Volume 26/Number 17; January 7/14, 2013
By Jenna Lippin
LANCASTER, PA.—Armstrong is locked and loaded for 2013 with significant product introductions across every flooring category in which it participates. And if there is one recurring theme, it is providing exceptional visuals at affordable price points.
Possibly the biggest focus for Armstrong this year is on the constantly growing LVT category, where the company’s bell cow, Alterna, continues to pick up market share, growing 50% in 2012. In fact, Allen Cubell, vice president of residential resilient products, predicts Alterna will be the top-selling LVT by the end of 2014.
Ironically, the company does not position Alterna vs. competing LVT products; rather it is viewed as an alternative to ceramic and stone. “We call it our premium tile, a category unto itself,” he said. Alterna offers high performance, an affordable price point, strong aesthetics and American origin. The product is designed and printed in Pennsylvania, the stone is quarried and assembled in Illinois.
At Surfaces, Armstrong will preview two new designs in Alterna Reserve—Slate (three colors) and Travertine (two colors)—for a second-quarter launch.
The company is most excited about new sizes, which will lend themselves to customized installations. Slate will feature 12 x 12 and 16×16 sizes, complimented by 12×24, 8×16 and 8×8 selections. The 12×24 can stand on its own as a rectangular, more commercial look, or be combined with 12x12s.
“For stone and ceramic, 12×12 and 16×16 are the most popular sizes, but customers can only do so much [with those options],” Cubell said. With the addition of the complementary size options, consumers can create their own personalized designs.
Howard Montgomery, creative design director, residential flooring, noted what’s popular is the higher end, customized look of mixing squares and rectangles. “This creates a modular or ‘opus’ look. The new Alterna Reserve selections will allow for more customization and mixing of sizes, which are the current trends.”
While hardwood raw material prices continue to escalate, the good news is demand for hardwood flooring is also on the rise. And with the rise in demand comes an opportunity to put new, innovative products on the market.
American Scrape is one such product. The soft handscraped collection is the result of manufacturing capabilities developed over a two-and-a-half year period where every board is uniquely scraped.
“American Scrape just follows the true character of the wood,” said Milton Goodwin, vice president of product management, hardwood. “The beauty is the visual, which is dictated by a blade pulled over an imperfect surface of wood and then allowing the finish to cover an imperfect surface. As a result, no two pieces are alike.” What’s more, the product is domestically produced.
The line actually launched last year in the Southwest in an engineered hickory. Now, it will be available nationally with additional species in engineered as well as in solid. The engineered options will include walnut, birch and maple, while the solid will be available in red oak, white oak and hickory. With a number of styles and widths, along with its genuine visual and unique production process, American Scrape is a product for the masses.
“We can compete incredibly well from a beauty standpoint with anyone, and we can compete from a cost standpoint with China,” Goodwin said. Retail price points for engineered range from $2.79 to $4.50 and solid from $3.99 to $5.49.
“We looked at the top-selling scrapes and the latest trends and saw the scrape is softening; it’s a cleaner visual,” Goodwin said. “We took the gloss level up a bit, which lends to the cleaner look people are gravitating toward. Nothing is contrived. There’s no hitting with a chain or hammer.”
In addition to American Scrape, Armstrong is unveiling Midtown, its first sawn face product and first foray into the high-end engineered category. The line will include eight SKUs and feature similar properties to Armstrong’s Performance Plus. Midtown is also Armstrong’s first random-length locking product and features a micro- veneer on top of an HDF, making the product scratch and indent resistant. Suggested retail price is $3.99.
Armstrong’s biggest laminate launch in more than seven years includes Premier Classics, which serves as an update to the Classics and Origins lines with new features and benefits. Premier Classics is a narrow plank, four-sided, micro-beveled offering with updated visuals and features the LockNFold installation system.
When deciding which laminate to buy, Goodwin suggests consumers consider the statement they are trying to make in their homes and the floor they will want to look at for an extended period of time. “Higher- level offerings look exactly like real pieces of wood. Typically, a $.99, 7mm product is not what you want. A product that costs $1.99 or $2.99 is what you want; you’re looking at the floor every day and using it over time. The Premier Classics line fits those criteria. You’re paying $1.99 to $2.59, but you get a dramatically better look than the 7mm square-end product.”
In addition to Premier Classics, a pair of premium products will launch this spring. Saw Marked Oak offers a rustic visual while Lustre Cut Exotic features a sawn look in four colors that mimic stained Brazilian cherry. These products allow for a more affordable version of expensive wood products. Saw Mark Oak retails for $2.59 to $3.59, while Lustre Cut Exotics sells for $2.29 to $2.99.
“As you go across our spectrum of products, they become more realistic looking as you trade up within the different lines,” Goodwin concluded.
The aforementioned products, as well as many others, can be seen at Surfaces in Reef B and Surf C, D and E.