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Home centers boost flooring market

Home centers boost flooring market

Sarah Demaster

Surfaces show reveals acceleration of new product development

LAS VEGAS — At least partly due to expansion in the home improvement channel, flooring and floor covering manufacturers at this year’s Surfaces show were excited about their business outlook for 1999, and expect to roll out a record number of new products this year.

An estimated 32,000 attendees turned out for the 10th annual show, which ran from Jan. 27 to 29 at the Sands Expo & Convention Center here. The show’s 722 exhibitors – 86 more than last year – showcased carpets, area rugs, vinyl flooring, laminate flooring, hardwood flooring, ceramic tiles, wallpaper, window treatments and carpet-laying tools and equipment. The show has become the major showcase for carpet and floor-covering companies like Armstrong, Bruce, Mannington, Formica, Shaw and Beaulieu, most of whom don’t even exhibit at the National Hardware Show in August.

The increased investment in new product development can be attributed to both strong sales in the past year and consolidation within the flooring industry, according to Chris Davis, CEO of the World Floor Covering Association, which hosts the event. “Everyone is trying to become the low-cost producer, and the belief is that if you’re the market leader that handles a variety of products, you’ll be the survivor,’? Davis said.

Piet Dossche, president of Beaulieu’s new residential division, agreed. “If we want to be meaningful, we have to have a variety of products.” Beaulieu has broadened its product offerings with its recent acquisitions of carpet manufacturers Columbus Mills and Marglen Industries.

The fact that home centers have become significant players in the flooring and floor covering categories is contributing to this push to provide a broader range of products, as suppliers try to satisfy all their customers. Attendees at this year’s show included buyers from Home Depot, Lowe’s, HomeBase and Sears.

“[The home centers] are a growing market, and you can’t ignore it. In the beginning we shied away from it because it made our distributors mad, but now there’s millions of dollars [sold through home centers],” said Rick Ferguson, district sales manager for Classic International Ceramics. The company now tries to provide distributors with different products than it sells to home centers, he said.

John Mazzola, national accounts manager for Triangle-Pacific Corp., a subsidiary of Armstrong World Industries, agreed that “we’re seeing tremendous growth through home centers [which are] trying to enhance their presentation and product offering.”

HomeBase will introduce a redesigned flooring department in the stores it opens this spring. The new prototype will allocate space based on each category’s rate of sale, according to Scott Richards, the retailer’s executive vp-merchandising/general merchandise manager. Richards and Henry Ragin, vp-merchandising for HomeBase, attended Surfaces to look at products in every category, from carpet to laminate to porcelain tile.

Ragin said manufacturers are recognizing that home centers are an important part of the flooring business, and are spending more time in stores helping develop ways to market their products. “[Surfaces] used to be a flooring distributor show. If we showed up from a home center, we had to wear masks because we were the enemy,” Ragin recalled.

COPYRIGHT 1999 Lebhar-Friedman, Inc.

COPYRIGHT 2000 Gale Group