Quebec, Canada—Wickham Hardwood Flooring has partnered with Abraham Linc to distribute and market the Wickham brand of products in the Mid-Atlantic region.
Established in 1988, Abraham Linc is a full line distributor of floor covering products serving West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland, D.C., Pennsylvania, Delaware, South Jersey, and portions of Ohio and Kentucky. Abraham Linc is headquartered in Bridgeport, W.Va., with additional warehouse facilities in Baltimore, Maryland and Waynesboro, Va.
“We are very pleased to be partnered with such a reputable, established organization,” said Jean-Pierre Nittolo, president for Wickham Hardwood Flooring. “Their management and sales team will do a great job representing our products in the Mid-Atlantic region.”
Darren F. Abraham, president and CEO of Abraham Linc, is also looking forward to the partnership. “We’re in the inventory business and perform logistical services for manufacturers in the Mid-Atlantic,” he said. “Our entire team is excited to partner with Wickham and offer this line to our customers. The high quality of the products, fashion forward colors and design, combined with our commitment to inventory, delivery and sales support gives our dealers an exciting new line.”
For more information contact Paul Rezuke, vice president of U.S. sales for Wickham Hardwood, at 508-954-2221, or Terry Warne, executive vice president of Abraham Linc at 800-359-5260.
HOUSTON—Thanks to distributor Abraham Linc’s expansion into Virgina, Maryland and Delaware, EarthWerks luxury vinyl plank and tile is now available in these markets. “We’ve had a great relationship with Abraham Linc for many years,” said Amy Sadler, EarthWerks’ national sales manager, “and look forward to having our full line represented.” Continue reading EarthWerks expands with Abraham Linc
Innovators. Game changers. Risk takers. Those who make a left when all others are turning right, so to speak. These are just some of the terms used to describe the special class of companies highlighted here in Floor Covering News’ inaugural “Industry Disrupters” issue.
FCNews reached out to retailers, distributors as well as suppliers, and asked them to nominate those companies who are changing the industry paradigm in some respect or raising the bar in their fields of expertise. Criteria extended beyond manufacturing capabilities to include marketing, merchandising, education, training, etc.—essentially any area where they felt suppliers are doing things outside the norm.
American OEM—Legacy of Innovation
American OEM has been crafting beautiful, responsible and enduring hardwood floors in Tennessee since 2014. Industry veteran Don Finkell founded the company to continue a 70- year legacy of producing engineered wood flooring in America at a time when most production was moving overseas. Since its inception, American OEM has been a domestic alternative to foreign sources of private-label programs and was a pioneer in introducing American-made engineered wood flooring in an 8-foot board length.
That spirit and heritage of product innovation continues with the launch of Raintree, American OEM’s next generation of flooring. Raintree, a waterproof product featuring a real wood veneer, is an engineered wood/resilient hybrid product that passes a 24- hour soak test, allowing it to compete with today’s popular waterproof floors that have previously been available only in printed visuals.
“Raintree is an industry disrupter that offers tangible advancements of hardwood performance in wet conditions,” Finkell stated. Raintree utilizes American OEM’s new “Ninja” technology to improve indentation resistance, dimensional stability and resistance to water incursion. The wood layer is reinforced by a rigid, 100% waterproof Ninja H2O Core and is sealed against moisture thanks to Ninja Pet Guard.
Anderson Tuftex—Paradigm shifter
It’s not so much about highlighting individual introductions and collections—which is typically the way most products come to market—as it is about curating companion product portfolios across an array of both hard and soft surface offerings. That’s the novel approach Anderson Tuftex is taking as it celebrates its first anniversary following the merger of the two venerable brands.
No surprise, then, that Anderson Tuftex takes a holistic and consumer-centric approach to marketing and product development. Today’s consumer demands a simplified shopping experience both in- store and online, and Anderson Tuftex is listening to the expectations of consumers, designing timeless products and providing exceptional service that addresses the needs of today’s premium flooring market.
“The entire consumer journey is changing,” said Carrie Edwards Isaac, vice president of residential marketing and consumer strategy “Purchasing flooring is complicated, and consumers feel pressured to get it right. At Anderson Tuftex, it’s about simplicity. We don’t want to overwhelm consumers with options, but rather craft intentional designs that serve as a canvas for their lives.”
Anderson Tuftex designs and produces coveted hardwood, carpet and rugs that enable retailers to take consumers from refined to rustic with handcrafted products that offer a cultivated charm. The focus this year is on the Unleashed collection, which features carpets made with Stainmaster PetProtect carpet, built-in stain protection and pet hair resistance to make clean-up a cinch. The collection’s carpets are also color-safe and fade-resistant. When curated with Anderson Tuftex’s two new hardwood additions, Kensington and Buckingham, the Unleashed collection adds timeless refinement to any home.
Naples, Fla.-based Hadinger Floors, a long-time Anderson Tuftex dealer, is a believer. “They always come up with great designs,” said Susan Hadinger, president. “Their team—which includes Carrie Edwards Isaac and Katie Ford—are super creative. We just renewed our partnership with Anderson Tuftex, and we have very high hopes for the future.”
Armstrong Flooring—Setting a new standard
While some companies see opportunities in diversifying into a variety of competing hard surface categories, Armstrong Flooring is looking to buck that trend by specializing on one key product segment.
“Having built our reputation as the leading resilient manufacturer and innovator throughout the 20th century, Armstrong Flooring has recommitted to our core strength by becoming a pure-play resilient flooring company,” said Deb Lechner, vice president of marketing.
Armstrong Flooring’s latest round of innovation began with the introduction of its signature Diamond 10 technology on its domestically produced LVT lines. According to the company, this innovation set a new standard in durability, scratch, stain and scuff resistance through patent-pending technology that uses cultured diamonds as well as patent-pending manufacturing processes.
