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    Better Basics

    Advances in supermarket ceilings and floors yield savings, improved store ambiance.

    By Bob Ingram

    With the increased pace of retail life, food marketers need floor and ceiling solutions that coordinate with their fast-track construction schedules and/or reduce downtime during remodels and renovations. They also need floors and ceilings that are durable, perform well, cost less and are more easily maintained.

    ?Grocery stores rely heavily on the appeal of visual merchandising,? notes Mike J. Penney, national sales manager, commercial strategic accounts at Lancaster, Pa.-based Armstrong World Industries. ?Every facet, from the signage to the fixtures, should support the brand image. Flooring and lighting are about the main tools a designer has for creating an environment in a supermarket grocery aisle.?

    Armstrong, according to Penney, works with retailers and store designers to select flooring in colors and patterns that coordinate with a store?s design scheme; establish a warm, rich atmosphere; help define departments; perform well in each area; arrive on time; and are simple to install and maintain.

    He adds that Armstrong?s most popular supermarket flooring is luxury vinyl tile (LVT), which combines the best of durability, technology and design. The VCT (vinyl composition tile) portfolio offers size options including Stonetex 18 by 18 inches and RAFFIA in 12-by-24-inch tile, while still offering the more traditional 12-by-12-inch option.

    In 2007, Armstrong introduced Migrations bio-based tile (BBT). The company?s unique BioStride polymer contains rapidly renewable U.S.-grown plant materials, 10 percent recycled content and 85 percent limestone. The BBT line was expanded to include Striations BBT, a collection of stylish non-PVC tiles featuring a unique 12-by-24-inch linear format design that enables a multitude of interior options when planning a space.

    ?While we have seen some shifts to alternative products,? concludes Penney, ?luxury vinyl tile still shows the strongest growth and is the ideal product for the grocery store application. We continue to see improved color and design and new modular formats that allow for unique designs within the grocery segment. We see continued interest in bio-based tile as well.?

    Longer Life Cycle

    At Dur-A-Flex Inc., in East Hartford, Conn., Dan Voss Sr., regional manager, team leader, south region, says, ?Supermarkets will continue to differentiate themselves, and floors will continue to be a large part of this differentiation.?

    Voss sees the life cycle of the flooring system and the associated maintenance costs as the two key challenges relating to supermarket floors. ?Many supermarket entities would historically choose a flooring system based on initial cost,? he says, ?and not pay as much attention to the life cycle of the floor ? how long the floor will last ? or the maintenance and repair of the flooring system over time. With the increased data on the life cycle of flooring products available, as well as the actual cost over, say, a 20- to 25-year period, supermarkets are choosing to differentiate themselves with long-lasting products that will look good over a long period of time and consequently have very low maintenance costs.?

    According to Voss, Dur-A-Flex?s most popular supermarket floors are acrylic or MMA (methyl methacrylate monomer) flake systems for the sales floor and poly-crete or urethane cement for the back of the house. Also in demand are hybrid systems employing a highly moisture-tolerant urethane cement self-leveling base with decorative flake or quartz broadcasts and MMA topcoats.

    ?The technology in our industry has changed quite dramatically over the past 10 to 15 years,? Voss says. ?There used to be a one-size-fits-all mentality. This is no longer the case. We can now offer systems that can be installed over very green or fresh concrete, can resist high levels of moisture in a slab, can resist high levels of thermal shock and impact, and will resist chemical attack.?

    Many of Dur-A-Flex?s flooring products, he says, provide LEED credits associated with rapid renewables and low-emitting volatile organic compounds (VOCs), as well as recyclable containers and, in some cases, regional materials.

    Hitting the Ceiling

    Supermarket ceilings face numerous challenges, acknowledges Deb Peer, commercial sales manager at Neenah, Wis.-based ACP. ?Food and health guidelines must be adhered to,? she notes. ?Moisture-causing mold and mildew are always present. Our Genesis waterproof ceiling tiles will not absorb moisture, eliminating health concerns.?

    Regular maintenance can create disruption, continues, Peer, but because Genesis ceiling tiles don?t need to be replaced, disruption becomes a nonissue. ?An additional benefit [is] a reduction in resources required to perform maintenance,? she says.

    In addition to Genesis ceiling tiles, ACP produces GridMax snap-on ceiling covers. ?GridMax ceiling grid covers offer a low-cost alternative to ceiling grid replacement,? Peer says. ?These high-grade vinyl covers easily install over existing metal grids, come in many colors, and require minimal time investment compared to other refurbishment solutions.?

    She says that in addition to helping preserve the environment ? Genesis ceiling panels are 100 percent locally recyclable ? no special landfill or recycling fees are required when disposing of old tiles.

    ?We anticipate a continued movement toward environmentally friendly ceiling products,? Peer asserts. ?Health codes and building regulations will continue to play an important role as well. Creating a favorable experience for store guests will become increasingly important to create differentiation within the marketplace.?

    A Light From Above

    ?Light-emitting diode (LED) technology is at the forefront of recent and ongoing innovations in supermarket ceiling lighting,? says David Kaminski, brand manager, Lumination Indoor LED Systems at GE Lighting, in East Cleveland, Ohio. ?And LED is now available at lower price points that are even more attractive to end users, helping to further increase adoption rates.?

    Kaminski believes that in the future, ?not only will lighting be thought about in terms of illuminating a space, but also as a core component in the overall holistic retail design, brand and image that ultimately contributes to consumer purchasing behaviors.?

    ?Supermarkets are choosing to differentiate themselves with long-lasting products that will look good over a long period of time and consequently have very low maintenance costs.?
    ?Dan Voss Sr., Dur-A-Flex Inc.

    ?We anticipate a continued movement toward environmentally friendly ceiling products. Health codes and building regulations will continue to play an important role as well.?
    ?Deb Peer, ACP

    By Bob Ingram
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