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Laminate: Latest on-trend looks designed to entice dealers

June 11/18, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 26

By Reginald Tucker  

 

All the excitement swirling around the LVT, WPC and rigid core craze is giving competing hard surface categories a run for their money. But laminate suppliers are not sitting idly by; many are fighting back against some of these trendy products by leveraging laminate flooring’s well-known aesthetic attributes.

“Laminate and other categories have been under pressure from LVT, WPC, SPC and probably another 10 versions of multi-layered plastic products,” said Derek Welbourn, CEO of Inhaus. “However, what we see is laminate holding its own and continuing to grow. The key reason is value. And when you start to add high-definition digital printing, textured surfaces and even embossed-in-register textures in different depths and gloss, the result is a highly compelling and exciting visual that other categories of flooring have trouble competing with laminate. What’s more, you can provide all of this at a competitive cost. The value is very exciting.”

Other industry observers agree laminate looks have been elevated to new heights.  “Laminate designs over the last couple of years have really evolved from what we’ve seen in years past,” said Adam Ward, senior director of wood and laminate, Mohawk Industries. “The level of realism you can get in a laminate product still beats what you see in other categories such as ceramic, LVT and rigid core products.”

In Mohawk’s case, Ward attributes the advances in laminate visuals to the design papers used—plus the four-color process the company utilizes in achieving realistic looks. “The level of pressing detail and registered embossing combined with our in-house design really takes it to another level,” he explained. “It’s why we position the category as RevWood over laminate because the things we do from a visual perspective combined with our waterproof story. It has really elevated the category over some of those other imitations you see on the market.”

Mohawk’s top-selling laminate lines include: Antique Craft, a 9½-inch-wide x

7-foot-long plank that plays on the growth of the wider/longer trend in hardwood. Another big mover is the Elderwood collection, a 7½-inch-wide product that replicates a sawn-face oak look. Colossia, a big seller in Mohawk’s Quick-Step line, also plays to the longer/wider craze, offering what Ward calls a “nice urban look” in a variety of fashion-forward colors.

“With Antique Craft we offer a very realistic design and texture combined with beveling for that ultra-wide plank look,” Ward said. “This is a look that would be much more expensive in a true hardwood product. It has really resonated with customers.”

Other major suppliers are also stepping up their game in the aesthetic department. CFL Flooring, for instance, cites growing interest in its signature Atroguard laminate line as a result of the investments the company has made in technology. “From a design standpoint, Atroguard puts a tremendous amount of effort in developing in-house stunning design visuals, using the specifics of laminate to really bring out something special,” said Barron Frith, president, Atroguard North America. “That includes playing around with varying lengths or random widths within one box or developing designs from different wood species used within a particular product.”

The structure of the surface is also key to developing realistic, eye-catching visuals, Frith noted. Laminate, he said, has the advantage of being able to make much deeper textures than resilient categories, including handscraped or embossed-in-register real wood surface structure. “Our biggest advantage is the number of unique visuals we offer within a given floor, making it very realistic and hard to see repeats once the floor is installed as opposed to vinyl or WPC floors for which this is technically more difficult to achieve.”

Improved visual characteristics are also driving sales of Shaw Floors-branded laminate. Among its most popular laminate collections are Pinnacle Port and Designer Mix. Pinnacle Port, which features light scraping to convey a natural texture, combines the beauty of wood visuals with the company’s Repel water-resist technology. Another standout product is Alloy, a sophisticated, gray-tone wood look. “Its on-trend design and three-color visual variation, combined with the features of our Designer Mix product line, make it a standout in laminate,” said Drew Hash, vice president of hard surface portfolio management. “Retailers love that both collections give consumers eye-catching visuals and lasting durability.”

Designer Mix, which boasts 12mm planks and embossed-in-register visuals, is part of Shaw Floors’ Mixed Width collection. The line, according to Hash, offers consumers three variations of plank widths in a single box, thereby allowing them to design the overall look of their spaces for a personalized touch.

Just like the real thing

It should come as no surprise that many of the top-selling laminate lines are replications of real wood floors. Case in point is Mannington’s award-winning Restoration collection, which generated double-digit sales increases last year, according to Dan Natkin, vice president of hardwood and laminate. Among the most popular visuals in the line, he noted, are Arcadia, Hillside Hickory and Fairhaven. “All are light rustic visuals with phenomenal realism.”

Looking north across the U.S. border, Satin Flooring is seeing impressive sales of lines such as terra—hands down its best-selling pattern across all regions, according to Dennis Mohn, U.S. director of sales. He also cited popular tones such as warm gray, mystic gray and driftwood.

To render these realistic wood tones, Satin Flooring employs high-tech embossing techniques. “We offer on-trend colors, including tried-and-true hues like terra, with sought-after finishes,” Mohn explained. “Authentic embossed features contrasting depths and the pores follow the grain of the decor, meaning they flawlessly mimic the character of natural wood.”

