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My take: How to achieve a reasonable work/life balance

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

By Steven Feldman

 

Just got back from NeoCon. Somehow, I fit five days of business meetings/appointments into two-and-a-half days. Actually, I know how. No lunch, bathroom breaks only when I felt I was about to burst and meeting with people pretty much nonstop from 9 a.m. until well into the evening.

Unfortunately, this type of schedule is often the norm. There always seems to be more that needs to get accomplished than a normal business day will allow. So the result is abnormal business days. Long hours. Working on planes. In bed. On the couch. Not unlike many of you.

My friend and business partner, Dustin Aaronson, refers to me as a workaholic. He says it affects my nonexistent social life. And he says if I don’t change my habits, nothing will ever change; it’s Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity. He is probably right; I have been unsuccessful at achieving a reasonable work/life balance. Not unlike many of you.

According to a study published by the American Sociological Review, 70% of American workers struggle with finding a work/life system that sustainable over the long term. For many in the workforce, achieving any type of work/life balance can seem like a myth, especially when technology has made us accessible around the clock. Time free from workplace obligations is becoming more elusive by the day.

Despite these realities, many people have managed to carve out satisfying and meaningful lives outside of work. An article in Fast Company outlined some of the tools they practice, some of which we should all learn to adopt:

  1. They make deliberate choices about what they want in life. Instead of just letting life happen, people who achieve work/life balance make choices about how they want to spend their time. They come up with a road map of what is important and commit to following the path.
  2. They regularly communicate about what’s working and what isn’t. Work/life balance going off the rails is usually a result of letting things slide as opposed to any kind of intentional choice. People who are good at staying on track make a conscious choice to continually talk to the important people in their lives about what is working or not and make decisions to change direction if needed.
  3. They set aside time for family, friends and important interests. Successful people don’t just wait to see what time is left over after work. They make a point of planning and booking time off to spend outside of work and powerfully guard this time. While situations come up on occasion, they strongly resist any intrusion on this time.
  4. They set their own parameters around success. People who manage work/life balance have developed a strong sense of who they are, their values and what is important to them. They know what makes them happy and strive to get more of that in their lives.
  5. They turn off distractions. People who maintain balance are able to silence their cell phones in order to enjoy quality, uninterrupted time doing what they enjoy. They realize that multitasking is a myth and focus on the task at hand.
  6. They have goals aligned with pursuing their passion. Many people get caught up in situations that end up controlling them. Those who achieve balance have a defined plan around time frames and make sacrifices to get what they want in the end. For example, many people typically spend a substantial amount of time in the early part of their businesses. That is a sacrifice that will allow them to spend extra time and energy in other areas once the business is established.
  7. They have developed a strong support network. People who have achieved good balance have a strong support network they can depend upon to help them get through difficult times. They are givers who typically extend themselves to help out in their family circles and communities.

Food for thought.

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My take: Award of Excellence—Behind the winners

May 28/June 4, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 25

By Steven Feldman

 

Now that the 22nd Annual Award of Excellence winners have been announced, we can dig a little deeper and try to provide a little commentary on the results. In what seems to be the case each year, there were some surprises interspersed between the usual suspects as you will find on page 22. But with the voting surpassing 2,200 ballots this year, we are confident the winners are well deserving of the honors bestowed upon them by the retail and distribution communities.

Just for the record, every vote is vetted. Any ballot that is submitted from manufacturer personnel is deleted. As well, we often find the same retailer voting multiple times. Only his or her first vote is counted; the rest are eliminated.

While FCNews publishes only the winners in each category, it is interesting to look behind the numbers and analyze the vote counts. The most interesting aspect of the voting came in the Resilient – Commercial category, where Johnsonite had won the past two years in a landslide. This year, however, Mannington Commercial turned the tables in very convincing fashion. Given how almost all the votes come from flooring retailers, I surmise they were endorsing Mannington’s Main Street offerings.

