NFTsat down recently with a 40-year-industry veteran, Anderson Hardwood Floors’ John Woolsey, to talk about the business climate, the impact of the Lacey Act on the hardwood flooring industry, and Anderson’s plans for new products in 2010. Woolsey, Anderson’ vp marketing & merchandising, said he thinks this year will start slow, but will gradually pick up steam.

What changes do you see in business for 2010?

Every survey that we see tells us that unlike in the past, everything right now is coming down to price for the consumer. However, consumers do not want to trade down. They still want to buy a Mercedes; they just don’t want to pay as much for it.

So one of our themes for 2010 is Affordable Luxury. We want to communicate that not only have we aggressively priced our products, we’ve added performance enhancements as well. All of our products are going to have a new finish called Luster-Lock Ultra. This is a finish that to me is as revolutionary as aluminum oxide when it was introduced. It’s three to five times more scuff, scratch and abrasion resistant than any hardwood finish out there.

Do you have any new products that will use the technology?

We have two products with Luster-Lock Ultra we’re introducing at Surfaces. Natural Brilliance is an 85 gloss, ultra-piano finish product. Tropical Reflections is a 60 gloss, piano-finish product. With such high-gloss finishes, you definitely need the extra scratch and abrasion resistance.

Tropical Reflections will also feature enCORE, a post-industrial wood byproduct that can earn points for LEED certification. It also features our PermaColor through-color process made without stains, solvents, pigments or chemicals. All of these are performance additions that are coming at reduced pricing.

So with pricing as the focus, do you see 2010 as another challenging year?

Actually, we’re pretty excited about where 2010 is going to go. It’s going to start out a little bit pokey, but I think you’re going to be surprised.

Can you tell me about your company’s green efforts?

Every one of our products is GREENGUARD certified. We are now also Cradle to Cradle certified and are the first company to earn the National Wood Flooring Association’s Responsible Procurement Program certification, for Tiers One and Two. We literally went through a year’s worth of audits with Scientific Certification Systems. We had to trace every piece of raw material coming in here to get that certification. Additionally, all of our imports are certified by the Rainforest Alliance for coming through a legal source. We have also achieved the highest level of CARB certification.

Do you think the government will be looking closely at the hardwood flooring industry when enforcing the Lacey Act?

There was never any question in our minds. We’ve been told by the Justice Department all along they plan to enforce this. They consistently bring between seven to nine cases to market every year. You will be seeing some of that in this industry as well.

Many companies out there could find themselves vulnerable. So we’ve gone overboard to ensure everything is legal. First of all, we’re bringing nothing in from China, because we’re not able to get the kind of third-party audit certification from there we feel we need. We’re also bringing in two products that are sourced in Paraguay and finished in the U.S. Both those products have Rainforest Alliance certification identifying their lineage all the way back to the individual tree. We’re being very careful. We know this is going to get nasty.

How important is Made in the U.S.A. to your company?

Very important. In fact, one of our themes this year is Made in America. We’re focusing on American innovation, American engineering, and American manufacturing. With one out of 10 people out of work right now, we’re going to keep our workforce working. All but a couple of our products are domestically produced, and we’ve even dropped some of our lines that were imported to create equivalent products domestically. We’re very proud of that.

What do you feel are Anderson’s strengths?

Quality is number one. It has always been a benchmark here, since the beginning. Second is design and style – we’ve worked hard on our textures and visual effects to take wood from being a commodity to a fashion product. Innovation is also huge for us. We have a 60-year heritage of innovation. We’re the company that invented engineered hardwood flooring. We were the first company with acrylic finishes, the first with urethane finishes, the first with aluminum oxide, handscrapes, rustics – you name it.

Of course, the environmental component is very important to us. Frankly, we didn’t really think about the environmental angle of our business until a lot of companies started “green-washing.” But probably 80 percent of our environmental initiatives over the years have been to reduce waste.

Finally, service is extremely important. Of course, we deliver our service through a third party, so it comes down to whom you pick as your partner. We have as strong a distribution network as anyone in the United States.

Any final thoughts?

We would like to give a huge thank you to our customers and the people we do business with. There’s a great Bessie Smith song from the early ‘30s called “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out” -- if it weren’t for our customers in these last two years, we’d be really hurting. It’s been a challenge, but we’ve been able to stay in the black. I don’t think we’ve ever been more appreciative for the business. So thank you.