Monday, January 24, 2011

New Floor Covering Seen at Domotex Raises Expectations on Eve of Surfaces

The Surfaces floor show opens tomorrow and excitement about what new things await the industry is building. It's the season for shows and unveiling of new products but before I get all excited about what I will see tomorrow I need to post more about what I saw at Domotex Hannover last week and let me start with "WOW."  I was so impressed by the innovation and creativity this year.

I have always considered the Domotex Hannover flooring show to be a treasure hunt and this year was no exception. There were innovations at every turn in every category. The European economy was hurt by the same economic crisis as we have suffered through for the last four years but not nearly at the same magnitude. In fact, I spoke to several distributors and manufacturers that had record years in 2010 -  up as much as 15 percent. This was not the case for everyone but it felt good to talk to people that are experiencing growth and success.

I’ll be the first to admit that not all of the products will meet with wide sales appeal but just the fact that companies are coming up with new, creative ideas makes our industry exciting and energized. And from these ideas will flow new ones. For example, a Turkish company showed 3D rugs with special 3D glasses and all. I don’t think a lot of people are going to buy these rugs and pass out 3D glasses to their guest so that they can appreciate their new rug, but it shows a willingness to try, to experiment and use technology in innovative ways. The next time they might just come up with a blockbuster.


Pedross recovers oak from flooring manufacturers to create moldings that are finished off with either laminate, a real wood veneer, or direct digital printing - whatever the customer wants. The result is a guaranteed matching molding at a savings of 30 to 35% over solid oak. I snapped this picture that illustrates their digital photography...looks like a real mouse hole in that wall....the cat is convinced.

A couple of European manufacturers offered 100% bamboo or 60/40 bamboo polyester carpets. I have seen towels and sheets made out of bamboo so why not carpet? It was beautiful and except for its soft hand it looked no different than any other carpet. My only question would be resiliency since bamboo fibers have no natural crimp for spring-like recovery.

Tarkett showed a composite vinyl with a real wood laminated top. I already reported about the very unique Bolefloor wood floor where the planks are the irregular shape of the vertical tree pieced together with no waste. You’ll have to see that one to understand it and there is a picture of it on my last post.

I saw several new ideas in LVT ranging from a magnetic system to hold the planks in place to the easiest click system I have ever seen from the English company Super Click.This product, which first debut in Shanghai at the Asian Domotex show in 2010, uses an extremely easy push-to-fit installation method. The magnetic system by TFD Floor Tile uses a magnetic film to install the floor.  The LVT is 3mm thick and has iron shavings in it so when it is placed on top of the magnetized film, it holds the LVT to the floor.  It can be removed and replaced and is a remarkable idea for remodeling.  Manufacturing is inexpensive since it is square edge. There's  no profiling and no waste.

I could go on but the bottom line is Domotex presented another exciting show this year. If you were there, I am sure you will agree; if you missed it, I hope you don't miss Surfaces or Domotex asia/CHINAFLOOR. It's not just about the product. Plenty of partnerships and new ventures are formed at these shows.

Friends ask if it is tiring going to so many exhibitions in a short time and all I can say is they have no idea how exciting it really is. Our industry is constantly changing and innovating.  If your input on trends and technology takes place when a product makes a splash in the market place you are dealing with yesterday's news.

Tomorrow we'll see what Surfaces has to offer...I hope to see many of you there.

Jim

Jim Gould is President of the Floor Covering Institute
jgould@floorcoveringinstitute.com








Sunday, January 23, 2011

Catalina Outlook and Trends for 2011 Floor Covering Industry

FLOOR COVERING STATISTICAL TRENDS AND OUTLOOK

A year ago the US  floor coverings manufacturers, distributors, retailers and marketers were on their way to the Surfaces flooring show and gearing up for a recovery in the US economy with housing demand stimulated by the home buying tax credit. So what has happened since? And what is the expected trend for 2011? Below is a quick recap of 2010 and my thoughts on trends for 2011 -  as we gather again at Surfaces for the start of another year in the floor covering industry.

In the first half of 2010, US housing demand increased at double-digit rates but when the tax credit expired the housing market took a double-dip downward.  US economic growth also slowed in the middle of the year with consumer spending turning tentative as concerns about government tax and debt levels grew.

