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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.”

Methodology

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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Made in the USA: U.S. suppliers leverage advantages of domestic production

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

By Mara Bollettieri

Many domestic flooring suppliers cite numerous advantages in producing stateside. A huge benefit that Don Finkell, CEO of American OEM, pointed out is the ability to respond quickly to changing design trends in the industry. “We are closer to the market, so we are more aware of consumer preferences,” he explained. “In addition, consumer trends favor locally made products. American made has become a whole movement of its own.”

Others cite much shorter lead times as being a key benefit. “We have the ability to deliver product for large installations within four weeks,” said Michael Raskin, CEO of Raskin Industries. “In addition, we can fill in our domestic inventory to support distribution and our distributors can bolster their supplies if needed, which provides excellent support and turnaround.”

Matt Rosato, director of portfolio management, Anderson Tuftex, concurred. “When you have domestic production vs. something that’s sourced overseas, we are more agile and able to quickly hit lead times, especially for some project work. If it’s overseas, you’re looking for, after production time, 12-16 weeks of transit time into the U.S., where we can turn it around in a couple of days.”

For executives like Jimmy Tuley, vice president of residential resilient, Mannington Mills, being able to innovate and bring products quickly to market go hand in hand. “We’re also in control of our process. It’s one of the cores of Mannington—to be able to control your own destiny. And when you produce, you control that whole supply chain.”

Tom Lape, president, Mohawk Residential, can attest to that notion. Mohawk Industries is in the middle of a major push toward domestic production, with $700 million invested in five different plants. He noted that 90% of what the company produces is being sold right here at home. Beyond that, he said, “there is a high level of supplier reliability; the more you in-source, the more you create a more reliable customer and there are fewer big surprises.”

Onshoring creates jobs

Opening plants here at home, suppliers say, has increased the number of employees that suppliers need to hire. Paul Stringer, vice president of sales and marketing, Somerset Hardwood Flooring, shared that the number of employees has increased exponentially over the years now that the company has onshored production. “I started work at Somerset in 1999. At that time, we had roughly 225 employees; today, we employ more than 900 people throughout all of the Somerset operations.”

The creation of more jobs, in turn, sparks work in other industries as well, executives say, thereby stimulating the overall American economy. Mannington’s Tuley illustrates how opening plants throughout the U.S. has done precisely that. “If you look at a plant that’s growing and expanding, chances are there’s a restaurant in that area that’s opening, there are roads that are being worked on—all sorts of service industries spring up around manufacturing facilities.”

Anderson Tuftex’s Rosato also believes there’s a direct correlation between plant openings and the creation of jobs in surrounding communities. “We have a large project in Alabama with Shaw that we are investing millions of dollars in, stimulating local jobs in that state as well as other states in which we manufacture—be it California, South Carolina, Tennessee or Alabama. This is definitely impacting and increasing the workflow and job creation in those states.”

Don Maier, president and CEO, Armstrong Flooring, also feels his company is contributing to the increase in jobs in certain states. “Our domestic manufacturing supports local jobs, and we are a significant employer in many of the communities where our U.S. plants are located,” he stated.

Inherent challenges

Despite all the advantages to onshoring, there are some inherent challenges. The most prominent is the void associated with the rise in manufacturing job openings vs. the lack of a skilled workforce to fill those positions. Somerset’s Stringer can attest. “I think this new generation has frowned on factory work or production work,” he told FCNews. “Young people today want to work on computers or sit in front of a screen. They don’t see themselves doing physical labor.”

Vance Bell, chairman and CEO, Shaw Industries, concurs that finding employees in this modern age is difficult. However, he said, the company is trying to encourage people to work in this field. “We believe we have an opportunity to educate students about the rewarding careers available in manufacturing and the diversity of career paths they can take here at Shaw.”

But even in cases where you have skilled employees, there’s still somewhat of a learning curve—especially when opening up a new plant. “It’s extensive and it takes time to train people, to get equipment exactly how you want it,” Mannington’s Tuley said. “It’s a major undertaking to be able to do manufacturing in the U.S.”

Other challenges that suppliers face is the competitive pricing of products from overseas. “The most notable is the battle against cheap imports,” said Frank Douglas, vice president of business development, Crossville.

Some consumers, he noted, are indifferent when it comes to the whole Made in the USA movement, opting instead for less expensive goods.

Potential impact of tariffs

Many flooring industry executives say it’s too soon to tell whether policies instituted by the Trump Administration have helped accelerate domestic production (see related story on page 20). On some level, though, many feel the mere threat of U.S. tariffs on some Chinese imports could indeed enhance domestic production.

