While NeoCon 2013, held recently at the Merchandise Mart in Chicago, saw only a slight increase in attendance—41,488 people this year compared to 40,947 at last year’s event—the show was full of energy, optimism and crowded halls. Several exhibitors commented they hadn’t seen the nation’s largest commercial market this busy in years.

Taking a cue from the renewed optimism and hope in the crowd, manufacturers took more risks this year in the products on display.

“I can’t remember NeoCon being this crowded since at least 2007,” expressed David Vita, executive vice president of Beaulieu’s Bolyu divison, who was showcasing the company’s newest product, Svelte, in a packed showroom. A polyester (PET) felt carpet collection, Svelte features not only a PET fabric, but PET backing as well, making the product fully recyclable at the end of its useful life.

Vita said the point of Svelte is “a minimalistic look, with pops of color.” While the product has a soft hand, he added Svelte is designed to bring the durability of hard surface flooring to carpet.

Chip Braulick, CBC’s director of flooring, also thought the show was on an upswing. “I’ve seen better traffic the first day of NeoCon than I’ve seen in the last few years.”

CBC Flooring launched two brands at the show: Takiron and Halo Free. Halo Free, a complement to the Halo Floors LVT brand, comprises products that meet two criteria: “They’re extremely good-looking and PVC-free,” Braulick said.

Takiron is a slip-resistant resilient sheet flooring in two options. Pathways is offered in primary colors and is geared toward environments including education and retail. MT Sheet is designed specifically for barefoot or soft-soled shoes, in places like pools and water parks. “MT Sheet has been on the market in Japan for 40 years, and we’re excited to bring it over to the U.S.,” he noted.


Of Shapes and Colors

Experimenting with both shapes and colors seemed to be an unofficial theme of the three-day show, with multiple companies showing off flooring patterns with bright colors and dramatic shapes as a focus. One such offering was Centiva’s new Brites resilient collection, offering three fluorescent and four bold colors.

Centiva was not only at NeoCon to showcase new products, noted Amanda Teyeb of the mill’s marketing department, but to promote its recent restructuring. Centiva and Tandus had recently integrated their sales and marketing, and design teams. “We are re-evaluating the products that work well, and merging our marketing and design together, both under the Tarkett umbrella.”

Sister company Tandus displayed its latest Powerbond hybrid resilient flooring collections, which are available in both sheet and modular formats. Also shown was Pebble Mesh, a woven broadloom.

Tom Ellis, Tandus’ vice president of marketing, said the corporate side of the market is on an upswing, which many of these products are geared toward. “We saw double-digit growth in corporate in the last 12 months.”

With that growth has come a return to more designer-friendly options. “Over the last several years, due to the economy, people have been playing it safe. But now we’re seeing we can provide more choice,” he explained. “We’re seeing in high-tech companies, for example, where these young kids are using the flooring to inform the design of their headquarters, and it becomes a part of their brand.”

For what she calls “the more relaxed corporate environments,” Mohawk Group’s Jacqueline Wentz Demnar, vice president of product development and design, introduced Denim, a carpet tile meant to evoke the look of denim jeans. “We based these patterns off the fabric as well as cuff and stitching details.”

She added the company is also seeing more commercial growth as the result of urbanization. “More people are moving to the city centers.” This fact helped inspire the new Street Thread carpet tile collection, inspired by urban art and created in collaboration with street artists.

Reesie Duncan, creative director for Shaw Contract Group, was showing off her company’s latest experiment in working with shapes. Called Hexagon, it builds off the success of the mill’s Rectangle carpet tile and is designed to offer a striking visual in a hexagonal format. It is also meant to evoke the idea of communities in today’s interconnected world. “With Hexagon, things aren’t as linear—we have connection points, we develop social hives and communities.”

With its new Design Catalyst tile, available in both carpet and resilient, Shaw’s Patcraft division was also experimenting with patterns. Design Catalyst offers three looks that can be combined to form chevrons, diamonds, diagonal stripes and other shapes. 

“Design Catalyst gives designers the opportunity for way-finding, for a mosaic on the floor, or simply for some color and pattern,” said Jeff West, vice president of marketing and product development.

The company also introduced Deconstructed, which uses a patent-pending technology to create the designs by exposing parts of the carpet tile all the way to the backing. “Organic patterns are created by exposing the backing,” he explained. “Instead of changing the color of the face, you can change the color of the backing for different visuals.”

Interface also played with organic textures with Net Effect, a modular carpet collection with patterns inspired by topographical images of the ocean. Additionally, the fiber is made in part with recycled fishing nets from impoverished communities in the Philippines.

“This collection not only shares the organic shapes and tapestries of the ocean, it allows us to engage with impoverished fishermen through our Net-Works program,” said Peter Greene, Interface’s vice president of marketing.

One of the highlights of Mannington Commercial’s introductions was Redefined, in both modular and broadloom carpet. Designed in collaboration with Dallas-based firm Corgan, the carpet tile takes what the company calls “fashion classics” and reinterprets them for the open plans of corporate environments.

“You can create houndstooth, herringbone, argyle and other visuals, from very subtle to very exciting. You can be extremely sophisticated or you can turn it down,” said Corgan’s Stephen Park. “There are a lot of corporate renovations out there, and this allows designers to express a fresh identity in open spaces.”

Also at the show, Mannington announced the release of an environmental product declaration (EPD) that has been third-party verified by NSF International for the company’s rEvolve modular carpet. An EPD verifies all data collected for a product’s life cycle assessment meets international requirements under specific guidelines called a Product Category Rule.

