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Surfaces Resilient Coverage: Innovations aim to add simplicity to the buying and selling process

February 5/12, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 17

By Lindsay Baillie

 

There’s a common thread among the plethora of new resilient flooring products introduced at Surfaces: They all aim to make it easier for retailers to sell and consumers to understand.

A majority of the manufacturers at the event noted that the resilient market is saturated with products—a phenomenon that can cause confusion for distributors, retailers and consumers alike. To address this issue, manufacturers are providing retailers and distributors with updated styles and newer product constructions in conjunction with greater education, explicit branding and unique product stories.

Education and innovation was a focal point of Karndean Designflooring’s 2018 introductions, which entailed new SKUs across three formats: glue down, loose lay and rigid core. The ultimate goal, the company said, is to encourage retailers to rethink flooring. “We’re trying to get retailers to see flooring differently, design flooring differently and specify flooring differently so that they have a way of making more margin and really beating out the competition,” said Emil Mellow, director of public relations.

Part of rethinking flooring involves a complete understanding of how Karndean’s products work together to create designflooring. “With our new SKUs, we’re trying to push design differently,” Mellow explained. “For example, with Korlok, we tell retailers you can blend SKUs.”

Mohawk’s new sheet vinyl lineup is bringing awareness to a product category that has consistently been losing market share to LVT, WPC and SPC. According to Angela Duke, senior brand manager, Mohawk, the company still sees a market for sheet vinyl and so should retailers. “This is one of the most durable floors. It is one of our highest margin products because of its lower price.”

Mohawk’s new sheet vinyl features a new technology called ClearGuard, which aims to show consumers how easy it is to clean the product. Duke explained dealers should also take advantage of the product’s waterproof qualities. “We’re seeing a lot of push for this product in different areas such as laundry rooms, basements and bathrooms.”

Educating dealers on product features is also a key point for Forbo. The manufacturer’s Marmoleum with click cinch lock is available in a wide array of colors, allowing retailers to offer consumers something out of the ordinary. What’s more, dealers can mix and match the square and plank formats to create unique flooring designs. “What if you could get a click product that is easy to install and with more vibrant colors?” asked Tim Donahue, residential national sales manager. “You’re not going to get these colors in an LVT.”

Forbo has also added FlowTex to its product portfolio. To create the texture of FlowTex the product is “flocked,” a manufacturing process that combines a PVC backing, a layer in between and an adhesive on top, followed by a magnetic charge that activates the product. Once the product is dried, it becomes  impenetrable to water, Donahue said. “FlowTex is a textile version of a resilient and is actually closer to a hard surface than a carpet.”

Fusion, the distribution division of USFloors, is focused on educating its customers on the positives of doing business with the company. “We offer completely different colors and SKUs than USFloors,” said Jim Nielsen, vice president of sales. “We cover all of the bases with this category, and we’ll stay at the very forefront of technology and give our distributors service and compassion.”

The company’s two investments for 2018 are its enhance bevel WPC and SPC. “These are higher end, design-focused products,” Nielsen explained. “They’re very realistic looking compared to what we’ve had in the past. We’ve also attached a pad, which provides more comfort and is sound deadening. Distributors will be able to get more premium price on these products than what is out there.”

Happy Feet also emphasized the importance of educating the retailer on the benefits of partnering with the right manufacturer, going beyond product specs. In addition to the company’s new products such as Blockbuster and Gladiator, Happy Feet boasts competitive pricing, shipping within 24 hours and unmatchable inventory. “We want to help retailers make money,” said CJ Johnson, sales.

What’s in a brand?

Some manufacturers introduced new products at Surfaces that aim to help strengthen brand recognition in consumers and make it easier for dealers to better identify products in a saturated market. Case in point is Armstrong, which is looking to leverage its Diamond 10 technology to create brand awareness with consumers. “We’re pushing our Diamond 10 technology, which is a differentiating factor,  to bring consumers into retailers’ stores,” said Morgan Hafer, product manager for Alterna. “It’s being used in shows on HGTV and throughout social media to [drive] brand awareness.”

EarthWerks is also using its branding to make it easier for retailers to distinguish between different sizes of products. The company showed Noble Classic Plus and Plus XL as well as Parkhill and Plus XXL. Plus XL and Plus XXL represent thicker, longer versions of their respective lines.

“At EarthWerks we say style, availability and service you can trust,” said Lindsey Nisbet, strategic marketing and product development. “Our style is getting better every year; with respect to service, we have some of the best distribution.”

Quick-Step and IVC are also making it easier to identify their resilient products. Quick-Step has updated the products it sells to focus less on the product lines and more on its attributes. The company is now using the term “EnduraTEK” for its resilient products. “We consider resilient as the entry into hard surface,” said Jason Sims, senior brand manager, Mohawk Industries. “All of our flexible product is called EnduraTEK. As you trade up, the rigid offerings are called EnduraTEK Ultra.”

