Surfaces resilient coverage: Suppliers gamble on new designs, enhanced performance attributes

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January 30/February 6, 2017: Volume 31, Number 17

By Lindsay Baillie and Ken Ryan

Resilient and its multiple subcategories were heavily represented at Surfaces this year with companies focusing on improvements and innovations in terms of style and design.

In addition to the major players in resilient, Surfaces saw multiple mills enter the LVT and WPC scene. For example, Dixie, a longstanding carpet mill with three well-known retail brands, recognized it couldn’t ignore the growth in hard surfaces—it just needed the right jumping-off point. It found it with Stainmaster PetProtect LVT, joining Phenix as the only other licensee of PetProtect LVT. Phenix showed 12 PetProtect products at Surfaces including a slip-resist technology called “action traction,” which is designed to keep dogs from sliding across the hard floors.

Dan Phelan, vice president of marketing for the residential division, acknowledged Dixie is late to the LVT market and therefore needed to be different. Stainmaster PetProtect LVT, he said, provides that differentiation.

Dixie introduced 40 LVT SKUs—20 for the Dixie Home brand and the other half for Masland. Dixie LVT offers a 20 mil wear layer while Masland boasts a 28mm thickness. “We have gotten great reaction from dealers,” Phelan said. “Our customers are surprised but pleased.”

Steven Lewis, owner of Lewis Floor & Home, Northbrook, Ill., was on hand at the Dixie booth to preview the products. He said while the company is definitely late to the segment it has a good relationship with dealers it will need to leverage to get showroom space.

Dixie is one of several soft surface companies that is either getting into LVT, expanding its assortment or considering entry. The latter category includes Engineered Floors, which is targeting an LVT launch in the next six months. “We see the opportunity because it is the largest growing category,” said Mike Sanderson, vice president of product marketing. “We would be remiss if we didn’t look into it and put our toe in the water.”

Nance Industries, a soft surface company that cut its teeth in area rugs, showed a new line of LVT that it is readying for the retail market. Presley Nance, executive account specialist, said the move into hard surfaces makes perfect sense for a company whose forte is rugs.

On the other side of the exhibition hall, Raskin Industries introduced Ceramix, a built-in grout loose lay LVT, and Arcylix, a solid surface waterproof floor. Michael Raskin, CEO, believes it is better “to have two horses in the race than one.”

Ceramix is composed of ceramic particles and built-in grout that is permanent. “Our distributors are excited about it because they see it as adding product that they didn’t have,” Raskin explained. “It is affordable and includes exclusive designs.” Ceramix and Acrylix comes in both plank and tile options, offering 11 SKUs.

Another plus, Raskin said, is the fact that these products do not require acclimation to a room prior to installation. In addition, they can be installed in a sunroom and won’t change color—which has been an issue with some LVT products. Lastly, the product has a PSI rating of 1300, making it suitable for commercial applications.

“We see it as the next generation, and we are going to be first with this product.”

Providing the spark
In deciding how and where to innovate, Congoleum has looked at what is missing from current resilient offerings. “One of the big voids that existed in this category was really good looking tile,” said Kurt Denman, chief marketing officer and executive vice president of sales. “There has been lots of wood everywhere but there really aren’t good tile options so that’s where we started with our second round. The first round we put out wood just like everyone else and then we asked our manufacturing partner to really focus on embossed in register, and on these enhanced edges and creating uniqueness like boxing various widths in the same box, longer planks. Just as a point of differentiation.”

Patrick Buckley, vice president of product management, Congoleum, highlighted the new patterns and wood visuals in the company’s DuraCeramic products. “This has been our flagship product since 2008,” he said. “It’s been a pioneer in LVT.”

Congoleum also rolled out 15 new SKUs of its Triversa product, a WPC offering. “We have this in 8mm overall gauge with a cork backing and 20 mil wear layer. It’s very durable and very affordable.”

Other suppliers are also looking to fill critical voids in the market. Mannington, for instance, is responding by expanding its signature AduraMax line. “We just came out with new rectangles for Max and we’re launching it this year,” said Jimmy Tuley, vice president of residential resilient. “They’re some of our best-selling Adura products, and I think they’re just going to be a home run. When you talk about Max, you have beautiful style and design but it’s a great performance story. You’ve got scratch-resist urethane, a 20 mil wear layer, industry-leading sound, and it covers subfloor imperfections—there’s not a lot that Max doesn’t have.”

