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Opportunities aplenty in Main Street market

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

By Ken Ryan

 

Main Street has been growing in importance as a strategic channel for flooring dealers and manufacturers for the past several years, thanks in large part to a healthy small business climate that is fostering growth. Along with that demand, observers say, comes the need for versatile flooring materials.

There are many theories as to why Main Street has risen in importance. Some executives cite the versatility of the Main Street channel in which small business owners are now exposed to a greater array of affordable flooring alternatives.

Al Boulogne, vice president, commercial resilient business, Mannington, believes Main Street is dynamic because of the vast amount of “touches” it gets in the market. “Any retail location, regardless of size, has the chance to be a hub of profitable commercial sales locally,” he explained. “Commercial spaces also have a huge variety of requirements. Offering a diverse portfolio of flooring types is critical to win.”

Getting residentially focused store owners and salespeople to see the opportunity that Main Street commercial presents takes a concentrated effort to educate, train and re-educate. At the retail level, this requires a sales team committed to guiding the customer to the right product for the application, experts say.

Brandon Kersey, hard surface and commercial brand manager for Engineered Floors, said the continued rapid movement in Main Street toward carpet tile and away from broadloom is the single largest factor in the segment’s recent growth. “As Main Street customers who have traditionally used broadloom get more exposure to carpet tile, they begin to understand the key advantages such as ease of installation, less disruption to end users’ business, ease of removal, styling options from carpet tile’s inherent modularity and high-performance backing systems,” he said.

Steven Erhlich, vice president of sales and marketing, Novalis Innovative Flooring, suggests the growth has more to do with macro trends. For example, he sees three factors driving Main Street: the home office, a stronger economy and greater design versatility.

“More people are working from home than ever before, so they are turning bedrooms, bonus rooms, garages and basements into workspaces in need of flooring solutions that are more business-oriented in performance and design. Second, there is a healthy small business climate; and third is greater design flexibility. The growing availability and promotion of business at the retail level is in turn driving the demand and sourcing for these solutions by small business with retailers.”

In just the last two years, several mills have jumped headlong into the Main Street space, in some cases offering multiple products. Phenix Flooring, which had considered the Main Street market for a few years, finally took the plunge in January. “We saw a natural fit for our brand and therefore created a full-home flooring solution through both our traditional hard and soft surface offerings,” said Jason Hair, vice president of hard surface. “We saw a successful launch of our first collection—Phenix on Main—at this past Surfaces and continue to hear good things about the products we’re offering in this space.”

The Phenix collection features olefin and nylon products in broadloom, carpet tile and carpet plank solutions as well as a complementary hard surface offering. The collection will be displayed in nine architect folders. In total, the collection includes 10 carpet options and Point of View, a luxury vinyl hard surface offering that comes in both plank and tile in 15 colors.

Stanton Carpet entered the commercial Main Street market in January with Stanton St. Decorative Commercial. The line features 17 products, including four carpet tile offerings, a first for the company.

“We always liked the idea of getting into commercial, but it had to match our identity,” said Jonathan Cohen, CEO. “This fits for us. We can be competitive with price, and as long as we stay decorative we feel like we can have a place within the market.”

Foss Flooring said it is doubling down on offering products for the home or business. Its signature carpet tiles feature a unique peel-and-stick installation with no VOCs, “which makes a quick turnaround for any small business installation possible, so they can get back to generating revenue,” Brian Warren, executive vice president of sales and marketing, explained.

Foss’ new style, Manhattan, has been the most successful new product launch in its history, Warren noted. Available in 24 x 24 tiles, as well as broadloom, the line is positioned as an ideal Main Street product.

By offering a broad portfolio of choices, observers say Main Street retailers are uniquely positioned to provide a one-stop shop for commercial products. “We offer that portfolio of products that are crafted with purpose,” Mannington’s Boulogne said. “That means those products are made with a relentless focus on design, uncompromising quality and a [range] of options for the best solution to fit the need. We aren’t pushing a single category. We have the ability to listen to customers who come to Main Street, understand their challenges and then consult with them to pick the best solution for the space.”

While the USFloors’ sales teams primarily focus on specialty retail, the Main Street jobs may — and do — happen. “We do not focus or drive marketing/ merchandising in that category,” said Jamann Stepp, director of marketing and product management. Among the COREtec collections that have Main Street applications are Pro Plus and Pro Plus Enhanced with SPC cores, he noted. Engineered Floors’ commitment to the steadily growing carpet tile market is most evident in its new state-of-the-art carpet tile plant, which will serve all commercial applications including Main Street. Meanwhile, the mill will continue to launch nylon products with styling and performance characteristics that are equivalent to products that are priced significantly higher than its commercial Pentz offerings.

Novalis has made a strong push in Main Street with a bevy of new offerings. Its NovaFloor line has a definite Main Street flair, and Abberly has tile designs and accents suitable for retail spaces. Likewise, its Davidson and Birkdale collections are designed for public spaces, offices and shops with high styling and durability. Novalis’ new rigid core products, including Serenbe HDC, Lyndon HDC and NovaCore HPC, are also finding interest from Main Street customers who have praised the offerings for their styling and ease of installation over imperfect subfloor conditions.

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My take: Award of Excellence—Behind the winners

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

By Steven Feldman

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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Latest bamboo, cork intros stir visual interest

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

By Lindsay Baillie

 

Touting qualities such as durability, comfort underfoot and water resistance, cork and bamboo products provide the industry with eco-friendly flooring suitable for both residential and commercial applications.

Following is an overview of some of the newest cork and bamboo innovations that promise to captivate consumers not only with updated visuals, but also with reasonable price points.

Bamboo Hardwoods

Bamboo Hardwoods’ new Symphony line features a hybrid of rigid core with a natural strand woven bamboo wear layer. The line combines the natural beauty of authentic bamboo floors with a waterproof rigid core allowing for installations in even the most undesirable locations.

Symphony is available in 72 x 51⁄8 x 9⁄32 planks and features a four-sided Uniclic locking system. Its 1.2mm strand woven bamboo veneer is wire brushed and stained. Symphony will be available in June in two colors: anise and currant.

Torlys

CorkWood brings together the look of wood, the durability of laminate and the comfort of cork. It comes in two collections: CorkWood Designer, which features 6-foot planks in nine colors, and CorkWood Elite, available in planks spanning nearly 4-feet long and five colors. CorkWood is engineered with a HDF smart core for dent resistance and a 3mm (Designer) or 2.5mm (Elite) thick top layer of compressed cork. It also includes the Torlys CorkPlus attached underlayment for added warmth and sound insulation.


WE Cork

WE Cork’s Corkoleum is a 3mm rolled cork flooring with a rubber and cork base and a cork veneer. Ideal for glue-down applications, Corkoleum is a very low, thin product. Made up of mainly cork, the flooring is marketed as being quiet, comfortable, warm and water resistant. Corkoleum is ideal for wet areas in both residential and commercial settings.

Also from WE Cork is a line of wall panels available for both residential and commercial applications. Available in two different visuals—brick, which comes in three different colors, and bark—WE Cork’s line of wall panels can be used for decorative purposes as well as a sound insulator.

Wellmade

Wellmade unveils a variety of new bamboo looks as part of its Opti-Wood flooring collection. Opti-Wood couples the performance virtues of rigid core flooring technology with real bamboo or hardwood wear layer veneers. The product features Wellmade’s Hydri-HDPC technology, a moisture protection system that seals out topical moisture and boasts a 100% waterproof HDPC core.

Wellmade’s new bamboo flooring is just over 5 inches wide, 48-plus inches long and 8.5mm thick, and features the Uniclic locking system. Colors range from traditional carbonized to multi-color and character-driven glazing options.

Cali Bamboo

Cali Bamboo has launched GeoWood, an engineered hardwood floor combining real timber layered over GeoCore—Cali’s stabilizing limestone composite foundation. The design layer atop each GeoWood plank is up to 1.2mm thick and features sustainably farmed bamboo and lumber from Lacey Act-compliant managed forests.

Made with AquaDefy technology, GeoWood boasts proven moisture protection, making it ideal for bathrooms, kitchens and below-grade spaces such as basements. Shielded by a 10-coat scratch resistant finish, GeoWood is ideal for spaces with heavy traffic, large dogs and the wear and tear of everyday life.

USFloors

USFloors’ current Cork Canvas collection is a digitally enhanced cork floor that features travertine decors. Digitally enhanced cork floors provide the beauty, depth and texture consumers expect in a natural stone or hardwood floor while maintaining the advantages of cork.

This flooring uses digital print technology to capture the colors, nuances, grains and textures of real stone and hardwood. These visuals are printed directly on a cork top layer, which is applied to an HDF core. A durable, embossed hot coat finish is applied to the cork top layer, while additional cork is added as an attached underlayment.

Wicanders

Wicanders Cork GO is a budget-friendly floating floor made with the company’s cork double layer. The collection comes in 10 cork visuals and contains all the signature Corktech benefits found in Wicanders’ products. Cork GO acts as a noise buffer between the floor and the rooms underneath and reduces walking sound up to 53%. The floor also acts as natural thermal insulation.

Cork GO provides a unique comfort in movement, even when walking barefoot. It also has a longer life span due to its elasticity, compressibility and ability to absorb high shocks

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Rigid core continues to set new standards

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

By Ken Ryan

 

Even seasoned flooring executives are stunned at the growth of the rigid core subsegment that burst onto the scene less than two years ago and has morphed into a super cell of flooring.

Jimmy Tuley, vice president, residential resilient business, Mannington, just returned from Domotex Asia where he saw scores of new entries. “We saw combinations of wood on rigid core; some with mineral core to give it different properties… there is a lot of innovation happening. The pace of change right now is just amazing, unbelievable really.”

Jeff Francis, resilient category manager, Shaw Industries, and a 14-year industry veteran, added, “The rate of change in resilient rigid core is so significant it is challenging just to stay ahead of the pace. Based on the velocity of growth, I don’t see it receding at all.”

Francis said he sees rigid core continuing to take market share from soft surface as well as hard surface—laminate, wood and even glue-down LVT. “We see growth accelerating, and in the next 12-24 months, even as fast as the innovation is coming, we see more of it.”

David Sheehan, senior vice president, product management, Mohawk resilient, said he has been “astounded” by the growth of rigid vinyl. “It is definitely a product that has become the darling of the industry. Just as LVT in general was the go-to product for RSAs and dealers, rigid has become that go-to product.”

Rigid core, or SPC (solid polymer core), is made of a composite core construction, a step up from solid LVT, with a higher filler content and higher density without any foaming agent creating air bubbles in the core. The result is a thinner, harder and stiffer plank. Rigid core products are primarily suitable where higher indentation resistance is required and extensive exposure to sunlight/heat can occur.

