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Spotlight: Karndean Designflooring makes it easier to sell more

November 20/27, 2017: Volume 32, Issue 12

By Lindsay Baillie

 

Screen Shot 2017-11-27 at 1.31.47 PMFor retailers navigating the sea of LVT products, diversity is the key to success, experts say. This differentiation can be found in product design and development as well as experiences with a particular manufacturer. Karndean Designflooring aims to provide retailers with opportunities to increase their business via exclusive designs, top-notch customer service and creative marketing materials.

“At Karndean, we see flooring differently,” said Emil Mellow, director of public relations and communications. “We seek out expressive and intriguing forms in the natural world to influence our unique floor designs and combine these original features with cutting-edge design.”

Karndean Designflooring prides itself on its components-based flooring system, which was created to give consumers total control over the look and feel of their floors. Using this system, homeowners can choose the pattern of their floor with the option to blend products together or incorporate certain designs as inlays.

“Designflooring is a protected way for retailers to grow their business and prevents Karndean dealers from being out-shopped by competitors down the street,” Mellow explained. “As luxury vinyl specialists, we offer more than 200 products featuring internally developed designs and produce premium luxury vinyl across glue down, loose lay and rigid core formats so there is a Karndean-quality floor to fit any installation scenario.”

Retailers like Brenda Barber, president, Barbers Floors & More, Saint Johns, Mich., gets the concept. “Karndean outsells everything in our store—even carpet, which has always taken the lead. The close ratio for Karndean is 100% with people coming back at a later date for additional rooms. It is an easy sell for young, active families with children and pets; older couples want it because it takes the place of hardwood without the expense. I believe in it so much that [several of my family members] have Karndean and love it.”

Dealers say Karndean’s in-house designs coupled with selective distribution help the manufacturer provide its retailer partners with an edge over other flooring stores. As John Wright, vice president, Wright Furniture & Flooring, Hannibal, Mo., puts it: “Karndean’s vast selection in products, colors and different installation options—as well as the fact that its products are hassle free with no claims—make it easier to do business.”

Selling tools
To help retailers sell its products, Karndean provides dealers with various merchandising vehicles and marketing materials. This includes retail displays that showcase products on large-format boards to demonstrate detailed designs and color variation within the individual pieces, as well as ways to enhance a layout by incorporating design strips and inlays.

“Our platinum-level dealers are also equipped with our design table, which not only houses full-size product samples but allows designers and homeowners the opportunity to lay products on top of the table to experiment with different design options,” Mellow explained. “Retailers can also expect to frequently see their dedicated sales representative to provide the latest product knowledge and best practices.”

In addition to design-focused products and marketing materials, Karndean retailers can take advantage of qualified leads driven to their store through the “Find A Retailer” (FAR) tool found on the manufacturer’s website. Consumers can find their nearest Karndean Designflooring retailer, ranked by tier, by entering in a city, state or zip code, and filling out a form to have the retailer get in touch.

Another advantage to partnering with Karndean Designflooring is the company’s customer service team, which is available Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. EST. According to the company, it’s not uncommon for Karndean’s retailers and customer service representatives to be on a first-name basis.

For Richard Akel, manager, Akel’s Carpet One, Little Rock, Ark., Karndean’s customer service and employees help make the difference. “[As a corporation] Karndean has great people. They take your calls and answer your questions and are on top of any requests instantly.”

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Manufacturer spotlight: Uniboard striving to become retailers’ go-to supplier

October 9/16, 2017: Volume 32, Issue 9

By Reginald Tucker

 

Screen Shot 2017-10-17 at 9.55.42 AMLaval, Quebec, Canada—Uniboard is working hard to dispel the outdated notion that it is just a laminate flooring producer. With its recent foray into the engineered hardwood flooring sector and, now, the rigid core arena, the quality-minded manufacturer is seeking to establish itself as the go-to source for retailers and distributors seeking an array of well-made, hard surface products.

James Hogg, Uniboard’s president and CEO, sees it as a rebirth of the brand and a recommitment to flooring across several categories. “We were originally a laminate flooring company, but we have repositioned ourselves to become a flooring solutions company.”

Truth be told, Uniboard was indeed a laminate powerhouse during laminate flooring’s heyday in North America circa 1996–2000. During that time, Uniboard operated a manufacturing facility in North Carolina that produced products for Perstorp Flooring, which marketed the Pergo brand—the market leader at the time. At full capacity the laminate plant cranked out about 15 million square feet. But following a split with Pergo, Uniboard sold off its U.S. manufacturing assets and exited the American market. The company turned its attention to the U.S. market once again in 2012 after surveying the landscape for new opportunities.

