Surviving in Laminate Sales

Succeeding in Flooring Sales in a Tight Market Requires Expertise

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The economy is tougher, competition is tighter and consumers have a firm grip on their wallets. But when it comes to closing a sale, an attractive price tag is not all that matters. It’s what you know that counts.

A knowledgeable sales representative who can expertly guide a shopper toward a purchase she’ll be pleased with is arguably the most valuable tool in the laminate sales arsenal, says Bill Dearing, president of the North American Laminate Flooring Association (NALFA).

“Professional dealers know to play to their strengths and not compete with other types of retail outlets,” Dearing says. “There are two important elements – personalized service to every visitor and flooring product knowledge that is superior. A good store rep can advise a potential buyer on her choice of flooring depending on lifestyle, fashion, performance and budget.”

Dearing adds, “Management and sales representatives must educate themselves on the attributes and benefits of laminate flooring. They need to appreciate the significance of the NALFA Certification Seal and what it means for the consumer. And, they must know the local market and understand consumer attitudes.”

Part of a salesperson’s education is an understanding of the value of the NALFA certification seal and the unique opportunity it provides to differentiate laminate from the competition. The seal is showing up increasingly on packaging and in store displays. But until the imprint is widely used, sales representatives must be able to convey to the customer that certified products meet rigorous performance standards and are therefore high quality and a good investment.

An educated sales rep makes for an educated consumer.

“A salesperson’s knowledge ranks high among a shopper’s expectations, as does – naturally – price,” says Dan Natkin, Mannington’s Director of Wood and Laminate. “Consumers are looking for fair pricing, the best value for the money spent, but they also want the feeling of having made a proper transaction. A knowledgeable salesperson helps the shopper make an educated buying decision, one they can be confident about.”

Meanwhile, the retail environment is changing.

“There is more competition in the flooring market with the injection of products from the Asian market and the LVT movement,” Dearing says. “The growth of big box stores across North America has driven laminate prices down, and they’ve heavily promoted DIY to the consumer. Dealers have the opportunity to sell better laminate products.”
Other recommendations for retail success:

• Explain the issue of design and quality versus price only. The consumer is most likely not coming in predisposed to a brand. She is coming in with a specific design in mind.
• Focus on a featured brand, preferably a NALFA-certified brand that underscores the truth of the performance issue.
• Never be shaken by a quoted price. There are many ways of redirect. The most simple is asking whether the consumer is planning a DIY project. If so, simply ask how many feet they need and tell them you can have it for them in a given number of hours. If not, suggest a professional in-home measure, preferably at a minimal measurement fee, applied to the order. This way the dealer is playing to their strength.
• Customers want to see how the floor is going to look installed. Interactive store displays are a great way to accomplish this, along with before-and-after photos of previous installations.
• Dealers can separate themselves by providing better customer service and follow-through after the sale.

Dearing says that almost any salesperson can apply simple techniques to interest and close a customer. Knowledge is key. He concludes, “Correct information given in an ethical manner always triumphs.”

About NALFA

The North American Laminate Flooring Association (NALFA) was formed in 1997 by U.S. and Canadian manufacturers and importers of laminate flooring. Since its inception, NALFA has been dedicated to creating voluntary product performance standards for laminate flooring in North America. For more information, visit www.nalfa.com.
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The Stamp of Approval – The NALFA Certification Seal

Consumer Awareness of Laminate Quality Grows with NALFA Certification Seal

WASHINGTON, D.C. – More than one hundred years ago, a popular women’s magazine started testing household products to see if they lived up to their promises. Those that did could stamp an elliptical logo on their packaging and earn the trust of a nation of consumers.

Today, more than 5,000 products later, the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval remains an emblem that testifies to a product’s value.

The North American Laminate Flooring Association (NALFA) likewise wants to impress upon the flooring shopper that the NALFA Certification Seal is a testament to a laminate floor’s quality.

Key players in the effort to drive that message home are the industry’s retailers, says NALFA President Bill Dearing.

“Retailers are on the front lines and have the best opportunity to push the value of the seal to consumers,” Dearing says. “Retailers can promote the importance of certification to the shopper, which makes the sale easier for the retailer and the buying decision easier for the consumer.”