Quick-Step is doing its best to provide distributors with better and best offerings within the resilient category. “What we’re featuring this year is the ability for them to trade up within the category from flexible to rigid,” Sims said. “We are also offering for the first time flexible LVT tile that has a hidden grout line. You can mix them and it quickly installs. These are all available on one display as well.”

IVC is updating its brand to reflect the resilient category. The company showed its new Artera and Millright lines, both sheet vinyl, as well as Urbanne, its new flexible tiles. Sims explained that the word “resilient” not only describes the category, but also highlights what the segment can ultimately provide consumers. “We have positioned our brand as uncompromised design for life. We bring a different design element to everything we do.”

While some companies are promoting various product names to drive brand recognition, others are looking to better leverage their own corporate identities. DuChâteau, primarily known for its innovations in hardwood for flooring and wall applications, has expanded its reach to include luxury vinyl plank products. “We conducted extensive research with designers, architects, contractors and homeowners to see where they wanted to go with more luxurious and distinctive flooring designs,” said Misael Tagle, CEO and co-founder of DuChâteau. “The craftsmanship and fashion-forward designs of our new collections meet their needs.”

The manufacturer’s new Atelier Series’ Sovereign edition features the sought-after signature aesthetic of European-style exclusive designs in a glue-down vinyl plank. Then there’s the Vinyl Deluxe Grand collection with LuxCor technology, followed by the Vinyl Deluxe Classic collection. Rounding out the offering is the American Guild collection, which features classic colors and a contemporary American design aesthetic with the realistic look and feel of wood and stone.

Congoleum is looking to take branding a step further with the creation of CLEO Home—a separate, standalone brand that features healthy and environmentally conscious flooring. According to Kurt Denman, chief marketing officer and executive vice president of sales, CLEO Home is intended to help consumers who might be struggling with design confidence.

“We wanted to create something from a designer standpoint that really appealed to the consumer. We have great brand recognition with Congoleum, with our legacy products. This new foray into the marketplace is a great way to connect with the next generation.”

CLEO breaks down into three different layers. The base is 85% limestone and the other 15% is a binder that is not made with PVC. The top layer is digital imaging with a high-performance coating. “When you get rid of PVC you get rid of plasticizers, phthalates and all the things that are perceived as negative words in the industry,” Denman explained. (Incidentally, Congoleum was honored for a Best of Surfaces award in sustainability for CLEO Home.) “This product is 100% manufactured in the U.S., so we’re not relying on print films shipped from China.”

A compelling story
Manufacturers are not only developing unique product stories to help differentiate offerings, they are ultimately providing retailers with product education and strong brands. Mohawk, for example, has updated its campaign for SolidTech to play up the product’s resistance to hurricanes. As Duke explained: “We have a good story from a builder in Dallas who put SolidTech in one of his model homes; after the hurricane hit the dealer was able to salvage the floor in the model home, clean it up and reinstall it without any problems.”

Armstrong has developed its own story for its Alterna plank product—an engineered tile now available in a 6 x 36 plank format. “We call it Alterna because it is an alternative to ceramic and tile,” Hafer explained. “The story behind engineered tile is its more durable and comfortable to live on and easier to install than real tile. Alterna plank also features our Diamond 10 technology.”

Product story is also key to Beauflor’s new introductions, Blacktex and Boardwalk. The former is a roll product that can also be merchandised with boards and marketed as either a sheet vinyl or LVT product. The textile backing provides users with some of the benefits and features of LVT. Meanwhile, Boardwalk is a rigid click, loose-lay product with an attached pad.

“Our Blacktex sheet product is really the original waterproof product,” said Johnny Barnes, general manager. “If you look at the top layer, you can achieve some of the visuals with this line that you can’t necessarily achieve with the WPC products.”

Boardwalk, initially available in 14 SKUs, is equally rich in terms of aesthetics. “We have several dimensions and three SKUs that are random width,” said Nick Brown, vice president of sales North America. “There are all these different products within the collection, but they’re all at the same price point.”

Raskin Industries’ Ceramix, the company’s built-in-grout, loose-lay LVT, has its own story—one built on ease of installation. According to the manufacturer, the offering allows retailers to sell a grouted tile look without the headache of a typical tile installation. What’s more, Ceramix, which made its official debut at Surfaces 2017, earned a Best of Surfaces award for innovation at this year’s event.

Michael Raskin, founder and president, said the realistic look of the grout is a difference maker. “You can’t tell it is not ceramic, and with labor as a big issue in the market—the labor is sometimes two to three times more than the product—this can be put in with a perimeter install. It’s also warmer, slip resistant and doesn’t shatter.”

Novalis continues to push its environmentally friendly products with the development of Serenbe, a SPC product boasting high-density core technology, NovaShield coating and an attached pad. “Serenbe is ultra-realistic,” said Steven Erlich, vice president of sales and marketing. “There are ceramic planks and herringbone patterns to name a few. In addition, all of our products are pressed with a rolled edge, or groutable edge.”