Laminates’ improved visuals, as it turns out, do more than dazzle consumers. They also pave the way for retailers to trade up consumers to better-performing, higher-margin items. “What we’ve been able to do with these new products is bring retailers back to the laminate category where it might not have necessarily been there in years past,” Mohawk’s Ward said. “Our RevWood products are really giving retailers a reason to move the customer up from a cheaper laminate they may have looked at in the past.”

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Wood: Canadian suppliers seek to play the ‘Q’ (as in quality) card

July 3/10: Volume 32, Issue 2

By Reginald Tucker

 

Screen Shot 2017-07-10 at 3.18.14 PMIn some circles, Canada is renown for developing some of the greatest hockey players—and teams—in the history of the sport. Well, the same could be said for the nation’s formidable forestry sector, which has produced some of the most prolific producers of hardwood flooring.

But it’s not just high volumes that some of these well-respected companies are cranking out. Many industry observers would argue that they manufacture some of the industry’s highest quality hardwood flooring products.

Take Rochester, N.Y.-based Installers Warehouse as an example. This wholesale flooring distributor ranks the Wickham line high on its portfolio of hardwood flooring products. Craig Dupra, president, has toured the Wickham plant on multiple occasions and is always impressed with what he sees. “Wickham has a unique business model in that it produces an enormous amount of product, but the company doesn’t apply a color or a finish until the product has been ordered by the retailer or distributor. I don’t know how it manages the logistics of it, but the company is very good at making a particular product for a particular customer and still gets it to my customer in 10-15 business days from the time the order is placed. This gives retailers an enormous amount of flexibility in terms of how the particular floor can be made regarding width, species, grade, color and sheen.”

Perhaps it’s the signature, tight-grained maple species native to the various Canadian forests where lumber used for flooring is predominantly harvested, or maybe it’s just an ingrained mindset embraced by the major wood manufacturers operating here, but there’s definitely something to be said about the quality of the upper-end hardwood flooring products originating from Canada. Marketplace reputation probably plays a role as well, observers say.

Abraham Linc, which took on the Wickham line late last year, also attests to the company’s focus on high standards. “Our entire team is excited to partner with Wickham and offer this line to our customers,” said Darren Abraham, president. “The high quality of the products, fashion-forward colors and design, combined with our commitment to inventory, delivery and sales support gives our dealers an exciting new line.”

Screen Shot 2017-07-10 at 3.18.31 PMAsk virtually any top distributor or retailer to corroborate many Canadian hardwood flooring manufacturers’ claims that their products are among the highest quality available on the market today, and you are not likely to find a lot of hesitation. Jaeckle Distributors, based in Madison, Wis., is a case in point.

“Mercier gives us a first-quality Canadian manufactured wood line that fits all possibilities in today’s ever-changing customer lifestyle,” said Steve Flanagan, product and marketing manager. “Mercier fits the consumer’s need anywhere from a quality entry-level product in their Pro Series to the most fashionable 7-inch pine long board or other popular species like hickory, maple, red and white oak, and their entire exotics series.”

Jaeckle’s experience with the Mercier brand continues to generate positive results. For 2016, Brad Myers, sales manager with Jaeckle Wholesale Distributors in St. Louis, won the manufacturer’s Best Salesperson of the Year award In addition, for the third straight year, Jaeckle Wholesale Distributors earned Wholesaler of the Year honors from Mercier.

Other top distributors are singing the praises of Canadian hardwood. For instance, No. 1-ranked Haines counts the Mirage Hardwood Flooring brand among its best sellers. “Mirage’s Flair collection features a next-generation finish called Duramatt, an extremely durable, low-gloss urethane finish that has the appearance of an oil finish without the maintenance required for oil,” said Shawn McCloskey, marketing manager. “Duramatt also contains anti-microbial agents and is 20 times more wear resistant than a conventional oil finish.”

Other Mirage distributors, including No. 4-ranked All Tile, applaud the virtues of not only the manufacturer’s high-quality products but also the company’s steadfast approach to manufacturing overall and attention to detail. So much so that All Tile recently decided to expand the territories in which it will distribute the Mirage brand. Specifically, All Tile’s single-source trading area for Mirage Flooring will be widened beyond Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa, Missouri, eastern Wisconsin, northern Indiana, Illinois and Michigan to include North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota and all of Wisconsin.

“This is a great opportunity to provide a high level of quality service with outstanding customer service, inventory and technology to Mirage customers and help them selling the top-quality hardwood flooring brand on the market,” said Bob Weiss, president of All Tile, a Mirage wholesale partner since 2007. “We are very happy about extending our partnership with Mirage to a new territory.”