This broad definition does not stop flooring companies from putting their own marketing spin on their iterations.

Following is a look at some of the newest offerings in rigid core flooring.

Armstrong

Rigid Core Vantage from Armstrong Flooring includes such features as registered embossing in elongated 9 x 60 and 7 x 60 planks and accentuated painted bevels. The line comes with a commercial-specified 20-mil wear layer and urethane coating, and is noted for its dent resistance thanks to a solid polymer core. Vantage is supported by a premium natural cork underlayment for reduced sound transmission. Armstrong said installing Rigid Core Vantage has been made easier with a new drop-lock system. It has been tested for use in fully enclosed three-season rooms where the expected post-installation temperature range falls between 32°F and 100°F. Rigid Core Vantage will be available to retailers in June.

CFL/FirmFit

FirmFit XXL boasts long and wide planks featuring synchronized embossed-in-register technology. “FirmFit was one of the first to launch long and wide rigid core planks that feature an extremely realistic embossed and register synchronized texture in a large way,” said Thomas Baert, CFL president. “The rigid core category is moving forward extremely fast and improving style and designs, which is bringing the category closer to real wood looks and textures. FirmFit XXL is the next step.”

FirmFit XXL, which will be in stores early summer, is backed by warranties on performance on massive installation surfaces without use of transition moldings. It is dent resistant and sun proof.

Congoleum

Triversa’s triple-layer construction delivers exceptional durability with a 20-mil wear layer, stability through a waterproof rigid core and versatility with cork backing for sound mitigation. A SmartLock clic system allows for easy floating installations. Triversa ID offers extensive design options, including mixed-width woods, longer planks, enhanced edge treatments and tile visuals.

Dixie Group

Dixie is one of the newest entrants into the rigid core space but is determined to make a lasting impression, according to Dan Phelan, vice president of marketing and hard surfaces. For 2018, the Dixie Home and Masland brands are coming out with 16 new offerings, all Stainmaster PetProtect with action traction. “We are filling in some gaps in colorations,” Phelan said. “We have fashion-forward colors in gray and taupe, and we are now adding heavier distressed looks.” New size options in Dixie Home (7 x 60) and Masland (5 x 60) are in addition to a 9 x 60 offered by both. Masland’s Big Sky line offers a 28-mil wear layer.

What’s different here is the company’s path to market is through limited retail distribution. As Phelan explained, “Do you want to enter the market for the sake of entering, or do you want to enter with something special? Stainmaster adds to our position in the marketplace. It’s working for us, and our limited distribution model is very powerful. We’re off to a really good start.”

EarthWerks

Noble Classic Plus SPC from EarthWerks boasts an array of high-dimension oak patterns with EIR. The assortment comes in 8 x 48 planks as well as a 9.5 x 60 tile for an even more dramatic appearance—each with cushion backing.

For customers looking for a glue-down application, these same designs and sizes are also available in a 3mm x 20 mil dry back version called Wood Classic II.

Inhaus

Sono is Inhaus’ latest innovation in waterproof dimensionally stable flooring. The German-made product comes with proprietary technology and features high-definition digital printing. The printing process enables vastly improved color variations and a 5% plank repeat, the company said, resulting in a uniquely appealing installation. The core is highly resistant to heat and cold, is waterproof and has an angle fold locking system for ease of installation. The patented ceramic composite core is free of PVCs, formaldehyde and all other additives.

IVC

Urbane, which will be launched in the second quarter through distribution, will be part of IVC’s rebranded Waterproof Solutions display, which replaces Moduleo. Sheehan explained the company is trying to communicate the inherent waterproof nature of the offerings with the three-product display that also includes Horizon and Embellish. Described as a classic flexible offering, Horizon is a 20 mil, 4.5mm construction available in click and glue down. The trade up is Embellish, a flexible LVT that Sheehan called a very significant offering. “We’re not labeling the products, we’re creating a good/better/best trade-up story,” he said.

Urbane is a rigid offering that IVC expects will drive a lot of traffic and enthusiasm. Glass is used to make the product more dimensionally stable. All three products are suitable for three-season rooms capable of handling extreme temperatures.

Mannington

Tuley said he sees the WPC and SPC segments “splitting” as new technologies emerge to create separation. AduraMax Prime is an SPC targeted at the builder/multifamily segment. AduraMax Apex offers a long and wide plank and is embossed with a painted bevel. Mannington also plans to launch Adura Rigid, an SPC with pad attached. “For the most part, these products are variations or improvements on LVT to solve very particular problems,” Tuley said.

Marquis

Marquis’ newest rigid core product offering, Geneva, provides a print with great color movement and depth. Featuring multi-width look patterns representing a new urban twist to a rustic look, Geneva comes in a 7 x 48 board with a 4mm SPC core and 20 mil ceramic bead wear layer finished with a 1.5mm closed-cell IXPE attached cushion.

Metroflor

Engage Inception, Metroflor’s new SPC product, expands the company’s portfolio of LVT flooring solutions that address all relevant categories—glue down and a variety of floating platforms such as Grip-Strip (Konecto), Solid Vinyl Clic (Engage), WPC (Engage Genesis) and now SPC (Engage Inception).

The new Engage Inception line is intended to serve as an entry-level, SPC product suitable for multifamily, residential and commercial environments dependent on the wear layer chosen. It is stiffer and denser than WPC, offering favorable dimensional stability characteristics, thereby enabling greater resistance to temperature changes and indentations. Beyond improved dent resistance, the premium attached high-density polyethylene foam underlayment provides sound absorption, reduces transmitted sound and foot fatigue and helps to conceal subfloor imperfections.

Mohawk

2018 promises to be a big year for Mohawk in the area of rigid core. Starting with SolidTech, its flagship line with less than one full year in the market, Mohawk is readying a slew of new rigid offerings from its U.S. production facility that will be a fully integrated rigid core plant. “Customers are getting in line for this,” Sheehan said. “Mohawk has invested a huge amount of capital toward this category. We feel we have the right products and are positioned well in each of our channels.”

Due out soon is True Design, a collection of neat visuals with features such as EIR, painted bevels and longer planks. Within the collection, Blended Tones boasts a 22-mil wear layer with a painted bevel. “The reason we do embossed in register is not to prove to the market that we can do it, but to make the product look real,” Sheehan explained. “We feel we have done that with the True Design collection.”

Both the second and third quarters will be active for Mohawk as it aggressively expands its rigid portfolio. As Sheehan explained, “If rigid is the fastest growing segment, the only way to keep pace and grow your market share is to aggressively invest in your category. We are going to aggressively expand our offering and grab market share with the right product along with the right visuals and price points.”

Karndean

Korlok Select, the company’s rigid core line, took two years to develop but was worth the wait, according to Emil Mellow, director of public relations. “Everything we put in there is top end.”

Korlok’s rigid core line comes fully equipped with K-Core technology, a pre-attached acoustic underlayment, K-Guard+ surface protection, HoldFast 5G locking mechanism and warranty. Its 9 x 56 plank matches that of other suppliers. “We found that anything longer than that logistically doesn’t work for a couple of reasons,” Mellow stated. “The box size becomes too heavy and unwieldy to handle, the retail shelf bins are not big enough to accommodate the planks, and the installation becomes very difficult. You need two people and that defeats the whole purpose of easy assembly.”

While most companies, including Karndean, attach numerous bells and whistles to their rigid core products, occasionally they dial back the features to hit a desired price point. That was the case with the Reserve line, which comes out in May. It launches with a stacker option or waterfall display for dealers.

Novalis

Its newest rigid core product, Serenbe, is part of the NovaFloor line with high density core (HDC) technology. It has 24 styles in planks and tiles—including a new 12 x 36 tile. Serenbe also features Novalis’ newest advancement in protection, patent-pending NovaShield.

NovaFloor HDC is an extruded solid vinyl that provides all the popular attributes of rigid core: waterproof, dent resistance and ease of installation over common subfloor imperfections. “We equipped it with an attached foam underlayment as a sound barrier and added comfort underfoot,” said Steve Erlich, vice president of sales and marketing. “So, if you’re a dealer, you will want this product line on your retail floor. It’s the whole package.”

Phenix

Bold Statement from Phenix is a Stainmaster PetProtect SPC in seven colors, five planks and two tile options. Velocity is a 9 x 60 SPC rigid core that combines Corex technology with an EVA foam backing to eliminate additional underlayment. “Both products have some unique features and benefits,” said Chris Johnson, senior vice president of sales. “Our Bold Statement is [among] the only PetProtect SPCs on the market. It also has the Stainmaster PetProtect finish, so it provides superior scratch resistance and pet action traction.”

Velocity is a 22-mil product that is extra wide and long but is also available in a 12 x 24 tile. “We have worked hard to develop a rich and diverse color palette for both products, so just about any home can find something within Velocity that fits their space,” Johnson said.

Quick-Step

EnduraTek and EnduraTek Ultra, the company’s newest rigid core offerings, will be sold through distribution. These unique tile visuals are constructed of an internally routed grout line that renders the product incredibly real, according to the company. “It gives the visual appearance of a 12 x 24, when in fact it is a 12 x 48 plank.” EnduraTek Ultra is slated for the second quarter. “We have rigid flowing everywhere,” Sheehan said.

Raskin

Raskin Industries is promoting its eight-layer rigid construction in which each layer is engineered to provide more stability. “It’s the best of both worlds—waterproof rigid with no air or foam, and no adhesives since we fuse the layers as we use heat and pressure,” said Michael Raskin, president. “It’s critical to have multiple layers.”

A new product, Solid Gencore, is made from Raskin’s proprietary acrylic composite structure used as its core layer to provide maximum stability and impact resistance. “Acrylx has no foam or air, making it denser than a WPC-type multilayer product. We use advanced technology-grade resins that are used specifically to provide stability against heat and cold temperatures.”

New to the market is Acrylx Select, available in five colors. The line is meant to be price competitive with the added benefits of soundproof backing and anti-mildew. It is 100% waterproof as well. Lumination Velocity, another new offering, will have 10 colors in a 4mm with a 1mm Gcore backing. This collection will include registered embossing and will be showcased in a new display with large boards. The line consists of stone, multi-plank looks and 60-inch planks. “It’s hard to differentiate, so it’s important to sell the latest and best technology that will stand up to the hype,” Raskin said. “We feel our product construction and ability to design the colors and styles that sell will offer customers the right products.”

Shaw

Shaw Industries is another major mill that has invested heavily in the rigid core business primarily with Floorte.

