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Shaw Floors opens registration to aligned retailers for fall sales event

shaw_corporate_logo_2015_highresDalton–Shaw Floors has opened registration for its fall national promotion, the Shaw Friends and Family sales event, to Shaw Flooring Network aligned retailers who participate in the company’s consumer financing program. Registration must be completed by Aug. 25 and the promotion, which includes a broad assortment of Shaw, Anderson and Tuftex styles, will run from Oct. 1 to Nov. 11.

Specific details of the promotion may be found online at ShawNow.com and benefits include a downloadable coupon of up to $1,000 dollars in savings and 24 months special financing. Shaw Floors’ Spring Anniversary Sale saw record retailer engagement and aligned retailers who took advantage of the special financing option reported increased average ticket sales and enhanced customer retention.

“The coupon was the primary trigger in this offer and had a big impact with consumers,” said John Staff, owner of Staff Carpets. “The sale helped us exceed daily sales goals and our business is currently up 40% compared to last year.”

Shaw’s consumer concierge team also reported feedback from consumers that indicated the special financing offer was the “determining factor” in their decision to purchase flooring, even convincing many to upgrade to the flooring styles they wanted most, during the promotional period.

“The Shaw Friends and Family Sales Event is one of the many ways we support our aligned retailers,” said Adam Ellis, residential marketing programs and communications manager. “We listen to our retail partners and value their input and opinions. When something works, we try to do more of it. And if something isn’t as successful as we’d hoped, we glean improvement insights from our partnerships to enhance the promotional mix for future events. We work together–it’s what being part of the Shaw Flooring Network is all about.”

For details on registering for Shaw Floors’ Friends and Family Sales Event, visit ShawNow.com and sign up by Aug. 25, 2017. For more information on Shaw’s financing program, contact the Synchrony Enrollment Center at 866.209.4457.

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Carpet pushes back against hard surface

July 3/10: Volume 32, Issue 2

By Ken Ryan

 

Screen Shot 2017-07-10 at 2.29.45 PMCarpet’s share of the overall flooring market has dropped from 50.9% of dollars in 2006 to 41.5% in 2016, according to FCNews estimates. While the downward trend has not been dramatic, it has been steady and consistent.

Carpet mill executives don’t need to look at statistics to know what is happening in the marketplace. The big ones (i.e., Mohawk and Shaw) have already transformed into total flooring solutions companies, well positioned to take advantage of any flooring trend. As Seth Arnold, vice president of residential marketing for Mohawk Industries, explained, “We are not working to stem the tide on anything. Our business is about meeting consumer demand wherever that may be.”

The smaller mills have options, too. Some have entered the hard surface category; others are contemplating such a move. And there are some who have stuck to their soft surface knitting, redoubling their efforts to deliver differentiated product.

So what are carpet mills to do about combating the inexorable gains of hard surface? Some advocate promoting the benefits of carpet. “It’s softer, warmer, more comfortable, quieter and safer than hard surfaces,” said T.M. Nuckols, executive vice president of the residential business for Dixie Home. “We also make beautiful styles and designs that can complement the many looks available in hard surfaces.”

Rodney Mauter, executive vice president, Lexmark Residential, has his own ideas. “We must keep driving the positives of carpet; after all, no one takes a nap on a hardwood floor, no one plays with the baby or puppy on a tile floor.”

Others say it is the carpet industry’s duty to continue to explore innovation and technology. “Whether it’s through style, design or performance, soft floor covering will continue to evolve and develop and ultimately remain a viable flooring option to consumers long into the future,” said Mike Sanderson, vice president of product marketing, Engineered Floors.

Soft, durable carpet provides a healthy profit margin for flooring dealers, especially when sold with pad. Some observers say the industry needs to drill down on that. “First and foremost, we need to put an end to the continuation of the race to the bottom in terms of PET pricing and overall devaluation of the category,” said Brad Christensen, vice president, soft surface category management, Shaw Floors. “The industry collectively needs to do more to promote the many benefits of soft surfaces, none more tried and true than its value compared to other surfaces. We don’t need to give it away.”

Other mills find focusing on a particular niche is beneficial. Stanton, for example, has grown its business by being selective about its patterns and offerings. “It’s about being thoughtful about the design part of it,” said Jonathan Cohen, CEO. “You can use existing technology that is out there to create something fresh. We can step it up a couple notches and produce something that is really good looking.”

Indeed, executives say there is no substitute for continually innovating to create new and compelling products. “Homeowners are no longer interested in 50 shades of beige,” Mauter said. “They demand every room of the home to denote personal style while providing comfort and performance. Easy care and maintenance is also important; products must clean easily and last.”

Ongoing initiatives
Research indicates that consumers shop by look and feel rather than fiber type. To that end, carpet mills are developing products that look great and can withstand high-traffic areas. That is no easy feat, but driving innovation is the only way to keep carpet relevant, executives say. “Carpet can be on the cutting edge of home décor,” Dixie’s Nuckols said.

