Product Strategies 2021: With shows reformatted, flooring manufacturers adjust their market strategies for the coming year - Dec 2020

By Anne Harr and Meg Scarbrough

The past year has seen some major disruptions in traditional flow of commerce, and the flooring industry has been no exception with everything from production slowdowns to the cancellations of industry trade shows. Heading in 2021, changes in show schedules and live versus virtual decisions have altered the ways in which manufacturers will be able to connect with customers. And in many cases, it means going digital and postponing in-person events. In recent months, manufacturers have been assessing ways they will go to market and promote their brands in the coming year; some have announced new and unique ways they plan to stay engaged.

In an effort to offer a glimpse of what’s to come, we asked some of the leading manufacturers of residential flooring the following questions about their 2021 product strategies:
• Without Surfaces in January-and other trade shows likely canceled or delayed-what is your strategy for informing customers about product introductions in 2021?
• Will you roll out or reformat any products as a direct response to COVID and its impacts?
• Are you introducing new web tools to help customers in 2021?
• Is the number of new products this year in line with the past, or will it be dialed down, and how are you making the decisions about which categories you’re putting more effort into?
Here’s what they had to say:

Shaw, a leading manufacturer in both hard and soft surfaces headquartered in Dalton, Georgia, is launching “Showcase 2021,” its private residential experience that will feature individual, appointment-only meetings to promote new products and services, including Floorvana (its online visualization tool) Wells Fargo financing, Sound Advisor (an online tool that allows users to assess room acoustics based on construction and flooring) and more. The showcase is expected to take place from December to February.

There will also be digital engagement throughout the year via tutorials and webinars as well its ongoing Shaw Floor Network virtual series. As part of that, Herb Upton, vice president of channel and category management for Shaw Residential, says the company will continue to highlight Floorvana and educate retailers and RSAs on the ways in which they think it can help consumers. The tool is accessible during virtual consultations and in-person visits and has the ability to be incorporated into a retailer’s website. Shaw says its marketing teams will also continue to build upon the success of the Retailer Playbook, sharing consumer research, digital marketing assets and suggested best practices for navigating the shifting retail landscape.

The company says it’s uncertain what the lasting impacts of the pandemic will mean for Shaw’s product development teams. In the meantime, popularity around Coretec and Floorté, both waterproof planks and tiles that the company says appeal to the DIY-friendly installation and cleanability trends, has been strong in the past year. Shaw has also been promoting its Floorigami peel-and-stick carpet tiles because of their easy installation, and the program has been gaining traction with DIY homeowners during the pandemic.

To launch products next year, the Dixie Group, a Dalton, Georgia-based maker of higher-end carpet and area rugs, with luxury vinyl flooring and hardwood programs, as well, will be kicking off what it calls the “TDG Product Tour,” according to TM Nuckols, president of residential for Dixie. The roadshow will visit six cities-Atlanta; Dallas; Chicago; Huntington Beach, California; Atlantic City, New Jersey; and Biloxi, Mississippi-in early 2021. The company says precautionary measures will be in place at each location in an effort to limit the spread of COVID-19, including temperature checks, hand sanitizing stations, mask requirements and providing additional space to allow for social distancing.

Dixie’s 2021 strategy will also include participating in the virtual buying group markets, including CCA Global Partners, Abbey and others, and the sales force will be armed with new product samples early in the year to give them the opportunity to sell new products to retail and designer customers in their own stores or offices. Additionally, the company continues to make improvements to its TDG Dealer Portal, aimed at making it easier for customers to access account information and conduct business electronically.

Dixie delayed some introductions in 2020 but says 2021 will be a “heavier” year in terms of new releases, with a focus on diversifying its soft surface portfolio while also growing its hard surface programs, both SPC and WPC.

Mohawk, which offers products in practically all flooring categories, is hitting the road in January with the “Mohawk Momentum Roadshow,” which will make stops at specialty retailers in cities in the U.S. and Canada, according to Karen Mendelsohn, senior vice president of marketing. The roadshow runs January 5 to February 25 and will visit Chicago; Atlantic City, New Jersey; Dallas; Huntington Beach, California; Calgary, Alberta, Canada; Toronto, Ontario, Canada; and Atlanta.

The company says it did not dial back products for 2021 and is planning more launches than ever in every category from its Mohawk, Pergo and Karastan brands. It will showcase these on the road tour. Mendelsohn says some of the product introductions feature new technologies aimed at addressing the changing needs of consumers in a COVID world, including easy maintenance. The company is highlighting anti-microbial protection within a new Pergo Elements laminated wood collection as well as waterproof technology for subfloor protection.

For the coming year, Mohawk says it’s enhancing its Omnify digital marketing platform with new lead generation tools the company says will deliver leads and bring more shoppers through the door. These tools also include a product visualizer that gives consumers a way to see Mohawk floors in their own rooms. Mohawk is also providing dealers with a new customer interaction platform that allows for webchat, text payment options and more. As part of its digital efforts, Mendelsohn says Mohawk will also relaunch its brands’ websites, focused on master brands Pergo, Mohawk and Karastan, with the goal to provide an improved consumer experience.

