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NFA Specialty Vendor Show breaks record

February 1/8; Volume 30/Number 16

By Ken Ryan

Screen Shot 2016-02-08 at 2.44.49 PMLas Vegas—The National Floorcovering Alliance (NFA) welcomed a record 42 vendors to its Specialty Vendor Showcase, which was held on the Monday prior to The International Surface Event [TISE].

The showcase has grown steadily in recent years and has proven to be mutually beneficial for both the suppliers and the NFA. The vendor meeting is ideal for these more specialized suppliers because it is reasonable for them to attend as they’re already at Surfaces. Likewise, for the NFA, the show provides additional leverage with a broader variety of vendors.

Dave Snedeker, division merchandise manager-flooring, Nebraska Furniture Mart and NFA president, said the record number of exhibitors “is a huge deal” to his group. “We want to make sure the people we bring on are going to be good for our members, and I believe that is the case here.”

This year new specialty vendors included EarthWerks, Foss, DriTac and Schönox. “[Being in this group] has opened doors for us,” said Jonathan Train, CEO of EarthWerks, which showed new LVT products, including a 20-mil offering and a WPC product with a waterproof core. “I think consumers can relate to the waterproof core,” Train said. “However, we don’t see WPC impacting glue-down LVT; we see WPC impacting laminate sales. At the end of the day it is still about style and design. We’re trying to be more innovative with colors and we look for variation.”

Schönox unveiled a new self-leveling system that it is positioning as a solution to subfloor preparation issues. “There are a lot of people on this list we want to do business with, and this event is a good opportunity to get in front of them,” said Doug Young, executive vice president of Schönox.

One of those dealers on the list is Jim Mudd, president/owner of Sam Kinnaird’s Flooring with multiple locations in the Louisville, Ky., area. “I was most impressed with the self-leveling system from Schönox—a product that in previous years I would never have gotten to,” Mudd said. “It was easy to use and will help fix a lot of problem subfloors.”

For suppliers looking to deal with the upper echelon of retail, NFA represents the Holy Grail. “The NFA dealers have more collective wisdom of what a vendor needs from a long-term profitability relationship than any other group,” said Peter Spirer, CEO of MaxWoods. “It’s like dealing with a senior person—they can sort out the phonies in the market.”

Ian Newton, general manager of Flooring 101, a four-store chain based in Ventura County, Calif., said the benefits of attending the specialty vendor event are evident. “Companies that don’t have the manpower to go all over the country can come here and for one fee see 43 dealers; that’s a good deal,” he said. In fact, every vendor who attended the 2015 showcase returned for 2016.

Marquis Industries, which joined the NFA specialty vendor group in 2015, was touting its traditional broadloom carpet and hard surfaces lineup. “Our size plays into our favor with the NFA; we’re able to fill more niches,” said Charlie Kelley, vice president of sales and marketing, hard surfaces division. “Not every dealer wants to do business with a big company.”

Several NFA dealers said that while they normally don’t do any buying at the vendor event, occasionally there are some great bargains. “You never know when there may be a great deal out there,” said Penny Carrnino, director of operations, Grigsby’s Carpets & Tile, Tulsa, Okla.

NFA news

When Snedeker took over as president of NFA, he said his primary goal was to increase the participation among members. That objective, he noted, is being realized. “At our meeting [here in Las Vegas] every member who wanted to sound off sounded off,” he said. “That is the way a group should be.”

Sterling Carpet and Flooring in Anaheim, Calif., is the 43rd member of the NFA. Sterling attended the fall meeting as a prospective new member and was subsequently voted in. Sterling took advantage of an opening in the Orange County, Calif., market that was vacated by Carpet Distributors.

One housekeeping note: The NFA spring meeting will commence April 9 in Asheville, N.C.

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SURFACES 2016 COVERAGE – Ceramic tile: New products aim to cover more surface area

February 1/8; Volume 30/Number 16

By Nadia Ramlakhan

Screen Shot 2016-02-08 at 2.33.45 PM Tile booths at The International Surface Event showcased all kinds of innovation in terms of visuals, shapes and sizes. Traditional wood looks have become the norm but manufacturers continue to develop ways to expand the beloved style while brick designs are gaining prominence. Larger formats and hexagons have also found a place and bright colors reflect optimism within the design community. To top it all off, tile producers are no longer focused on just one surface. Instead, concerted efforts have been made to aid retailers in everything from selling the whole package to layering products to fill an entire room, including both floors and walls.

As wood-look tiles have become more commonplace over the years, some tile manufacturers decided to take it to the next level. “Everyone’s got it now,” said Bob Baldocchi, vice president of marketing and sales support for Emser Tile. “Within the wood look you’ve got to come up with unique applications. We’re excited about mixing genres and materials whether it’s a concrete or wood look and putting them together.”

Emser’s Formwork features the look of concrete with the graining of wood, extending a popular style but introducing it in a contemporary manner. It is available as a 12 x 24, a format suitable for concrete vs. a wood plank.

Brick looks could also be seen throughout the show floor and were well received, according to Manny Llerena, director of sales and marketing, MS International. “We have a collection called Capella. This year we added a porcelain brick and it has taken off like skyrockets.” The 2 1⁄3 x 10 product recently won a Best of Houzz in the design category with 28,000 consumers having downloaded it into their idea books in the last 60 days. “It’s a departure from your traditional tiles,” Llerena continued. “And that’s how popular this porcelain brick look has become.”

Hexagon shapes that began to emerge at past shows grabbed the attention of distributors and retailers this year, and manufacturers predict the trend will only continue to grow. “They seem to be pretty popular right now and we’re definitely seeing an appetite for it, too,” Baldocchi said. “I think it’s a long-term trend; it’s fun and it’s giving people something else to look at vs. squares and rectangles. It’s taking a category that has been really square, rectangular and linear and allowing it to play with shapes.”

American Olean is currently offering a glass mosaic program called Entourage that has eight series within it. In June, the company will launch an additional five series including Alair, which features an elongated hexagon stone aScreen Shot 2016-02-08 at 2.33.53 PMnd glass blend in six colors.

Other brands are putting a larger spin on the hexagon format to achieve a more striking look. “The hexagon has always been a strong shape and it’s growing in popularity,” said Kim Albrecht, senior brand marketing manager at Dal-Tile, parent company of Daltile, Marazzi and American Olean. “When you supersize it, it makes a bolder statement. But a lot of it has to do with the color palette you choose as well.”

Aside from hexagons, large formats were gaining ground in various trends. For example, Daltile’s Haut Monde collection is a stone look highlighted by a 24 x 48 rectangular tile with complementing 2 x 2 mosaics. American Olean’s Theoretical is a minimalistic cement look available in 10 colors and addresses the large format trend with 6 x 24, 12 x 24 and 24 x 24 sizes.