Floorte Pro, a new tile rigid core product, launched with 20 SKUs. The waterproof, click product features a lacquer bevel. “There is a trend toward smaller grout lines, which we can do with this product,” Francis said. “The response has been great. This opens it up to mud rooms and bathrooms.”

Overall, Floorte Pro offers a diverse portfolio of visuals ranging from hardwood to tile looks. Mineral Mix, for example, strikes a balance between contemporary concrete and linear metal looks for a chic aesthetic. Each tile has visual grout applied for a quick installation that does not require traditional grout. Blue Ridge Pine is a rich heart pine visual that captures the contrast, character and uniqueness found in natural hardwood.

Tarkett

Tarkett’s new ProGen collection is the next generation of rigid core luxury vinyl flooring that provides superior impact and indentation resistance. The product also demonstrates superior durability over traditional WPC, according to the company.

ProGen’s unique compact core design makes installation easy by providing the flexibility to adjust to tight spaces, while maintaining enough rigidity to allow for installation over imperfect subfloors. This new collection has a 20-mil, commercial-grade wear layer and enhanced polyurethane layer that allow ProGen to resist scratches and the rigors of modern life. In addition, its high-density foam backing reduces unwanted noise.

USFloors

Piet Dossche, founder and CEO, said there were 65 Chinese manufacturers exhibiting rigid core products at Domotex Hannover in January, a testament to the incredible momentum of the subcategory. “This is not a fad, this is just the beginning,” he said at a recent symposium. “Composite waterproof flooring will be the high double-digit growth engine in hard surfaces for the next five years.”

To that end, USFloors is striving to keep its market-share-leading position among suppliers. The company launched COREtec Pro Plus in Q4 2017 and COREtec Pro Plus Enhanced in January. Both are of SPC construction. USFloors will introduce COREtec Stone in the summer with upwards of 40 SKUs. “Attention to detail and design is what makes Pro Plus and Pro Plus Enhanced stand out from the crowd,” said Jamann Stepp, director of marketing and product management. COREtec Pro collections include a double extrusion process with a 1mm cork attached pad. Pro Plus Enhanced also incorporates a four-sided enhanced beveled edge for added realism. As for the forthcoming COREtec Stone, attention to detail will again be key. “The decors, including the tech and spec data that is employed in the Pro Plus collections, along with a proprietary protective coating to prevent scratching and abrasion, will set COREtec Stone apart from the rest,” Stepp said. “We see COREtec Stone as tile reinvented.”

Wellmade

Wellmade continues to expand its Nouveax en vogue HDPC vinyl plank collection. The rigid core features Wellmade’s co-extrusion technology and includes standard and wide/long plank options. Wear layers are available in 8-, 12-, and 20-mil options. Wellmade has added new design options for 2018, including character-driven muted gray and brown tones with enhanced texturing on the hardwood side, and contemporary travertine looks in stone. “Dealers have pleased with our competitive pricing, ease of installation and superior overall performance,” said Steve Wagner, director of marketing.

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Resilient: Rigid core continues to set new standards

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

By Ken Ryan

 

Even seasoned flooring executives are stunned at the growth of the rigid core subsegment that burst onto the scene less than two years ago and has morphed into a super cell of flooring.

Jimmy Tuley, vice president, residential resilient business, Mannington, just returned from Domotex Asia where he saw scores of new entries. “We saw combinations of wood on rigid core; some with mineral core to give it different properties... there is a lot of innovation happening. The pace of change right now is just amazing, unbelievable really.”

Jeff Francis, resilient category manager, Shaw Industries, and a 14-year industry veteran, added, “The rate of change in resilient rigid core is so significant it is challenging just to stay ahead of the pace. Based on the velocity of growth, I don’t see it receding at all.”

Francis said he sees rigid core continuing to take market share from soft surface as well as hard surface—laminate, wood and even glue-down LVT. “We see growth accelerating, and in the next 12-24 months, even as fast as the innovation is coming, we see more of it.”

David Sheehan, senior vice president, product management, Mohawk resilient, said he has been “astounded” by the growth of rigid vinyl. “It is definitely a product that has become the darling of the industry. Just as LVT in general was the go-to product for RSAs and dealers, rigid has become that go-to product.”

Rigid core, or SPC (solid polymer core), is made of a composite core construction, a step up from solid LVT, with a higher filler content and higher density without any foaming agent creating air bubbles in the core. The result is a thinner, harder and stiffer plank. Rigid core products are primarily suitable where higher indentation resistance is required and extensive exposure to sunlight/heat can occur.

This broad definition does not stop flooring companies from putting their own marketing spin on their iterations.

Following is a look at some of the newest offerings in rigid core flooring.


Armstrong
Rigid Core Vantage from Armstrong Flooring includes such features as registered embossing in elongated 9 x 60 and 7 x 60 planks and accentuated painted bevels. The line comes with a commercial-specified 20-mil wear layer and urethane coating, and is noted for its dent resistance thanks to a solid polymer core. Vantage is supported by a premium natural cork underlayment for reduced sound transmission. Armstrong said installing Rigid Core Vantage has been made easier with a new drop-lock system. It has been tested for use in fully enclosed three-season rooms where the expected post-installation temperature range falls between 32°F and 100°F. Rigid Core Vantage will be available to retailers in June.

CFL/FirmFit
FirmFit XXL boasts long and wide planks featuring synchronized embossed-in-register technology. “FirmFit was one of the first to launch long and wide rigid core planks that feature an extremely realistic embossed and register synchronized texture in a large way,” said Thomas Baert, CFL president. “The rigid core category is moving forward extremely fast and improving style and designs, which is bringing the category closer to real wood looks and textures. FirmFit XXL is the next step.”

FirmFit XXL, which will be in stores early summer, is backed by warranties on performance on massive installation surfaces without use of transition moldings. It is dent resistant and sun proof.

Congoleum
Triversa’s triple-layer construction delivers exceptional durability with a 20-mil wear layer, stability through a waterproof rigid core and versatility with cork backing for sound mitigation. A SmartLock clic system allows for easy floating installations. Triversa ID offers extensive design options, including mixed-width woods, longer planks, enhanced edge treatments and tile visuals.

Dixie Group
Dixie is one of the newest entrants into the rigid core space but is determined to make a lasting impression, according to Dan Phelan, vice president of marketing and hard surfaces. For 2018, the Dixie Home and Masland brands are coming out with 16 new offerings, all Stainmaster PetProtect with action traction. “We are filling in some gaps in colorations,” Phelan said. “We have fashion-forward colors in gray and taupe, and we are now adding heavier distressed looks.” New size options in Dixie Home (7 x 60) and Masland (5 x 60) are in addition to a 9 x 60 offered by both. Masland’s Big Sky line offers a 28-mil wear layer.

What’s different here is the company’s path to market is through limited retail distribution. As Phelan explained, “Do you want to enter the market for the sake of entering, or do you want to enter with something special? Stainmaster adds to our position in the marketplace. It’s working for us, and our limited distribution model is very powerful. We’re off to a really good start.”

EarthWerks
Noble Classic Plus SPC from EarthWerks boasts an array of high-dimension oak patterns with EIR. The assortment comes in 8 x 48 planks as well as a 9.5 x 60 tile for an even more dramatic appearance—each with cushion backing.

For customers looking for a glue-down application, these same designs and sizes are also available in a 3mm x 20 mil dry back version called Wood Classic II.

Inhaus
Sono is Inhaus’ latest innovation in waterproof dimensionally stable flooring. The German-made product comes with proprietary technology and features high-definition digital printing. The printing process enables vastly improved color variations and a 5% plank repeat, the company said, resulting in a uniquely appealing installation. The core is highly resistant to heat and cold, is waterproof and has an angle fold locking system for ease of installation. The patented ceramic composite core is free of PVCs, formaldehyde and all other additives.

IVC
Urbane, which will be launched in the second quarter through distribution, will be part of IVC’s rebranded Waterproof Solutions display, which replaces Moduleo. Sheehan explained the company is trying to communicate the inherent waterproof nature of the offerings with the three-product display that also includes Horizon and Embellish. Described as a classic flexible offering, Horizon is a 20 mil, 4.5mm construction available in click and glue down. The trade up is Embellish, a flexible LVT that Sheehan called a very significant offering. “We’re not labeling the products, we’re creating a good/better/best trade-up story,” he said.

Urbane is a rigid offering that IVC expects will drive a lot of traffic and enthusiasm. Glass is used to make the product more dimensionally stable. All three products are suitable for three-season rooms capable of handling extreme temperatures.

Mannington
Tuley said he sees the WPC and SPC segments “splitting” as new technologies emerge to create separation. AduraMax Prime is an SPC targeted at the builder/multifamily segment. AduraMax Apex offers a long and wide plank and is embossed with a painted bevel. Mannington also plans to launch Adura Rigid, an SPC with pad attached. “For the most part, these products are variations or improvements on LVT to solve very particular problems,” Tuley said.

Marquis
Marquis’ newest rigid core product offering, Geneva, provides a print with great color movement and depth. Featuring multi-width look patterns representing a new urban twist to a rustic look, Geneva comes in a 7 x 48 board with a 4mm SPC core and 20 mil ceramic bead wear layer finished with a 1.5mm closed-cell IXPE attached cushion.

Metroflor
Engage Inception, Metroflor’s new SPC product, expands the company’s portfolio of LVT flooring solutions that address all relevant categories—glue down and a variety of floating platforms such as Grip-Strip (Konecto), Solid Vinyl Clic (Engage), WPC (Engage Genesis) and now SPC (Engage Inception).

The new Engage Inception line is intended to serve as an entry-level, SPC product suitable for multifamily, residential and commercial environments dependent on the wear layer chosen. It is stiffer and denser than WPC, offering favorable dimensional stability characteristics, thereby enabling greater resistance to temperature changes and indentations. Beyond improved dent resistance, the premium attached high-density polyethylene foam underlayment provides sound absorption, reduces transmitted sound and foot fatigue and helps to conceal subfloor imperfections.

Mohawk
2018 promises to be a big year for Mohawk in the area of rigid core. Starting with SolidTech, its flagship line with less than one full year in the market, Mohawk is readying a slew of new rigid offerings from its U.S. production facility that will be a fully integrated rigid core plant. “Customers are getting in line for this,” Sheehan said. “Mohawk has invested a huge amount of capital toward this category. We feel we have the right products and are positioned well in each of our channels.”

Due out soon is True Design, a collection of neat visuals with features such as EIR, painted bevels and longer planks. Within the collection, Blended Tones boasts a 22-mil wear layer with a painted bevel. “The reason we do embossed in register is not to prove to the market that we can do it, but to make the product look real,” Sheehan explained. “We feel we have done that with the True Design collection.”