According to Gregg Link, senior director of product management, Dal-Tile, those who make products overseas may be at a disadvantage if these tariffs are enacted. But that’s a big if. “For those that don’t have manufacturing capability and have a heavier reliance on sourced goods—and in particular China—that’s obviously going to be something that they’re going to question,” he said. “I don’t think there’s any definite direction.”

American OEM’s Finkell sees the threat of tariffs on some imported goods as beneficial to Made in the USA. “I do believe that uncertainty around what President Trump will do with tariffs is helpful to the domestic industry. Prudent buyers are increasingly hedging their bets so as to not to have all of their eggs in the import basket if a trade war breaks out or significant tariffs are imposed on imported wood floors.”

Mannington’s Tuley is uncertain about the threats as well but feels those who onshore have the upper hand. “It’s so difficult to tell in our current environment what could happen. Certainly, tariffs could change the pricing structure of flooring products if they’re taxed in certain ways. And that could give companies that manufacture in the U.S. an advantage. But it’s so hard to predict what’s going to happen.”

Shaw’s Bell feels that regardless of whether the tariffs happen or not, Made in the USA is the way to go. “We just believe it makes economic sense for any company to have some level of in-market production for their products,” he said. “That is the overall trend globally.”

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Wood: State of the industry—Builder business, remodel sector propel category

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

By Reginald Tucker

 

Preliminary anecdotal information shows the hardwood flooring category grew between 3% and 4% in 2017, placing the estimated value of the category just north of $2.31 billion at the first point of distribution. That growth, manufacturer executives say, puts the category on par with the estimated growth of the industry as a whole but slightly above the total gross domestic product for the year.

In terms of volume, that growth estimate equates to roughly 930 million square feet, lifting the hardwood flooring category ever closer to the 1 billion-square-foot threshold.

Ask a roomful of hardwood flooring manufacturer executives to identify the root cause of this growth, and many will point to the strength of key end-use sectors here in the U.S. market.

“Single-family construction and residential replacement continue to be the core drivers of demand for hardwood,” said Dan Natkin, vice president, wood and laminates, Mannington.

Natalie Cady, hardwood category manager, Shaw Floors, agrees, citing consumption trends and demographic shifts. “Residential is driving the market, and for Shaw that means both single family and residential re-do. And as our single-family business grows, it has that wonderful trickle-down effect.”

By that, Cady means more people are able to get into a new home while sellers have been able to get better market value on their existing properties. As for the former, she is finding that many people strongly aspire to real hardwood and wood lookalikes. She also sees a direct correlation to influential purchasing segments. “Millennials want wood, and they are the No. 1 consumer right now. At the same time, the empty nesters are downsizing and finding they can afford hardwood flooring.”

But that doesn’t imply that it’s going to be smooth sailing. “For us, the driving factor is still the housing market,” said Wade Bondrowski, director of sales, U.S., Mercier Wood Flooring. “Although this segment is trending up, we are still below normal levels.”

Other executives are seeing hardwood growth across virtually all end-use sectors, including commercial specified and Main Street applications. “We think it is all of the above,” said Michael Bell, vice president, hardwood, Armstrong Flooring. “A more stable economic environment continues to steer the hardwood segment on a course of steady growth, with increases in demand in both the new construction and remodeling markets. We also see hardwood opportunities in the commercial marketplace.”

But that doesn’t mean all segments within the hardwood flooring category are growing at the same pace. When it comes to solid vs. engineered, for example—or even between subcategories within the engineered flooring offering—activity can be quite mixed. “While the wood category grew by low single digits in 2017, the growth rates were different between solid and engineered, with solids declining in overall volume and engineered growing by mid-single digits,” Mannington’s Natkin said.

It’s not that the solid segment of the hardwood flooring business is no longer an in-demand category. Truth be told, it still is preferred by many customers, home builders and designers in markets like the Northeast and Pacific Northwest. Rather, experts say, the rapid development and evolution of products that fall under the category of engineered floors is opening up opportunities even in hardcore solid markets.

“There’s never been more changes taking place in the wood flooring segment than what we’re seeing before our eyes right now,” Tom Lape, president, Mohawk Residential, told FCNews. “The biggest trend we’re seeing in the wood flooring segment today is a blurring of the lines within the product categories. For example, we’re clearly seeing many customers, dealers and consumers moving away from solid at a rate that has been running unabated for five years running and continues to accelerate. We see the engineered category evolving right in front of our eyes from what was historically a 5-ply construction format to an HDF product solution.”

