January 30/February 6, 2017: Volume 31, Number 17
By Ken Ryan
Las Vegas—The National Floorcovering Alliance’s (NFA) specialty member event, held here on the Tuesday before Surfaces, provides a rare moment where suppliers get to spend quality time with some of the most influential flooring dealers in the business while showcasing their wares.
“This is a great event because I get to see vendors here that I won’t see anywhere else,” said Phillip Raby Sr., co-owner of The Raby Co. in Albuquerque, N.M. “The NFA is the greatest retail group in the world.”
According to NFA, more than 40 specialty vendors were in attendance. This includes Metroflor, a new vendor partner. Russ Rogg, president and CEO, said he is familiar with the NFA from his days at Wilsonart, a former NFA vendor. “I’m excited to get back in the fold with this group. NFA is small in numbers but big in scale and historically they are a good group with which to do business.”
The NFA vendor show is not necessarily a buying show as it is a collaborative effort. “It’s more about relationships than product and understanding what [retailers’] needs are,” Rogg said.
Metroflor used the opportunity to showcase its Engage Genesis lineup, which features an expansive array of waterproof designs encompassing four wear layers. Key attributes to Engage Genesis are its Isocore technology, which the company touts as the new standard for quality in multi-layer flooring, and UltraFresh, a microbial growth inhibiter.
Metroflor wasn’t the only vendor turning heads at the show. Inhaus drew the attention of retailers with its new Sono line, an innovative offering created to break new ground in the waterproof category. Sono is being positioned as fundamentally different than WPC because it is a homogenous product made in a one-step process featuring Inhaus’ patented Ceramin technology. The core of Sono is made of ceramic powder and polyolefin, adding to its distinctiveness.
“You have a solid construction made out of ceramic,” Daniel Lang, vice president of sales and marketing, Inhaus, explained. “The overwhelming thing is the look—it just fits.”
The unique construction of Sono had some dealers scratching their heads. Dick Wallet of The Floor Store in Richmond, Calif., said he has been in flooring retail for 45 years and couldn’t quite figure out the make of the product. “It looked like wood; it’s hard to believe it is ceramic,” he said.
It’s new products and programs such as these that continue to compel NFA dealers to attend. Dave Snedeker, NFA president and division merchandise manager-flooring, Nebraska Furniture Mart, can attest. “We had over 40 specialty vendors in attendance and well over 200 NFA members. We are very pleased with the turnout, and the feedback from everyone was that it was the best one yet. We found a couple of new items here that we believe will be a great addition to our lineup and potentially a big seller for us.”
One of those items is cabinets. NFA welcomed U.S. Cabinet Depot to the fold, representing its first non-flooring vendor. Nearly 50% of flooring dealers carry non-flooring products, and that trend is expected to continue.
Raby will serve as the NFA’s category captain for cabinets. He estimated that NFA members collectively could do $50-$60 million in business in countertops and $40 million in cabinets. “I know we can grow our business with countertops and cabinets,” he said.
Snedeker wouldn’t put a number on it, but he does see opportunity for the group. “Retailers today need to think about this because the flooring market is changing. A lot more hard surface is being sold and less carpet. Flooring stores need to be on top of this and keep up with the trends.”
The flooring liaison for U.S. Cabinet Depot is Kathy Tilley, director of business development. She joined the company in the fall after several years with the FEI Group, also known as Floor Expo. Her task is to grow the cabinet business through the retail flooring channel. “There is an inventory commitment here like no one else can do,” she said.