Another example of Armstrong’s innovation is Pryzm, a hybrid product that combines the easy installation of a rigid core floor, the visual clarity of laminate and a commercial-grade wear layer for optimal dent, scratch and stain resistance.
Armstrong dealers attest to the company’s knack for innovation. “I’ve been impressed with Armstrong Flooring’s hard surface finishes, whether it’s Pryzm or the Diamond 10 finish— they’re definitely changing the game for other manufacturers,” said Terri Blessing, president and owner of Carpet Depot & More, Bushnell, Fla. “Their products don’t dent or scratch easily, and they allow more livability on top of their products.”
Cali Brands—A fresh approach
Considering its origins, Cali has had a leg up as a disruptor from the get-go. Founded in 2004 as an online provider of bamboo, the now-omni-channel company continues to break new ground.
Doug Jackson, Cali CEO, often compares the company’s omni-channel marketing approach to business models employed in other industries. “If you want to buy an iPhone you can buy direct from Apple, Best Buy or AT&T, or you can buy from a store online. The price is the same—it’s just a matter of what level of service you want, or who you are comfortable buying from.”
The San Diego-based startup’s relatively small size also provides an advantage. Cali’s creative and agile workforce helps spearhead the development of new products and programs without the bureaucracy typically associated with much larger companies. In fact, according to the company, this quick turnaround, flexible supply chain and a team of highly trained reps has fueled consistently high “Net Promoter Scores”—revealing levels of customer loyalty that rival those of top American brands like Starbucks, Costco and Target.
Of course, a speedy go-to-market strategy is nothing without a solid product offering. Here, too, Cali consistently strives to offer high-quality, aggressively priced collections that are also environmentally friendly—a rare combination.
CFL Flooring—Raising the bar
First it broke ground with Atroguard, billed as a completely waterproof laminate floor. Then it raised the ante with FirmFit, a floating floor featuring rigid, high-density mineral based core construction boasting high-performance properties. Now it has completed the trifecta with the launch of Tenacity, an engineered stone, PVC- free line that made its U.S. debut at TISE.
“CFL is the industry disrupter with its construction on the base of PVC-free engineered stone,” said Thomas Baert, president of CFL Flooring. “We believe this will shape the innovation in the flooring industry over the next few years.”
CFL positions Tenacity as the pinnacle of the waterproof category, featuring advantages of a newly developed rigid mineral stone core—rigidity, enhanced wear resistance and superb stability. Tenacity can be seamlessly installed over large surfaces (up to 10,000 square feet) with no transitions across virtually all spaces, including three-season rooms and sunrooms.
CFL’s customers marvel at the company’s propensity for product innovation. “They are unique in that they offer many first-to-market products across different categories,” said Bob Weiss, CEO of All Tile/Carpet Cushions & Supplies, a top 20 distributor. “They are continuously on the cutting edge of technology, functionality and style.”
As the millennial generation marches through the traditional hallmarks of adulthood, they approach product and brand selection quite differently than older generations. For a product to even be considered, they need to reflect their personality and their values.
“Understanding consumer needs and delivering innovations that shape the way the world sees resilient flooring has been the hallmark of Congoleum for more than 135 years,” said Kurt Denman, chief marketing officer and executive vice president of sales. As examples, he cited the company’s invention of in-register embossing for resilient sheet; the breakthrough rigid, groutable LVT; and the latest innovation, Cleo Home, billed as the next generation of flooring for the next generation of consumer.
“It’s the first domestically produced PVC-free, digitally printed, direct-to-base construction that seamlessly combines engineered performance with stunning visual artistry,” Denman explained.
The patented eco-forward construction of Cleo Home is different in every way including:
The base—A CulturedSTONE mineral composite core that is 85% locally sourced limestone, 100% waterproof and 100% free of PVC, plasticizers, phthalates and chloro-chemicals.
The imaging—Stunning visuals with minimal repeats are achieved through Congoleum’s ChromaTRU high-fidelity digital imaging process that features direct-to-base printing.
The wear layer—UltraCLEAR high-performance, ultra-low VOC coating system delivers unmatched clarity and protection that is further enhanced with Scotchgard protectant.
DuChâteau—Outside the proverbial box
At DuChâteau, “disruptive” is more than a trendy buzzword. It’s a philosophy that rests at the core of the company’s success.
Since the company was founded, it has always approached the flooring and surface market with the view of an outsider. “We have given ourselves permission to not do things the way they have always been done before—to not look over our shoulder, but to look ahead and bring to market things that we love,” said, Mitch Tagle, CEO. “We introduced wide-plank, European-inspired, oil-finished flooring to the U.S. market a little over a decade ago and single-handedly created a new market segment.”
In keeping with its spirit of groundbreaking innovation, DuChâteau plans to introduce a new flooring collection aimed at millennial homeowners. According to the company, the new line offers end users high-design floor visuals at an attractive price point. The new collection, known as The Guild, will launch in early June of this year.
DuChâteau’s partners in the supply chain attest to its design prowess and unique marketing approach—not only with respect to wood but also other categories in which it participates. “DuChâteau is a world leader in sustainably produced engineered hardwood, high- performance vinyl plank products and luxury wall coverings,” said Geoff Gordon, executive director for Fuse Alliance.
Engineered Floors—Defying the odds
Since its inception in 2009, Engineered Floors (EF) has been known as a leading industry disruptor. From how the company started to how the premium solution-dyed fiber, PureColor, is made, EF has led the industry with innovation despite the company’s short history.
Engineered Floors launched during trying economic times for the country. Mike Sanderson, vice president of marketing, recalled, “Businesses simply weren’t being started in 2009—much less a business that would ultimately end up being one of the world’s leading carpet manufacturers.”