Nox U.S. highlighted its new Genesis technology at Surfaces. The new line, the company said, creates a bridge between WPC and SPC products. ““WPC is growing for everyone but there are challenges with indentation and brittleness,” said Eric Erickson, senior vice president sales and marketing North America. “Also, everyone is chasing SPC but it’s really heavy and stiff. What we’ve been able to do is develop new technology in our core so that it is a little less dense and as you move up layers it becomes denser like a rigid product. This is an 8mm product and it feels the same weight of WPC but has the performance of rigid.”

Mills flood the arena
Engineered Floors, previously a carpet-only company, officially debuted Revotec, a high-density, rigid-core floating floor featuring tile visuals with a realistic grout line embedded; and Triumph, a click floating floor that employs high-density core technology for improved dimensional stability and better indentation resistance. “Our plan is to be a player in this segment,” said Brandon Kersey, brand manager for Main Street commercial and hard surface. “We are transitioning to the new version of rigid core, and we think Revotec can take us to another level.”

The acquisition of Beaulieu’s assets helped EF enter hard surfaces since the former company was already in the WPC space. Ana Torrence, product manager, hard surfaces for EF, said Revotec looks like real grouted tile. She cited other advantages: “It’s a really fast install. It is a better alternative than stone or ceramic in terms of installation time.”

A year after entering the LVT category, Phenix Flooring is doubling its assortment of PetProtect LVT, rigid core, click and loose lay offerings. In 2018, Phenix will market two display fixtures that blend hard and soft surfaces. The fixtures were consolidated into smaller footprints to provide design flexibility and allow every SKU to be merchandised differently. “We’re a year into hard surfaces, and I can tell you we are committed to it,” said Mark Clayton, president and CEO.

Marquis Industries made its mark 10 years ago as a mid-sized mill that ventured into LVT.  The company did not enter the category for the sake of it; its executives traveled the globe extensively to source the right raw materials and ensure quality control was followed along the way. “When you spend half a million bucks on an opening order you better be right,” said Larry Heckman, CEO. “If you don’t anticipate it correctly, you can be out of stock three to four months and you never get caught up. We took it seriously.”

Marquis’ 2018 offerings include two 5-foot-long x 9-inch wide rigid core lines—Whispering Pines and Biltmore Classic—with a 20-mil wear layer. The Dalton-based company opened a new building in Georgia devoted entirely to hard surfaces. It also has an existing West Coast distribution center to service customers. The mill still maintains a two-thirds to one-thirds split in favor of carpet.

The Dixie Group began as a yarn company that transitioned into a carpet manufacturer that is transforming into an all-surface supplier—all the while doing it in a way that best represents the Dixie, Masland and Fabrica brands. In 2017, Dixie was one of two companies (Phenix was the other) licensed to sell Stainmaster PetProtect LVT products. The launch exceeded expectations and now Dixie and Masland are coming out with eight new styles each for high performance core, including wood planks with a painted beveled edge.

“A lot of our good customers were moving with the market into hard surface categories like luxury vinyl and we felt like we had an opportunity to enter that market and could be relevant,” said T.M. Nuckols, president of the residential division, the Dixie Group. “We tried to take the right approach from a distribution standpoint to create a profit opportunity for our partners.”

Southwind is another traditional carpet company that made the leap when LVT got hot. The company unveiled Authentic Tile, an SPC core product that has the feel of ceramic tile along with the heft (each 8-piece carton weighs 40 lbs). “It has been very well received at the show,” said Tim Gilmore, Southeast regional vice president. “Several big dealers are taking it on.”

Wellmade Flooring is pushing its Opti-Wood Flooring line with Hydri-HDPC technology and the PowerShield moisture protection system, which company officials say is the difference maker. Wellmade showed 16 SKUs in poplar, eucalyptus, hickory, oak and bamboo. Steve Wagner, director of sales and marketing, does not believe the LVT/WPC/ SPC market is saturated just yet. “I think there is a home for everybody who can come to market with different formulas.”

 

COREtec Stone: The next big thing?

By Ken Ryan

Piet Dossche knows a winner when he creates one. Five years ago, despite serious doubts from some well-respected retail executives, the USFloors’ founder and president launched COREtec and predicted success. He got it—in spades, helping to launch a category that has surpassed $1 billion in sales.

“People said it wasn’t going to work,” he recalled of COREtec. “I was saying, ‘Good, keep thinking like that.’” COREtec was a runaway hit and helped launch the breakout success of the LVT sub-segment.

Dossche has similar expectations for COREtec Stone, which the company showed at Surfaces 2018 as an alternative to ceramic and porcelain tile. The product—a composite/SPC engineered tile—is expected to be ready for market in the second half of 2018. “This is going to be huge,” Dossche said. “It is going to bring solutions to the ceramic tile category.”

Ceramic tile is a growing business, but it has issues. For starters, ceramic tile is heavy and may not be appropriate for certain installations; it is cold and can crack or break easily; it is a time-consuming installation process, and it is also an expensive installation with special tools needed, critics say. Sometimes the cost of the installation is more than the materials. It is also messy and expensive to remove ceramic or porcelain tile.

