When Harry Harles, owner of Brentwood Carpets & Flooring, Raleigh, N.C., had the opportunity to provide the flooring for a Habitat for Humanity effort in his county, he did not want to disappoint. After all, his work would be seen on the season premiere of “George to the Rescue” on NBC.
His task: lay 600 feet of hardwood flooring in four hours. To meet that objective, Harles said he needed a company he could rely on, one that would give him the right product on schedule, a product he could count on.”
Harles chose Bruce hardwood from Armstrong. “I thought Dundee in the gunstock color would be a good match with the flooring already in the home, and I was confident about using Armstrong/Bruce because of the brand reputation and consistent quality. Because of the special nature of this job and national exposure, I could not afford any problems. Armstrong is one of the better quality control companies. With Armstrong we rarely have a product with a defect.”
The Habitat went off without a hitch. Armstrong’s name was mentioned several times in the taping, and more than 300,000 people on “The Today Show” web video pressed “like” via Facebook after viewing the segment.
Harles isn’t the only retailer who has been having success with Armstrong in the first quarter of 2011. Others point to the manufacturer’s resilient products as a source for solid business. For example, luxury vinyl tile (LVT) is hot these days, and dealers are selling Armstrong’s two LVT collections: Alterna and Luxe Plank.
Gordon Crunden, president of Dalene Flooring Carpet One, South Windsor, Conn., said step one in the selling process is the product has to look great to attract customers, and both Alterna and Luxe pass the test.
“These products provide the design today’s consumer is looking for while eliminating a lot of the attributes of real wood and ceramic people don’t like. Luxe’s floating aspect adds a lot of installation flexibility, and both products are DIY friendly. Consumers always like that Alterna is softer and warmer than traditional ceramic tile, and Luxe can provide the look of wood with the maintenance of a resilient floor.”
Michele Amedeo, director of retail sales for Bode Floors, Columbia, Md., said her LVT sales have increased due to the color range of Armstrong’s offerings coupled with the ease of installation. “Our mechanics love installing the LVT. They find the Armstrong product one of the best on the market, and our salespeople love to hear that when they are meeting with customers,” she said. “Our installers say the LVT is more perfect than most of the product out there. It is level; you don’t see unevenness or thickness in the material.”
Harles said Brentwood Carpets & Flooring does a lot of business with assisted care facilities, and Luxe excels in those environments. “For people using wheelchairs and walkers, Luxe performs well. The floor is very durable and stylish.”
Retailers are also seeing increases with Armstrong sheet vinyl, fiberglass-backed in particular, which is doing well with value-conscious consumers. “We have seen a lot of people who have gone to LVT because it is less expensive than ceramic tile,” Amedeo said. “Now we are seeing people go back to sheet vinyl because it is a value product. Armstrong has upgraded and changed the entire pattern in sheet. It is a major improvement.”
Harles said fiberglass-backed sheet now represents 60% of his sheet sales. A year ago it was 40%. “Armstrong has done a great job redesigning [sheet], which is a growing category for us. If you would have asked me 10 years ago about sheet vinyl being a growing category, I’d say you were crazy. But it is.”
Bill’s Carpet & Flooring, Ephrata, Pa., carries the full assortment of Armstrong hardwood flooring with solids representing the largest selection. “The solids are what we do the most of,” said Bill Harvey, president. “It’s something we have spent a lot of time learning about—the types of product in our area that do well, that can turn our inventory. It’s taken a few years to learn that.”
Harvey said his store has benefited by being near a Lumber Liquidators, which draws traffic to the area through its advertising. “We encourage our customers to go in their store, to see their products and then come back to us. It’s been a good selling point for us. In the end, when you look at their product, their price and you look at our product, our price—and our expertise—it works well for us. And the Armstrong brand resonates with people. Name recognition is still very important.”
Brentwood Carpets & Flooring does the bulk of its business with Bruce hardwood, a name that Harles’ customers can trust. “We are a member of Flooring America, and the Armstrong direct program makes it much simpler for ordering, pricing and for consistency as far as our sales team selling the story,” he said.
As a category, laminate has lagged other hard surfaces in recent years and lost market share to LVT and some hardwood products. It is not a complete loss, however, say some Armstrong retailers. “We do fairly well in the upper-end category with 10mm or 12mm products that emulate hardwood,” Harvey said. “That seems to be a good selling point. It seems like everything in the middle has been washed away.”