Editors Note: About two years ago Formica Corp. discontinued its laminate flooring line, Formica Floors. Although the company had enjoyed strong brand identity, the realities of the flooring business and the intense competition in the category put the squeeze on profits. Now, the line is being resurrected by Kronotex USA with five new collections.



Editors Note: About two years ago Formica Corp. discontinued its laminate flooring line, Formica Floors. Although the company had enjoyed strong brand identity, the realities of the flooring business and the intense competition in the category put the squeeze on profits. Now, the line is being resurrected by Kronotex USA with five new collections. The Alpharetta, Ga.-based company, is embracing the type of vertical integration that has positioned Kronotex as a dominant presence in the laminate category. Kronotex believes is has the manufacturing capacity and the marketing savvy to bring the Formica Flooring line back to prominence.

After leaving the laminate flooring business a few years ago, Formica Flooring is returning to the category. Why is Kronotex bringing it back?

The real question is: why did this powerful brand ever leave the laminate flooring business? In 2004, Formica Corporation exited the laminate flooring business. Its inability to make enough money on laminate flooring was due to not having an efficient, vertically integrated process for manufacturing the product. Formica had the design expertise. Formica had the industry experience and respected brand name. But, since it didn't make its own flooring product, it could not compete.

On the other hand, Kronotex USA has the vertical integration to make flooring from scratch. We've got a new state-of-the-art manufacturing plant in the U.S. By being chosen as the shepherd of the Formica brand, we obtained a first class, recognizable brand name and a fashion and design partner who has helped us introduce five beautiful, innovative flooring lines.

There was a great deal of interest in the Formica Flooring name when it exited the market, which is why we're so thrilled that we're the company to bring it back.

What type of products does Formica Flooring offer?

Formica Flooring currently includes five collections of laminate flooring. Though all five collections are positioned for the luxury category, each sells at a different price point and each offers different design aesthetics.

Our top-of-the- line is Quintessa. At 12mm it's super thick. But what really sets Quintessa apart is the dramatic six-foot length of its planks. Nobody makes a longer laminate plank. And if that's not enough, it's available in six exotic hardwood décors that are very much in vogue with today's leading interior designers. Priced right below Quintessa is the Marcella collection. Each carton of Marcella contains three different length planks to provide an endless number of layout possibilities that will be a true hit with design aficionados. Its eight décors offer both contemporary and traditional hardwood selections with 10mm thickness. For those who prefer the rustic, weathered look, we offer Delanna. Its six décors are highlighted with striking, deep V-groove edging on all four sides of each plank. With the Arianna collection, we offer consumers an affordable way to bring 10 attractive hardwood décors into their homes. Finally, for those who prefer the look of stone, our Sienna collection offers eight travertine and slate décors. With highlighted grout lines and distinctive, natural fissures, these tiles really capture the look of great stonework.

What do you envision the Formica Flooring brand to be? What attributes will it embody?

Our tagline is "True Beauty. Never Fades." We'll of course market Formica Flooring to consumers by emphasizing this beauty and durability. To that end, consumer marketing, as well as distributor and retailer support, will be substantial. The products will sell well because they embody craftsmanship, natural beauty and the latest design trends that consumers are favoring.

This is a powerful story to the trade because it means we are taking a long-standing, respected name and are combining it with the ability to supply high-quality products from a long-standing and respected manufacturing powerhouse.

What is the manufacturing capacity for the Formica Flooring brand? Where will the product be made?

Currently, we're making many of the lines in our Barnwell, S.C., manufacturing plant. Some of the lines are being produced by Kronotex in Europe as well. The great thing about being part of the world's largest laminate manufacturer, KronoGroup Switzerland, is that we have enormous resources available to us worldwide.

Our capacity at Barnwell, in terms of board feet, is currently 200 million feet per year, with room at the plant to triple that capacity. But the strength we have is that we can and do utilize the tremendous manufacturing technology from our European parent company.

Ken Peden, exec vp Kronotex

Formica Flooring is aimed at the specialty retailer. How do you plan to get the word out about the brand? What type of consumer will this appeal to?

Formica Flooring is designed to appeal to consumers looking for true beauty and outstanding quality-exactly the reason these consumers buy from specialty retailers. Another thing about these consumers, they don't go to a specialty retailer with a brand in mind, they go there to discover the floor that will meet their tastes and quality demands. And that's exactly why we've invested so much in making our flooring look so great and perform so well. That's the stuff that sells and spreads positive word-of-mouth. Don't get me wrong. The brand awareness of the Formica name is great and certainly removes a buying barrier. But it's the beauty and quality of our collections that will ultimately close the deal with consumers.

What are the brand's chief selling points?

It really represents the best that's out there right now. We've got the boldest, latest fashion trends. We've done our homework on design and décor and have many different looks that make our products stand out. In addition, with lines like Quintessa and Sienna, we're showing the technological innovation that comes from being the leading manufacturer in the world.

And the name itself is a key selling point. Our message to retailers is that in a category that's becoming crowded with new names, the consumer who walks into their store is apt to flock to the well-known, trusted names. Our research shows there's no one more associated with the idea of laminate than Formica. The Formica brand really assists the retailer in providing confidence to their consumers. Unlike many of the no-name imports that consumers are very leery of.

What differentiates the brand from laminate flooring lines?

Our high fashion offerings, along with technological achievements, really differentiate the Formica product from others out there. Furthermore, the back-end support we deliver to retailers and distributors is second to none. Our distributors and retailers are impressed with our ability to easily manufacture enough product and get it delivered quickly. Another real selling point to the trade is our first class approach to branding and marketing tools. Like our products, we insist these tools be "best-in-category." Also unlike many of our competitors glueless laminate flooring is all we do. We are very passionate about the category and making sure that we listen to our customers. We understand that the Formica Brand must represent industry-leading styling and design. In the short time I have been here, we have dedicated our company to become the design leader in the industry.

You are a veteran of the flooring industry. How does your experience come to bear in your current role?

Well, I think that my experience shows that I know how to take a brand to that next level. I've worked with brands that have shown meteoric growth through good salesmanship, smart marketing and making sure that distributors and retailers have all the tools that they need to make them successful. That's really the key. In order for the manufacturer to truly be successful, its distributors and retailers have to equally reap success and financial gain. Since we only manufacturer glueless laminate we are focused on getting the best in distribution so the retailer can have confidence in the service of our products.

What do you see for the future of the brand?

I see Formica Flooring as becoming one of the top flooring brands in North America in the coming years. I wouldn't be here if I didn't think that was possible.

Finally, flooring is a highly competitive industry. How will Formica Flooring break through the crowd and gain ground?

We've got several things going for us that will, in time, make us stand out among everyone else. First of all, we will only make the best products in terms of aesthetic appeal and quality. Second, we have the logistics in place to deliver product where it is needed, when it's needed. Third, we will not scrimp on retail displays, advertising and other marketing support materials. Fourth, and most important, we have the financial strength and resolve to stand behind our commitment.