Hard and soft surface, technology are show highlights
February 2/9, 2015; Volume 28/Number 16
By Jenna Lippin
Orlando, Fla.—The biennial Shaw Flooring Network (SFN) convention, held here Jan. 18-21, brings together not only Shaw aligned dealers, but their spouses and children as well, making this a truly unique industry event. Aside from valuable networking opportunities, members were exposed to new technology, tools and products to help make them increase profitability as the economy continues to gain steam.
According to Randy Merritt, Shaw’s president, 2015 is showing more signs of “real improvement” than at this time last year. With customers already busy, he projects the industry will be up 6% to 7% this year with Shaw outpacing the market. “I think this could be a solid year across the board, and it’s starting out strong.”
On the hard surface side Shaw’s big story for 2015 is Floorté, an enhanced vinyl plank (EVP) that serves as the company’s answer to the increasingly popular wood composite category (FCNews, Jan. 5/12). Floorté consists of two collections, Classico and Premio, creating a better/best program.
While Floorté has been developed to fit into Shaw’s resilient portfolio, many SFN members anticipate EVP taking market share from laminate, particularly because of its water resistance.
“My market has a lot of senior citizens, and they want to mop their floors,” said Ken Patel, owner of Carpet and Tile Junction in Apache Junction, Ariz. “We’ve had to explain that you can’t do that on laminate, you can’t do that on wood—with Floorté you can. You want to mop it? Go ahead.”
Wayne Staley, co-owner of Potomac Tile & Carpet in Frederick, Md., said upon seeing Floorté for the first time his initial thought was that it will replace laminate. “The big issue with laminate is moisture resistance. If you’ve got a dog in the kitchen making a big mess laminate will swell at the seams. [Floorté] is a perfect product.”
Floorté rounds out Shaw’s resilient offering, a category in which Shaw has been involved for the last five years, now with support from the company’s repurposed Ringgold, Ga., facility. With that, Shaw unveiled its Resilient Solutions Center, which brings all resilient styles and designs together for display on the retailer’s show floor. Because resilient has reinvented itself with the growing popularity of LVT, the Solutions Center is set to display the breadth of products Shaw carries via a comprehensive system.
“The idea is to give Shaw a resilient footprint in the retailer showroom for many years to come,” said Clark Hodgkins, resilient category manager. The Solutions Center is customizable, both with configuration and product. “It could be in [various shapes]. It could be in the center of the showroom or against a wall.” The four parts of the display include 5th and Main, the Main Street commercial sheet and LVT line launched last year; Quarry, a groutable tile; Array, which includes standard LVT click and loose lay, and Floorté.
Staley ordered the complete display upon seeing it on the expo floor. “There was a display issue in the past. This ties all [resilient] products together and has an attractive, complete system.”
According to Scott Sandlin, vice president, business development, hard surface, Shaw’s goal is to be its customers’ first choice in resilient and hardwood. “It took us awhile to get our wheels under us, but we have become really good nationally in hard surface; now we need to be great locally.”
The hardwood story centers around two products: Epic, the single largest engineered hardwood collection in the U.S., and a new, 48-SKU solid line called Smokey Mountain, which Sandlin described as “the best assortment of solid hardwood you can buy.” The idea behind Smokey Mountain is that the majority of solids offer similar widths and colors; Smokey Mountain adds style, design and fashion to create excitement.
“We have a lot of assets tied up in solid,” said Drew Hash, vice president, hardwood. “For the most part, we have been making our living on two products: commodity and one step above. We have the capacity to come out with better styled products that the consumer wants to buy and the retailer wants to sell.”
Among the products within Smokey Mountain are Homestead and Rolling Hills, a pair of 4-inch-wide oaks in wire-brushed and handscraped textures, respectively. A third product within Smokey Mountain is Rio Grande, which draws inspiration from a successful 8-inch-wide product Shaw introduced eight years ago called Grand Canyon.
On the engineered side, Shaw is in the process of doubling the size of its Epic Hardwood operation. The Epic intros focus on maple and hickory, an aggressive scrape and four trendy colors.
Under the Anderson brand, the biggest highlight falls within the Virginia Vintage collection, where a new maple product called Churchill utilizes a proprietary surface treatment called “etching.” It offers a linear visual where the amount of etching from plank to plank varies.
While Shaw has re-launched its Anso Color Wall with 70 colors and a new layout to appeal to market trends, in addition to unveiling Simply Yours PET (FCNews, Jan. 5/12), the company’s major move in soft came via Life Happens, a new product made of Anso nylon that stops seepage and leaking thanks to proprietary LifeGuard backing. With R2X, Life Happens features exceptional stain and soil repellence treatment on the surface, “but the real challenge was to keep moisture from getting below the fiber to the cushion and to the subfloor,” said Steve Sieracki, vice president, residential sales.
Is Life Happens a game changer? Many seem to think so. Merritt said the new product has the potential to make a major splash because it’s “real innovation and addresses a problem. In a store, it’s a tool that will help a retail salesperson close a deal and solve a problem. It’s easy to demonstrate.”
According to Shaw dealer members in the expo hall, the demonstrations did spark interest and prove that Life Happens certainly has a story to tell. “Shaw does a good job with its product, and they showed us this morning that this product holds up well,” said Bill Johnson, owner of Colonial Interiors in Elizabethtown, Ky. “We have so many customers that have pets, and they want something pet proof. I would think this could be a solution for those customers.”
When Patel of Carpet and Tile Junction was asked which product at the Shaw expo would make the greatest impact in his store, he responded, “Where I’m standing right now” as he watched a live demonstration of the durability of Life Happens.
The buzz around Floorvana
Shaw’s introductions extend beyond products. On the technology side, its new Floorvana app allows consumers to choose flooring based on colors from a palette created by photos of their choosing. In store, retail salespeople can use Floorvana with customers, immersing themselves into the process on the spot and building trust with clients. With that, shoppers will want to share the experience and product selections with friends and family, both via word of mouth and social media.
“I will probably use Floorvana on the showroom floor,” said Jennifer Johnson, owner of Marshall Lumber Co. in Marshall, Minn. “I’ll show customers how to download the app and how to use it. Then we can try to match some flooring to the things they like. Usually when people buy flooring they come into the store a few times, so probably in the first contact I will introduce Floorvana, then in the second or third they can come back with color options.”
Misty Sorenson, president of Freedom Carpeting and Countertops in Wisconsin Rapids, Wis., anticipates a similar strategy with Floorvana, helping customers use it with coordinating room elements they often bring to her store to assist in finding flooring. However, she thinks the most value will come from Floorvana once a room visualizer is included in the app, which is anticipated in impending updates.
“I plan to show customers the app in store, then encouraging them to use it as they continue the purchase process.”