Floor Covering Weekly — October 14, 2013
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Karndean sharpens design focus
Amy Joyce Rush

This year, Karndean Design- flooring changed its name (it was Karndean International), internally restructured its marketing functions and, under the direction of Emil Mellow, its recently appointed senior vice president of marketing, set out to let its market position be known and better understood by key dealers.

Its position is that of a design house that brings unique and custom luxury vinyl tile (LVT) products to dealers in a simple, straightforward way. And, according to Mellow, key targets for the company include helping people understand the company’s design position and providing the point of sale collateral to support the effort.

Plus, he said, the company is looking to refresh all of its collections, introducing new designs twice a year — January and September. “One big push is making sure that people understand we sell design flooring,” Mellow noted.

Design flooring, he said, includes realistic visuals, mixed widths and lengths and design strips which dealers merchandise along with the flooring that allows for unique installations.

During Floor Covering Weekly’s time with Mellow, he took a few minutes to create a unique flooring pattern using the strips. “This is not a big to-do but it differentiates you and makes you a flooring expert,” he said.

Mellow points to the stone and wood visuals as examples of what the company is capable of doing. “This stuffis so beautiful. We are top-of-the-line design. Our strategy is to go to market with point of sale. That is how we have to increase our share of the market. We aren’t going direct to consumer, so the way to do it is to go to the people that are selling your stuff and train them and get them to buy in — and they do, once they see this stuff.”

An important part of the company’s messaging is its sales reps because the company does not, with little exception, use distribution but rather goes straight to dealers. Also spending time here at the Export, Pa. facility was a handful of the company’s 40-some sales reps going through a sales boot camp. Boot camps are held throughout the year to train the sales force on everything Karndean so that they can effectively work with dealers.

“At least once a year you have to train them. You just can’t assume they know. We want them known as experts,” Mellow explained. “And the sales people need to go in and train the people on the floor.”

The company has simple display systems for each level of retailer — platinum at the top, then gold and silver. Within the display, there is a good, better, best structure.The popular Knight Tile collection is at a starting price point for the company, then Da Vinci, then Opus. “As you go up the line, the wearlayer is better,” he said. “We want retailers to buy into the program through training and understanding they can make their margins and the call-back on our stuff is minimal — very few claims. The wearlayer is good; the product that goes out is good.”

Part of the company’s growth strategy is a move into the South American market. There, because the residential market is “tough to tackle,” according to Mellow, it goes through distribution. “We are opening up that marketplace. There is a huge uptick there,” he said.

Karndean Designflooring’s business is supported by three domestic facilities that house both showrooms and warehouse space — all have a similar footprint as well as the facility in the U.K. and other worldwide locations. Here in Export, it is 60,000 square feet; in Dallas it is about 80,000 square feet and in Vegas, it is 40,000 square feet. “Everything comes into these three locations. We are committed to stocking product.”

Another part of the company’s strategy was a name change earlier this year — changing from Karndean International to Karndean Designflooring. It was just one indicator of the company’s sharp focus.

“Karndean didn’t mean anything. Designflooring automatically tells people what we do and it is because it is more than just flooring, it’s choices. The cool thing now is that LVT has broken the barrier — people aren’t afraid of LVT anymore. And we’ve been doing this for 40 years and have been around the block a bit. Our philosophy is we will not compromise our quality. We are not gonna have a race to the bottom and not go into the big box and discount it to the point of hurting our retail business and that is just not what we are going to do.”