By Megan Salzano Rigid core flooring has grown by leaps and bounds and taken the whole resilient category with it. Both SPC and WPC flooring products are taking share from most other categories and, as such, suppliers are entering the sphere to get in on the action.
Here, FCNews puts the spotlight on the new entrants into the rigid core market and what they believe to be their competitive advantage. Whether it be product design, go-to-market strategy or a combination of the two, these “new kids on the block” are proving themselves in a category dominated by seasoned suppliers.
AHF Products — Touting experience first
AHF Products launched its first residential resilient products in 2020 under the Bruce, Hartco and Robbins brands. “No matter which segments our retailers targets, AHF Products has the partnerships, products and selling tools to help customers expand sales,” said Wendy Booker, vice president, marketing and new product development. “We are building our business by really listening to our customers, and we are agile enough to react very quickly and specifically to meet the needs of the market.”
To that end, AHF said it finds an advantage in not being a single-product manufacturer. Its strong legacy in solid and engineered wood products brings a fresh, customer-focused perspective, based on a combination of design and features consumers want.
AxisCor Performance Flooring — Putting the supply chain first
AxisCor entered the rigid core category two years ago, and from day one prioritized inventory for its customers. “We were warehousing at a million square feet before we ever signed our first distributor,” said Art Layton, director of specialty products. “We thought it was very important to have the product there so our partners could take a leap of faith with us. It wasn’t something they had to wait six months for.”
The ability to have product when you need it is critical. AxisCor—and the rest of the industry—found out over the last year how impactful a shortage of supply can be. “It really hurt the retailer,” he said. “We have a huge advantage by having a supply chain that is operating very well, and then the backup inventory was a one-two combination that really helped our customers—and still helps today.”
The Dixie Group — Fashioning the right mix
The Dixie Group’s TruCor brand has been in play for two years now and has consistently expanded its market share. Jamann Stepp, vice president of hard surface, said the company’s goal with rigid core was to bring to market a product that boasted on-trend, designer-oriented fashion products that didn’t rely on price, as many rigid core brands today do. To that end, the company has launched two unique programs: 3DP and IGT.
TruCor Tile IGT (Integrated Grout Technology) is a tile visual with the grout line engineered into the locking system. TruCor 3DP utilizes digital printing technology to deliver sharp, realistic visuals with virtually no pattern repeat. The company will launch 3DP in wood plank and stone visuals in the second quarter of 2021.
Inhaus — Taking visuals to the next level
Seeing the rigid core trend emerging—and viewing it as a threat to its laminate business—Inhaus began to develop its own resilient-based flooring. A new approach was created from scratch, including core, décor layers and surface finish. “A lot of this was really industry-first innovation and perhaps one of the most exciting things is that there is a monumental amount of innovation left with this technology,” said Derek Welbourn, CEO. “We are really just scratching the surface (please pardon the pun).”
Today, the company’s Sono Eclipse is a novel approach to rigid core flooring. Sono’s unique benefits are threefold: visuals, technical performance and health. The product’s main competitive advantage is its visuals. Digital Printed Decors mean ultimate definition of color and design with one in 18 plank repeats, while Digital Printed Textures is a form of 3D printing that includes embossed-in-register designs. The surface finish is a UV-cured lacquer, similar to what is used on premium hardwood.
Lions Floor — Paving the way with service, quality
Lions Floor focuses on three essential elements as a favorable supplier to its audiences: customer service, product quality and inventory.
For Lions Floor, customer service comes first, and the company’s team prides itself on always being on hand to address the immediate needs of its customers. Next is product design and performance. The company’s resilient products have proven themselves in the market and keeps things fresh, new and exciting for retailers and distributors. Finally, Lions Floor prioritizes inventory in servicing its customers—a valuable asset in today’s market. It paves a secured path for the company’s sales growth, which enables its customers to be assured that most colors are in stock and available.
MSI — Making dream surfaces attainable
The MSI advantage is the total MSI approach. It all begins with the philosophy of “Making Dream Surfaces Attainable,” which means delivering high-value products to the consumer through its dealer network. “The high-value philosophy continues in the actions of delivering high-quality, on-trend designs in high-performing products at extremely competitive prices with a wide-ranging package of services,” said Alan Smith, business development director.
In reference to the total MSI approach, it begins with determining the right product specifications, adding on-trend assortments developed by its in-house design team, adding merchandising systems and samples, nationwide distribution and a deep commitment to inventory—all supported by a world-class supply chain team.
Quickstyle — Next-level waterproofing
Quickstyle Industries specializes in innovation, product quality and customer service. It is that formula that positions the company as an industry leader in today’s market.
First and foremost, the company’s TrueGrout technology helps set it apart from the competition. The unique, patent-protected system produces realistic-looking grout lines for all WPC and SPC products in planks and tiles along with waterproofing. “TrueGrout is a game changer in the hard surface flooring industry because it provides the beauty of ceramic tile and wood plank flooring with the 100% waterproof element and an easy click-lock installation system,” said Nadia Villa, marketing specialist. The waterproof nature of TrueGrout allows it to be installed in virtually any setting.
Stanton — Building on a stellar reputation
Stanton is a brand born of unique decorative carpet, rugs and runners. Waterproof flooring is a natural progression of the brand. Now, the company has applied its 40 years of styling experience to the rigid core segment. “Stanton was able to bring its excellent service, reputation for inventory and reliability and dedicated sales force to the hard surface segment,” said John Rocconi, director of hard surface.
The brand’s initial launch consisted of 24 colors, all designed with high-end style in mind. This year, the company is more than doubling its offering with 30 new colors. “What really sets us apart are the visuals,” Rocconi said. “From our edgy black and white collection to our modern hickory colors, we have something for everyone.”