March 2/9, 2015; Volume 28/Number 18
By Ken Ryan
For specialty flooring dealers to remain competitive and profitable, they must rely on manufacturers to supply them with quality products, providing visuals and designs that resonate with their customers.
Fortunately, 2014 provided plenty of distinctive offerings that helped retailers succeed. FCNews spoke with several dealers about some of last year’s top-selling, attention-grabbing new products.
Armstrong—Luxe Plank, Alterna and Architectural Remnants
Flooring dealers cited Armstrong multiple times for its LVT and laminate products. Bill Zeigler, owner of C.F. Zeigler & Sons in Hanover, Pa., said his favorite introductions in 2014 were Armstrong’s Luxe Plank and Luxe Tile with FasTak installation. “There is a self-adhering adhesive on the back that is releasable and reusable,” he noted. “We’ve installed this in our main entrance and found the installation and maintenance very simple. The patterns are more realistic than most other manufacturers’ LVTs and live up to what we’ve come to expect from Armstrong’s superior products and designs.”
Casey Dillabaugh, owner of Dillabaugh’s Flooring America in Boise, Idaho, said Armstrong’s Alterna really took off with his customers. “The ease of install, various designs and sizes, and overall cost compared to a traditional tile really helped. In our market traditional tile installation rates are some of the highest I’ve heard of across the country, so labor being substantially cheaper on Alterna helps immensely. Clients appreciate the warmth underfoot and the low maintenance of Alterna, and when down it is so incredibly difficult to even notice a difference from traditional tile.”
Finally, Armstrong’s Architectural Remnants laminate was cited by several dealers, among them Elisabeth Stubbs, owner of Enhanced Floors & Moore in Marietta, Ga. “The visuals are so unique and striking; it gives you that reclaimed look at a fraction of the price. We tend to do large jobs with this product.”
Judith Huck, owner of Classique Floors in Portland, Ore., said Bliss’ patterns “make it a little more unique than some of the other soft fiber carpets out there. We put some Bliss on the showroom floor, which has helped because consumers like to visualize the product.”
According to Huck, the best-selling Bliss collection is Indulgence. “We like the patterns, the feel of it, the color options. It’s the product we have installed in the showroom, which again has helped sell the product.”
David Labbe, owner of Nadeau’s House of Flooring in Fort Kent, Maine, said there are “so many things” to like about EarthWerks’ LVT plank.
“The plank system they have is very realistic looking and performs extremely well. It comes at a good price point, has quality warranties, and my crews are very comfortable installing it. EarthWerks’ click system and glue-down products are very true. What I mean by that is we are not fighting to put the planks together the way you have to with some products. They are milled properly; it’s a beautiful product.”
Because of its exceptional dimensional stability, larger lengths and wider widths are possible with Moduleo. The click LVT in a 12 x 26 rectangle format and ceramic visual has been a consistent seller at Ted’s Abbey Carpet & Floor, which has two Alabama locations. “We’ve had a lot of success with Moduleo,” said Ron Hurley, executive vice president. “It is fairly easy to put together, installer friendly and has some nice designs and styling; customers like it. Plus it comes at a good price point.”
Ted’s Abbey Carpet displays Moduleo in a large sample size that Hurley believes attracts customers and helps drive sales.
Mannington—Adura, Luxury Vinyl Sheet, Mercado Oak
LVT/LVP represents the fastest growing category, and several retailers named Mannington’s Adura as their big hit in luxury vinyl. “[Mannington has] the best colors and style,” said Nick Freadreacea, president of The Flooring Gallery in Lousville, Ky., who particularly likes the Athena series.
Doug Tuttle, president of Johnson Carpet One in Grandville, Mich., said while 2014 was certainly an LVT year, sheet vinyl remains a strong and viable category. “This is very true in the West Michigan market, where we were especially pleased with Mannington’s introduction of Luxury Vinyl Sheet. The great Mannington styling combined with the flexibility of construction and price made this new line a winner for our company.”
