Trends in Retail: Successful retailers communicate culture and engage with experience -July 2017

By Jessica Chevalier

The retail sector is changing rapidly. Today, a successful brick-and-mortar store focuses on the soft sell, not displaying piles of merchandise and getting shoppers in and out the doors with bags in hand in rapid fashion, but on building brand culture and creating experience.

Stores of today are ambassadors for their brands, locations in which to interact and engage. This new concept pushes design to the forefront. For the flooring industry, these changes significantly impact the products being specified, and an understanding of these expansive changes is imperative for those serving the sector.

The demise of brick-and-mortar retail is a prominent trope in the contemporary media, and, indeed, over the course of the last year, we’ve seen a host of brands close locations-some as a ploy to survive, some disappearing completely-including Macy’s, JCPenney, Sears, Kmart, HH Gregg, Ann Taylor, Dress Barn, Lane Bryant, Children’s Place, Gymboree, Bebe, Michael Kors and Radio Shack. But are the retailers in the U.S. really on the verge of a brick-and-mortar apocalypse?

According to the consensus of designers we spoke with, who represent some of the most prestigious retail design firms in North America-CallisonRTKL, FRCH, JGA, Tricarico, and II By IV Design-retail is not dying but changing. This change will, no doubt, leave a trail of brand and business model casualties in its wake, but, ultimately, retailers who employ a fluidity of design that enables evolution and includes experiential elements should live to sell another day.

These transitions, however, will not be painless. Between October 2016 and June 2017, more than 100,000 retail workers lost their jobs, according to a June 2 MSNBC report on its Velshi & Ruhle program. For perspective, the show pointed out that that number is far larger than the entirety of coal workers currently employed in the U.S.

“I don’t think [retail’s] dead,” noted Joseph Hancock, retail professor at Drexel University, on Velshi & Ruhle. “Retailers really need to think outside the box on how they want to appeal to consumers to get them back into the mall so they’ll buy.” Of course, store design plays a significant role in crafting that appeal, and the evolution in styling and performance of hard surface products makes flooring an ever more important design element within these spaces.

Today, says Ken Nisch, chairman of Michigan-based JGA, “a store environment acts as ambassador for a brand. The physical space has to work twice as hard, selling while creating memorability, so that the brand is top of mind when a customer is not in the space.”

OMNICHANNEL
Omnichannel is not just a strategy today, it is largely the strategy for retailers who want to succeed. While we most often think of this transition being one of brick-and-mortar retailers adding e-commerce, there are a number of traditional e-tailers or catalog companies building physical locations as well. “Brands are coming to us that are catalog-driven [traditionally], and we are bringing those to brick-and-mortar,” says Lori Kolthoff, vice president at FRCH Design Worldwide. “As a consumer base, we want to interact with the products and like the experiential elements that we find in stores.” Amazon’s foray into bookstores is the most familiar ecommerce-to-brick-and-mortar, but there are others: doll retailer American Girl, sunglass seller Warby Parker, high-end jewelry purveyor Blue Nile and clothier Barnabas.

“Brick-and-mortar is definitely important,” says Tom Pulk, senior associate vice president for CallisonRTKL. “It’s where people connect physically with brand, but it’s not the only channel now. You can’t exist as a retailer without having other channels. Often, the first way that people come to a brand is through the website. Say, for instance, that a customer is looking for ethically sourced diamonds. They will go online first and find retailers that offer those. They will compare prices, get excited, then visit the store. People generally want to purchase jewelry and other high-end items physically. Retail spaces are often smaller today, more intimate and more specific in what they want to communicate. The offering must be more about lifestyle and less just about lining product on the walls, because you can do that on a website.”

Just as importantly, the offline and online experiences that retailers offer must align, says Keith Rushbrook, co-founder of Toronto-based II By IV Design, and tell a unified story of the brand-not as individual entities but as a unified experience. This means that brick-and-mortar retailers can’t just throw some products online and expect success. If the stars are to align, the strategies must align as well.

