Armstrong's hardwood flooring segment: a timeline
After two decades as the largest and one of the most influential wood flooring manufacturers in the industry, Lancaster, Pa.-based Armstrong Flooring completed the sale of its entire wood flooring segment to a private equity firm on Dec. 31, 2018, for $100 million.
The sale of its hardwood flooring business, which produced Armstrong Flooring, Bruce, Capella, HomerWood, T. Morton and Robbins wood flooring brands, came after three years of declines in hardwood flooring sales.
"The wood flooring industry has been impacted by changing market dynamics," Armstrong Flooring CEO Don Maier stated in the announcement of the sale, "and now is the right time to deepen our focus on LVT and other resilient flooring categories, where we are confident fundamentals remain strong for future growth."
The conglomerate of brands and six U.S. manufacturing facilities began a new era in January 2019 as AHF Products, a Lancaster, Pa.-based company formed by private equity firm American Industrial Products (AIP).
The following timeline traces Armstrong's rise to the top in the wood flooring industry and its eventual exit.
1978 – Triangle Pacific Corp. (Dallas), a cabinetry maker, buys Bruce Hardwood Floors (Dallas). Bruce would spend the '80s becoming the largest producer of residential hardwood flooring in North America.
1996 – Triangle Pacific buys Hartco Flooring Company (Knoxville, Tenn.), one of Bruce's biggest competitors, from Premark International for $63 million, according to Neil Moss, a former regional manager with Hartco and later with Armstrong. Premark had purchased Hartco in 1988 for $94 million and invested about $30 million building a new manufacturing facility prior to the sale to Triangle Pacific.
1997 – Completing a quick one-two punch, Triangle Pacific also buys the residential flooring operations of Robbins Inc. (Cincinnati) and Robbins-owned Searcy Flooring. The acquisition brings Triangle Pacific's U.S. market share to 46 percent, the company reported, with $653 million in revenue that year.
1998 – Armstrong World Industries (Lancaster, Pa.), a Fortune 100 company and a massive producer of sheet vinyl, buys Triangle Pacific for approximately $890 million and assumes about $260 million of the company's debt. Two weeks prior to the purchase, Armstrong had bought DLW, a major European hard-surface flooring manufacturer. After the acquisitions, the company's annual flooring revenue is estimated to be in excess of $2 billion.
2000 – Armstrong declares bankruptcy after litigation regarding its manufacture of asbestos during the 1960s. Triangle Pacific announces that it and its subsidiaries (Bruce, Hartco and Robbins) will not be impacted by the parent company's bankruptcy filing.
2006 – Armstrong purchases Capella Engineered Wood LLC (Vicksburg, Miss.) and HomerWood Hardwood Floors (Titusville, Pa.), with annual sales of $15 million and $26 million, respectively. Later in 2006, Armstrong's plan of reorganization is approved, and it emerges from bankruptcy six years after filing.
2007 – Armstrong expands Patriot Hardwood Floors and Supply Inc. (Wilmington, Mass.), a distributorship included in Armstrong's purchase of Triangle Pacific in 1998, into Connecticut, New York and parts of New Jersey. Patriot continues to service its existing territory in Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont. That same year, Armstrong launches its own distribution company, Armstrong NW LLC (Seattle), to distribute its products to specialty retail stores and flooring contractors in Washington, Oregon, Montana, Wyoming, Idaho and Alaska.
2009 – Armstrong lays off about 200 workers with plans to eliminate 425 positions in 2009, affecting plants in Jackson, Tenn.; West Plains, Mo.; Center, Texas; and Vicksburg, Miss. "The sales volume isn't there, and to stay viable as a business we must control cost," a spokesperson for the company says.
2010 – Armstrong lays off 260 workers at its hardwood flooring plant in Oneida, Tenn., and 60 at its plant in Center, Texas, citing a lack of demand in the residential market. The Oneida location (formerly a Hartco plant) shuts down its strip mill, finish line and yard operations.
2011 – The lack of demand continues, and the company announces more layoffs, this time of 116 employees at its wood flooring plant in Beverly, W.Va.
2012 – Armstrong sells Pompton Plains, N.J.-based distributor Patriot Flooring Supply Inc. (formerly Patriot Hardwood Floors and Supply Inc.) to Mansfield, Mass.-based distributor Belknap White Group. "Patriot distributes hardwood and laminate flooring, and we're in the business of making and marketing floors," Armstrong's flooring CEO Frank Ready says of the sale at the time.
2014 – Armstrong says it will exit DLW, its European flooring business purchased in 1998. Since 2007 Armstrong had invested $150 million in the company, which did not generate a profit. It also closes its engineered hardwood flooring facility in Kunshan, China, and relocates its operation to Somerset, Ky.
2015 – The company announces it will split its flooring business from its ceilings business and create two independent and publicly traded companies, with the ceiling business remaining Armstrong World Industries and the flooring segment operating under the name Armstrong Flooring.
2018 – Armstrong gives distributors increased responsibility for the marketing, merchandising and sales of its residential flooring products and cuts back on its in-house marketing. The reorganization leads to about 100 layoffs. Following declines in its wood floor sales, the company announces in November it will sell its wood flooring segment to AIP for $100 million in order to focus on its resilient flooring operations.
2019 – AIP establishes AHF Products, an independent wood flooring company that will take over the former Armstrong wood flooring segment and maintain its brands. Brian Carson, a former senior VP of operations for Armstrong World Industries and the former president of Mohawk Industries (Calhoun, Ga.), is named president and CEO. Carson announces he aims to launch a record number of new products and initiatives in the inaugural year of the standalone company.—R.K.