Screen Shot 2017-07-10 at 2.30.06 PMTo address the hard surface opportunity for soft surfaces, Phenix has introduced a line of products that speaks to specific needs and that provide unique solutions for the consumer. In 2017 it introduced more patterns and textures to address the fact that carpet is often being used within individual rooms—as opposed to the entire home. “It allows the consumer to use carpet as a focal point of the room’s design,” said Mark Clayton, president and CEO of Phenix Flooring. “We also recognize the fact that broadloom carpets are often being used to create one-of-a-kind area rugs that can be used in conjunction with hard surfaces, so this provides additional opportunities to expand pattern and textural designs.”

Other companies are combining hard surface and soft surface in the same display systems to create a coordinated look for the home. Shaw’s TruAccents carpet collection pairs bold styles and patterns with hard surface visuals on a single merchandiser. “We understand that consumers want both hard and soft surface products in their homes, and this gives them a convenient, one-stop destination for ease of shopping and comparison,” Christensen said.

Mohawk is a total flooring company, and within that scope carpet remains a very significant piece of business. “How do we keep carpet part of the conversation?” Arnold asked. “The relentless focus we have on innovation, which is true of all our categories, is really true of carpet. We invest to stay competitive. The success we have with SmartStrand and all the innovations we brought to market has allowed us to keep carpet a profitable category.”

For companies that don’t have the depth and breadth of a Mohawk or Shaw, there are still niches to fill. Foss, for example, has focused on promoting non-woven, needle-punch broadloom and carpet tile products as an appealing and affordable accessory—or outright alternative—to traditional flooring. “Many consumers who prefer hard surfaces are attracted to our products because of their beauty and warmth combined with the attractive look and durability of a low-pile floor,” said Brian Warren, senior vice president of sales and marketing. “Not to mention, our products provide the consumer with a higher level of affordability and versatility because they work in virtually any application or market.”

Advice for dealers
While carpet manufacturers continue to explore ways to recoup market share, executives also believe flooring dealers can do their part to help combat the growth of hard surfaces. Strategies range from offering custom rugs made of broadloom to creating vignettes showing stairs with carpet inserts to upselling customers to better goods.

Screen Shot 2017-07-10 at 2.30.16 PMLexmark’s Mauter, for example, said his company coaches its retailers to think outside the norm by using different patterns with the same colorway to create subtle differences throughout the home without the need to change paint color or furniture. He also suggested making custom rugs out of broadloom to facilitate room size and dimensions and to create additional revenue.

Mohawk, for its part, emphasizes “X-plusing,” which is educating and selling the consumer on why trading up makes sense. As Arnold explains: “A consumer walks in and is planning to spend ‘X’ and instead of being traded down to lower priced goods—which are often lower-quality goods and reinforces the notion that carpet isn’t made well—offering a smaller selection of better quality product rather than a sea of sameness would be a better option. It’s about great marketing and storytelling. If you provide that customer with a compelling reason to trade up to a premium product like SmartStrand Silk you can X plus them 10%, 20%.”

Arnold said the successful retailers understand that less is more and having the right product at the right price point is key. “You have to set up your showroom for trade-up possibilities and allow consumers to feel the difference. Telling compelling stories and presenting extraordinary product is the formula for retailers.”

Clayton advised retailers to remind the consumer of the true benefits of carpet and hard surfaces and be sure they understand the potential challenges of each product. “Some consumers and their lifestyles would actually benefit from the utilitarian benefits of soft surfaces, not to mention the design opportunities.”

Shaw’s Christensen suggests retailers can help drive excitement by touting the many styling benefits and performance features. “Carpet today has a compelling performance story while also offering breathtaking visuals in a wide array of styling options. Retailers can continue listening to the needs and concerns of consumers and establish credibility by suggesting the right flooring solution for every space and every consumer appetite. There is no doubt that carpet will continue to play an important role for consumers. People forget that carpet is the largest category and still has a dominant position in peoples’ homes, and carpet remains a very import product to help drive this.”

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Shaw Floors dazzles Houzz user

Houzz100Kitchen_AfterDalton—Shaw Floors marked its 100th flooring query on Houzz with a surprise for one homeowner who had posted a query on remodeling her kitchen. The company, which launched its presence on the home design site back in 2013, answered a query from Houzz user Theresa Wells by offering to provide 1,000 square feet of flooring at no cost.

“Houzz is a priority for our digital marketing team as we continue to see the platform grow with users who are actively researching, dreaming and executing home remodels,” said Todd Callaway, director of digital content, Shaw Floors. “We wanted to celebrate our continued presence on the home design platform in a fun, unexpected way.”

Shaw Floors worked with Wells to choose a style within the EPIC Plus collection of engineered hardwood to finish off her kitchen remodel. The final selected style was Yukon Maple 6 3/8” in color Timberwolf.

According to Houzz, the home design platform has 40 million unique monthly users. Shaw Floors regularly engages with Houzz community members who are seeking advice on projects, materials and remodels. As a total flooring solutions provider, Shaw Floors provides information to users looking to learn more about the differences in flooring before making a final purchase.

