By Reginald Tucker A new generation of hardwood flooring for the next generation of buyers. That’s how AHF Products is positioning tmbr, the latest offering in its growing portfolio of hardwood flooring brands.
According to AHF Products, tmbr—a line of carefully crafted, eco-minded, engineered hardwood flooring products inspired by sought-after destinations—is designed specifically for the millennial generation, a cohort that’s becoming increasingly important to marketers of home improvement products. The line marries the principles of authenticity—something that millennials value—with the increasingly popular concept of bringing the outdoors inside the home.
“This launch allows us to tap into the millennials, who buy and think differently,” said Brian Carson, president and CEO of AHF Products. “It’s an important demographic because more millennials are becoming home buyers, not just renters. They have an estimated spending power of $1.4 billion, of which $600 million is in home furnishings.”
Millennials are not just an influential group; they are also growing in numbers. AHF Products estimates there are anywhere from 80 million to 95 million millennials out there today. “That’s a lot of people—about 30% of the population,” said Kevin Whaley, vice president of sales, product and marketing, AHF Products-tmbr. “More importantly, they are entering the home buying years, and they have outpaced baby boomers.”
Looking at those eye-popping trends, AHF Products is confident this new crop of home buyers could potentially become candidates for hardwood flooring purchases. To that end, the company is looking to tempt millennial buyers with hardwood flooring visuals inspired by some of the world’s most coveted destinations. For instance, the first collection within tmbr that’s set to launch is Big Sur, a line of white oak and hickory species in 70½-inch-wide x ½-inch-thick planks. Available in 10 colors, the collection is inspired by the rugged coastline of the Pacific.
“We’re using destinations like Big Sur to draw on millennials’ desire for experiential locations and destinations,” said Jamie Hooper, marketing director, tmbr. “Millennials seek out places like California’s Big Sur to reconnect with their love for nature, to rekindle creativity, escape the daily grind and be captivated by the natural beauty and allure of the outdoors. With tmbr they can revitalize their homes with the same sense of mystery, magic and beauty so they can capture a little bit of the outdoor experience every day.”
Big Sur’s natural hues appeal to tmbr’s target demographic. That’s why it was so important for AHF to maintain as much of the product’s inherent characteristics when developing the line. “We didn’t want to do anything with this product to change what nature intended,” Whaley explained. “We’re not doing any heavy cerusing that would alter the product; we just take the natural hues and tint them lightly. We’re using a cleaner grade and light colorways for a more raw look. It looks the same way it did when we first split the tree open.”
Genesis of a brand
Early last year, AHF’s marketing team and executives began collaborating with distributors to come up with a new offering designed to excite consumers. The feedback the company gleaned from their channel partners reinforced the need to be forward-facing in its thinking in terms of new hardwood product development.
“We wanted to make sure our inaugural products were in tune to what millennials were looking for in an engineered hardwood floor,” Whaley said. “Wide planks, long lengths, durable species and performance were all key attributes. We wanted to start with species that held up to active lifestyles and offer them in natural colorways that complement millennials’ décors.”
While no MSRP has been confirmed, AHF Products said the tmbr line might be positioned as a “better” product in your typical good/better/best pricing tier structure, Carson said.
AHF Products distributors who caught a sneak peek of the new tmbr line say they like what they’re seeing. “Tmbr is very attractive in the sense that everything was completely ready to roll from the start,” said Scott Bertram, vice president of sales, B.R. Funsten & Co., a top 10 distributor. “The features and specs of the product really shine; the natural look, while fairly clean, and the wider width for the West Coast is a big key in hitting what is trending in the market now.”
But perhaps the best part about tmbr, according to AHF, is the fact that it will be exclusive to the independent specialty retailer and serviced by local distributors. And with that comes the requisite merchandising, point of sales support and brand awareness initiatives necessary for success. In support of the launch, for example, AHF Products has partnered with key organizations that not only embrace environmental causes but also support local businesses like specialty flooring retailers. Among the partners that tmbr is working with include the Arbor Day Foundation, the largest 501(c)3 nonprofit membership organization dedicated to planting trees. More than 1 million members, supporters and valued partners have helped plant 350 million-plus trees throughout the world to ensure a greener and healthier future. For its part, AHF Products will be donating 1% of tmbr sales toward replanting efforts.
“We anticipate about 80,000 trees in our first year—roughly 50 trees per flooring job—are going to be planted with expected donations through December,” Hooper told FCNews. “That’s the great thing about this partnership—we can promote regionally specific initiatives through the Arbor Day Foundation so the person buying tmbr at the retail level can, in fact, see the impact of her purchase in the community. And it’s all in partnership with local distributors.”
The association with the Arbor Day Foundation will be promoted at the point of sale on the show floor via logos on the tmbr display headers as well as through Instagram. It will all tie back to the tmbr website (tmbrflooring.com) for reinforcement, according to Whaley.
Supporting tmbr’s local independent retailers is equally as important as supporting environmental responsibility. To that end, AHF Products has also teamed up with Independent We Stand—an organization dedicated to supporting small businesses such as local retailers—to promote the new tmbr brand. By signing on to carry the line, tmbr dealers will automatically become a “premium” member. To help small businesses stand out from the big-boxes and national chains, Independent We Stand provides learning tools, marketing materials and other resources that flooring retailers can leverage in their efforts.
“What can really set you apart is that your business is locally owned,” said Bill Brunelle, co-founder, Independent We Stand. “We help other small businesses celebrate their locally owned roots and help them tap into America’s ever-growing desire to buy local.”
For AHF Products, this local, grass roots approach is central to the rollout of the tmbr brand. As Carson explained: “This is a very different way to approach the market for selling flooring, and we’re doing it in a way that makes it easier for our dealers and distributors to sell to a new demographic but also to give back to the local communities that’s seamless for consumers.”
Influencers pitch in
In keeping with the tmbr brand’s marketing strategy to go after millennials, AHF Products is leveraging various social media initiatives to kick off the launch. One of which involves a collaboration with Seth and Tori Bolt, owners of Bolt Farm Treehouse. The popular millennial lifestyle couple designs and builds highly sought-after B&B homes that provide a nature-immersive travel experience. In much the same way that the Bolts worked with AHF Products in specifying LM Flooring-branded products for some of their treehouses, the couple has committed to featuring hardwood flooring products from the tmbr brand in its builds.
“We are proud to showcase tmbr flooring in our newest designs,” said Tori Bolt, co-owner Bolt Farm Treehouse. “Not only does the high-quality product provide a high-class aesthetic that complements our luxury designs, but there is also so much detail and intentionality engrained in this nature-inspired brand. We feel deeply aligned with tmbr as the brand, like ours, artfully showcases the natural beauty of the great outdoors.”
For AHF Products, the feeling is mutual. “Seth and Tori live and breathe the experience we want to present with the tmbr brand,” Hooper said. “They encompass the tmbr brand in terms of a young couple with a keen eye for design and the marriage of the outdoors in that design. They’re amazing ambassadors for us.”