In the same way, operations between the two should be seamless. Rushbrook points to Warby Parker as an example of this, noting, “Time is a luxury today; we’re all having less and less of it. If a customer chooses a pair of sunglasses from Warby Parker online and finds that they aren’t quite right, they can easily walk into the store for an exchange or to have them fitted.”

It isn’t just retailers of goods who benefit from an omnichannel strategy. Panera Bread is on track to surpass $1 billion in digital sales or sales made through kiosks, mobile, and web in 2017, according to Business Insider. This will account for about 26% of Panera’s total sales.

While there have been a number of online-to-brick-and-mortar experiments that have failed for lacking the proper infrastructure and an inherent misunderstanding of how brick-and-mortar retail worked, according to Kolthoff there have been great successes as well. The designer points to home furnishing retailer Ballard Designs as one of the greatest online-to-brick-and-mortar successes. “We brought the Ballard Designs brand to life. There is customization; customers can engage it. We thought through the details and made operational decisions around that. Many brands think ‘if we build it, they will come.’ The fact is, they might come, but if they aren’t engaged, the concept won’t work well.”

Of course, the fact that retailers today must focus on multiple channels often dilutes the funds that may previously have been directed exclusively toward store design. Rushbrook says, “Retailers ask, where should we invest: in digital, website, online sales platforms, bricks and mortar, sales, education, staff? The answer: yes. All of it.”

The fact is, all retailers today are battling what those in the industry refer to as the A-word (hint: Amazon), which may not always win on price or selection or experience but has one big ace in the hole: convenience. When a busy mom can open her laptop and order a new garden hose, three jars of spaghetti sauce and a bucket of baby wipes without strapping her kids into a car seat, its not a question of if, but when.

STOREFLOORS
Since 1994, Atlanta-based Storefloors has been providing the retail industry with customized, value-engineered flooring solutions. Karen Childs, director of accounts for the business, describes Storefloors offering as such: Storefloors can help retailers design stores, fix national account pricing, ensure product availability, do take-offs, handle logistics and send an installation package to the installation team.

As with the designers we spoke to, Storefloors notes a continuing trend toward the use of and preference for hard surface flooring materials for retail applications. Earl Wasserman, founder of Storefloors, notes that this trend has been growing for about six years as use of soft surface materials decreases.

Childs notes that more hard surface use means more area rugs as well. This is typically a mix of traditional rugs or bound and serged broadloom. Insets of carpet tile are less frequent. “We are doing a significant number of custom area rugs made in the kilim style,” says Childs. The company partners with manufacturers to produce these and offers the products with an acrylic backing that provides added structure, as well as a carpet pad that functions like double-sided tape to secure the rug to the floor, reducing trip hazards and movement.

Storefloors reports that priorities with regard to flooring specifications vary from retailer to retailer, but branding, budget, design and performance commonly rise to the top. “Everyone is trying to reinvent themselves every five years,” says Wasserman. “If they don’t upgrade their communication, their branding, they will fall behind. Retail is changing really fast right now.”

According to Childs, another factor that plays a significant role in retail is lease length. “What’s the length of the lease?” she asks. “Retailers want their flooring to last that long. If there is a brand modification between today and the end of the lease, they will address that, but they want their flooring to last at least as long as the lease.”

Kristen Howard, account director for Storefloors, adds, “Many products ugly out before they wear out. As we’re helping clients through the value engineering process, that is always top of our consciousness as well.”

Porcelain tile is Storefloors’ top choice for retail use. “We have the greatest confidence in porcelain,” says Wasserman. “It remains the most bulletproof product we can offer a retailer.” As with the designers we spoke with, the company loves the look of new large format porcelain panel products but has reservations due to their installation. Says Childs, “Retailers need to ask themselves if they are going to sell more X because they have fewer seams in floor. It’s an ROI question.”


