A small but mighty force in our economy, it has been said that small businesses are the engines of job creation in the U.S. Take a stroll through any town and you’ll see a variety of small businesses making a difference. Main Street is an important sector for the flooring retailer and there are a number of flooring technologies that are making a difference.

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Main Street Applications on the Rise

“Small businesses are a key driver of the U.S. economy and provide a wealth of opportunities for the specialty flooring retailer who has an educated sales staff and the range of products that can handle many varied projects,” said Lisa Kronmuller, channel marketing manager, Armstrong Flooring.

With economic resurgence, businesses are now comfortably back on their feet and above water. Consequently, Main Street commercial and specialty retailers operating within the sector are benefitting as well.

“As the economy and consumer confidence improves, more opportunities are available with the small business owners who make up a significant portion of the Main Street business,” said Quentin Quathamer, Philadelphia Commercial’s commercial brand and marketing manager. “Over the last five years, Main Street has rapidly evolved, with product preferences ever shifting toward modular solutions in carpet tile and resilient. Improved aesthetics and product design combined with ease of maintenance and selective replacement, which extends product life cycles, has made this market even more dynamic than ever.”

From local dentist offices and boutiques, to hair salons and business offices, Julie Foster, Novalis Innovative Flooring’s residential product and marketing manager, says many small business owners are recognizing the role that flooring plays in establishing a professional environment. No matter the industry, common traits most commercial end-users are seeking from flooring are performance, design and price.

“Performance, design, price and service are still very important traits that end users are seeking,” said Chris Post, director of sales operations for Aladdin Commercial and Mohawk Industries. “Even though price tends to be how people measure up a product, service is key. It doesn’t matter how cheap a dealer can get if for, if they can’t get in time to meet the customer’s needs then it doesn’t matter how good the price is.”

What’s Trending in Main Street

Naturally, design preferences also vary based on industry in Main Street commercial applications, but as in other sectors, luxury vinyl tile (LVT) is rising to the top as a popular choice among designers, and commercial sheet is still very big in the category as well, says Keith Wiethe, channel manager–Main Street for Mannington Commercial.

Speaking to this rising hard surface trend, Armstrong continues to focus on innovation like its Diamond 10 Technology, a revolutionary, patent-pending innovation that uses cultured diamonds—with all the properties of real diamonds—to provide the highest scratch, stain and scuff resistance in the industry. “Our Main Street program currently offers Medintech with Diamond 10 Technology and Medintone with Diamond 10 Technology in homogenous sheet vinyl and Natural Creations with Diamond 10 Technology in LVT,” Kronmuller said.

Not to be forgotten, soft surfaces are still very relevant in Main Street commercial. “The trend toward modular carpet tile continues to grow daily,” said Brandon Kersey, hard surface and commercial brand manager for Pentz Commercial Flooring. “The performance characteristics and styling flexibility combined with the advantages from an installation/maintenance perspective have perpetuated that.”

Carpet tile and resilient products have changed the design element and replacement cycle in Main Street applications, Post said. “They offer ease of maintenance and replacement, great design elements from large to small scale patterns and performance. Not to mention fast installation times and less disruption to occupied areas.”

However, with this shift away from broadloom carpet toward modular carpet tile, there are moisture concerns. “The breathability of most broadloom carpets allowed for the dissipation of moisture; however, increased application of modular carpet tiles, especially when combined with an improperly prepared subfloor, could cause the gradual build-up of moisture and eventual failure of installation,” Quathamer said.

Shaw has responded to these concerns with products like its LokDots dry adhesive and EcoLogix backing cushion, which are uniquely positioned to respond to Main Street customers’ moisture-related concerns. “These products are so effective that they eliminate the need for moisture tests, saving our customers time and money,” Quathamer said. “Further, our latest MoistureTek floor prep eliminates moisture surfacing from concrete subfloor, allowing new construction projects to be completed more quickly so that properties can be occupied or stores can be opened much sooner.”

On both sides, coordination is key. “Coordination between different product types, such as LVT, broadloom and carpet tile, is becoming more relevant today,” Post said. “Vendors that offer multiple product types can coordinate their visuals making it much easier for an end user to make a selection.”

For Retailers

“We consider the specialty flooring retailer’s success to be the basis of our success, and we are committed to do all that we can to help their sales grow and businesses succeed,” Kronmuller said. “Our goal is to help retailers grow their business in the segments they currently participate in, and to make it easy for them to expand into new ones, including Main Street.”

For Mannington, paying close attention to the evolution of merchandising has allowed the manufacturer to better support its retailers, and as a result, get more information to end-users.

“Last year we introduced the most comprehensive merchandising program for Main Street: five different displays that retailers can choose from,” said Keith Wiethe, director of Mannington’s Main Street business. “This was the result of a major voice of customer study that we did, traveling around the country and talking to distributors and retailers about what would be most helpful for them when selling. Their two biggest requests were larger samples and more room scenes, both of which help the end user see what the flooring will look like when installed. A third need was transportability of materials, since half of Main Street sales take place outside of the store.”

In addition to the traditional sales tools—folders, swatches, display cards, etc.—Philadelphia Commercial is exploring the countless ways technology can aid and improve the sales process and are constantly working on developing new ways for retailers to engage with their Main Street customers. “We encourage retailers to utilize websites and apps for aspirational imagery and visualization tools to supplement traditional sales tools and help clients’ envision their ‘what if’ design ideas,” Quathamer said.