Top Trends at Surfaces
The International Surface Event (TISE) showcased the industry’s leading trends and products on its grand stage. The expansive show floor featured flooring products and technologies that are leading the way in innovation and design. While there were many things that caught our eyes, here are the top trends represented at the show to keep on your radar.
The resilient category—including luxury vinyl tile (LVT), sheet vinyl and multilayer flooring—won’t stop innovating. Multilayer flooring as its own category continues to bring excitement and growth through wood plastic composite and rigid core products. We’ve seen a lot of changes in core structures, and there is hardly a week that goes by where we don’t see some new core structure or new technology introduced.
Customization and versatility is the name of the game for Karndean Designflooring, and with its Korlok rigid core range, end users can achieve both.
“One of the things that we’re talking to our retailers and our designer friends on the commercial side is talking to them about blending floors,” said Emil Mellow, director of public relations for Karndean DesignFlooring. “It’s a big trend in the market place now. And we’ve developed products where we understand the coloration and the tonality of them go together as a collection. Typically, with LVT planks, they’re one direction. You lay them down as a wood plank. You’re done. But with our Korlok samples, because they have the right tone, pattern, and feel to them—even between warm and cool tones—you can mix them across a large retail expanse to convey zoning or to give interest to the floor more than just laying a bunch of SKUs down.”
Phenix Flooring’s Design Mix program gives consumers the opportunity to create a custom floor using different styles of LVT to reflect their personal style.
“We’ve seen the mix and match trend explode in the commercial industry and we’re predicting that this is the year it translates well to residential use,” said Phenix Flooring’s vp of hard surfaces, Jason Hair. “We wanted to give control back to the consumer, and with the variety of color pairings and preselected layouts, consumers are able to create a look custom to their own home.”
All Things Waterproof
“Waterproof” was a major buzz word of the show, with manufacturers promoting products that are water-resistant or waterproof.
In fact, Mohawk brought home the message with a small petting zoo of animals on the show floor that demonstrated the waterproof nature of its new RevWood Plus collection. Karen Mendelsohn, senior vice president of marketing with Mohawk, said the launch is a repositioning of its wood laminate flooring, which consumers view as wood that is more scratch-, dent- and water-resistant, according to company research.
“It is a game changer, but what our retailers love about it is it’s putting them back in the wood business again,” Mendelsohn said. “There will always be a market for wood, but it’s relatively small because of price points and because it doesn’t perform as well. But with RevWood, they can get back into the wood business and have an alternative to some of the rigid LVT products that have been popular.”
Featuring Mohawk’s All Pet Protection & Warranty covering all pets, all accidents, all the time, RevWood is 100% waterproof, making it appropriate for families with pets.
When asked why there is such a marketing push in the industry for all things waterproof, she said: “It’s both an unmet consumer need and it was something that has become so widely touted.”
USFloors continues the waterproof innovation with Coretec Stone, a stone polymer composite (SPC) collection that is positioned as an alternative to ceramic tile. Benefits of Coretec Stone include that it is lighter weight, warmer, easier to install and no grout is required. The company also launched a natural wood veneer program that adheres natural oak, hickory and bamboo veneers to an SPC core, which makes it a waterproof engineered wood floor.
Engineered Floors also entered the category this year with new waterproof hard surfaces. Triumph is an engineered waterproof floor that features natural wood visuals and easy to install planks that can be installed over existing floors. Revotec, available in both tile and plank format, features tile and wood visuals, a click and lock installation and grout lines incorporated into the design.
Of course, sheet vinyl was the original waterproof floor, and manufacturers are reviving the category with new styles. IVC introduced two new sheet vinyl collections, Millright and Arterra, with wood visuals and contemporary designs. Mannington also introduced several new collections.
“Sheet vinyl products, both felt-backed and fiberglass, are inherently easy to maintain,” said Mary Katherine Dyczko-Riglin, Mannington’s product manager for residential sheet vinyl. “Just regular sweeping and occasional mopping will keep them in great shape. In addition, today’s technologies provide incredible durability, so the floor can stand up to pretty much anything a busy household will dish out.”
After 2017’s hurricane disasters, it’s no wonder that the threat of water continues to be top of mind for some, but some industry leaders are saying that the waterproof qualities of vinyl can—and should—go well beyond floors.