The Hardwood B category, won by Anderson Tuftex this year, is traditionally one of the most contentious. Finishing close behind the newly combined brand were Somerset, Mullican, USFloors and Mirage. Those five companies commanded 58% of the vote. Eleven companies in this category scored at least 50 votes.

Speaking of contentious categories, the new Hardwood C group fit the bill. This was the first year we separated some of the smaller suppliers into their own class, 17 to be exact. So we really had no idea what would happen. When the dust cleared, it was HomerWood pulling away by a comfortable margin in a category that saw seven of those 17 companies garner at least 100 votes. Those who performed admirably here were Cali Bamboo, Triangulo, Monarch and Urbanfloor.

I was also interested to see what would happen in the LVT B category once we jettisoned USFloors to the new WPC/Rigid Core classification. Close race between Karndean Designflooring, EarthWerks and Metroflor, which together earned nearly two-thirds of the vote.

One of my favorite categories is Laminate B. Why? Because there are eight companies competing there, and each garnered at least 5% of the vote. No company received fewer than 100 votes and four had at least 250, or 11%.

So, when I was a statistics major in college before switching to economics, I learned the more times you flip a coin, the better the odds of a 50/50 split between heads and tails. But that’s not the case when it comes to voting. The more votes you have, the more one candidate will assert itself. But not when it comes to the Award of Excellence. In the Cushion A category, it was a two-horse race between Carpenter and Leggett. And it was akin to Affirmed-Alydar in the 1978 Belmont Stakes. Over 2,200 votes, and just 14 separated the pair.

As for tile, the last time Dal-Tile lost the A category, Bill Clinton was in office. And kudos to Emser for winning the B category for the second year in a row after increasing its share of the voting from 9.8% to 13.7% to 15.8% to 16.2% these last four years. This is another company growing by leaps and bounds.

One last observation, and I said this last year as well: We have noticed a huge disparity in the voting between ballots cast online and those captured in person at Surfaces. While 95% of the voting is done online, those companies that do not exhibit at Surfaces garner a much lower percentage of the votes in the paper balloting done at the show. I’m sure Informa Exhibitions, our co-sponsor in the competition, will be happy to hear that.

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My take: The power of 10

May 14/21, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 24

By Steven Feldman

A few months ago at the Alliance Flooring/CarpetsPlus Color Tile convention in Tucson, Ron Dunn, co-CEO, presented his views on the importance of hiring the right people for your business. But it’s not just about hiring; it’s about retaining and getting the most out of the people who work for you.

Everyone who walks through your door has the power to impact your business. The most important assets you have in your company are the people you hire. Every person you bring on board has the potential to be a 10. But what happens when they fall short? In illustration…

When you started your company, you were full of passion and ideas. You were excited to grow something. It was all you thought about.

Six months into it, the business is still all you think about. So you decide to hire a right-hand man, someone who can help in all aspects of the business. You anticipate he will be a 10. But six months later, you determine him to be a seven. So what happens to the other three? You take that on. Because he is only a seven, you put those shortages onto yourself.

Six months later, the business is doing well. So you decide you need a red-hot salesperson. You have more opportunity than people to fulfill that opportunity. Then you hire a salesperson. You rate him a seven. But because he is a seven and the manager is a seven, you are forced to carry some of the weight where that person falls short.

Soon, both come to you and say they are bogged down because of paperwork. They want you to do something that will make their lives easier. So an office person comes in to organize things. Let’s say he is a nine. Where that person falls short also falls on you.

Now they say they are spending too much time in the warehouse. “We need a full-time warehouse guy.” You hire him, and he is an eight. Who will do the training to get him to a 10? That falls on you.

Then you hire someone else who can do everything. He is a seven because he is spread too thin.

Then you wonder why your kids don’t want your business.

