As we wrap up the year, as always, we like to take a look back at the headlines that resonated with our readers the most. Coronavirus made headlines across publications—ours included—for the majority of the year, but as you’ll see, this year, Floor Trends readers were also drawn to articles that highlighted growth, expansion and innovation within the flooring industry. 

10. LG Hausys America Establishes Flooring Division

This year, LG Hausys America officially established its LG Hausys Flooring Division to serve the North American market. Leveraging its globally recognized brand, the company launched with a lineup of resilient products spanning luxury vinyl tile (LVT), SPC, sports flooring and commercial sheet.

“LG Hausys has been making vinyl flooring products for more than 60 years, so we are no newcomer to this category,” said LG Hausys America President KJ Kim. “We plan to leverage our decades-long experience, advanced design and manufacturing capabilities and the distinct power of the LG Hausys brand for our customers. The time is now and we’re excited to usher in a new era of resilient floor covering solutions to the North American market.”

Introduced with five durable, scratch resistant LVT collections and two sheet vinyl collections, the products work for healthcare, education, hospitality and multifamily projects.

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9. Two Flooring Distributors Combine Forces

This fall, T&L Distributing, one of the largest flooring distributors in the Southwest, purchased a controlling interest in St. Louis-based E.J. Welch Company.

With more than 50 years in flooring and sundry distribution, E.J. Welch has a footprint that covers 14 states with 25 locations. “We are excited to have the associates of T&L join our organization to further solidify our growing position in the industry,” said CEO of E.J. Welch CEO Mitch Jolley. “They have a very experienced team that will be a good fit for our company.”

Founded over 40 years ago as a family business, T&L Distributing has grown to nine locations across Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Tennessee. Tom Karol, CEO of T&L Distributing, said, “Given the changing dynamics of flooring distribution, we wanted to find a strategic partner that would leverage T&L’s innovative marketing, strong logistics network and skilled sales team. E.J. Welch’s commitment to best-in-class products and service will benefit our customers, employees, and vendor partners. The combined companies will be well positioned as a leader in the flooring market.”

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8. Laticrete Gives Insight on How the Coronavirus Will Impact Tile & Stone

Ron Nash, senior vice president of sales and marketing, Laticrete, shared his insight on how the coronavirus will impact the tile/stone industry. Here are some excerpts from that conversation:

FT: Unlike the recessions of 2008 and 2009, is a pandemic or natural disaster usually much shorter to recover from compared to other financial crises?

Nash: Based on my personal experiences and research, I have learned that when the market crashes due to a natural cause such as a pandemic (especially when compared to past pandemics (i.e. SARS, H1N1, etc.) versus financial, the negative market impact is usually more short term. That said, we really are off the map with this virus, we have never before seen anything like it in modern history. But, we are hopeful that the recovery follows the same pattern as other pandemics.

FT: What is your outlook on construction? 

Nash: Luckily, even under the new policies set in place, the construction industry has been deemed essential so work has not come to a halt. With a huge push for commercial construction work to continue, OSHA has come out with safety measures that have been put in place during this time. I am hopeful that these new guidelines will aid in minimizing the impact to these construction businesses as much as humanly possible, while also increasing personal protection and safety.

FT: How is Laticrete staying positive through these hard times?

Nash: Our supply chain is still going strong, we are in constant communication with all levels of our company. We’re still working hard, receiving and delivering orders. However, we aren’t taking this lightly. We are utilizing this time to realign our priorities and we have confidence in our economy to weather this temporary storm.

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7. 2020 Commercial Flooring Product Guide

During this unprecedented year, flooring manufacturers have been working hard behind the scenes to keep showrooms and A&D partners flush with beautiful products to use in their projects. In our commercial flooring product guide, we highlighted some of the hottest introductions launched by our creative and determined friends in the industry this year.

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6. COVID-19 Cares Act Provides Tax Break for Commercial Flooring Investments

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act contained several tax breaks designed to help businesses and workers get back on their feet as quickly as possible. Included within this legislation is a new tax benefit for renovating or improving business properties.

This new benefit is available for any business that makes an investment in the interior of its building space before Dec. 31, 2022. Assuming all other requirements are satisfied, investments in new flooring should qualify for the new relief. For more information on the tax benefits offered through the CARES Act, please consult your tax advisors.

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5. Flooring Retail Insight: Closing The Gap

When Kasee Vermeulen first started working at Las Vegas Flooring in 2000, she never anticipated she would one day own the business. After moving to Las Vegas, she became showroom manager at the store. From 2002 to 2007 she worked with a variety of interior designers in the area and then returned to Las Vegas Flooring in 2007 as the owner’s assistant. She became estimator in 2011, partner in 2014, and bought the business completely in 2018.

The store sells about 70 percent hard surface, with private label tile and LVT leading the charge, and 30 percent soft surface. Vermeulen said her point of differentiation is insurance work, which accounts for about 40 percent of business, with the remaining sales coming from 40 percent commercial work and 20 percent residential, including custom homes. For this reason, she needs floors at a variety of price points, low to high, to satisfy the diverse clientele.

