February 17/24, 2020: Volume 35, Issue 17
By Reginald Tucker
Las Vegas—With so much of the focus in hardwood flooring today trained on hybrids and entry-level products, some suppliers are countering by placing a greater emphasis on the upper-mid to high end of the market. This strategy was readily evident within the booths at some of the upscale brands featured at Surfaces last month.
Case in point was the newly re-imagined Mohawk space, which showcased the first-ever Karastan hardwood flooring rollout, BelleLuxe. “When we looked at launching Karastan into hard surface, we really wanted to represent what the brand stood for, which is for the discerning customer at the premium end of the market,” said Adam Ward, senior product director, laminate and wood, Mohawk. “When retailers step into the booth, they see the brand presence, which really showcases what the brand is all about.”
BelleLuxe debuted in four collections that showcase the beauty of the product, starting with Worthington Herringbone, available in a 5 x 24 format in four colors. There’s also a coordinating plank product, Worthington Oak. “Customers can do a herringbone pattern in the foyer and a plank pattern across the rest of the house with the same coloration,” Ward explained.
Next up is the Ashmore collection, a 9-inch-wide product inspired by French wine makers. Comprising seven SKUs—six natural and one stained—the color palette features trendy washed naturals and whites and earth-toned grays. Also available is a 71⁄2 inch-wide maple offering, Villa Pointe, regarded for its compact grain pattern. It features hand-detailed wirebrushing for a more rustic look. Rounding out BelleLuxe is the Chevreaux oak collection, a 10½-inch-wide plank that Ward described as “majestic.” All SKUs are supported by an accessories program featuring full stair treads and vents.
All this won’t come cheap, though. “This line is positioned as a higher end price point—a premium upgrade in keeping with what Karastan stands for as a brand,” Ward stated. MSRP could exceed $12-$14 per square foot, he noted.
The spotlight on high-end hardwood also shined brightly across the hall at the The Dixie Group booth. There, Jamann Stepp, the company’s vice president of hard surfaces, touted the attributes of the Fabrica brand. Following a successful launch in 2018, the line has been expanded to meet growing consumer demand. The line now includes five hickories and four new white oaks in a 9½-inch-wide platform in thicknesses ranging from 5⁄8 to 9⁄16 of an inch. Top layer options include a 3mm, 3.5mm or 4mm live-sawn face.
“We’re sourcing out of Canada, Portugal, Thailand, Vietnam and the U.S., depending on the profile,” Stepp explained. “For example, the 9½-inch-wide Chateau collection is coming out of Thailand, but the 7-inch-wide x ½-inch French oak product is sourced from Portugal. Hickory is coming out of the U.S., maple (Canada) and the opening price point white oak comes out of Vietnam. We really feel like we have the wood program rounded out, using a good/better/best analogy. And our ‘good’ starts at the middle point. It fits the Fabrica mold, which is all about design and taste.”
In terms of pricing, products range from $6.99 up to $14 per square foot for “stock” items, depending on the width and construction of the product. The Fabrica brand also features some custom-handscraped products that retail anywhere from $18–$20 per square foot.
Despite the growing popularity of wood look-alike products that sell for much less than higher end offerings, upscale brands are not discouraged. “There’s definitely an opportunity for products that retail at the upper end of the market,” Stepp said. “Home centers were successful for a long time selling 3⁄8-inch or ½-inch products with 1.2mm or 1.5mm rotary-peeled faces. But when the rigid core category came along that changed everything. However, where the real wood category has a great future is in that mid price range to the higher end. Even though this rigid core craze is going on year No. 7 now, real wood is always going to be desirable and add value to the home.”