Both the second and third quarters will be active for Mohawk as it aggressively expands its rigid portfolio. As Sheehan explained, “If rigid is the fastest growing segment, the only way to keep pace and grow your market share is to aggressively invest in your category. We are going to aggressively expand our offering and grab market share with the right product along with the right visuals and price points.”

Karndean
Korlok Select, the company’s rigid core line, took two years to develop but was worth the wait, according to Emil Mellow, director of public relations. “Everything we put in there is top end.”

Korlok’s rigid core line comes fully equipped with K-Core technology, a pre-attached acoustic underlayment, K-Guard+ surface protection, HoldFast 5G locking mechanism and warranty. Its 9 x 56 plank matches that of other suppliers. “We found that anything longer than that logistically doesn’t work for a couple of reasons,” Mellow stated. “The box size becomes too heavy and unwieldy to handle, the retail shelf bins are not big enough to accommodate the planks, and the installation becomes very difficult. You need two people and that defeats the whole purpose of easy assembly.”

While most companies, including Karndean, attach numerous bells and whistles to their rigid core products, occasionally they dial back the features to hit a desired price point. That was the case with the Reserve line, which comes out in May. It launches with a stacker option or waterfall display for dealers.

Novalis
Its newest rigid core product, Serenbe, is part of the NovaFloor line with high density core (HDC) technology. It has 24 styles in planks and tiles—including a new 12 x 36 tile. Serenbe also features Novalis’ newest advancement in protection, patent-pending NovaShield.

NovaFloor HDC is an extruded solid vinyl that provides all the popular attributes of rigid core: waterproof, dent resistance and ease of installation over common subfloor imperfections. “We equipped it with an attached foam underlayment as a sound barrier and added comfort underfoot,” said Steve Erlich, vice president of sales and marketing. “So, if you’re a dealer, you will want this product line on your retail floor. It’s the whole package.”

Phenix
Bold Statement from Phenix is a Stainmaster PetProtect SPC in seven colors, five planks and two tile options. Velocity is a 9 x 60 SPC rigid core that combines Corex technology with an EVA foam backing to eliminate additional underlayment. “Both products have some unique features and benefits,” said Chris Johnson, senior vice president of sales. “Our Bold Statement is [among] the only PetProtect SPCs on the market. It also has the Stainmaster PetProtect finish, so it provides superior scratch resistance and pet action traction.”

Velocity is a 22-mil product that is extra wide and long but is also available in a 12 x 24 tile. “We have worked hard to develop a rich and diverse color palette for both products, so just about any home can find something within Velocity that fits their space,” Johnson said.

Quick-Step
EnduraTek and EnduraTek Ultra, the company’s newest rigid core offerings, will be sold through distribution. These unique tile visuals are constructed of an internally routed grout line that renders the product incredibly real, according to the company. “It gives the visual appearance of a 12 x 24, when in fact it is a 12 x 48 plank.” EnduraTek Ultra is slated for the second quarter. “We have rigid flowing everywhere,” Sheehan said.

Raskin
Raskin Industries is promoting its eight-layer rigid construction in which each layer is engineered to provide more stability. “It’s the best of both worlds—waterproof rigid with no air or foam, and no adhesives since we fuse the layers as we use heat and pressure,” said Michael Raskin, president. “It’s critical to have multiple layers.”

A new product, Solid Gencore, is made from Raskin’s proprietary acrylic composite structure used as its core layer to provide maximum stability and impact resistance. “Acrylx has no foam or air, making it denser than a WPC-type multilayer product. We use advanced technology-grade resins that are used specifically to provide stability against heat and cold temperatures.”

New to the market is Acrylx Select, available in five colors. The line is meant to be price competitive with the added benefits of soundproof backing and anti-mildew. It is 100% waterproof as well. Lumination Velocity, another new offering, will have 10 colors in a 4mm with a 1mm Gcore backing. This collection will include registered embossing and will be showcased in a new display with large boards. The line consists of stone, multi-plank looks and 60-inch planks. “It’s hard to differentiate, so it’s important to sell the latest and best technology that will stand up to the hype,” Raskin said. “We feel our product construction and ability to design the colors and styles that sell will offer customers the right products.”

Shaw
Shaw Industries is another major mill that has invested heavily in the rigid core business primarily with Floorte.

Floorte Pro, a new tile rigid core product, launched with 20 SKUs. The waterproof, click product features a lacquer bevel. “There is a trend toward smaller grout lines, which we can do with this product,” Francis said. “The response has been great. This opens it up to mud rooms and bathrooms.”

Overall, Floorte Pro offers a diverse portfolio of visuals ranging from hardwood to tile looks. Mineral Mix, for example, strikes a balance between contemporary concrete and linear metal looks for a chic aesthetic. Each tile has visual grout applied for a quick installation that does not require traditional grout. Blue Ridge Pine is a rich heart pine visual that captures the contrast, character and uniqueness found in natural hardwood.

Tarkett
Tarkett’s new ProGen collection is the next generation of rigid core luxury vinyl flooring that provides superior impact and indentation resistance. The product also demonstrates superior durability over traditional WPC, according to the company.

ProGen’s unique compact core design makes installation easy by providing the flexibility to adjust to tight spaces, while maintaining enough rigidity to allow for installation over imperfect subfloors. This new collection has a 20-mil, commercial-grade wear layer and enhanced polyurethane layer that allow ProGen to resist scratches and the rigors of modern life. In addition, its high-density foam backing reduces unwanted noise.

USFloors
Piet Dossche, founder and CEO, said there were 65 Chinese manufacturers exhibiting rigid core products at Domotex Hannover in January, a testament to the incredible momentum of the subcategory. “This is not a fad, this is just the beginning,” he said at a recent symposium. “Composite waterproof flooring will be the high double-digit growth engine in hard surfaces for the next five years.”

To that end, USFloors is striving to keep its market-share-leading position among suppliers. The company launched COREtec Pro Plus in Q4 2017 and COREtec Pro Plus Enhanced in January. Both are of SPC construction. USFloors will introduce COREtec Stone in the summer with upwards of 40 SKUs. “Attention to detail and design is what makes Pro Plus and Pro Plus Enhanced stand out from the crowd,” said Jamann Stepp, director of marketing and product management. COREtec Pro collections include a double extrusion process with a 1mm cork attached pad. Pro Plus Enhanced also incorporates a four-sided enhanced beveled edge for added realism. As for the forthcoming COREtec Stone, attention to detail will again be key. “The decors, including the tech and spec data that is employed in the Pro Plus collections, along with a proprietary protective coating to prevent scratching and abrasion, will set COREtec Stone apart from the rest,” Stepp said. “We see COREtec Stone as tile reinvented.”

Wellmade
Wellmade continues to expand its Nouveax en vogue HDPC vinyl plank collection. The rigid core features Wellmade’s co-extrusion technology and includes standard and wide/long plank options. Wear layers are available in 8-, 12-, and 20-mil options. Wellmade has added new design options for 2018, including character-driven muted gray and brown tones with enhanced texturing on the hardwood side, and contemporary travertine looks in stone. “Dealers have pleased with our competitive pricing, ease of installation and superior overall performance,” said Steve Wagner, director of marketing.

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Executive interviews: Brand Building

How Piet Dossche and Thomas Trissl created the most recognized names in their categories

 

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

By Ken Ryan

 

It has been said that a company’s brand is its lifeblood, its reason for existing, its greatest success and, potentially, its biggest failure. Few flooring industry executives understand that principle better than Piet Dossche, president and CEO, USFloors, and Thomas Trissl, president, Schönox–HPS North America.

This year’s Surfaces marks five years since COREtec was introduced to the flooring industry, albeit with a mere 13 SKUs. Since then, USFloors’ WPC has become the most talked-about product in flooring. There are now 650 COREtec SKUs blanketing the market. This is just the beginning, according to Dossche, as he now pivots his marketing approach straight to consumers to elevate COREtec as the consumer brand of choice for waterproof vinyl flooring.

Trissl’s quest to build Schönox began shortly after he sold Centiva. Admittedly not one who can sit still for very long, Trissl learned from previous experience he had with Schönox in Germany through his family business to launch the brand in North America. Leveraging his hands-on knowledge of Schönox products and his business acumen for building companies, he has led Schönox to its position today as a leading subfloor prep company in North America.

USFloors
Speed to market, ‘plactivation’ and exposure  helped build COREtec into an epic flooring brand
First we wanted the recognition that we were participating in the LVT category. We had a desire to find a unique product instead of a “me-too” product. We discovered the WPC core in China and made the [decision] to use this as a waterproof core instead of an MDF core. We perfected the product to 95%; for us, speed to market was more important [than completing it 100%]. Get it out of the gate, the starting blocks, was our goal. We knew we had a winner, a beautiful product bringing a solution to an existing category. Then it was about putting the resources together from a small organization that we were to get it launched. We then applied for a patent, which put our competition on notice. All of a sudden people were like, “Whoa!”

Next, we wanted to give it a catchy name. With COREtec, the technology and the uniqueness is in the core. Then we went all out in hiring salespeople to take the product to market as fast as possible and capture real estate at retail. We knew we had to go fast. We were flexible with the cost of the displays, but we insisted on activation or what we called “plactivation” (place and activation). We set lofty goals and aimed high.

We engaged the trade press to talk about it, create awareness, informing the market and competition about the strength of the patent. We advertised heavily to expose the product, plastering it all over the trade press.

Our goal was to be a disruptor. We said “yes” to interviews, “yes” to all opportunities to present and tell the story. We made our sales team drink the Kool-Aid and turn customers into raving fans.

I became a spokesperson for the product/category—the source customers trust for authenticity, quality and knowledge. All along we wanted to stay ahead of the competition through product innovation. We accelerated product innovation to create second-, third- and fourth-category products while the competition was scrambling to get to the first stage.

We protected the margins for all and made sure all channels were profitable. The worst thing you can do is create a brand and see its margins eaten up like we have seen with other categories. With COREtec, we breathed, ate, drank and lived for the product and brand. We wanted to be a fanatic, passionate believer.

If you look at the competition behind us, it is a relentless pursuit for creativity. We need to be first, and we will be first again in Vegas [this year].

How would you advise flooring dealers to build their own brands?
You have to advertise, you have to recognize what’s important in your market, know your market and your customers. If you are in, say, the Houston market, where they had all these floods, you need to go online and talk about it—not talk about your products—but about the problem at hand and how you can help people out. Be in tune with the local community, be seen as a community leader. It’s important to be a spokesperson for what’s important in your market. Show and take leadership. Be the expert and, most importantly, be authentic.

