Resilient Flooring Market Update - Feb 2015

By Darius Helm

Much like the carpet category, resilient flooring is in the midst of a transition, with new types of products replacing the old. And in both cases the new product is modular—carpet tile replacing broadloom on the soft surface side and, in hard surface, LVT replacing everything from VCT in the commercial market to sheet goods in the residential market, not to mention taking share from hardwood and laminate flooring.

Every year, the fortunes of the resilient industry increasingly rely on luxury vinyl, which now accounts for nearly 40% of the category. Last year, it helped drive resilient sales up 6.1% to $2.196 billion at mill sell, according to Market Insights LLC. LVT sales were up 11.1% to $849 million, which was over three times the rate of resilient sheet growth (3.5%) and over four times the rate of VCT growth (2.6%). From 2009 to 2014, the average annual growth rate of the entire category was about 7%, and in that time its share of the flooring market has risen from 9.5% to 10.6%. 

The wave of investment in LVT shows no signs of abating. Shaw, Armstrong and FloorFolio are building domestic LVT facilities—Armstrong already has one in Illinois. Mannington is making major expansions to its Georgia operations, and Tarkett has invested in its Alabama facility. And most recently, Belgium based IVC, on the verge of completing its new LVT facility in Dalton alongside its massive sheet flooring operation, was purchased by Mohawk for $1.2 billion, putting the largest flooring firm in the world once again in the center of a major flooring category.

Commercial growth outpaced residential last year, as the result of a slowdown in residential remodeling and an underperforming builder market, though multi-family business has stayed strong. Commercial resilient business has been most active in the education and institutional markets, along with healthcare. And retail activity has also picked up. This year, residential resilient sales are expected to show strong growth, and another solid year is also expected in the commercial market.

Santo Torcivia’s US FlooReport breaks out domestic resilient sales into five categories, the largest of which is residential replacement, accounting for 47% of sales, followed by specified commercial sales at 25%. Mainstreet commercial makes up 15%, with another 11% in new residential. The balance is industrial/OEM. Mainstreet is a growing market for products like LVT that offer a wide range of design looks along with many installation options. 

In terms of sales by channel, the largest channel is specialty flooring retailers, accounting for 34% of dollar sales. Sheet vinyl is well established in this channel, and vinyl producers have maintained the same focus with LVT. However, home centers also play a big role in supplying the residential remodeler, accounting for 21% of total sales. Another 30% is channeled through commercial contract dealers, and 6% through builder flooring contractors. Only 5% goes direct to end users.

RESILIENT CATEGORIES
When it comes to marketshare, sheet goods (including linoleum sheet but not rubber) currently hold a slight edge over LVT, both at around 39% of the resilient market, with the remaining 22% in VCT, linoleum tile and residential peel and stick tile. But by this time next year LVT will be the largest resilient category, and it’s still in the early stages of its growth.

While LVT is increasingly used in just about all commercial and residential applications, other resilient categories are targeting niches, at least on the commercial side. Linoleum and vinyl sheet goods are focused on healthcare and education—with homogeneous vinyl largely used in sterile medical settings—and VCT clinging to marketshare in K-12 applications as well as in high traffic retail settings, where it’s fighting against not just LVT but also polished concrete,.

On the residential side, sheet vinyl still has a strong position in kitchens, bathrooms and utilitarian applications in the home—basements, mud rooms, work-out rooms, etc. But LVT is competing in those same spaces, with its state-of-the-art textures and visuals, and with DIY features like click systems.

Most of the dynamism in sheet vinyl over the last few years has come out of the shift from felt-backed to glass-backed sheet goods. The first North American producer of glass-backed vinyl was Tarkett, with its operation in Quebec. Since then, the other major producers have followed suit, with the exception of Congoleum, which produced glass-backed vinyl for several years before converting to a hybrid system with a felt interlayer instead of fiberglass. Currently, glass-backed sheet goods account for approximately half of the residential market. 