According to Jack Ganley, Mannington Commercial’s president, “We believe strongly in third-party certification, and this is our first EPD. We are very proud of achieving this, and we are working on additional EPDs on the resilient side.”

He stressed these EPDs are not designed to give Mannington a competitive advantage, but rather to offer greater transparency. “If we’re all using the same raw materials and suppliers in instances, then this is not about a competitor’s advantage. It’s a different approach. We don’t want to promote ourselves; we just want to do the right thing for the environment.”

Diane Haworth, NSF’s marketing manager, added this type of transparency is beneficial to everyone in the industry. “It lets customers make a decision based on the facts, and it’s an opportunity for everyone in the industry to look internally and help externally.”

Also Showing

Bentley (formerly Bentley Prince Street) promoted its rebranding not only with new products, but the grand opening of a 3,500-sq.-ft. showroom located across from the Merchandise Mart. The company gave tours of the showroom, which featured framed black-and-white photos taken from the new advertising campaign reflecting the company’s California roots.

“We wanted to bring a beautiful neutral palette to the showroom, and also show off our capabilities,” explained Noelle Novak, Bentley’s director of marketing. “The wall panels display large pieces of carpet and our piece-dyed capabilities. We have a conference room, sample department, a showroom and office space, and a bar for entertaining. It’s a different look and feel for us.”

Emil Mellow, Karndean Designflooring’s vice president of marketing, unveiled new visuals in LooseLay, a loose-lay resilient flooring that uses the IOBAC installation system—a metalized floor surface that works with magnet-backed flooring.

“You simply roll or spread the product on, it sets up in 60 minutes, and then you can lay down the magnetized floor without adhesive,” Mellow said. “It’s a very low-level magnet, so it keeps the floor in place, but it won’t disrupt computers or credit cards or anything like that.”

Russell Rogg, president and CEO of Metroflor, showcased the company’s Aspire and Intact products. Aspire is a groutable floating LVT featuring a crescent edge. Intact LVT features WaveTrac technology, “which is a tire tread wave pattern on the backing. It helps keep the LVT in place. You can just fit it and lay it down, without a locking system or a special underlayment.”

John Lyons, global business development manager for DuPont’s Sorona brand, promoted the versatility of the polymer with a booth that featured carpets from around the world using it. “We have loop-pile, we have hand-tufted products, spanning the globe from the U.S. all the way to Denmark, China and India.”

He noted people at the show were in a “positive mood,” owing to increased business in the healthcare arena, especially the assisted living segment. “Assisted living is hot right now, because it bridges the gap between [traditional] healthcare and residential environments.”

Lyons added the show also appeared to have increased momentum. “There are lots of young designers at the show when in past years you’d only see the heads of the companies; the designer activity level is definitely up.”

NeoCon will return to The Merchandise Mart June 9 to 11. For more information, visit neocon.com

INSTALL Announces, ‘Warranty on Labor’ Program

‘Peace of Mind; Installations Guaranteed’

At NeoCon, Floor Trends’ associate editor, Michael Chmielecki, sat down with John McGrath, director of International Standards & Training Alliance (INSTALL), to discuss the group’s new Warranty on Labor program, which it unveiled during the market.

“With this program, we guarantee the installations done by INSTALL Certified Contractors to the customer. We guarantee the job will be done right, and customers will have the peace of mind knowing these installations are guaranteed,” he said.

A list of INSTALL Certified Contractors participating in the program are available on the INSTALL website at installfloors.org.

Currently, carpet, resilient and hardwood installations are covered by the warranty. McGrath said there is room for expansion. “As we expand our certification options to include ceramic and concrete polishing, for example, we will be able to expand the warranty coverage.”

The program covers the U.S. and Canada, in a range of commercial market segments. “There are at least three contractors represented in each segment, because we want to satisfy the customer’s needs,” he added. “And, we expect the roster to grow.”

Contractors participating in the program receive an “INSTALL Warranty on Labor” stamp and logo. “They can stamp every one of their bid proposals, and the logo is offered to contractors for their letterhead, McGrath said. To get the word out beyond its e-newsletter, INSTALL is engaging in both a print and online advertising campaign.

McGrath said he is not worried about claims as a result of this new program. “We don’t foresee paying out a lot on claims. This is a safe bet for us. We have the best contractors in the business. This Warranty on Labor is a tangible statement. It shows we care about the standards in the industry and we will back up our efforts.”

During the press conference announcing the program, Mohawk Industries’ Michel Vermette, senior vice president of international and commercial, said improperly installed floor coverings is one of the biggest complaints in construction. “The INSTALL Warranty on labor combined with the Certified Contrator program will mitigate this major disruption for end users and the A&D community. The best product in the world is only as good as its installation. Mohawk believes this warranty program will minimize disruptions for end users, increase performance of the project life cycle and create higher customer satisfaction.”

Leonard Zmijewski, president of Starnet member Mr. David’s International Flooring, one of the largest contractors in the industry, said he views the warranty as a promise. “I already assure customers flooring installed by my crews will not fail. Now, customers not only have my word, but an additional, value-added warranty to back it up.

“I trust my crews because they are INSTALL certified, and to me, that is the mark of a skilled flooring professional,” he added. “I know I can deliver on promises made by the warranty because my installation crews produce dependable, correct work, all the time. Because of the confidence I have in the talent of our crews, I am able to bid on more projects and I expect that offering the INSTALL Warranty on Labor will help my company win more work.”

For more information, call (215) 582-4108 or visit installfloors.org/warranty.