Crossville launched Oceanaire, a collection inspired by windswept sands. This line comes in 36 x 36 tiles, among other size options, and is available in five colors and two finishes. The company’s Laminam is a thin tile nearly 3 feet wide and nearly 10 feet tall, but Crossville chooses to call it a “porcelain tile panel” to leave an opportunity open for thicker versions. Although Laminam was launched a few years ago in the U.S. it has taken some time to get installers up to speed.

“Laminam is something that is new for us,” said Rick Abellana, sales representative for Longust Distributing. “We’re getting involved with certification training because there is a lot of product knowledge to gain.”

Complementary design

One main goal for tile manufacturers this year is to help retailers sell multiple products for various spaces in a room. Case in point: Daltile’s kitchen vignette showcased different textures and finishes all playing together in one room scene. With Brickwork on the walls, a One Quartz countertop and Consulate installed on the floor, end users can easily layer different products together to create complete looks.

Another example: Marazzi’s Urban District speaks to brick and wood looks as well as hexagons. “The urban industrial look is moving into residential,” said Micah Hand, brand marketing manager, Marazzi. “Urban District is based on people restoring old buildings downtown utilizing materials like bricks, metals, wood and cement.”

Urban District comprises BRX, STX and HEX lines. The BRX graphic comes from a Chicago brick and is available in 2 x 8, 4 x 8 and 16 x 16 formats. STX balances out the rough textures with four monochromatic colors in a wire-brushed oak look available in 6 x 36 and 9 x 36 options. The HEX portion of the collection comes in six colors and can be installed on floorsScreen Shot 2016-02-08 at 2.33.38 PM or walls—another emerging trend in the tile industry.

“A lot of our work is showing people how to pair the products to make the whole room feel like it was put together by a designer,” Llerena explained, “and it’s very easy to do that with different looks.” MS International’s Capella display allows end users to easily see coordinating products in one place, consequently enabling retailers to sell the combination. “We bring all three items that match together in one board and all the coordination is done for you between the floors and walls,” Llerena added. “We try to make it easy for the retailer to sell multiple products for multiple surfaces, to sell the whole room—not just an individual piece.”

Baldocchi shares the same sentiment and urges dealers to “look up and stop staring at the floor. What I mean by that is we’re decorating all over the house now and we’re not just doing floors,” he explained. “Part of that is because of Pinterest and part of that is because of HGTV. These are really showing off the ways in which you can use your products, and they’re giving you the inspiration to get rid of your wallpaper and not paint up to the wainscoting. You can even do some kind of feature presentation using decorative product.”

Emser’s Terrain is one such versatile product that would typically be seen in a larger format on the floor. The product is a cross between a vein-cut travertine with a wood-look influence and will be merchandised vertically to showcase its wall applications. Newberry is another product that is flexible in its usage. The visual is one of a façade typically seen on the outside of a building yet it is suitable for floors and feature walls in both interior and exterior applications.

Daltile’s Dignitary, a member of the Stone Attaché collection, comes in a variety of sizes for wall and floor applications and can also easily transition from interior to exterior settings. “The outdoor living space is a strong trend overall in the industry,” Albrecht said. “People are putting as much time and care into creating those outdoor spaces as they do interior spaces.”

As far as color goes in the tile segment, soft neutrals and grays are warming up but they are here to stay. A positive outlook on the economy, industry members say, is ushering in bright pops of color. “Color is coming back in a very big way,” said Lindsey Waldrep, vice president of marketing for Crossville. “Most of the time color is an indicator of a strong economy. I don’t think our economy is as strong as some people let on; new jobs have been created but a lot of them are part time. If you look at the retailer index as far as selling and consumer confidence goes it’s not where it should be yet. So it’s kind of a false positive. That being said, the design community is relatively positive and I also think they’re just tired of ‘greige.’ So we’re seeing these bright pops of color as well as luxurious finishes and decorative tile like gold, platinum, metallic and glass.”

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SURFACES 2016 COVERAGE – Laminate: Category fights back with ‘next-generation’ intros

February 1/8; Volume 30/Number 16

By Nadia Ramlakhan

Screen Shot 2016-02-08 at 2.30.04 PM “Next generation” was the term that best described the many laminate flooring introductions at Surfaces 2016 as suppliers unveiled a slew of new styles, sizes and designs featuring the latest in technologies.

“I really do believe there is a renaissance going on in laminate where everybody wants to step up their game and go to next-generation models,” said Brad Northcutt, laminate sales manager, IVC US. While the “bigger is better” trend toward longer and wider planks defined product introductions at last year’s show, this time around laminate companies expanded the format with thicker products. In terms of visuals, suppliers followed hardwood’s lead by adding gray tones and focusing on lighter colors. They also sought to tap into the popular reclaimed look while achieving even more realistic visuals via multi-width, multi-length boards as well as mixed species collections.

“When we looked at our strategies and priorities from a retailer’s standpoint, the biggest thing for us was to focus on the 12-mil category because that’s really where all the growth and focus is in the industry,” said David Moore, product director for Unilin, North America, parent company to Quick-Step. “We see that consumers value thicker products and we are responding to the marketplace.”

Quick-Step’s Elevae is a 12-mil offering with extra-long 54-inch planks that are 6 1⁄8 inches wide. “It sounds better, feels better and you can get more depth in the surface texture,” said Erinn Valencich, Quick-Step’s celebrity designer partner.

Moore explained that rather than revealing “just another” 12-mil collection, the company wanted to expand upon its color palette to be completely on trend. Consequently, multiple SKUs in the collection have hints of gray and brown to coordinate with any cabinet, furniture or wall color. In general, Moore noted a shift away from heavy scrapes toward clean, contemporary looks. “With Elevae we focused on a clean, wire-brushed, matte, low-gloss texture.”

Northcutt cited another benefit to thicker laminates: improved noise reduction. “Balterio [IVC’s laminate offering] doesn’t have that clickety-clack sound you typically get with laminate where you feel like it’s moving under your feet.”

Another well-known brand is also expected to launch in a beefier format. Set to make its debut in July, Mohawk’s Pergo line will feature 12-mil products at mid to upper-mid tier price points. More details will become available in upcoming weeks, but for now the company is focused on enhancing its specialty retail program using the “Pergo story,” according to Paij Thorn-Brooks, vice president of brand marketing for Unilin, North America, parent company of the Pergo brand.

Other companies are taking thickness to the next level with 14-mil introductions. “The cheapest prices are in the 6-, 7- and 8-mil range,” said Franck Taubert, group export commercial director, Alsapan. “We offer 14-mil; it’s still a niche market but we know when the 6-, 7- and 8-mil range hits rock bottom 12 will be the next target.” The company’s latest launch, Creativ’, comes in four colors and is focused on selling patterns rather than individual planks, particularly Creativ’ Herringbone and Creativ’ Ladder.