Sheet flooring also comes in the form of linoleum and rubber. The leading supplier of linoleum to the U.S. market is Forbo, followed by Armstrong and Tarkett. All three firms make their linoleum in Europe. Linoleum is one of the greenest flooring products on the market; it’s mostly composed of linseed oil, wood flour, calcium carbonate, pine rosin and jute. It lasts decades, hardening gradually over time, and it was widely used in the residential market before the advent of sheet vinyl. Now it’s largely a commercial product, where its natural antimicrobial qualities lend it to healthcare applications, and its durability drives its use in K-12. Though linoleum is a homogeneous product and therefore limited in terms of design, the aesthetics of the natural organic patterning that emerges through the manufacturing process as the material is calendered appeals to the A&D community, and it’s often specified in high design installations.

Rubber also has a strong position in healthcare, and it’s regularly used in applications where the end user or specifier is looking for a vinyl substitute. Rubber is touted for its long lifecycle, high performance and low maintenance profile. However, it’s not a thermoplastic, so it can’t be remelted and turned into new material. Rubber has similar design limitations to VCT, but firms like Johnsonite and Nora have managed to create elevated design through the savvy use of color and texture.

Another form of rubber flooring is product made from recycled tire rubber that has been ground up, and the market leader is Ecore. This type of flooring, which is used in the commercial market, particularly in education and sports, can come with up to 100% post-consumer content.

Vinyl composition tile (VCT), which is over 80% calcium carbonate, is strictly used in the commercial market. It’s a homogeneous construction, which translates to rudimentary patterning like speckles and striations, and it’s designed for high performance areas. As specifiers and end users have become more accustomed to looking at products from the perspective of lifecycle costs, VCT has ended up in the crosshairs. While it’s one of the cheapest flooring types on the market in terms of initial cost, VCT requires a lot of maintenance, which means higher costs in terms of labor, equipment and solutions for cleaning and polishing.

So it’s no surprise that specifiers have increasingly turned to lower maintenance options in recent years. LVT is one solution, with a higher upfront cost but negligible maintenance requirements. Another is polished concrete, which requires a specialized installation but also offers lower maintenance costs. Both offer the added advantage of being more attractive than VCT. However, VCT remains a flooring solution for many chain stores and bargain outlets, where a beautiful floor is not a prerequisite for driving foot traffic.

Luxury vinyl tile is the hottest product category in the world right now. In the U.S. a massive wave of investment in domestic production will start bearing fruit this year. Mohawk’s billion euro IVC transaction netted the firm LVT and sheet facilities in both the U.S. and Belgium—and Mohawk already had one brand-new Belgian LVT facility.

The majority of LVT comes in the form of planks with hardwood looks, and that’s true in both the residential and commercial markets. The realism of the wood visuals and the convincing textures—combined with low maintenance, durability, DIY click systems and ability to tolerate moisture—have helped LVT chew through the competition. In the residential market, it has mostly taken share from laminate flooring, but it is also used instead of sheet vinyl, hardwood and ceramic tile. In the commercial market, there’s not that much laminate to take share from, but LVT has had an impact on VCT business and is taking a some share from just about every other flooring category. And because it allows for wood looks in applications that could never tolerate the real thing, from restaurants to hospital lobbies, it’s in demand by designers in just about every commercial sector. 

THE BIG THREE
The market leader and largest domestic resilient flooring producer is Armstrong World Industries, which is headquartered in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and which is also the largest hardwood producer. On the commercial side, the firm makes sheet vinyl, LVT and linoleum, along with Striations and Migrations, which are polyester composition tiles that are PVC free and feature bio-based content. Its residential offering includes gluedown LVT and floating floor LVT, along with sheet goods in two glass-backed constructions, a traditional felt construction and the heavy duty StrataMax construction with high limestone content. All of the firm’s sheet goods are produced domestically, except for its linoleum, which is made in Germany.

In 2013, Armstrong opened two sheet flooring plants in China, one for homogeneous flooring and one for heterogeneous flooring. And early last year it opened a cutting-edge technology center in Wujiang in China’s Jiangsu province.

Last year saw solid performance from the firm’s commercial division. Commercial sheet business has been sustained, in part, by the overall growth of the healthcare market, which relies on homogeneous sheet for sterile applications. On the residential side Armstrong saw growth in the domestic builder segment, though not at the pace it had anticipated. And remodeling has been sluggish, with retail business seesawing throughout the year. The firm serves the residential market through two-step distribution. 