US floor covering manufacturer sales increased as high as 4.3 percent in the second quarter of 2010 but slowed in the third and fourth quarters with the final total sales gain estimated at 1.8 percent in square feet.  However, the gain just ended up refilling distribution channel inventories, since final demand continued to decline.

My thoughts on 2011:

Based on some recent economic indicators that have become more positive in recent months Catalina anticipates that US floor covering sales will rise another 2 percent in square feet this year, reflecting an increase in demand as installers as homeowners and renters begin to increase their floor coverings spending.

This outlook is based on economic indicators:

Personal income, on a seasonally adjusted annual basis, increased by 3.8 percent in November 2010 over November 2009.  This is up from a 2.9 percent year-to-year increase from January to October.
Total employment was up by 1.2 million in December 2010 from December 2009.  The change in employment over the first 11 months of 2010 averaged minus 997,000.  Employment gains have been positive since September 2010.
•  Existing home sales was about 5.3 million on a seasonally adjusted annual basis in December 2010.  This compares to a monthly average of 4.9 million sales over the previous 11 months.  The monthly supply of unsold existing homes has also hit its lowest rate since March 2010.  This indicates that the double-dip in the housing market could be coming to an end.
•  Sales growth of building material retailers, including home centers, is strengthening along with the gains in income, employment, and existing home sales.  Sales of building material retailers are estimated to have risen by 7. percent in the fourth quarter of 2010.  This compares to flat sales over the first three quarters of 2010.
Along with these positive economic indicators, government economic stimulus is being expanded with additional quantitative easing by the Federal Reserve and tax cuts passed by Congress.  All these trends will lead to stronger floor coverings demand, especially in the second half of the year.  Floor coverings manufacture square foot sales could be up in the 2 to 3 percent range by the second half of 2011.

What steps are you taking now to take full advantage of the 2011 recovery? Recovery 2.0?

I’ll be at Surfaces this week along with others from the Floor Covering Institute who post regularly here: Jim Gould, Christine Whittemore, Mitch Dancik, Susan Negley, Dontato Pompo, Chris Ramey, and Lew Migliore. Let's keep a conversation going. You can write a comment here, send us a tweet on Twitter @FloorcoveringIn or email us at info@floorcoveringinstitute.com.

Stuart

Stuart Hirschhorn is a member of the Floor Covering Institute and Director of Research of Catalina Research, Inc. which provides in-depth market research on the floor covering industry.


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Thursday, January 20, 2011

Environmental Laws that Affect Floor Covering

Environmental laws are popping up all over and it's hard to keep track of what affects your flooring business and what doesn't but there are a dozen laws that most everyone needs to know about. That's why I put together a one hour presentation for Surfaces to give a quick overview of several important laws being implemented now and some on the horizon in "Environmental Laws that Affect Your Business."   I'll be joined by a prestigious team: Ed Korzcak, executive director of the National Wood Flooring Association, Bill Dearing, president of the North American Laminate Flooring Association and Frank Hurd, VP and chief operating officer of the Carpet and Rug Institute.

We will cover the following topics and more:
  • The US Lacey Act Amendments
  • Hazard labeling on wood flooring which, although it started in California, will be rolled out nationally by most manufacturers
  • Carpet Product Stewardship, a program that will increase carpet prices by .05 a s/y and is designed to increase recycling (again, starting in California but it is expected to expand across the country)
  • Changes to the LEED rating system for carpet
  • New federal formaldehyde standards for composite wood products
  • VOC laws for wood finishes
  • Lead abatement certifications and requirements
  • We'll also give an update on the ITC Anti Dumping litigation.
The seminar is on Tuesday, January 25th at noon and you can register here.  I hope you attend and find it helpful.  Come with questions!

Jim

Jim Gould is President of the Floor Covering Institute
jgould@floorcoveringinstitute.com


Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Jim Gould Reports from Domotex Hannover

Domotex Hannover 2011 is over and early reports say it was a big success with 1,350 exhibitors from 70 countries and 40,000 visitors.  Jim Gould sends his comments....