“But we knew being in laminate was not enough,” Hogg recalled. “We knew we had to expand our offering to include other hard surface categories.”

Uniboard discovered it was in a unique position to do just that. With roughly 90% of its business focused on producing HDF panels for furniture producers and cabinet manufacturers, there was a tremendous opportunity to leverage its strengths and expand the flooring side of the business. Founded in 1992 and privately owned, the company operates five plants: one flooring facility, three panel operations and one binding facility—a chemical plant the company employs to develop products that bind the panels and boards together.

“We are the leader in thermal-fused melamine in the Canadian market,” Hogg said. “In fact, we are the No. 1 supplier of cabinet panels for all Ikea locations across North America and we sell laminate flooring to many of the home centers in Canada. We also sell our boards to other flooring manufacturers on a private-label basis.”

Screen Shot 2017-10-17 at 9.55.49 AMSo what does all this scale and manufacturing expertise mean for Uniboard’s customers and partners on the flooring side? Uniboard is looking to leverage that expertise to create innovative, high-performing products tailored to each regional and end-use market it serves for each of the different categories in which the company participates. The goal is to raise the flooring portion of its business—which accounts for roughly 10% of its sales today—to 25% over the next few years.

“The key is to leverage our core competencies in HDF coreboard manufacturing,” Hogg explained. “Not only are we one of the biggest producers of panels in North America, but we control the fiber species and the resin recipe of the boards—which helps prevent swelling and adds dimensional stability to the panels. This is a huge advantage we have over other board manufacturers.”

This manufacturing prowess is readily evident in Uniboard’s new engineered wood flooring offerings. The product is built on an HDF core platform but features a real wood veneer. The line is manufactured via a series of steps the company calls the Uni-Process method, a five-step proprietary process specifically developed for the engineered wood line. How it works: The process begins with its Unicore high-density fiberboard core, which is made from 100% pre-consumer, reclaimed wood fibers. Next comes the Uni-Bond process, which uses an exclusive thermally fused dry glue application that, according to the company, significantly reduces cracking and checking on the surface of the planks. The third step, Uni-Veneer, entails the hand selection of the top layer to ensure non-repetitive wood patterns. The engineered wood manufacturing process is capped off with the Uni-Finish process, which incorporates a non-toxic, hypoallergenic coating featuring antimicrobial additives along with an anti-yellowing UV inhibitor. All these layers are combined together, resulting in an ultra-high performance engineered wood flooring product.

“We are an integrated company, so we manufacture the core to our specifications,” said Don Raymond, vice president, sales and marketing. “Other boards swell and pull apart; our boards have stronger integrity. We’ve designed the core to meet the highest specification in the marketplace in terms of swelling, moisture resistance and performance. Other companies can’t do that. They have to buy some of the technology on the open market.”

Into the rigid core ring
Screen Shot 2017-10-17 at 9.55.54 AMAs Uniboard researched the U.S. market to scout out additional opportunities beyond laminate flooring and engineered wood, it took a close look at the burgeoning rigid core sector. Given the company’s established expertise in coreboard technology, it saw yet another opportunity to leverage its scale and strengths.

Enter Geonyx, a new line of waterproof, rigid core flooring featuring a laminate veneer over a stone-plastic core (SPC). According to Uniboard, this combination surpasses the density and rigidity of both LVT and WPC, and boasts resistance to both heat and indentation.

“The goal was to create excitement around the Uniboard brand,” Raymond said. “We have essentially reset and repositioned the business in terms of what sectors we want to participate in the market. Our engineered wood flooring line was the catapult, followed by Geonyx with the SPC core. We want people to come to Surfaces and say, ‘Wow, look at what they have. It’s not just laminate; it’s a variety of products and it’s not just me-too products.’ ”

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

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

Citing Uniboard’s innovative approach to manufacturing—as well as the proximity to its operations and customer base—Leveille hinted that there may be an opportunity to take on the new engineered hardwood line down the road.

Les Bois de Plancher PG, another Uniboard wholesaler, also sees the potential of the new engineered wood line. “We position the product for projects such as new high-rise apartments or contract commercial projects,” said Martin Emery, vice president. “It seems to fit the needs and requests for Canadian-quality made products as an entry-level hardwood product. We have a good feeling as to where they are going with it.”