As the market becomes more dynamic, Armstrong also sees higher design in the residential market, with builders and property management more focused on aesthetics. Enhanced visuals are not just happening in LVT; sheet goods are looking better than ever, and Armstrong has been putting a lot of attention into that area. The firm has also been focusing on installation systems for its LVT, including the FasTak system for its Luxe line.

Armstrong manufactures its higher end Alterna LVT in Kankakee, Illinois, but it has been outsourcing its other residential and commercial LVT from China. All that is about to change, as its $41 million LVT facility in Lancaster comes on line later this year. The firm plans to start shipping residential and commercial LVT from Lancaster this summer. Armstrong’s LVT operation in Germany, serving European and regional markets, is shutting down as part of the firm’s exit from the European flooring business. However, Armstrong will continue to produce linoleum in Germany.

Armstrong’s sustainability programs include waste, energy and water reduction, and it also recycles VCT. To date, the firm has recycled over six million pounds of VCT into new flooring, which, among other things, eliminates nearly 3,000 tons of greenhouse gases, according to the firm.

Last September, Donald Maier was named executive vice president and CEO of Armstrong Flooring Products, replacing Thomas Mangas. Maier joined the firm in 2010 as senior vice president of global operations excellence. Also, Joe Bondi, previously with North American Specialty Products, was hired as vice president and general manager of Armstrong’s North American residential flooring division. 

The largest LVT producer is Mannington, and that’s a good thing for the LVT category in general, since Mannington’s products are generally at the higher end of performance and design, which elevates the category. At the other end of the spectrum are inexpensive Asian imports that have a sizeable share of the domestic market. 

Mannington became the global LVT leader with its acquisition of Amtico in 2012, and it quickly moved to expand the operations in Conyers and Madison, Georgia and shift production of its offshored LVT to the Georgia facilities. Last October, the firm started manufacturing its Adura residential LVT in Madison. In fact, all of its 2015 Adura introductions are made in the U.S.

Mannington, the largest privately owned flooring firm in the U.S., also produces VCT and sheet vinyl, both glass-backed and felt-backed, as well as rubber. And beyond resilient flooring, the firm makes commercial broadloom and carpet tile, hardwood and laminate. Its sheet products and VCT are produced in Salem, New Jersey, where the firm is headquartered.

Mannington recently developed a new rubber tile product called Teles, which offers the smooth surface desired in areas of wheeled traffic, but with an enhanced indentation resistance—Teles has passed indentation tests with three times the required PSI resistance, according to Dave Sheehan, vice president of commercial hard surface.

Mannington is also investing in the mainstreet market with a comprehensive overhaul of its Insight Plus line of commercial sheet, which also targets the multi-family market.

Sheehan reports that the commercial sector was a mixed bag last year, though LVT was up 10% to 15% over 2013. “Other areas of resilient continue to be challenged,” he adds, “with LVT taking share from VCT as many end users decide that they prefer the visuals and other benefits of LVT.” Sheehan adds that commercial sheet was down slightly, largely because of concern about compliance with the Affordable Care Act curbed investments.

The residential business was also mixed, reports Dan Natkin, senior director of residential products, with strong LVT growth but relatively flat sheet vinyl sales. According to Natkin, “The strength in the multi-family new construction segment was partially offset by a weak general remodel market.” 

The firm anticipates that 2015 will bring another year of double-digit growth in commercial LVT and, with indications that the healthcare segment will make gains this year, hopes are high for sheet business as well. And though the VCT market may decline somewhat this year, due to a slowdown on the education side, the firm expects its VCT sales to grow, thanks to a recent major overhaul of its offering. On the residential side, growth is expected, though nothing hugely different from 2014, and residential LVT is also expected to post double-digit growth.

The other multi-category flooring giant with a strong position in the resilient market is Tarkett, which is headquartered in France. In the U.S., Tarkett is made up of several prominent brands, like Johnsonite. Five years ago, the firm acquired Centiva, a commercial LVT producer, followed by Tandus, one of the more prominent commercial carpet mills, at the end of 2012. The two were combined into Tandus Centiva, since they both go direct to the commercial market, while Johnsonite goes through distribution.

