By Ken Ryan Flooring retailers who operate Stainmaster Flooring Centers (SFC) say they are ready to turn the page on the iconic brand following Stainmaster’s acquisition by home improvement giant Lowe’s. The deal, officially announced on April 22, includes all brand-related intellectual property from Stainmaster’s parent company Invista, along with all related trademarks and sub-brands.
For flooring retailers who invested millions to become SFCs—and will now have to retrofit their showrooms—reaction ran the gamut from incensed to indifferent. However, there was broad consensus that the Stainmaster brand had lost its luster, and—with mills developing their own yarn systems—it was becoming increasingly difficult for Stainmaster to compete in an environment where their biggest customers were also their biggest competitors.
“We will take a moment to step back, let the dust settle and reassess our strategy to move forward,” said Paul Molina, retail flooring manager at Star Lumber, Wichita, Kan., which has supported the Stainmaster brand for 35 years. “It will be an exciting time of change and opportunity, with new concepts to consider and new products to explore.”
Some flooring dealers said they were not surprised by the deal as there had been rumors for some time about Stainmaster being on the block. Now that a deal has been made, several retailers said they are relieved and happy to move on to new opportunities.
“The reason we decided to become an SFC was to help drive retail traffic through Stainmaster’s online lead generation,” said Joel Schreier, president of Home Carpet One Floor & Home in Chicago. “Unfortunately, Stainmaster was never able to deliver in a meaningful way. The appeal of Stainmaster to consumers seemed to diminish as other fibers (like Triexta, a Mohawk fiber) became more popular. I always had mixed feelings about supporting Stainmaster as a brand due to their ownership and, in many ways, I am pleased to end that association. I don’t anticipate this negatively impacting our business in any way.”
The majority of National Floorcovering Alliance (NFA) dealers are also SFCs. As a group, they are working collectively with their mill partners to research plans to deliver product to NFA showrooms. “We trust our partners and are confident in their ability to deliver quality products with enhanced value to the NFA,” said Scott Browne, president of Macco’s Floor Covering, Green Bay, Wis., and Hadinger Flooring, Fort Myers, Fla.
Few flooring retailers were as entrenched with Stainmaster as Browne, and yet he acknowledged that the brand had lost some of its luster. “While the SFC network has had a positive impact on our business, the product offerings have diminished over the past few years based on mill support,” Browne told FCNews. “Due to the limited product launch, we’ve been somewhat handcuffed in our showrooms, and this transition will allow us to build stronger relationships with all mill partners. This in itself allows former SFC showrooms to expand offerings and deliver more value to our customer base.”
Phil Koufidakis, president of Baker Bros., with multiple locations in the Phoenix area, said nothing really changes much for his business. “I am sure our mill partners will re-brand to some degree and will continue to introduce other great products without the Stainmaster branding or Invista fiber, but inclusive of the same warranty,” he explained. “We have enjoyed a good run with the Stainmaster brand, but a much better run with the Baker Bros., brand. We feel like there will be more opportunity to feature great looking products from other fiber systems.”
Ian Newton, general manager of Oxnard, Calif.-based Flooring 101, called the acquisition “a bad move for Lowe’s” in that they purchased “a diminished brand not supported by the mills. And now that the specialty retailer is not promoting [the SM brand] will have less significance. I’m looking forward to retrofitting our displays to promote our brand—the most important brand, which is Flooring101.”
Lowe’s executives say they see things differently. Marvin Ellison, president and CEO, said the home improvement retailer sees “great potential” to leverage and extend the Stainmaster brand into other product areas to further serve customers and deliver on the Total Home strategy. Stainmaster, which Lowe’s has carried since 2010, now joins the retailer’s private-label assortment.
Thanks for the memories
Many flooring retailers have histories with the Stainmaster brand that go back 30-plus years and include a great deal of success. McSwain Carpet & Floors in Cincinnati, for example, had performed a financial analysis within its soft surface sales for 2019 and found that a proprietary Stainmaster line of products yielded 6.5% more gross profit points.
Others also enjoyed positive numbers. “We have enjoyed 35 successful years with the Stainmaster brand—in their initial launch and our following years as an SFC,” Star Lumber’s Molina said. “Together, we shared ideas, created enthusiasm for the products, promoted via private sales, benefited from the product and sales training and utilized their experience in remodeling our showrooms. It was a great run.”
Raffi Sarmazian, general manager of Sarmazian Bros., Cambridge, Ontario, Canada, also paid homage. “Stainmaster supported us with great training programs for our RSAs over the years,” he said. “We had a great run with products like PetProtect and implemented promos like private sales and $99 carpet installation events, which were the brainchild of [former Invista executive] Pami Bhullar, who was instrumental in making the brand a success in our stores.”