Enter COREtec Stone, which is lighter, warmer, cheaper and easier to install with no grout needed, easier to remove and more comfortable to walk on because of its attached cork backing. Plus, it doesn’t break.

Dossche, who believes this segment could grow to be a $500 million business in a few years, is optimistic. “If you bring to market a good-looking product that solves issues you have a winner. Composite weatherproof flooring will be the high double-digit growth engine in hard surfaces for the next five years.”

 

 

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Surfaces Wood Coverage: New finishes, formats steal the show in Vegas

February 5/12, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 17

By Reginald Tucker

 

Hardwood flooring suppliers across the industry are combining creativity and technology as they seek to develop the next generation of products that will compete against the likes of WPC, LVT and rigid core floors.

Case in point is the staining technology employed by Hearthwood in the manufacture of its Controlled Chaos and Dynamic Earth lines. Designed to mimic a process known as reactive staining—whereby chemicals are used to manipulate the visual appearance of a hardwood floor—the technology Hearthwood employs is able to produce more consistent results. As Allie Finkell, executive vice president, explains: “Some of the chemical reactive staining processes are really hard to control, making it difficult to be consistent across production over time and from run to run. But we’ve been able to recreate the highlights of those chemicals utilizing a regular water-based UV-cured stain, which is done in our Tennessee plant with low-emitting finishes.”

Controlled Chaos features a light wirebrushed finish on white oak for a more contemporary look in a 7-inch-wide x 8-foot-long format in colors ranging from, in Finkell’s words, “shocking to subtle.” Meanwhile, Dynamic Earth, which is also in a sliced white oak product, has more of a reclaimed, scraped texture. “Our handscraping technique is not the old, machine-scraped process that’s common in the industry,” Finkell explained. “Our process delivers more of that reclaimed barnwood look. This way the customer gets a modern format in long lengths and wide widths, but she can still pick a timeless color so she’s not going to get sick of looking at the color.”

The latest offerings from Provenza also represent a play on color and texture. Several new additions are being added to the Lighthouse Cove line, which is part of the award-winning Colour Nation collection, which took home a Best of Surfaces award in 2017.  “We are bringing in white oak product from Europe in a format and range that appeals to all levels of consumers,” said Ron Sadri, principal owner.

Also new from Provenza is the Dutch Masters collection—a portfolio of unfinished European species that are stained at the company’s facilities in the U.S. “Dutch Masters falls under our custom collection category, which is exclusive to us,” Sadri said. “These products provide better margins for dealers; it’s not going to be in every store and it’s very exclusive.”

Other European-inspired lines come courtesy of The Dixie Group, which showcased its first hardwood line, Fabrica Fine Wood Flooring. The Fabrica collection will feature 70 SKUs—40 for the floor and 30 companion SKUs for wall covering. The line will include French oak, maple and birch—with a style and quality consistent with the Fabrica brand promise, said T.M. Nuckols, president of the residential division of The Dixie Group. Each flooring panel features the letter ‘f’ for branding purposes. “We are sourcing the product both domestically and in Canada and Europe to create the assortment,” Nuckols said.

The Fabrica wood line will be launched initially in the Southeast U.S., and will be priced at the upper end of the market. “We are restricting distribution—not everyone is going to have it,” said Dan Phelan, vice president of marketing, residential division, The Dixie Group. Those that do get the line will primarily be high-design retail flooring stores. “We feel the wood line fits for Fabrica because it is consistent with the high-end quality of Fabrica’s name.”

HF Design is also playing the quality card, but with a twist—making its floors more accessible to mainstream consumers. To that end, the company took the wraps off two new collections: Pacific Point, a 7⁄16, 3⁄8-inch, 6-inch wide product that’s thermotreated and topped with a  urethane finish, and Brentwood Hills, which is a step up 5⁄8 platform, 7 inch wide.

High-end looks at an affordable price was also the inspiration for the latest offerings from USFloors. While its name may be associated with the wildly successful launch of the COREtec brands, USFloors wants retailers to know it is a bona fide player in the hardwood sector as well. To that end, the company is unveiling a total of 56 SKUs across various collections and formats.

“Our biggest launch right now is our Natural Woods line, where we took some of our best-selling products in the Castle Combe oil finished lines an put an acrylic finish on them,” said Jamann Stepp, director of marketing and product management. “You still have that oil finished look without all that gloss in there.”

EarthWerks, historically known for its LVT offerings, is also looking to make some noise in the hardwood arena. The strategy, according to Brenda Cashion, who heads up hardwood product development and marketing, is twofold: Expand EarthWerk’s wood program beyond Texas into other markets around the country, while positioning the Pinnacle brand as an upper-end “designer” offering.

“The EarthWerks hardwood brand has always been in our distribution footprint paired with the LVT teams,” she explained. “Now we are taking a select group of products nationally. We had to reengineer and redevelop those products to give them a broader appeal nationally.”