Tarkett’s resilient offering includes linoleum, rubber and a wide range of vinyl products, including LVT, VCT, residential glass-backed sheet vinyl and commercial sheet. 

In 2014, Tarkett invested in its Florence, Alabama LVT facility (formerly Nafco, its residential LVT brand) to add production of commercial LVT and VCT, and then in July the firm shut down its VCT facility in Houston, Texas and shifted all production to Florence. Tandus Centiva LVT is produced at a separate Florence LVT facility. 

Tandus Centiva’s LVT includes some visuals unique to the industry, namely the opalescent tiles from the Victory line that swirl like molten metal. And the bold progressive designs coming out of the Tandus carpet side have made for a good fit. Both the Tandus Centiva and Johnsonite operations offer unique green programs, including the use of a range of recycled and bio-based ingredients and company-wide reductions in waste, energy and water. Tarkett has a VCT reclamation program, as do Armstrong and Mannington.

THE CARPET MILLS
Over the last few years, the big carpet mills have launched resilient programs. Most notably, Shaw Contract, Patcraft and the Mohawk Group have introduced commercial vinyl flooring products. Bolyu also launched a commercial LVT program, which it recently revamped with new sourcing.

Shaw Industries has LVT and sheet vinyl programs for both its residential business and its two commercial businesses, Shaw Contract and Patcraft. All the programs are currently sourced. However, Shaw is in the midst of converting its Ringgold area rug facility into an LVT plant, at an investment of over $100 million. That investment is part of a two-year wave of nearly $400 million in investments by Shaw Industries, and it also includes investments in hardwood production, a second Evergreen fiber recycling facility and a new carpet tile plant in Adairsville, Georgia.

The firm anticipates starting production at the LVT facility this year, though its capacity won’t cover consumption, so it will continue to source from key supply partners. Shaw also expects that domestic manufacturing will allow it to further enhance its product development and service.

Shaw’s residential vinyl offerings are made up of Array luxury vinyl tile and plank and the Duratru sheet program, along with the 5th & Main line of both sheet and LVT. According to Emily Morrow, Shaw’s director of color, style and design, consumers are embracing resilient flooring, and particularly wood looks, much more readily than in the past, in part because of a greater appreciation for its performance, like its resistance to water damage, sound absorption properties and comfort underfoot, and also because of enhanced styling in both sheet goods and LVT. Morrow adds, “Aesthetically speaking, luxury vinyl products offer a wide variety of wood or natural stone looks that would be difficult to source and expense as the original material.”

Until last month, Mohawk Industries, the largest flooring company in the world, was a leading producer of every flooring category except resilient. At last year’s NeoCon the firm came out with commercial LVT lines sourced from South Korea and China, and it also offers a sourced LVT program on the residential side. And the firm invested in an LVT factory on a portion of its Unilin manufacturing campus in Belgium and will start shipping product from the facility to European customers later this quarter.

Then in January the firm took a giant leap, acquiring Belgium based IVC Group for $1.18 billion. IVC has a facility in Belgium for LVT and sheet production, another vinyl facility in Luxembourg, and facilities in Dalton for sheet goods and, in a few months, for LVT as well. So now Mohawk has three LVT facilities (two in Belgium and one in Dalton) as well as substantial sheet vinyl capacity. Also, two years ago IVC bought Balterio and Spanolux. Balterio is a laminate manufacturer and Spanolux makes fiberboard cores. IVC will be part of Mohawk’s Unilin Group.

IVC has been in business since 1997, and last year’s global revenues were approximately $700 million. The firm launched a sheet vinyl program in the U.S. 12 years ago, then built a massive sheet vinyl facility in Dalton in 2011, an LVT plant in Avelgem, Belgium, and an LVT facility in Dalton that’s still under construction. The firm will start producing LVT in Dalton this year, and the facility will include a recycling system to use scrap LVT and sheet flooring.

The IVC Group sells flooring all across the world, but its key markets are Europe, North America and the Eastern bloc countries. And international business has generally been good, except for recent downturns in Russia.

For now, most of Mohawk’s resilient sales are in the residential market, though the firm is getting a lot of attention for last year’s commercial offerings—and it’s all moot now that Mohawk has IVC. Residential sales are channeled through the Mohawk Hard Surfaces sales force, which distributes to floorcovering retailers and to the builder market.

