We judge books by the cover, people on appearance, restaurants by the menu. Who says we have to look inside to find true meaning? In the case of underlayments, one would do well to look at what’s beneath that floor covering when judging just how successful an application is. To that end, FCNews interviewed some of the top players in the underlayment field to find out what it is that makes such a company rise to the top of the heap.
What makes a top product
Many of the company executives interviewed credited green attributes as defining the supplier’s top products. With consumers spending upwards of 90% of their time indoors today and health reports abounding across the Internet, indoor air quality is at the top of her mind.
“The green product movement continues to grow in popularity and products like our QuietWalk underlaymnet for floating wood and laminate floors has been awarded the ‘Indoor Advantage Gold’ certification by SCS as a contributor to good indoor air quality,” said Jack Boesch, director of marketing for MP Global products. This certification means there are zero VOCs or off gassing from the product, and clears it for use in hospitals, schools and government buildings.
Drew Holland, marketing manager for Healthier Choice also found the company’s eco friendly approach to be a differentiator. “Healthier Choice is a top player because our premium underlayments provide unrivaled performance, healthier indoor living and contribute to a greener, more sustainable environment.”
Performance is also key: Environmental responsibility without reliable function is meaningless to everyone down the line. “Silent Blue is specifically engineered for floating floors, and keeps them safe from moisture,” said Ray Rodriguez, president, Starline Industries. “It’s composed of closed cell foam and two additional layers of film, as well as having the highest independently tested sound ratings available.”
Ease of installation is also an important factor in the equation for success. “Our unique features [for Selitac], ‘easy to lay, easy to click, easy to cut,’ all contribute to a new level of easy installation that has not been available in North America until now,” said Kim Liemkeo, executive marketing, Pak-Lite (PLI).
Economics play a role
With the continual struggle of the housing market, the economy has played an undeniable part in the sale of underlayments. As people spend more time in the home, Mrs. Consumer is more likely to spend more time and money on improving her home. “We are finding that home- owners are now willing to upgrade to the higher end flooring alternatives, especially in the living areas of their homes like kitchens, family rooms, finished basements and dining areas,” Liemkeo said. “Those buyers are also more inclined to upgrade their underlayment to one that delivers higher performance in moisture protection and acoustic value.”
Healthier Choice’s Holland also suspects that more time in the home has buyers opting for better quality flooring and accoutrements. “Accepting the fact they may be in their current home for several more years as they wait for the market to turn around, they are choosing to remodel and upgrade their living spaces and this has created more demand for premium underlayments like those from Healthier Choice.”
Starline has seen a tightening of the purse strings affect its base grade product sales for the better. “It has also changed our internal behaviors to market our products more aggressively and test not only marketing but we have revisited, researched and developed new packages that better meet our clients’ needs and wants in a new business environment,” Rodriguez said. The compilation of factors has created an overall increase in volume for products like its Silent Blue.
Corporate strategy defines winning
Each company can attribute some of its success to the philosophy by which it operates. Just as each consumer’s needs are different, so are the specifics that govern each company and that diversity allows for multiple players to succeed in this tough climate.
At MP Global, transparency and environmental stewardship is a defining element. “Our company was founded on manufacturing products from recycled materials: We were ‘green’ before it was fashionable,” Boesch said. “We haven’t had to re-invent our company or our products like so many who are trying to create a green story. We always strive to offer great products with great services that are great for our environment.”
Along the same lines, Healthier Choice understands the difficulties associated with a big ticket purchase like flooring and keeps open lines of communication as its callout feature.
“Through every part of our business, from our choice of materials to our manufacturing process to our environmental policies, we always create only the highest level, premium products,” Holland said. “By fulfilling that promise, we ensure that our customer’s floors last longer, look better and sound authentic.”
The old adage “the customer comes first,” is the corporate anchor at PLI. “We focus on exceptional quality and customer service which makes doing business with PLI very easy,” Liemkeo assured.
Rodriguez made a similar promise. “We will always attempt to listen to the needs of the dealer and user and only recommend solutions that we truly believe will be satisfactory, by providing high quality products at affordable costs without sacrificing quality in the interest of making a lower priced product,” he said. “It is our desire to set higher standards for the design and overall quality of the products we field.”