Feb. 17/24 2014, Volume 27/number 21
By Ken Ryan
(Second of two parts)
More than ever, hardwood floors are making a distinctive statement. Featuring wider widths, longer lengths, tremendous graining and color variations, today’s hardwood floors are very much a fashion product.
Numerous hardwood suppliers exhibited their latest, trendy products at Surfaces 2014, looking to seize this market opportunity with eager-to-buy consumers.
Today’s consumers are savvier than those of years past, and more willing to take risks with their purchases, according to Laurie Sanfilippo, marketing manager at Ark Floors. Therefore, suppliers like Ark are striving to be more “adventurous” with products that excite consumers and allow dealers to make money. At Surfaces, Ark exhibited five new products including Padauk chestnut, an engineered product in the company’s Artistic Collection of distressed, handscraped, wider-width planks that range from 4 3⁄4 to 6 1⁄2 inches wide. Booth goers were shown classic American looks as well as exotic species in a mix of solid and engineered constructions. The company also touted its new French Collection that features a sculpted, distressed surface texture and wider width planks.
Sanfilippo said today’s younger consumers are drawn to a product’s design and may not be as concerned with its source or how much it costs, as long as they are happy with it. “There are people who are going to want to buy U.S., and that is not going to be our market. Our market is people who will want to buy something beautiful—meaning above entry-level exotics.”
Bamboo Hardwoods’ signature product at the show was a strand-woven, handscraped bamboo from the Hybrid line, which is created by combining strands of bamboo into an organic pattern and then compressing them under significant pressure. The result is an extremely dense and hard floor with superior resistance to denting.
David Keegan, COO, said dealers can make 30% to 35% profit on Hybrid. “This is no commodity bamboo product. Finally people are not looking at price point, they are looking at aesthetics. Consumers love the look of this bamboo and it is not out of their budgets. Plus, retailers can make good money on it.”
Boen Hardwood Flooring
Wider widths and longer planks are all the rage in hardwood these days, and few companies go wider or longer than Boen Hardwood Flooring. Its new engineered line, with boards 12 to 15 inches wide and 86 inches long, come with a floating Välinge click system. “The hardest part is properly displaying these SKUs because some retailers don’t have room for them in their showrooms,” said Dennis Hrusa, managing director at Boen.
Taking a different approach than it has at past Surfaces, CFS decided to install new products in its show space. “By doing so, it makes the room look so much bigger,” said Phillip Key, vice president of sales and marketing of CFS.
One product that stood out was a 9⁄16-inch handscraped engineered Asian walnut (acacia) with distinctive graining and chisel techniques. Hand-rubbed stains provide depth to the grain, and because each plank is individually scraped by hand there is a distinction between them, meaning no two are alike.
In addition to this unique visual, CFS is also trying to win over dealers with a one-price story for its new lineup. “I’m a sales guy and I like it easy,” Key said. “With one price point, it’s an easy story for dealers to tell.”
Coswick, which specializes in traditional hardwood flooring and European-style floors, made its debut at Surfaces in hopes of meeting with distributors, part one in a plan to establish a network. The company showed distributors a brushed oak and country oak collection, among others.
The Belarus-based company’s European-style products are available in a two-layer tongue and groove construction.
“We’re strong in Eastern Europe and No. 1 in the Persian Gulf,” said Vladimir Ianovski, president. Coswick also has a market presence in Switzerland, France and Germany. “It’s time to grow in the U.S.,” he said. “We see good signs here.”
Coswick recently earned Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) Chain of Custody certification. The scope of certification includes the entire range of the company’s products—solid and engineered, wood wall panels and all moldings.
The manufacturer of wide-plank hardwood flooring (standard sizes are 9½ inches wide by 8 feet long and 5⁄8 inch thick) is in the early stages of extending its successful Atelier Series of luxury flooring, which was developed exclusively by Tom Goddijin, the company’s master craftsman. Goddijin, who experiments with traditional processing methods to achieve unique flooring styles, is moving his practice from Holland to San Diego, which will allow DuChateau to bring its products to the U.S. market much quicker—an average of four to six weeks, according to Scott Petersen, director of operations.
DuChateau also disclosed it has partnered with home furnishings supplier Somerset Bay Home to launch a European oak flooring line to match 10 signature Somerset Bay Home colors.
Home Legend downsized its booth from 5,400 square feet to a 1,600-square-foot space divided into separate 800-square-foot areas. The company’s introductions included a new acacia line offered in 5¼ inch widths.
The new offerings are also available in birch and Brazilian cherry and come in three constructions: HDF click-lock, engineered tongue and groove, and solid tongue and groove. “You can classify it as a good, better, best [program],” said Jamann Stepp, vice president of sales.
Many hardwood flooring companies talk about their sustainable practices, but Horizon took the movement one step further by constructing its booth—for which the company won a Best of Surfaces award (see story on page 1)—out of reclaimed timbers and railroad trestles from an abandoned Ohio rail yard.
“It’s all about first impressions and the ‘wow’ factor,” said Alex Shaoulpour, president of Horizon, speaking about both the booth and its new products.
Horizon’s product launches were Villa Tuscana Cambridge Estate, Ferno and Saddle Creek. “The overwhelming positive response from our distributors confirm these styles are the newest trends for 2014 and a perfect fit for their markets, which inspires us to develop innovative floors every day.”
Horizon’s products feature an open grain finish that allows floors to live and breathe in a healthy home environment. The natural oils penetrate through the wood pores to enhance the look and create a durable, long-lasting floor.
“We develop products [our customers] can make money on,” Shaoulpour concluded. “For us, our customers’ success is our success.”
Korus Wood Flooring
Korus, which announced at Surfaces its entry into the residential market, is known for its acrylic impregnated hardwood flooring. This specific type of product is made from natural wood that is infused with acrylic resin to create a stronger, tougher floor.
Korus’ engineered construction uses five plies of marine-grade Baltic birch, glued with marine-grade adhesive, and topped with a 1⁄10 inch-thick acrylic impregnated real wood wearlayer.
The company is launching 54 SKUs, including a reclaimed oak hardwood it believes will appeal to dealers looking for differentiation. “We have a lot of colors and wood species working together,” said Jason Brubaker, director of sales and marketing.
Korus reported that its representatives met with a number of prospective customers at Surfaces. As an incentive, the company gave away 50 retail displays as part of its residential kickoff, which Brubaker said was a successful promotion.
Bill Friend, a vice president and co-owner of Strategis International, which oversees the Trillium brand, said the company tried to do “too many things” with wood in the past. So it is now focusing on what it does best: strand-woven bamboo. “We want to be the bamboo guys in the U.S.,” he said.
At Surfaces, Trillium showcased Manhattan Grey, a wire-brushed bamboo that Friend said could generate significant margin for retailers looking for a differentiated offering. “Flooring used to be a boring product,” he said. “Twenty years ago, you had two [wood] choices: maple and oak. Today you have so many options it’s become a fashion product. I think bamboo could very easily be 10% of wood, and there’s margin dollars there for dealers.”
WE Cork displayed its Serenity Collection of cork flooring with a high definition, three-pass, digital print technology that reproduces the essence of wood or tile on a cork substrate. The floor is finished with the company’s patented Hot Coating, giving it an oil-like, satin luster.
The digital print technology allows for customized visuals such as blue jeans or cobblestone, both of which were installed at the booth. “Dealers were overwhelmingly positive; they love the unlimited commercial applications,” said Ann Wicander, president of WE Cork.