‘Start-up’ Armstrong Flooring looks to leverage heritage

HomeInside FCNews‘Start-up’ Armstrong Flooring looks to leverage heritage

April 11/18, 2016; Volume 30, Number 21

By Ken Ryan

Armstrong Flooring, the newly spun off company from Armstrong World Industries, enters its new phase in a rather unique position: technically a start-up company, yet one with $1.2 billion in revenue and a 150-year legacy.

“It’s not every day you see a company start out like that,” Don Maier, president and CEO, told FCNews. The new Armstrong Flooring is a publicly traded company on The New York Stock Exchange (ticker symbol AFI). In fact, the company had the honor of closing the day of trading on April 6 with Maier swinging the gavel.

He said the new Armstrong is “a more nimble company” as it “steps out of the shadows” of the ceilings business. As such, it plans to attack the market by driving innovation, particularly in LVT, but in engineered hardwood and other hard surfaces as well.

Maier noted Armstrong is also making a greater investment in independent retail, which he said the company had underinvested in previously. Armstrong has been in the process of installing more than 5,000 display fixtures in retail stores as part of a renewed investment in the channel. “We understand we need to support the independent retailer as well as the distributor,” he said. “We’re engaged in our distribution much more than before.”

In 2015, Armstrong consolidated operations in its engineered hardwood facility in China and moved production to Vicksburg, Miss., and Somerset, Ky. Maier said the onshoring movement would continue and has been financially beneficial for the company.

Given the recent onshoring transition and the significant investments in innovations such as the award-winning Vivero enhanced vinyl flooring with Diamond 10 technology, which was introduced at Surfaces 2016, Maier said Armstrong Flooring is in a position to prosper. He added the benefit of those moves are starting to be reflected in the financials; in the fourth quarter of 2015, Armstrong’s engineered hardwood business grew 20% while LVT was up 34%. The fourth quarter also saw the debut of the company’s revamped, state-of-the-art LVT plant in Lancaster, where Vivero is manufactured.

Looking to the future, Maier said he is looking forward to going to market with a new executive team comprising leaders from within the floor covering industry as well as those from outside entities, including Procter & Gamble, Chobani and PepsiCo. “I have stacked the deck with great talent, great caliber individuals. This is a dream opportunity for me. I am honored and humbled to lead such a talented team. We are stepping into huge shoes, a 150-year legacy. I truly believe with our people and strategy, the next chapter will be bigger and better. We are still in the early innings but I am really impressed with our progress.”

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