“We know the universe of inspiration is deep and diverse,” said Callaway. “With flooring being a major investment, we aim to provide consumers who are in the thick of research with helpful information so they can feel confident in their selection.”

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Shaw announces Houzz marketing program for retail partners

Shaw Floors is participating in a program on Houzz, the leading platform for home renovation and design, to help retailers connect with the 40 million-plus people who use Houzz every month to renovate and design their homes.

The program, called Houzz Pro+, offers participating Shaw retailers a number of promotional benefits designed to attract consumers, including local photo stream exposure and enhanced placement in the Houzz professional directory under targeted categories and locations. Retailers will be able to co-brand their businesses to enhance their local market presence and pay for 100 percent of this program using their Shaw Floors co-op dollars.

ShawFloors_logo_276“This is a wonderful opportunity for our retailers to promote their businesses on one of the most prominent home remodeling and design websites in the country,” said Aaron John, director of Shaw Flooring Network and retail programs. “Millions of consumers use Houzz for inspiration and advice relating to their home improvement plans, and we are happy to help connect those in-market consumers to our valued retail partners.”

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Liza Hausman, vice president of industry marketing at Houzz, said, “Pro+ is a powerful marketing tool designed to help local businesses reach homeowners in their market, and the co-op program helps brands use Pro+ to support their retail networks at scale. Through this program, Shaw Floors is providing their retailers with a powerful vehicle to build name recognition and drive homeowners looking for flooring into their stores.”

Retailers who would like to participate in the Shaw program should contact their current Houzz account manager, call Houzz at 619-255-1514 or email houzzcop@houzz.com.

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Dealers see extreme value in Shaw Flooring Network

January 30/February 6, 2017: Volume 31, Number 17

By Reginald Tucker

Screen Shot 2017-02-03 at 3.12.55 PMOrlando—Several thousand Shaw Flooring Network (SFN) dealers were represented during its biennial convention held here. The three-day event, which coincided with Shaw’s 50th anniversary, was jam packed with scores of new products, educational sessions, entertainment, networking opportunities and group activities for the thousands of dealer family members who tagged along for the ride.

Dubbed “Connect 2017,” the conference continually reinforced the theme of Shaw working closely together with its retail partners to develop products, lead-generation programs and merchandising vehicles designed to generate business for retailers. “This event is all about providing our retailer partners with the tools they need to drive sales and repeat business,” said Aaron John, director of SFN and retail programs, during his opening remarks. “It’s also an opportunity for retailers to connect and engage with one another to share best practices.”

Randy Merritt, president of Shaw Industries, echoed those remarks as he linked the evolution of Shaw over the past 50 years with the partnership the company has developed with its dealers over time. “We take pride in having a partnership mentality,” he said. “We never wanted to just buy and sell product but rather have a trusting and mutually beneficial relationship. I’ve had the great fortune of holding babies and dancing with children who are now second- and third-generation store owners. These relationships, partnerships and friendships have been a critical part of Shaw for 50 years, and that will continue for the next 50 years.”

For many dealers, the feeling is mutual. “We’ve been a partner with Shaw since it started partnerships,” said Jason Jabara, CEO of Jabara’s Carpet Outlet, Witchita, Kan., a 15-year member of Shaw’s retail network. “Being an SFN dealer and having access to all the programs Shaw offers at no cost to us just for being an aligned dealer is tremendous. The programs Shaw offers would cost me thousands of dollars to try and do on my own.”

Jabara is not alone. Brent Ziegler, owner of H&R Carpets in Waunakee, Wis., has been a member of the Shaw Flooring Network since 2007. The partnership has proven beneficial for his business. “Shaw has developed programs that help me grow my business, make me more successful and keep up with trends—not only in terms of styling but trends in retail,” he said. “Shaw has been a great partner.”

Products, programs galore
Indeed, a big draw for many Shaw-aligned dealers is the growing portfolio of new products, merchandising systems, sales tools and lead-generation programs—many of which were previewed for dealers over the course of the convention.

Following is a snapshot of some of the new offerings:

Carpet. Shaw Floors is introducing a uniquely combined collection of PET and nylon styles, updates to the company’s popular Caress styles, the addition of LifeGuard backing to its Platinum-level Color Wall products and extensions in its Life Happens collection featuring LifeGuard backing.

TruAccents is a collection of Anso nylon and ClearTouch Platinum styles featured on a single display. The 2017 collection consists of all popular constructions, including friezes, loops, stunning patterns, LCLs and tonals in both fiber systems to present a broad range of styles and price points.

Screen Shot 2017-02-03 at 3.13.07 PMIn addition, the popular Anso Caress collection gets new looks, including a brand new color palette for Cashmere Classic. Devon Classic and Angora Classic will both add a new accent style that features High Definition Color Placement Technology, a process that produces a crisp and clean visual. Also, Sweet Shag is a brand new Caress product offering featuring shaggy carpet in 24 vibrant colors. In addition, the Life Happens collection gets five new designs.