Then there’s Grand Selection Origin, the newest addition to Swiss Krono’s premium Grand Selection line and the company’s first 14-mil offering. With 6.6-foot-long and 4.6-foot-wide planks, its stronger, water-resistant coreboard is expected to appeal to high-end consumers.

Uniboard, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, is marking the occasion with a luxury laminate collection in a 14-mil format. The 18-SKU line comes in four new colors with trending gray tones: Barnwood Oak, Refined Rustic Oak, Cinder Oak and Prairie Oak.

Screen Shot 2016-02-08 at 2.30.00 PMThicker boards aren’t the only hot trend right now; reclaimed looks are also gaining in popularity. “It’s all the rage right now,” said Derek Welbourn, CEO of Inhaus. Vintage Impressions, a 2016 launch for the company, speaks to this trend with a 12-mil, rough-sawn look.

Eternity Floors’ Doron Gal, owner and CEO, said that as far as visuals go, laminate and hardwood are getting closer. Eternity Floors will unveil two new lines in the upcoming weeks: Timeless and Boulevard. Both are made with German paper, which Gal said provides more clarity.

Retailers are picking up on the trend. “The restored wood look seems to be one of the newer things that is popular right now,” said Jeremy Malveaux, Beta Enterprises, Glenview, Ill. “It’s like taking a good pair of jeans and cutting a hole in it—it’s fashion. It’s taking a perfectly good plank and denting it up or adding scrape marks to bring it back.”

Shifting trends

Historically, colors in the U.S. have leaned toward vibrant reds and golds but the gap between European and American tastes has gotten smaller, manufacturers noted. “We’re seeing a little more interest in European-style colors,” said Travis Bass, executive vice president of sales and marketing, American Concepts, a Swiss Krono brand. “You’re seeing more maples, whites, whitewash—colors have lightened up and [beach-like] looks are trending. Reds are definitely out—no question.”

In response to the shift, American Concepts has come up with several decors in the past year and plans to introduce products about every six months as opportunities arise. Saranac is the company’s widest plank at 7.4 inches, with six playful, eye-catching looks. Morgan Hill comes in 6 1⁄6-wide planks with eight color offerings including gray and white shades.

BerryAlloc is also getting on bScreen Shot 2016-02-08 at 2.29.55 PMoard with lighter shades, grays and European looks by revamping two of its popular collections: Grand Avenue and Original. Both were existing collections in the U.S. in the past that have continued all over the world and were brought back to the U.S. this year.

Mohawk Flooring has taken color and style cues straight from its hardwood collections. Chalet Vista, its “top performer” in laminate, is an 8-mil product with wider and longer planks featuring Uniclic technology that helps guard against moisture penetration. “Everyone has moved away from the traditional, smooth golds, reds and cherries to distressed grays, creams and browns with a little bit of gold tones with a blend of some black in there,” said Tammy Perez, director, hard surfaces, Mohawk. “We also have a coastal look for those regions that like them.”

Another trend seen in hardwood that is carrying over into laminate is the move toward random widths and lengths. Mannington’s Keystone, for instance, features the look of a random width, but is packaged in such a way that each carton contains equal amounts of 8-inch planks and planks with 3- and 5-inch boards together. “It looks like a random width but we’re able to do it at an effective price point,” said Dan Natkin, senior director of residential products.

Tarkett is introducing a mixed-width, mixed-length product called Fresh Air with emissions it claims is two-thirds lower than the CARB 2 standard. Some of its laminate programs feature 23 different planks, eliminating repetition and creating a more natural, realistic look.

Power Dekor launched Citiflor, a collection of random-width/random-length laminate alongside hardwood and LVT. These “RWRL” products contain nine plank sizes in each box, allowing for more variation and customization for the consumer.

Some companies are taking it one step further with mixed species as well. For example, Inhaus’ varied wood is a heavy variation from plank to plank with different colorations, various species and plank sizes all in one carton.

Armstrong showcased a mixture of three individual SKUs from its Architectural Remnants collection on the floor of the booth, creating extra randomness, texture variation and color play. This trend can also be seen on other surfaces as consumers are beginning to use laminate products as accent walls in the home. Rather than introduce new products in this category, Armstrong focused on pushing new ways to use existing products. As such, the company featured Sea Glass Teal, a coastal look from the Architectural Remnants collection, on the wall of its booth.

 

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SURFACES 2016 COVERAGE – Wood: Latest intros highlight category’s natural allure

February 1/8; Volume 30/Number 16

By Reginald Tucker

Screen Shot 2016-02-08 at 2.28.03 PMHeavy on the mixed widths and longer planks with a dash of wire-brushing and double-staining, but ever so light on the gloss levels. That pretty much sums up the dominant trends in many of the new hardwood flooring rollouts on display at The International Surface Event (TISE) in Las Vegas last month.

“The days of the shiny furniture tabletop finishes are over,” said Sylvia Bulanek, marketing manager for Hallmark Floors. To illustrate her point—and the overall trend seen across the category—Bulanek pointed to one of the standout offerings installed at the booth: the new Organic Collection, a low-luster, oil-finished wide plank product designed to showcase more of the wood’s natural character.

That same emphasis on matte finishes was evident all across the show floor. At the Armstrong booth, for example, representatives conducted side-by-side demonstrations of panels featuring the same species but with varying levels of gloss on each product. The differences were crystal clear.

“With certain species in particular, especially maple, you can really see the difference between high gloss and low gloss,” said Justin Hypnarowski, wood quality manager at Armstrong World Industries. “The matte finish just brings out more of the natural depth and character.”

For Armstrong, there is an added benefit to emphasizing low-gloss finishes beyond aesthetics. Thanks to the company’s proprietary acrylic-impregnation process, which is featured on select lines, species that were traditionally considered “soft” can now be coated with an oil-look finish without adversely affecting performance or aesthetics. “Acrylic impregnation makes certain species such as walnut harder,” Hypnarowski said. “And now that we’ve gone from high gloss to low gloss, the products featuring a low-gloss finish can take an even greater beating.”

Other major suppliers are hip to the trend. At the Quick-Step booth, for instance, the spotlight focused on the company’s new Q-Wood line of engineered hardwood flooring products. “The beauty of this product is it has the Opulux finish, which has the look of oil but the performance of urethane,” said Harry Bogner, senior vice president and general manager, hardwood, Unilin. “In the past, oiled floors needed refinishing every year, but with these floors you don’t have to deal with all that maintenance.”

It’s a trend that retailers are definitely noticing. “We really needed that low-gloss look—it just makes it more realistic visually,” said Gary Ketterhegen, owner of Ketter’s Flooring in Milwaukee. “Some of the higher gloss products that came out previously were not that attractive. Here in the Midwest it was really hard to sell it.”

While many manufacturers are incorporating more low-sheen, oil-look products in their lineups, it doesn’t mean they are all taking the same approach. Take Mohawk’s American Vintique and American Design collections as examples; both lines feature the double-staining technique preferred by many homeowners but by no means are these me-too products.