American Biltrite showed two main products which service both commercial and residential business. One offering is Texas Granite—a solid vinyl tile, no-wax flooring. “You can get a very high shine out of the product just by buffing it slightly,” said Mark Tickle, director of marketing. “It has a very good contemporary color palette and is available in 12-, 24- and 36-inch tiles.”

Texas Granite is geared toward the healthcare and education sectors as well as residential. It comes in 28 colors—some bright, some muted—and can be mixed with different sizes. “This allows you to make different geometric patterns by changing the designs between the different sizes,” Tickle said. “The combinations are endless.”

The company’s second product, UltraCeramic, is ideal for residential applications, according to Tickle. “We’ve had it in the market for at least two years, but this year we introduced the 12 x 24 size which is a growing section of the market. We offer it in four patterns: Finestone, Spa Marble, Villa Stonewood and Urban Slate—all of which emulate a stone appearance.” In addition to the updated sizes, UltraCeramic comes with a new retail point of purchase display.

Not to be outdone, Armstrong has increased its presence in resilient with the addition of Prism, a product the company classifies as a resilient but is not vinyl or laminate. “It’s something different, like a composite product,” said Morgan Hafer, product manager. “It is waterproof, scratch and stain resistant and dent proof. And has technology that is exclusive to Armstrong.”

Prism was put to the test at Surfaces as demonstrations showed off the products easy-to-clean and hard-to-dent qualities. In terms of visuals, Prism contains the designs of Armstrong’s top selling laminate line. “You’re taking the most realistic, beautiful visuals and you’re putting it on the most durable product out there,” Hafer said.

Design and visuals were also a factor for Earthwerks, which highlighted its Framework and Framework Plus products. “We have six planks and two tiles, and the two tiles actually work back to the planks,” said Lindsey Nisbet, head of product marketing and development. This means the tiles coordinate with the planks so retailers can provide cohesive product for the full job—bathrooms as well as living spaces.

Aside from its LVT, the company’s WPC has continued to expand with its Sherbrooke and Parkhill collections. New additions include 12 x 24 tiles. “For our WPC products, we’ve taken our existing 12 products that immediately drove a huge portion of our business and…added to it so you have more character, fun and unique design,” Nisbet explained.

To complement Earthwerks’ new products, the company has updated volumes of its products. “The Development collection is perfect for multi-family and builders,” Nisbet said. “All of our 2mm are found in volumes one, two and three, and the warranties are the colors of the spine.”

Volume one contains entry-level 2mm products; volume two contains 2mm product with Tuff Shield and volume three contains product with Tuff Shield and a 12 mil wear layer. “So if you’re going to see a builder [or multi-family account] and you need that level, you have three books and that’s all you need to take,” Nisbet added. “You have three products in each one, four to eight SKUs in each.”

While there remained a strong focus on WPC and LVT, many manufacturers revamped their sheet vinyl lines to provide solutions for consumers who demand traditional offerings. Among these companies were Mohawk, which used displays—similar to those used at Solutions in December—to highlight the waterproof and heat-resistant qualities of sheet vinyl.

“At Surfaces we really wanted to highlight all of the wonderful things we can do in-house with performance and the visuals of the product,” said Tammy Perez, marketing manager, hard surfaces. “We created a scenario to walk everyone through how the products are made, introduce them a little bit with the screens to the vinyl facilities we have in Dalton and then [explain] how we construct our products to really perform.”

According to Perez, Mohawk’s sheet vinyl provides a great story for the retailer because it is built with stability in mind. “Vinyl in itself is very seasonal,” she added. “What’s really great about these products is we wanted to solve that.”

To ward off water damage Mohawk continues to use Uniclic technology. “Uniclic is the best technology whether it’s on laminate or hardwood and we’ve added it to vinyl,” Perez said. “We really want to stick with that type of locking system because we know it performs and it works. So we put that on our regular LVT as well.”

To protect against heat the company uses a full sheet of fiberglass on its flexible LVT which allows the product to lay flat and stay flat, according Perez.

Armstrong highlighted its new vinyl sheet products now coated with Diamond 10 technology, the same coating seen on the company’s Vivero luxury flooring. Its use of Diamond 10, Armstrong suggests, is a major selling point for retailers.