Tuftex, a division of Shaw Industries, has also been expanded. New products include Tuftex Stainmaster PetProtect, Tuftex Signature and Tuftex Classics styles. Tuftex’s Stainmaster PetProtect products resist soil accumulation and prevent the absorption of difficult pet stains. With this innovative carpet, pet hair is easily released while vacuuming. These sophisticated styles are constructed of SuperiaSD nylon fiber, which is resistant to fading from aggressive cleaning or exposure to light.

Additions include: Abbey’s Road, a patterned loop available in 12 colors; Oliver’s Twist and Mollie’s Turn, better/best textured cut piles in 13 common neutrals and deep accent blends.

Tuftex’s Signature collection draws on West Coast inspiration with a national influence to offer a wide range of styles, from high-end textures and elegant patterns to exotic cables and shags. Its sophisticated color palette is woven through key collections including Naturals, Impressions and Architecturals. All totaled, there are 13 eye-catching introductions to the Signature collection for 2017. Lastly, Tuftex Classics gets four new styles.

Hardwood. For 2017, Shaw Floors is adding a number of new products in its innovative Epic Plus lineup, including several new species, some engineered products and glueless offerings. The company also debuted Epic Plus Extreme Nature, which features extra-long planks in a half-inch-thick, large-scale format measuring 9 1⁄4 inches wide by 82 ½ inches long. Four textures are offered across three species: hickory, maple and walnut.

In the newly revamped Anderson Hardwood line, a division of Shaw Industries, eight new engineered hardwood styles are being unveiled. Species include white oak, hickory and maple available in textures featuring a range of wire-brushed, hand-scraped and antique looks that aim to deliver on the high-fashion looks for which the Anderson brand is known.

Laminate. Shaw Floors’ newest collection, Repel, has been specially designed to take laminate to the next level in water-resistance technology. According to Shaw, the technology utilized in the core of the product provides ample time to clean spills, making it easier to protect the floor’s beauty and structural integrity.

Resilient. Floorté now comes with an antimicrobial attached pad offering greater noise reduction. The technology is available on the following styles: Classico Plus, Premio Plus and Alto Mix Plus.

Shaw Floors also took the wraps off Alto HD, which is available in four high- definition visuals. The embossed in register treatment of these four new styles provides realism and beauty. With hand-scraped detailing and rustic shading, each collection was designed to blend effortlessly with varying design aesthetics.

Shaw is also introducing six new styles in the popular Alto Mix line, which boasts multiple lengths and widths in each carton for greater variation for the homeowner and designer while providing faster installation for the retailer. New glue-down luxury vinyl planks are also available.

Screen Shot 2017-02-03 at 3.13.25 PMTile. Shaw Floors calls its 2017 tile collection the most significant in the company’s history. Among the introductions are larger 18×36 tiles designed to improve the speed of installations and enhance visual appearance with fewer grout lines. Included in the new introductions are a wide selection of contemporary visuals, such as concrete, metallic, and other cutting-edge looks, as well as an extensive assortment of decorative accents.

Retailer reaction
Many dealers who had the opportunity to see the products firsthand at convention were thoroughly pleased. “The new Repel laminate line looks promising as well as some of the additions to Floorté ” Jabara stated. He also took a curious liking to Floorigami, a prototype program featuring an interplay of carpet tiles and hard surface squares. He said he’s not sure how the average retailer would fit it all in, citing the sprawling installation of mixed-media samples in the booth combined with large merchandising vehicles and creative artwork, “but the way they had it set up was really neat.”

Separately, Jabara applauded Shaw’s acquisition of USFloors, stating, “I’m optimistic the purchase of COREtec will be good for retailers. He also predicts he will have success with the additions to the Epic Plus line as well as the Floorté product line extensions.

For H&R Carpets’ Ziegler, the new tile offerings were a big draw. “They came out with some new porcelain tile with mosaics and products that are going to work really well. The product line was new and innovative. Shaw is definitely staying ahead of the trends.”

Todd Wheeler, CEO of Wheeler’s Flooring, Salinas, Calif., is in agreement. For him, the main highlights were the expanded Anso Caress program and the new Tru Accents display. “Shaw has recolored the Caress display—it’s just fantastic. They brought a new spinner display of Tru Accents whereby half the products are polyester and the other half are nylon. It’s pretty consumer friendly; each quadrant or corner has approximately five products and they are all in the same price point.”

Some of the new hard surface products caught Wheeler’s attention as well. For instance, the larger Epic Plus boards and a change in distribution of the Anderson line. “On the hard surface side, Shaw has come a long way,” Wheeler said. “I really like how they have implemented Anderson through their line as opposed to going through distribution. Bringing in the Anderson line on Shaw trucks means a lot to us out here on the central coast of California where shipping is everything. I also like how Shaw has been building the Anderson brand to tie in with Tuftex.”

Wheeler is not alone. Dean Howell, owner of two Moda Floors & Interior stores in Atlanta, also likes the Anderson/Tuftex pairing. (The new Ellison maple offering from Anderson was actually installed in the Tuftex space on the showroom floor at the convention.)