Beaulieu has been offering commercial LVT for a few years now, and it recently switched manufacturing partners. And this year the firm is getting into the residential LVT business as well, with an exclusive line of US Floors’ Coretec waterproof LVT called Coretec One. 

THE DOMESTIC PRODUCERS
Beyond Mannington, Armstrong, Mohawk (through IVC), Tarkett and, in the near future, Shaw, there are a handful of other domestic producers. One of the oldest is Congoleum, which dates back to the beginning of the 20th century as a linoleum producer. The firm focuses on resilient flooring for the residential market, including the manufactured housing and RV markets, and about half of its sales are currently channeled through Mohawk. Congoleum’s domestically produced LVT is distinct from just about all the rest because it’s thicker and denser due to high limestone content. The firm made glass-backed sheet vinyl for a few years, then switched to a felt interlayer, which still provides the same performance and comfort underfoot but is designed to tolerate expansion and contraction.

Last year, Congoleum came out with Zon, a homogeneous extruded vinyl sheet with embossed textures, suitable for everything from residential settings like garages and utility spaces to commercial applications in sectors like healthcare and education.

Fostoria, Ohio based Roppe, which celebrates its 60th anniversary this year, offers a range of vinyl and rubber products for the commercial market. Last year started slow and finished strong. Commercial business was driven by the education segment, with some school systems specifying rubber through entire facilities or in some cases entire campuses.

Roppe works with a distribution network of long-standing partnerships that help in the marketing, education and delivery of Roppe’s products to end users. The firm does most of its business in North America, but it also does business in Mexico, the Caribbean and Pacific Rim nations.

One unique manufacturer is Ecore, which makes sheet and tile flooring from recycled tire rubber in its Lancaster, Pennsylvania facility. In the commercial market, it’s best known for its EcoSurfaces brand. The firm is also the exclusive source for Polyflor, a British vinyl flooring producer. 

Last year, sales at Ecore were very strong and the firm reports a lot of interest in product characteristics that go beyond color and design—in other words, performance qualities, like comfort underfoot, safety and wellness concerns, and sound abatement. Ecore sells products to all segments, but recently it’s been focusing on healthcare and senior living, including with its new “vinyl over rubber” products like Forest Rx, with a heterogeneous vinyl layer from Polyflor bonded to a rubber backing using the firm’s patented Itstru technology. That same technology can bond a range of materials to a rubber backing, including artificial turf and, of course, rubber.

At the end of last year, Ecore relaunched its EcoSurfaces brand, which was created more than 20 years ago. The program now features 78 patterns, including 29 that are new. According to Lori Dowling, president of Ecore, the firm introduced several Colormill color chips, allowing for the development of new color combinations. The firm also worked closely with O2 Strategies’ Maurie O’Neill as a color consultant.

FloorFolio Industries, headquartered in Edison, New Jersey, is yet another player that is building a domestic LVT plant. The firm, which sells LVT and sheet goods, intends to produce its patented EnviroQuiet LVT at the Edison facility, though it anticipates it will also continue to have the product made in South Korea. The firm’s market focus includes a strong multi-family program. The firm is targeting various key commercial sectors, including healthcare. Dale Tucker has been named executive vice president of the facility, which is nearing completion.

Flexco, based in Tuscumbia, Alabama, is another domestic manufacturer, with a focus on vinyl and rubber products. Flexco targets the commercial market with its products, mostly in the healthcare and education segments. The firm channels product through a distribution network for specified commercial projects. Its fastest growing category is LVT.

SIGNIFICANT FOREIGN PRODUCERS
The most prominent commercial resilient producer that manufactures overseas is probably Forbo, which targets the U.S. market with its linoleum offering. Forbo is the leading linoleum producer, with a 60% global share. Forbo also manufactures vinyl flooring, carpet tiles and Flotex flocked nylon flooring.

Forbo Group, headquartered in Baar, Switzerland, is one of the most environmentally progressive flooring firms, offering unprecedented transparency of its products and processes. The firm’s flooring business, Forbo Flooring Systems, is headquartered in Krommenie, the Netherlands, where the firm has been making linoleum for over a hundred years. 