Though it seemed futile to some, Engineered Floors broke ground on what is known as the “SAM” plant in 2013. The production facility would grow beyond 2.5 million square feet and house some of the world’s most modern manufacturing technology.
Having the world’s largest, most modern carpet manufacturing facility means being able to make a premium product at a fraction of what it costs competitors to product. As Bob Shaw, founder and CEO stated, “We said, what if you can move it all within one building where it comes in and goes out as carpet? There were a lot of savings, and it also means you had just one person in charge of the quality.”
According to Engineered Floors, this is all done while using 30% less energy, 42% fewer greenhouse emissions and 87% less water than traditional carpet manufacturing. Additionally, according to Sanderson, Engineered Floors is the only leading carpet manufacturer that does not use PFC topicals on its products.
Solution-dyed carpet remains a premium, something a consumer can only have if they were willing to pay for it. However, that is not the case with PureColor. Because the color goes all the way through the fiber, PureColor will not bleach from spot cleaning, doesn’t fade from prolonged sunlight exposure, won’t wear in high traffic areas and will resist some of life’s harshest stains, such as wine and pet stains. PureColor also solves one of the industry’s leading issues—side match. PureColor means being able to live life’s moments on the carpet without sacrificing affordability.
I4F—Making a difference below the surface
In today’s hyper-competitive environment, where the race to be the “first” or “best” in one category or another is moving along at a break-neck pace, aligning with the right partner can make all the difference. This certainly applies to companies like I4F, which provides licensees with intellectual expertise, meaningful patents and cutting-edge technologies as well as access to some of the global flooring industry’s most advanced flooring installation innovations, including 3L TripleLock and Click4U.
“We constantly seek out innovations that are cutting edge, so our licensees get the best technologies out there,” said John Rietveldt, I4F’s CEO. “Our portfolio of patents, now comprising over 2,000 patents and technologies, continues to grow.”
More importantly, I4F licensees have more options than ever before. With I4F representing portfolios of patents across multiple categories, the company’s Patent Cluster Concept (PCC) puts patents falling under the same category into groups or so-called “clusters” (i.e., Locking; Surface Finishing; Materials and Panel Composition; and Board & Wall Panels.) This offers I4F licensees more options to pick and choose patents, or groups of patents, that best meet their most current business needs.
“We have been able to conquer the market by providing the best flooring technologies available,” Rietveldt said.
Inhaus—Breaking the mold
Inhaus has a long history of innovation both in terms of product and manufacturing processes. It’s easy to forget all of amazing innovations in the laminate category that have not only become standards in laminate but in other categories as well.
“We were the first to innovate with a textured press plate back in the 1990s,” said Derek Welbourn, CEO. “Since then deep and varied gloss embossed in register designs have become the norms even in laminate and even in the vinyl category.”
Beyond laminate, Inhaus is also positioning Sono, a non-PVC based waterproof rigid core product made with inert polypropylene and natural mineral powder, as a game-changing technology. And thanks to high-definition digital printing, more vivid designs are possible.
Inhaus customers attest to the company’s manufacturing prowess. “What’s great about the Inhaus team is their focus on innovation, coupled with their continuous effort to elicit and respond to customer feedback,” said Scott Rozmus, president and CEO of FlorStar, a top 20 distributor. “They involve their distributors in product and design development, resulting in a much higher percentage of winners.”
Further innovations that will be released to the market is a new version of Sono that will include product enhancements for ease of use as well as embossed in register finishes.
“Other vendors certainly engage in similar processes in terms of product development, but Inhaus is a leader in this regard,” Rozmus said.
Karndean—Seeing vinyl flooring differently
Specializing in LVT since 1973, Karndean’s portfolio includes 200-plus products in original designs across three premium constructions—glue-down, loose lay and rigid core. Its product development team travels the world in search of intriguing and expressive natural forms, selecting materials by hand to develop original visuals that customers will love for a lifetime.
The new Hawaiian Koa design within the Korlok Select rigid core range is just one example. A species of acacia—which is in the same family as walnut—this protected wood is typically too costly and scarce for use in flooring. A floor you will only find through Karndean Designflooring, this rare and treasured species is available in its natural coloring and in two unique colors to suit today’s interior trends.
Karndean combines its unique designs with cutting-edge technology to create new products. All Karndean floors are finished with K-Guard+ surface protection, which provides a hygienic and durable finish that also performs. Karndean LooseLay utilizes the K-Wave friction grip backing to hold the product in place without full-spread adhesive; and its rigid core products are equipped with proprietary, 100% waterproof K-Core technology for installation over most existing hard floors without exposing subfloor imperfections.
Mohawk—Award-winning design, innovation
Ever since rolling out its first carpets in 1878, Mohawk has built quality into every flooring product it makes. Mohawk continues that tradition today with revolutionary product innovation, award-winning design and a talented team dedicated to outstanding service. As the world’s largest flooring manufacturer, Mohawk is a trusted company that creates products across all flooring categories to enhance residential and commercial spaces around the world.
Over the last few years, Mohawk has continued to be a disruptor with the launch of the most advanced and innovative products, programs and platforms this industry has ever seen.
Mohawk has the three most searched and researched brands in the industry—Mohawk, Pergo and Karastan. In 2019, Mohawk is launching Mohawk, Pergo and Karastan campaigns designed to emotionally connect with consumers and differentiate its brands and products from the competition. Mohawk has also demonstrated its commitment to retailers with the creation of top- quality products, such as Air.o, Pergo Extreme, RevWood Plus, SmartStrand and SolidTech.
By partnering with Mohawk, retailers can simplify the consumer journey to create a seamless experience and enjoy unprecedented success and growth.
MSI—A true retailer partner
Since its inception, MSI has been disrupting the flooring industry with a view of making products affordable and accessible. MSI has continually partnered with its retailer and sourcing partners to engineer products, distribution capabilities and logistical processes that enable the end consumer to have dream surfaces installed in their homes.