“Our product teams continually look at what we can invest in from a manufacturing perspective, and when you have your own factories you can install special equipment to make custom products,” said Tammy Perez, director, hard surface, at Mohawk. “We’ve taken the popular wire-brushing method and added a double-staining technique whereby we go across the board with the finish, come back across the board and re-sand it along the grains. Then we add a secondary fScreen Shot 2016-02-08 at 2.28.10 PMinish, which gives you multi-tonal colors. It’s a very European look.”

Some very creative finishing and color treatments were also on display across the hall at the bustling Mannington booth. While much of the buzz coursing through the space centered on the company’s Centennial Celebration, visitors to the space were similarly dazzled by what they saw underfoot in the hardwood flooring department.

“Mountain View has really been the hot product for us at Surfaces as it hits on a lot of the trends we are seeing,” said Dan Natkin, senior director, residential products. In developing the natural, rustic-look line, Natkin and his team focused on the minute details. “We put in little saw marks to give it the look of rough-sawn lumber, and then we applied a very slight wire-brushing in the hickory and the oak species. The other thing we did to accent the character of the wood species is mix different stains; this helps create a certain visual interest that you really can’t get normally in hardwood.”

Another noteworthy feature of Mannington’s new rustic line is the fact that the stains are pressed into the wood by hand. According to Natkin, the final result is truly dramatic as it plays out differently across all the various species.

Proprietary technologies and customized manufacturing methods are also behind many of the latest introductions at DuChâteau, a specialty, high-end producer and marketer of hardwood flooring products and wooden wall coverings. All eyes were on the Atelier Series, which features a variety of hand-sculpted and hand-scraped techniques developed by Tom Goddijn, renowned master craftsman. The collection also entails a hard-wax oil finish that, according to the company, features all-natural ingredients.

“This is our highest-end floor,” said Jose Alonso, creative director, citing a MSRP range of $25-$30 per square foot. “It’s not a mass-produced floor; it’s all custom order and we hand-finish it.”

Brett Bentz, owner of Harrisburg Wall and Flooring, Harrisburg, Pa., liked what he saw amongst the bevy of hand-sculpted offerings. “The manufacturers had a lot of what I call the ‘cross-over’ products—West Coast styles that could work in our market here in Pennsylvania,” he said. In particular, he cited the semi-handscraped line in 4- and 6-inch widths from Provenza. “It’s not too over the top like some of the 9-inch-wide products that are out there.”

Mixing it up

Stunning oil-look finishes and creative color/stain combinations weren’t the only attractions turning heads at Surfaces. Many hardwood flooring manufacturers also used their respective spaces to demonstrate the many installation possibilities available by actually mixing products of different widths.

“For our Q-Wood launch, eight of the SKUs are 7 inches wide, and then we have five additional SKUs in a multi-width format,” Bogner explained. “In essence you have 4-, 6- and 8-inch-wide products all in the same carton. By design we’ve left a lot of the rustic looks within the wood, and you can really see it on the multi-width hickory species with all the graining and burled knots.”

Mixed-width flooring options were also on full display back at the Armstrong booth. Available in the company’s solid offering are multiple widths within one box, specifically 5 inch, 3 ¼ and 2 ¼ all stained at the same time in such a way that if the installer keeps the rows the same, he’ll never run out or have excess product. The general idea, according to Hypnarowski, was to “give designers something that could develop into a really big trend.”

Ketterhegen believes the manufacturers might be on to something. “I really like the wider engineered planks, especially the 5- and 7-inch-wide products. I think that’s going to be a huge seller.”

With respect to color, manufacturers definitely identified gray as the hue du jour. But we’re not talking about “battleship” gray here, but rather a mixed of grayish tones across that end of the spectrum. “We’re definitely seeing the emergence of more gray tones,” said Bruce Hammer, sales and marketing, flooring division manager at Elof Hansson. “At the same time, some of the traditional colors (i.e., browns, white oak, maple) are still popular.”

Some interesting stains and shades are also appearing on a few niche species, namely bamboo. David Keegan, president of Bamboo Hardwoods, said consumers in the market for this unique species now have more choices than ever due to advances in staining and finishing technologies. Improvements in product quality as well as an increased presence at the retail level are also driving interest. “We offer four grades now with a lot of tones in between, including gray stains,” he said. “We have a few smooth finish products, but most of the lines feature some kind of wire brushing or handscraping and distressing. It’s something you wouldn’t normally expect to see in bamboo.”

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SURFACES 2016 COVERAGE – Resilient: Composites begin to take hold over traditional LVT

February 1/8; Volume 30/Number 16

By Jenna Lippin

Screen Shot 2016-02-08 at 2.10.31 PM Once again there was no shortage of LVT at Surfaces with many companies continuing to innovate to capitalize on the category’s success. That being said, resilient as a whole had a strong showing with refreshed and new sheet vinyl collections and, above anything else, a significant influx of WPC.

As the subcategory’s buzz grows louder, Floor Covering News has started to investigate WPC/composites/enhanced vinyl—there are many different names for the product group. At Surfaces there was an opportunity to examine the latest and greatest and see who is getting into the next phase of the flooring game.

Leader of the pack USFloors was again a star player at Surfaces, not only because of its active booth and beloved COREtec products, but also because of some major announcements heading into the show: It received its third patent for COREtec, which covers “Engineered Waterproof Plastic Composite Flooring and Wall Covering Planks,” and granted sub-license rights to Unilin’s Flooring Technologies and Valinge.

“The playing field is going to change,” Jamann Stepp, USFloors’ director of marketing and product management, said of the company’s recent developments. “This last patent strengthened the context of the previous patent. Before people were trying to find loopholes with their products’ cores being made from X, Y, Z ingredients which then eliminates them from any patent infringement on what we’ve established. I think this last [patent] we’ve got solidifies what the construction is really about.”

At the show USFloors launched two new COREtec collections: COREtec Plus HD and COREtec Plus Design. The 15 new SKUs from HD include wood visual planks featuring high-definition printing with embossed in register textures and a four-sided beveled edge. The Design collection includes 10 SKUs, both wood and tile/stone looks, in 5-, 7- and 9-inch-wide planks. The new collections are priced at about $.10 more than the current best offering, COREtec XL—the consumer would pay somewhere from $4.78 to $4.98 for just product. Both XL and Design will officially launch and be ready to ship during Q1 2016.Screen Shot 2016-02-08 at 2.10.26 PM

Congoleum is one of many manufacturers that launched a COREtec-eque offering at Surfaces. Its new Triversa product is the best offering from its Timeless LVT collection and will be ready to ship this spring. The 100% waterproof product has a rigid core with SmartLock Clic installation, 20 mil urethane wear layer and cork backing.