She inherited the insurance program through the previous owners, answering the call for replacement floors needed from fires and floods.

“Through the recession, insurance is what kept the doors open.”

Operating through this year’s coronavirus pandemic, insurance is still keeping her doors open. In addition to her partnership through USAA, she draws insurance work from general contractors in the area who get leads from All State, State Farm, and others.

Being a female in flooring, she says there are some unique challenges. “I would say people are still surprised when they see me out of their job sites, but I hear about a lot more female estimators out there. Some say that men think women are emotional, but I’m not an emotional person. I don’t run an emotional business.”

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4. Training Software Helps Flooring Retailers and Wholesalers Improve Business

Two years ago, ICC Home in Indianapolis was experiencing a challenge common among independent specialty retailers: high employee turnover, particularly in the sales department. Employing 80 people across three locations, the ICC team was using the type of training for new employees that many retailers traditionally use: job shadowing combined with product knowledge presentations from a variety of vendors.

“We realized we needed a formal training program, and we decided to modernize the process through software,” said Cam Haughey, co-owner, ICC Home.

The ICC Home team took on the momentous task of compiling a library of flooring-specific training content based on existing product knowledge, internal processes, and general intel from seasoned employees. 

The outcome was Floorish, an online content training platform powered by Lessonly, an Indianapolis-based software provider.

The modules Floorish presents are aimed at building business, fostering team culture, and developing consistency among sales teams so that they can earn veteran-level revenue faster. The online content modules also ensure consistent communication no matter how many locations or employees. In addition, the platform helps managers measure an individual’s success without manual tracking, while improving customer service and employee engagement.

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3. Suppliers Respond to COVID-19

With the coronavirus situation remaining extremely fluid as it spread globally in March, U.S. suppliers responded to the situation to give their employees and customers guidance.

“At this time, we should all be focused on preparedness, precaution and prevention, not panic,” said a statement by Mohawk Industries. “At this time, we have had no instances of coronavirus at any facility in the U.S. Should the situation change, we have a response plan in place and will update employees and customers with more information, as needed. Through our internal communication channels, we are encouraging our employees and their family members to continue taking preventive measures based on the CDC’s guidelines. We are confident that our customers are taking similar precautions and applying the CDC’s best practices within their establishments.”

 “Our associates’ health and safety is paramount while we continue to minimize potential business disruption for our customers,” said Mike Fromm, chief human resources officer, Shaw Industries. “We are providing frequent updates regarding travel policies and visitor protocols to help limit the spread of coronavirus and other communicable diseases. Our associates are encouraged to avoid in-person meetings and leverage other communications channels, such as Google hangouts, video conferencing, conference calls, etc., to minimize contact and avoid travel. Further, our leaders are proactively offering remote work opportunities when feasible.”

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2. Shaw Temporarily Suspends Many Manufacturing Operations

The COVID-19 pandemic led to the temporarily suspension of many of Shaw’s manufacturing operations in the U.S. in April. 

During these temporary shutdowns, sales, distribution, administration, and some manufacturing facilities continued to operate to meet the needs of stakeholders, including customers, associates, and the communities where Shaw operates.

Additionally, while Shaw’s facilities were shut down, the company continued to enhance cleaning protocols and social distancing practices, and further train leaders regarding how to best operate their facilities during these unprecedented times.

Though manufacturing was temporarily shut down, Shaw remained hard at work, tending to community needs in the midst of the pandemic. The company received a large request and a short turnaround to help with a makeshift coronavirus hospital. This was no ordinary order: 60,000 square feet of resilient sheet vinyl to be used in one of four temporary hospitals being constructed to serve the greater New York City metro area during the COVID-19 pandemic. This order was specifically for the Westchester County Center, a large convention center in White Plains, N.Y.

In less than 48 hours from receiving the request, 60,000 square feet of flooring was installed. A building that usually houses basketball games, trade shows, and special concerts, now has a floor to accommodate the sick and those in need as a result of COVID-19.

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1. Daltile Introduces RevoTile for Fast Installation

We started the year with the introduction of RevoTile, Daltile’s porcelain tile floating floor system that installs two times faster than traditional tile.

“With RevoTile, the most beautiful, durable, and waterproof floor – porcelain tile – is now just as fast and easy to install as any floating floor on the market,” said Jonathan Studioso, senior architectural representative for Dal-Tile Corporation.

The product installs in three steps: 1) Place underlayment 2) Click together tiles and 3) Grout—RevoTile increases retailers’ sales opportunities even more by opening up tile to the lucrative DIY market.

“RevoTile also expands the applicable professional installation labor pool, because this revolutionary system can be easily installed by any of a retailers’ available installers: tile, LVT, laminate, and hardwood installers,” said Scott Maslowski, senior vice president of sales for Dal-Tile Corporation. “Daltile’s ground-breaking RevoTile opens up a new frontier of sales possibilities for flooring and tile retailers.”

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