The not-so-new kid in town
Nov. 4/11 2013; Volume 27/number 14
By Melissa McGuire
Hicksville, N.Y.—A relative newcomer to the U.S., UPOFloor hit the American market this year as a newly branded entity after Kährs Flooring acquired the brand in late 2012.
For the past decade, UPOFloor has produced PVC-free, resilient flooring through its LifeLine LT wood plank and LifeLine CS sheet offerings previously sold by CBC and Altro as private-label products. But after the Kährs purchase, the decision was made to market the product under its own name and provide goods directly to the U.S.
“This year, with the acquisition of UPOFloor by Kährs, the company was incorporated as UPOFloor America, a U.S.-based entity operating as an independent organization,” explained Jeff Collum, president, “bringing the premier PVC-free flooring manufacturer directly to the Americas under its own name.”
The greatest challenge for the company is explaining the product’s quality and reputation to the consumer. “If someone asked me if UPOFloor is a leader in the PVC-free contract flooring industry I’d tell them absolutely—without any doubt,” Collum said. “However, in this industry, recognizing ‘leaders’ quite often comes down to name recognition.”
Because the company has essentially manufactured for other distribution and sales channels, UPOFloor now faces the daunting task of making each client aware of its history and productivity. “Simply, UPOFloor is the only manufacturer that has been extremely successful in manufacturing and supplying PVC-free resilient planks for years. And we need to get that message out.”
With an UPOFloor America sales channel established, for the first time architects and designers can work directly with the company to meet the needs of their clients, their goals for design and deliver an honest and proven high-performance product. “By going direct to market, costs will drop and make the ‘we want it but can’t afford it’ mindset irrelevant,” Collum said.
Having successfully produced, marketed and installed millions of square feet of flooring around the world, Collum said the company has also been a leading quartz tile manufacturer for over 60 years, providing uniquely designed, 3500psi flooring to many types of commercial installations. “UPOFloor Quartz Tile is considered to have one of the top lifecycle cost values in flooring, worldwide.”
Being an exclusive manufacturer, UPOFloor America is a prime supplier working directly from its factory in Finland and utilizes a network of sales agents and distributors across the country. When asked how the company differentiates itself, Collum explained, “The future of our products is vastly enhanced with our history, manufacturing expertise and the experience we possess regarding the production of such unique products.”
Eliminating the two- to three-step manufacturing/selling/distribution process of years past, selling directly to the market benefits the end user significantly in cost. “Also, there will be sustainable inventories in the U.S. to support more sales and provide excellent service.”
Sustainable product performance
“The strategy is for UPOFloor to remain the leader in all types of PVC-free technology,” Collum said. “There are currently only two worldwide brands capable of making a single-type product similar to ours, and both are years behind UPOFloors.”
As PVC-free gains in popularity within the A&D community, UPOFloor America is developing new lines. “But UPOFloor America’s resilient sheet and resilient wood planks are not simply about an alternative to PVC products,” Collum said, noting that UPOFloor also offers a transparent path to environmental stewardship and delivers a higher overall performance in demanding environments. “Hospital facilities benefit from the product’s zero emissions and PVC-free composition. They also benefit with its performance because it has higher static load limits—point loads from patient beds and heavy equipment are not a problem with our flooring.”
In addition, environmental services teams can take advantage of the zero emissions PVC-free products and maintain them in such a manner—without the use of heavy finishes and strippers—that will keep the air quality at healthy levels. “When you look at the benefits of the UPOFloor America products, the obvious and most elementary detail is that it’s free of plasticizers and practically emissions-free, but the overall story and success of the product is much greater when you look at the whole picture.”