So you must ask yourself, what are you doing to build into your business and the people? Dunn offered some thoughts:

  1. Employees need appreciation, a pat on the back. Let them know they are special. Then they care about the company. You have a culture where everyone is pulling their weight and wants to make it better.
  2. Include people in plans. Have them buy in. Let them know where you are going. What are the goals? When they buy in, it takes the weight off your shoulders and puts it on them.
  3. Little things mean so much to the people who work for us. Treat them, honor them and invest in them, and they will give all that back to you exponentially. Give a tool to your installers. Open up your house to a party. Give a ham around Thanksgiving or Christmas. All this provides a family feel.

The idea is always to ask ourselves, “What can we do as leaders to allow people to reach their potential and be the best they can be?”

Five questions to ask:

  • What qualities do you look for when hiring to fit your team and your culture, so they add value immediately?
  • How do you draw the best out of those you work with?
  • How do you train them?
  • How do you create a family culture within your business?
  • Are your people embracing this family culture and passing that culture onto customers?

And that, my friends, is how you turn a seven into a 10.

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My take: Catching up with a true entrepreneur

April 30/May 7, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 23

By Steven Feldman

 

You have to hand it to Thomas Trissl. Time never stands still with this man as he is always looking for the next big thing, always thinking about being innovative. So many people talk the talk; Trissl walks the walk. The consummate entrepreneur.

“Modesty, propriety can lead to notoriety, you could end up as the only one.” That line is from Sting’s Englishman in New York, but it is also this industry’s German in Florence, Ala.

I first met Trissl many moons ago—in 1996, actually—when he started Centiva, an LVT manufacturer/importer before the entire world was onto his game. Centiva was always different. Trissl designed the line; colors were vibrant and designs inspirational and unique. Focused exclusively on the commercial market, he sold to Tarkett in 2010.

Trissl resurfaced a few years ago with a different company, TMT America, which is billed as a company that provides capital and consulting for developing companies. Under that umbrella came HPS North America, the continent’s sales and marketing arm for German installation company Schönox. The company offers a number of products, but the flagship is something that can turn decrepit subfloors into something smooth and level, and ready for brand new flooring (see page 10).

Trissl is at it again with a couple of new ventures. I found myself in Florence last month and paid a visit to my friend, primarily to tour his Porsche museum (more on that later). Like a mad scientist showing an unsuspecting visitor his laboratory, Trissl gave me a glimpse into what’s next.

The ink was still not dry on a newly signed agreement with German ceramic manufacturer Buchtal and its American affiliate, DryTile North America, which introduced to the American market a loose-lay, non-adhesive ceramic tile. DryTile does not require thin-set materials and the agonizing task of finding good craftsmanship in a world where it is not only harder to find, but installation requires a flat, smooth subfloor. See the synergy with Schönox?

Another interesting concept on which TMT America is working is a heated floor system not for ambient heat, but for luxury foot comfort in residential settings. In residential settings, it will be a luxury item for barefoot walking, especially in bathrooms. The product can be easily installed under Schönox synthetic products. The synthetic product does not just transfer the heat, it actually boosts and retains the heat.

Finally, in the TMT sandbox, I was shown a 20 x 30 demo area that contained vibrant, colorful and enriched looking polished concrete. This is something in which Trissl engaged outside the Schönox involvement. He said he has invested a lot of time in this in his spare moments. Of course, Schönox will contribute by providing a world-new, two-binding-system technology which enables and supersedes a simple concrete topping.

HPS Schönox’s focus remains on providing subfloor solutions for all critical substrates. Now he is venturing into products that can capitalize on these solutions.

Eventually I made my way into what has to be one of this country’s greatest collections of Porsches, new and old. Some can best be described as collector’s items: 911s, Carreras, etc. Others could probably feed some Third World countries for a year. Colors are vibrant, each car with its own personality. Not surprisingly, Trissl has turned this into a business, too. Through Trissl Sports cars (trisslsportscars.com), he will find any Porsche model, any year, any color, for the Porsche enthusiast.

Finally, a business that doesn’t require a level subfloor.

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My take: If we can’t control guns, how about bullets?