Whereas EarthWerks wood is being positioned as the “meat and potatoes line,” Cashion said, the Pinnacle offering will be positioned as a high-style designer driven. Standouts include Country Estate, which features a natural, almost unfinished, matte look, and Grand Reserve, which is a hefty 4mm dry-sawn face with a suggested retail price point of $5.99 per square foot.

Over at the Satin Flooring space, the company put the focus on red and white oak species in a 7-inch-wide format, mostly engineered. “We’ve been happy with the feedback,” said Dennis Mohn, director of marketing. He cited interest from top distributors such as NRF and Galleher “We also sell some unfinished solid products to certain markets such as Chicago.”

New formats are also coming out of the Preverco camp. The company is putting the spotlight on Max 19, a ¾-inch thick engineered product featuring a 4mm top wearlayer on a ½-inch-thick vertical quartersawn softwood core, backed with a 2mm bottom panel for balance. Right below that is a 5⁄8-inch thick engineered product featuring a 2mm top layer on a 9⁄16-inch five-layer construction. range of budgets.

Wading into water
SEM Group showcased Aquawood, the company’s waterproof hardwood line. The product is patent pending in 14 countries and features real hardwood on a waterproof core. “Not only is it waterproof, but it’s also great in extreme climates,” said Nathan Carter, product sales/development and hardwood specialist. “We have two versions available: Elegant Traditions is our 7½- inch wide 3⁄8 product and we just launched Carson—our 5⁄16 overall with a click and pad attached.”

Both versions are fully submersible in water and can be maintained just like tradition hardwood floor. What’s more, the products contain zero repeats.

In that same vein, Uniboard offers Aqua Allira, a waterproof engineered wood flooring made of a rigid core and a real veneer overlay. According to Daniel Seguin, product development manager, it marks the next generation of Allira engineered flooring, which produced by transforming 100% reclaimed pre-consumer wood fibers into a coreboard. Allira products use specially-formulated HDF panels that offer greater resistance than a plywood core, he noted.

Focus on green
Suppliers are also leveraging wood’s environmental story. For instance, Lifecore has developed a unique selling story to help retailers increase margins. Lifecore created Ai.r with no added formaldehyde to its adhesive, According to Jim Fiore, vice president North America, Samling Global USA, the product is 70% below the current CARB 2 regulations. “We’ve also been awarded the Indoor Air Quality Certification which is unique and we’re proud of that. Our focus when we were launching this line was giving the retailer something that would be of value to them and have a story behind it. With this line, it’s all about not having to compromise.”

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Shannon & Waterman hires new sales directors

Screen Shot 2017-08-14 at 10.19.14 AMMemphis, Tenn.—Shannon & Waterman, a manufacturer of luxury custom wide-plank flooring for home and office, recently welcomed Megan Stout and Jessica Johnson as sales directors. Based in Memphis, Stout will be responsible for directing sales in the Southeast U.S. region. Johnson—based in Dallas—will be responsible for sales in the Southwest U.S. region.

Stout previously worked in Memphis real estate sales, earning numerous top designations and garnering lifetime membership in a multimillion-dollar sellers club. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree at the University of Mississippi with a major in journalism and a minor in English with a concentration in public relations.

Johnson has nurtured client relationships through different sales roles over the past 10 years in the state of Texas. She has had tremendous success working with clients in the residential real estate, commercial real estate, general contractor, retail, architectural and interior design categories based locally and nationally. She excelled as a consultative sales professional, earning high sales honors and exceeding sales goals and customer expectations consistently.

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Tuftex dealers thrive on West Coast styling, sales support

July 3/10: Volume 32, Issue 2

By K.J. Quinn

 

Screen Shot 2017-07-10 at 3.34.36 PMThe West Coast has earned a reputation over the years for being at the forefront of carpet styling. Tuftex, Shaw Floors’ premier residential brand, is among the California mills taking the lead creating fashionable designs based on regional preferences and trends.

“Being on the West Coast gives them an edge for us, not only because they are local but also because they are constantly getting feedback from local designers and retailers on trends, colors, etc.,” said Dan Mandel, co-owner, Sterling Carpet and Flooring, Anaheim, Calif. “They are our biggest cut order mill by far.”

A key distinction is the Los Angeles-based mill’s innovative carpet styles, retailers say. “Tuftex offers a great color selection with a high emphasis on trending style and design,” said Deb DeGraaf, owner, DeGraaf Interiors, Grand Rapids, Mich. “Their location on the West Coast keeps them on the edge of style.” Earlier this year, Tuftex launched 13 eye-catching introductions to its Signature collection—from high-end textures and elegant patterns to exotic cables and shags—drawn on West Coast inspiration.

The mill’s unique brand personality stands out from other carpet collections based on its West Coast influence. For instance, part of the color schemes and designs are influenced by the surrounding environment where Tuftex is located, an area featuring great weather, plus desert, ocean, mountains and an outdoor lifestyle. “Tuftex is always on the cutting edge of fashion and design,” Mandel said. “They are not just a mill to me; they’re an innovator.”