“Our goal has always been to make dream surfaces attainable in the most affordable way possible,” said Raj Shah, president of MSI. “We must do this without sacrificing the profits of our retailer/dealer partners. Our partners have worked with us on ceramic tile, mosaics, stacked stone, quartz, natural stone and, most recently, Everlife LVT to make MSI a trusted industry disruptor.”
MSI has also developed real-time visualization technology, industry-leading website content, innovative space saving displays and one-click sampling capabilities. In addition to that, MSI’s 30-plus domestic distribution centers make inventory not only available but provide extremely fast lead times. These capabilities have enabled MSI to bring millions of square feet of product from more than 36 countries across the world.
QFloors—Ushering dealers into the 21st century
Throughout its 20 years in the flooring industry, QFloors software has repeatedly acted as a disrupter, starting with the very first version. Created after recognizing the void of suitable technology in the industry, QFloors’ founders Chad and Trent Ogden started selling their software, which quickly made waves because QFloors provided a Windows-based system. This forced competitors to gradually move to a Windows-based platform as well.
An example of QFloors’ disruptive prowess is the new QPro cloud software, which provides the latest, next-generation technology. QPro is programmed to run 100%, start to finish, in a browser. The first version, QPro POS+, is currently available, and developers continue to work on additional features and versions. Current QFloors customers will be grandfathered into the new software, if and when they choose, at no additional charge.
Chad Ogden explained the QFloors philosophy, “We’re not just here to sell you software; we’re here to change your business for the better.”
Users like Nick Farrish, controller, Artisent Floors, Memphis, Tenn., can attest. “The QPro software gives us the ability to go back and forth from screen to screen. It actually tracks if you are looking at a material and you need to see a bill or why we have a freight charge associated with and order; you can click on the bill number and it jumps right there. So the flexibility to move back and forth between bills and deposits and materials to sales all in one has been a great aspect of the software.”
Raskin—Taking a page from fashion’s playbook
Every now and then the flooring industry needs a reminder that we’re not in the flooring business per se; we’re in the “fashion” business. Raskin Industries—known for its reputation for shaking things up with its eye-catching, out-of-the-norm designs, styles and product platforms—is happy to take up the mantle in this respect as well.
“People forget we are making products for consumers—so we have to design for them, not for us,” said Michael Raskin, president. “That’s what’s bringing in the customers.”
Take, for example, the company’s launch of the well-received Brooklyn Reserve collection (part of its signature Acrylx line) at Surfaces. The line is positioned as the show-stopping “runway” piece, while more mainstream looks aim to occupy the space of what Raskin characterizes as that every-day, “ready-to-wear” black dress from the same designer.
Distributor partners such as A.J. Warne, director of resilient sales at Abraham Linc, is a believer. “The Brooklyn Reserve has some stuff I don’t see anywhere, from the chevron pattern to the advanced embossed in registration. There are no hard lines and stark contrast with this product, which translates into a softer transition from board to board. Raskin is investing in resilient in so many different ways.”
RFMS—Expanding the possibilities
In 1984, the flooring industry was unaware of what was happening at a small carpet store in Northport, Ala. Terry Wheat, owner of Wheat’s Carpet, knew that if his business was to succeed, he needed a better way to manage the administrative side of his company. So he wrote the code to the very first version of RFMS in that year.
Fast forward to 2019—no one could ever have imagined the scope and depth of the impact that first program would have on flooring dealers, manufacturers and suppliers.
Not only did RFMS produce what has now become the leading software application in the marketplace, it has also been at the forefront of developing business workflow concepts, ecommerce technology and training strategies for users. RFMS understood early on of the importance of being a partner with each flooring business that implements the software. Not to be content with only financial management software, Wheat’s vision to improve the industry’s method of measuring and calculating flooring projects was realized with the addition of RFMS Measure, the premier estimating software for flooring.
Retailer customers who have incorporated the company’s software into their operations are happy they did. “We’ve been an RFMS user since 1987, and we’ve seen the growth and development of the software,” said Aaron Pirner, CEO Cap Carpet & Flooring, New Brighton, Minn. “It has really developed into a great package. It has enabled us to grow in the last 10 years from about a $9-million business to a $30-million business. If you really look at the software and use it in its entirety. It can do some very powerful things for your business.”
RFMS continues to lead the way to bring mobile technology to flooring dealers, forever changing the way floor covering is sold.
Shaw Floors—Committed to driving the industry forward
With more than 50 years of product expertise, Shaw Floors is rooted in a culture of service, innovation and passion. As an example, Shaw Floors is proud to claim the Anso Colorwall, the industry’s most successful merchandising unit for the last 20 years, as its own. After more than 80 million yards of carpet sold with it—enough to circle the planet twice —the company invested a year in research, design and a digital experience to reimagine “Color that Speaks to You,” an SFN-exclusive display.
“The new color wall coming to SFN dealers’ showrooms now has taken a tremendously successful merchandising program and launched it into the 21st century in a spectacular way,” said Steve Weisberg, president, Crest Flooring, Allentown, Pa. “This display is a magnet for consumers; the color lines are outstanding.”
Other innovations include Floorté Hardwood, which combines the best of SPC and genuine hardwood, On the soft surface side, Shaw Floors promotes the “worry-free” carpet experience—eliminating its demise from spills, stains and pet accidents—with the industry-disrupting debut of Bellera High Performance Carpet and the blue LifeGuard Spill-Proof backing.
“Shaw’s LifeGuard and Bellera programs have been almost as big a hit as Stainmaster was when it was first introduced,” Weisberg added.
Torlys—You say you want a revolution?
Some product/design innovators are just now coming to the table, while others have been breaking ground for decades, utilizing their legacy of flexibility and risk-taking spirit to separate themselves from the pack.