April 16/23, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 22

By Steven Feldman

 

When I took over this column from FCNews founder Al Wahnon more than seven years ago, I promised that the subject matter would from time to time go beyond the world of flooring, because, after all, our lives transcend this industry. This is one of those times, because something has been on my mind for quite some time. Controversial? Maybe. So strap in, kids.

I have a friend in Florida whose daughter attends Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, a.k.a. Parkland. Good kid. When the gunman fired his shots, by the grace of God she was on the other side of the campus. Had the incident occurred one day earlier or one day later, she would have been sitting in that ill-fated class where 17 people died, 14 were wounded and countless others scarred for life. Film production one day, geography the next. As winter turned to spring, this 15-year-old girl was attending the funerals of her favorite teacher and a bunch of close friends. It’s a fresh wound that will at best become an ugly scar.

Columbine. Sandy Hook. Parkland. Mourn, rage, repeat. Each time it brings the gun control debate front and center. I am not here to debate the issue. Of course, there is no reason for your average citizen to get his hands on an AR-15. On the other hand, if someone is insane to the degree that he will stroll into a school and start shooting at innocent children, telling him it is illegal to possess this type of weapon is no deterrent.

Nearly 20 years ago, comedian Chris Rock joked, “You don’t need no gun control. You know what you need? We need some bullet control. I think all bullets should cost $5,000. $5,000 for a bullet. You know why? Because if a bullet costs $5,000, there’d be no more innocent bystanders.”

It’s a great riff, one former New York senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan was dead serious about. After passing a bill banning so-called “cop-killer” bullets, it hit Moynihan that there was no constitutional obstacle to regulating, taxing or banning ammunition. Guns, like nuclear waste, remain potent, while bullets expire after a single use and can only be stored for a few years.

Moynihan pushed bullet-control laws for years without ever quite passing them, but putting the heat on ammo makers won results. Days after he proposed a tax that would raise the price of one sort of bullet from $20 a box to $2,000, the manufacturer announced it would stop selling them to the public.

Right now, most bullets are cheaper than cigarettes. Anyone with a credit card can order 1,000 .223 rounds for their AR-15 killing machines for less than $50—or less than $10 for the 150 shots that ended 17 lives in Florida — and have them shipped most anywhere in America with no questions asked.

In 1993, Senator Moynihan proposed that we should give up on gun control as a way to reduce criminal violence. He proposed a tax on bullets. But he proposed a “Ten thousand percent” tax on hollow-tipped bullets. The result, a 20-bullet pack would cost $1,500. It didn’t happen, but maybe it should have.

Yes, there are background checks for guns. Yes, people can bypass that background check by buying a gun from someone at a gun show. But, logically, having more guns won’t make someone more dangerous. If you have a gun and no bullets, the gun is just for show. If you have a single gun and over 50 bullets, you could be a danger to the public.

People can petition for better gun control all they want, but guns are merely a tool while the real killer is the bullet, which is as easy to purchase as Band-Aids.

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My take: Learning a little more about millennials

April 2/9, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 21

By Steven Feldman

 

Whatever and wherever you read, it’s hard to escape the word “millennial.” Retailers across all industries are continuing to increase their focus on selling to this generation, ages 23-37, who are rising in the ranks at work, getting married and having kids. They are playing a significant role in shaping our nation’s economic landscape. While baby boomers still control the lion’s share of disposable income and remain the flooring industry’s best customer today, it would be unwise to turn a blind eye on your most important customer of tomorrow.

When you hear the word millennial, it may call to mind some stereotypes: self-absorbed, foolish with money, not long-term planners or still dependent on their parents. But these stereotypes really don’t hold up, according to a recent Bank of America study titled, Better Money Habits Millennial Report.

As it turns out, millennials are actually just as good, or better, than other generations when it comes to managing money, and they are getting their financial houses in order. Millennials are more likely to set savings goals, and a majority meet them. One in six has at least $100,000 saved in checking and savings accounts, IRAs, 401(k)s and other retirement or investment accounts. Millennials with $15,000 or more in savings jumped to nearly 50% this year in the Bank of America study. Most millennials feel financially secure, yet one in four often worry about money.

