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Award of Excellence: Mohawk returns to winner’s circle as Best Overall

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

By Ken Ryan


Garden City, N.Y.—For the third year in a row, Mohawk Industries was voted Best Overall Manufacturer—one of four Mohawk-branded honors, and six in all for Mohawk Group—in FCNews’ 22nd annual Award of Excellence competition.

Mohawk won for Best Carpet Manufacturer (Group A), Best Commercial Carpet Manufacturer and Best Laminate Manufacturer (Group A), as well as Best Overall. Further, two Mohawk companies took home top honors, including Dal-Tile, which was named Best Ceramic Manufacturer (Group A) for an unprecedented 20th consecutive year. Karastan won top honors for Area Rugs.

“At Mohawk, we continue to invest heavily in the future,” said Tom Lape, president of Mohawk residential, who attended the annual affair at the Garden City Hotel with several members of the Mohawk team. “We are honored that retailers recognize our products, such as the industry’s first hypoallergenic soft flooring—Air.o; our SmartStrand franchise and our revolutionary wood flooring—RevWood, as innovations that contribute to their business success and consumer satisfaction. Mohawk is not only thankful for their resounding endorsement of our products but also of our hardworking employees whose talent and dedication earned our company these prestigious awards.”

Dal-Tile has done what no other company or brand has done—won the award for two decades running. According to John Turner, president, the victory laps never get old. “Winning the Award of Excellence is meaningful to Dal-Tile because it reinforces how our customers feel about their relationship with our business and how they value our Daltile, American Olean and Marazzi brands,” he said. “Each team member plays a critical role in ensuring that we forge relationships with our customers through superior service and products that lead the industry in style, innovation and quality. Our long history of success in this awards program illustrates our commitment to excellence and the significant partnerships we enjoy with our customers.”

Mohawk wasn’t the only dominant company. It was a big night for Shaw Industries and its divisions as well, with five awards. Shaw won Best Manufacturer for LVT (Group A) and Best Manufacturer for Hardwood (Group A); Anderson Tuftex took home top honors for Carpet (Group B) and Hardwood (Group B), while USFloors took first place in the inaugural WPC/Rigid Core category.

“The Award of Excellence is a coveted and respected industry award and receiving this award for both LVT and hardwood is an immense honor for Shaw Floors,” said Herb Upton, vice president, hard surface. “We’re thrilled to see our latest hard surface products have been well received, and these awards confirm Shaw Floors leads the way in hard surface innovation.”

Drew Hash, vice president, Shaw hard surface products, added, “To be chosen for these prestigious awards by our retail partners speaks to the success of Shaw’s efforts to put customers at the forefront of all we do. We thank our dealers and Shaw associates who make our shared achievements possible.”

For the first time a separate category for WPC/Rigid Core was established, a nod to the explosiveness of the waterproof vinyl flooring segment. USFloors, marketer of the highly successful COREtec brand of WPC, won the award for WPC/Rigid Core after taking top honors for LVT the previous two years. “To achieve an Award of Excellence from your customers is the most meaningful and valuable recognition any company can wish for,” said Piet Dossche, president of USFloors. “I am very proud and honored to receive this trophy on behalf of our entire team of dedicated people who are working hard to provide the best product and service to our retail partners. The revolution our COREtec product has created in the WPC product category has been great for our customers who have embraced this exciting new product wholeheartedly. Thank you, FCNews and Informa Exhibitions, for organizing this yearly contest and event.”

Being part of the Shaw family, Dossche added, has given USFloors more opportunities to grow the COREtec business. “We are committed to remain the leader in this category and building COREtec into a strong consumer brand.”

Among the repeat winners, Emser Tile won for the second year in a row in Ceramic (Group B), and Inhaus took top honors for Laminate (Group B), marking its second consecutive year in the winner’s circle. “Emser Tile is proud to be recognized by our customers and receive the FCNews Award of Excellence,” said Bob Baldocchi, chief marketing officer. “As we celebrate our 50th anniversary, this recognition validates our service promise commitment to our customers and inspires us to continue to find new ways to innovate and enhance the overall customer experience.”

Derek Welbourn, CEO of Inhaus, commented: “We feel extremely fortunate and are honored that our customers voted for us. We have a passion for our product offerings and strive to create products that people are excited about both in terms of innovative design and quality. In our eyes, this award is a recognition of our efforts, and we are very appreciative of that.”

A new classification (Group C) was established for the first time to recognize quality, smaller-scale companies. In carpet, Southwind won for Group C while HomerWood was honored in hardwood.

“Southwind and all of our employees are honored to have won this Award of Excellence,” said Richard Abramowicz, executive vice president. “It is a team effort—not one individual. Southwind strives to bring to market the most innovative and forward-thinking products that provide solutions to the marketplace. We would like to thank our valued customers for recognizing our efforts for this award.”