The message to share with consumers is simple, he says. “We want consumers to know that the NALFA Certification Seal means quality, that it means consumers can be confident in their buying decision.”

NALFA stands behind retailers, manufacturers and suppliers in getting the word out. As the “Voice of Laminate Flooring for North America,” NALFA is dedicated to ensuring that consumers are educated about the value of purchasing laminate flooring with the NALFA Certification Seal.

That education is the mission of NALFA, which was founded in 1997 to advance the reputation of laminate within the flooring industry.

“In 1997, laminate manufacturers and suppliers came together to change the consumer’s perception of laminate flooring and to help them understand how far laminate has advanced in quality,” Dearing says. “That’s where the NALFA Certification Seal comes in. It’s a testament to that quality.”

Laminate products earn certification by passing 10 rigorous performance tests. Certification means flooring has been proven to meet these standards by an independent, unbiased, third-party testing lab.

Recognized as an American National Standards Institute (ANSI) national standard, NALFA certification evaluates the following criteria:

• Static load
• Thickness swell
• Light resistance
• Cleanability and stain resistance
• Large ball resistance
• Small ball resistance
• Water resistance
• Dimension tolerance
• Castor chair resistance
• Surface bond

NALFA certification also confirms that a product is manufactured in North America, which has become increasingly important to consumers.

“There has been steady growth in the significance of Made in North America to consumers over the last few years,” Dearing says. “They feel more confident trusting the quality of products produced in North America under higher North American standards. Patriotism is surging, and there is a renewed push to buy brands that keep Americans working.”

In addition to getting the assistance of a retailer, consumers can determine whether a product is NALFA certified by looking for the seal on the packaging or in the point-of-sale display, or by visiting the NALFA website at nalfa.com/nalfa_certified_products.php.

About NALFA

The North American Laminate Flooring Association (NALFA) was formed in 1997 by U.S. and Canadian manufacturers and importers of laminate flooring. Since its inception, NALFA has been dedicated to creating voluntary product performance standards for laminate flooring in North America. For more information, visit www.nalfa.com.
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Congratulations to NALFA Member Mannington!

Congratulations to NALFA member Mannington Mills for winning a 2012 Readers’ Choice Award from National Floor Trends.

NFT readers were asked to vote online for their favorite products in a range of categories.

Mannington was recognized in the laminate category for its Restoration Collection.

“These awards are designed to honor some of the most forward-thinking products in the industry,” said Diana Brown of BNP Media Group, which publishes NFT.

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Beyond the Kitchen: More Consumers Using Laminate Flooring throughout the Home

WASHINGTON, DC – High-heel shoes walk quickly across the kitchen floor on the way to the garage and another day’s work. Later, as dinner is being prepared, a jar of spaghetti sauce tumbles off the counter, splattering a red mess across the floor.

Dents? None. Stains? Relax. Laminate flooring can take it. In fact, it would be difficult to find a flooring product that is more durable than laminate.

That’s why consumers are increasingly turning to laminate flooring as their choice throughout the home. And laminate flooring is showing up beyond the kitchen – in entry halls, family rooms, living rooms, and dining rooms.

“Laminate flooring started in the kitchen,” says Bill Dearing, president of the North American Laminate Flooring Association (NALFA). “Over the years, its popularity has grown so that it’s now found in every room in the house.”

Indeed, sales of laminate flooring are growing steadily, according to a recently released Global Industry Analysts report, which says that the growth is driven by escalation in new home construction as well as residential remodeling.

“Laminate (flooring) with close resemblance to wood and advantageous features of durability, beauty and novel designs capable of replicating granite and stone are creating myriad decorating possibilities for residential and commercial interiors,” according to Global Industry Analysts.

Furthermore, home improvements using laminate flooring are motivated by ease of installation, simple upkeep, long-term durability, and increasingly innovative product designs, which are quickly making laminate floors one of the most popular and affordable options throughout the home.

Design, in fact, is often what initially catches the homeowner’s eye. Today’s laminate flooring is setting new standards in realism – especially in high-end wood designs. Laminate floorcovering manufacturers are now replicating the subtle details of real wood such as saw marks, wire brushing and even nail and worm holes.