Mannington’s Mercado Oak hardwood product was another standout, according to some dealers. “It shows Mannington is heading in the right direction with product style,” said Sean O’Rourke, vice president of sales for hard surfaces at Avalon Flooring, with 14 locations in New Jersey, Delaware and Pennsylvania.
Dillabaugh said he did particularly well with SmartStrand Silk in 2014, in both Mohawk and Karastan products. “The apparent benefit to the consumer allows us to make better margin over other high-end products of different fiber types. We’ve had great success with client satisfaction and a low claims rate, giving our sales professionals even more confidence in the product.”
Freadreacea said on the retail end, there was “nothing as successful as Mohawk and their foray into Silk. For the soft feel, the beautiful styling and the strong warranty story, it ruled the upper end of our retail business.”
Other dealers said SmartStrand Silk is the kind of product you want customers to touch because once they do, they want it in their homes.
Nine mills—and counting—carry Invista Stainmaster products with PetProtect. For Allen Clouse, director of retail sales at Star Flooring in Wichita, Kan., Stainmaster PetProtect products, especially those from Phenix, are “far and above our best carpet sellers on the floor. The customers love the product.”
He added that his sales team “gravitated toward the Phenix products because they had a nice selection of colors and price points. Phenix also did a great job of servicing our account and ensuring timely deliveries.”
Ted’s Abbey Carpet & Floor used Q-Wood on a few large residential jobs in excess of $20,000 in sales each. “In our neck of the woods that it is a big job,” Hurley said. “And we have nice margins with that.”
He noted that the oil-rubbed Opulux finish on Q-Wood is more sensibly priced than other products with the same type of finish. A key selling feature is a kit that Quick-Step provides to allow retailers to demonstrate the revitalizing properties of the Opulux finish. Each kit contains a small plank, cloth, sandpaper and a demo bottle of the company’s Renewal Revitalizing Solution. “You have a story to tell customers, and that always helps. Q-Wood also offers unique visuals and installation options that add to the product’s value.”
Shaw—Anso Originals, Tigressá
A.J. Boyajian, co-owner at A.J. Rose Carpets, with three Massachusetts locations, said his stores have flourished with Anso Originals. “This is Shaw’s value Anso line. The program offers one of the best warranties in the business at incredibly good prices with excellent styles.”
Anso Originals features 15 styles and a multitude of colors, built on one of Shaw’s most successful and recognizable brands—Anso nylon fiber.
Also unique to the collection, Anso Originals uses R2X stain and soil resistance to help preserve the original look and feel of the carpet. “It has done well for us from both a sales and profitability standpoint,” Boyajian said.
Another Shaw product that has earned rave reviews from dealers was Tigressá SoftStyle. Marketed as the softer, stronger carpet, Tigressá proved to be a smash hit at Mount Vernon Carpet One Floor & Home in Mount Vernon, Wash. “Our salespeople are confident in this product because it is a nylon fiber with great colors and styles for the Northwest,” said Debbie Monetti, owner.
No product received more widespread dealer praise than COREtec Plus, with multiple retailers citing the product’s myriad benefits.
Eric Mondragon, hard surface buyer, flooring division, at RC Willey Home Furnishings with 16 locations across several western states, said COREtec Plus simply stands out from the rest. “I struggled to keep up with the industry’s growth when it came to LVT and LVP; 85% to 90% of my business is in the residential remodel segment of the market, and those products did not resonate well with the remodel customer that was generally replacing resilient sheet goods. COREtec bridged the gap between that resilient sheet customer and the laminate customer. We sold it more as a hybrid laminate than a traditional LVP. Customers could understand and relate to its features and benefits, and my sales associates had a story to tell that created value in the product. The result was that my average price went up as well as my margin.”
Sam O’Krent, owner of O’Krents Abbey Flooring Center in San Antonio, cited COREtec as a winner “due to its moisture- resistant qualities.”
Avalon’s O’Rourke noted, “The rapid growth of USFloors’ COREtec product line shouldn’t come as news to anybody in the floor covering world.”
Kevin Rose, president and owner of Carpetland USA, with two Illinois stores, perhaps summed it up best: “COREtec would have my vote as the most innovative product for 2014.”