(Second of two parts)
SALEM, N.J.—“Elevating flooring” is the mantra at Mannington for 2011, and the mill has done so with a rounded product portfolio aimed at gaining the consumer’s interest and market share. Recognizing one of the most important links in that chain—the retailer—the company has taken care to present stories that relate to the consumer’s preferences visually, environmentally and financially.
Dan Natkin, manager of hardwood and laminate business, highlighted its True Bamboo, premiered at Surfaces 2011. He said older methods of bamboo construction were prone to performance challenges like cupping and moisture issues, but at the same density as stranded bamboo the Mannington method of manufacture allows for below-grade installation with a three-ply construction.
“It has taken off like last year’s introduction of Earthly Elements,” he said. “Consumers are so happy with the product they are mailing us photos of their home installations.”
Taking a vertical cross section of the bamboo stalk and flattening each half to a plank produces 3D bamboo visuals in a 2D format. “The new True Bamboo is one of the most unique looks out there,” said Doug Bertrand of Carpetland USA. “When we saw this product it became a pallet stocking item, and display floors were put in all stores. Customers love this because you cannot find this look in any other product on the market.”
Another wood product generating returns for Mannington retailers is Black Isle Hickory, which addresses the trend for more refined character wood. Handscraping and surface embossing are enhanced with a subtle layer of print affixed to the top layer, developing the depth of each board’s graining. Another character wood, Ravenwood, hits the trend point for more subtle rustic looks.
“Mannington is always a leader when it comes to style and quality,” said Carpetland’s Ber- trand. “Our customers are amazed at the look Black Isle Heirloom Cherry gives and understand it will give them years of satisfaction.”
Along the character path is Heirloom Hickory, which Natkin described as following the catalogue trend, following the aesthetics of Pottery Barn or Restoration Hardware. Refined character is achieved with light sanding, wire brushing and glazing, and leaves the natural knots and wormholes naturally present in lumber.
Dave Snedeker, senior flooring buyer at Nebraska Furniture Mart, said Heirloom Hickory has been doing very well and has also stocked the Inverness series with good success. “I try to use unique, edgy colors on our displays and fell in love with it right away.”
Though not exactly a new introduction, Inverness really took off, according to Natkin. Set up in a good/better/best selling system, the collection was designed to be sold by color in a way Mrs. Consumer understands. Staying with the handcrafted look that is hot right now, larger sample sizes are available for newer visuals in maple and walnut, while smaller swatches represent smooth, traditional styles—those with which she is familiar.
Natkin attributes the line’s success to the effective merchandising. “Retailers report selling two times more wood with the new merchandising system, which applies across all our wood products,” he said.
Laminate fights for its place
A category that has suffered in recent years, (FCNews, June 27/July 4), Natkin chalks up laminate’s struggles to two factors: the low price of engineered hardwood that has compressed the prices of laminate, and big boxes that push product based on low price perpetuate an inverse pyramid.
“At Mannington we want unmatched styling, so 2011 was a focus on the upper end. We threw all our balls in one court with the Restoration Collection,” he explained. A thicker product at 12mm, the mill leveraged the weight of visuals with effective technology like embossed-in-register, which applies a texture along the graining of each plank, and heliochrome photographic processing to create three-dimensional looks. The Restoration Collection also features variable bevels, an exclusive technology that employs both machine and digital print bevels to give it the look of an authentically worn floor.
Restoration laminate has generated good business at Nebraska Furniture Mart, so much so that it has been installed as a display floor in one store location. “It looks beautiful and has gotten a great reception so far considering the laminate category itself is suffering,” Snedeker said.
Black Forest Oak has heavily oiled, wire brushed visuals based on European trends, while Historic Oak lives large at 6-inch widths and 4-foot lengths in 12 plank designs. With a broad range of visuals for virtually all tastes, Natkin calls the collection Mannington’s most successful laminate launch in five years.
Raising the bar with vinyl
Mannington sheet products are selling quite well, said David Sheehan, vice president of Resilient Business. “We are experiencing double-digit growth with Sobella HD, particularly in our Ares pattern.” The looks and textures in the line are most often achieved using chemicals to break up the surface texture, but Mannington uses a press process. “Our smooth embossing is an example of technology that is unique to us and is paying dividends,” he said.
Claude Bryant, store manager of Ronnie’s in Lakeland, Fla., for the last 25 years, called the company a loyal Mannington dealer. “We stock Homestead plank and we buy lots of their sheet product. This year I’ve probably bought up to 60 rolls of vinyl from them because that’s what we sell.”
Adura, the Mannington LVT, also continues to perform and appears to be “recession proof” with double-digit growth over the last five years. “Tile is a category we focus on,” Sheehan said. “It’s the most popular format for luxury vinyl.” Visuals like Casa use EIR technology, which is not common for most LVTs, to achieve terra cotta visuals for grouted installation and stained concrete looks without. Another standout look is the Vibe pattern, giving a softer textile look in a hard surface.
LockSolid technology has also been very effective in driving resilient sales, so much the mill has had to increase capacity. “We operate hand-to-mouth to get this product out,” Sheehan said. “Retailers will wait to get products with this technology.” So much, the mill will be moving its proprietary technology on to tile goods, expanding beyond the Adura plank that is currently available.