Sponsored by FCNews and Informa Exhibitions, proprietors of The International Surface Event (TISE), the Award of Excellence is a way for manufacturers’ customers—retailers, distributors, designers, installers and specifiers—to honor the companies they feel consistently provide the best service, professionalism of sales force, management responsiveness, value, design, B2B, handling of claims and ease of doing business.

“The Awards of Excellence are honors bestowed to manufacturers by the heart and soul of the flooring industry—the retailers,” said Dana Teague, vice president, Design Group, Informa Global Exhibitions. “It is a pleasure and an honor for Informa/Surfaces to co-sponsor this year’s awards with Floor Covering News. We are delighted to share our enthusiasm for innovation with brands that continually strive for excellence. Surfaces is the platform that manufacturers use to launch or highlight many of the winning products to the delight of the thousands of retailers, distributors, designers and installers that come to Las Vegas every January. Congratulations to the recipients of this year’s awards.”

Readers of FCNews, as well as other industry personnel visiting trade shows such as Surfaces (and not employed by a manufacturer), voted between October 2017 and the end of March 2018 for the companies they felt best met established criteria in the following floor covering categories—Carpet, Commercial Carpet, Area Rugs, Resilient, Resilient Sheet, Resilient Commercial, Hardwood, Tile, Laminate, Cushion/Underlayment, WPC—as well as the Best Overall mill. Ballots were featured in FCNews and readers could mail or fax them back, as well as vote online and at industry events such as Surfaces.

While the category awards were done on a simple, one-vote-per-category/company format, the Best Overall award required voters to fill in their choice for first, second and third place. Votes were weighted so that first place was worth five points, second place worth three points and third place one point. Point totals were tabulated and the company with the most in each was named the winner.

As has been done for the previous nine years, individual category winners were selected in two or three groups based on their volume. Also, manufacturers did not have to pay a fee to be eligible to receive a vote, which has been customary since the first Award of Excellence competition. Any and all manufacturers of floor covering products in the above-referenced categories were allowed to receive votes.

More than 2,200 votes—representing flooring retailers, distributors, designers and installers—were cast, with more industry professionals voting online than ever.






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Al's Column: Avoiding the pitfalls of poor estate planning

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

By Roman Basi


Screen Shot 2016-07-15 at 3.49.34 PMIn my previous column, “Estate Planning: Leave it to the pros,” (FCNews, Sept. 11/18), I explained—citing several recent real estate tax cases—how unqualified advisors can potentially cause a host of problems for their clients. Despite having expertise in other areas, some attorneys, accountants and other professionals that do not specialize in estate planning can do more harm than good. In this installment, I will cover some of the financial repercussions of poor estate planning.

Choosing an unqualified person or firm to handle your estate planning can result in unforeseen financial consequences. The IRS has recently stated that for all 2017 cases attorney’s fees awards will remain at $200 per hour. This may or may not seem like a significant amount to some; however, the ramification is that if someone brings an action against a professional, that person may be subject to paying the attorney’s fees of the claimant at a higher rate than what they were paid to have the work completed in the first place.

And yet, while we caution everyone on proper planning, it does appear that our current system works well for encouraging charitable contributions. A report recently stated that over 2,600 estates with a net worth of approximately $61 billion made charitable contributions in their estates. This amount was a tax deduction for the estates and the government did not receive taxes in the range of $27.4 billion. It appears the estate tax law does in fact provide a substantial means by which charitable organizations can be funded. This is one key reason why charitable organizations do not want the estate tax to go away. If the estate tax did not exist, it appears that the donations to these organizations would decrease substantially as there would be no incentive to give as estate taxes would not be lowered.

Estate planning is very important to all of us as long as the estate tax law is in existence in the U.S. As a matter of fact, the IRS has recently released information about how important the estate tax is to the U.S. Over 11,917 estate tax returns were filed in a recent year. Of the taxable estates, 13.5% did not owe taxes, but the remainder owed estate taxes such that the total amount produced income to the U.S. Treasury of $17.09 billion. (And this is only for one year.) An interesting breakdown of the assets on the tax returns showed that traded stock, state and local bonds, cash and closely held stock and real estate—other than a personal residence—amounted to a total value of $60.12 billion.

Bottom line: Don’t put off creating an estate plan. And once you have created one, be sure to keep it current as your situation changes and as laws pertaining to estate taxes change. More importantly, use qualified professionals who specialize in estate planning. Remember, the Center has specialists that stay current with the tax laws and specialize in estate planning.

