Armstrong Floor Products president and CEO Frank Ready fields questions during yesterday's product preview at the company's Lancaster headquarters.

Armstrong officials gave a preview of some of their latest products during a press event recently at the company’s headquarters in Lancaster, Pa. The company showed off additions to existing lines and discussed the benefits of its recently launched Migrations BioBased Tile product range as well as several green programs. While the products were eye-catching, it was clear that the company is treading carefully in a softening market that one staffer called “a unique economic situation.”

Armstrong Floor Products president and CEO Frank Ready was even more blunt. “It’s a very tough environment,” he said. “We’re very happy where we’re positioned right now – we feel very good about where we’ll finish in 2007, but the market in 2008 is going to be really tough.”

Armstrong's Dominic Rice displays the latest additions to the company's Natural Creations line of LVT.

Despite a rocky year for the industry, Paul Murfin, vp sales and distribution for Armstrong, said there were bright spots as well. For Armstrong, a major success was the launch of the Armstrong Grand Illusions and Bruce Park Avenue laminate flooring lines, he said. “To say these lines helped out our laminate business is an understatement,” he noted.

One of the reasons the lines have been popular is due to their higher end “piano finish” and elegant exotic looks, according to Armstrong’s general manager of laminate, Milton Goodwin. “Our philosophy is to take things that are real wood, and turn them into laminate flooring,” he said.

The company said it planned to expand its laminate range with new exotics, hand-scraped looks and a collection inspired by the coast set to launch in the second quarter of ‘08. Additionally, many of the products will include pressed bevels and pillowed edges for a greater feeling of authenticity.

In a related announcement, Armstrong said it is working with a third-party producer based in Clarion, Pa., to bring more laminate flooring production back to the U.S. “The long-term goal is that 60 to 70 percent of our laminate floors will be produced in the U.S. in this new facility,” Goodwin said. He noted that while Armstrong does not own the plant, it has “a significant investment” in the location. Additionally, the plant can produce “an annual capacity of up to 250 million square feet.”

Daniel Call, Armstrong's vp wood product management, goes over some of the company's hardwood launches from last year.

The day-long meeting in Lancaster also included presentations on expansions to the company’s existing hardwood, residential resilient and commercial lines. New designs included color-washed looks in wood, and striated patterns inspired by carpet in LVT. Additionally, the company showed a series of prototypes drawn from graffiti art that could potentially be used in a future product.

Armstrong also outlined its “green” plans for 2008. The company went over the benefits of its recently launched BioBased Tile range which is made using BioStride, a polymer derived from corn, and contains 10 percent recycled materials. In another “green” move, Armstrong said its hardwood flooring plant in Vicksburg, Miss., was recently certified by the Forest Stewardship Council.

“This is the first step in a journey,” said Dick Quinlan, general manager of Bruce Hardwood, adding that the FSC certification could pave the way for the company to produce FSC-certified floors. Armstrong also partners with the Tropical Forest Foundation to ensure all exotic woods used in its flooring are certified following the group’s standards for “chain of custody” and “reduced impact logging.”

Armstrong also said it has added “EcoScorecard” to its website. The web-based tool is designed to let users “search, evaluate and document” the company’s full portfolio of products against green rating systems including LEED, NAHB Green Home Standard and others.-Michael Chmielecki