As it refocuses on the U.S. market, Uniboard is working to shore up distribution. To that end, the company has tapped Gilles de Beaumont, a 40-year industry veteran, to spearhead efforts to get top U.S. wholesalers on board with the Uniboard brand. Given his stellar reputation throughout the industry, in addition to his expertise in strategic planning, operations and product management, he has the formula, and the pedigree, to help Uniboard accomplish its goals.

“Due to my relationships in the industry, I can help Uniboard determine the best channels to focus on,” de Beaumont said. “We have approached about one dozen distributors in the U.S., and we hope to have 10 lined up by Surfaces 2018.”

 

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Resilient: LVT offerings, exclusivity lift Karndean Elite dealers

February 13/20, 2017: Volume 31, Number 18

By K.J. Quinn

 

Screen Shot 2017-02-20 at 9.24.19 AMA major part of any flooring maker’s success is its aligned dealer network, and Karndean is no exception. The specialty LVT supplier is investing in new product development, merchandising and business support services to help boost awareness of elite members’ stores while growing their sales of Designflooring products.

“We have been with Karndean for three years,” noted Steve Delamore, president of San Jose, Calif.-based Abbey Carpet & Floor, Blossom Valley Interiors, which dedicates 2,000 square feet inside its showroom to displaying Karndean products. “After looking at all the LVT lines out there, Karndean was by far the best and offered product design options no one else had.”

Platinum is the top level among the five aligned programs offered by Karndean. Dealers receive the red carpet treatment in the form of point-of-sale services, special pricing, lead-generation vehicles, merchandising exclusivity, multi-media marketing support, new product sampling priority and co-op advertising. “Platinum dealers represent all our Designflooring products and have our full range of displays,” said Tim Hanno, Karndean’s vice president of retail sales. “Platinum dealers receive our most competitive pricing and geographic exclusivity.”

Since its inception in 1973, Karndean established a brand synonymous with style and innovation within the flooring industry. The company’s flagship Designflooring line touts luxury vinyl flooring inspired by nature and designed for living. “We have always created and owned each of our product designs,” Hanno stated.

“Our sales proposition is Designflooring, which keeps us out of commodity LVT.”

Designflooring is displayed prominently inside Platinum members’ showrooms. A comprehensive display floor system helps create a store-within-a-store environment, and a design table enables salespeople to demonstrate borders, design strips and lay patterns, plus full-size samples. “It has had a very positive impact for us,” noted Travis Marsteller, owner, Meadville Floors, Meadville, Pa. “For one, it’s an easy sell and there is an opportunity to increase margins. I also like the fact our callback rate is less than 1%.”

Designflooring is the star attraction of Meadville Floors’ hard surface offerings, with display flooring encompassing approximately 25% of its space. “The customer walks in and the Karndean display floor leads them right to the Platinum display and the table you can use to show samples and lay out designs,” Marsteller said.

Screen Shot 2017-02-20 at 9.23.58 AMThe Karndean flooring portfolio includes 150 products available in glue-down, loose lay and rigid core formats, all replicating a variety of natural materials from wood and stone to iconic visuals such as metal, mosaic and pebble. Rather than looking uniform and one dimensional, each Karndean plank or tile has its own individual grain and appearance. “The design components allow homeowners to select their own floor and tailor it to suit their space,” Hanno explained. “Designflooring opens the door of imaginative possibilities, giving our retailers the opportunity to be creative and unique, and therefore profitable.”

Dealers say Karndean LVT is not only fashionable but also built to withstand the daily rigors of family life. Stain resistant and easy to clean, Designflooring can handle water spillages without warping and does not harbor dirt, dust mites or bacteria, the company stated. The format of the product also lends itself to ease of repair; as Designflooring comprises individual wood planks and tiles, damaged pieces can be easily replaced by an installer using spares from the original installation.

“We decided to take the next step with Karndean for many reasons,” said Meadville Floors’ Marsteller, a Platinum dealer for about 12 years. “But the main ones are I really liked the durability and look of the products.” In addition to the home, Designflooring is applicable for several commercial end uses such as hospitality and leisure, retail, healthcare, education and offices.

Marketing support
The Karndean lines are supported by an aggressive digital marketing program aimed at driving traffic to aligned retailer stores. For instance, the company’s website, karndean.com, provides specification tools, blogs, case studies, product guides and digital downloads. A monthly newsletter allows visitors to search for local Karndean retailers, with Platinum and Gold members given preference.