Be sure to attend my presentation on Tuesday, Jan. 30 at TISE, where I will discuss different ways to reduce your taxes and protect your assets. Following my session, I will be available for free, 30-minute consultations.


Roman Basi is an attorney and CPA with the firm Basi, Basi & Associates at the Center for Financial, Legal & Tax Planning. He writes frequently on issues facing business owners. For more information, please visit

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TISE changes day format for 2018

TISElogoDallas—The International Surface Event (TISE) dates have shifted to a new day format for 2018. Next year’s event will run Tuesday through Thursday (Jan. 30-Feb. 1), with the education program occurring Monday through Thursday (Jan. 29-Feb. 1). The exposition will feature the latest industry products, materials, equipment and services, including a wide variety of hardwood and laminate flooring, carpet, tools and equipment, natural stone and machinery, all types of tile and much more.

TISE is the largest North American event serving the floor covering, stone and tile industries. Comprising three world-class tradeshows Surfaces | StonExpo/Marmomac | Screen Shot 2017-07-25 at 1.20.49 PMTileExpo, TISE features four days of the newest products, hands-on demos, inspiring trends, key manufacturers, industry suppliers, along with unmatched education and networking. Held annually each year in Las Vegas at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center, TISE is the industry marketplace that brings together distributors, retailers, architects, designers, installers, fabricators, contractors and homebuilders, and many other industry professionals from all over the world with the manufacturers and suppliers needed to do business.

TISE 2017 was a banner event for the industry—an incredible 34,000 square foot increase in exhibits and over 800 presenting brands—drawing an attendance growth from the industry of 7% over the already successful 2016 event. Attendees experienced technical installation demonstrations in the Installation Showcase, viewed product demonstrations and award winning technology from Best of Product & Event Winners, discovered trends in the Speed Trending Breakfast and the Trends Hub, heard first-hand techniques and knowledge from over 100 industry experts and influencers in the Ignite Education program and across the event floor, and were even honored with a presentation from the acclaimed architect, Art Gensler Jr., founder of Gensler.

For additional information about TISE 2018 visit

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Online registration now open for TISE 2017

PrintDallas–The International Surface Event (TISE): SURFACES I StonExpo/Marmomacc Americas I TileExpo, North America’s largest floor covering, stone and tile industry event, has now opened attendee online registration for the 2017 event. Industry professionals are encouraged to register early for the first pick of events, experiences, and education sessions, as space is limited for many options.

Surfaces will be held at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center Wednesday, Jan. 18 through Friday, Jan. 20, with education starting on Tuesday, Jan. 17. For hours, tickets and additional event information, visit

With a few short months to go, the TISE exhibit hall is nearly sold out, setting the stage for the 2017 exhibit hall to be the biggest and most engaging event space yet. Products and services are represented from just about all corners of the globe from upwards of 700 exhibitors spanning more than 400,000 square feet.

Surfaces will feature the latest floor covering products, tools, trends, services and technologies. A few exhibitors to note this year in the Surfaces event are the return of the Mohawk brands, Couristan, Mannington, Armstrong, Dream Weaver Carpet, Tarkett and many others.

Featuring specialty stone and machinery areas with exhibitions of stone and stone supplies from seven countries, plus stone tools, equipment, services and demonstrations from leading manufacturers and 
associations, StonExpo/Marmomacc Americas is the stone event for stone industry professionals.

Leading tile manufacturers and suppliers will be on display in TileExpo offering attendees products from artisan to ceramic, decorative to glass and beyond. Attendees can meet with representatives from Emser Tile, Daltile, Marazzi, American Olean, Eleganza Tile, Crossville, and Bedrosians.

On the floor, attendees can participate and experience stone cutting displays, all types of surface material installations and techniques, participate in digital marketing consultations, and all while working directly with experts who can answer specific questions to solve and offer business solutions. Show features such as the Installation Showcase, the Social Media Learning Lab, The Cage, The Trends Hub, Tool Alley, as well as, in-booth exhibitor demonstrations are just a few of these offerings at TISE 2017.

Off the floor is a suite of education in the IGNITE Education Program and bonus education opportunities from key association and industry partners. The IGNITE Education Program is constructed in partnership with a high-profile, targeted industry group to produce 55 sessions of the most engaging, hot topic and inspiring information, all instructor led by over 100 experts in their fields. Defined into easy to search career tracks, the IGNITE program is a must-attend for any industry professional. See online a full listing of the IGNITE, Certifications and Bonus Education offerings at TISE 2017.

With over 25 million monthly visitors, Houzz offers homeowners inspiration, advice, and connections to pros who can turn their dreams into reality. As a leading platform for home remodeling and design, Houzz will bring their unique industry perspectives and curated information into multiple education opportunities at TISE.