“It’s that layered construction that drives the performance overall,” said Kurt Denman, vice president, marketing and sales. “There is a volatility to [traditional] LVT with expansion and contraction, but the Triversa core stabilizes that. It performs better than laminate because it eliminates that Achilles heel.”

The company believes the reputation and familiarity of the Congoleum name will help differentiate its composite offering. “It’s a recognizable brand,” said Pat Buckley, vice president, product management. “More consumers recognize Congoleum than some of the competitive products. There are also opportunities to differentiate us by the design package. Triversa brings a very strong series of designs available in 7- and 9-inch widths depending on pattern.”

EarthWerks launched its WPC product Parkhill last year; this year’s Surfaces saw the addition of Sherbrooke, completing the company’s 12-SKU composite offering. Both collections feature 7 x 48 planks with Parkhill offering a 20 mil wear layer with a total 6mm thickness and Sherbrooke a 12 mil layer with 5.5mm overall thickness. Parkhill comes with a 30-year commercial wear limited warranty and lifetime residential limited warranty while Sherbrooke has a 20-year light commercial wear limited warranty and 30-year residential limited wear warranty. All of EarthWerks’ WPC products feature the Valinge 2G fold-down installation system.

“Consumers are going to buy from EarthWerks because we are EarthWerks, the trusted name in LVT,” said Lindsey Nesbit, head of product development and marketing strategy. “We’ve been in the business for 32 years, developing the whole product category. Our products are in stock, we have a strong distributor network and we stand behind our products.”

Mannington’s version of Screen Shot 2016-02-08 at 2.10.21 PMWPC, Adura Max, is coming out as an extension of its Adura brand (FCNews, Jan 18/25). The 6 x 48 planks feature iCore Gen3 technology with a HydroLoc core and Ultra-Quiet pad to create exceptional water and noise resistance. The ScratchResist layer with aluminum oxide helps guard the floor against scratch and wear.

“We’re trying to differentiate with overall construction and quality,” said Dan Natkin, Mannington’s senior director of residential products. “The problem with this new subcategory is—kind of like the early days of laminate—the wide range of quality. You have to see what lasts and what doesn’t. We’ve done a lot to engineer Adura Max to make sure it’s very stable and of the highest quality.”

Adura Max, which features an extensive selection of varied wood visuals, will have its own display and is expected to be available by late May/early June.

With its enthusiastic return to the Surfaces show floor, Mohawk brought a preview of Genesis 3.0, the company’s answer to the composite subcategory. At this time Mohawk is still investing in the research and development of Genesis, but attendees had the opportunity to see what the product has in store prior to its summer launch. “It will be a WPC-type product with an LVT top layer,” explained Tammy Perez, director of hard surface. “When you look at the first generation [of WPC] a lot of companies have focused on products being 100% waterproof but what they don’t tell you about is heat. If you are installing this type of floor in Florida or California or anywhere that gets very hot and it is in areas under windows, for example, the floor begins to cup. The second generation of product starting to come out now is trying to correct that issue, along with some telegraphing problems. Once we are ready we are going to hit the ground running because we want to deliver a well-rounded product that doesn’t just focus on being waterproof but also installation in hot areas. We will create our own story because we feel like what we have in our core will be a much stronger story than WPC.”

Genesis 3.0 will also feature the Uniclic Multifit locking system which will provide easy installation thanks to the ability to install at different angles.

Similarly, Armstrong’s return to the Surfaces show floor was not without some noise from its own “enhanced flooring,” Vivero (FCNews, Jan. 18/25) with live demonstrations and a Best of Surfaces win (see story on page 1). However, its best-selling LuxePlank product garnered some attention as well with its new Rigid Core technology.

Continuing on its key selling point of easy installation (previously focused on FasTak), LuxePlank’s Rigid Core technology is the solution to subfloor irregularities, explained Jeremy Kleinberg, product manager, residential LVT. “If you’re going over an existing floor with tile or an embossed felt sheet you can lay this over the top and there won’t be any telegraphing.”

LuxePlank with Rigid Core includes a polymer composite core with a traditional LVT layer, durable wear layer and factory-applied coating. The cork backing provides acoustic benefits that deaden the transmission of sound to spaces beneath the floor and makes it quieter to walk on.

Kleinberg pointed out that LuxePlank selections are more for “specialty installation applications.” In terms of price difference, LuxePlank with FasTak and with Rigid Core cost roughly the same as the better level of Vivero.

After previewing its Pure program last year, Beauflor is now ready to take orders and ship the product in the U.S. According to the company, Pure differentiates itself from the many composite products on the market because of its extruded rigid backing and the vinyl used, which are both made in Beauflor’s own facilities in Belgium. It is cost competitive with other products in the marketplace even though it is unique in terms of construction and with the Dream Click four-sided click installation system. Pure is also 100% waterproof and offers impressive sound ratings.

While Pure has been delivering to the “overwhelming plank demand of the market,” the product will soon be offered in a tile format as well.

IVC launches Text a Sample

IVC US’ space was a popular show floor destination once again, perhaps even more so this year as it is now part of the Mohawk family of brands.

In addition to updates to its exceedingly popular Moduleo and Flexitec collections, IVC US is making major strides in its marketing efforts. Perhaps the most notable is its new Text a Sample program added to display sample labels, which allows consumers to use their smartphones to help see product in detail.

“Right now we don’t offer take-home samples on any of our products,” explained Bart Rich, senior director of marketing. “With Text a Sample a consumer will get a link to a high-resolution digital sample to use to compare products, colors, paint swatches, etc. It also connects to a room scene and a Find a Retailer function.”

Take-home samples are hard to manage for both the consumer and retailer who has to keep large pieces of product organized and in stock. With the Text a Sample function dealers not only offer instant samples with ease, they can also capture where the text request came from to determine a shopper’s area, send coupons, request ratings and more.

“We now have them engaged,” Rich added. “We’ve completed that circle—getting the customer into the buying space, getting them to the retailer and ultimately buying our product. We are touching on something people do every day.”

Quick-Step enters the LVT game

Also part of the Mohawk family of brands, Quick-Step made its foray into resilient with its own branded LVT. The official launch will come this summer as the company is still fine-tuning product attributes that differentiate Quick-Step LVT from Mohawk’s and IVC’s, in addition to competitors in the industry.

According to Dave Thoresen, senior vice president, commercial hard surface, Mohawk Industries, Quick-Step’s LVT is “the most dimensionally stable product in the marketplace. It is five times stronger, more durable, than any other LVT. I think it takes on WPC to some degree because of the dimensional stability in addition to the Multifit click system which is Unilin’s best technology right now.”

The collection consists of 16 SKUs with 6 x 48 planks, 4.5mm thickness and 22 mil wear layer. “It is very North American in style but with a lot of European influence since this is being manufactured in our Belgium plant,” Thoresen noted. “The sweet spot in the market in terms of price will be the mid to low $3 range.”