As always, new products, new innovations and renewed friendships added to the optimistic start of a another year.  The crowds seemed bigger than last year and sentiments were optimistic.  One of the most interesting products I saw (and there were several) was Bolefloor's (Estonia) curved-length wood flooring with planks that follow the shape of the tree's natural growth. Their technology scans the tree, and using custom algorithms, cuts the tree in long planks leaving no waste. Planks are numbered so the tree is actually reassembled as flooring making each floor unique. Talk about optimization and uniqueness!

Bolefloor Oak courtesy of Bolefloor.com
The ITC anit-dumping case was a hot topic but the general feeling here is that it is much to do about nothing. Sentiment seemed similar to the remark of one flooring exec who said, "Eliminating $119 million worth of imported product from China will not create new jobs unless you are counting attorneys."

Frans de Cock is happy to have his son Paul (and daughter-in-law and grandson) back in Belgium running Unilin.

Ed Korczak (National Wood Flooring Association) and Wanda Ellis (American Flooring Alliance) were busy with their very large consolidated American exhibitor spaces. Bas van Genderen was busy in his Pedross space where they are using reclaimed, post manufactured oak waste to make finger-jointed moldings that are then laminated with everything from real exotic wood to direct print designs.

Although I love going, I'll be glad to get back to home turf...even if it's only for a couple of days before heading out to Surfaces.  Hope to see many of you there!

Jim

Jim Gould is President of the Floor Covering Institute
jgould@floorcoveringinstitute.com

Friday, January 14, 2011

Flooring shows - Domotex, Surfaces, Coverings, and Domtex Asia - inspire and inform us

Like many in the floor covering industry this week, Jim Gould, (the Institute's founder and leader), is on his way to Hannover to attend DOMOTEX, the world's largest floor covering show. He never tires of this trip and thinks of it as a great treasure hunt. Of course there was that discussion this week on our Facebook page about the all important, traditional eating of schweinoxen in Hannover, but I digress. While he is gone, I am working on the next events - Surfaces, Coverings, the Wood Flooring Forum and Domotex Asia - all places that bring the industry together, inspire and inform us, and fuel the supply channels with exciting new things.  Here's a peek at what we are planning for these events.



As Christine Whittemore posted earlier this week, she and several of our members will hold education seminars at Surfaces - 10 presentation in all.  On Tuesday, Jim will discuss Environmental Laws that Impact Your Business.  Did you know that all composite wood products sold in the US will soon have to meet CARB II standards?  Are your installers certified to work in older homes where lead paint is present?   Read more of his thoughts on the Surfaces blog site, and you can register here.

Later on Tuesday he'll discuss the status of the global flooring markets at the Floor Covering Inspectors Symposium organized by the Textile Consultants and Lew Migliore of LGM and Associates (and also an FCI consultant).  He'll also address a passion of his - turning claims into an opportunity and, how to reduce claims by establishing ground rules before products are ever delivered.  Anyone involved in inspections or managing claims should attend the symposium; all product categories will be covered and education credits apply.   Learn more or register here.





Four of the FCI group including Jim Gould, Donato Pompo (Ceramic Tile and Stone Consultants), Stuart Hirschhorn (Catalina Reports) and Mitch Dancik (Dancik International) will team up to present Economic Strategies to Boost Ceramic Tile and Stone Sales and Profits on Monday, March 14th at Coverings. Strategies for positioning your business in the current market is the focus of this panel presentation.

Never one to let grass grow under his feet, Jim will jet off to Shanghai  just days after Coverings to oversee the Wood Flooring Forum and attend DOMOTEX asia/CHINAFLOOR.



One day before Asia's largest floor covering show opens, the Wood Flooring Forum will present an overview of opportunities and obstacles in the wood flooring industry under the theme of "Forces of Change." Jim is Strategic Director of the WFF and  his goal this year is to help the host country create a more intimate setting where participants can discuss topics face to face with experts. Breakout sessions will be presented in two tracks; one for an Eastern audience and one for Western. PowerDekor (China's largest flooring retailer) and CCA Global Partners will define the marketing and sales approaches in their respective retail channels, which are vastly different. Other subjects include envirornmental and sustainability requirements and trends in major markets, and defining the market opportunities. We also expect to include an update on the ITC investigation. The UN's International Year of Forests will be introduced to the industry.  