CULTURE, CULTURE, CULTURE
The concept of brick-and-mortar retailing is changing significantly. While a retailer of yesteryear may have packed its stores full of products in an effort to appeal to every taste, today Pulk advises a diametrically opposite approach, adding, “Retailer formats are changing to be more experiential and less about pushing product. For jewelry retailers today, for instance, jewelry should not be filling the cases. Instead, these retailers should be specific about what they are selling and telling a story about that. They should strive for a clean look, and parts of the store must be allotted for experience, digital aspects and creating an ambiance.”

This concept has ties to the curated movement and applies not only to luxury or high-end retailers but to commodity retailers, like grocery merchants, as well. Consider two of the prominent categories of grocery store today. Standard brands like Harris Teeter, Publix and Kroger deliver on the idea that more is more. Choice is key, be it in relation to ketchup or toilet paper or corn; there are, literally, a dozen toilet paper brands to choose from, and many Americans appreciate that breadth of choice. On the other hand, grocery retailers like Trader Joe’s, Aldi and Lidl-two German discount supermarket chains making inroads in the U.S. market-offer a curated of selection products, often private labeled, for a shopping experience that is more efficient and features a value-added element. At Aldi and Lidl, that value-add is price. At Trader Joe’s, it’s customer service primarily and price secondarily.

Trader Joe’s has created a “less is more” atmosphere largely through culture building. The fact is that while Americans enjoy broad selection, it can also be exhausting: remember all those times you had to trek the expanse of your grocery because you forgot a lime? Through a host of marketing mediums, Trader Joe’s has built a persona around “Joe,” a laid-back bro in a Hawaiian shirt who is looking out for both the customer’s wallet and their taste buds. Joe’s culture is communicated via of exuberant team that manages to make grocery shopping a pleasurable experience, even in less than 15,000 square feet of packed space. And this culture, paired with the curated selection of changing products, doesn’t just breed customers, but enthusiasts as well. Joe’s selections carry weight that overrides the customers’ desire for broad selection.

Much of this change to the system has been attributed to-read: blamed on-Millennials, who are, as a group, more desiring of experience than items. A store like Trader Joe’s provides not only a pleasurable experience but also a personal one, thanks in large part to their chatty, casual employees who are willing, and encouraged, to converse about much more than cuts of meat.

Of course, culture isn’t a one-size-fits-all-retailers thing. Tiffany & Co. would, no doubt, flop if it employed Trader Joe’s campy approach. Continues Pulk, “What are the most significant design trends in retail today? I get asked this a lot, and my one word answer is ‘culture.’ I believe that this country and the world are becoming more siloed, and everyone’s way of perceiving their own culture is becoming very specific. Brands have to relate to that. The Millennial customer really knows where they stand in that perspective.”

At the basis of this, according to Pulk, is building pathos, establishing an emotional connection with the customer and the community. In this regard, brick-and-mortar plays a distinctly important role for many brands. While a catalog can do a fairly amazing job of communicating a brand’s values-think American Girl or Patagonia here-how much more effective is it to immerse a customer in the brand by letting them step into a space curated to communicate the brand message?

“Retailers have to give consumers a reason to step into a store,” says Pulk. “They have to show them the value of purchasing in the store. Some people may buy in the store out of guilt; another percentage will always go home and buy online. Retailers just have to stomach this. But the simple truth is that brick-and-mortar retailers have to show value more. When you are selling exactly the same piece of clothing that a website is selling, it just doesn’t work. You have to make your brand and your values more compelling than the other place. Right now, there are these really beautiful drinking glasses that I want at ABC Carpet & Home here in New York. I could probably get the same ones online for half the price, but I love the store. And I will buy them there because I love the experience of shopping there and looking forward to the process of taking them home. Retail today is about creating texture and communicating what people care about. It’s about creating a friendship. It’s about becoming personal, talking to people about what they care about in their hearts.”