Another prominent European resilient manufacturer is Gerflor, which is headquartered in France. Last year, the $800 million firm saw double-digit growth in the U.S. market, where it mostly serves the sports and recreation market, along with the commercial market (mostly healthcare) and transportation—the firm does buses, coaches and airlines. Over half of its global revenues come from LVT, which this year is also poised to lead in volume.

In the U.S., the firm is known for its high performance and specialty products, like its Taraflex and Mipolam programs. However, Gerflor also offers a vast array of fashion forward designs, with over 300 SKUs in LVT alone. In all, Gerflor has more than 5,000 SKUs, and it comes out with new product launches every two or three months. Of the firm’s total sales, 70% are from products less than three years old.

In fact, the firm is currently targeting the U.S. market with a range of updated designs, some adapted from current offerings and some designed specifically for the U.S. The designs will include plenty of wood looks, which are as popular in Europe as they are in the U.S.—its European program offers more than 300 wood designs in sheet vinyl.

Worldwide, 20% of Gerflor’s business is in the residential market, but it’s a lot lower in the U.S., where efforts have gone toward establishing the firm on the commercial side. However, Gerflor is interested in investigating residential possibilities in the U.S.

Gerflor has been focusing on growth in the U.S. market, and it is currently expanding its inventory, which is warehoused in Chicago, as part of its increased service offering. It’s also preparing to launch in the U.S. commercial market a system that it introduced to the sports market in 2009. The Drytex system, which works with Mipolam Premium sheet flooring, features a full spread system that works with a textile backing for applications where moisture is a factor. 

Gerflor goes direct to contract dealers, and last September the firm officially partnered with Starnet. And in November, the firm acquired Connor Sports Court, a major manufacturer of athletic flooring with a focus on hardwood, which broadens Gerflor’s sports offering.

One of the more well established LVT firms in the U.S. market is EarthWerks, which targets both the commercial and residential markets with products sourced from manufacturing partnerships, mostly in Asia. About 30% of the firm’s business is in the commercial market, 40% is in multi-family and another 30% serves the residential replacement market. The firm works with distribution and maintains that it has a larger stateside LVT supply than any other supplier.

EarthWerks offers a range of installation methods, including loose lay and advanced click technologies, and is using enhanced manufacturing techniques to develop wider and longer planks. It offers over 300 SKUs in the residential market. The fastest growing segment for EarthWerks has been multi-family, which continues to grow and increasingly relies on LVT for a range of applications.

Metroflor is another well established LVT firm, and it offers several product lines, all manufactured in Asia. Prominent LVT brands include Konecto, Engage and Metroflor. According to Russell Rogge, president of the firm, “The majority of our LVT originates in China, but we also have factory alliances in Taiwan and South Korea.” The firm, which is headquartered in Norwalk, Connecticut, has several residential and light commercial LVT lines, but about a year ago the firm made its first focused foray into the contract market with the launch of Aspecta, a 100 SKU offering created by designers Robert Langstaff and Judy Wolgast, fully supported with customer service, marketing materials and website.

Metroflor goes through independent distribution. Last year, it was about 65% residential and 35% commercial, including mainstreet, but the firm expects a shift toward commercial because of its focus on Aspecta.

Last year, Metroflor invested in people, infrastructure and new products. It put together a team of reps to focus on the commercial market, working in conjunction with distribution partners to engage contract dealers and the design community. The firm also purchased a new warehouse in Savannah, Georgia for Aspecta inventory, and it recently completed construction of its Innovation & Design Center in Calhoun, Georgia, a Green Globes certified building to host customers and showcase new products and technologies.

CBC Flooring sells a range of resilient products to the commercial market through long-standing partnerships with prominent brands like Toli, Halo and Takiron. Its products are made in Asia, including VCT, vinyl sheet, polyolefin sheet and LVT from Japan, LVT from South Korea, and both LVT and PET luxury tile from Taiwan. One of its biggest commercial sectors, healthcare, continues to be soft due to hesitancy from concerns about funding and other issues related to the Affordable Care Act. Other important commercial sectors for CBC include education and retail. CBC also sells product in Canada, the Caribbean, Central America and Europe. Business in Central America was up slightly flat last year, but the other regions were flat. 