Indeed, Tuftex has created its own segment in the marketplace, offering designs that bring color, warmth and fashion to the home. “I have had the pleasure of spending time at the mill on three different occasions,” noted Steve Weisberg, president, Crest Flooring, Allentown, Pa. “And each time I came away with the feeling these people truly care about what they’re doing and how they go about creating art for the floor.”

Tuftex retailers also like the fact the manufacturer provides a wide array of trendy patterns and colors for consumers shopping for something different. “We are from Michigan and sometimes the trends take a bit longer to grab hold,” DeGraaf pointed out. “But Tuftex makes sure we have great options for our clients who want to get a jump on things.”

Tuftex continues to make investments to help retail customers grow their carpet business. “They help make us money by consistently helping us drive business day in, day out,” Mandel said. “Not only do they come up with proven plans to steer consumers to their product, but they are in front of our RSAs all the time showing the features and benefits of why their product stands out above the rest.”

DeGraaf agreed, adding, “The extensive number of patterns at various price points allows us to choose stock rolls for every budget, giving the customer a great value while also enabling us to make a healthy margin.”

Indeed, Tuftex is committed to providing excellence in quality, design, service and value. “As part of Shaw Industries, Tuftex provides quality carpet and outstanding service,” said Sam Levine, CEO, G. Fried Carpet, Paramus, N.J. “And because of the integrity of the company, our customers get a quality product.”

Dealers also report Tuftex backs its products with an array of support and point-of-sale services. “Buying stock of their products gives us leverage over cut orders,” noted Todd Wheeler, owner, Wheeler’s Flooring, Salinas, Calif. “Also, their semi-annual promotions and the fact they produce quality products at a fair and competitive price.”

These and other services are designed to help dealers maintain a competitive edge. “Many of their products are unique and, therefore, allow for more margin,” Crest Flooring’s Weisberg said. “Their newer displays really generate interest in the product and create the boutique feel that I believe people are drawn to in the showroom.”

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Armstrong agrees to purchase Mannington's VCT business

logo_manningtonSalem, N.J.—Mannington Mills has signed an agreement to sell its vinyl composition tile (VCT) business to Armstrong Flooring. The transaction is expected to close in the 2nd quarter of 2017.

This transaction is an adjustment to Mannington’s product portfolio, according to Russell Grizzle, president and CEO of Mannington Mills. “The decision to sell the VCT business is in line with our long-term growth strategy and opens up opportunities for us to invest in high-growth high-profit markets and categories.”

VCT is designed for the heavy traffic experienced in schools, grocery stores and other commercial applications. Mannington entered the market in 1990, with manufacturing located in Salem, N.J. The site is also home to Mannington’s headquarters as well as all commercial and residential sheet vinyl manufacturing operations, which will continue to operate as usual.

“Mannington’s successful history is based on growing our business through a combination of innovation, customer focus and investment in opportunities in mid- to upper-end flooring product categories,” Grizzle said. “We remain committed to a strong U.S. manufacturing base, to our surrounding communities and to our valued distributor partners and customers.”

Armstrong Logo 2016Armstrong Flooring president and CEO Don Maier shared the company’s enthusiasm toward the transaction. “It gives us a good opportunity to increase revenue within the well-structured VCT category which has historically generated above-average profitability within our product portfolio. We expect this transaction to be accretive to earnings in 2018 as we drive profitability through improved capacity utilization and scale using our existing facilities and distribution system. We have a strong history and deep expertise in VCT which makes this acquisition consistent with our strategy to support our legacy product lines while simultaneously investing in innovation and new growth initiatives to help us realize our medium-term goals.”

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Lisbiz Strategies: Use behavioral economics to your advantage

December 19/26, 2016: Volume 31, Issue 14

By Lisbeth Calandrino

Screen Shot 2016-08-29 at 3.56.12 PMSimply put, behavioral economics provides a framework to understand the real-world, decision-making process. We’d like to believe we are all rational human beings and, therefore, make logical decisions. In reality, nothing could be farther from the truth.

So how can behavioral economics help you improve your profit margin? A better understanding of how and why consumers spend their money can help you persuade them to spend it on your products or service.

Everyone loves the word “free” (even though everyone knows nothing is really free). Have you noticed how consumers react to the prospect of “free carpet installation” or how quickly they walk out the door when they learn it’s not offered? It’s a fact that dopamine levels in our brain are actually measurably enhanced by the word free. When dopamine levels are raised, we feel good and tend to act irrationally. This could be why consumers flock to take advantage of free items no matter how ridiculous the actual purchase terms seem to be.

For many people, instant gratification is more important than their own future. Feeling good now is more important than paying attention to their budget or actual cost vs. value. People overspend when they are feeling depressed, i.e., “This will make me feel better.”

