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Richard Quinlan joins Wellmade as senior VP of sales

Portland, Ore.—Richard (Dick) Quinlan has joined Wellmade Performance Flooring as senior vice president of sales. Quinlan has spent more than 30 years in the flooring industry and brings a wealth of management experience to Wellmade, from product development and program implementation, to sales channel segmentation and team management and mentoring.

“Dick has a proven track record of driving multi-million-dollar growth while maximizing profitability,” said Allen Chen, president of Wellmade. “His passion and experience will be integral to the growth of Wellmade’s recently patented HDPC rigid core flooring technology.”

“Wellmade is a global leader in the development, production and sales of high-performance flooring products,” said Quinlan. “I’m excited to be a part of the company’s future growth as we continue to rollout Wellmade’s innovative and proprietary HDPC platform.”

Throughout his career, Quinlan has served in a variety of executive management positions for leading companies within the flooring industry. Most recently, he acted as senior director at Mohawk Industries. Prior to that, he served as general manager for Armstrong World industries.

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Bamboo: How to position the product on your showroom floor

August 4/11, 2014; Volume 28/Number 4

By Ken Ryan

Screen Shot 2014-08-13 at 3.01.06 PMThere was a time not long ago when many flooring retailers, perhaps looking to tout the environmental attributes of bamboo flooring, merchandised the category in its own “green” area on the showroom floor. USFloors, for example, even created a “Green Island” display for that very purpose.

But times have changed; bamboo is still green as ever, but the term has become so mainstream, executives said, that it has lost some of its marketing clout. Today, you are just as likely to see bamboo displayed in its own section in a showroom or within hardwood—and still in some cases a green area—as dealers have any number of choices in how to position bamboo.

Not surprisingly, industry manufacturers and retailers offered different views on how best to position bamboo. For example, Bruce Boulden, national flooring sales director at Bamboo Hardwoods, believes bamboo should be positioned among other hard surfaces. So, too, does Mike Boshart, president of Teragren, who is also of the opinion that selling green no longer offers the competitive edge it once did because everyone claims to have green products.

However, Ryan Bechtold, operations manager at Contract Furnishings Mart, Beaverton, Ore., believes bamboo is a large enough category to merit its own section on the showroom floor.

What everyone does agree on is that while positioning is important, a trained and educated sales staff is the most critical factor when selling bamboo. “How you differentiate your product offering from the mass market, i.e. Home Depot, Lowe’s and Lumber Liquidators, is the challenge independent retailers face,” said Sean O’Rourke, vice president of hard surfaces at Avalon Flooring in Cherry Hill, N.J. “Strand bamboo [the most popular choice today] in any format pretty much looks like the next strand bamboo whether there is a quality difference or not, and nothing but sales professionalism and great product knowledge will separate you from a low-cost option available down the street.”

O’Rourke said recent developments of strand on an HDF core make the product viable again in a click-float format; he noted that Teragren is returning to more offerings in a traditional tongue and groove that makes sense, especially if a customer wants to cover a large area without transitions.

As an alternative hardwood product, bamboo is both a challenge for dealers as to where to display it, as well as an opportunity for them to sell something different.

Bamboo area

Contract Furnishings Mart (CFM), with 11 stores in Oregon and Washington State, was cited as being one of the best retailers in merchandising and selling bamboo. Its showrooms vary in size, and the way in which bamboo is merchandised is at the discretion of the store manager. In general, Bechtold said, CFM has been successful selling bamboo in its own space, generally between 200 and 350 square feet, displayed near hardwood.

“Many consumers don’t think of bamboo as an option, but it may be the look they are looking for,” Bechtold said. CFM’s sales associates are trained to engage customers in conversation to better define their flooring needs. “As the conversation unfolds, often we may say, ‘Have you considered bamboo?’ It is a viable category and we do well with it.”

Green area

Steve Wagner, director of sales and marketing at Wellmade Performance Flooring, said he thinks many retailers are missing a great opportunity to highlight a portion of their showrooms to green products, including bamboo, cork and FSC-certified hardwood. “A beautiful showroom floor, coupled with room scenes, props and green attributes, can go a long way to stimulating the consumer’s imagination,” he explained.

“In the case of Wellmade, our bamboo is FloorScore certified for indoor air quality, rapidly renewable, ultra-low in VOC emissions and qualifies for LEED points. And with all the recent price increases in hardwood flooring, we’ve maintained very attractive pricing, and that is another great selling point.”Screen Shot 2014-08-13 at 3.01.43 PM

Hardwood area

Some flooring executives said the term “green” has lost some of its luster as a marketing strategy. “Green has reached parity in the marketplace,” Boshart said. “Everyone is promoting the fact they are green—whether it is how the product is manufactured, proximity to the market, how it is disposed of, etc., and they are totally legitimate cases. But by segregating green products, you’re doing customers a disservice and not representing those products as they might be. With green evolving, it makes more of a case to display with other hardwoods.”

Gary Keeble, product and marketing manager at USFloors, agreed that green is not the differentiator it once was. He said the Green Island display for its cork and bamboo products was a good idea in 2008 but is not as effective in today’s market.

“We look at bamboo as an alternative product to hardwood, and we believe for retailers to have success, bamboo should be in the hardwood area,” Keeble said. “We’ve moved away from the term green; we talk more about sustainability, the overall environmental impact.”