In similar fashion, it can be argued that Millennials would rather be experiencing than shopping. While building a culture and creating an emotional connection, a curated experience also serves to streamline the shopping process, allowing customers to get in and out more quickly.

Customer service is another area where brands have an opportunity to set themselves apart today. “The hotel brands are doing it brilliantly,” says Rushbrook. “Ace Hotel, for example. They find the greatest little sandwich shop and bring it in. The greatest barber, the greatest cobbler. They are looking to the artisanal, the bespoke. People want to feel they are getting something unique.”

Keep in mind, however, that customers today are a discerning bunch, and, according to Rushbrook, authenticity is critical. “It really is about being honest and retailing with integrity,” he says. “We’re all smart. If it’s a lemon, consumers are going to see through it, and with social media, if there isn’t truth, it gets out there so fast. Retailers need to be genuine, in delivery and presentation.” Rushbrook warns, however, that the sort of authenticity that resonates in one area may not resonate in the next, and sometimes retailers must tweak their message according to the market they are serving.

Having and communicating a value set needn’t be a political exercise-in fact, often it’s better if it’s not. Instead, businesses should focus on giving back to the community, in whatever means is best suited to the brand.

For retailers trying to solidify their culture, Rushbrook’s advice is this, “Be brave. Put your stick in the ground. Have a point of view. And listen.”
LARGE & (SORT OF) IN CHARGE
Many of the designers with whom we spoke love the look of large format porcelain panels for retail applications but don’t yet feel that the installation community is up to speed on handling and installation of the products, and that is hampering their use.

Says Rushbrook, “I love large format porcelain panels for a thousand reasons, especially on ships, because it’s not a lot of added weight. I love that we can do tile over tile in malls where we are retrofitting, as an alternative to chipping up the old flooring. It can clad walls. There is less grout for maintenance and cleaning. There are just so many great things about it. But finding people who know how to install? That’s hard. There’s very little play in the material.”

JGA’s Nisch echoes Rushbrook’s sentiments, “Regarding large format porcelain,” says Nisch, “the installation community hasn’t caught up to concept. The larger products are less forgiving, especially on the floor. Finding installers who understand the product and its quality standards is still challenging.”

“How we ship large format products and get them to clients is a big challenge,” Kolthoff adds. “They take up lots of space, and shipping costs are high. There are lots of factors with these products that we didn’t have to deal with previously. But I think they’re great, and we are engaging in it.”

“The flooring industry needs to better support its eco-system on the installation and labor side of things, says Nisch, adding, “There are huge shortfalls of qualified installers for mosaics, large format products and specialty finishes. The product is only as effective as the quality of the installation. At the KBIS show, we saw mixed media products: reclaimed wood integrated with glass products. Manufacturers keep raising the end-user’s expectation, but there are so few people who can credibly install the products.”


EXPERIENTIAL
Closely aligned to the concept of culture is that of experience. Creating an experiential brick-and-mortar retail environment can be achieved in a number of ways and, like culture, varies greatly from brand to brand.

According to Nicole Tricarico, director of design for Tricarico Architecture & Design, “Retail has evolved. Today it’s about acclimating to the environment, considering social issues and understanding that location/demographics plays an important part in a shopper’s experience. Retailers can’t just rely on the mall concept anymore. They have to be looking at demographics, entertainment, restaurants, beauty/health offerings and more. Lifestyle centers are key to creating these types of environments for the future shopper. In these locations, in which some may even reside, consumers can meet friends for dinner and drinks, see a movie, work out, get their hair blown out or see a physician at an urgent care facility. While so much can be bought with the quick press of a button and one- or two-day shipping, retailers still must understand that there is a large number of people who need, want and enjoy walking into a store.”