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SURFACES 2016 COVERAGE – Carpet: Mills look to compete with rise of hard surface

February 1/8; Volume 30/Number 16

By Ken Ryan

Screen Shot 2016-02-08 at 2.06.46 PMLas Vegas—Carpet mills are not standing pat amid the fierce competition from hard surfaces. The response from mills in attendance at The International Surface Event [TISE] is to push back in a number of ways—mostly by stepping up efforts on the style and design front. Other strategies entail adding custom rug programs, creating carpet looks that mimic or complement hardwood or outright expanding offerings to include hard surfaces.

“We know that carpet is shrinking,” said Rodney Mauter, executive vice president, residential sales, Lexmark. “But in a shrinking market we can add value and uniqueness.”

A year ago, Tailored by Lexmark drew praises at Surfaces for its three-dimensional, high-definition look. Now it is hoping Adorn becomes the big hit this time around for its softer yarn and depth of patterns. “Tailored put us on the map for that affordable fashion look,” Mauter said. “We were a little concerned at first with how we would follow the success of Tailored, but we are now seeing the same kind of enthusiasm for Adorn.”

Other mills emphasized style and design at Surfaces, and at least one was recognized for it. Stanton won a Best of Surfaces award for Style & Design and earned kudos from dealers for its innovative and fashion-forward looks. “I was very impressed with Stanton,” said Keith Spano, president of Flooring America/Flooring Canada. “Products such as their new Sound Waves [from the Relax collection] were innovative.”

Stanton’s introductions included 40 new nylon offerings representing a category expansion. “We’re tagged with the responsibility of growing in a declining market, and we’re not happy if we’re not growing,” said Jonathan Cohen, CEO. “In order to grow, we have to be proactive, and we have to be smart about it.”

In the face of the onslaught of hard surfaces, some mills are trying to capitalize on the trend with soft products that either mimic or complement hard surfaces, including worn, distressed and hand-scraped looks. Dan Phelan, vice president of marketing, Northwest Regional VP, for the Dixie Group (Dixie, Masland, Fabrica), said the success of hard surfaces has brought pattern into the home, and as such created opportunities for soft surface companies that may not have existed before.

“We are aware of what is going on with wood and in constructing patterns and styles,” he said. “Our product development team is well aware of that trend as well. We feel we can make products that complement hard surfaces. We have to up the ante in style and design.”

Milliken’s Artful Legacy broadloom, shown at Surfaces, is noted for a distressed look that can complement a hardwood floor, with the goal of maintaining that seamless look throughout the home. Milliken showed three such distressed/ vintage looks.

Research shows that in most new homes carpet is still preferred in bedrooms with hard surfaces claiming other areas. However, the notion that everyone wants hard surfaces in their homes is wrong, according to Sam Roberts, owner of Roberts Carpet & Fine Floors in Houston. “Lots of people love beautiful carpet. Carpet is more beautiful today than it has ever been. It’s just not that easy to move the needle every year [in terms of style and design]. People want to do stuff that’s different and better, but that’s easier said than done.”

Instead of trying to compete head-to-head with hard surfaces, some mills are focusing on “sharing” the space. A custom rug program, some eScreen Shot 2016-02-08 at 2.06.52 PMxecutives say, is one way to do that. While rugs have traditionally been viewed as an add-on sale following the purchase of a hardwood or laminate floor, custom-cut rug programs are providing mills with growth opportunities.

“Without rugs, a home [with hard surfaces] is an echo chamber,” said David Duncan, senior vice president of marketing and sales operations at Mohawk Industries, which has a new custom rug program called “A Cut Above.” In this program, rugs can be offered in squares or rectangles. It also offers an app that simplifies the process of getting a quote/order in the showroom in one visit.

Stanton also reports tremendous success with its program, Rug Revolution, which allows users to create their own modular rug styles. The rugs can be cut into small pieces or combined into one large piece using Velcro strips for backing.

“Our rug business is growing because of hard surfaces,” Cohen said.

Joining the party

Mohawk and Shaw were once carpet-only mills. Today, both companies are major players in hard surfaces. Some smaller carpet mills have followed suit. Marquis Industries entered the hard surfaces segment eight years ago with an LVT line. It has shown double-digit growth every year since, according to Larry Heckman, president.

At Surfaces, Phenix entered the fray with seven hard surface products — three laminate, three LVT and one WPC offering. “We want to be known as a total flooring company,” said Susan Curtis, vice president of marketing. “We are looking at the total home and seeing how we can create a coordinated aesthetic that the consumer is looking for.”

Then there are those carpet companies that say they do not need rugs or hard surfaces to fuel grow. At Surfaces Engineered Floors prominently displayed a growth chart showing the company’s plant capacity has grown from 520,000 square feet in 2010 to 3.6 million square feet in 2015. One of its plants, nicknamed “SAM,” will one day be the largest capacity carpet mill in the world under one roof, according to the company.

Engineered Floors also unveiled the DreamWeaver PureColor brand structure. The program features new products designed with patent-pending VariColor technology that will allow the company to expand its color palette within the PureColor family of brands.

“We haven’t even scratched the surface of what we can do,” said Mike Sanderson, vice president of product marketing for Engineered Floors. “We want to focus on one thing and make it great—and that is broadloom carpet.”

The same focus on innovation is driving business at Kane Carpet. According to Bruce Kurtz, vice president of marketing, the company sold 400 rolls of carpet at Surfaces — its highest amount ever at the show. “We continue to defy the industry’s stagnation and grow very nicely,” Kurtz said. “A lot of pattern-oriented companies fail because their styles are inspired by their own tastes. Our designs are inspired by our customers’ tastes.”

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SURFACES 2016 COVERAGE – Retailers cite eye-catching innovations at TISE

February 1/8; Volume 30/Number 16

The International Surface Event (TISE) serves as a venue for exhibitors to launch hundreds of products and collections. With so many to sort through in a short amount of time, some products stood out amongst the crowd. FCNews asked retailers which products caught their attention.

Screen Shot 2016-02-08 at 2.00.13 PM Screen Shot 2016-02-08 at 2.00.22 PM

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Best of Surfaces calls out leading products, booths at show

Judges recognize excellence at premier show across six categories

February 1/8; Volume 30/Number 16

By Steven Feldman

Screen Shot 2016-02-08 at 1.47.55 PMLas Vegas—Six companies were voted best of class in the fifth annual Best of Surfaces competition co-sponsored by Floor Covering News and Informa, owners and operators of The International Surface Event. The awards have become the benchmark for product excellence and booth design at the industry’s premier trade show.