 

HPS Schönox
Innovation and differentiation, coupled with passion, experience and resources, helped expand the Schönox brand in North America
I began to research those companies in North America that might be competitors, many of whom I already knew from Germany. Seeing the opportunity to innovate and differentiate in the subflooring business, I put together a business plan to present to Schönox. It didn’t take long to pique their interest, and shortly thereafter we partnered. The fact that we had the resources, the passion and 15-plus years of American flooring industry knowledge gave Schönox [investors] a comfort as it didn’t have U.S. experience. Once we agreed to move forward, we formed HPS North America (known as HPS Schönox) and began to execute the plan.

By combining outstanding products with expertise in sales and marketing we were able to transform a new, unrecognized brand into an industry leader. That is especially underlined with our new 2018 campaign “Ön It,” which sums all aspects of our daily business. We build trust, not just through fantastic products but also through some unique services. We keep our promises. We act with honesty, integrity and transparency in everything we do. We believe serving our customers builds long-lasting relationships. We are folks who are not driven by a quarterly P&L or EBITDA. We drive innovation to transform flooring. We use science and technology to drive solutions that move flooring forward through innovation. We never rest. We ensure sustainability by using products that are environmentally responsible and promote sustainable construction practices.

You must have a vision for what you want to do that is driven by a passion for it. You must assess the opportunity for success honestly and then develop a plan for your success. You must build a culture of people who share your passion and commitment to excellence. You must continue to innovate to become better. You must cultivate an environment of shared knowledge and shared success. You must differentiate by standing out because you are outstanding.

By growing up in my family’s business I was taught one of my father’s basic principles: You either do it right or you don’t do it at all. That requires a sense and passion for high-performance products that exemplify excellence and enduring value. Success is nothing other than never making the same mistake twice.

How would you advise flooring dealers to build their own brands?
Many flooring retailers truly neglect to build their own brand. Instead they bow to large manufacturers who dictate products, styles, practices and price. I can only advise that no matter what size of company one is running, as an entrepreneur you should always create value in your own brand instead of relying on the manufacturer. Once you diligently work to become best in class or best in town, your value will emerge eventually to be appreciated by customers, vendors and employees. That creates the platform necessary to build a long-term, sustainable brand.

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Wood: Mythbusters set the record straight on bamboo

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

By Reginald Tucker

 

When it comes to selling bamboo, a big draw is the category’s well-known environmental, aesthetic and performance attributes. But achieving consistent success in retailing the product also requires educating the consumer or end user about the product’s attributes, advantages and limitations.

Screen Shot 2017-10-17 at 10.13.19 AMFCNews recently rounded up several bamboo experts—including David Keegan, president and CEO, Bamboo Hardwoods; Philippe Erramuzpe, COO of USFloors; and Laura Nieto, communications and marketing specialist for Cali Bamboo—to get their advice on dispelling popular myths and misperceptions about the category.

1. All bamboo is the same.
Keegan:
Not all bamboo is manufactured with the same high-quality standards that veteran companies like ours insist on. Secondly, bamboo is a natural material just like oak, hickory, etc. Not every board will be identical in tone. A consumer who desires homogenous, zero-tone-variation flooring should be steered toward carpet, tile, laminate or WPC. With any natural material like wood and bamboo part of the beauty is the natural tone variation and infinite uniqueness of every plank. Like any hardwood, a good installer will rack out the wood from several boxes at once to create the best aesthetic result. Enjoy the beauty of natural bamboo produced by reputable, quality companies.

Nieto: When you think of bamboo floors, chances are the image in your head is of light-colored planks with uniformly cut strips and visible nodes. But that’s the bamboo of yesteryear. With Cali Bamboo’s fossilized process, flooring is not only much stronger but it’s also able to take on a huge variety of styles. Planks come in every color from intensely dark ebony browns to rich coffees and even grays and whites. Planks can also be distressed using hand-scraping, antiquing and French bleeds to give them a more weathered, rustic look. With the variety of looks available in bamboo flooring today, it’s difficult to determine whether you’re looking at bamboo or traditional hardwood.

2. Bamboo is not stable.
Erramuzpe:
While many manufacturers have been taking shortcuts in the manufacturing process—mainly by reducing the density and therefore the amount of bamboo used to produce a beam, or by using inferior adhesives or reducing the immersion time in the adhesive just to save money—the majority of these factories are out of business today. Bamboo flooring expands and contracts, but no more than any other wood floor when manufactured properly.

Nieto: This may have been a valid concern years ago—or even today if you go with the wrong manufacturer—but the production process has now been perfected to the point that, in the case of Cali Bamboo’s fossilized flooring, these are the world’s hardest floors. According to the Janka hardness test, Cali Bamboo scores upwards of 5000—well above Brazilian ipe and four times harder than oak.

The bamboo flooring of yesterday was made by slicing poles into uniform strips which were then boiled, dried, coated in adhesive and pressed together in horizontal or vertical rows. The resulting planks bore a distinct bamboo look but were not much harder than oak. Today, strand bamboo flooring presents a much harder product by shredding the bamboo into fibers which are then pressed into planks. The Cali Bamboo fossilized process takes this one step further by shredding the raw material even finer and compressing 30% more into blocks using increased pressure. The result is a much harder floor that is better protected against dents and damage.

3. Bamboo scratches too easily.
Erramupze:
Some bamboo flooring scratches easily, but that’s due to manufacturers using inferior finishes to sell at a low price. There’s another misperception that a scratch on a bamboo floor leaves a white mark, when in fact there might be a flaw in the coating system.

Nieto: A bamboo floor’s ability to resist scratches depends on the quality of the manufacturer’s finish. Not all bamboo flooring is created equal, and many producers cut costs by opting for a thinner or weaker top wear layer. This makes the flooring susceptible to scratching from high heels, furniture and pet claws. Cali Bamboo avoids this by using a 10-coat aluminum oxide sealing system on all solid bamboo flooring, and 13 coats on the Engineered bamboo flooring line.

If two floors appear similar, but one is significantly cheaper, there may have been corners cut that you can’t see—often affecting the finish and the adhesives used to bind the bamboo fibers. The flooring may look fine now, but after years of use you can bet it will show its age and require far more upkeep. A good way to ensure a floor will hold up under everyday wear and tear is to use a key or other hard tool to scratch test a variety of samples from several different companies.

4. Bamboo can’t be installed in extreme climates.
Nieto:
Homeowners who experience harsh seasons, very dry climates or high humidity are often hesitant to install bamboo, thinking it will warp or buckle. However, thousands of Cali Bamboo floors have been installed successfully everywhere from Florida and Hawaii to Arizona and Minnesota.

Screen Shot 2017-10-17 at 10.13.31 AMWith bamboo—like all hardwood flooring products—it’s all about controlling a space’s temperature and relative humidity. This is especially important during acclimation, when the environment should be set to typical ambient living conditions. Flooring should acclimate until its moisture content reaches an equilibrium with the home’s environment and no longer increases or decreases. In most cases, if a space can maintain 40%-60% humidity indoors, then bamboo flooring will work.

5. There are high claims rates with bamboo.
Keegan:
Less than half of 1% of our sales have claims, and most of those turn out to be installation or maintenance errors. When manufactured properly and installed following manufacturing or NWFA guidelines, bamboo performs extremely well both in terms of dimensional stability, finish and durability.

When bamboo was first becoming popular, everybody opened a factory in China as the Chinese government was giving out capital loans like candy on Halloween. The result was that for a period of time, the industry was flooded with poor-quality materials made by factories that didn’t have a clue. We have always vetted our sources extremely carefully. Nowadays most of those fly-by-night factories have gone out of business leaving a core of quality producers. There are some long-standing reputable manufacturers like ourselves that have always been producing fantastic high-quality bamboo flooring. Bamboo is an amazing quality resource.

6. Bamboo harvesting depletes the primary food source forpandas.
Keegan:
The bamboo we harvest comes from the temperate zones of China, not Sichuan and Shaanxi where the pandas are.   Furthermore, the bamboo flooring industry preserves bamboo forests, not eliminates them. A sea of mountains covered by indigenous bamboo groves survive and thrive all across Zhejiang and other regions of China most popular for bamboo production. If there was no industry revolving around this resource they would likely be removed.

But in bamboo regions, skies are blue and air is clean. Bamboo is never clear-cut. Every year new shoots reach their full height in one growth season of several months. When the culm is 5 years old, they are harvested. This means that the harvesting practice pulls out one of every five poles leaving the natural groves flush with leafy bamboo culms and an incredible rhizome system interconnected underground. It is truly a [prolific] plant in that it turns sunlight into biomass more efficiently than any other plant, it requires no pesticides to maintain. Plus, it is never clear-cut, it is evergreen and therefore constantly producing oxygen while sequestering carbon. It is a sustainable material that produces some of the most durable and beautiful hardwood floors available today.

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Power of brands: Quality products, service stand out in a crowd

August 14/21: Volume 32, Issue 5

By Lindsay Baillie

Screen Shot 2017-08-22 at 3.51.42 PMA well-known brand has great influence in the mind of the consumer; it can affect her positively or negatively, research shows. According to Latham & Co., a brand consultancy, a strong brand contains incredible power—not just how it is perceived in the world, but also how it redefines the competitive landscape, connects with prospects and influencers, creates memorable experiences, builds lasting relationships and helps leaders better manage people, resources and profits.

For many flooring dealers, brands matter, especially when products and services are backed by the companies they represent. “A strong brand brings awareness of mind,” said Kevin Rose, president and owner, Carpetland Color Tile, Rockford, Ill. “This is good for all flooring retailers as we battle for the consumer’s disposable income.”

A strong brand can also draw attention to a particular flooring store. As Mary Ann Gore, office manager, Bridgeport Carpets, Alpharetta, Ga., explains: “For example, if a customer is new to an area and does an Internet search on local retailers, she is typically going to look for a product that is familiar to her.”

While name recognition holds a certain importance for flooring brands, dealers can also benefit from established name recognition. Case in point is Ted’s Abbey Carpet & Floor, with multiple locations in Alabama. “We have really tried to market our store’s names to the consumers in our market area,” said Ted Gregerson, president and owner, “We feel like we have done a really good job of it, because consumers in our market refer to us as simply ‘Abbey.’ We feel if our consumers trust us and our own Abbey brand, then they will have confidence in all the products we sell.”