According to Tricarico, building experiential design at retail hinges on “creating environments where the customer feels they are part of the experience.” This, according to Tricarico, can and should appeal to multiple senses and may include “lighting in the store, large-format graphics and LED screens, machines that pump scents into the store, multimedia mirrors in the fitting rooms [which may offer changes in lighting, music or an app that allows the customer to see what products are in the store]. Some stores are putting in mini bars or doing happy hours or designing a speakeasy feel. They are also placing props with the merchandise, creating a visual. Technology plays a huge role, as Millennials are so driven by posting their thoughts on what they feel is evolutionary. This can include selfie stations, a photo booth, jukeboxes with the latest music trends.”

In addition, Tricarico advises that retailers include comfortable seating areas and complementary drinks to encourage customers to come in and spend time. “Retailers have to consider their business model,” she adds. “If they don’t have entertainment, good food-people are less likely to visit if they can’t spend quality time doing activities besides shopping. If you think people are coming just to shop, that trend is lessening.”

Kolthoff adds that brick-and-mortar retailers today should focus on offering “unique and engaging spaces that make shopping fun.” These concepts should not be random, left-field attractions that are unassociated with the product that the retailer is selling. “Don’t just throw in a coffee shop if it doesn’t make sense,” she advises.

Rushbrook points to Frank & Oak as an example of a retailer that is adding experience in numerous and successful ways. The retailer’s flagship location in Montreal, Quebec includes a full-service barbershop; a branch of the established Montreal brand, Café Névé, which serves both beverages and fare; and a third-floor community bar and event space. In this way, the company is embracing and celebrating the local community in which it is situated as well as encouraging consumers to come into the space to do things besides buy. It’s a softer sell, perhaps, but one that establishes good vibes, if you will, and puts the retailer top-of-mind down the road when a consumer, who may have come in previously for a coffee or a cocktail hour, is in need of a new t-shirt or a pair of kicks.

Similarly, many Lululemon Athletica retail locations offer yoga classes, sell yoga and running gear and feature a juice bar. How much easier is it to sell a consumer on a cushy new yoga mat after a challenging but great Vinyasa class than it is to get them in the store apropos of nothing?

But creating an experiential retail environment doesn’t only hinge on providing multiple offerings in a single location. Encouraging customers to engage with the brand by utilizing their smartphones in the store, for instance, also enlarges the standard retail experience. Rushbrook reports that at this year’s Euroshop, he saw technology that would allow a retailer to communicate with a consumer as they walked through a retail space, reminding them of what they purchased last time and making suggestions based on their likes. Similarly, some retailers are now employing mirrors that offer lighting options to simulate different times of the day or varying locations as well as taking photos of consumers in the items they are trying on and even allowing them to text these to contacts to garner opinions.

Retailers that include a workshop experience-called make-tailers-or allow customers to engage with their item as it is being made are offering other creative means of building experience. Rushbrook points to a bespoke denim manufacturer that allows customers to come in and watch their jeans being sewn, then packages them up in a box labeled with the customer’s name, as a great example of building an experience around a purchase.

LAYERS OF MEANING
Flooring plays an interesting role in the new retail model. Explains Nisch, flooring in retail today must be “adaptable and changeable but not generic and neutral. It must offer the flexibility to move furniture, to adapt to new ideas, to create freshness by changing presentation, to be flexible enough that it isn’t design-specific, to be appropriate through a variety of marketing concepts, while still having personality.”

Similarly, according to Pulk, the floor performs a spectrum of tasks, “Flooring can do a million different things: it can tell a story, reinforce values. I always think in terms of aesthetics. A soft, unstained oak communicates something different than a highly lacquered one. Often, flooring is the background that links the space together. If it’s not really well composed, then the space won’t make sense. Flooring orders the space. It’s the major plane. In my studio, we imagine that the flooring layout links not only with the traffic pattern but also with what we want to communicate: zones, paths of travel. There are many layers of meaning in the floor.”