“Shaw’s plans to re-energize the Anderson brand is exciting,” he said. “They’re trying to elevate the image of Anderson the way they are doing with the Tuftex line. The challenge is to make it new and interesting. From a product point of view I was happy to see all the changes, especially with the Tuftex brand. We’ve already ordered a display.”

Like Jabara, Howell also sees the acquisition of USFloors as a good move. “We’re really thrilled about that; the two companies will integrate well together.”

Howell, who is also making investments in the business to target the Main Street marketing, also liked what he saw from the Philadelphia Commercial line.

But the SFN convention was not just about product, clearly. Howell, who has been an SFN member for nearly eight years, said he benefitted from the educational breakout sessions that took place throughout the show, particularly the seminars focusing on harvesting leads and social networking.

Ditto for Ziegler, who cited Shaw’s efforts in the areas of marketing and promotion. “Everything Shaw does with Floorvana, Promoboxx, Houzz, Synchrony Financial and Lead Tool—those are the things I really find exciting and where I spent half my time focused on at the show. Shaw has definitely partnered with the right people. They have made huge strides in the services they provide for dealers.”

 

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Warren Buffett shares his wisdom at Shaw Flooring Retail Network conference in Orlando

Screen Shot 2017-01-26 at 9.12.14 AM[Orlando] Warren Buffett, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, which counts Shaw Industries among its many holdings, made a special guest appearance at the Shaw Flooring Retail Network conference here earlier this month. Nicknamed the “Oracle of Omaha,” the legendary investor renown for his keen business insight yet folksy manner participated in an informative question-and-answer session moderated by Vance Bell, Shaw Industries CEO.
Following are excerpts of that discussion:

What worries you about the economy?
Buffett: I never really worry about the economy. The only real worry I have regarding America’s future is the use of weapons of mass destruction, either chemical or biological. Every day there is a very tiny probability that some individual or some group or perhaps some nation will do something extremely foolish. That’s the only thing that could hurt America.
We’ve had hiccups in this country, from 2008-09 we went through something that was really a shock to the American people, and that has taken us some time to get over. But you can’t stop the United States. In 1790 we had less than 4 million people; 240 years later we represent almost 25% of the world’s GDP. We’ve got the secret sauce; Donald Trump knows it, Hillary Clinton knew it and Barack Obama knew it.
I never worried about the economy because of either candidate. The truth is, I did [campaign] for Hillary. But when Trump was elected, we probably net invested over $10 billion since then.

This question centers on one of Berkshire Hathaway’s largest holdings: Wells Fargo. Certainly Wells Fargo historically has had a reputation for being one of the best managed, best performing big banks. As most people know by now, the company was embroiled in a controversy surrounding sales incentives and the creation of unauthorized customer accounts. What is the lesson for business owners and business managers?
Buffett: John Stumpf, [former] CEO of Wells Fargo, is a talented, decent man. But he designed an incentive system that not only didn’t work but encouraged bad behavior. Look, people make mistakes. That’s not the sin; the sin is not doing something about it when you’ve learned you’ve made a mistake. My understanding is this system was incentivizing bad behavior as far back as five years ago.
When we have a problem at our company, our motto is, ‘Get it right’ in terms of the facts, then ‘get it out and get it over.’ Just don’t sit there and suck your thumb. When you’re the CEO you have to do something.

Given the recovery in housing, lower rates of home ownership, Millennials struggling with debt and student loans—what’s your outlook?
Buffett: Housing is going up, but it’s coming out of the biggest shock I’ve seen during my lifetime. You have a $20 trillion asset class (homes), which you can borrow on. That turned into a bubble, and it was a huge bubble. When something so fundamental shatters like that, it takes a while to regroup. We had this huge falloff, not only in housing starts but also household formation. But we’re seeing housing starts come back quite significantly and more of the shock of 2008-09 is receding. We have established momentum, but it has taken a while.
I see this country just exploding moving forward. We’re enjoying better transportation, better entertainment, education, medicine—you name it—than John D. Rockefeller, who was the richest man in the world at one time. We’ve only just started to unlock the human potential. Just think of the things you’re doing differently compared to 20 years ago. Now think about how people were living 240 years ago compared to the way we live today, it’s just unbelievable.

This year marks Shaw’s 50th anniversary. We’ve spent a little bit of time celebrating that milestone but not a lot of time. We’ve been focusing on what the next 50 years are going to look like. In your opinion, what are the traits of successful, long-running companies and what does Shaw need to do to ensure success over the next 50 years?
Buffett: You have to satisfy customers’ basic needs. You’ve got to keep in tune with what your customers are telling you. You have to listen to your customers. If you have happy customers, then you’re going to do well in this world.

You also have to be reactive to change.
Buffett: Absolutely.

Screen Shot 2017-01-26 at 9.12.21 AMWhat do you think Berkshire is going to look like in the next 10, 15 or 20 years?
Buffett: In 2015-16, Berkshire retained more earnings than any company in America. We plow back everything into the business. We also like to add businesses that have good, basic economics that are run by people who we admire and trust.
We’re going to keep doing what works, and that is let the people who know how to run the business actually run the business but be there with the capital when they need it.