The winners were:

  • Innovation: Mohawk’s SmartStrand Forever Clean with All Pet Technology
  • Style & Design: Stanton’s Sound Waves from the Relaxed Collection
  • Technology: Armstrong’s Vivero Luxury Flooring
  • Sustainability: Mannington’s LVT closed-loop recycling program
  • Best Booth Design Over 1,200 square feet: Johnson Hardwood
  • Best Booth Design Under 1,200 square feet: Wichkam

The judging was conducted by a panel of retailers who were initially tasked with narrowing the entrants in each category to five finalists by the start of Surfaces. Specifically, they were asked to delve through all submissions and select their top five that best represented the category in which they were entered. The most popular selections by consensus in each category made it on to the final round, where judges viewed each finalist on the first day of Surfaces. They convened at FCNews’ booth at the close of the day and openly discussed their opinions with each other for the first time. From these discussions emerged the Best of Surfaces winners.

Innovation

SmartStrand Forever Clean with All Pet Technology

SmartStrand Forever Clean with All Pet technology is the only complete protection system covering all pets, all accidents, all the time. It features the industry’s only carpet warranty covering all pets from cats and dogs and beyond. This is the only carpet that can be repeatedly cleaned without removing stain-fighting protection and durability.

Another advantage of SmartStrand Forever Clean is that liquids cannot absorb into the fiber. Liquid spills carry impurities that leave behind residue and can lead to musty, dingy odors, particularly as it relates to pets. This added protection prevents and reduces common pet-related odors. Compared to nylon carpet, which absorbs up to 5% of its weight in liquid, SmartStrand Forever Clean offers 0% absorption so it remains fresh and odor-free forever—a huge advantage in a family with pets.

“We are honored SmartStrand Forever Clean has received the Surfaces Innovation Award for the second consecutive year,” said David Duncan, senior vice president of marketing. “The judging panel of experienced industry professionals recognizes that Mohawk continues to build on the success of the incredibly soft and durable SmartStrand fiber we introduced 10 years ago. Now, with the All Pet Protection warranty, the most comprehensive pet protection warranty in the industry, SmartStrand Forever Clean carpet can stand up to all pets, all accidents, all the time.”

Style & Design

Sound Waves from Stanton

Stanton’s new polyester-polypropylene Relaxed line is a diverse collection that offers something for everyone. Traditionalists may prefer the structured trellis, while romantics will find favor with the graceful Victorian scroll. And abstract expressionists should be energized by Sound Waves’ free-flowing, Pollock-esque splatter design. But despite the individuality, warmth is what ties the collection together. A distressed background and palette of familiar neutrals are at the core of each style. Sound Waves turns up the heat further with bursts of electric pink.

Jonathan Cohen, CEO of Stanton, believes Sound Waves was a consensus Best of Surfaces winner because the judges preferred the product’s edgy styling combined with lustrous yarns. “I think it hit on all the right criteria—fresh, exciting, new, old, terrific colors. It had a luster level to it, a silky appearance that was very attractive. The validation is our customers’ reaction. Reaction doesn’t always translate to sales but it is a good indictor.”

Technology

Vivero Luxury Flooring from Armstrong

The judges agreed that Vivero was most deserving of Technology honors in the Best of Surfaces competition. They felt it was not another me-too LVT product to hit the market, citing its composition—specifically its rigid core comprised of limestone and PVC—and the Diamond 10 technology used in its coating, a patent-pending, diamond-infused layer for extra durability. Diamond 10 allows for “unprecedented” scratch and stain resistance in addition to cleanability. The product is also waterproof; liquid will bead on Vivero’s surface, making it easy to wipe away.

A major differentiator for products within Vivero’s collections is the installation options. All “good” SKUs come with simple and secure angle-angle locking technology while “best” and “better” both feature the IntegriLock system, which utilizes 5G technology from Valinge. All Vivero products are also offered in glue down options.

Sustainability

LVT Closed-Loop Recycling Program from Mannington

Mannington’s LOOP reclamation and recycling program has set benchmarks for recycling millions of pounds of carpet, VCT, drywall, automobile tires and windshield glass into new carpet, VCT, resilient sheet and wall-base. It is leading the reclamation and recycling of post-consumer LVT that is removed during renovation and demolition projects and recycling it back into new LVT. Plus, 100% of post-production material created during the manufacturing process is also recycled back into new LVT product.

“Mannington has been a pioneer in utilizing recycled content,” said David Sheehan, vice president, commercial hard surface. “We were first to create a robust take-back program (for carpet and VCT). We followed that up 18 months ago with a take-back program for LVT. The judges most likely appreciated the notion that we are taking product back and preventing it from going into landfills and then repurposing the scrap and making it into new products.”

Best Booth over 1,200 square feet

Johnson Hardwood

The 3,500-square-foot booth was the brainchild of Yuying Chiu, a design consultant for the company. According to Bill Schollmeyer, CEO of Johnson, the objective was to achieve an easy flow that encouraged customers to browse through the different areas. “We focused on vignettes that highlighted our Rowlock product to show some creative settings, both residential and commercial,” said Bill Schollmeyer. “As always, we try to showcase a mix of current products that are strong sellers—like English pub and Alehouse—innovative new products like Rowlock, and concept products like many of the oil finish colors that we showcased.”

The message that Johnson Hardwood tried to convey was that the company is all about style and quality, and that the brand has value to a dealer.

Best Booth under 1,200 square feet

Wickham Hardwood

For the second year in a row, Wickham Hardwood won for best booth design. Randy McCullough, a Wickham consultant and booth designer, said the company tries to create a space that is so uniquely different that it will become a destination for show-goers. The 20-foot by 50-foot booth featured a Western theme, including rusted barbed wire and old fence posts. “I could have bought that stuff at a hardware store but I wanted it to be authentic,” McCullough noted.

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Surfaces 2016 ‘amazing on all fronts’

Return of major players to show floor fuels excitement

February 1/8; Volume 30/Number 16

By Ken Ryan

Screen Shot 2016-02-08 at 1.45.16 PMLas Vegas—The International Surface Event (TISE) was up 10% in attendance this year, its highest yearly increase in nearly a decade. But that was just a number. What really defined Surfaces 2016 was the kind of energy and excitement that many attendees had not experienced for some time.

“It was over the top for us,” said Keith Campbell, chairman of Mannington, which celebrated its 100th anniversary with a constellation of new products and off-the-floor events.

“Surfaces is alive and breathing,” said Tom Lape, president of Mohawk Residen-tial, which made a triumphant return to Surfaces. “It’s all about energy and excitement, and we had plenty of that here. We were quite pleased with the turnout.”

Flooring dealers felt the positive vibe as well. “I thought the show was the best it has been in a number of years,” said Jim Mudd, president and owner of Sam Kinnaird’s Flooring, Louisville, Ky. “I thought having Mohawk and Armstrong and a few others back on the main floor again was absolutely great.”

For the second straight year, TISE coincided with Design and Construction Week, which featured the co-location with the International Builder Show (IBS) and Kitchen & Bath Industry Show (KBIS). For Informa Exhibitions, owners and operators of TISE, Surfaces more than exceeded expectations. “The show was amazing on all fronts,” said Amie Gilmore, show director. “Exhibitors blew it away with their fantastic new booth designs and fabulous new marketing campaigns. We booked a record amount of space on site this year for the 2017 show.”

