Kitchen designers have two new cabinetry brands to add to their repertoires today. After an 18-month "rebranding and reinvention process," Echelon Cabinetry and Advanta Cabinets have been born from the legacy Armstrong Cabinets brand, and a new design tool comes with them. In 2012, Armstrong World Industries sold its Armstrong Cabinets division to American Industrial Partners (AIP), which took the brand private. Since then, AIP changed to ACPI, and gave the Armstrong product line a thorough overhaul to create Echelon for homebuilders and remodelers. and Advanta for multifamily projects.

Brand Reinvention

"This was more than a brand launch for us internally," Steve Stephens told products editor Lauren Hunter in an interview on Friday. Stephens is vice president of marketing and business development for ACPI. "The business was in a state that needed to be re-evaluated because the marketplace was changing. Knowing that, we engaged in a massive undertaking of reconnecting with what's important to customers, and which customers we should focus on." The organization brought in a new executive team with experience from both inside and outside the building products industry. After conducting qualitative and quantitative end-user research, the new team set about refining the product line. "The first thing we did was remove non-productive SKUs, which reduced the overall Armstrong product line by 30%, "Stephens says. "That gave us a more effective platform to build from." To create the new brands, the team allowed some designs to be mixed and matched, while other products were "totally suited to and valued more on one side or the other," Stephens says. The availability of paints, stains, and glazes for the brands was also tweaked. "We wanted to have effective, optimized product lines for everyone."

New Design Tools

Found in ACPI's market research for Echelon was this little nugget: Of recent homebuyers and those in the market for a new home, 61% felt they would have made a different cabinetry decision if they could have better visualized their options. As such, part of the new launch includes the Echelon Cabinetry Visualizer, a web-based tool that will allow homeowners the opportunity to experiment with their kitchen design and make more informed choice. "The tool has some great features for a remodeler or a dealer," Stephens says. "You can choose from a variety of kitchen layouts and really mix and match product to see them coming together. Users can e-mail their selections back to the showroom before they even come in, which gives the designers time to focus more on elements like accessories and related products. The dealer still has an important role to play, but fundamentally it narrows down the choice, lets users see their options over and over again, and helps them become much more confident that they're able to visualize their selections."

Also on the design side, Stephens says he looks forward to seeing how the multifamily Advanta brand impacts Echelon down the line. "On the multifamily side, we work with a variety of architects, and we come across early detectors of what could become more mainstream," he says. For example, a multifamily customer in the Chicago area requested a lower-sheen version of an ACPI product as a complement to other non-cabinetry elements. Stephens says in-factory line deviations are more feasible on large-scale orders like those for multifamily, as compared with custom orders one kitchen at a time. "We get to see how people like it, and if it's a hit, the dealers are the next logical place to go," he says.

New Brands, New Promises

ACPI is focused on brand awareness as they bring Echelon and Advanta to market. Backing the introduction of Advanta (shown at right in the Novara door style) is a "delivered on-time, 100% complete" promise. CEO Nick Billig says the brand has invested heavily in capital equipment to "bring certainty to kitchen cabinet ordering." Echelon has also taken steps to ensure consistent lead times and 100% complete deliveries. Its product line-up features tiered good-better-best categories to simplify decision-making. "ACPI is proud to launch this new phase of our business," Billig says, "capitalizing on six decades of experience and a lot of work to re-energize the mission to deliver a superior kitchen cabinet experience for our customers and their customers.

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Chicago, IL.