At home, millennial parents are very aware of the costs of raising children. Older generations say finances weren’t really a factor in their decision to have kids; millennial parents say the opposite. What’s more, nearly a quarter of older millennials are already saving for their children’s education—quite a feat given that so many may still be paying off their own student loans.

Millennials were somewhere between middle school and just starting their careers during the economic collapse in 2007. And that has had some profound impacts on the way they save. Two-thirds of affluent millennials say they plan to rely on their savings accounts when they retire. Meanwhile, seven in 10 Gen-Xers have been relying on 401(k)s, and the majority of boomers chose to rely on Social Security and pensions.

So, with millennials representing a rising share of the U.S. consumer base, how do you reach them? First, in marketing to millennials, remember they have less disposable income than past generations. They’ve learned how to live well on less, and that makes their shopping habits much different from their predecessors.

The millennial generation knows how to take advantage of technology to get the best quality for the best price. They’re adept at finding discounts, using coupons and getting free shipping.

Branding is important to millennials, but price sometimes overshadows it. Millennials consider options carefully before they’re willing to spend their money. They’re not likely to buy into flashy, self-promotional ads.

Millennials are an entrepreneurial population that takes delight in supporting local businesses. They’ve also been brought up learning about things like global warming and preserving natural resources. Businesses that actively support and promote a greener economy will get millennials’ attention.

Millennials won’t be caught without multiple mobile devices, so marketers need to ensure their ads are “responsive,” meaning they display clearly on all mobile devices. Digital marketers will find greater power in social media because most millennials pull it up before they brush their teeth in the morning.

Again, while the baby boomer is still your most important customer, it’s critical to understand the ins and outs of this generation if you plan on sticking around for the next couple of decades. When you learn what makes a new generation tick, it’s far easier to evolve your marketing strategy to ignite a spark that gets them to click.

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My take: Not all shows are created equal

March 5/12, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 19

By Steven Feldman

 

As March nears its close, so, too, does show season. The grueling road trip begins for many with the Shaw and Mohawk regionals in early January, followed by Carpet One/Flooring America, Surfaces, Abbey Carpet, CarpetsPlus/Color Tile, Fuse Alliance, FCICA and who knows what else I’m failing to mention. NWFA, Starnet, National Floorcovering Alliance and FCA Network are all that remains next month. It’s not uncommon to engage a conversation with someone on the manufacturing side lamenting that he has been to 17 shows in the first two months of the year, or another who sighs that he hasn’t been home in two weeks. Home-cooked meals become mere memory.

For me, 17 shows greatly exceed my early 2018 itinerary, although I can say I have adorned about eight name badges so far this year. I’ve seen innovative products, listened to some impressive speakers and probably interacted with hundreds of individuals. Each event is top shelf, but what most are not is remarkable.

Some of you may be familiar with a book written by Seth Godin called “The Purple Cow.” It was a New York Times best seller in 2003. Basically, the premise surrounds transforming your business by being remarkable. Godin says the key to success is to find a way to stand out—to be the purple cow in a field of monochrome Holsteins. And remarkable does not necessarily mean great; it means doing something or being someone that will be “remarked” about repeatedly.

Surfaces is always remarkable, if only for its sheer size, importance and bevy of new products. The retail group and regional events are impressive, but only the products and/or speakers change from year to year. In fact, in the absence of product and programming, there might not be many discernable differences between them all. Think Delta, United and American.

CarpetsPlus seems to be the exception. This group is just different. Let’s be clear here; I am not saying they are the best or better than any other group. I’m saying they are remarkable because there is a lot to remark about.

First is the energy on the part of Ryan Dunn, co-COO and vice president of sales. Ryan is a rah-rah kind of guy, a former semi-pro baseball player who currently coaches kids on the side. That may not be for everyone, but it certainly works for  members. They respond to him.

