Q&A with Gail Alcock, Product Director

How did you start your career?

I started as a part-time receptionist in May 1998. Since then, I have progressed through a range of roles including customer service, internal sales, regional external sales and national account manager, eventually becoming a Product Director. I’m so grateful for the opportunity and when I look back, I still can’t believe that over 24 years later I’m now at this level working for a fantastic brand.

Why are Malmo™’s products better than your competitors’ products?

Malmo™ luxury vinyl tile (LVT) was initially conceived as a ‘challenger brand’ to the longer established market players, and in just a few years has gone from strength to strength, driven by its ethos of design innovation. We now offer a total of 57 decors across stickdown and rigid click formats that offer a high-performing and creative flooring solution for any environment.

A key to our success has been continued investment in product innovation, the latest development being the application of an Aluminium Oxide coating as standard across the entire collection of Malmo™ Freedom Stickdown designs which increases the flooring’s slip resistance to +36 PTV, low risk in wet areas. This feature is usually reserved for safety flooring where design choice can be quite limited, but we wanted to offer our customers a design-led flooring suitable for use in any environment, including those where safety is a priority.

What one piece of advice do you wish you could give all flooring contractors?

Make sure you are aware of the environment that the flooring is going into and ensure the surface floor chosen is the right one for the customer’s requirements.
For example, when it comes to LVT, stickdown is ideal for installing in kitchens as cabinetry and island units can be placed on top of the flooring without risk of movement or contraction. It is also more stable to variations in temperature than its rigid counterparts, so is a good choice near bi-fold and patio doors and in conservatories. Rigid LVT may be a better choice when working in tricky or restricted spaces such as around sanitaryware and underneath doors in bathrooms because the joints need less positioning space. Understanding these technical features is key to a good flooring installation.

What’s the worst flooring installation you’ve seen, and why?

I’ve seen a few over the years but one that sticks in my mind is a wood floor that caused tremendous damage to the structure of a house. It had expanded into a bay window area and made the wall collapse. Needless to say, it was a very expensive fix!

Who, outside your company, do you most admire in the industry?

I admire lots of people within the industry so it would be unfair to single out any one individual. We have some fantastic talented and knowledgeable people within the flooring sector, but it’s also important that we continue to invest in the next generation of flooring professionals.

What’s the secret to a successful flooring installation?

It’s important for retailers and installers to get to know their customers and their lifestyle to determine whether they are they choosing the right floor for their environment. For example, in a busy family home LVT might be a more practical choice than its real wood, ceramic or stone counterparts due to its durability and easy maintenance qualities. Installers need to ask themselves whether they’re offering their customer their forever floor.

And what’s the secret to creating a successful flooring product?

When it comes to design, a successful flooring product should offer a mix of traditional and trend-led decors to appeal to all customer tastes. Traditional floors never age but they must also keep up with the new technical innovations within the flooring world.

What worries you most about the challenges facing the industry?

The biggest challenge we face is ensuring a future talent pool. We need to encourage more young people into the profession and to see the benefits of learning a trade. It’s a physical job to lay a floor and it can be demanding, but it’s also rewarding to play a part in installing a product that can be there for years.
There’s also a lack of specialisms among some flooring fitters which can affect the innovations in design being driven into the industry. For example, chevron, herringbone and hexagonal flooring designs require a level of specialist installation and are not often attempted by the DIY market. We need to keep passing on the skills of specialist installation to the younger generations to ensure we have a constant pipeline of skilled installers with the expertise to fit all types of flooring.

What in your opinion is the most important characteristic of a successful flooring contractor?

Being able to listen and communicate well is key. It’s also important to be able to accept change and adapt to the innovative new products coming through and understand what the benefits of these changes are.

In today’s economic climate, what’s the biggest threat to your company’s profitability?

It is vitally important that we continue to invest in good environmental and sustainable manufacturing practices, but at the same time this does have an impact on costs, from materials to transport. All Malmo™ products offer Greenguard, Floorscore and ISO9001 and ISO14001 certification and in our manufacturing processes we aim to use minimal amounts of energy and keep emissions to the lowest possible levels.

The industry as a whole has a duty to continue to invest in sustainability as it’s important to protect this wonderful world for future generations.

In what state is the flooring industry emerging from Covid-19, in your opinion?

The flooring industry grew during the pandemic as homeowners found the time, and financial means, to invest in their homes. Malmo™ emerged strongly as LVT chimed with consumers’ desire for products that helped their homes be safe, stylish and easy to look after. Unlike grouted tiles or wood floors, LVT delivers a very smooth and streamlined surface that is very easy to clean and does not require any ongoing maintenance such as re-sealing. LVT also goes hand in hand with the trend for people to create light-filled rooms and bring the outdoors in with free-flowing open spaces. With no expansion gaps or door profiles required, it is highly stable to deal with the temperature variations from direct sunlight and deliver a streamlined design look.

Of course, we’re all facing very different challenges now, but I think the desire for people to invest in their homes as a place of safety and enjoyment will continue and LVT offers a stylish, hardwearing and long-lasting flooring material.

How does the industry solve the problem of no new blood coming through the ranks?

We need to instil in the younger generation that it’s OK not to be an academic whizz. You can achieve your goals with non-academic training and at the same time develop better social and emotional skills. Communication is key……..says the sales lady!

Does your company do a good job helping contractors when products go wrong?

Most definitely. We will always investigate and advise why the problem has occurred. We all want a satisfied customer at the end of the day.

What would you tell a contractor who complained about sustainable products costing them more money?

Do you have children, nieces, nephews or grandchildren? If so, would you like to keep the world a brighter place or as dark as the earth you will be in one day?

If you weren’t in the flooring industry, what would you be doing?

Something that keeps me in front of people, talking, caring, sharing and meeting new faces.

What is your favourite flooring installed in your home?

I bought an old house seven years ago and upon removing the carpet in the lounge and hallway I found a beautiful teak parquet floor. I paid to restore it back to its beautiful self and I love it. It was well worth the investment.

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