Mohawk is so convinced that engineered wood flooring products based on an HDF core are quickly overtaking conventional, multi-ply hardwood flooring options that it is banking on wholesale consumer and end-user acceptance of the emerging format.

“When you see high-end custom builders and high-end production builders in the Northeast and Pacific Northwest coming off solid, it is eye-opening,” Lape said. “That’s not to say that people living out in the Hamptons are buying engineered. Solids are not going away, but where there is a reasonable trade off of in terms of cost, value, etc., I think you’re seeing the market accelerate the move to engineered.”

And all this plays to Mohawk’s strengths, according to Lape. “We try to focus on our game, which is leveraging our position as a true, integrated and vertical HDF engineered wood producer. Making all our own HDF internally gives us an advantage in terms of consistency and uniformity of the product. Second, we produce all those products here in North America, which gives us an advantage in terms of supply chain and reliability.”

For others, the continued migration from solid to engineered doesn’t necessarily spell the end of a category. While engineered floors offer opportunity for design innovation combined with installation flexibility, solids still have their place.

As Armstrong’s Bell explained: “The dynamics are different in solid vs. engineered. In engineered, we see much of the growth occurring on the bookends of the market with significant increases in the opening price point/value engineered products and the best/premium sliced- and sawn-face engineered products. Solid is similarly seeing increased activity on the best/premium side of the market.”

Innovation, Bell added, continues to happen across both structures. “While there is significant activity in engineered floors, we also see that solid wood flooring remains the go-to product in certain parts of the country and for key consumer segments.”

While it is generally accepted that consumer tastes differ by region and/or climate, some point to inherent limitations of solid products as an impediment to acceptance beyond the core solid markets. “With the demand and overall trend moving toward longer and wider, there are limitations you have with solids that are not there with engineered,” Shaw Floors’ Cady said, citing the tendency of solid floors to expand and contract more easily than engineered. “Having the ability to go longer/wider will help people move more toward engineered. Plus, with single-family home construction on the rise, that represents an increase in concrete slab construction—and that lends itself to engineered. At the end of the day, we believe the solid market—which includes both finished and unfinished product—is steady, not actually shrinking.”

With consumers continuing to ride the longer/wider wave, suppliers remain committed to giving them more of what they’re looking for. “The good story is the industry is not sitting still; we’re giving consumers more of what they want—wider and longer,” Mohawk’s Lape explained. “We’re selling planks up to 80 inches long and 9 inches wide, and we’re making better-performing products for contractors, retailers as well as consumers.”

While all this continues to play out, suppliers continue to fortify—and diversify—their product mix to ensure they have all the bases covered.

Over the past 18 months, for example, Quebec-based Wickham Hardwood introduced several new engineered offerings designed to complement its solid hardwood collections. According to Paul Rezuke, vice president residential sales, U.S., the breakdown seems to follow along geographic lines. “As part of our engineered strategy, we targeted two platforms based on a ½- and a ¾-inch format. We initially envisioned that the ½-inch product would be most suited for the U.S. market and the ¾-inch line for our Canadian business partners. What we are seeing is the demand in the U.S. market for a thicker platform appears to be on the rise. With this demand, we are projecting a significant demand for ¾-inch platform engineered products in our U.S. footprint.”

Tracking design trends

The shift in product preference within the hardwood flooring segment is not limited to the product’s core construction. Industry observers are also keeping a close eye on changing consumer tastes relative to color, species, surface texture and even board length and width. For many suppliers, staying ahead of consumer trends and anticipating what’s going to be the next big thing is akin to shooting after a moving target.

“The key is making sure we stay out in front in terms of styling and design,” Shaw Floors’ Cady said. “We’re still seeing the move toward longer, wider planks, but we are also seeing a move toward more traditional visuals. Instead of going into the European wide-oak visuals, we’re going back to basics by focusing on the natural characteristics of hardwood—meaning showcasing less texture and lighter colors so consumers can see the actual wood, not covering it up with dark stains.”

At the other end of the spectrum, some suppliers are seeing a mild resurgence in demand not for domestic species—which had been rising in popularity—but for exotic looks. With anecdotal information and consumer purchasing trends showing shoppers gravitating more toward home-grown species such as walnut, hickory and birch, to name a few, others—including companies like Ribadao Wood Boutique—say there’s still a viable market for imported product.