Second is the family feel amongst members and management. There could be many reasons. Most of the members are one-store, family businesses with husband and wife, or parent and child, involved. They all seem to relate to one another, including management, a team that consists of Ron Dunn and Jon Logue and their sons, Ryan and Kevin. Heck, Ryan was even carting around his son, 14-year-old RJ, as the future generation.

And third is just the little things. Every group has a Gold Rush, Steals and Deals, whatever, where manufacturers offer specials, usually on the eve of the regular trade show. But CarpetsPlus hosted its Rush Hour vendor showcase outside, against the backdrop of the Tucson Mountains, providing a completely different environment than the traditional ballroom setting. One vendor told me he sold more at Rush Hour in two hours than he did during another group’s entire trade show. What’s more, rather than serve what I would call typical buffet dinner fare, CarpetsPlus provided buses for members and vendors to go downtown and dine on their own in groups, to network off site.

Last but not least, management put its money where its mouth is when it comes to member inclusion in key decisions. The Dunns and Logues actually had a vote by show of hands as to the location of next year’s convention. Austin, Texas? Tepid response. Vegas, a few days before Surfaces? No response. Hollywood? Silence. Hill Country in San Antonio? Resounding applause. Guess where the 2019 convention will be held.

At the end of the day, not all groups are for everyone. CarpetsPlus targets a certain type of retailer. There are close to 400 of them these days. And judging by the few with whom I was able to spend time, it was well worth the investment.

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My take: Best of Surfaces entries that just missed

February 19/26, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 18

By Steven Feldman

 

This issue celebrates the Best of Surfaces winners, the awards competition co-sponsored by Floor Covering News and Informa Exhibitions, owners and operators of The International Surface Event, for the past seven years. The competition highlights innovation, technology, sustainability, style and design, and best large and small booths on display at the industry’s premier event.

It is structured in such a way where only the judges’ consensus choices are featured. But that doesn’t mean other products and companies were any less deserving. With no honorable mentions or runners-up, the competition fails to acknowledge products that almost made it, in the judges’ conversations to the very end. In fact, in some cases, more than one judge may have chosen a product that did not win because of a 5-3-1 scoring system. So I thought it would be appropriate to pay homage to some of those products here.

In the style and design category, won by Emser Tile’s Lakewood and Lakehouse, Mannington’s AduraMax Apex generated much consideration. The judges were deliberating over the waterproof product’s on-trend looks, contemporary colors, natural wood grains and finely detailed surface textures. The planks offer multiple widths with a visual not seen anywhere else on the show floor.

In the technology category, captured this year by Magnetic Building Solutions’ MagneBuild, Mohawk’s Omnify was discussed in depth. Omnify is said to be the flooring industry’s only omni-channel solution that connects online, in-store and product experience. The idea is to give retailers the content, tools and reporting to take their digital marketing to new levels with integrated social search, reputation management, website optimization and lead management.

The other product discussed heavily here was a room visualizer called Roomvo. How it works: A shopper can upload a photo of her room through her phone and see her flooring choice in high quality without the need for an app to download. Customers interact with the visualizer intuitively in seconds. Manufacturers and retailers integrate Roomvo with their existing websites, enabling it for desktop, tablet and mobile phone shoppers. While it may take room visualizers to another level, the judges felt it was not new compared to an innovation such as magnetic flooring.

Mohawk was also discussed in the innovation category, won by Raskin Industries’ Ceramix, a product billed as the industry’s first loose-lay LVT with built-in, authentic grout lines. Mohawk’s RevWood, its rebranding of its laminate collection, was the product, and one judge called it “laminate on steroids.” Mohawk calls it revolutionary laminate wood because of its waterproof nature. RevWood is also scratch and dent resistant, and features All Pet Protection. A few of the judges felt it was more about marketing than product, but the waterproof claim almost put it over the top.