Focus on innovation
Screen Shot 2017-07-10 at 3.18.20 PMMuch like their counterparts south of the border in America, most Canadian hardwood flooring manufacturers face stiff competition from other quality-minded suppliers operating in their market. To gain a competitive advantage, many employ proprietary techniques in their respective manufacturing processes. One common denominator, though, is the obligatory attention to detail.

That same emphasis on strict quality control measures is observed at Lauzon. As Priscilla Bergeron, brand manager, explains: “We have numerous points of control to make sure every step of the way our quality is maintained. This starts right from the forests where we choose which tree we’re going to cut all the way through to delivery to the retailer. We also have state-of-the-art equipment to make sure the quality is maintained consistently. We test and re-test to make sure everything we produce has the highest standards in the market. And we communicate that message to the marketplace.”

This focus on attention paved the way for innovations such as Sunshield, which is designed to mitigate the harmful effects of UV light. Lauzon also developed a titanium finish, which it says is one of the strongest coatings on the market. And then there’s Pure Genius technology, which aims to provide air-purifying capabilities for homeowners.

“We have won many awards for Pure Genious alone,” Bergeron said. “In 2015 we won the Best of IBS Award in Las Vegas and we also won the Bronze Innovation award from IIDEX Canada in the flooring category. We also won an innovation award at Domotex in Germany in 2015, and we ranked high among environmentally friendly products at the Greenbuild show as well.”

Even Canadian newcomers to the hardwood arena are looking to leverage the country’s reputation for quality products. For example, Uniboard Canada, which previously only produced laminate flooring, launched its first engineered hardwood flooring line (Kalista) at the NWFA convention in 2016. Since that time, the company has expanded the color and species offerings to give dealers and distributors more options.

Tapis Beaver, a Uniboard distributor based in Montreal, recently previewed the Kalista line and has high hopes for its potential in the marketplace. Already a longtime distributor of Uniboard’s laminate lines, Tapis Beaver is quite familiar with the manufacturer’s overall approach to product quality, high standards and service.

Screen Shot 2017-07-10 at 3.18.24 PM“We work more on the laminate side than any other product,” said Stephane Leveille, president, Tapis Beaver. “We placed around 150 displays since last December, and we sold about $1 million or more worth of product. We don’t have any complaints about the product. The quality is very good.”

Citing their innovative approach to manufacturing—as well as the proximity to its operations and customer base—Leveille hinted that there may be an opportunity to take on the Kalista brand down the road. “We have looked into the product but we didn’t start to sell it yet. We are still in discussions with Uniboard management to see how we could work with our customers.”

Other major Canadian suppliers are also garnering attention for their innovative approach to hardwood manufacturing. Earlier this year Satin Flooring took home a Best of Surfaces Award for Wirebrushed, part of the Generations engineered wood collection. The innovative, environmentally friendly product is treated with Satin’s proprietary, non-allergenic, formaldehyde-free Eco-Last finish with UV protection and an anti-microbial finish, which prevents bacterial and fungus growth. It also features the company’s SolidFused technology, which is used in its engineered flooring production.

According to Dennis Mohn, director of U.S. sales for Satin Flooring, the company only uses lumber from well-managed North American forests—a big selling point for both existing and potential customers. “As a leading user of one of nature’s most precious and inspiring resources, we have a special responsibility not just to our environment but also to each other.”

Many Canadian distributor partners generally believe all these attributes—product quality, attention to detail, responsible use of natural resources—translate into products that provide higher margin opportunities with low claims rates. “Wickham has allowed us to grow our business by leaps and bounds,” Installers Warehouse Dupra said. “By stocking the Wickham line, we have easily doubled our bottom line.”

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Satin Flooring names new director of sales, U.S.

Mohn
Dennis Mohn

Toronto—Satin Flooring, formerly Satin Finish Hardwood Flooring Limited, has appointed Dennis Mohn as director of sales, U.S. He will cover the entire U.S., developing business across the country for all Satin Flooring products: Origins Solid, Generations SolidFused two-ply engineered, high performance laminate, Euro Satin HDF core floating floors and Genesis Luxury Vinyl.

“We look forward to broadening our reach in the U.S. with the addition of an industry veteran like Dennis,” said Tom Giancani, senior vice president of sales. “With Dennis’ great reputation he will be a valuable addition and tremendous leader for our U.S. market.”

Mohn is a flooring expert with extensive industry knowledge spanning over 30 years having most recently worked at LaCrosse and Shamrock. Together with his flooring expertise, commitment, drive, keen business sense and relentless appreciation for customer needs, Mohn is a pleasure to work with, Satin Flooring representatives said. Feel free to reach out to him with any questions at dmohn@satinflooring.com or call him at (505) 350-8102.

For more information on Satin Flooring, visit www.satinflooring.com.