CushionStep still shining for Armstrong dealers

Home Inside FCNews CushionStep still shining for Armstrong dealers

Volume 28/Number 3; July 21/28, 2014

By Ken Ryan

In recent years, the breakout success of LVT has been the talk of the resilient category, if not the entire industry. But in some quarters sheet vinyl is still very much part of the discussion, providing retailers with a residential option on which they can turn a profit.

That has been the case with Armstrong’s CushionStep, which was first introduced to the market in 2006 and is still going strong. “With CushionStep we are giving consumers even more of what they want and giving dealers a unique selling story,” said Rachel Lombardo, Armstrong general manager, residential vinyl sheet.

Dealers who have carried CushionStep since the product’s inception rave about the product’s many features and benefits, including salability. For example, Mel Gauthier, owner of Nufloors in Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada, lauded Armstrong

for positioning CushionStep

as a cost-competitive product. “CushionStep is a definite money maker for us,” she said. “It is our top-selling sheet vinyl product, and a line that we always carry in our inventory.”

Sue Walters, head of interior design and sales at Macco’s Floor Covering Center, Green Bay, Wis., said sheet vinyl offerings such as CushionStep “are an excellent option for a portion of consumers due to cost or remodel situations. There will always be a need and market for sheet vinyl.”

CushionStep, a loose lay fiberglass cushion floor sold exclusively to the independent retail channel, has undergone several enhancements in the last eight years. This month, Armstrong announced “upscale looks and novel designs,” including a vein-cut, linear travertine design and a thicker (155 mil), plusher construction intended for everyday durability and added comfort.

The changes to the line are the result of what Armstrong called “extensive customer research” that led to the thicker construction, including 20 mil wearlayer, and 11 new designs and colors, such as a travertine plank visual. All products feature Armstrong’s CushionCore, which adds comfort and quiet underfoot.

Retailers said the combination of look and price makes for a compelling story on the sales floor. “When you have all those things—color variations, patterns and price—you are all good, ” said Ed Doehring, owner of Nufloors in Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada. He added that CushionStep provides an excellent value because the pricing is reasonable relative to the quality of the material, and mechanics like the ease of installation.

Most important, Doehring said he is also turning a profit with CushionStep. “I purchase rolls in order to get good pricing, and if you can turn the rolls fast enough, you can make money on it. You don’t want it to sit too long, which it’s not in my store.”

Walters said CushionStep’s combination of style and design reflects a wide range of customers’ tastes and desires. The visuals capture natural stone and hardwood at its finest, she said, “while still offering fun, playful patterns not pretending to be anything but sheet vinyl. We live in a market where consumers still ask about Armstrong inlaid on occasion. The designs along with the perceived value when a customer touches and feels the samples are welcomed.”

Gauthier said Armstrong has continued to push innovation with CushionStep, and that has resonated with consumers. “Our customers’ feedback is always good,” she said. “The most common comments are geared toward the comfort—soft under the feet—and also the style; they love the patterns.”

Ease of installation is another benefit. The product is relatively simple to install because it is a loose lay system; it also resists water well, making it a good choice for bathrooms, kitchens and laundry rooms.

In a few instances, customers are putting CushionStep on their walls.

“We have some Mennonite families that like it 3 feet up the walls,” Doehring said. “Mennonites usually have larger families with lots of kids, and CushionStep is easy to clean and less likely to get damaged.”

Vein-cut look

Armstrong offers a travertine plank in vinyl sheet, capitalizing on the trend in natural stones that favor a linear or “vein-cut” design.

The new CushionStep Premium collection includes vein-cut travertine designs in three groupings: Mineral Travertine, a plank visual in three colors; Capadocia Travertine, a staggered Travertine, also in three colors; and striated Sandstone, called Tidal Sandstone, in four colors.

Howard Montgomery, Armstrong design director, said the natural stone is cut in two ways—crosscut and vein-cut. A vein-cut stone slab shows the mineral veins running lengthwise along the stone slab or block, which he called “cutting against the vein.”

The unique vein-cut design is achieved when the stone slab is cut perpendicular at a 90-degree angle against the horizontal built up layers of sediment and earth. It shows a cross section of the exposed veins or sediment layers in a stone block. Crosscut occurs when the stone slab or block is cut parallel to the sediment layers.

“Though two slabs from the same block share the exact same composition of colors and minerals, the results can be wildly different,” Montgomery said. “Traditionally, most stone looks have been cross-cut, but Armstrong has taken the more high-end, random vein-cut approach and applied this to our newest designs in CushionStep. The result is dramatic—definitely a crowd pleaser.”

CushionStep also features several other patterns that are designed to capture the beauty of natural material, including new looks in timeworn, rustic and whitewashed wood planks found in two new offerings—Deep Creek Timbers and Whitewashed Walnut.

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