Especially popular in family rooms are rustic laminate looks. Micro beveling gives the laminate the authentic appearance of natural grooves – but none of the wear and tear of other flooring products.

Other laminate flooring designs create realism with texture and embossing. But, Dearing says, “Laminate flooring has never tried to be an imitation of anything else and today, it comes in a variety of rich designs, including popular wood-based styles.”

Those designs are a result of a unique lamination process. Laminate flooring is comprised of a hybrid of materials fused together through that lamination process. Between a tough protective top layer and a high-density fiberboard core is a decorative layer, which provides a high-definition, highly detailed image – realistically simulating everything from hardwood to marble to stone.

And when homeowners find a design they like, Dearing says, they generally use that laminate flooring throughout the home. That’s especially true of adjoining rooms such as living and dining rooms.

So look beyond the kitchen when you’re selecting laminate flooring for your home.

“When it comes to design options,” Dearing concludes, “there’s no shortage with laminate floors.”

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New NALFA Advanced Installer Certification Class Is May 8

Higher income and increased business exposure are two of the potential benefits of the new Advanced Laminate Installer Certification class offered by the North American Laminate Flooring Association (NALFA). The next one-day class will be presented May 8 in Dallas, TX.

The course, which is new to NALFA’s educational curriculum, will include a four-hour hands-on installation. The installation, which will serve as a test for certification, will include installing with obstacles, molding and stairs, testing for flatness and moisture, and plank replacement.

Presentations will address the definition of laminate flooring, a review of samples and locking mechanisms, preparing for installation, job site evaluation, installation of floating floors, water management, grade levels, trammel points, wood and concrete subfloor requirements, sound considerations, safety requirements, and a glueless plank demonstration.

The course will be taught by Anthony Palandro, an installer, inspector and consultant who has worked in the floorcovering industry since 1972. He has been a NALFA installation trainer since 2007 and a Pergo-endorsed installer trainer since 1998.

Benefits of NALFA certification include:

• Increased business exposure by having your name and business listed as a Certified Laminate Flooring Installer on the NALFA website
• Increased credibility and income potential as a Certified Laminate Flooring Installer
• Profit from networking with some of the best flooring installers in the industry
• Direct and privileged access to the technical support services of NALFA members
• Regular updates of all technical innovations in the laminate flooring world

The remainder of the 2012 schedule is:

July 10 – City of Industry, CA
September 11 – Calhoun, GA
November 6 – Phoenix, AZ

The class fee is $350. To register or for more information, contact Teiya Eubanks at (423) 316-1566 or teubanks@kmtcreative.com.

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NALFA’s Laminate Flooring Class Debuts March 29

The North American Laminate Flooring Association (NALFA) is pleased to introduce a new course to its educational curriculum with the debut of a “Getting to Know Laminate Flooring” course. The first class will be held March 29 in Toronto, ON, Canada.

The class is a comprehensive review of laminate flooring manufacturing, installation requirements, potential problems, causes and solutions. It is designed to educate laminate flooring distributors and retailers and any professional interested in learning more about laminate flooring.

The curriculum for the one-day class includes NALFA history, a Laminate 101 course, installation requirements, inspection tools and standards, and product defect review.

The remaining dates are:

March 29, 2012 – Toronto, Canada
April 19, 2012 – Dallas, TX
July 12 – Vancouver, BC, Canada
August 23, 2012 – Salem, NJ
November 1, 2012 – Calhoun, GA

The classes will be taught by Ron Starkey, a NALFA-certified laminate flooring installer and inspector who has worked in the flooring industry for more than 40 years.

The class fee is $200 for 15 – 20 attendees and $150 for 10 – 14 attendees.

To register or for more information, contact Teiya Eubanks at (423) 316-1566 or teubanks@kmtcreative.com.

About NALFA

The North American Laminate Flooring Association (NALFA) was formed in 1997 by U.S. and Canadian manufacturers and importers of Laminate Flooring. Since its inception, NALFA has been dedicated to creating voluntary product performance standards for Laminate Flooring in North America. For more information, visit www.nalfa.com.
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The 5 Most Significant Advances in Laminate Flooring

Summary: In the 15 years since the North American Laminate Flooring Association was founded, laminate floors have undergone major advances. Innovative design, technology and more make laminate flooring one of the most popular choices for homeowners today.