Following are some key points about behavioral economics to remember:

  1. Not all money is equal. This explains why 70% of lottery winners go broke in seven years. Since they didn’t work to earn the money and never actually felt the money in their hands, they are willing to spend frivolously. This may also explain why people are apt to spend their income tax rebate checks on unneeded items. It’s not really “free” money; it’s actually their own hard-earned dollars.
  2. Financing takes the sting out of the price. In fact, consumers are willing to pay more money for items when they can delay the pain. Financing may actually increase costs in the long run, but consumers tend to not worry about the future when they can have the pleasure of using the merchandise now.
  3. We gain more pleasure from a loss than a gain. Consumers give more weight to a cell phone carrier’s plan that states “unused minutes will be lost” vs. a plan with “unlimited minutes” available.
  4. Each of us has a price we will pay. Why did JC Penney lose market share when it changed to whole dollar pricing? The brain encodes numbers so quickly it rarely includes the second number. The number 2.99 is actually registered as “2” and 3.00 is encoded as 3. While it is true the actual difference is only one cent, the brain translates it as a difference of one dollar.
  5. Higher prices usually signify higher quality. If you are selling better merchandise, show the products first and then the price. Tiffany’s displays items with large photos and uses very small fonts for pricing.
  6. Remove the comma and the price becomes less expensive. Phonetic length of your price actually affects buyer perception of cost. For example, $1,499: one-thousand four hundred and ninety-nine (10 syllables) vs. 1499: fourteen ninety-nine (5 syllables).
  7. We prefer bundling to individual pricing even if it costs more. Car dealers offer packages to new car buyers. Adding $300 for leather seats is considered frivolous when compared to dealer packages—even when those packages include less-desirable options.
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Selling to Generation Y

July 7/14, 2014; Volume 28/Number 2

By Amanda Haskinmillennials_and_social_media

The last decade has seen a dramatic shift in the American consumer. The Millennial Generation, or Generation Y, has risen to buying power, and its emergence is making many retailers change the way they market their products. From the bourgeois bohemians, or “bobos,” as David Brooks calls them in his book, “Bobos in Paradise,” to kids right out of college furnishing their first homes, they all have something in common—they are a generation of visual, Internet-savvy consumers.

This is a generation of chronic researchers, Googlers, pinners, likers and tweeters. Retailers are dealing less with people who will walk into their stores and allow themselves to be led by the hand by a sales rep. Instead, they are dealing with a generation unlikely to make buying decisions without first being armed with a sufficient amount of data, price comparisons and self-proclaimed wisdom on any subject. The expanse and instant gratification of the Internet has allowed us all this privilege.

Linda Mason, a sales rep at O’Krent’s Abbey Flooring Center in San Antonio, has encountered this type of customer on numerous occasions.

“They’re doing a lot of research prior to coming in,” she said. “They pretty much know what they want beforehand, so it’s a lot easier to point them in the right direction and show them what we have to offer. Some of them are in their 20s and designing their own bathrooms, and they know exactly what they’re doing. It’s very impressive.”

Not everyone is quite as impressed with this generation’s breadth of knowledge. Steve Lewis of Lewis Floor and Home in Northbrook, Ill., who wittily refers to this group as the “IKEA generation,” finds that they often come in with inaccurate information. “They do a lot of research, but it’s often bad research,” he said. “They don’t like to be told they’re wrong, and there’s often an arrogance about them that has to be overcome.”

Retailers also now have to deal with customers who think that everything they read on the Internet is true. But, as we know, the Web can be anything but factual.

“They’re dealing with marketing professionals online, who can lean a story to benefit themselves,” said Jeff Macco of Macco’s Floor Covering Center in Green Bay, Wis. “Most consumers can’t discern the difference between factual data and fluffed-up marketing that is simply inaccurate. You know the age-old adage: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

This bridge between inaccurate data and the honest facts must be crossed when customers go into a store. “I have a 23-year-old daughter,” Mason said. “It’s how you approach them. Sometimes they can come in like they know everything; it’s my job to tell them why they can’t do certain things and what they can do as an alternative. You just have to point them in the right direction. Most of the time, they’re eager to learn.”

According to Casual Living, a retailer’s ability to make a millennial smile is 33% more important than it is to a baby boomer. When it comes to big purchases, they are looking for more of a sensory experience. They are overall an untrusting generation, and you have to win their trust with the way you speak to them and make them feel. The worst thing you can do, according to Macco, is talk down to them. “The sales rep can’t be condescending,” he said. “They have to be able to empathize with the consumer and politely offer alternatives.”

Once you have a millennial’s attention, the focus goes to quality versus cost. For the most part, retailers believe that this generation is much more concerned with cost than quality. Adam Joss of The Vertical Connection Carpet One in Columbia, Md., said, “The challenge with millennials that I’ve found is there’s no appreciation for quality. Price is their priority. People in their 50s and 60s have lived, they’ve learned, they’ve been ripped off.” And, echoing what Macco noted, “They understand that if a price sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

If it is true that this generation is more concerned with price over quality, much of that may have to do with their financial situations. Many of them are dealing with a number of bleak economic realities—student debt, job insecurity, a general distrust of big corporations and a fear of being ripped off. The economic fallout after the 2008 market crash still weighs heavily on their minds, and their resulting frugality isn’t all that different than their Depression-era grandparents and great-grandparents. Of course, there are exceptions, like the aforementioned bourgeois bohemians, who have money and spend it on $10 green juices and luxury kitchens. But, for the most part, we are dealing with a more financially conservative generation of buyers who are constantly looking for the best deal, even if it means a drop in quality.