Boulden said there is a movement afoot among retailers to move bamboo products to the hardwood section. He suggests retailers place bamboo “just as they would another hardwood product, as aligned within the current display structure, or as one of similarly priced products, such as a hand-scrapped option within that section; or simply by species if that is what works for that retailer. Bottom line: Integrate bamboo as you would any other hardwood species; just don’t segregate it.”

Nick Freadreacea, president of The Flooring Gallery in Louisville, Ky., said his stores have used many versions of bamboo over the years with differing success. “Our most consistent luck has been with the stranded products, and our current best seller is the group from USFloors. They have a stranded veneer on a high density core over a cork base. So far this combination has given us the durability of strand, with a stable product that still sounded like a real floor to walk on.”

Both dealers and manufacturers said there is no magical way bamboo should be displayed. What’s most important is there are adequate samples; bamboo should be installed on the floor for consumers to walk on and for it to be shown in the proper light. “It’s incumbent upon the professionals to be able to say to the customer, ‘Here is another option—bamboo,’” Boulden said. “Education is extremely important because not all bamboos are created equal. We may be biased but we see bamboo as another hardwood, a product that offers different visuals—smooth, distressed, brushed, French bleed.”

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Quality control, exacting standards drive Wellmade’s success

May 26/June 2, 2014; Volume 27/Number 28

By Ken Ryan

Screen Shot 2014-06-17 at 12.17.14 PMFor more than a decade, Wellmade Performance Flooring has burnished its credentials as a single-source manufacturer of high quality bamboo flooring, led by its strand woven collections.

Along the way Wellmade has earned the respect of distributors, contractors and independent flooring dealers for the quality control of its manufacturing process—from sourcing the finest raw material to precision milling, finishing, packaging and final delivery. Case in point: when raw material enters the factory, an inspector uses a moisture meter to ensure the raw material has arrived with the proper moisture content prior to actual kiln drying. Later in the process, a technician peers through a profile instrument that projects the actual Uniclic profile onto a screen to check that tolerances are calibrated to spec. Then, workers on the finishing line monitor planks for any obvious imperfections, including color shading and surface blemishes.

Wellmade’s belief is that attention to every manufacturing detail results in flooring that is easy to install and guaranteed to perform under the most demanding applications. And this quality control process has not gone unnoticed by Wellmade customers.

“The quality of product that Wellmade provides is such that I have never had a claim on its products,” said Matt Bechtold, vice president at Contract Furnishings Mart, Tigard, Ore., which carries Wellmade bamboo, LVT and some hardwood products. “Other companies’ bamboos have had major problems with extreme expansion and contraction in floating installations, but I have never had issues with Wellmade.”

An added advantage for Contract Furnishings Mart is that Wellmade is locally operated in Wilsonville, Ore.—five miles from Tigard—so its customers can go down to the warehouse and pick up material the same day if needed, Bechtold said.

Some customers appreciate the fact they can make a nice profit margin on Wellmade products, while others focus on the floors’ reliability.

“The look of the product and the fact our installers love it has made the difference,” said James Ivanditti, owner of Wakefield Flooring, a Winston-Salem, N.C.-based flooring dealer. “We have not had any issues with Wellmade. We have carried its complete bamboo lines for more than two years; we can make a good profit on the products, and at the end of the day our customers are satisfied.”

Ivanditti said the urethane finish on Wellmade’s bamboo stands up better than other finishes. “There is a misconception that strand woven bamboo does not damage because it is so hard,” he explained. “But it can damage as the finish breaks down over time, which can lead to scratches. That has not been the case with the Wellmade product.”

Carl Hall, owner and president of Echo Interiors, an East Setauket, N.Y.-based commercial flooring contractor, has found Wellmade’s strand woven bamboo is more dimensionally stable than most other wood products. “These days wood companies are introducing so many new products so fast, and not all of them are dimensionally stable when they come out of the box. That has not been the situation with Wellmade.”

New developments

Known primarily for its bamboo offerings (traditional, solid or engineered strand woven), Wellmade is expanding its presence in the LVT and laminate categories, part of a strategy to expand and diversify its offerings and customer base beyond the sales channels already in place. The company hopes the category extensions will attract additional larger dealers.

“[The product expansions] are an obvious fit for us because we already have the sourcing connections, logistics and brand recognition in place to deliver premium products to our existing and prospective customers,” said Steve Wagner, director of sales and marketing. The company is currently offering full collections of premium 4mm LVT with Uniclic, as well as a 2mm glue down product. On the laminate front, it is offering AC3-rated 8mm and 12mm collections with general embossed in register and other embossed visuals. Finishes range from piano gloss to standard matte.

Product evolution

Wellmade entered the flooring industry more than a decade ago with traditional horizontal and vertical bamboo flooring. Later, the company entered the solid strand market. In response to market demand, Wellmade introduced engineered strand products designed to perform in all moisture conditions and sources Moso bamboo because of its density and stability. The floors use low-VOC resins and comply with the European E1 Standard for formaldehyde emissions.

Wellmade markets both tongue-and-groove and Uniclic floating profiles, and its commercially rated HardMax finish includes 13 coats of UV-cured aluminum oxide, almost twice the industry norm. The company’s bamboo floors come in a variety of colors and textures, from natural and carbonized to walnut and mahogany in smooth, hand scraped and distressed looks.

The manufacturer will continue to push R&D and product diversification to grow its business. In bamboo, its recent introduction of the Old Growth Series features reclaimed hardwood visuals applied directly to a bamboo core. And its Clear-Tec print technology is intended to provide hardwood realism. Wellmade is also introducing a full collection of bamboo parquet tiles designed to modularly integrate with its engineered strand collection.