Exclusive: Mohawk leverages the power of innovation – Floor Covering News

National Harbor, Md.—Paul De Cock’s first five years at the helm of Mohawk Flooring has focused on two things: satisfying the needs of the market and allowing dealers to make more money with Mohawk. How does this happen? In a word, innovation. Mohawk has arguably been the most innovative company in the floor covering industry under the auspices of De Cock. It’s in his DNA having grown up at technology and innovation stalwart Unilin, the family business until Mohawk bought it in 2005 for $2.6 billion. “Over the long term, the innovative positioning of Unilin has filtered into Mohawk,” De Cock told Floor Covering News . “Mohawk has made a couple of very good acquisitions over the years, and these companies brought some great capabilities, which are smartly spread throughout the organization. Innovation is definitely one of those capabilities, whether it’s ways to merchandise the product, to communicate about the product, to show the product online or to advertise the product. It’s not just product innovation; it’s innovation across the whole value chain.” Everything Mohawk does is with the dealer and consumer in mind, De Cock said. “What Mohawk does very well is create environments where consumers can find the perfect floor for their needs. Consumers have needs, and those needs need to be satisfied. We put a lot of work in creating product positionings and brand positionings to go after certain segments of the market. RevWood, SolidTech, the SmartStrand franchise and Karastan brand are great examples. We have approximately 10 of those. That gives uniqueness to the consumer and easy-to-convey benefits to the dealer, which allows them to make more money with Mohawk.” It doesn’t happen by accident. It may sound simple, but much of Mohawk’s innovation is born through conversations with dealers. “It’s the bread and butter of the business,” De Cock explained. “It’s the absolute foundation of what we do. You want to satisfy the demands of the market and allow dealers to make more money. We do that in two ways. First, by focusing on the customer, listening to his or her needs and satisfying those needs, but also by bringing unique things to the market. But our customer is not going to tell us what the new floor of the future is going to be; we need to know where the consumer is going. That’s the second piece.” The recently unveiled PureTech is a perfect example. Mohawk developed PureTech because it knows the consumer likes the LVP category and is moving toward more sustainable floors. “Blending those two together we came up with a new position: PureTech,” De Cock said. “So it’s a blend of knowing your industry, knowing where the market is going and satisfying the needs of those future consumers. That’s when the magic happens.” De Cock makes it a point to learn something from every conversation he has with retailers. “These conversations are very valuable,” he said. “There’s always a takeaway. Each conversation has multiple action items. There’s always something we can improve. There’s always a success story in a certain market that we can expand to all of North America.” He cited certain improvements Mohawk has implemented in its co-op program as an example. “What does a certain dealer want our co-op program to be so he can advertise our products and create more traffic to his store? How does the program need to be structured for him to be successful?” At the end of the day, the goal is simply to become more important to the dealer and help that dealer become more successful and make more money. That is achieved through good quality, good service and having the right product and right positioning. “The floor covering market is complicated and there are too many people out there that do everything and, as a result, do nothing,” De Cock stated. “We need to be focused on the things we are good at. We need to make sure these multiple product brand categories are perfectly positioned for the consumers’ needs. And if we execute all of that flawlessly, retailers and consumers are going to give us more business because it’s easier to do business with Mohawk—and you can make more money with Mohawk.” Outlook for 2024  Outlook for 2024
De Cock is expecting a solid 2024, particularly by virtue of some exciting introductions dealers will be seeing at Momentum Road Shows and Surfaces. The three he is most excited about are: PureTech, the first ecologically friendly LVT; SolidTech Signature with HDX technology. “The most realistic LVT ever made,” De Cock said; and PETPremier, Mohawk’s fully warranted, extra soft, extra luster, extra twist pet product that goes after the premium polyester carpet market. However, 2024 will not be without its challenges. De Cock cited high interest rates as an impediment to business. “People are not moving. The dynamics in the housing market are very important because it drives 80% of all remodel decisions—I sell the house, I move into the house, I do something. New home construction transactions are down, and resales are down because of the rate lock. People are locked in at a 3% mortgage. If you buy the same house you have to pay 6.5%, more than double your mortgage. Rates need to come down a bit. And once things start moving again, you’re going to see a lot of pent-up demand in the remodel business. That’s an opportunity.” Interest rates are equally important in new home construction. “America is under-built and America’s housing stock is old. There are more professionals, a larger middle class, and it’s an aspiration for most people to have a nice home. When you combine all these things, I believe once we get mortgages in the 5%, 6% range, you’re going to see a very significant expansion in our industry. Mohawk is ready to capture that growth.” De Cock: Four impactful intros for retailers De Cock: Four impactful intros for retailers