“We’re still very bullish on exotics, although it’s just one line that we offer,” Bruce Hammer, vice president of sales, said. “It’s true the U.S. market is nowhere near what it was for exotics about 10 years ago, but that doesn’t mean there’s no opportunity for us. We consider our products to be more ‘boutique’ offerings. It’s still a viable product line for us to be offering.”

Ongoing challenges

Hardwood flooring has long been linked to its ability to contribute to rising home values, and it remains—as suppliers argue—the product that many homeowners covet. But aggressive competition from competing “wood-look” visuals available with LVT, WPC, laminate and, now, ceramic is a cause for concern.

“The growth of wood-look products such as WPC is an issue,” Mannington’s Natkin said. “While cannibalization is minimal for the consumer who really desires hardwood, there is conversion for consumers who are not sure what product is right for them.”

Armstrong’s Bell is in agreement, adding that—with the exception of tile— most of these products cost less than real hardwood. Also at play, he said, is the fact that the quality of the visuals and textures has evolved so much that many consumers feel comfortable using these faux wood products instead of the real thing. “However, there is nothing that can truly compete with genuine hardwood from either a look or value equation. It is a great long-term investment and can actually become a strong resale argument, exceeding the initial installation cost of the floors. And, it’s organic, natural and renewable, and, of course, since it is natural, has less pattern repeat.”

Traditional, hardwood-only suppliers seem to be taking it in stride. As Wickham’s Rezuke explained, “Currently, WPC appears to be the category of the month. We’ve experienced this in the past with both laminate and LVT.  Our position remains that there will be new products that will present challenges. But in the long run, hardwood will always maintain a significant market share in the flooring industry.”

Those companies that supply the full range of competing hard surface materials believe all products can successfully coexist. But that doesn’t mean equal market share for all product segments.

“It’s an ongoing conversation with all flooring suppliers and it comes down to having products to fulfill consumer needs and wants, Shaw Floors’ Cady said.

But wood’s classification as a natural product also subjects the category to price fluctuations due to rising raw material costs. “We are seeing some upward pressure in raw material pricing,” Mannington’s Natkin said. “Certain regions are more dramatic than others.”

Armstrong, one of the suppliers to pass on increases to its customers earlier this month, also attributes the hikes to rising natural gas and electricity prices—all of which impact costs to power the plants. Bell doesn’t see any let-up in sight. “We expect this cost pressure to continue throughout 2018.”

Despite these challenges, suppliers are optimistic about the category’s prospects in 2018. “We predict the overall hardwood category will have a moderate growth rate of 3%-5% this year,” said Brad Williams, vice president of sales and marketing for Boa-Franc, maker of the Mirage brand. “We feel our greatest opportunity continues to be within our existing network. We will continue try to understand our customers’ needs and focus on creating opportunities for them.”

Don Finkell, president and CEO, American OEM, is confident the category will grow by at least 6% this year, surpassing the rate of growth achieved in 2017. The prospects look even better from an internal standpoint, he noted. “I expect our company to more than double that growth rate at about 12% to 15%. “We are adding new products for our existing distributors, building on our private-label programs and developing coverage of our new Hearthwood brand. Plus, we will be adding more domestically made products to our Hemisphere brand.”

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Mohawk takes SmartStrand to the next level with Forever Clean

Forever Clean is next generation of triexta

By Jenna Lippin

Photo by Ronda Churchill www.rondachurchill.comOrlando—How do you make a great product even better? In the case of Mohawk’s revolutionary SmartStrand carpet, the answer is responding to consumers’ greatest needs by exponentially increasing the product’s performance attributes.

According to Tom Lape, president of Mohawk Residential, SmartStrand has been the largest initiative in the 136-year history of Mohawk since the product’s launch 10 years ago. “But it’s not only about history; it’s about what we are doing next. SmartStrand represents a decade of innovation, and it’s about to get a whole lot better. Innovators look to where they can go.”

Launched in 2005, SmartStrand is made of triexta, which was the first newly classified fiber by the FCC in over 50 years. Two years later, SmartStrand became the carpet industry’s first bio-based product. Most recently, SmartStrand Silk, unveiled in 2012, set the standard in premium soft carpet. More than 7 million homes have been installed with SmartStrand in the past decade.

So, where does Mohawk go with SmartStrand, or, as Lape put it, “How do you make the best carpet on the planet even better?” Answer: “You make it easier to clean, easier to maintain and easier to enjoy.”

