Casa Deco, a new pattern from the Mannington Naturals Collection, was styled to evoke a natural look of chisel-edged stone in a resilient flooring material.

Mannington's Avignon design, which was inspired by aged patina of terra cotta streets found in French countryside villages, is the basis for two new patterns in the company's Natural's Collection.
Not so long ago, floor coverings were easy to sell. Carpet went in the bedrooms. Hardwood went in the living room. Ceramic tile went in the bathroom, and resilient flooring went in the kitchen. Or at least that was what my mother told me! But you and I both know that things have changed.

Today, floor covering consumers are putting any of those products into any of those rooms. With improved manufacturing technology and setting materials, installation of all floor covering products has changed dramatically in just the last five years.

What’s a retailer to do? “Continuing Education” is a key concept in your efforts to maintain sales productivity and ensure a good installation.

One manufacturer's recipe for success

A few years ago, as acceptance of ceramic tile was beginning to grow in the marketplace, the floor covering industry was predicting the demise of resilient products. Then laminate floors exploded on the U.S. flooring market, and the outlook for resilient looked even dimmer. When I asked Keith Campbell, chairman of Mannington Inc., what effect all of these alternative products had on his resilient business, his answer was “growth.”

Mannington’s resilient business has grown over the last few years, but that expansion didn’t just happen as a twist of fortune. The company has taken various steps to put value into its products, especially through its patented NatureForm® technology.

The design possibilities are endless, says Joe Amato, Mannington’s director of styling and design. “But,” he adds, “we are very selective about the patterns we create — looking to the natural landscape, new environments and the most beautiful materials we come across to inspire us.”

Other changes undertaken by Mannington include texturing and embossing with a low-gloss level for product in all of the company’s price points. Higher-end materials also have been incorporated into NatureForm DG, which Amato describes as the next generation in resilient flooring realism. “NatureForm combines texture with differential gloss,” he explains. “The result is a visual texture that you can see and feel — the look of the real thing.”

About two-thirds of Mannington’s resilient products fall into the low-gloss category while the remainder are traditional, high-gloss vinyl floors.

Making sense of all the options

As you look through the pattern offerings of the major resilient manufacturers, you’ll undoubtedly see the stone, ceramic and wood look-a-likes. But you’ll see mosaics and abstract patterns too. Customers can buy resilient borders, design inserts and just about anything their hearts desire. And color — which one did you have in mind? Plenty of choices are available. Most manufacturers maintain about 100 designs in nearly 300 colorways.

Earlier, I mentioned continuing education. Most industry leaders will tell you that it’s key to their survival. This notion is even more relevant in the resilient business. To start with, retailers purchase and sell the product by the square foot rather than the square yard. Not that anyone fully felt comfortable with the calculations of square yards, but it’s change nonetheless. And change rarely comes easily!

Now, resilient floors feature low-gloss levels — even though every American homemaker knows that shine means CLEAN. (Actually, that would apply more aptly to every homemaker in the 65-70 age bracket.) The younger crowd looks for products that hide the dirt, and low-gloss floors do that pretty well.

Of course, I’m a specifier and I’ve worked in the resilient business. But what about the average consumer? Where does he or she get help? That’s where the continuing education comes in.

Today that education, or re-education, is targeted mainly at retail salespeople. They really need to be more forceful at the point of sale. Displays have changed so as to be more workable for the retailer and the consumer. The salesperson that continues to rely on product construction and price is really on the fast track to nowhere.

Salespeople need to be more responsive to the needs of the customer — in particular, the female customer! No longer can they rely on showing the $7.99 product, the $8.99 product, the $9.99 product, etc. Price is rarely the top priority in the mind of the consumer. The priority goes usually from style, to color, to performance, and then price.

The consumer wants to see a limestone pattern that will complement her Country French kitchen, or a travertine pattern for the entry with inset marble bands. It’s the look that she’s after. The one that fits her home and the décor that she’s trying to achieve.

And that look may be one of mixed flooring materials. Maybe it’s a combination of sheet vinyl and vinyl tiles. More often than not, you will be joining different materials — like carpet, hardwood, resilient, ceramic tile, and laminate floors — at doorways. But with today’s open floor plans in new construction, it takes a talented eye and some design expertise to make the various materials mesh both aesthetically and functionally. To adequately guide the consumer, that retail salesperson is going to need a little more continuing education.

Resilient flooring is extremely versatile, as it can go into virtually any room in the house. It is, without question, the most practical choice for the busiest rooms of the home. Colors and designs abound to fit the ever-changing and diverse decorating styles of today’s interiors. It’s a product that’s easy to maintain and fits into almost any budget. It’s a product that has been around for a long time and will continue to be around. Maybe that’s one of the reasons why it’s called “resilient!”