Canada-based Torlys belongs to that rare class that falls in the latter category. Known for its array of industry-disrupting products like engineered cork flooring as well as innovative hybrid floors, Torlys is once again turning heads with its latest offering, UltraFloors, a new product based on a magnesium-oxide core with a cork backing. Unlike some SPC products, UltraFloors’ core material comprises magnesium oxide—a mineral salt derived from stone. “It has the beauty of wood and tile, the waterproof nature of vinyl, the durability of HPL laminate, the shift proof and fireproof characteristics of ceramic and the comfort of cork underneath,” said Peter Barretto, president and CEO. “That’s not an evolution—that’s a revolution.”
UltraFloors actually made its U.S. debut at Surfaces 2018, where it was previewed for dealers prior to a hard launch. The line uses special powders and a propriety process to provide elasticity and flexibility. “Not only can you bend this product, but you can also put a Uniclic joint on it,” Barretto explained. “Plus, it’s PVC free.”
USFloors—COREtec continues to set the pace
USFloors builds upon its COREtec Original offering with a trio of new innovations: COREtec PRO, COREtec Wood and COREtec Stone. COREtec The Original and COREtec PRO cover the WPC and SPC spectrums, while COREtec Wood and COREtec Stone feature a new mineral core.
According to Piet Dossche, CEO of USFloors, this core marks the beginning of yet another new category. “At our core, we are disruptors and innovators,” Dossche stated. “We are overall troublemakers who do not accept the status quo.”
In its passion to develop a new wave of multilayer flooring, USFloors says it has discovered a formula that not only works but also advances its position as a leader in the style category. “Being a disrupter means keeping the
needs of our end users top of mind while focusing on innovation,” Dossche added. “In doing so, our core principles of style, strength and simplicity drive us forward.”
To further support its retail partners, USFloors is continuing to push the envelope with new products, new constructions and superior colors and designs. “This is only the beginning of our COREtec brand story,” Dossche said. “It is so very clear to us the industry is excited about the benefits our new innovations offer retailers and consumers. Our established relationships of trust lead to immediate acceptance of these innovations and set the foundation for COREtec to remain the disruptive, pioneering and fastest growing brand in the industry.”
Distributors encouraged to embrace latest software
January 21/28, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 17
By Ken Ryan
The transportation industry is being transformed by advancements in fleet management software, and flooring distributors are at the center of this push. In light of recent freight increases and other inflationary pressures, as well as a need to be more efficient, wholesalers are depending on new technologies for answers.
It has often been stated that a business has two choices when it comes to embracing new technology: adapt or die. For flooring distributors, it may be closer to “adapt or be left behind,” as lagging behind new technology will no doubt hurt those companies that don’t get on board.
“The current reality in logistics is folks need to adapt to technology changes,” said Scott Rozmus, president and CEO of FlorStar Sales, top 20 distributor based in Romeoville, Ill. “FlorStar certainly has done so and will continue to do so. For example, we have long been utilizing fleet tracking systems to improve efficiency.”
Madison, Wis.-based Jaeckle Distributors has long been a leader in automation. It currently uses a system called Telogis that complies with the Electronic Logging Device (ELD) mandate and tracks the company’s hours of service (HOS) and the International Fuel Tax Agreement (IFTA) DOT compliance. “It allows us to route our drivers efficiently based on deliveries and track their progress via GPS,” said Bill Simonson, COO. “As a distributor, our routes are the same every day, so there is only so much we can do to be efficient without compromising service.”
To varying degrees, all flooring distributors are dealing with driver shortages and rising freight costs. How they respond to these pressures is another matter. “You can already see those who adapt and change, and those who don’t,” Simonson said. “If you’re not currently investing in technology, you’re already way behind and you’ll have a hard time catching up. It isn’t just the technology investment; it’s the culture you have to build to get everyone on board with using and embracing it.”
When Owings Mills, Md.-based Elias Wilf was looking to upgrade its transportation technology, it turned to Roadnet Technologies (now Omnitracs), which at the time was looking to beta test the first integration from what had been half a dozen acquisitions on their end. Working together for close to a year, and implementing more than $500,000 of joint expenses, the final product came together. “While the savings have been phenomenal, the real benefit is the ability to reduce unnecessary expenses without compromising service or raising costs,” said Jeff Striegel, president of Elias Wilf.
Omnitracs, which offers fleet management products, has started working with other flooring distributors. Its Omnitracs Roadnet Anywhere program, for example, combines cost-efficient routing, real-time data collection, analysis tools and signature capture.
Not all the changes in transportation technology are occurring in the vehicle. Much of the efficiencies emanate from the office or the warehouse. Before implementing its new ecommerce solution with Dancik, Adleta’s customers were calling into the wholesaler’s main distribution center to check stock and pricing, place orders and check the status of orders. While its ecommerce solution provided Carrollton, Texas-based Adleta with multiple opportunities for improvement with regards to internal processes, the decision to implement an ecommerce solution was driven primarily by the fact that today’s flooring retailers and contractors demand an online presence from their vendors.
For Bridgeport, W.Va.-based distributor Abraham Linc, its decision to implement a warehouse management system was necessary so it could maintain the most efficient inventory. The system ensures when customers’ orders are received, the product is available to process for delivery in the most efficient way possible. “We invested significant resources to upgrade our warehouse and refine our delivery system,” said Robert Marra II, CFO. “Having the ability to scan all of our products in and out is a tremendous benefit.”
As Canada’s national distributor, Gesco Shnier is recognized as an industry leader in applying technologies with collaborative efforts. In fact, Shnier is the only fully automated flooring distributor in Canada using advanced integrated real-time warehouse management systems.
Before implementing its system, Shnier employed over 60 full-time and temporary employees in its hub facility. Following the implementation and utilization of the system Shnier reduced its head count by more than 25 employees while simultaneously growing the through-put volume.