“Vinyl, and whatever it is going to become, has the attributes to transcend each different channel, segment, installation type, and it has a lot of things it could be used for,” said Steve Ehrlich, vice president of sales and marketing, Novalis, which introduced its waterproof Serenbe LVT.
Technology Shapes the Industry’s Future
The flooring industry continues to leverage technology to boost efficiencies, connect with consumers, market products and power sales.
Justin Atcheson of e-commerce site Just-In Floors, which sells flooring products to consumers and allows the independent retailer to become the fulfillment center for those purchases, reported that the site (justinfloors.com) went live January 1 with 20 retailers. The company has a goal of engaging 200 retailers by the end of the year. Atcheson demonstrated the site for retailers at the World Floor Covering Association booth during the show in an effort to recruit more retail partners.
“We are all optimistic because we know it’s where the market is headed,” Atcheson said. “It plays on all the needed components for the retailer. It gets them into e-commerce, it puts them into the position of going after the millennial buyer, and we are also engaged with unique products, bringing in newer or products that the dealer doesn’t necessarily have in their showroom.”
In software news, QFloors unveiled innovative solutions at the show, including commercial features, mobile office suite options, and the new QPro POS+ that is intended to be used alongside a third-party accounting system like QuickBooks or PeachTree. Measure Square integrated its measuring software with augmented reality technology. Users can use their mobile phones to simultaneously measure and visualize what the product will look like installed.
HGTV craftsman and design guru Chip Wade walked visitors through the debut of the Daltile Virtual Home, a 360-degree experience that shows consumers the many unique ways tile can be used in a home.
“Today’s consumers spend a great deal of time online conducting research before and during the selection process,” said April Wilson, director of brand marketing for Dal-Tile Corp. “Digital inspiration like the Daltile Virtual Home helps them imagine the possibilities of tile.”
Armstrong partnered with marketing support platform Promoboxx to help retailers increase awareness and sales. Promoboxx is an online marketing platform that allows dealers to promote Armstrong Flooring-approved marketing content across various social media channels, as well as via email, dealer websites, mobile ads and more. Brand-approved campaigns are customized for each retailer.
“Promoboxx will be an essential marketing component for multiple products, allowing our aligned retailers to receive all of our online marketing assets,” said Wendy Booker, senior channel marketing manager. “Promoboxx has been shown to increase foot traffic in-store sales and customer engagement with local stores.”
Activate the Future was the theme this year at the Mohawk booth. “What we are doing is providing the retailer the tools they need to help thrive in the future of retail,” said Seth Arnold, vice president of residential marketing for Mohawk.
According to Arnold, the formula to activate the future is simple: product innovation, branding and digital retailing. “Activate the future is a focus on product innovation. We believe that retailers have to have extraordinary products, highly differentiated, and because we manufacture so much in the United States, we are able to innovate at levels you can’t find elsewhere, so we really control that innovation,” he said. “The second thing is branding. As the future unfolds, brand has not been something that our industry has truly leveraged.”
And for digital retailing, Arnold says it’s time retailers see beyond the physical showroom and look to the digital store. “Retail displays in a showroom get on average 30 views per week, but digital is the new front door, right?” Arnold asked. “What we are doing is focusing on building digital displays that get 1,000, or 2,000 or 3,000 views per week. What retailers are waking up to is the fact that people might not be buying flooring online, but what they are doing is walking into that retailer’s business online.”
A ‘do it for me’ solution for retailers, Omnify, delivers high quality branded content that retailers could not get otherwise, Arnold said.
A Continued Push for Sustainability
Sustainability remains at the forefront of product development and design choices. According to Brad Farnsworth of The Farnsworth Group, green homes are still an emerging trend that architects and designers are seeing interest in, mostly for the long-term cost-saving effects of the movement, with energy efficiency being one of their top priorities. Consumers are most interested in non-toxic, low emission, recycled or recyclable and locally-sourced products.
Attendees were able to get the scoop on what’s trending for products, installation and design in the DISH (Design + Installation Showcase Hub). Laura Greenwood of U.K.-based Scarlet Opus trend forecasting agency was on hand in the booth to guide attendees as they walked, looked and even felt their way through an array of samples that highlighted key design trends for 2018—one being sustainability.