“The Diamond 10 technology is a proprietary technology that no one else has,” said Matt Savarino, product manager, Armstrong. “We’re going to be putting a lot of emphasis behind it, talking about it a lot more and hopefully creating some consumer demand generation programs to help get the consumers coming in and talking about it. Combine that with the Armstrong name, we can demand a little bit more premium in the marketplace, which makes it more lucrative for the retailers.”

For Happy Feet, its products coupled with the company’s exclusivity create a higher price point for retailers. Of its new offerings shown at Surfaces, Casey Johnson, owner, said retailers have to have Mount Everest in Happy Feet’s Biltmore series for a couple of reasons. “No. 1, we don’t sell to everybody,” Casey said. “Happy Feet is very selective so the dealers that buy our products make a lot more money.”

As the category continues to develop, many manufacturers boast products that are waterproof and scratch resistant. Among these are Cryntel. According to Paul Cullom, director of sales, the company’s new products are rigid enough to hide subfloor imperfections, are waterproof and sound absorbing. Cryntel also offers a peel-and-stick for easier installation. To demonstrate Cryntel’s Releasable Cullom easily peeled the product off the floor, using only his hands. Releasable can be reused up to four times, as recommended by the company, and is ideal for anyone who does cash and carry, the company said.

Karndean Designflooring presented a wide array of products all with differing forms of installation. “We have our regular luxury vinyl tile which is our glue-down design flooring,” said Emil Mellow, vice president of marketing. “This is design flooring that nobody else has. Visuals plus that type of installation.”

In contrast to the glue down LVT, Karndean’s LooseLay Longboard requires no glue and goes right down, according to Mellow. The company’s third flooring installation option is found in its new rigid core structure product.

While many intros targeted the residential market, others focused on Main Street and light commercial business. At Surfaces Novalis introduced three new products targeting this important sector. “Retailers can gain more consistent business with Main Street,” said John Wu, CEO. “Main Street has been looking for the right product and LVT is the ideal product.”


WPC takes center stage at Surfaces
By Ken Ryan

Las Vegas—Whether it is called WPC or Rigid Core, the category popularized by USFloors’ COREtec was on full display at Surfaces as current and new players touted their newest offerings in what is becoming an increasingly crowded market.

Before the Surfaces trade show had officially opened on Jan. 17, the USFloors booth was swarming with major flooring dealers interested in COREtec Plus enhanced and COREtec XML enhanced, which included a digitally enhanced beveled edge that resonated with dealers like Kelly Cosgrove, flooring buyer for HOM Furniture in Coon Rapids, Minn. “I love the way it fuses together, but you would expect that from USFloors as they continue to innovate.”

The WPC revolution began in 2013 when USFloors introduced 12 COREtec SKUs, which were launched at Surfaces. There are now between 150 and 160 in the company’s portfolio. “It has changed the face of the LVT business,” said Marc Tinter, territory manager. “We have become a monster.”

WPS, which served as the distribution arm for COREtec as a standalone unit, recently was brought under the purview of USFloors (FCNews, Jan. 16/23). Its Fusion brand of waterproof engineered planks has 40 SKUs in the Elite program, including random-width formats. Despite the flood of new entrants, with more to come, USFloors has a big headstart in the market. “Now everyone is jumping into the WPC pool but there is only so much real estate available,” said Philippe Erramuzpe, COO. “When you are late to the market the question becomes, ‘What is your story?’”

Eric Mondragon, hard surface buyer for R.C. Willey Home Furnishings, is focused on products that allow him to stand apart from the pack. “USFloors, Armstrong and Shaw all offered products that will give me that.”

In recent years several small to mid-size carpet mills have ventured into hard surfaces, with some crossing into the WPC space. One of the more ambitious companies is Marquis Industries, which introduced Charleston, a solid PVC core, and Williamsburg, a 20-mil wear layer with ceramic bead finish. Mike Lindberg, executive vice president of marketing, said their WPC offerings offer higher density than LVT and offer a better price point with a better finish. “There are no expansion or contraction issues,” he said. “We have people buying containers. One dealer who carried our carpet but no hard surface before this bought a container.”

Mark Clayton, CEO of Phenix, which introduced two WPC products, said WPC is one if the few growing segments in flooring and, as such, companies want to participate. As a full-service flooring supplier that does business with the NFA group and other prominent retailers, Clayton believes Phenix can leverage those relationships with WPC.

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