The strength inside the original COREtec floors
Screen Shot 2017-08-22 at 3.39.29 PMUSFloors is regarded as the originator of the WPC category—true disruptors and innovators in the industry. It is committed to providing beautiful and durable floors at an excellent value while minimizing the impact on the environment whenever possible. The COREtec brand is focused on providing an exceptional customer experience throughout the new flooring purchase.

USFloors knows today’s consumers value authenticity over perfection—from brands, experiences and daily life. They seek to engage with brands that mirror that authenticity—brands that stand up for what they believe and deliver upon it. Expectations of a brand’s intuitive nature drive their interest. When it comes to purchasing a new floor, they want to make a smart, practical choice—one that reflects their originality and can be enjoyed for years to come. USFloors addresses these consumer needs in a way that satisfies and delights them from initial inspiration to final installation. COREtec is perfect for expressing the originality and creativity that lives within them. USFloors provides an ever-evolving portfolio of waterproof floors that embody style and strength that can withstand whatever real life has in store for the consumer.

In addition to authenticity, consumers share a common driving need for simplicity in this era of ever-expanding choices. The number of flooring options has expanded dramatically, leaving today’s consumers feeling overwhelmed and under extreme pressure to make the right purchase decisions. With the average floor shopping process lasting more than five months, consumers will reward easy, simple and trustworthy brands. They seek out brands that receive high accolades on style and performance and are recommended by peers with real world experiences.

The entrepreneurial passion that lives within the core of USFloors drives the company to redefine the way consumers discover COREtec floors. Consumers are drawn to attributes that inspire them and shopping experiences that match the high standards they set for the products themselves. Today’s consumer can identify an original, and USFloors believes they applaud an approachable brand that is smart, modern and bold. They can feel the commitment of style and performance and appreciate the result of the American dream. They recognize products that are unique and sustainable and want to be loyal to the brands that deliver on a promise. As the original COREtec floors, USFloors is rewarded by their sense of style and practical purchases.

USFloors is thrilled to be at the helm of this young industry brand. The company sets no boundaries and has an endless future of solutions ahead. COREtec will erupt into 2018 with vigor to share its successful innovations and leadership with consumers nationwide. Throughout it all, USFloors will continue to create value and a healthy platform for growth for its retail partners.

USFloors and COREtec—authentic to the core.

 

The power in the family of brands
Screen Shot 2017-08-22 at 3.39.39 PMMohawk enjoys global brand recognition as the world’s largest flooring manufacturer. With facilities and manufacturing operations across the nation, Mohawk is committed to American-made manufacturing and the communities and families it impacts on a daily basis. From product conception to the manufacturing process to the transportation of products, Mohawk employees are providing the foundations for homes and businesses around the world.
The power of brand and its attributes is vastly important for infrequent purchase categories such as flooring. Strong branding gives consumers peace of mind, allowing them to feel confident about their investment. Retailers–both large and small–leverage the power of the Mohawk brand around the world each and every day.

Mohawk and its family of brands are among the most well known in the flooring industry. These include: Aladdin, American Olean, American Rug Craftsmen, Century, Columbia, Daltile, Durkan, IVC, Karastan, Marazzi, Moduleo, Mohawk Group, Mohawk Home, Pergo, Q-Wood, Quick-Step, Ragno and SolidTech. The company’s vertically integrated manufacturing and distribution processes provide competitive advantages in the production of carpet, carpet tile, rugs, ceramic tile, laminate, hardwood, stone and luxury vinyl flooring. The enterprise-wide innovations yield products and technologies that are differentiated in the marketplace.

The organization invests heavily in the Mohawk brand by way of lead generation, advertising, digital marketing, public relations, merchandising, point-of-sale, innovative products and national promotions, just to name a few. These efforts result in high consumer recognition and increased profit margins for Mohawk’s retailers.

The primary reason Mohawk invests in its family of brands is to deliver qualified consumer leads to its valued retail partners. The current pace of change in the flooring industry requires new programs that give its retailers the inside track to stay ahead of the competition.

 

A brand built on service, innovation and progress
Screen Shot 2017-08-22 at 3.39.44 PMHonesty, integrity and passion set the stage 50 years ago and have served as the foundation from which Shaw Floors was established. Since that time, the company’s values remain true while Shaw Floors has transformed from a single category producer to a leading, total flooring brand with a forward-focused dedication to servicing our customers and the end-user consumer. Shaw is proud of its heritage and grateful for the confidence retailers have demonstrated over the years.

The celebration of Shaw’s 50th anniversary this year is marked by its corporate vision of creating a better future: for its customers, its people and the communities it serves. As Shaw reflects on the important milestones of its past, it is reminded that progress isn’t achieved by resting on previous successes, but by looking to the future and empowering its associates to lead the company into a new era of innovation.

One thing that remains constant is the Shaw Floors brand is synonymous with flooring expertise. The company prides itself on being pioneers of design and innovation and won’t settle for anything less than exceptional service. All of these elements are trademarks of the Shaw brand, reinforced each year through the many surveys and rankings voted on by its valued retail partners. Shaw Floors feels honored that the breadth of its product portfolio earns the company the unique ability to provide consumers with flooring that makes sense for their space. Through our products and services, the consumer’s design vision comes to life.

Shaw Floors has demonstrated continuous leadership not only through its company values but also through cutting-edge innovations such as: its patent-pending Floorté PRO collection, offering the industry’s first direct-glue rigid core products; its completely redesigned EPIC Plus engineered hardwood line featuring the Extreme Nature collection, which boasts the longest, widest hardwood planks made in the USA; its revolutionary LifeGuard waterproof carpet backing technology protecting against life’s mishaps to give consumers the cleanest carpet for healthy living; and its exclusive sound-abatement research and proprietary intelligence depicting a comprehensive landscape of today’s consumer. These products and services, plus many others, provide retailers with solutions that ultimately give consumers confidence in their investment. Shaw Floors will continue heavily investing in its shared industry in an effort to drive market understanding, demand and brand preference, and it appreciate the partnership with retailers.

 

A name synonymous with unique style, fashion and design
Screen Shot 2017-08-22 at 3.39.51 PMDealers and distributors who carry the Provenza brand attest to its association with high style and design. After all, according to Ron Sadri, president, it was Provenza who helped usher in the handscraped trend about 20 years ago. The company said it was also responsible for innovations such as custom-infused colors, oil finishes and other creative surface treatments such as reactive staining—a technique that’s common across the industry today.

“Our focus on setting the trend for fashion and design in hardwood flooring makes us truly unique,” Sadri said. “Our distributors and retail partners see us as the leader in our market while others are followers.”

That industry recognition was demonstrated at Surfaces 2017 earlier this year, when Provenza walked away with a Best of Show award in the category of style and design for its Colour Nation Lighthouse Cove collection, a line of wide-plank flooring featuring multiple stains, colors and surface treatments. “It was a confirmation from the judges and the dealers that our products stand out from everyone else,” Sadri said. “People really understand Provenza and they appreciate the creativity we put behind every line we produce.”

But for Provenza, high style and design doesn’t necessarily have to translate into products that exceed the reach of mainstream consumers. “We always try to make products that are affordable to the consumer,” Sadri said. “That makes it easier for dealers to go to our products and pick everything from good quality and moderate pricing all the way up to a designer look.”

 

A leader in private labeling
Screen Shot 2017-08-22 at 3.39.56 PMBBOSS is a true industry leader when it comes to the specialty of private labeling. Established in 2008, this fast-growing company is intent on raising the bar for private label and providing its clients with new ways to sustain long-term growth in today’s highly competitive wood flooring market.

The BBOSS approach begins with a factory direct relationship and eliminating unnecessary costs. Dealing direct with the manufacturer and U.S. supporting offices gives clients peace of mind that they have both local and international support.

BBOSS attributes its tremendous success to providing clients with a unique partnership, which helps them drive business while reducing their costs. Additionally, BBOSS offers a full breadth of products, from entry level to multiple upgraded visuals, all from one mill, with the flexibility to mix on any order as needed.

With one of the most knowledgeable and experienced teams in the industry, BBOSS stays on top of ever-changing market trends related to engineered and solid hardwood flooring. The team partners with each private label client, guiding them through the process of developing and growing their own brand and designs products that meet consumer trends and are tailored to their specific market. BBOSS provides a high level of customer service, thanks in part to the company’s award-winning education and training programs.

But perhaps the best advantage of all is BBOSS offers differentiation in all facets of private label, which is a unique way for a retailer’s brand to stand out in an otherwise crowded market.

To learn more about private labeling, contact BBOSS at bbossinc.com or call 855-442-2677.

 

Better together
Screen Shot 2017-08-22 at 3.40.01 PMFor more than 130 years, Tarkett has been at the foundation of creating more beautiful spaces and unlocking the infinite possibilities that happen when people come together.

Tarkett is creating together, honoring its values of collaboration to create something worth more than the sum of its parts. The company is building brands together by uniting its family of brands—Tandus Centiva, Johnsonite and Desso—to ensure they are designed to work together.

Tarkett is designing together, working with designers inside and outside the industry to challenge the way floor coverings can be used.
It is also working together to deliver products and ideas that anticipate where the workplace is headed.

Tarkett is inspiring together, pushing the boundaries of design and using its flooring in bold new ways. More importantly, Tarkett is doing good together, leading sustainable business practices and prioritizing the health of people and the planet.

At Tarkett, together is simply better.

 

Providing quality, service and coordinating products for every hardwood floor
Screen Shot 2017-08-22 at 3.40.06 PMPennwood continuously pursues high standards in manufacturing and marketing of flooring transitions, stair products and vents. The Pennwood staff studies and researches trends in design, color and finish.

The company currently matches 6,000 different hardwood floors, ranging in color, style and textures with standard boards all held in the Pennwood Color Library. Pennwood employees take pride in their craftsmanship and as long as the company has the color standard, it can custom produce a retailer’s stair treads or flooring transition with a normal turnaround time of two to three weeks.

Pennwood believes in partnering and can customize a program for a retailer’s specific needs. The company can produce various fixed lengths in moldings and stair treads. It also offers random length flooring transitions up to 12 feet, which is increasingly popular in the builder and multi-family market segments.

Today the Pennwood brand means uncompromising value, known for innovation and a driving force within the industry. Pennwood is synonymous with a “we can do” attitude.

 

A brand is best built in person
Screen Shot 2017-08-22 at 3.40.10 PMA brand is a company’s biggest asset, according to Thomas Trissl, principal, HPS Schönox. Furthermore, cultivating relationships is a crucial part of building a company’s brand.

“All the advertising and marketing we do is important, but nothing replaces the value of face-to-face conversations like those we have on a daily basis on the jobsite with installers, in an office with architects/designers or in the warehouse with our distributors,” Trissl explained. “A brand mirrors the expectation of prospective customers and the experience of existing customers.”

