Pictured is Mannington’s Rustica ceramic tile line in 18-by-18-inch format.

Despite his busy daily schedule,NFTmanaged to corral Mannington Mills CEO Tom Davis long enough to elicit his thoughts about the near-term business outlook for floor coverings in general, and the steps his company is taking to address increasing raw material costs and potential problems on the economic-political horizon.

Below are Davis' ruminations on the questions we raised.

NFT: What is your sales outlook on the floor covering market for the balance of 2004?
Tom Davis: Early indications point toward a strong year for us, and for the industry overall. During the first half of 2004, all flooring categories gathered momentum and, as the economy continues to strengthen, we anticipate that the trend will continue.

NFT: Among your various product offerings, which categories have performed the best so far this year? Do you see a continuation of this trend or do you anticipate that another segment will assume sales leadership through year's end?
Tom Davis: While all our categories are performing ahead of last year, wood and laminate are leading the pack. And, because we have such unique, well-styled lines, we expect that this will continue.

NFT: Have the recent increases in petroleum and other raw material costs adversely impacted your company's bottom line? How have you, or will you, compensate for the increased costs -- through increased productivity? By cutting operational costs elsewhere? By instituting price hikes on your products and, if so, will these increases be levied across the board or more selectively? Will you follow some other strategy?
Tom Davis: Due to extraordinary cost increases for raw materials and energy, we have recently had to implement some price increases. Over the next couple of months, pricing will increase on most of our commercial vinyl products, and some of our residential resilient products. Of course, we do all we can to improve our internal costs in order to hold these increases to a minimum.

NFT: In a worst-case scenario, what (in an economic or political sense) would it take to derail the growth the floor covering industry currently enjoys?
Tom Davis: There are many things that can disrupt the momentum we are seeing so far this year -- interest rates could rise abruptly, or any number of other situations could arise. At this point, though, we remain quite optimistic.

NFT: What do you see as the greatest challenge(s) facing your business, and the overall industry, over both the near- and long-term timeframes?
Tom Davis: We are always challenged to come up with products that will be of value and interest to the residential consumer or commercial end user, because ultimately it's the customer who drives what we do, and how we do it. Of course, the needs of our loyal dealers are also an important part of the process.

We're also challenged with a competitive marketplace -- in terms of both products and pricing -- and a changing economic and political environment. But we at Mannington view these as opportunities for growth and change that will help us fulfill our mission of being the best people to do business with in the flooring industry.