One of the reasons why I feel very confident Shaw is going to be successful over the next 50 years is because we’re part of Berkshire.
Buffett: We play the game in a way that make sense. We’re not subject to banks, we’re not subject to activist investors. We don’t have to do anything based on outside constituencies. We have over $80 billion in cash and treasury bills, and last year we retained $20 billion.

One final question: Berkshire has roughly $250 billion in sales. Do you think it will ever be a trillion-dollar corporation?
Buffett: Yes. I can promise you that. We’re riding a big tailwind here in America, and I expect that to continue. This is the best climate for business and it’s the right time to do this. Bill Gates told me if I was born several thousand years ago I would have been some animal’s lunch. I was lucky to be born in 1930 in the United States, when the odds were 40 to 1 against me.

(Editor’s note: Read Warren Buffett’s tribute to Nebraska Furniture Mart founder Rose Blumkin on page 54 of the 30th Anniversary issue of Floor Covering News. Also, look for more coverage of the 2017 Shaw Flooring Retail Network conference in the Jan. 30 edition of FCN.) 

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Shaw Floors teams with Lead Tool to help retailers drive store traffic and sales

shaw_corporate_logo_2015_highresDalton, Ga.—Shaw Floors has recently partnered with Lead Tool, a leading cloud-based sales enablement and customer relationship management (CRM) software platform. A relationship with Lead Tool means Shaw retailers will have access to the company’s platform designed to provide a superior buying experience for consumers, driving both new and repeat business for Shaw’s retail partners. Lead Tool is perfect for those retailers wanting access to cutting-edge technology in order to remain competitive in an increasingly data driven world.

Chase Shiels, co-founder and CEO of Lead Tool’s parent company, Cincinnati-based 4me Group, will introduce the Lead Tool program to Shaw retailers in special breakout sessions at the “Connect 2017” Shaw Flooring Network Convention in Orlando this month.

“Modern sales software should be an essential element in every flooring retailer’s business plan,” said Aaron John, director of Shaw Flooring Network and retail programs. “Lead Tool helps retailers sell smarter by organizing and following up on leads, identifying problem areas in the sales process, and getting the most ROI on their advertising and marketing expenditures.”

Shiels added, “Together, Shaw Floors and Lead Tool bring the most modern sales processes and tools to retailers that are designed to deliver the best experience for today’s consumer. Also, and equally as important, the platform puts big data and useful analytics in the hands of flooring retailers. I look forward to presenting this business solution to Shaw Floors retailers in January.”

All SFN retailers attending Shaw’s Connect 2017 Convention are encouraged to attend this important break out session to learn more.

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Wood: Product quality hinges on sourcing, manufacturing capabilities, attention to detail

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

By Reginald Tucker

 

screen-shot-2016-12-16-at-10-27-41-amIn the world of football, you’ll find the top teams consistently execute in all three facets of the game—offense, defense and special teams. Things are not all that different when it comes to the hardwood flooring industry, where a continual emphasis on the fundamentals—sourcing, manufacturing capabilities and quality controls, to name a few—usually produces optimal results.

This is particularly critical when it comes to natural materials such as hardwood, where the determining factor as it relates to product quality often begins at the source—the forest. This tenet generally holds true for suppliers across the board, regardless of the region where the logs are harvested.

“The majority of our manufacturing is in the United States, but we also have a large presence in Europe,” said Gary Lanser, president of Mohawk’s wood and laminate business. “Obviously there are many advantages to our customers and ourselves in purchasing and supplying domestically produced products. Clearly there’s the speed of supply and excellent service.”

Mohawk believes the Made in the USA label means more today than it ever has with all the press on the various environmental issues out there. To that end, the company has people in place to ensure all facets of its hardwood flooring production—including everything from finishes to adhesives—are in compliance. “You’re not going to have that kind of control outside of the U.S.,” said David Holt, senior vice president. “When you’re dependent upon someone else to control your manufacturing assets, you’re always going to have too much of the ‘bad’ thing and not enough of the ‘good’ thing. That does not equal good service; it amounts to upset customers out in the field. Manufacturing in the U.S. allows us to meet our customers’ needs at the drop of a hat.”

Other major hardwood flooring suppliers share that philosophy, emphasizing the importance of properly sourcing raw materials and complying with environmental regulations. At Shaw Floors, for instance, the aim is to go beyond standards required by law to pursue independent, third-party assessments such as Cradle to Cradle, Greenguard, FloorScore and others. Shaw says it carefully considers the impact of its products on the environment and on society throughout their lifecycle. More importantly, it examines the ingredient materials, the impact of its supply chain, the use of natural resources and the ability to recover and recycle its products.

Shaw manufactures many of its own products and sources from strategic partners in the U.S. and internationally to offer a broad portfolio of products to meet diverse customer preferences. In doing so, the company sets high standards for itself and its suppliers. Shaw takes numerous steps to verify that its products, regardless of where or by whom they are manufactured, meet customers’ high expectations. These steps include: performing manufacturing site inspections to ensure suppliers meet the same high-quality standards the company practices internally; setting raw material specifications that restrict the use of certain chemical substances of concern; and ensuring all products meet the indoor air emissions requirements of California Department of Public Health (CDPH) Standard Method V1.1 (2010).