The best contemporary brick-and-mortar retailers lean heavily on the ability to transform their stores. The idea of the pop-up plays an important role in retail today, as a pop-up shop can be used to highlight an offering or to tell a story, giving customers a reason to revisit a location frequently. For this reason, the floor must be a plane upon which the shop can be reconfigured. “There is more focus on flooring in experiential retail,” says Kolthoff. “The floor becomes more flexible and neutral because things need to change. If we do a pop-up shop in a retailer space-maybe ‘what’s hot’ or something about local flavor to pull customers in-we might use flooring to segment an area, but we don’t want to eliminate the flexibility of what we bring in.”

While a floor today is often expected to last through multiple refreshes, designers often use floor-over-floor products to create islands or points of interest in these locations. Rushbrook often turns to thin magnetic vinyl flooring, which can be installed over the existing flooring in a process that can be completed overnight. He also utilizes carpet tile or vinyl print film-think of those all-over car decals here-with, for example, a bold graphic that will sit atop a hardwood floor. These temporary “stickers” last a week or two before they are pulled off with no damage to the underlying surface.

Similarly, pop-ups can be a tool of convenience in the larger renovation scheme. Says Rushbrook, “Pop-ups buy retailers a little time because they can renovate certain areas-a men’s area or a fragrance area. They can use this renovation to create a buzz on social media. After that’s died down, they can do another pop-up renovation. In the past, retailers had this requirement, almost, to shut down, renovate and reopen. Today, they can do it in sections. It’s easier on the pocket, and they can amortize the cost. What’s more, it keeps a constant buzz going. That’s one thing that I love.”

MATERIALITY
Hard surface flooring has made significant inroads in retail, as it has across the commercial sectors. “Within the last year or two, I have noticed that the floors are all hard,” explains Kolthoff. “Everything is going hard. Soft is not the medium that people are requesting. The technology in porcelain has blown up exponentially. I can’t keep up with the sizes, shapes, formats and price points. It’s a good investment. When you are looking at what you are trying to do on the floor, in retail particularly, porcelain is a good investment that lasts a long time.”

As a group, the retail designers with whom we spoke are highly impressed with the offerings made by today’s ceramic tile manufacturers. In particular, they are smitten with the idea that digital printing enables creativity. Tile manufacturers today can create almost any style-realistic, colorful, graphic, clean-and quickly. What’s more the pace of innovation by ceramic manufacturers has caught the eye of designers. While manufacturers previously made introductions once or twice annually, they are now rolling out new looks and formats every quarter, Kolthoff reports.

LVT has also caught the eye of several of the designers with whom we spoke, as, similar to ceramic, there is a virtually unlimited fountain of creative options for the material, the visual for which is printed film. Reports Pulk, “I am seeing a lot of LVT options out there, and they are getting pretty sophisticated too. Three years ago, I thought I’d never use it, but I have specified it a few times lately. It’s very durable. Overall, I am seeing a trend toward crazy-durable products. Because of the bottom line, retailers are more conscientious about having to replace any material today. There’s just not as much money to invest in the store when you have so many channels to spend money on, so people want their interiors to last longer, to be more durable, but also to be responsible.”

Kolthoff reports that the speed of innovation, particularly in regard to LVT and its cousin products, demand that designers educate themselves if they are to specify correctly. “We’ve had to educate ourselves a lot on LVT: on installation methods, flexibility, moisture resistance, thicknesses. When reps come in and present now, we feel that we are at least educated to ask the right questions.”

“What role does flooring typically play in our retail designs?” asks Tricarico. “A major role!. As designers, we need to look at all aspects of retail when specifying a product. Flooring can help delineate one product category from another. It can create divisions within the space. It can help organize the store as a whole. Color, the look and sustainability are important to the look and feel of the store. But then you need to think about construction. What is the substrate the flooring is going on? How will it be installed on a second story of a mall or in older buildings in city centers? And then there’s facility management. How will the product hold up over time and under foot traffic, dirt, high heels, baby strollers and spills? It’s important to think about all these aspects when specifying flooring.” Tricarico, like the other designers, prefers hard surface flooring in retail and is amazed by offerings in the ceramic category.

