UltraCeramic to make U.S. debut at Surfaces

January 13, 2017

January 2/9, 2017: Volume 31, Number 15
By Steven Feldman

Screen Shot 2017-01-13 at 10.38.12 AMAfter a successful launch in Canada, UltraCeramic, American Biltrite’s first foray into the residential market, is set to make its long-awaited U.S. debut at Surfaces in Las Vegas next week. And the plan is to offer the LVT to select retailers.

What took so long? “We wanted to make sure we were doing everything right in Canada,” said Roger Marcus, CEO. “We wanted to make sure it was better than good before launching in the U.S., and if any changes needed to be done—which there weren’t—we wanted to learn such.”

While American Biltrite may have been ready for prime time in 2016, a go-to-market strategy needed to be sorted out. “Most decent distributors are overcommitted in the category with one, two or three upper-end LVT lines and at least one groutable LVT, which we call this category,” Marcus explained. “And every retailer has at least two or three displays of upper-end LVT.”

Not only do retailers have multiple LVT lines, UltraCeramic has to compete for floor space with the burgeoning WPC category. To that end, after much “investigation and discussion,” American Biltrite decided its best route to market in the U.S. is to offer the larger retailers exclusivity in their territory. “We believe the type of retailer we are approaching represents a significant market share of their territories for upper-end or groutable LVT,” Marcus said.

In illustration:

  • American Biltrite will be exhibiting at the National Floorcovering Alliance Specialty Vendor Showcase one day in advance of Surfaces, where UltraCeramic will be shown to the 42 high-profile members.
  • HOM Furniture, a 17-store chain covering five Midwestern states, kicked off the line this past fall.
  • The company has set up a number of second meetings with several large retailers at Surfaces.
  • American Biltrite will be exhibiting on the show floor at Surfaces to expose UltraCeramic to the larger retailers attending the show.

American Biltrite will be servicing its customers directly with inventory in both New Jersey and Quebec. “Some retailers, like HOM, will maintain an inventory of some of the best-selling SKUs,” Marcus said. “In other cases we will direct ship orders [seven to 10 business days]. We have the advantage of not having to go through distribution irrespective of high freight costs, so it allows us to be more competitive.”

Why should retailers consider taking on the line? Aside from exclusivity and higher margins, Marcus touted UltraCeramic’s unique attributes and merchandising. “First, it is 18 x 18 vs. the conventional 16 x 16, so it lends itself to those opportunities where an 18 x 18 looks better—large foyers, large kitchens and family rooms. Second, the edges are more rounded, which offers a more realistic look and bigger dwelling for grout. And last summer we introduced a 12 x 24 option, which significantly increased our sales penetration.” The line comprises approximately 40 SKUs, predominately stone and ceramic looks with a few geometrics.

As for the merchandising, instead of taking the “small and inexpensive” route for mass representation, American Biltrite has created an upper-end unit for the stores that can handle such a product by virtue of size and type of display. “You are actually showing 18 x 18 side by side in real product and not in pictures,” he said.

In response to the WPC craze, Marcus said UltraCeramic—a glue-down LVT—can be installed in areas subject to moisture with the right underlayment system. “If WPC stands for water proof category, then UltraCeramic fits.”

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