In the sustainability category, won by Congoleum’s Cleo Home, a couple of other products caught the judges’ attention. First Marmoleum Click CinchLOC from Forbo was obviously discussed as linoleum is arguably the most sustainable product out there. Linoleum is naturally healthy, water resistant and made primarily from renewable resources, including linseed oil, wood flour and pine rosins. These natural ingredients provide Marmoleum Click CinchLOC with inherent anti-static properties to repel dust and dirt, making it easy to clean, thereby reducing exposure to allergens and contributing to better indoor air quality.

The judges also talked about Air.o, Mohawk’s 100% recyclable carpet. Air.o’s fibers are made from 100% polyester and don’t absorb moisture, helping to prevent the growth of allergens. It’s latex-free, odor free and produces no VOCs. A worthy candidate indeed, and a Best of Surfaces winner in 2017 for Innovation.

This year boasted a most deserving group of entries, providing the judges with a tough task indeed.

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My take: Page 24 from my Surfaces diary

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

By Steven Feldman

 

Dear Diary,

Another January, another Surfaces. How is it possible that 24 years have flown by this quickly? And how is it that each year we gear up for months for what has to be the most grueling week of the year, yet the show seems to be over in a nanosecond? An adrenaline rush, indeed, in every sense of the word.

The festivities for us actually begin on the eve of Surfaces with the National Floorcovering Alliance’s specialty vendor showcase, tucked away in a third floor ballroom at Mandalay. Great prep for the big dance. We get to see some of the best retailers in the land along with some quality manufacturers, some familiar and some new faces. It gets the ball rolling for the 17-hour days that include a breakfast, a show, a slew of cocktail parties and late-night social shenanigans at Eye Candy.

So, if you were able to attend Surfaces, you have your own opinions as to what stood out. Here are my takeaways, dear diary:

First, as has been the story for the last few years, Mohawk and its brands dominated the show floor. The focus is on what the company is calling its “hero” products: Air.o, SmartStrand Silk Reserve, SolidTech and RevWoods. The latter is where the company is betting a bunch that the rebranding of its laminate line (see story on page 14) pays huge dividends.

Mohawk also celebrated the official induction of Jeff Lorberbaum into the industry Hall of Fame by inviting about 1,000 of its closest friends. Well deserved.

So now let’s get to the point: What will I remember from Surfaces? It begins with what seemed like 500 companies showcasing WPC, SPC, rigid core and anything waterproof. That was the buzzword of the show—waterproof. Everyone puts their own spin on the category. And another thing, dear diary, that sticks out: Many companies in the Chinese pavilion could not understand our questions but could certainly exclaim “OEM” quite clearly. Side business next year: translators.

What about product? Well, dear diary, that is a loaded question, because I am setting myself up for failure and offending those I will forget and fail to mention. But here it goes: The extension of the Fabrica brand into hardwood was nothing short of fabulous. Showstopper. You’ve never seen anything like this. Yes, it’s niche but a most appropriate representation of the high-end brand indeed.

Speaking of wood, I know Arte Mundi is not a household name, but you will be hearing a lot about this company moving forward. A Best of Surfaces winner for Best Booth under 1,200 square feet (see the next issue of FCNews), this company showcased unique wood designs embedded with Swarovski crystals as well as a blue-stained hardwood called Denim that caught my eye every time I walked past the booth. Ex-Ark-er John Lee is at the helm.

Then there was the coming-out party for Anderson Tuftex, Shaw Floors’ new high-end, multi-product brand. A most deserving Best of Surfaces winner for Best Booth over 1,200 square feet, the wood portfolio is as strong as ever and makes for a perfect marriage to the highly styled Tuftex line. (If only all marriages were this perfect.) Speaking of which, if it were me, I would find a way to showcase the coordination of a piece of wood with a few samples of carpet and vice versa. Sort of like when design-skill-deprived people like me need to purchase the shirt and tie off the mannequin because we cannot coordinate on our own.

And what about USFloors, dear diary? This company continues to innovate and remain ahead of the WPC world, this time with COREtec Stone. Piet Dossche does not know the meaning of “resting on one’s laurels.”