PureTech PureTech
The LVP market in America is a huge market, but it’s not a very environmentally friendly product. What I’m super excited about is Mohawk is the only one that was able to take all the performance characteristics of LVP and make them sustainable, make them better looking than any LVP out there and make them more scratch resistant than any LVP out there. We pre-launched PureTech with eight SKUs six months ago; it’s doing phenomenal. They sell at value-oriented price points with a full water warranty, full performance warranty and full PET warranty. This is perfect for the new, younger consumer in the market. Now we are adding 16 more SKUs. Every product that we launch must have a technological differentiator that drives performance, a technological differentiator that drives aesthetics and a technological differentiator that drives sustainability. If we don’t have those three, we are not launching the product. WHAT RETAILERS ARE SAYING: WHAT RETAILERS ARE SAYING:
“This has it all. The whole scratch-resistant claim is a hell of a claim. I don’t think any other manufacturer has ever come up with something like: ‘If you scratch it we will replace it.’ “The sustainability aspect is more likely to come up sooner in the conversation with the younger customers. All things being equal, that will sway their decision if they like the product. Couple that with a full waterproof warranty and scratch warranty. Installers also like working with it because the RPC (renewable polymer core) is a lighter weight than the other SPCs.” — Michael Longwill,  AIRBASE CARPET MART, New Castle, Del. “[Gardiner] is absolutely beautiful, innovative and eco-friendly. Very realistic looking and easy to install. The price point is excellent where we can make a 40% margin. Eco is becoming more important; people are becoming more aware of the environment, more so the millennials. The scratch warranty adds more value to the customer and gives us more confidence selling the product knowing it’s more durable.” — John Yavari,  CARPETLAND OF VIRGINIA, with three locations in northern Virginia SolidTech Premier with Signature HDX SolidTech Premier with Signature HDX
There are two things in LVP that we can still improve. One is sustainability; that’s why we launched PureTech. The second is aesthetics. A lot of LVPs still have this plasticky feeling. So, we put our engineers to work and said, ‘Make LVP look like real wood,’ and this is the result. With this very special technology, when the light falls in you see this unique, multi-layered design. You can’t tell the difference from real wood. We are launching 14 SKUs. It has all the benefits of LVP with the highest level of definition and color detail in the industry. If you want the nicest-looking LVP, you will land on Signature HDX. If you want the most sustainable LVP, you’ll have PureTech. WHAT RETAILERS ARE SAYING: WHAT RETAILERS ARE SAYING:
“This is almost indistinguishable from real wood. LVP is such a big portion of the market now. To have one that does this good a job of looking like real wood can only help our business. I thought it was real wood until I stepped on it. Anything that fools me is certainly going to fool the customer.” — John Yavari , CARPETLAND OF VIRGINIA PETPremier PETPremier
This is our premium polyester carpet, which is really differentiated from anything in the market for three reasons. No. 1, it is the most sustainable offering because it’s made with recycled bottles. No. 2, it has the best pet and performance warranty in the business for any polyester carpet. No. 3, it has the best visuals. We’ve developed a special yarn with a special luster and special twist, and the combination of all that results in some absolutely gorgeous, very crisp product. It is very competitively priced and checks all the boxes. It is the combination of sustainability with performance and aesthetics. There are many products that make that same claim, but none checks all three boxes at a very good value price. It’s a compact proposal with 10 solids and multicolors. We didn’t go too big; we wanted to be purposeful and intentional and it’s just selling like hotcakes. What makes this unique is we bring the pet performance into polyester carpet, which offers many more value price points. Historically, in carpet, our pet performance was reserved for SmartStrand. WHAT RETAILERS ARE SAYING: WHAT RETAILERS ARE SAYING:
“PETPremier is priced right for what it is. The 45-55-ounce product has a nice feel to it and I liked the visuals, especially some of the tones.” — Paul Gardiner,  SUPERIOR FLOORS, Florida, N.Y. “I like the durability, and the price points and margins are great. There is more variety in colors than other pet products, which are mostly saxonys or plushes. These are multi-colored or textured, which gives a different look.” — Rob Smith,  RPS CARPET AND FLOORING WHOLESALERS, Baltimore Performance Accessories Performance Accessories
We are expanding this line to include everything you need to successfully install, maintain and finish a floor. It has everything you need to be successful—from the glues to the moldings to the underlayments to finishing materials, maintenance. We have it all. Everything that is visible and drives the aesthetics will be perfectly matched to the floor. In many cases, everything is color coordinated. We will be the first ones to launch matching staircases or stairs in all our wood, laminate and LVT products. So, it’s a huge transformation. WHAT RETAILERS ARE SAYING: WHAT RETAILERS ARE SAYING:
“Mohawk’s four-in-one kit gives you flexibility without having to order extra components that you might not need.” — Todd Oser,  OSER PAINT & FLOORING, Georgetown, Ky.