WASHINGTON, DC – Kitchen renovation choices are always expanding, from cabinet and counter surfaces to appliance finishes and lighting fixtures. But to find a product that is always advancing in design and technology to be more and more attractive to consumers, you need only look down. Innovative product designs and long-term durability have made laminate flooring one of the most popular and affordable options for homeowners today.

But laminate flooring is not just for the kitchen anymore. Advances in design and realism have made it a popular choice for any room in the house – from the family room to the living room to the dining room.

We asked Bill Dearing, president of the North American Laminate Flooring Association (NALFA), what he considers the most significant advancements in laminate flooring. Here’s what he had to say:

1. Realism in Design – When it comes to design options, there is no limit with laminate floors. Do you want a high-end hardwood look or a contemporary stone look? While many laminate floors simulate the authentic look of wood or stone, the possibilities for new styles and colors are limitless. Advances in design – such as realistic beveling, or grooves, and distressed looks like saw marks and nail holes – have taken laminate flooring’s realism to a new level.

2. Advances in Technology Laminate flooring is comprised of a hybrid of materials fused together through a unique lamination process. Today’s laminate flooring manufacturers have the technology to realistically mimic everything from wood to marble to stone. Vast improvements have been made to the fiberboard core, which offers impact resistance, stability and long-lasting durability, and to the underlayment, which absorbs minor imperfections in the sub-floor and reduces noise when walking on the floor. New embossing techniques, superior scratch protection, and other advances make laminate flooring a smart choice.

3. Better Locking Systems – Installation has never been easier. Laminate flooring is easy to install because it requires no glue or fasteners to the subfloor. Instead, it uses a lock and click installation method and “floats” above the subfloor, allowing it to expand and contract with the natural temperature and humidity changes in your home.

4. Environmentally Friendly – Laminate flooring has become inherently eco-friendly. It’s made with natural resources like wood chip fiberboard, and it does not involve the harvesting of rare or endangered trees. It’s free of air-damaging chemicals, and it requires no special glues or adhesives during installation that could damage air quality.

5. Product Certification – NALFA has developed a certification seal assurance that is testament to each product’s quality. NALFA-certified flooring has passed 10 rigorous performance tests that include everything from how well it resists water, light and stains to whether it can be damaged when a large object is dropped. NALFA uses independent, third-party testing laboratories to assure that NALFA-certified laminate floors meet demanding performance standards.

“In the 15 years since NALFA was founded, the improvement in laminate flooring has been phenomenal,” Dearing concludes. “Laminate floors come in any look you want. You’re not limited by nature. The sky’s the limit.”

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2011 NALFA Lammy Award Recipients

The North American Laminate Flooring Association (NALFA) is pleased to announce the winners of the 2011 LAMMY Awards, which are given annually to companies and individuals for exceptional contributions to the laminate flooring industry.

“Each of these winners are a testament to the commitment and continuing strength of our category,” says Bill Dearing, president of NALFA. “The LAMMY Awards are a great way for NALFA to formally recognize companies and individuals for their efforts within the industry and to encourage others to do the same.”

The NALFA Board of Directors anonymously nominates individuals and organizations for each category. The nominees are compiled, listed on ballots and sent for voting to NALFA members as well as the editors of Floor Covering Installer, Floor Covering News, Floor Covering Weekly, Floor Focus and National Floor Trends. NALFA presented the first LAMMY Awards in 2007.

The 2011 LAMMY Award winners were announced Wednesday, January 25, 2012, at the annual SURFACES floorcovering event in Las Vegas.

The winners are:

Jean Briere, Shaw Industries Member of the Year

Jack Boesch, MP Global Associate Member of the Year

Bolick Distributors Distributor of the Year

Floor Covering Associates Retailer/Dealer of the Year

Unilin/Mohawk Member Company of the Year

Pak-Lite Associate Member of the Year

About NALFA

The North American Laminate Flooring Association (NALFA) was formed in 1997 by U.S. and Canadian manufacturers and importers of Laminate Flooring. Since its inception, NALFA has been dedicated to creating voluntary product performance standards for Laminate Flooring in North America. For more information, visit www.nalfa.com.