What else? Let’s play random roulette: Always find the Provenza booth to be special… Metroflor’s party at the House of Blues was the event of the week… I like this idea of magnetic flooring that the WFCA is pushing. I just don’t know how many consumers will accept the additional $1.50 a foot… The new Cleo brand from Congoleum is a surefire winner… Nice to see the venerable Gulistan brand back in the game… Allie Finkell is doing a hell of a job at Hearthwoods. Like father, like daughter.

My body still hurts.

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My take: Here’s what I’m thinking about today

January 22/29, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 16

By Steven Feldman

 

The year officially begins on Jan. 1, but it is not until the minute that the Mandalay Bay door police yield to the stampede of Surfaces attendees that I feel the year is in full swing. And with that, this is when I am often asked for my thoughts on the year ahead. So, to answer that question….

I’m thinking that barring any missile launches by “Rocket Man” in North Korea, 2018 is going to be a very strong year for the economy. That is the sentiment offered by the 99% accurate Beaulieu brothers from ITR Economics, who believe the next 10 or 11 years will be strong, save for a slight hiccup in 2019.

Love him or hate him, I’m thinking the Trump tax cuts will help this industry. Yes, they may favor the wealthy, but wealthy people buy homes, and people who buy homes more often than not replace flooring. And wealthy people buy better flooring. And better flooring means better margins. You get the picture.

I’m thinking this combined Anderson Tuftex brand will be a good thing for Shaw. The products are strong, particularly on the Anderson side, the best since Shaw purchased the company from the Finkell family. I just feel this is the first time they’ve committed real resources to the brand—and it shows.

I’m thinking at some point Mohawk will need to add hardwood to Karastan, its high-end carpet brand, in response to the aforementioned Anderson Tuftex initiative as well as Dixie’s hardwood launch into its high-end Fabrica brand to be unveiled at Surfaces. I remember Karastan prototyped it once, but that was before Mohawk owned its hardwood manufacturing. Makes all the sense in the world now.

I’m thinking that Domotex launching a U.S. show is a long time coming. I’ve said it for years—this industry needed an Eastern-based show in the winter. Informa tried it, but the fall timing of the event just wasn’t right. In 2019 it’s a month after Surfaces, but only because Atlanta plays host to Super Bowl LIII. In 2020, it’ll only be one week later. Surfaces will certainly survive and thrive, but Southeast and Northeast attendance may take a hit if the suppliers support Domotex en masse.

Speaking of things long time coming, Jeff Lorberbaum being inducted into the Hall of Fame certainly falls into this category. FCNews recognized his accomplishments a few years ago as the fourth recipient of our Lifetime Achievement Award.

I’m thinking about this whole WPC/SPC avalanche. What becomes of traditional LVT as we know it? And in case you were wondering the difference between the two, as explained so eloquently by Piet Dossche at Carpet One earlier this month, WPC has a foamed up extruded core with built-in air pockets to provide optimal comfort, while SPC has a dense, highly filled mineral core that provides superior indentation resistance.

I’m thinking about the logic-defying growth of Engineered Floors these past eight years and what may lie ahead given how the company is now part of CCA Global and Abbey.

I’m thinking it will be strange going to industry events and not seeing Randy Merritt or John Godwin in the Shaw space.

I’m thinking about Mohawk’s new hardwood strategy where they will be offering solid wood, engineered wood and RevWoods to the consumer. What is RevWoods? Glad you asked. It’s revolutionary wood, a.k.a. laminate. Since laminate mostly comprises wood-based materials—and the word “laminate” is not favored by some consumers—Mohawk will market the line within the wood category. I will be watching how the retailer and consumer embrace it. But then again, few people clamored for Patagonian tooth fish on restaurant menus, but seafood lovers can’t get enough of Chilean sea bass. (It’s the same fish, folks.)

Lastly, I’m thinking about the resurrection of the venerable Gulistan brand under the auspices of ex-Godfrey Hirst exec John Sheffield. Surfaces is the stage for the brand’s launch, and it’ll be interesting to see how it differentiates itself.

See you in Vegas.