As such, on Dec. 5 Mohawk took the wraps off SmartStrand Forever Clean at its annual Solutions convention for aligned dealers here. Forever Clean is billed as the “toughest, easiest to clean carpet on the planet.” And, to prove that statement, the company is partnering with the Tough Mudder competition (see sidebar), the latest in a long line of creative marketing campaigns—Ricko the Rhino, License to Spill and SmartStrand Unleashed are some of Mohawk’s challenges that have put SmartStrand to the test.

The new secret sauce within Forever Clean is Nanoloc technology, the latest proprietary stain-fighting innovation from Mohawk, which adds a layer of protection to “lock out” spills and increase cleanability. “We worked on [Nanoloc] for several years to make it compatible with triexta, and we now have developed it to the point that with both permanency and effectiveness, we have a protection system that is literally unparalleled,” Lape said.

Because SmartStrand, or triexta, inherently has permanent, built-in protection, Mohawk has taken safeguard to another level with Nanoloc, making SmartStrand Forever Clean both stain resistant and easier to maintain. “With carpet today, maintenance is one of the biggest challenges the industry has residentially, so we [want to] make it easier for the consumer to clean and maintain her product,” Lape added. “Lower impact maintenance is the goal we have for next generation.”

In testing the Nanoloc technology with regular vacuuming and standardized soil, it was found that carpet with the protective treatment will release up to three times more soil than with a standard nylon or polyester product. When steam cleaned, triexta with Nanoloc exhibited the highest rates Mohawk has had in terms of efficacy rates, Lape said.

“We’ve tried to come up with a protection system using nano-based technology, and the whole point is that we want something that is not only going to give the benefit of repellency but long-term repellence, ease of maintenance and, most important, the improvement on soil release, which is the biggest breakthrough we’ve had with Nanoloc.”

Mohawk chemical engineer Jim Williams helped develop the breakthrough technology. He explained how triexta has low surface energy, meaning “it doesn’t like to have stuff stick to it, so we had to work really hard to come up with the right material we could put on SmartStrand. The particular material that we’ve used to coat the fiber is very durable, but, more importantly, it is flexible; it moves with the fiber. It isn’t a hard protectant, which oftentimes with foot traffic or heavier use will chip off into particles and go away. [Nanoloc] is the next-generation chemistry around protecting carpet fiber.”

David Duncan, senior vice president of marketing and sales operations, explained the new technology as providing two lines of defense: surface cleanability and core protection. According to Duncan, Photo by Ronda Churchillwww.rondachurchill.comMohawk has solved both problems with SmartStrand Forever Clean.

“The first line of defense is if I spill something, can I clean it up quickly? Typically if you buy a carpet treated with topical stain protection, you’ve got a good line of defense at first. But over time, what happens to the first line of defense? It starts to wear down. Then you’re left with the second line of defense, that core protection, which is really what SmartStrand has always had in its DNA.”

To help demonstrate this to consumers, Mohawk has armed 400 of its sales representatives with Carpet Performance Simplified kits that will allow them to take the Forever Clean message to 12,000 customers. Each demo box will include red dye, carpet samples and jars of water and cleaning solution, exhibiting Forever Clean’s exceptional cleanability and stain and wear resistance.

The brand architecture with SmartStrand went from SmartStrand Silk at the top of the offerings, to SmartStrand Ultra, featuring an advanced warranty attribute, and SmartStrand, the base product. Going forward, the brands will be marketed to consumers as SmartStrand Silk Forever Clean, SmartSTrand Ultra Forever Clean and SmartStrand Forever Clean.

There is good reason for Mohawk to expand its SmartStrand brand. According to the company, 90% of its retail partners surveyed said they will sell more SmartStrand next year over this year. With consumers, 95% who have put SmartStrand in their homes are satisfied, which Lape noted is “astoundingly high. Nine out of 10 will purchase the product again. Why? Comfort underfoot, protection against spills and ease of maintenance.”

For Mohawk’s builder and multi-family line, the new product will be dubbed SmartStrand Nanolock, “our strategy and positioning is more technical for that side of the business,” Lape said.

Every SmartStrand carpet purchased today is now SmartStrand Forever Clean. Mohawk has transformed the collection and incorporated this new innovation in every square yard that is shipped, effective immediately. A point-of-sale kit will be sent to Aligned retailers immediately after Solutions so they can promote in-store that all SmartStrand products are now SmartStrand Forever Clean.

