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    Expert Column: Get on the Floor

    Green can go beyond a grocer's produce section

    By Thomas Ricciardelli, SelecTech Inc.
    Flooring solution at Daniel's Market in Santa Rosa, Calif.

    Traditionally, when grocers think of "greening" their operations, the floor might not be the first place to start. Installing more energy-efficient lights, recycling and other green efforts might seem to offer more noticeable benefits and savings (e.g., electricity bills decreasing by X percent by switching to energy-efficient light bulbs). Closer scrutiny of the financial benefits of green flooring will -- pardon the pun -- floor you by comparison.

    For starters, let's address the hesitancy most grocers have about changing flooring: installation time, or more specifically, downtime and disruption to traffic flows in the store. This is a valid point. Fortunately, there are new flooring technologies out there -- interlocking tiles, specifically -- that make installing a new floor possible without any disruption or downtime. These tiles, made from recycled materials, can be placed over existing tiles. Installation time is thereby dramatically reduced because there’s no need to remove the old floor, eliminating messy and environmentally unfriendly adhesives and excessive dust.

    Abounding Benefits

    With installation impacts minimized, the benefits of greener flooring via these newer technologies abound. For starters, the newer floors, through use of a seam sealer, are virtually seamless. This prevents dirt and spills from getting under the flooring, creating a breeding area for bacteria (not what you want in your produce section). Nothing can affect a grocer more than somebody getting sick after eating something from your store. This kind of green technology makes it much easier to keep your store cleaner and safer.

    In addition to being better environmentally, greener flooring tends to have more of a cushion and is more comfortable to stand on for long periods of time. This can drastically reduce workers' comp claims and sick days for staff, as the softer surface isn't as problematic for feet, legs and backs. It also mitigates injuries on the falls that do occur (e.g., a fall on a green floor results in a bruise, where a fall on a harder, older floor may cause a broken bone or sprain).

    Depending on the level of electronics used at your store, grocers may want to consider another kind of green flooring: electrostatic discharge (ESD) flooring. This type of flooring is conducive to the transmission of electronic data. This can help maintain the integrity of information kept on your store computers.

    Find and Replace

    Perhaps the greenest part of green flooring that uses this technology comes from a maintenance standpoint. For example, the commercial-grade flooring that our company sells has a 10-year commercial-grade warranty. If a tile is damaged, you replace the tile, not an entire floor or an entire area of the floor. Again, that’s with zero downtime, so you never need to compromise the look of your floor because of a few worn-out spots.

    The interlocking technology also opens up the potential for numerous marketing opportunities. Having your store's logo and branding on the floor becomes a matter of putting it on the tiles. Should a branded tile wear down or begin to fade, as in the previous example, you just replace it. This kind of convenience becomes even more practical if you own multiple locations.

    Supermarkets and grocery stores represent much more to a community than the place people go to buy food. They're hubs and gathering places where friends, families, neighbors and acquaintances meet. That's what makes them places that people want to feel good about. Opting for green flooring will make your customers feel better about their patronage, and you, the grocer, will feel like you’re doing the very best for your business and those customers.

    By Thomas Ricciardelli, SelecTech Inc.
    • About Thomas Ricciardelli Thomas Ricciardelli is the president of Avon, Mass.-based SelecTech Inc., a leader in the manufacture of innovative flooring products from recycled materials

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