Schönox, HPS North America has developed a promotional strategy of combining multimedia, product education and exceptional customer support while maintaining communication to strengthen existing relationships and establish new ones.

With these relationships, the Schönox brand can grow and build a legacy that presents key qualities in the market.

Exceptional quality, service and knowledge
Screen Shot 2017-08-22 at 3.44.13 PMThe two factors that consistently and unequivocally set a brand apart from others in its category are quality and service, and Bamboo Hardwoods does just that.

From the company’s humble beginnings growing bamboo and innovating products from its own groves to becoming an industry powerhouse, Bamboo Hardwoods’ foundation of bamboo knowledge has always given it a competitive edge. Every product made is done so with meticulous quality and care using premium adhesives, finishes and modern technologies, while taking time to produce the perfect product. In addition, Bamboo Hardwoods has revolutionized bamboo flooring by focusing on what consumers demand most: trendsetting style and design. The emphasis on aesthetics elevated bamboo flooring from a niche product to being regarded as another attractive choice in the hardwood flooring category.

When it comes to customer service, Bamboo Hardwoods transcends the business-client relationship by focusing on establishing rapport and sincere connections with its customers. With multiple warehouse locations across the United States and fully stocked East and West coast warehouses, customers can rest assured knowing they will promptly receive the product desired.

Bamboo Hardwoods is dedicated to continuing its reigning status as a pioneer of the specialty flooring industry.

 

A brand with a vision
Screen Shot 2017-08-22 at 3.44.20 PMThe Novalis Innovative Flooring brand was started in 1984 and began actual production of product in 1986–the first luxury vinyl flooring facility built by anyone in China.

Since that time, Novalis has accomplished a record of other “firsts”: Novalis was the first Chinese LVT manufacturer to achieve ISO 9001 certification. Novalis was the first with an ISO 14001 environmental certificate. And Novalis is the first and only Chinese LVT brand certified with OHSAS 18001. Novalis was very happy to be the first Chinese LVT manufacturer with a fully localized Environmental Product Declaration, Health Product Declaration and Declare labeling, all being introduced in 2015.

On this foundation of sustainable, quality design and engineering accomplishments, Novalis launched its NovaFloor brand in North America over five years ago. NovaFloor is made primarily for the American floor covering retail channel, and is sold through distributors and their dealers for the residential and Main Street commercial markets.

At NeoCon East 2015, Novalis officially unveiled its new commercial LVT brand for North America called “AVA.” AVA stands for Advanced Vinyl Artistry and is made for the commercial specified market. Capri Cork manages the AVA brand in the U.S. and Canada through its extensive list of dedicated commercial agents.

Always guiding the brand’s development is its “vision” that encompasses three key principles: art, quality and nature.

When it comes to LVT, Novalis views “art” as the authentic reproductions of natural elements to create imaginative, inspiring spaces.

Novalis “quality” means an investment in the research and performance to make the best LVT possible.

And the Novalis vision for “nature” is all about producing its product responsibly while conserving energy and resources.

Learn more at novalisinnovativeflooring.com.

 

Innovative brand spread its wings
Screen Shot 2017-08-22 at 3.45.39 PMEngineered Floors, the third-largest carpet company in the world, has continued its singular mission to be the flooring brand of choice. This year Engineered Floors revamped its digital presence with a new website to align its family of brands under a common theme: “We have one mission. Make the best carpet in the world.” The new site (engineeredfloors.com) showcases Engineered Floors’ complete family of brands and its drive to “intersect” with customers’ desires for style, durability, comfort, quality and tradition. It combines new room scene photography, links to the company’s varied social media platforms and advanced functionality to make it easier and more engaging to use.

The company’s new website, along with the new signature for its advertising, reinforces the strength of Engineered Floors in its collection of brands, each aimed at a specific flooring segment. The Engineered Floors family of brands consists of: Dream Weaver for residential replacement; Pentz Commercial Flooring Solutions for Main Street; DWellings for new home construction; and Engineered Floors Multifamily.

The company is also bringing to market new innovations including a commercial polyester fiber, advanced polyester extrusion (Apex SDP) under the Pentz Commercial Solutions brand. The offering includes the styles Revival and Revolution, which join the widely successful original Apex SDP styles Quicksilver and Fast Break.

In addition, Engineered Floors is rapidly completing a new, state-of-the-art carpet tile manufacturing facility in Dalton. The move is in response to the growing demand for modular carpet tile for Main Street applications.

The initial phase of the plant, expected to open in January 2018, will total 520,000 square feet. This will be the fourth new facility the company has built in northwest Georgia since 2009.

 

The power of a strong brand partnership
Screen Shot 2017-08-22 at 3.45.43 PMWith more than 65 years of proven innovation, market leadership and dedication to quality, Scotchgard has the protective products and brand strength to help make our partners successful. A brand partnership with Scotchgard Protector strengthens the value of the host brand and creates opportunities that can:

•Increase edge over competition
•Build brand equity in new markets
•Increase sales
•Grow market penetration
•Expand credibility to both brands

The Scotchgard brand name has been synonymous with protection for multiple generations. Invented in the 1950s and protecting floors from their owners since the 1970s, Scotchgard Protector has become one of the leading brands of stain, spill and soil protection in markets around the world.

When companies have a history of selling products that are dependable, reliable and in line with consumer needs, consumers begin to develop trust in the product and loyalty to the brand. The real power in the Scotchgard Brand is that it represents that one last thing consumers want when they purchase a product—peace of mind. It can close the sale.

 

Where innovation is a way of life
Screen Shot 2017-08-22 at 3.45.48 PMPhenix Flooring is more than just another manufacturer—it’s a flooring experience. From designing and developing premium products to its commitment to advancing research, development and production through the latest state-of-the-art technologies, Phenix makes innovation a way of life. Through this commitment, Phenix continues to grow and serve its customers with passion, values and an unwavering dedication to the production of quality products.

With the launch of the Cleaner Home collection, Phenix delivers on this mantra by offering a line rich in color and design with proactive technologies such as Microban, Opulance HD and Surefresh that provide optimal antimicrobial protection, stain resistance and prolonged beauty at an affordable price.

Above all, Phenix strives to deliver the highest standard of service to its clients. As a Pharr Family company, Phenix is backed by generations of manufacturing genius, flanked by supportive brands.

 

Powered by quality and service for more than 30 years
Screen Shot 2017-08-22 at 3.45.57 PMOffering superior quality products has always been Mirage’s No. 1 priority. Maintaining this quality consistency is the daily challenge and a goal that each employee strives to attain. This commitment to excellence speaks to the dedication, devotion and knowledge of Mirage’s people—from the worker in the plant to the sales representatives in the field.

That quality extends to the service it provides. For more than 30 years the staff at Mirage has pursued a common goal: To go above and beyond customer expectations and adapt to her needs. This is what Mirage’s legacy is built on.

The numerous quality awards Mirage has received in the last decade—more than 30—is a testament to the company’s unwavering efforts. Indeed, quality has powered the Mirage brand for more than 30 years and will continue to for another 30 years. This success does not mean Mirage can rest on its laurels; quality is a journey, not a destination.

 

Steeped in tradition
Screen Shot 2017-08-22 at 3.46.02 PMFor over 60 years, DriTac Flooring Products has manufactured premium-grade adhesives and installation solutions for the wood and resilient floor covering markets.

DriTac was established in 1956, offering one product—DriTac 6200—that continues to stand the test of time several decades later. Since then, DriTac, via its state-of-the-art laboratory and research facility in the U.S., has expanded its product line and is currently one of a few adhesive manufacturers to offer all the major technologies: urethane, MS polymer, pressure sensitive, acrylic and more. DriTac has become a leader in developing wood flooring adhesives that offer sound and moisture control with a single-component, one-step application.

A trailblazer in cultivating environmentally friendly flooring adhesives and installation products, DriTac offers a full line of zero VOC, zero solvent and independently tested products that have been certified by the Carpet and Rug Institute’s Green Label Plus Program for Indoor Air Quality.

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Resilient: State of the industry—LVT, WPC remain primary drivers of category growth

July 31/Aug. 7: Volume 31, Issue 4
By Lindsay Baillie

The resilient category continues to follow its blazing path from 2016 with aggressive growth just six months into 2017. Industry observers attribute this activity once again to the industry’s “darlings”—LVT, WPC and rigid core.

Screen Shot 2017-08-07 at 11.14.42 AMBased on FCNews research, LVT and its subcategories accounted for 42.3% of residential volume and 67.6% of residential dollars in 2016. Observers expect numbers in 2017 to reflect similar—if not more—control of the category. In 2016 the resilient category as a whole saw a 19.7% increase ($3.499 billion) over 2015’s $2.924 billion. This percentage is almost four times the growth of the overall industry. In addition, resilient captured 16.5% of the total flooring industry in dollars—the highest among all hard surfaces. Industry experts predict resilient numbers for 2017 will continue to rise, especially as waterproof products capture consumer interest.

In fact, many of the fiscal trends seen in 2016 have continued into the first half of 2017. For example, most experts have noticed residential sheet is still relatively flat, and felt is continuing to lose market share to fiberglass. Meanwhile, LVT continues to gain market share at the expense of sheet and other flooring types such as laminate and hardwood. Furthermore, LVT and its subcategories continue to gain market share as more manufacturers ramp up U.S. production for faster lead times and greater product control. Lastly, with the soaring popularity of WPC-type floors, more companies are adding rigid core to their portfolios.

Overall, success in this category is often attributed to the various innovations in printing and design, allowing manufacturers to create visuals that are almost indistinguishable from the natural materials they mimic. In addition, these designs can be achieved at a fraction of the cost. “Style is the point of entry to any design decision, but then cost quickly becomes a factor,” said Gary Keeble, director of marketing, Metroflor. “The ease of installation, the durability of LVT and associated easy care and maintenance have all assembled in a bit of a perfect storm.”

Looking at the trends, it’s easy to see why the industry is bullish about the category’s growth in 2017. “As a luxury vinyl specialist, 2017 has fared very well for us, both in terms of our glue-down products and with the introduction of our rigid core product line,” said Larry Browder, CEO, Karndean Designflooring. “The tremendous growth LVT has experienced confirms what we’ve known all along: Luxury vinyl provides the beauty and realism of natural wood and stone in a more practical format.”

All types of manufacturers, even those that produce multiple types of flooring, have seen impressive increases so far. “Resilient continues to be a very strong category for Shaw and is showing no signs of slowing down in 2017 or the foreseeable future,” said Clark Hodgkins, resilient director.

