Quickstyle, which is celebrating their 25th anniversary this year, keeps on innovating. The company has recently unveiled a new product that has all the benefits to shake up the market. That new product is True Grout, a vinyl tile that mimic’s ceramic and wood flooring to perfection. Recently, we had the chance to sit down for an interview with Mike Alfieri, vice-president of the company, in which he told us more about True Grout.
Q: Recently, Quickstyle decided to get in the design, manufacturing and distribution of a new product, True Grout. Tell us more about how this new product came about.
Mike Alfieri: As a major player in the flooring industry, Quickstyle is going the distance to keep itself ahead of the pack. We are regularly visiting specialized and big box retail stores. In 2015, while analyzing what was being produced in the vinyl flooring industry and by doing further research on its characteristics, we discovered a high-quality product with a lot of potential but, unfortunately, missing that ‘’wow factor’’ regarding its design. Every vinyl tile on the market at that time was not really integrating grout, only perhaps a small V-joint.
Q: Is it exact to state that the key distinctive element in the product manufacturing resides in the grout?
A.: Yes. The whole process started with the intention of producing a tile that would be fabricated with a rectified “true” grout line. We then launched the R&D process that spanned over a year’s time. After dozens of tests made, especially regarding the cutting aspect in the production, we developed a system enabling the application of grout on the vinyl tile that would integrate in the vinyl. This revolutionary patented technology is by far, the most recent and notable innovation in the floor covering industry. It enables the direct integration of color in the grout. The product’s quality is such that it is virtually impossible to differentiate our product with real thing.
Q: Two years later, True Grout was born and patented. What are its principal features?
A: Our product is composed of a vinyl surface covered with a UV polyurethane membrane ultra-resistant to scuffing and scratching, built on a DFC core that is moisture and water resistant. The grout lines are perfect and look natural. Designs and colors span from the most popular wood essences, ceramic to travertine. Offered in planks and in tiles, True Grout can easily be installed in every room of a house. The installation does not require any glue whatsoever. Rather, it uses the latest Click system which is very easy to install.
Q: Is there any other characteristics that we should know about?
A.: Certainly. It’s wear layer from 0.5mm to 0.7mm is made with UV hardened polyurethane to offer the best protection against grooves and notches. Furthermore, it is important to note that True Grout is a PURE™ certified product exempt from all COVs and phthalates.
Q: What is the official date that you obtained the patent for True Grout?
A.: April 2018. It’s a CIP (Continuation in part) patent which will enable us to patent other products in other countries that are fabricated through the same process. (A CIP patent application is an application which contains new matter in conjunction with a previous patent application (parent application), and which was filed at a time when the parent application was pending.)
Q: Is it not exact to say that True Grout fabrication process is similar in some ways as engineered lumber?
A.: One could say that. Applying a layer on the top of a material’s solid core is a process that has used for a long time now. That being said, in our own process, which consists in integrating a grout on the principal material of the tile/plank, that’s new. Also, we are able to directly apply color into the vinyl. So if we cut the product, the color will be even throughout the tile. We could say in that regard, that we doubled the innovation.
Q: How many colors are currently offered?
A.: I would say around 70 SKUs are actually offered and we have 45 more currently in the pipeline.
Q: What is your vision for the marketing strategy of True Grout?
A.: Our product demonstration quickly convinced Rona L’Entrepôt, Lowe’s Canada and Réno-Dépôt to sign a supply agreement with us. We will start providing them with True Grout at the beginning of August this year. We expect a certain hype when we will officially launch the product on a big scale. It is important to note that Quickstyle also came up with an exclusive color pallet for the specialized markets, which represents about 25 to 30 SKUS distributed in 2017. In that regard, we noticed a strong continuation! Tree new product lines have been launched during the summer of 2018 that are designed solely for specialized flooring dealers.
Q: I’ve been told that you have been personally involved in the design and development of that new product. Is that true?
A.: That is correct.
Q: Is the R&D process opening the door to other products knowing that in your sector, innovation is the only way to go?
A.: Absolutely. We are currently working on a new generation of floor covering concepts, still using vinyl, that offers more flexibility in regards to the design, fabrication, and usage. For two years now, statistics have shown that there is a significant increase in vinyl demand on the market, notably for the laminated and ceramic vinyl. Vinyl is hotter, more comfortable, waterproof and more versatile than its counterparts. Quickstyle is dedicated to continually being a major part of the hype and a front-runner that others can look up to in the flooring industry.