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Going Green: Laminate Flooring Is the Eco-Friendly Choice

Laminate flooring has a variety of environmentally friendly benefits, but one of them beats them all: Laminate flooring creates the look of a natural resource – such as wood or stone – as opposed to actually using it, so fewer raw materials are used in the manufacturing process. Because laminate flooring’s appearance is actually a high-definition photograph, it effectively provides the desired look, no matter how scarce, without felling a tree or mining a quarry.

That’s just one of the ways that laminate is the green choice in flooring, and eco-conscious consumers are sitting up and taking notice.

According to Bill Dearing, president of the North American Laminate Flooring Association (NALFA), “Laminate flooring has a wealth of green advantages, and products certified to NALFA’s sustainability standard are being used in growing numbers because of them. Consumers are becoming increasingly conscious of the importance of environmentally friendly products.”

Dearing says the NALFA Certification Seal is confirmation that a laminate floor is manufactured with these earth-friendly qualities:

  • It’s made with recycled natural resources producing a heavy-duty, high-density core board.
  • It’s recyclable.
  • It’s free of air-damaging chemicals.
  • It complies with formaldehyde emissions regulations for laminate flooring core board set forth by the California Air Resources Board (CARB).
  • It is comprised of recycled content that may contribute points to the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards for homes and businesses.
  • It requires no special glues or adhesives during installation, eliminating harmful volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and no special cleaners for cleaning and maintenance, improving air quality.

From the materials used in its manufacturing to the frequent reuse of those materials, a NALFA-certified laminate floor’s entire lifecycle is environmentally friendly. “For floors to be considered green, the manufacturing, installation, and disposal processes should have no negative environmental impact,” Dearing says.

Laminate flooring’s environmentally friendly properties begin with its inherently green manufacturing process. For example, the manufacture of laminate floors does not involve the harvesting of old-growth hardwoods. Product cores are comprised of at least 74 percent pre-consumer recycled waste, such as sawdust from mills and wood chips from log processing. This minimizes the need for new raw materials, whose harvesting often depletes natural resources.

In addition to its eco-friendly manufacturing process, laminate flooring is also installed with the environment in mind. NALFA-certified laminate floors are installed as floating floors, meaning the products are not attached to the subfloor. This eliminates the need for glues and adhesives, helping prevent emissions of volatile organic compounds.

Once installed, laminate floors can be easily cleaned without the use of harsh chemicals, protecting indoor air quality. Finally, at the end of a laminate floor’s lifetime, it can be reused or recycled. Or, when dismantled, the boards can be put back into the production process, ground for agriculture use, or burned as waste-to-energy. That keeps old flooring from landing in the landfill.

Laminate flooring is also an environmentally friendly consideration when a homeowner’s interest is a living area with fewer allergens. Laminate flooring is free of solvents, preservatives, and other chemicals that can agitate allergies and asthma.

With the ongoing evolution of laminate flooring, environmental issues will play an increasing role in the way the next generation of laminate products is developed.

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NALFA to Hold Product Demonstration at Surfaces 2012

The North American Laminate Flooring Association (NALFA) will conduct a product demonstration on Tuesday, January 24, at 1 p.m. in conjunction with Surfaces 2012 in Las Vegas, NV.

The one-hour demo, which will take place on the main stage, will demonstrate how to install a laminate floor properly, how to replace a damaged plank in an installed laminate floor, and what to look for in a quality laminate flooring product.
Leading the demonstration will be Anthony Palandro, NALFA Installer Certification Course Instructor.
Surfaces 2012 will take place January 24-26 at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. Visit NALFA at Booth #S6401.

About NALFA

The North American Laminate Flooring Association (NALFA) was formed in 1997 by U.S. and Canadian manufacturers and importers of Laminate Flooring. Since its inception, NALFA has been dedicated to creating voluntary product performance standards for Laminate Flooring in North America. For more information, visit www.nalfa.com.

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