Mannington Mills, a New Jersey-headquartered maker of hard and soft surfaces, says the company plans to invest in new product and program introductions in the first half of 2021. Zack Zehner, president of Mannington Residential, says the firm plans to go to market in a number of ways, including participating in the virtual Surfaces/TISE Live, webinars, regional trade shows and local road shows.

The company says it is continuing to invest in visualization tools to help retail salespeople and consumers see what Mannington’s floors look like in a virtual room or in their own room. One new feature allows users to view two floors at the same time.

Pointing to a robust remodel market, Mannington is planning one of its largest product launches in years across the laminate, hardwood and LVT categories. The company says it is taking advantage of favorable market conditions as it moves into 2021. Says Dan Natkin, vice president of hardwood and laminate, “One of the interesting effects of COVID-19 has been the robust nature of the remodel market,” which is expected to remain strong in 2021.

Aside from product introduction, Mannington says it will be unveiling new “groundbreaking” technologies and manufacturing capacity.

Florim, an Italian-based tile manufacturing company with a U.S. division located in Clarksville, Tennessee, says its 2021 focus will be on promoting tile digitalization and its Milestone brand-an Italian-style tile that’s made in the U.S.-as well as growing its online platforms to make the company and Milestone more visible and accessible. The company says its increased digital efforts were, like other companies, accelerated by COVID-19.

Company leaders say that as a result of increasing demands in the housing market, they adjusted their strategies to accommodate that shift. The company also says it expanded its distribution network.

The company believes the year’s pandemic and related supply chain issues and delays have brought a renewed focus on products made in America and that it’s investing energy and resources to react.

Engineered Floors, a Dalton, Georgia-based maker of hard and soft surfaces, says for the coming year it has crafted “2021 New Introduction Kits” in order to equip sales leadership with the tools necessary to facilitate their own product presentation with their teams while also taking the appropriate steps to mitigate COVID-19.

In addition, the company has been working to make website enhancements aimed at benefiting retailers, as well as improved or new digitals platforms the company hopes will allow retail partners to expand their reach to their customer base and increase traffic to their stores.

HMTX’s Metroflor, a producer of resilient flooring based in Norwalk, Connecticut, says in a typical year the company would have a group meeting with distributors but instead will be meeting with each separately, either virtually or in person with their district sales manager and the company’s vice president sales.

The company says it’s assisting distributors in their efforts to show new products to retailer customers and are offering new merchandising and collateral for product introductions. One distributor, for example, is doing roadshows in January and February, and Metroflor says it is providing support as needed. The primary goal, they say, is to continue to offer consumers with installed products through independent retailers.

The company doesn’t see distribution taking fewer products than it has in the past. It is putting more focus on the design process and how new products are developed to maintain innovation at the corporate level.

As part of its 2021 strategy, the company is revamping its website to become more design- and style-oriented.

In an effort to reach customers in the coming year, Orange, California-based MSI, which imports porcelain, ceramic and natural stone tile, as well as luxury vinyl tile, says it has increased its digital offerings and is using product videos, email marketing, newsletters, blogs, social media posts and visualization tools to highlight new products. The sales teams have also been holding virtual new product introduction webinars.

Earlier this year, MSI launched an augmented reality visualizer that allows users to populate MSI flooring, wall tile and countertops digitally in a living space. The company also launched a new image search tool that uses artificial intelligence to let users submit their own images, which then finds similar looking MSI products, including flooring, countertops, backsplashes, pavers and more.

The company says that despite the year’s challenges, it continued to introduce line expansions and improvements as usual and has been working on new products that will be released in 2021.

Novalis, a maker of luxury vinyl tile whose North America headquarters is in Canada, says in lieu of exhibiting at shows this year, the company will be meeting with customers to introduce new products through video conferencing platforms as well as implementing digital offerings like look-books, website updates and improved visualizations tools. Says the company, “While this year looks very different than any we have ever seen, we are finding ways to successfully carry on with business.” Novalis says it plans to show more new products in 2021 than in previous years with those decisions being based around sales analysis, market feedback and upcoming trends.

Aside from addressing product launches, Novalis also says it’s been investing in its digital tools to also meet growing demand by consumers, who are shopping online more. The company recently launched a new visualizer on the NovaFloor website that gives clients the ability to take a photo of their own room and insert NovaFloor flooring. They will also be launching a “major” update to the NovaFloor website in the first quarter of 2021 that will include larger swatches, more room scenes and faster uploading aimed at improving the online consumer experience.

Southwind, a Dalton, Georgia-based company making broadloom and luxury vinyl flooring, says it will continue in-person meetings as well as shows in local markets in 2021.

Richard Abramowicz, executive vice president with Southwind, says the company will be introducing and promoting new products for 2021 and does not expect to draw back the number of releases.

In keeping up with digital demand, the company also says it will continue to develop and update its website offerings.

Copyright 2020 Floor Focus 

Related Topics:Engineered Floors, LLC, Metroflor Luxury Vinyl Tile, Florim USA, Karastan, Shaw Industries Group, Inc., HMTX, Novalis Innovative Flooring, The International Surface Event (TISE), Mannington Mills, Lumber Liquidators, Mohawk Industries, The Dixie Group