The Retailer Experience is a specialty experience hand-crafted just for retailers. This event, spanning across the three days of TISE, is an all-access pass to everything retail. The package includes an exhibit hall pass, plus the full IGNITE education program, the Off-Site Culture Tour @ Zappos, the Speed Trending Tour: An Eye on the 2017 Trends, along with coffee and light pastry bites. For retailers with very busy schedules, an edited version of the Retailer Experience is available, the Retailer Day. The Retailer Day is Thursday, Jan. 19 and includes an exhibits day pass, an IGNITE Education day pass and the Off-Site Culture Tour @ Zappos.  Limited space available in some events, first-come, first-served in packages.



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Mannington using virtual site to recreate Surfaces space

Screen Shot 2016-06-03 at 5.14.21 AMSalem, N.J.In an industry first, Mannington Mills is using 360-degree photography technology from Virtually Anywhere to showcase its new product introductions. This virtual tour was done at the Mannington booth at Surfaces in January and captured the new products showcased in the 9,000-square-foot display using this new technology. While the conference only ran for three days, Mannington is using the BoothView360 tool to extend the investment it made in the show, providing a new sales tool that helps engage customers in a new way. (

The BoothView360 virtual booth features all of the displays that were on the show floor, and is enhanced with embedded hotspot links, intuitive navigation, downloadable brochures and a digital photo gallery covering the 100-year history of the company.

Betsy Amoroso, senior director of corporate communications for Mannington, said this digital marketing tool helps sustain and enhance the company’s trade show investment for the remainder of the year. “We are always looking for innovative new ways to tell the Mannington story; this certainly fits that description. “

Virtually Anywhere creates fully immersive, 360-degree rotatable tours that give the perception of being at the show but with the advantages of digital technology and online browsing. The company’s BoothView360 converts a one-time exhibit into a year-round virtual booth using interactive, 360-degree photography and state-of-the-art software.

Carrington Weems, founder of Virtually Anywhere, has created more than 10,000 interactive virtual tours spanning 18 years of service for a variety of clientele including universities, hospitals and businesses. BoothView360 assists companies investing heavily in one-time events such as trade shows where they usually see their exhibits torn down after a few days. “[Mannington’s] exhibit at the Surfaces event provided a perfect opportunity for BoothView360—navigating multiple rooms and product lines, and embedding links to product information,” Weems said.

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TISE reports Surfaces 2016 attendance grew 10%

Screen Shot 2016-03-04 at 9.39.05 AMDallas–Informa Exhibitions reported significant attendee growth at The International Surface Event (TISE) 2016, a signal to the industry that positive growth is in store for 2016-2017.

Total attendance grew 10% over the 2015 event. Attendees represented all segments of the industry, including distributors, buying groups, retailers, designers, architects, installers, fabricators and more, with an overall presence from around the globe. The new Ignite conference program also showed significant growth with standing room only in many sessions.

With nearly 700 exhibiting companies, the show floor was comprised of over 400,000 net square feet of exhibit space, show floor features, education and training space. The combined facility space surpassed nearly a million square feet for TISE attendees to peruse. Of the 700 exhibiting companies, 178 were first-time exhibitors, offering new products and services to the industry. Making a splash return onto the show floor were brands such as the Mohawk Industries, Karndean and Armstrong.

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TISE calls for proposals for 2017 educational program

Screen Shot 2016-02-23 at 1.54.09 PMDallas–The International Surface Event (TISE) has issued a call for presentation, demonstration and session proposals to all educators, consultants and specialists for the educational program. Taking place Jan.17-20 at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas, the Ignite education program will address issues and deliver topics that go beyond the edge to inspire, motivate and provide knowledge and possibilities to the floor covering, stone and tile industries, TISE announced.

TISE is seeking qualified speakers and skilled demonstrators who enjoy connecting with others to further the expertise and knowledge within their field. Sessions are 90 minutes and demonstrations are 30 minutes in length, and should contain timely, practical information that can be immediately implemented in the workplace. The program is designed to help attendees increase their bottom line and expand their technical knowledge while exploring the latest trends.

“This year’s Ignite program was incredible, exceeding expectations and raising the bar on the level of information attendees received through the program. Our goal is to remain the unparalleled resource for real-world education for industry professionals ready to expand their knowledge and skills,” said Jennifer Hughes, education manager.

Topic submissions should focus on applications-oriented, real world, problem-solving topics and be free of promotional materials to sell a product or service.

The deadline for submitting proposals is March 7, 2016. Interested parties should complete the Call for Proposals Survey on the show website at An industry advisory committee will review and rank proposals to assist in the development of the program. Questions should be directed to Hughes at 972-536-6320 or

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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.”