Of course, with widespread use of hard surface flooring, acoustics can be a concern, but less so in retail than, say, education or healthcare, as having acoustic energy in a space contributes to creating an active, lively environment. That being said, especially if technology is involved, it can still become an issue. Kolthoff explains about one situation in which her team had to go in consider acoustic issues, noting, “We have been working with T-Mobile to do their flagships. In Miami, they were having acoustic issues with so much media playing in the space. We worked with them to address the acoustics. We looked at everything from the ceiling to the paint to the plaster. Ultimately, it’s a balance. Even in restaurants, a bit of acoustics creates energy. People like seeing in the kitchen, and the kinetic energy that you see, hear and feel. A little white noise that engages patrons in a place is a success, but when you are in a retail environment and have a challenge interacting in conversation, you have to address things.”

The designer continues, “Every time we sit down with clients, they say floor cost is something they are sensitive to, so we are always looking at how we can maximize the use of a floor. Customers want to do it right because they understand the cost implicated in it.” That being said, lifecycles of flooring products are typically extending today, as customers understand that the right investment in a flexible and longwearing product, even with a higher upfront cost, will pay off in the long run.

To this end trendy is often eschewed for more enduring looks. “People used to think of spaces wearing out physically,” says Nisch. “Today, we’re thinking of ways to freshen and recreate physical spaces based on emotional obsolescence rather than physical obsolescence. Flooring has to work very hard to be appropriate in many kinds of uses-all at the same time as retail spaces become more experiential.” Rushbrook particularly loves how manufacturers today are pushing the envelope with regard to aesthetics, “giving us amazing visual textures and reproductions. Rich colors. Wood looks. Interesting colors, textures and even shapes. Carpet tile, again, is doing really amazing things. Flooring adds a whole other layer to a design-it’s the fifth wall-and today we can have a lot of fun with it. Floors don’t need to be as quiet. Today, we can be graphic, bold, colorful and playful.”


GREEN@RETAIL
It is a consensus among the retail designers with whom we spoke that sustainability is no longer a trend but, essentially, the DNA of design. Says Kolthoff, “I like to equate sustainability to ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act). Early in ADA, people were overwhelmed by it from a design aspect as well as the cost. Now, ADA is commonplace. It’s what we do. Sustainability is the same. Early on, retailers focused on it and some spent a lot making sure they marketed themselves as sustainable, but today we’re getting to the point where it’s just the right thing to do.” In addition, the designer points out that with so many green, good-looking products in the market, specifying sustainable isn’t burdensome, as it once was.

Pulk points out that lifecycle is, above all, the most critical aspect of sustainability, which means that making the correct flooring specification upfront is critical-even if the material or installation costs more at the outset. “The ability for something to come up and not go into landfill has to be number one,” he says.

Nisch takes a similar stance, “Sustainability is closely related to lifecycle. We look at lifecycle as one of the critical things.”

Rushbrook agrees, adding, “Sustainability was the buzzword three to five years ago, and now it is something that is inherent in all our design decisions. Retailers are championing social responsibility, which has, in turn, prompted manufacturers to provide products that address the concern. There are now numerous options for the designer; however, we will most often select products for their longevity because it is not just the product that impacts the environment but shipping, installation and removal-the less often it is replaced, the better it is for the environment.

“As designers, if we’re not creating a sustainable design, we’re failing. It should be an automatic, a given. Green always used to look green. Not anymore. Today, there are so many beautiful choices. At a recent show, I was admiring all the new printed technology for stone and porcelain. The technology is so fantastic.”

Tricarico takes a big picture approach, “We have one planet, and, like our bodies, we need to take care of it. As designers, we need to make changes now so that there is a future for generations to come. We need to be smart about the products we are specifying and stay engaged with the manufacturers on their roles to help with reduction of landfill use, or replanting trees, or using less plastics in their products. One planet, one life.”



Copyright 2017 Floor Focus