The one-floor layout was generally positive although some found the positioning of StonExpo, which included large stone fabrication machines in the center of the showroom, rather odd. That being said, there was a reason for the placement. Gilmore explained that there is access to outside air and water in only that part of the hall, so in order for the machines to function for demonstration they needed to be kept there. “However, from what we heard and saw, [with this layout] many attendees saw exhibitors and products they may never have seen before,” she said.

Mudd agreed. “I really felt the best part of this year’s show was having everyone on one floor. I saw suppliers that I always try to get to but being on another floor it never happens.”

Exhibitors were almost universally impressed with the traffic and the quality of the appointments. “My internal gauge on traffic is how often I can step off the floor, and Wednesday and Thursday I had zero chance,” said Dan Phelan, vice president of marketing, Northwest regional VP, The Dixie Group. “We were definitely a destination over here.”

Dan Natkin, senior director, residential products for Mannington, said the return of Armstrong and Mohawk added to the overall success. “I think it solidifies the value of the show,” he said. “Our sales have been through the roof. Almost double what we did last year.”

Surfaces was not lacking for product innovations across all categories, including the burgeoning WPC, a subsegment of LVT, which seemed to be cropping up everywhere.

Category overviews

While FCNews will cover the specific product categories throughout this issue, following is an overview of each group:

Carpet

While it is no secret that carpet is not growing as fast as hard surfaces, there are segments within carpet that are flourishing, according to David Duncan, senior vice president of marketing and residential operations, Mohawk Industries. “Style and design is what is growing, and the mid to upper end of the market with an emphasis on styled-pattern unique looks is what’s selling.”

Mohawk offered dealers plenty of high-end goods in its grand return to Surfaces. It showed new collections and line extensions of its three carpet fiber platforms—triexta, PET and nylon. Specifically, Mohawk introduced Natural Surroundings, the next generation of SmartStand Silk, featuring a lower-luster treatment that helps eliminate footprints. “A lot of high-end retailers said if we could de-luster it they could sell it,” Duncan said.

Indeed, low-luster yarns were in at Surfaces. Invista showed low-luster yarns in 10 new constructions to achieve a wool/silk look. Others are following suit. “Dixie has done a nice job of blending low and high luster fibers to get that silk yarn effect,” said T.M. Nuckols, senior director of product strategy for Invista, which shared booth space with The Dixie Group.

To remain relevant, carpet mills know they have to excite the masses with styling and colors that are going to wow consumers. To that end, niche mills including Stanton and Kane Carpet pushed innovations to the forefront at Surfaces with impressive new looks and vibrant colors that did not go unnoticed. In fact, Stanton captured a Best of Surfaces award in the Style & Design category for Sound Waves.

The growth of hard surfaces has re-invigorated the rug category, and in so doing has created add-on sales opportunities for dealers. Several mills unveiled new custom rug programs; in many cases the rugs are cut to order from broadloom.

Resilient

What came first, LVT or Surfaces? It’s hard to tell these days as an increasing amount of the resilient offering continues to take share of the show floor. Seemingly every hard surface manufacturer is trying to come out with the next big thing in LVT, which appears to be WPC, also known as composites, enhanced vinyl, engineered flooring, etc.

While USFloors’ COREtec is the leader in the composite game, both major and niche companies are introducing their own takes on the subcategory. Differences range from small variations like the color of plank backing to major construction dissimilarities like composition of the product’s core (this is where the WPC argument comes in as many of these offerings don’t contain wood—the “w”).

“There is a lot of hybrid flooring, but the common thread is the decorative LVT top,” said John Wu, president and CEO, Novalis. “LVT is still the best looking synthetic floor you can find, plus it is easy to maintain and durable. LVT is the all-encompassing category and will continue to grow. WPC’s popularity will simply help push LVT to the next level.”

Tile

Visuals in tile continue to impress with new trends emerging in addition to unique spins on old favorites. Wood looks, for example, remain popular without any hint of diminishing. “Of course, wood looks are still trending,” said April Wilson, director of brand marketing, Dal-Tile. “It continues to increase in popularity and it’s not going anywhere anytime soon.”

Brick looks and hexagons also came into play on the show floor with larger formats taking the stage. Neutrals and grays are warming up with optimism in the design community giving way to brighter colors. “Neutrals are always going to be around,” said Lindsey Waldrep, vice president of marketing for Crossville. “When you’re making decorating decisions in a [changing] economy you are going to stick with something that will always be timeless. When things are good, people are willing to take risks, and brighter colors are riskier as far as trends go.”

This year, manufacturers are focused on selling a whole room vs. a floor. This was seen throughout the tile category by way of new merchandising systems and products suitable for numerous applications. “By layering textures and finishes you create a much more dramatic space,” said Kim Albrecht, senior brand marketing manager at Dal-Tile. “This is what homeowners want, but they don’t know how to achieve it so our dealers are important in helping to pull the look together.”

Wood

Hardwood introductions at Surfaces continued to reflect the broader, industry-wide trend toward wider widths and random lengths, combined with low-luster matte finishes designed to bring out the natural characteristics of various wood species. Another common theme across the show floor was the application of double-staining processes augmented by wire brushing.

“Wire brushing is still trending very heavily,” said Tammy Perez, director, hard surface, Mohawk. As a case in point, she cited two “show stoppers”: the American Vintique and American Design collections. Both lines feature the popular wire brushing, double-staining process as well as the company’s signature ArmorMax finish.

Other creative applications of staining techniques and color combinations also drew a lot of attention at the show. At Mannington’s booth, for example, visitors were treated to several installations featuring mixed stains and colors to create what Dan Natkin, senior director, residential products, called a “visual patchwork” for the consumer or designer.

“When you look across the different species we have here, you’ll notice there’s a lot of color play,” he explained. “We’re mixing the stains, each one-third in a carton, to create even more interest.”

In terms of texture, manufacturers continued to promote the popular hand-scraped look but with a twist—the trend is moving toward more subtle scraping treatments compared to the aggressive techniques seen in years past.

Laminate

“Bigger is better” took on a whole new form this year through thicker products with many companies launching 14 mil collections. Reclaimed and rustic looks continue to increase in popularity with an emphasis on clean, contemporary textures. Whereas high gloss has been the go-to look in the past, manufacturers said matte finishes are trending.

Introduced last year, the popular mix of gray and beige (called “greige”) remains prominent with whites, white washes and European-style lighter colors being added to the mix for those regions interested in coastal themes.

Following in the footsteps of hardwood, extra randomness and variation was evident throughout the show floor with mixed widths, multiple lengths and even multiple species represented within one product.

These trends are not just for the floor, however; many manufacturers cited projects their dealers have completed in which laminate is used on walls as full-feature presentations.