The firm is seeing continued growth of LVT across all segments, as well as demand for its no-wax products. Also, the firm offers both sheet and luxury tile that are PVC free, which is a problem solver for some end users, particularly in healthcare.

Karndean, an LVT specialist, is headquartered in the U.K. and has been in the flooring business for 40 years. Its flooring is made in Asia, and the offering includes the firm’s LooseLay collection, with a friction grip backing that hugely simplifies installation and product removal.

In terms of U.S. business, CEO Larry Browder says, “Across most of the U.S., we provide direct distribution for our retail and commercial customers. Our warehouses in Pittsburgh, Dallas and Las Vegas maintain large quantities of inventory.” According to Browder, the firm can distribute to retailers and contractors in a matter of days.

Lonseal, which specializes in sheet vinyl, is one of the more fashion forward vinyl producers, and its products frequently garner design awards. Lonseal’s flooring is manufactured in Japan, and a lot of it is used in high performance applications. It’s generally in 6’ widths and it goes to the commercial market, focusing on healthcare, corporate, fitness and retail, along with transportation sectors like marine, aviation and emergency vehicles. The firm’s parent company, Tokyo’s Lonseal Corporation, handles most Asian and European business, with the exception of marine and aviation flooring.

Last year, Yasuo Sakka, who has been with Lonseal in Tokyo since 2001, was named president of the firm’s U.S. division, Carson, California based Lonseal Inc. All of Lonseal’s products are shipped from the firm’s Carson warehouse.

Novalis, which is headquartered in Hong Kong, manufactures LVT for the U.S. market from its state-of-the-art newly expanded facility in China. The 30 year old firm has been in the North American market since 2001 and it established its sales office in Charlotte, North Carolina about ten years ago. 

These days, over 60% of the firm’s sales come from the U.S. market, and it’s split 55% residential and 45% commercial. The firm also sells products all across the world. It’s also forward thinking in terms of sustainability, having already converted its LVT to soy-based plasticizers.

Novalis recently entered into a licensing agreement with Invista for Stainmaster branded LVT in the home center channel, which the firm will heavily focus on this year.

Parterre, which is based in Boston, Massachusetts, has been supplying LVT to the U.S. market for nearly a quarter century. It focuses on the commercial market, where it saw increases in hospitality and retail chain store business in 2014. The year ended strong and has positioned the firm well for a strong first half of 2015. 

Parterre goes to flooring contractors and end users through its national sales force. The firm also sells to the Canadian market, which has been showing slower growth but consistent increases. 

Another firm with a well established presence in the North American market is Nora, which supplies its rubber flooring to a range of commercial sectors, including healthcare, education, retail, industry & life sciences and transportation. The firm is headquartered in Weinheim, Germany, and its U.S. offices are in Salem, New Hampshire.

Upofloor, a Finnish firm that has been serving the U.S. market for several years through private labeling, is now going to the market under its own brand. Its unique product offering includes polyolefin tile and plank designs. The firm also makes Quartz Tile as an alternative to VCT.

Upofloor specializes in the commercial market, and its products are channeled through both distributors and agents, depending on the region. Two years, ago, the firm was acquired by Kährs, a Swedish firm that makes engineered hardwood and has a substantial U.S. operation.

Another LVT producer, FreeFit, specializes in loose lay products, which are manufactured in Asia. The firm has patents for its non-skid backed loose lay LVT. Beyond wood and stone looks, FreeFit also has some carpet tile looks with convincing visuals.

Also worthy of mention is US Floors, which makes a range of innovative hard surface constructions notable for their bold, progressive designs. The firm goes to the commercial market as USF Contract. In LVT, US Floors has been getting a lot of attention from both the residential and commercial market over the last couple of years due to its Coretec LVT construction. Made of bamboo and limestone, Coretec forms the waterproof core of the floating LVT floor, with a backing of cork for comfort underfoot and sound absorption.

Copyright 2015 Floor Focus


Related Topics:HMTX, Novalis Innovative Flooring, Parterre Flooring Systems, Roppe, Mohawk Industries, Mannington Mills, Starnet, Armstrong Flooring, Metroflor Luxury Vinyl Tile, Beaulieu International Group, Tarkett, Shaw Industries Group, Inc.