Q: Can we expect more game-changing innovations?
A.: Yes, of course. The next release is scheduled to be this October.
Q: Let’s talk a little bit about the market, if you don’t mind. As we know, for the last ten years, market shares are almost exclusively gained by innovating. In its current state, the market is innovating at a frenetic pace which is only compounded by technology advancements enabling product refinement. Could True Grout serve as the catalyst to open new markets in new territories for Quickstyle, which is currently only operating in North America?
A.: Certainly. Quickstyle is currently selling products in Canada, from Newfoundland-Labrador to Vancouver and the United States. Many years ago, we started our operations in the north-east part of the United States to, then, move down south to Florida. Our products have been well received. We have been getting calls from a number of big players in the United States market and, after negotiations spanning over a five-month period, we finally signed a distribution agreement with one of them. Our technology, True Grout, is now offered in the United States on a large scale.
Q: That should create a significant momentum for Quickstyle. Does the company intend to capitalize on this excitement with a new announcement, a new product?
A.: Probably. We know that we are heading in the right direction. The increase in our quarterly sales can testify to this. We wish to maintain our momentum with other announcements. One of them will be in October and then, another will take place at The International Surface Event (TISE) in Las Vegas in January 2019. For now, we have new concepts in development for the upcoming two years! I call them concepts and not products because we don’t only sell products; Quickstyle sells an idea, a design, a vision.
Q: In your product development ideas, do you consider your environmental footprint? Are the concepts and products fabrication relying on processes allowing recycling for example?
A.: 100%. Every manufacturer with whom Quickstyle works with is ISO certified, and all of our products are FloorScore and CARB phase 2 standard certified. Every single product sold by Quickstyle, whether its vinyl, laminated or hardwood satisfy the the E0 and E1 standards. It is the result of a strong will and significant investment of money and time from Quickstyle and its partners. We notably use gas and liquid recycling processes for all of our machined products. Not only is it a commercial philosophy within Quickstyle, but it is also necessary if we want to sell our products in large retails stores such as Rona and Réno-Dépôt.
Q: To stay the top player in your market, is the business now considering changes in regard to its practices, website upgrade, etc.?
A.: The process we are currently engaged in, which is to constantly innovate and the diversify our portfolio requires that we rely on systems and a dynamic and efficient team. That being said, we don’t need to integrate any particular changes as we are engaged in that process on a daily basis.
Q: How would you describe the actual position of Quickstyle in the market?
A.: In the last 25 years, Quickstyle has gone from a simple distributor to a lot more. With our headquarters located in Saint-Laurent (Montreal), our offices and warehouses located in Toronto and our public warehouse located in Calgary, the business continues to distinguish itself from others in the traditional distribution sector by always keeping a close eye on new products and new opportunities. In the market’s current state, buying a product to simply resell it has become more difficult. We need to have a broader vision. That’s why our company is also a manufacturer. In all of our activities, we always set our sight on the mid-high range market. Quickstyle notably distributes vinyl floor covering, engineered, hardwood floor (Wickham floors), laminate (Kaindl), engineered wood, cork, soundproof underlays, moldings, and other accessories. It is of the utmost importance to distinguish yourself if you want to leave your mark.
Q; Especially in a context where the end-user has access to products from all around the globe…
A.: Absolutely. Today, everyone buys stuff from India, China, on Amazon, etc.
Q: The development of a vast range of products and concepts seems to be initiated from a gap to fill in the market. What is your opinion on that?
A.: Exactly. A lot of people and professionals in the industry are telling me that. When I visit retailer and trade shows, I really take time to observe, compare and think about concepts that could fill the consumer’s needs. What can we do different that offers a high-end product at an affordable price? That’s what I’m always asking myself.
Q: What is your opinion on the global market in its current state? The online market? The future of retail stores?
A.: First off, we need to distinguish the residential and the commercial market; both of them being separate. I heard the online market is gaining a lot of traction. That being said, it needs to be mentioned that it only concerns certain types of products that do not include floor coverings for now.
Q: Could it be because textures and colors that can hardly be evaluated from a screen?
A.: Exactly. Even though designers can choose their materials and colors, the distribution industry needs people on the spot that present the products, negotiate prices, etc. At the retail level, the market has changed for sure, but I do think that most consumers that are going to make significant investments, such as floor coverings, without taking the time to go in-store to see and touch the product themselves. That is not going to change anytime soon in my opinion.