Another possible explanation for these more price-conscious decisions may have to do with the transient nature of Generation Y’s post-college lives. The years of leaving college and moving right into a future family home are pretty much gone, and, as a result, they are moving around more and not as invested in one home. This might explain what motivates Lewis’ “IKEA generation” to make inexpensive choices. A survey of Houzz users revealed that 36% of millennials said they are remodeling their homes to increase value, with the intention of moving within five years, compared to an average 25% in other age categories.

It is also worth mentioning that corporate social responsibility plays a larger role than ever. According to Philanthropy News Digest, 7 in 10 young adults consider themselves social activists, and 4 in 5 would be more likely to buy from a company that supports a cause they care about. This includes charitable causes, sustainability, Made in America values and transparency. While eco-friendly flooring options remain a bit of a niche category for many retailers, it is likely to grow in importance as more millennials enter into buying power. They will be more interested in knowing where the product comes from, who made it and what will happen to it in the future. As it stands, most of this generation is not willing to pay more for these perks, but having a publicly socially responsible company is likely to increase the flow of millennials into your store.

Making connections

So, how does one meet this visual, educated, price-conscious, socially responsible consumer? It all starts with Internet presence.

“One thing that we needed to do is to make sure that our website fits into their mobile apps,” said Harris Cohen of Country Carpet in Syosset, N.Y. “That’s one of the biggest keys to hitting the younger generation. It’s all mobile, so your mobile site has to be there.”

While most retailers have presence on all the major social media sites, Facebook still seems to be at the top of most of their lists. Facebook now gives retailers the opportunity to market to certain demographics, with advertisements appearing in people’s newsfeeds. It is also the site that best bridges the gap between visual and informational marketing. But the more visual sites like Pinterest and Houzz have also been important to retailers. Macco’s company is even planning to redo its website to look like a Pinterest page. Whichever site retailers are using, some sort of infiltration into social media has been vital to each company’s evolution.

One of the most important things about social media when it comes to buying patterns is how it allows consumers to connect to other consumers. Jason Dorsey (“The Gen Y Guy”) estimates that 84% of Gen Y consumers rely on the opinions of other consumers to make decisions. In fact, his research has revealed that more millennials will make decisions based on the opinions of strangers, a.k.a. the Internet, than those of family and friends.

And that’s where social media comes in—specifically review sites and platforms like Yelp, Angie’s List, Customer Lobby and Trustpilot. Lou Morano of Capitol Carpet and Tile in Boynton Beach, Fla., values his Angie’s List reviews so much that he offers a 40% discount on the site’s membership when consumers sign up. Not to mention the fact that his mother, Loretta, personally calls every customer to measure satisfaction, and those reviews are then publicized on the company’s website. The combination of a strong social media presence, a mobile website and positive online reviews seems to be the perfect trinity of online marketing.

As Harris Cohen summarized, “Everything is important today. You have to be in social media, you have to maintain your reputation, you have to offer better product at better value with better service. Your salespeople need to be more knowledgeable because [millennials] are more knowledgeable. You need to be better in every aspect of business.”

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Transparency

by David Fellman

“I can see right through you,” said the buyer to the salesperson. “I know exactly what you’re trying to do!”

Question: Is that a good thing or a bad thing?

Answer: I think it’s a very good thing. I believe the best selling is highly transparent—no tricks, no games and no subterfuge. The great salespeople don’t trick anyone into buying from them; they help their prospects and customers to reach an unmistakable conclusion. When a great salesperson makes a sale, there’s no buyer’s remorse, just the confidence that comes from making a good decision.

Selling Is A Game

I should probably clarify this point: The great salespeople don’t play games, but many great salespeople look at selling itself is a game.

I think that’s a healthy attitude, especially considering salespeople lose more frequently than people in most other job categories. The great salespeople probably lose less frequently, but you still can’t win ’em all, no matter what game you’re playing. Continue reading Transparency

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Value is provided through education and networking

NASHVILLE, TENN.—Talk to the executive board of the North American Association of Floor Covering Distributors (NAFCD), and they agree their mis- sion is simple: Provide value. And that value proposition extends from affording a better experience at its annual conference to the programs it offers throughout the year. Continue reading Value is provided through education and networking

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My take: The perfect salesperson makes all the difference

by Steve Feldman

I try to minimize the embedding of my personal experiences in this space, but I have to relay a recent encounter as a consumer. It mirrors the retail experience we endlessly write about in this magazine.

I needed a suit for a very important affair. I was not unlike the consumer who purchases flooring once per decade. I hadn’t purchased a new suit since I could button the ones I currently own. I knew I didn’t want anything cheap, I knew I wanted value and I had no idea what it would cost. Sound familiar? Continue reading My take: The perfect salesperson makes all the difference