By Steve Feldman
New York—It’s been one year since Raskin Industries officially launched its Elevations loose lay luxury vinyl tile (LLT), and the product continues to gain acceptance in the marketplace. According to Michael Raskin, president, it’s as much about the styling as it is about the ease and speed brought on by a true loose lay system.
Raskin noted while only a few companies are actively marketing LLT in the U.S., Elevations is unique because of its anti-skid attached rubber Gravity Grip backing system that keeps the floor tiles, or planks, from moving once the perimeter of the room is locked into place; a fiberglass inner layer for dimensional stability; and 25% more weight than competing products. “But we are all fighting in the same LVT arena. Whether you offer loose lay technology, click or traditional gluedown, you still have to differentiate yourself in design and marketing. Ultimately when the consumer or architect looks at a sample, styling is what will win.”
He believes Elevations’ styling is what separates the brand from the competition. “A product has to have the right design, texture, finish, gloss level, etc. This is how a company differentiates itself in what will soon be an overcrowded market. When you combine good styling with the LLT format, it’s a slam dunk.”
One year later
Raskin told FCNews much has been accomplished since Elevations’ coming out party at NAFCD 2011. The first goal was to secure distribution, and today the company has strong coverage in the Midwest, New England and Mid-Atlantic areas. “The distributors that are strong in commercial are doing particularly well,” he said. “The average jobs are bigger than we anticipated.” The five distributors are New England Supply (New England states), David Hockstein (Maryland and Virginia), T&L Distributing (Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma), E.J. Welch (Missouri, Illinois, In-diana, Wisconsin, Iowa) and ABT (Long Island). Negotiations are ongoing with wholesalers in other parts of the country.
“Much of our success is dependent on the distributor’s position in his marketplace,” Raskin said. “We know when our product is shown, it sells. And we back up these high quality products with very low claim rates and a complete marketing package—displays, websites, advertising—all the tools a distributor would need.”
After securing distribution, the next goal for Elevations was display placement. According to Raskin, between 600 and 700 units have been placed as well as 2,000 architect folders. He estimates 60% of the business has been in the commercial arena, particularly restaurants and retail.
Possibly the biggest accomplishment for Elevations was the Best of Surfaces award it captured in the innovation category. “That was huge for us, being that it was voted on by a credible panel of judges,” Raskin said. “It helped validate Elevations’ importance to the marketplace. People saw we won the award and wanted to find out more about the product. It definitely led to some distributors approaching me that I may not have otherwise contacted.”
Shortly thereafter, Raskin Industries launched an ad campaign that was vastly different than the typical ad found in most floor covering trade publications. “Most companies focus on trying to develop lifestyle marketing,” Raskin said. “I wanted to market the product around style—not lifestyle.
“Our imagery is quite edgy,” he added. “We want to model ourselves after Uniqlo, the Japanese department store that recently opened in New York City. Its ads feature models and stylish room scenes. Our ads are about people and their floors.” He also was influenced by American Apparel, “where it’s about fashion in a market that’s looking for value without sacrificing design. We also looked at Target, even J.C. Penney, whose model is to attempt to bring a younger audience to their store.”
One year later, Raskin said his upstart company has met his sales targets but knows there’s much more work to be done. “I think had the economy cooperated a bit more, we would have exceeded our goals. But I’ve seen when distributors focus on our product, whether large or small, they are selling more than they anticipated. It becomes more of a logistics issue in order to make sure they have enough product to support demand.” To that end, Raskin Industries inventories product in close proximity to Dalton. “By having backup inventory, we have been able to sustain our growth while our distributors got comfortable with supporting demand. Most distributors are conservative by nature, and when dealing with an importer it’s difficult to be conservative because of lead times. The last thing you want to do with a new product is kill momentum by not having stock.”