Sheet, felt feel the squeeze
FCNews research shows residential sheet vinyl had a less-than-stellar year in 2016—coming up relatively flat with a 0.2% decrease compared to 2015. Most industry observers attribute this subpar performance to the rise in demand for LVT, WPC and rigid core products.

“Sheet vinyl has lost share to LVT for several reasons,” explained John Wu, CEO, Novalis Innovative Flooring. “More manufacturers are adding LVT to their product offerings, so LVT is promoted more than sheet vinyl. Secondly, handling and installation [of LVT] is easier, especially for DIY applications.”

Screen Shot 2017-08-07 at 11.15.10 AMEasier installation is one major factor sheet vinyl manufacturers need to consider when developing new products, according to executives such as Jeff Fenwick, president and COO, Tarkett North America. As it stands today, “[installing] sheet product requires a level of expertise that tile does not.”

Fenwick also believes improvements in design are needed to help capture the consumer’s eye and break the stereotype that sheet vinyl is “what’s laid down in grandma’s kitchen.”

While some experts see the slight decline of sheet continuing in 2017, many manufacturers believe the category is still viable.

“There’s some softness on the sheet vinyl side but we firmly believe in the category,” said David Sheehan, senior vice president of product management, IVC—a division of Mohawk Industries. “Sheet in general is going to have to innovate. As manufacturers of sheet we need to do a better job of stepping up by innovating not only from a product standpoint but also in terms of how we talk about these products.”

For some manufacturers sheet still holds a certain value proposition. “Sheet is still the best value per square foot in flooring,” said Kurt Denman, chief marketing officer and executive vice president of sales, Congoleum. “This is the original waterproof flooring and it delivers an exceptional value.”

Instead of simply dismissing the segment most sheet vinyl manufacturers are working on ways to innovate their product offerings to compete with LVT, WPC and rigid core. Investments in manufacturing, processes and technology are ways suppliers are seeking to re-invigorate the segment.

“Regardless of what the market is doing, we’re focused on growing our business by bringing innovative products to market,” said Matthew Savarino, senior product manager, resilient sheet, Armstrong Flooring. “We have already introduced new innovations in 2017, specifically Diamond 10 technology across select residential and commercial sheet.”

Sheet innovation at Mannington Mills involves finding answers to the question: How can the company push style and design? “You can make really innovative looks with sheet vinyl,” said Jimmy Tuley, vice president of residential resilient. “I know that has not been the popular perception in the past, but if you look at a couple of our new collections they really do a fantastic job of mimicking incredibly high-end looks with embossed in register, very realistic visuals at a very reasonable price point.”

Despite the overall segment’s slight decline, some manufacturers reported seeing an uptick among their sheet offerings. “We continue to see good strong performance and actually growth out of our sheet category,” Denman noted. “We’ve spent a fair amount of time really targeting the builder/multi-family market. A couple of years ago we introduced the ArmorCore line, which was designed specifically for them. We’ve invested [heavily in] the category and we continue to see growth.”

Just as sheet continues to fight against LVT and its subcategories for market share, felt continues to battle fiberglass. In 2016 fiberglass saw a 4.8% increase in dollars while felt was down 6%, according to FCNews research. Most manufacturers see this flip from felt to fiberglass continuing through 2017, but do not see felt completely disappearing.

“Growth in felt market share is going to come from specific market segments,” Armstrong’s Savarino explained. “Felt-based products still provide, generally speaking, greater durability over fiberglass-based vinyl sheet. The comfort tradeoff has won out with homeowners—which is why we have seen such a large shift in the market [to fiberglass], but segments such as property management and builders still put a high value on rip, tear and gouge performance. The installation benefits of fiberglass over felt have also been swaying some buyers in that segment, but picking between durability and ease of install is still a tough decision for many customers.”

LVT output rises
LVT is still singing 2016’s hit song as it continues to drive category growth and take market share from other categories. Based on FCNews data, LVT had a strong year in 2016, capturing 48.1% of residential market share in dollars. With only six months left of 2017 most manufacturers are reporting strong growth in LVT. This is most commonly attributed to the aggressive nature of it subcategories—WPC and rigid core.

As LVT remains a category favorite more manufacturers are expanding into domestic production. Experts have taken notice of the increase; however, most do not expect import production to disappear.

Screen Shot 2017-08-07 at 11.14.53 AM“With the significant growth in the category, both domestic and import production will continue to expand,” said Lindsey Nisbet, head of product marketing and development, EarthWerks. “With the increased demand on the market today, many are finding it possible to produce in the United States. However, the technology for this category continues to be derived from Asia, as well as many of the components that make up the products. I foresee a nice balance of the category across the globe.”

Mannington is a company dedicated to U.S. production and has seen success from its acquisition of Amtico. “It’s important for several key suppliers to be able to produce here in the U.S.” Tuley explained. However, he also sees a need in the industry for balance between domestic and import production, specifically in regards to keeping up with consumer demands. Tuley cited the rapid expansion of the market and the need for technical innovations as some of the reasons for a balance strategy.

Manufacturers invested in domestic production see a number of benefits that are not always available when importing. A few examples include greater product control, faster lead time and a Made-in-the-USA story.

“In today’s market end users and consumers want product faster,” said Michael Raskin, president and CEO of Raskin Industries. “Domestic production provides shorter lead times. Another point to consider is younger consumers with children are asking where the product is made and the perception is ‘made in the USA’ is better quality and safer. It’s also very hard to guess right with inventory management since we are in a fashion business and as trends develop, distributors and retailers can react much faster with supply/demand when product is made in the U.S.”

For some, the issue is not so cut and dry. For instance, Jamann Stepp, director of marketing and product management for USFloors, there are both positives and negatives to domestic and import production. In addition to the benefits listed previously, Stepp cited greater quality control with domestic production. When importing, he explained, a manufacturer is able to eliminate the capital required to set up, run and maintain a manufacturing operation.

Others see more benefits in importing products. “Importation can actually be more flexible and responsive to the needs and trends in the marketplace,” Novalis’ Wu explained.

Even though importing products may result in longer lead times and less control over manufacturing, the vast majority of LVT products are still coming from overseas, observers say. “If you’re importing it allows for quicker response for changes in construction processing,” Congoleum’s Denman said. “There’s no capital expense investment. You can also get fairly competitive bidding between [businesses]. The number that exists allows a brand to have a lot of choices and opportunities to building the product that it wants.”

In addition to the increase of LVT domestic production, some manufacturers are also bringing rigid construction to the U.S. One in particular is IVC, which announced last year that it is building a rigid plant in Dalton.

“We expect to be up and running the first part of 2018 and getting product out through the latter part of 2018,” IVC’s Sheehan reports. “We’re going to be at the lead of that movement which makes sense from a lead-time standpoint and not having to tie up a lot of inventory, work, capital and being able to serve the needs of our customers in a better fashion.”

Even though a growing number of manufacturers are investing in U.S. production, some say the effects of their shift away from importing has yet to be felt. “Most of these factories are still coming on line,” Metroflor’s Keeble said. “With that said, the overwhelming majority of LVT sold in the USA remains imported, and with the category growing as it has, imports will likely remain a very large part of the overall market.”

WPC’s performance edge
Experts predict the aggressive growth of WPC and rigid core products will continue as long as waterproof products continue to capture the hearts and eyes of consumers. As these subcategories achieve meteoric growth other flooring categories will continue to lose overall market share.

“The growth in LVT has come at the expense of many categories including sheet vinyl, hardwood and especially laminate,” Karndean’s Browder said. “With the advent of WPC/rigid core, laminate is taking an even bigger hit. The fall of laminate flooring due to water and noise issues created a market for WPC and rigid core products.”

The success of WPC and rigid core can be attributed to multiple factors including the categories’ abilities to solve certain performance problems. “Rigid core products have helped to solve for additional challenges that regular LVT could not,” said Jeremy Kleinberg, senior product manager, Armstrong Flooring. “For example, telegraphing of minor subfloor texture.”

Ongoing developments
In 2016 WPC and rigid core products saw what many industry experts have called phenomenal activity. In fact the subcategories, combined, have more than tripled in volume from 2015. Most industry experts expect this growth to continue well into 2018.

Screen Shot 2017-08-07 at 11.15.01 AM“I wouldn’t be surprised if WPC/rigid core becomes the larger sub-segment of LVT,” IVC’s Sheehan said. While he sees these subcategories still gaining market share, he does expect the WPC/rigid core craze will eventually level off and allow for an increase in sheet market share.

As fairly new subcategories, WPC and rigid core are expected to see at least two more years of aggressive innovation. In fact, Mannington’s Tuley sees these subcategories still in the early, steep part of the growth curve.

“There’s also a significant amount of innovation that’s going to be coming,” he added. “I wouldn’t think that even in the next two years that will stop. You will see a significant number of entrants moving away from WPC and going toward rigid core.”

Tuley has a good point. As WPC and rigid core continue to grow, more manufacturers are adding the products to their resilient offerings. New rigid core and WPC introductions—as well as additions to existing collections—are already being brought to market only six months into 2017. For example, Novalis has introduced its High Performance Core (HPC Technology) line for WPC/rigid LVT. Wu sees these newer introductions taking market share from other categories as well as developing a greater presence in the commercial sector.

Manufacturers such as Karndean have developed new rigid products to meet dealer demands. “Our dealers had been asking for a rigid core product with Karndean designs,” Browder said. “With Korlok we have the perfect combination of industry-leading technology and our renowned design quality.”

Shaw Floors has also taken advantage of the success of WPC and rigid core with a mid-year launch of the company’s new Floorté PRO collection.

WPC and rigid core have managed to attract almost every manufacturer. One concern regarding these products is the possibility they might cannibalize traditional LVT. According to the experts, higher-end traditional LVT may take a hit; however, low-end LVT should be able to withstand the “perfect storm,” as one executive described it.

“While multi-layer flooring is definitely taking share over the click options of LVT, the traditional glue-down LVT is also growing,” EarthWerks’ Nisbet explained. “The multi-layer flooring options are taking place of the original click LVT, as well as alternate flooring categories. With the enhanced technologies and realistic attributes of these designs, the affordability and performance of multi-layer flooring, the vinyl option has become a clear competitor in the overall choice for flooring.”

USFloors’ Stepp doesn’t see the subcategories cannibalizing LVT; rather, they are providing the consumer or end user with various choices. “[WPC/rigid core] merely offers the end-user and consumer a choice based on functionality, application and budget. The consumer will make the choice as to what best suits her needs in terms of performance, fashion and cost.”