“Karndean directs prospective customers to our Platinum retail partners,” Hanno said. “FAR (Find a Retailer) displays Platinum and Gold dealers are highest on the page of search results; it shows results within 30 miles of the ZIP code.” FAR is supported by PPC (pay per click) and brand recognition campaigns which drive traffic to the Karndean site and, subsequently, to member stores.

Online tools such as Floorstyle Floor Designer enables viewers to compare floors in 34 room settings. An augmented reality app provides a virtual view of how a floor would appear inside customers’ spaces, while a product selector app serves as the digital version of the Karndean hard cover catalog. “Karndean supports us very well if they get a customer on their website that is in our area,” Marsteller stated. “They let us know.”

Karndean is known for providing fast and convenient service to Platinum dealers to fulfill their orders quickly and efficiently. For example, participating retailers receive free new product updates and fast sample service, complete with large swatches, which give a real feel to the product. A dedicated Platinum customer service line provides access to a team with extensive knowledge of Karndean products and systems, including representatives who specialize in projects for commercial and residential spaces.

“They are good about getting out samples to us when we run out, and the pricing is good,” Marsteller said. “I’m happy with the speed of orders received. There are hardly any back orders.”

Another plus: Karndean technical staff will train retailers’ staff on proper installation techniques while product knowledge sessions keep the sales team updated on the latest and greatest. “Our installers are certified from Karndean,” Abbey Carpet’s Delamore noted. “Our LVT sales have shot through the roof as a result of our commitment to the program.”

Platinum dealers also benefit from working with a company that doubles as manufacturer and distributor. Last October, Karndean opened its expanded headquarters and warehouse space in Export, Pa. The new showroom and expanded warehouse facilities are central to Karndean’s strategy to support the needs of its growing U.S. customer base, according to the company.

“Karndean continues to support us with the latest updates and displays as their product line evolves,” Delamore said. “Their customer service is second to none.”

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Spotlight: Nature Flooring focuses on the fundamentals

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

By Reginald Tucker

 

screen-shot-2016-12-16-at-10-32-26-amNature Flooring isn’t one of the largest players on the market, but it’s certainly looking to become one of the most exciting and dynamic players. The strategy, according to the company, is to continue to build on its growing distribution network while offering innovative products designed to pique retailer interest.

“Our strategy for next year is to try to fully stock all of our SKUs,” said Luxia Hong, director of operations. “We are also bringing new products such as WPC, laminate—which we haven’t carried in the past 10 years—and LVT. We are also working on a 7-inch-wide engineered product, which is trendy right now. It’s a distressed, wire-brushed look.”

Up to this point, Nature Flooring predominantly focused on solid and engineered hardwood offerings. Some of its staple collections include: World of Exotics, which entail exotic species such as Peruvian tigerwood, Brazilian walnut and tigerwood, acacia, Brazilian cherry and teak; the Americana Collection, which spans several varieties of oak—including tobacco, whiskey and caramel, to name a few; and the World of Woods line, which features variations of Pacific mahogany, birch and hickory. The lineup has been expanded to include the WPC collection, which includes “hand-scraped looking” products in several decors.

One new product Nature is particularly excited about is a Peruvian Pecan species available in a 5-inch-wide, hand scraped format. As Hong describes it, “It is very similar to Brazilian pecan, which is dark brown in tone. We are also trying to make a couple of stains for that product so our customers can distinguish them from different products.”

According to Hong, its WPC and laminate flooring products are made in China. With respect to wood, the company operates its own factory in Peru. Down the road, the company plans to bring in some product from Cambodia. “We’re currently working with our distributors to find out what’s trending in their markets to meet their needs,” she said.

That takes care of the product side of the equation. In terms of distribution, Nature Flooring is busy shoring up its coverage of the U.S. market as well. “We are absolutely committed to growing the U.S. market by servicing our distributors; we have 10 distributor partners today and we are in the middle of hiring five more regional sales managers to cover the Midwest and Southeast areas,” Hong explained, adding the sales reps will only be calling on distributors, not retailers direct. “Before we only serviced the distributors on the East Coast and Mid-Atlantic.”

One of Nature Flooring’s distributor partners that saw the potential in the company’s product offerings early was Derr Flooring, based in Willow Grove, Pa. “We brought on the Nature Flooring line in 2008-09, right at the point during the downturn in the economy,” said Rick Holden, chief operating officer. “We’ve had a very good relationship over that time period.”

