes all the sense in the world…Speaking of the third floor, there may be more attendees per square foot in the Mohawk space than anywhere else… And speaking of Mohawk, Gavin DeGraw headlined its annual NeoCon soiree. Great performance, but would have preferred Earth Wind & Fire… I think Aquafil is one of the best-kept secrets in this industry. What they do with fiber from a color and sustainability standpoint is unmatched…

Always love the Bentley showroom design on the 10th floor… Speaking of high floors, no more elevator waits for me. Take a non-NeoCon elevator to a non-NeoCon floor, like 12 or 13, and walk down. I should have thought of that 20 years ago… They may not be a household name, but Taj Flooring has some innovative designs. With the right exposure they could make some noise in the next few years… I miss not seeing Don Miller at the Roppe booth. Hopefully next year… I love the sense of camaraderie when an entire line of cars teams up to prevent an idiot from cutting in at the front…

The Raskin purchase of To Market is sure to pay dividends… I like what companies like Gerflor and American Biltrite are doing in the U.S…. Gibson’s vs. Mastro’s vs. Gene & Georgetti. Who wins?… I am expecting Atlas to be more visible going forward with rumors of some new branding on the horizon… While carbon neutral is the buzzword for many, Interface is moving forward with the first carbon negative carpet tile a few years down the road… Noticed more companies with Declare labels than years past…

At the end of the day, though, one of my favorite aspects of NeoCon is seeing executives of competing manufacturers visiting each other’s showrooms and spaces. There is a certain camaraderie unseen at other events. It’s more than just checking out the competition. There is a palpable level of respect and friendship. I like that.