“We are now doing more lines of business with lower cost per line, less people, better automation in an error-free environment,” said Paul Green, president, Gesco Shnier.
ELD This device is electronic hardware that is attached to a commercial motor vehicle engine to record driving hours. The driving hours of commercial drivers are regulated by a set of rules known as the HOS. An ELD monitors a vehicle’s engine to capture data on whether the engine is running, the vehicle is moving and miles driven as well as the duration of engine operation. Previously, paper logs were used for hours-of-service tracking.
Telematics This software collects information about a vehicle, such as its location and speed, how hard it has braked and fuel consumption—to name a few metrics. That information is relayed wirelessly to the vehicle’s owner or an authorized third party.
While telematics has traditionally been used to monitor vehicle location and travel duration, recent advances have made it critical to the future of fleet management, especially in terms of monitoring and improving driver performance.
The ability to collect driving data through smartphone technology is a game changer for trucking and makes improving driver behavior easier and more effective than traditional solutions based on plug-in or hardwired devices.
GPS fleet tracking These tracking services are a hardware and software bundle that tracks and owner’s vehicles, records the driving habits of employees, issues status reports on a particular fleet and alerts the boss when incidents or other events occur. These services can also be built out to adhere to government compliance laws such as ELDs, IFTA and a driver vehicle inspection report (DVIR). The main function of these services, however, is to gather data to better improve the efficiency, safety and overall functionality of a distributor’s fleet.
Chicago—The North American Association of Floor Covering Distributors (NAFCD) has announced the organization's board of directors for 2019. The NAFCD board comprises industry executives from both distributor and supplier member firms that handle all types of floor covering materials, related products and accessories.
"We are excited to see where this strong volunteer leadership team will take NAFCD in 2019," said Kevin Gammonley, executive vice president, NAFCD. "I am confident that this year's board of directors will continue to enhance NAFCD's membership value and overall mission."
Distributor directors: David Schmelzer, Lanham Hardwood, Louisville, Ky.; Kyle Gorny, Blakely Products, Warren, Mich.; AJ Warne, Abraham Linc, Bridgeport, W.Va.; Sven Johnson, Taiga Building Products, Calgary, Alberta, Canada; and Dori J. Blitzstein, Roesel-Heck Company, Inc., Baltimore, Md.
Supplier directors: Russ Rogg, Metroflor Corp., Norwalk, Conn.; Joe Cavanaugh, Tarkett, Salon, Ohio; Mike Croes, Sika USA, Lyndhurst, N.J.; Mark Johnson, Traxx Corporation, Pomona, Calif.; Dave Wallace, Precision Flooring Products, Morristown, Tenn.; and Jim Nielsen, FloorSource, Lafayette, Ga.
Chicago—The North American Association of Floor Covering Distributors (NAFCD) has announced the organization’s board of directors for 2018. The NAFCD board is comprises industry executives from both distributor and supplier member firms that handle all types of floor covering materials, related products and accessories.
The 2018 NAFCD board of directors includes: David Powell (president), Erickson’s Flooring & Supply, Ferndale, Mich.; Steve McKenna (president-elect), McKenna Distribution, Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada; Geoff Work (treasurer), The R.A. Siegel Co., Mableton, Ga.; and Heidi Cronin (immediate past president), The Cronin Co., Portland, Ore.
Distributor directors include: Sven Johnson, Taiga Building Products, Calgary, Alberta, Canada; Dunn Rasbury, A&M Supply, Maretta, Ga.; Shane Richmond, Fishman Flooring Solutions, Baltimore, Md.; David Schmelzer, Lanham Hardwood, Louisville, Ky.; and AJ Warne, Abraham Linc, Bridgeport, W.Va.
Supplier directors include: Joe Cavanaugh, Tarkett, Salon, Ohio; Mike Croes, Sika USA, Lyndhurst, N.J.; Mark Johnson, Traxx Corp., Pomona, Calif.; Russ Rogg, Metro Floors, Norwalk, Conn.; Rich Willett, United States Gypsum Co., Chicago; and Zack Zehner, Mannington, Salem, N.J.
“We are excited to kick off the new year with such a strong volunteer leadership team,” said Kevin Gammonley, NAFCD executive vice president. “I am confident that this year’s board of directors will positively impact NAFCD’s mission and help to continue the positive momentum NAFCD is experiencing in membership growth, convention participation and value creation for our members.”
First-time visitors to the Hemisphere Imports booth space at the recent CCA Global Partners convention (FCNews, Aug. 14/21) found out firsthand what all the fuss was about. The focus was on a unique species called kupay, a durable, dense hardwood sourced from Paraguay. While it might not be easy to pronounce (it’s also known by its genus name, “copaifera”), the allure is crystal clear.
“It’s a unique species with a look and coloration you cannot get in China,” said Hemisphere Imports president Tom Karol. “It provides an opportunity to sell the features and benefits of the product and sell up instead of down. It’s the only product in Paraguay that’s FSC certified, and it has this unique look and is very durable.”
The primary goal, according to Karol, is to bring innovation and unique styling to the market while giving retailers a chance to make more money. With a suggested MSRP range of $5.49-$6 per square foot, the line targets what Karol calls the “high middle” of the market. “Most of the good retailers are at about $6.99 so we’re right in that nice sweet spot of a product that has all the bells and whistles. It’s not an entry-level product, but it’s definitely mainstream.”
So what kind of margin can retailers make on this line? “Above average, profits,” Karol said. “We’re giving retailers something they can trade up, but not a big step up. Consumers will spend the extra money, if they like what they see.”