The WFF is co-organized by China's National Forest Products Industry Association, China's government directed group that oversees all of its forest related industries.  They are enthusiastic hosts. If you have specific requests please forward them to us. We will post more about the topics in the coming weeks but for now I hope anyone planning to attend Domotex Asia will arrive in time to participate in this unique event the day before.  To register, please contact gordon.liu@vnuexhibitions.com.cn or for more detail send us an email inquiry: info@floorcoveringinstitute.com.


Domotex Asia, sister show to Domotex Hannover, is Asia's largest floor covering show and the second largest in the world with 1,000 exhibitors and 40,000 visitors last year. Set in the backdrop of China's burgeoning economy, DOMOTEX Asia/ CHINAFLOOR has become the gateway to what is quickly becoming the largest floor covering market in the world. This year's show is shaping up to the be the largest the Asia Pacific Region has ever hosted. It opens one day after the WFF at the Shanghai New International Expo Center. I will attend the show for the first time this year and am anxious to see what people keep saying is an amazing event.  Read: Domotex Asia set to "floor the world."
This year the show is placing emphasis on "Innovation and Respect for Nature" and we expect to see some exciting new things.

We hope to see many of you at Surfaces, Coverings, the WFF and Domotex Asia!

Susan

Susan Negley is Director of Communications for the Floor Covering Institute

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Education at Surfaces/StonExpo 2011

Christine B. Whittemore, Simple Marketing Now
Will you be attending Surfaces/StonExpo 2011 in Las Vegas? The combined show takes place January 25 through 27, with an intense Education Day scheduled for January 24. Workshops and seminars take place all four days on the show floor as well as in focused sessions. If you're attending the show, I hope you've set aside time to attend some of those sessions especially since many of us from the Floor Covering Institute will be sharing our expertise.

Here is a link to the Surfaces Schedule at a Glance so you can explore the flooring educational options available. You might also want to check out the Surfaces Blog where many of the presenters, including Jim Gould, share perspective on their education sessions.

[By the way, you'll need to register for classes since we are expecting record numbers of participants.]

I'll be presenting three sessions:

The Basics of Competitive Marketing on 1/24/11, a three-hour workshop from 1pm to 4pm with fellow presenters Paul Friederichsen and Scott Perron.  We each bring a different perspective to the session: branding, web/social media marketing and retail operations strategy, with a common focus: helping a retailer be more competitive in the flooring marketplace.  You can get a taste for the session via this link where I recap the interview Kemp Harr from FloorDaily.net just conducted with us.

By the way, I invite you take the survey that I've created for the session. Whether you attend or not, I'm sure you are facing unusual pressures in your business and I'd love to hear about them. We'll be sharing the results of the survey during the workshop and I'll summarize them in a blogpost afterwards.  Here is the link to the survey which consists of 10 questions.  Thanks in advance.

Social Media 101 on Tuesday, January 25, 2011 from 12:00pm - 1:00pm

This session gets more detailed about using social media marketing in your flooring business.  Here is the course description: "Consumers start the majority of their purchases at an Internet search window and obtain feedback on whether to purchase a product or visit a retailer based on word of mouth perspectives from their social networks. What is a retailer to do? Rather than ignore the online social networking trends taking place, retailers need to understand the range of digital tools available and decide how best to integrate them into their ongoing business activities to drive business results."

[If this is a topic of interest to you, you might enjoy my How Do I? series on social media and content marketing.]

Marketing to the Ultimate Power Consumer: WOMEN, on Wednesday, January 26, 2011 from 12:00pm to 1:00pm

Women make or influence over 80% of purchase decisions - especially in flooring! This presentation addresses marketing to women starting from a big picture perspective that puts into context how important women consumers are to the flooring business. From there, it explores the purchase process, the retail experience – both online and in-store – and communication differences between men and women to be aware of while selling. Included are many of the themes developed in Floor Covering Weekly and in Flooring The Consumer.

In addition, look for the sessions that Chris Ramey, Lew Migliore and Jim Gould are leading at Surfaces 2011 - included in the Surfaces Schedule at a Glance mentioned above.