“We will have plenty of point-of-sale materials immediately,” Duncan noted. “All hands on deck, 100% total immersion.”

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Mohawk, Atlanta Habitat celebrate partnership

IMG_7827Calhoun, Ga. — On Aug. 2, Mohawk Flooring and Atlanta Habitat for Humanity will celebrate the fifth year of their mutual ongoing commitment to affordable housing in Atlanta with the installation of flooring in Mohawk’s 150th Habitat house.

Mohawk began its partnership with the nonprofit in 2009 when a Mohawk retailer— who continues to help Habitat with its installations—reached out to Mohawk for assistance with an Atlanta Habitat project. Mohawk donated carpet and pad for several homes that first year, and the retailer’s request ultimately led to the current relationship between the two organizations. Today, Mohawk provides carpet, padding and resilient products for the many homes Habitat builds or refurbishes annually.

Mohawk’s involvement with Habitat is multi-faceted. Mohawk Group, the commercial division of the company, contributed all the carpet used throughout Habitat Atlanta’s new headquarters this year. Additionally, Mohawk employees have participated in numerous Atlanta Habitat projects, including the Lofton family home—Mohawk’s 150th.  Finally, at the owners’ closing, Mohawk Home presents new Habitat homeowners with “Welcome Home” kits containing bath and floor mats.

“Our commitment to Habitat and actively helping our local communities permeates our entire organization,” said Michel Vermette, senior vice president of commercial and international for Mohawk. “Our corporate contributions meet specific Habitat material needs, and our employees donate their time and labor in other areas where assistance is needed. In fact, Habitat projects serve as excellent team-building events for our business.”

“People at all levels of the company connect with Habitat, share its vision and support its mission,” added Tom Lape, president of Mohawk residential. “For years, our employees from both Mohawk commercial and residential divisions have arrived at work sites ready to help with anything from building and raising the walls to landscaping. They consistently participate wherever and however they can to make every project a success.”

Because Atlanta Habitat homes are designed to be affordable, well-built and environmentally friendly, Mohawk furnishes them with EverStrand carpet containing up to 100 percent recycled content.  In addition to its affordability and green advantages, EverStrand is inherently stain-free and easy to clean, giving homeowners the perfect balance of value, beauty and sustainability.

“We feel that Mohawk’s core strengths—developing and using the right products to make homes more beautiful, comfortable and livable—naturally tie in with Atlanta Habitat’s goal of building quality affordable housing for local families and promoting successful home ownership,” Vermette said. “Aligning our values and philanthropic initiatives with those of neighboring groups maximizes our effectiveness in our community and we look forward to continuing our partnership with Habitat to better the areas in which we all live and work.”

 

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State of the industry: Carpet pulse leaves room for growth

by Louis Iannaco

As the third quarter of 2012 came to a close, FCNews spoke with major players in the carpet industry regarding business, particularly this year’s challenges, consumer trends, technological advances, and predictions on how the year will finish up along with projections for next year.

The general consensus is a familiar story, for the most part: Sales are neutral or flat overall with some small spurts and the potential for growth in the future. Mohawk’s president of residential and commercial, Tom Lape, said, 2012 has not lived up to the anticipated demand the industry thought it would see. “Business began a little stronger in the early part of the year, but that momentum has not sustained from an overall perspective.” Continue reading State of the industry: Carpet pulse leaves room for growth

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Corporate, healthcare fuel commercial business

But lack of public funding stalls institutional

by Steven Feldman

It wasn’t too long ago the flooring industry was lamenting a downturn in the commercial market as the re-cession that decimated the residential side of the business began to spread like wildfire. But those days seem to be in the rear-view mirror as commercial flooring posted low-single digit growth in 2011. Knowledgeable observers pinned the growth anywhere from 2.5% to 5% in dollars, a little less in units. Continue reading Corporate, healthcare fuel commercial business

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Executive forecast: Carpet mills continue to invest in technology, hope for a turnaround

Carpet mills continue to invest in technology, hope for a turnaround

 

By Louis Iannaco

 

In broadloom, it continues to be about the housing market and, according to mill execs, jobs. 2011 can best be described as flat, and as for what executives see for 2012, all indicators continue to point to housing/the economy and unemployment as key indicators for the category’s health.

This is not to say mills have not invested in themselves, and plan to do so in the coming year with technology and social media playing major roles. A light at the end of the proverbial tunnel continues to be commercial, which once again fared better than residential. Continue reading Executive forecast: Carpet mills continue to invest in technology, hope for a turnaround