Beyond attractive price points and aesthetics, another attribute of the kupay species is its rigidity. On the Janka scale, it’s nearly as hard as hickory (1500) and it’s also very dense. According to Hemisphere Imports, this species stays very stable in both dry and moist environments—a trademark of many tropical species from that part of the world.
“I wouldn’t say it’s bulletproof, but for wood it’s pretty darn close,” said industry veteran Don Finkell, who co-founded the company along with Karol. Interestingly, the species made its debut years ago in one of the collections offered by Anderson Hardwood Floors—a company Finkell ran for many years. “We’ve called it different things—i.e., Spanish hickory, Patagonian pecan—and now that the Lacey Act has come on, we just call it what it is, kupay.”
To further strengthen the product, Hemisphere Imports employs eucalyptus—which is itself as hard as oak—as the core material. According to Finkell, this makes an already stable product even sturdier.
A rare find Finkell and his team at Anderson came across kupay when it began researching species that would not only excite U.S. consumers but also offer an alternative to products that were linked to excessive harvesting in that part of the world. While it generated some interest in the early 2000s, he said it really took off when a hand-scraping texture was applied. “It was Anderson’s biggest seller at the time,” he recalled.
Fast forward to today, Hemisphere Imports believes kupay, perhaps no longer the best kept secret, may be poised for a resurgence. “No one else is selling this species, not that I’m aware, and that’s key to our distributors,” Karol said.
Abraham Linc, based in Bridgeport, W. Va., is a believer. Earlier this year the distributor rolled out the Canyon collection from Hemisphere Imports, and the reaction from retailers was swift. “It has 10 fantastic colors and great visuals that are not me-too looking products,” said Terry Warne, vice president. “The response among our customers who have seen it has been really good.”
As the WPC/rigid core subsegment of LVT continues to rise in popularity, flooring distributors are looking to get in on the action by partnering with suppliers who can deliver best-in-class looks.
Raskin Industries’ Acrylx, a solid surface waterproof floor, fits that bill, they say.
“We are amazed by the rapid industry shift to the rigid category and were lucky enough to partner with Raskin early on the Acrylx offering,” said Jodie Doyle, vice president of product management, Gilford-Johnson Flooring, a top 20 flooring wholesaler. “It’s one thing for customers to hear about rigid but never see the product. We hit the ground running with Acrylx, and our customers and sales reps are excited to be on the leading edge of a booming category. There are very few suppliers actively selling the product in the market with inventory in the barn, but we have it here in the states and the early returns have been tremendous.”
Acrylx is the first Raskin line for distributor Abraham Linc, which carries Premier Home, Premier XL and Premier G-Core XL. Abraham Linc, which services the Mid-Atlantic region, discussed carrying the lines with Raskin at Surfaces in January; it started shipping Acrylx in June.
AJ Warne, director of resilient sales for Abraham Linc, said the feedback has been great. “Premier Home is their entry level collection but features a high-end look, and it has a style and design that is superior to many products at similar price points, especially for that construction style.”
Gilford-Johnson’s Doyle noted that in a market with so many competing rigid core products, cutting-edge looks could be a key separator. “That’s one of the main reasons we have partnered with Michael Raskin and his team—because everyone knows that when Michael’s name is behind the product, you are going to get tremendous visuals and the fashion-forward looks that today’s consumer demands.”
Available in three collections—Premier Home, Premier XL and Premier G-Core XL—Acrylx’s high-density core is made of pure materials and minerals that are tightly bonded with polymers to create a solid core that is more impact resistant and denser than most other flooring.
Premier Home is available in eight oak and distressed wood grain designs and is available in 6 x 37 formats with a 12-mil wear layer. Premier XL is showcased in four wood grain traditional visuals in a 9 x 60 plank with a 20-mil wear layer. Premier G-Core XL collection features a G-Core sound barrier backing for added acoustical absorption; it is also available in a 9 x 60 plank and 20-mil wear layer. It comes in four handscraped wood grain designs.
In some circles, Canada is renown for developing some of the greatest hockey players—and teams—in the history of the sport. Well, the same could be said for the nation’s formidable forestry sector, which has produced some of the most prolific producers of hardwood flooring.
But it’s not just high volumes that some of these well-respected companies are cranking out. Many industry observers would argue that they manufacture some of the industry’s highest quality hardwood flooring products.
Take Rochester, N.Y.-based Installers Warehouse as an example. This wholesale flooring distributor ranks the Wickham line high on its portfolio of hardwood flooring products. Craig Dupra, president, has toured the Wickham plant on multiple occasions and is always impressed with what he sees. “Wickham has a unique business model in that it produces an enormous amount of product, but the company doesn’t apply a color or a finish until the product has been ordered by the retailer or distributor. I don’t know how it manages the logistics of it, but the company is very good at making a particular product for a particular customer and still gets it to my customer in 10-15 business days from the time the order is placed. This gives retailers an enormous amount of flexibility in terms of how the particular floor can be made regarding width, species, grade, color and sheen.”
Perhaps it’s the signature, tight-grained maple species native to the various Canadian forests where lumber used for flooring is predominantly harvested, or maybe it’s just an ingrained mindset embraced by the major wood manufacturers operating here, but there’s definitely something to be said about the quality of the upper-end hardwood flooring products originating from Canada. Marketplace reputation probably plays a role as well, observers say.
Abraham Linc, which took on the Wickham line late last year, also attests to the company’s focus on high standards. “Our entire team is excited to partner with Wickham and offer this line to our customers,” said Darren Abraham, president. “The high quality of the products, fashion-forward colors and design, combined with our commitment to inventory, delivery and sales support gives our dealers an exciting new line.”
Ask virtually any top distributor or retailer to corroborate many Canadian hardwood flooring manufacturers’ claims that their products are among the highest quality available on the market today, and you are not likely to find a lot of hesitation. Jaeckle Distributors, based in Madison, Wis., is a case in point.