“We work with designers, architects, retailers and manufactures, and we let them know what will be in fashion for the world of interiors two to three years in advance,” said Greenwood. “We get specific about pattern, color and textures and materials.”
Describing the display as a “touchy feely station,” visitors were able to feel samples made from agricultural, textile and building waste, plant-based fiber surfaces, eco resins and even faux leathers made from mushroom skin.
Wood Looks Reign Supreme
The timeless look of wood continues to trend in every hard surface flooring type. Natural wood flooring continues to evolve from solid to engineered wood. In fact, industry leaders estimate that engineered wood accounts for 65 to 70 percent of the market. The definition of engineered wood is also changing: it’s no longer simply a multi-ply wood core. We are seeing growth of medium-density fiberboard (MDF) from major manufacturers, which offer greater stability at price points that weren’t previously attainable.
In today’s fast-paced world, homeowners need to retreat and catch their breath. The response is wood floors that celebrate the natural grain and have a more natural look. Wider and longer planks, which were once only available at the higher end of the category, is now becoming the norm. Low gloss finishes continued to be preferred.
“Our new hardwood designs draw inspiration from simpler, more leisurely times,” said Joe Amato, Mannington’s vice president of residential styling. “With subdued, clean lines and warm colors, these floors relax the eye and create the foundation for interiors where solace -and style- can be found at the end of each day.”
Armstrong added its Diamond 10 Technology to the Appalachian Ridge solid hardwood collection. The flooring incorporates cultured diamonds to create a powerful layer of scratch protection without clouding the beauty of the hardwood underneath.
“Our research consistently shows that solid hardwood is the most coveted flooring choice by consumers for its timeless beauty and the considerable value it adds to a home; but a factor preventing some from purchasing is concern over scratches and maintaining that beauty over time,” said Michael Barnett, senior product manager. “When investing in hardwood, consumers seek peace of mind that their floor will look beautiful for the long term. For many consumers, scratch is a top factor when considering the durability of the floor.”
Dixie Group launched a hardwood program for the Fabrica brand this year. The 40 floor SKUs are being sourced from three manufacturers, one domestic, one Canadian and one European, and includes wide, long planks in unique styles and designs. In addition, the collection will be offered in 30 complementary SKUs for the wall.
“It’s very much an upper-end program, high style, nice designs and lives up to the brand promise of quality without compromise,” said T.M. Nuckols, president of Dixie Residential. “The wood market has a lot of options. What we are trying to create is an opportunity for a unique product with a very limited distribution where the retailer or designer has an opportunity to have something different and increase margins.”
Larger and longer formats, along with outstanding digital printing technology, is amping up the wood look in the ceramic tile category as well, bringing the look of wood into spaces like bathrooms.
Paying homage to the wood look trend, Emser Tile added the Lakewood, Lakehouse, Mokuzai and Porch collections to its offering. The Lakewood collection, which is an ode to the biodiversity of aged trees, grounds the design with distinct wooden tones that evoke rich detail and texture, Lakehouse acts as an accent motif with bold color variation.
Livability and Softness
Low-level patterns, gorgeous textures, along with pet- and kid-friendly fibers, were key trends soft surfaces.
Carpet manufacturers continue to offer constructions made with soft, stain-resistant, long-lasting and beautiful fibers. Engineered Floors ColorBurst variable-color technology uses natural colorations to create a balanced, blended visual that adds depth and richness to Dream Weaver products. Made with PureColor fiber, the carpets are guaranteed not to stain or fade.
Mohawk’s Airo soft flooring returned to the show with a hypoallergenic story. Airo is 100 percent PET, meaning it has zero moisture absorption, which inhibits the growth of harmful allergens. It is built with an integrated cushion, which provides better airflow and better cleaning capabilities. It is also latex free, which allows it to have virtually zero volatile organic compounds. This is important because according to Arnold, 69 percent of people that are in the market for flooring claim or think that they have some type of respiratory condition.
“Those things combined, now provide customers with a truly hypoallergenic soft floor,” Arnold said. “This is a great example of how our product innovation is bringing people back into soft surface.”
The Anderson Tuftex brand displayed products that create a timeless floor at its booth, targeting the “passionate pursuer.”
The brand unveiled a number of hardwood, carpet and rug collections that are intended to make design and coordinating of different surfaces easier.