Derr Flooring positions the Nature Flooring line in what Holden calls the “mid range,” which makes sense given the clientele it serves across its most active end-use markets. “Most of our business with the Nature Flooring line is residential, but there’s some new home construction as well,” he explained. “The product mix that we’re involved with is not really oriented toward commercial at this point, mostly due to the construction of the product. What we sell is mostly solid wood, so it’s not really something that’s designed for slab construction.”

Another key distributor partner in the region is Allstate Flooring Distributors, which services customers in the Mid-Atlantic area via its headquarters in New Jersey. Mike Corsetto, vice president of purchasing and operations, said the Nature Flooring line dovetails nicely with its expansive hard surface offering.

“We’ve been with Nature Flooring since its beginnings,” he said. “They work very hard at making sure they have the right colors and stains for our market.”

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Spotlight: Divine Flooring ascribes to a higher marketing power

November 21/28, 2016: Volume 31, Number 12

By Reginald Tucker

screen-shot-2016-11-28-at-3-57-53-pmIn an increasingly competitive market segment such as the mid-range to high end, hard surface suppliers are focusing their efforts beyond core product construction and performance to differentiate themselves from other players in the field. For manufacturers like Divine Flooring, it’s all about marketing and optimal brand positioning.

As a supplier of hardwood, LVT, WPC and laminate flooring products for specialty retail, specified commercial and residential replacement, Divine Flooring is looking to cover all the bases—with the exception of the entry-level, low-price range. Its builder and residential replacement hardwood flooring products range from $4.50 per square foot (suggested retail price) up to about $20 per square foot for some of the higher-end custom collections.

“We have products in the mix that are focused more toward builders such as Farmhouse, which is a wide-plank, rustic,” said Sean Stewart, managing partner. “We also offer a variety of finishes such as aluminum oxide, lacquers, hard wax oil finishes, oxidative oil finishes and reactive oil stains—we cover the gamut. We also have a custom wood shop where we produce all of our own moldings, and we can also do custom work for architects or dealers. This includes wall treatments, stair parts, doors, etc. That’s an advantage from our builder experience that we can take on those special projects.”

The main idea, according to Stewart, is to provide options without “oversaturating” the market. “We do really well with dealers that understand the value of selling flooring at a higher price, and they appreciate the fact that we’re not on every street corner like much of our competition in the industry. It’s not only about our brand but our brand values as well.”

One way Divine Flooring avoids the “me-too” game is by focusing on custom-made offerings that can’t be shopped around. “One of the things that we do that’s quite unique is we work with award-winning designers when we develop our collections,” Stewart explained. “It’s a significant investment but it pays off because you’re getting someone who understands color trends, etc.”

A noteworthy example of this sort of collaboration is Divine Flooring’s Cosmopolitan collection, which was introduced in late 2015. Stewart called the line—which features trendy colors like white, gray and black in a variety of gloss levels and surface textures—the company’s leading collection.

Sheldon Peregrino, showroom manager at Fame Hardwood Floors, Los Angeles, took on the line about 10 months ago. “It’s been popular here in our area. The line has really good colors and they are right on with what our customers are looking for.”

Other Divine Flooring collections are turning heads as well. The company’s ultra-high end Louis XIV collection of French oak planks featuring matching square parquet tiles was the hardwood flooring product selected for the newly renovated Watergate Hotel in Washington, D.C. “It’s a very exclusive high-end product compared to others in the marketplace but still delivered at a much more competitive price,” Stewart said. “It’s also something that we stock, which also makes us very different.”

Joshua Kaswell, owner of Kaswell Flooring Systems, Ashland, Mass., the company that specified the flooring product for this particular installation, recalled the selection process: “A couple of years back I was asked by my client to find a unique prefinished product for the renovation of large suites in a world-renowned hotel in Washington, D.C. I instantly thought of Sean and his Divine Flooring line of both engineered wood and engineered parquets. After some presentation work with the client, ultimately several thousand square feet of Louis XIV prefinished parquet was selected for the suites and eventually purchased months later. Sean guided us with product information, literature and other marketing tools to both secure the order and ultimately guide the client appropriately on installation requirements.”

Five months after the installation, the floors are holding up well and looking regal. “This was a difficult project with a demanding client but the material was installed without any issues,” Kaswell stated. “The client and design team are thrilled with the results. We are proud to say with the assistance of Divine Flooring we have a successful installation at the famous Watergate Hotel.”