“Mercier gives us a first-quality Canadian manufactured wood line that fits all possibilities in today’s ever-changing customer lifestyle,” said Steve Flanagan, product and marketing manager. “Mercier fits the consumer’s need anywhere from a quality entry-level product in their Pro Series to the most fashionable 7-inch pine long board or other popular species like hickory, maple, red and white oak, and their entire exotics series.”
Jaeckle’s experience with the Mercier brand continues to generate positive results. For 2016, Brad Myers, sales manager with Jaeckle Wholesale Distributors in St. Louis, won the manufacturer’s Best Salesperson of the Year award In addition, for the third straight year, Jaeckle Wholesale Distributors earned Wholesaler of the Year honors from Mercier.
Other top distributors are singing the praises of Canadian hardwood. For instance, No. 1-ranked Haines counts the Mirage Hardwood Flooring brand among its best sellers. “Mirage’s Flair collection features a next-generation finish called Duramatt, an extremely durable, low-gloss urethane finish that has the appearance of an oil finish without the maintenance required for oil,” said Shawn McCloskey, marketing manager. “Duramatt also contains anti-microbial agents and is 20 times more wear resistant than a conventional oil finish.”
Other Mirage distributors, including No. 4-ranked All Tile, applaud the virtues of not only the manufacturer’s high-quality products but also the company’s steadfast approach to manufacturing overall and attention to detail. So much so that All Tile recently decided to expand the territories in which it will distribute the Mirage brand. Specifically, All Tile’s single-source trading area for Mirage Flooring will be widened beyond Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa, Missouri, eastern Wisconsin, northern Indiana, Illinois and Michigan to include North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota and all of Wisconsin.
“This is a great opportunity to provide a high level of quality service with outstanding customer service, inventory and technology to Mirage customers and help them selling the top-quality hardwood flooring brand on the market,” said Bob Weiss, president of All Tile, a Mirage wholesale partner since 2007. “We are very happy about extending our partnership with Mirage to a new territory.”
Focus on innovation Much like their counterparts south of the border in America, most Canadian hardwood flooring manufacturers face stiff competition from other quality-minded suppliers operating in their market. To gain a competitive advantage, many employ proprietary techniques in their respective manufacturing processes. One common denominator, though, is the obligatory attention to detail.
That same emphasis on strict quality control measures is observed at Lauzon. As Priscilla Bergeron, brand manager, explains: “We have numerous points of control to make sure every step of the way our quality is maintained. This starts right from the forests where we choose which tree we’re going to cut all the way through to delivery to the retailer. We also have state-of-the-art equipment to make sure the quality is maintained consistently. We test and re-test to make sure everything we produce has the highest standards in the market. And we communicate that message to the marketplace.”
This focus on attention paved the way for innovations such as Sunshield, which is designed to mitigate the harmful effects of UV light. Lauzon also developed a titanium finish, which it says is one of the strongest coatings on the market. And then there’s Pure Genius technology, which aims to provide air-purifying capabilities for homeowners.
“We have won many awards for Pure Genious alone,” Bergeron said. “In 2015 we won the Best of IBS Award in Las Vegas and we also won the Bronze Innovation award from IIDEX Canada in the flooring category. We also won an innovation award at Domotex in Germany in 2015, and we ranked high among environmentally friendly products at the Greenbuild show as well.”
Even Canadian newcomers to the hardwood arena are looking to leverage the country’s reputation for quality products. For example, Uniboard Canada, which previously only produced laminate flooring, launched its first engineered hardwood flooring line (Kalista) at the NWFA convention in 2016. Since that time, the company has expanded the color and species offerings to give dealers and distributors more options.
Tapis Beaver, a Uniboard distributor based in Montreal, recently previewed the Kalista line and has high hopes for its potential in the marketplace. Already a longtime distributor of Uniboard’s laminate lines, Tapis Beaver is quite familiar with the manufacturer’s overall approach to product quality, high standards and service.
“We work more on the laminate side than any other product,” said Stephane Leveille, president, Tapis Beaver. “We placed around 150 displays since last December, and we sold about $1 million or more worth of product. We don’t have any complaints about the product. The quality is very good.”
Citing their innovative approach to manufacturing—as well as the proximity to its operations and customer base—Leveille hinted that there may be an opportunity to take on the Kalista brand down the road. “We have looked into the product but we didn’t start to sell it yet. We are still in discussions with Uniboard management to see how we could work with our customers.”
Other major Canadian suppliers are also garnering attention for their innovative approach to hardwood manufacturing. Earlier this year Satin Flooring took home a Best of Surfaces Award for Wirebrushed, part of the Generations engineered wood collection. The innovative, environmentally friendly product is treated with Satin’s proprietary, non-allergenic, formaldehyde-free Eco-Last finish with UV protection and an anti-microbial finish, which prevents bacterial and fungus growth. It also features the company’s SolidFused technology, which is used in its engineered flooring production.
According to Dennis Mohn, director of U.S. sales for Satin Flooring, the company only uses lumber from well-managed North American forests—a big selling point for both existing and potential customers. “As a leading user of one of nature’s most precious and inspiring resources, we have a special responsibility not just to our environment but also to each other.”
Many Canadian distributor partners generally believe all these attributes—product quality, attention to detail, responsible use of natural resources—translate into products that provide higher margin opportunities with low claims rates. “Wickham has allowed us to grow our business by leaps and bounds,” Installers Warehouse Dupra said. “By stocking the Wickham line, we have easily doubled our bottom line.”
Boca Raton, Fla.—Raskin Industries recently had its first Acrylx product launch, which brings a new category of solid surface waterproof flooring to the industry.
Along with the launch, Raskin Industries has brought on Abraham Linc as the company’s newest distributor. According to Raskin Industries, Abraham Linc’s company culture perfectly matches the manufacturer.