Manufacturers that specialize in supplying hardwood flooring for distributors, i.e., private-label programs, also stress the importance of responsible sourcing. Case in point is American OEM, which relies strictly on stateside forests to build its programs. One of the major benefits, according to Allie Finkell, vice president, is the proximity to the customer and the speed of response time. For instance, American OEM can cut samples within its own manufacturing facility, which cuts a great deal of time out of the process.

screen-shot-2016-12-16-at-10-27-47-am“Having an in-house sample department allows us to make sure the samples are representative of the product,” Finkell said. “The people we have making the samples are only making our samples, so they are familiar with our product. Secondly, it gives us one more look at the finished product. So if the sample department takes a board out of our finished goods inventory, they have a quality control board to compare it to. They are comparing to the standard. If you were doing that remotely, they are not going to know what the product is supposed to look like.”

Another benefit of controlling the supply is being able to develop specific programs for distributors based on their location. While some of American OEM’s non-competing distributors can buy from a collection of similar products, the overall mix might be slightly different—not all of them buy the exact same SKUs. This allows wholesalers to buy smaller quantities at a time, Finkell explained.

However, those companies that do import raw materials as well as finished product believe their products hold up just as well as American-made goods. Nature Flooring, for example, imports many of its hardwood flooring products from Peru. According to Luxia Hong, director of operations, there have not been any issues.

“We own the forests where we harvest the wood, and the trees we cut are only the really old trees,” she explained. “In addition, we follow a strict forest management strategy approved by the Peruvian government. We have the chain of custody and FSC certification. We assure that every process has the proper supply chain certification approved by the FSC.”

That’s a similar approach taken by California-based Alston, which sources its products from China. “What makes us different is that we are a family owned and operated business, with our own manufacturing facilities and mills in China, and our own stocking distribution warehousing facilities here in the United States,” said Alan Chou, president. “This insures that all critical steps—from preparation of the raw materials, to manufacturing, hand selecting, sorting, packaging, shipping and the final distribution of our products—are completely controlled by us. This is why we can ensure the products that people buy are of the best quality available, and the pricing will still be very competitive.”

The key to ensuring quality when sourcing product from overseas, suppliers say, lies in hands-on management. Case in point is Canada-based Divine Flooring. As Sean Stewart, managing partner, explains: “Like many companies we source from China. But what makes our approach different is we actually have our own employees in China. We inspect everything before it ships. Granted, that doesn’t mean we’re perfect, but many of our competitors are not inspecting anything.”

 

Proprietary processes

Beyond sourcing origins, suppliers are also looking to distinguish themselves from the pack by virtue of their approach to finishing. Such is the case with DuChateau, which opts for natural, low-luster oil finishes in lieu of aluminum oxide, polyurethane-based coatings. “We’re very focused on design and aesthetics on the European hard wax oil visual, and that’s all we do at DuChateau,” said Mitch Tagle, president and CEO. “Other companies have jumped on the bandwagon, but what usually happens is the quality isn’t there because we are on the higher end in terms of price point.”

Other companies like HF Design, which specializes in the European Oak look as well, also takes a unique approach to finishing and treating its products. For instance, the company applies a special thermal treatment process to many of its products for added dimensional stability. “By treating our French oak differently than our competition, we have created a product category that is exclusive within the independent retail channel and is, therefore, very profitable and very desirable,” said Alex Shaoulpour, president. “For our retailers it’s a breath of fresh air because they don’t get beat up on margins from big box competition.”

 

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Executive Forecast: Laminate & Wood—Suppliers dial up innovation to ward off competition

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

By Reginald Tucker

No one is expecting the laminate category to generate double-digit growth rates in 2017; after all, it is a fairly mature category in the U.S. On top of that, the segment is facing intense pressure from competing hard surface sectors, including LVT, WPC and, of course, hardwood.

However, don’t expect the segment to roll over in the face of fierce competition from other hard surface categories.

Travis Bass, executive VP, sales and marketing, Swiss Krono
screen-shot-2016-12-16-at-10-24-53-amWhat is your projection for category growth next year?
Flat to +3% growth.

What segments and/or products will fuel this growth?
Innovative laminate products with enhanced surface textures and value-add options.

What is the predicted growth of your company in 2017?
10%- 15%.

What is the “X factor” that will impact business next year?
New home construction and repair/remodel investment driven by increased home values and fueled by a stronger economy.

Where do you see opportunities for next year? Challenges?
Opportunities include non-residential, value-added products and Internet sales. Headwinds will be from domestic capacity coming on stream coupled with a strengthening dollar encouraging cheap imports from Europe.

What are some of your biggest initiatives for 2017?
We are working in collaboration with our affiliated European factories to introduce additional products. Domestically we continue to pursue the highest standards and styles for innovative product development.