Finally, Lew Migliore has also organized an intense two day seminar (January 24 and 25) - the Floor Covering Inspectors Symposium (FCIS) - developed for inspectors, retailers, distributors, manufactures, installers, specifiers, architects and designers.

Surfaces 2011 is shaping up to be an incredible educational opportunity from all perspectives. I hope you'll take advantage of what's offered. Please be sure to come say hello if you attend my sessions.

I look forward to seeing you at Surfaces!

Best,

Christine

Christine B. Whittemore
Chief Simplifier
Simple Marketing Now
Email:  cbwhittemore@simplemarketingnow.com

Monday, January 3, 2011

What to tell flooring customers when they claim carpet is being “eaten by the vacuum cleaner”

What do you tell your customers that complain their carpet is falling apart and clogging their vacuum cleaner with fuzz?  Recently complaints of this type have started to increase.

The older vacuum cleaners that had enclosed bags (some still do), didn’t allow you to see exactly what was being collected when you vacuumed. The only time there was concern was when the vacuum cleaner became plugged.  Now, because everything can be seen in the clear plastic canister including carpet fibers, aka “fuzz,” consumer complaints have increased with concerns that carpet are being “eaten by the vacuum cleaner.”

One of the biggest causes for concern and one of the largest categories of claims and complaints on cut pile residential carpets is for shedding.  Cut pile carpets have always shed, especially those made with staple or spun fibers.  A staple fiber is a short length of fiber, generally ranging from four to eight inches long - think of wool fiber which has a finite length.  It is then spun into a yarn comprised of those short lengths.  Synthetic spun fibers are made the same way.  Since there are always loose fibers in the yarn it will have a fuzzy or “woolen” appearance.  The short lengths of fiber will shed from the yarn and the carpet, whether residential or commercial.

Clear canister filled with shedding carpet.
Most vacuum cleaners today have clear plastic canisters.  When the carpet is vacuumed the vacuum canister will collect short lengths of fiber from the carpet.  When this is seen panic may set in.  This does not mean the vacuum cleaner is harvesting all the fiber from the carpet.  There are millions and millions of ends of fiber in the yarn and it is impossible to remove all of them.  Even if a cut pile carpet is made using continuous filament fiber - think fishing line - there will be some loose ends that will shed from the carpet when vacuuming.

So, a vacuum canister full of carpet fuzz certainly can give your customer the impression that the carpet is falling apart, but it’s not usually cause for alarm. Carpets don’t wear out from the loss of fiber. They can “ugly out” from use and abuse but they won’t fall apart.  Thinking the carpet is coming apart because there are loose fibers in the clear vacuum canister is like thinking you’re going bald because some hair comes out on your comb or brush.  Well, maybe some of you are going bald, but all human beings shed hair and it doesn’t necessarily mean we’re all going bald.  Also, the thicker the carpet yarn and head of hair, the more likely you are to see shedding.  So again, no one should panic if there’s some carpet fiber in the clear vacuum canister after every vacuuming.  Shedding should diminish with time but it will never go away completely, so there will always be some fiber in the vacuum cleaner canister; not a reason to panic, it’s normal.

What about fuzz balls and carpet pilling?
Fuzzing and pilling are another story.  When the vacuum cleaner repeatedly fills up with loose fiber there could be a problem with the structural integrity of the carpet.

In this case, what could be happening is fuzzing or filament slippage caused by incomplete latex penetration into the yarn bundle (base)  -  meaning that some yarn fibers are not anchored or can work loose allowing individual filaments or strands of yarn to slip out and extend from the carpet surface.  When the filaments extend from the surface they can entangle causing pilling, just like those little balls of fiber you see on a sweater.  This condition will also allow fiber to be collected in the vacuum cleaner canister.  So it’s important to determine from your customer which case they are reporting - shedding or pilling.

When the complaint involves pilling you need to call the manufacturer to have an independent agent look at the carpet.

The best thing to avoid unnecessary alarms and complaints of course is to educate your customer about expectations of shedding so that she understands it is normal and will abate over time. Let me know if you have other problems and solutions involving shedding complaints.
 
Lew

Lew Migliore is President of LGM and Associates, a technical consulting firm specializing in all aspects of product and installation performance and education. He is also a consultant with the Floor Covering Institute.

Photo courtesy of Clean Care Seminars