 

Roger Farbee, senior VP, laminate & hardwood, Mohawk N.A.
screen-shot-2016-12-16-at-10-24-58-amWhat is your projection for category growth next year?
Approximately 1%-2% in dollar growth. However, we believe domestic manufacturers will grow at a higher rate as more import volume continues to shift to domestic production and as more producers focus on higher-end products.

What segments and/or products will fuel this growth?
Growth is being driven through residential new construction as well as increased remodeling activity. We are seeing laminate products being accepted in both single- and multi-family housing at rates unheard of 10 years ago.

What is the predicted growth of your company in 2017?
We will continue to outpace category growth by offering products with the highest level of realism, style, design and technical superiority in all of the channels in which we participate.

What is the “X factor” that will impact business next year?
There is still significant pent-up remodeling demand that will result in laminate flooring sales if consumers feel they have enough job and income stability to make an investment in their living spaces.

Where do you see opportunities for next year? Challenges?
Today’s highly realistic premium products offer consumers more options without having to compromise. There is also an appealing environmental story around laminate flooring products made in North America.

What are some of your biggest initiatives for 2017?
We are introducing more products using our state-of-the-art Deep Texture technology as well as our revolutionary Moisture Protection technology. These innovations are making customers think differently about what laminate means.

 

Drew Hash, VP, hard surfaces, Shaw Floors
screen-shot-2016-12-16-at-10-25-03-amWhat is your projection for category growth next year?
We continue to expect an increase in housing starts, which could have a growth impact of about 6% to 8% in 2017 for the wood industry.

What segments and/or products will fuel this growth?
Hardwood provides the high-end look that is very compatible with today’s newest home interior styles and trends. As a select choice, our engineered styles provide a range of looks that will help fuel this growth.

What is the predicted growth of your company in 2017?
Shaw Floors will continue to outpace the growth of the flooring market in 2017. Our wide breadth of categories and consistent standard of quality across our products supports this outlook.

What is the “X factor” that will impact business next year?
The “X factors” for business success will continue to be the delivery of a reliable customer experience and unmatched support for our retailers.

Where do you see opportunities for next year? Challenges?
We are continuously looking forward to discover new ways to communicate effectively with our customers and arm our dealers with the right information to tell the story of Shaw’s hardwood products succinctly and clearly.

What are some of your biggest initiatives for 2017?
Anderson will continue to expand in the new home construction market. Additionally, we will focus on delivering the most stylish and high-performing engineered styles available to respond to today’s newest trends.

 

Derek Welbourn. CEO, Inhaus
screen-shot-2016-12-16-at-10-25-07-amWhat is your projection for category growth next year?
We see continued growth for our laminate category at about the pace of U.S. GDP, which is between 2%-2.5%. We estimate the flooring category as a whole will have a higher rate of growth as the housing sector continues to recover.

What segments and/or products will fuel this growth?
In recent years vinyl (LVT in particular) has been growing. This was further expanded by the introduction of WPC. The success of these categories has inspired new innovations with composite products.

What is the predicted growth of your company in 2017?
We feel fortunate to continue to grow our global business. Company wide, our rate of growth is forecast to be in the low double digits. This is also what we expect for our North American division.

What is the “X factor” that will impact business next year?
The major “X factor” in the floor covering business is the rapid evolution of new product categories and the challenges that come with competing with products that didn’t exist previously.

Where do you see opportunities for next year? Challenges?
To us, the challenge and the opportunity are one in the same. It is how to successfully participate in the rapid expansion of composite products. We are investing the creation of an entirely new category of flooring.

What are some of your biggest initiatives for 2017?
Our largest initiative by far is the launch of our flooring line Sono, which is based on our new waterproof product technology that will make its debut at Surfaces.

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Lush: Shaw Floors’ 2017 Color of the Year

screen-shot-2016-10-06-at-2-16-46-pmDalton–Lush was recently declared Shaw Floors’ 2017 Color of the Year. Described as an array of greens inspired by nature, Lush speaks to today’s desire for heath, well-being and renewal.

“From the tallest trees to the deepest valleys, green surrounds us,” said Debbie Houston, creative director, Shaw Floors. “It’s vibrant, but at the same time, soothing. It changes with the seasons without ever getting old or boring. Lush is nature’s neutral.”

The Color, Style and Design team at Shaw Floors researches consumer trends year-round to identify the most current styles that are influencing home design and décor. As Shaw Floors examined these trends, it was impossible to ignore a current consumer desire to feel and live better.

With this consumer lifestyle insight uncovered, the Shaw Floors design experts were resolute in selecting Lush as the 2017 Color of the Year. Lush spans every style, from glamorous to rustic to contemporary. It can be a statement color, and it plays just as nice with jewel tones as it does with popular neutral hues. Lush can also be used as an accent color to pull out subtle hues in a tweed carpet, bold print or throw pillow.

A universally appealing color, Lush is an excellent companion to hardwood flooring. Just as you’d see in nature, Lush greens are an organic complement to the neutral beauty of hardwood.