January 5/12, 2015; Volume 28/Number 14
By Ken Ryan
If a rising tide lifts all boats, then perhaps the same truism can be applied to the vinyl category: The great success of luxury vinyl tile has raised the profiles of other vinyl products as well, notably the sheet category.
According to top executives, including Paul Murfin, co-CEO of IVC US, and Dan Natkin, senior director, residential products, Mannington, sheet vinyl has shown “nominal” (i.e., single-digit) growth in 2014. And while it may pale in comparison to the growth seen by LVT, sheet is still growing and has many viable applications, both residentially and commercially.
“Sheet continues to be one of the best values and is a practical product for PM [property management] markets,” said Rachel Lombardo, general manager, residential vinyl sheet, Armstrong.
Murfin went a step further, calling sheet “the best value in the business. For the young consumer out there who has no preconceived notion of what flooring is or does, and who is simply looking to put an attractive floor in her home, sheet is a great option.”
Natkin said sheet is an inexpensive remodel product that is ideal for people who are looking to spruce up their homes before selling it. “It remains a very viable product category. As a price/value proposition, it is probably the most affordable flooring category with the exception of carpet—and it is way more durable than carpet.”
Sheet has also gained momentum in commercial projects. As per Alan Fennell, director of hard surfaces, Beaulieu Commercial, “From a commercial viewpoint, due to the unprecedented success of LVT over the past number of years, clients are paying more attention to vinyl flooring options in general, and sheet vinyl is benefiting from this vinyl resurgence. Sheet has also improved dramatically in terms of visuals, quality and environmental aspects over the past number of years.”
Lombardo said the flooring market is being driven by products that install easier and faster, and, as such, sheet has become a viable option. “Sheet is a very practical product with high ease of installation and repair, and makes for an attractive alternative to flooring with the attention to high-end design.”
In terms of segments within sheet vinyl, Murfin noted that fiberglass would grow while felt is “relegated” to the single-family builder market that is driven by habit and price.
Seizing marketing opportunities
In residential projects, home renovations of bathrooms, kitchens and basements are the primary areas where sheet is being installed. “Comfort underfoot, warmth and sound reduction are the main reasons sheet vinyl is seeing some resurgence in the residential space,” said Sophie-Tanya Lupien, vice president of marketing, residential, Beaulieu Canada. “Some of the newer visuals are amazing and very easy to maintain.”
Healthcare—including assisted-living facilities—is the biggest market for resilient flooring products on the commercial end, with sheet goods strongest in this particular sector. The reason, executives explained, is because of the specific and demanding performance requirements of the health care space. This has allowed a flexible, durable and green product like sheet—especially homogenous sheet—to make significant inroads. Homogeneous sheet is primarily intended for use in commercial and light commercial buildings, and is frequently installed in healthcare facilities because of its superior durability and high resistance to wear, cuts and stains. Additionally, the seams can be welded to seal out germs and moisture.
“We have been gaining market share in sheet because we are telling a story about the benefits of the product,” said Jeremy Salomon, senior product and marketing manager for the Johnsonite division of Tarkett. “You can use homogenous sheet in most every application. We are testing and pushing the boundaries of homogenous, and we are gaining a lot of market share as others chase LVT.”
Property managers are gravitating to sheet because the product performs at a value while being the most water friendly and clean alternative product available, Lombardo noted.
At Surfaces, Tarkett/Johnsonite will introduce a new line of Acczent heterogeneous sheet products, more than doubling the number of SKUs in the collection. Salomon said Tarkett/Johnsonite is taking advantage of the style and design capabilities of its Tandus Centiva company to enhance the visuals found in Acczent. “Synergies with Tandus Centiva certainly give us a leg up on the competition in terms of design, and we are telling that design story.”
Mannington has invested in state-of-the-art printing, texturing and finishing technology to create more realistic visuals in developing Luxury Vinyl Sheet; its big introduction was at Surfaces 2014. “We are reinventing the category a bit,” Natkin said. “We improved the number of dots of ink we can get into a square inch through a high-definition print technology that creates a much higher level of realism than ever before. With that we brought in our expertise in other printing categories and leveraged our expertise in wood and porcelain to get ideas for sheet.”
In conjunction with the LVS launch, Mannington introduced a selling system that was a step up to a good/better/best program, which has historically been commonplace in carpet but not vinyl. In 2015, Mannington will offer that same selling system with the launch of new felt-backed sheet products.
IVC made a big push in sheet in 2014 as well, revamping its Flexitec program (8 x 16 formats totaling 170 SKUs) with new styles and designs, as well as a good/better/best option, and introducing an entire new line through CCA Global Partners. “Most of our activity in sheet is what we harvested in 2014,” Murfin said. “We’re doing new development work now that might be introduced in late 2015, and it has the potential to take sheet to the next level.”
In addition, Beaulieu Canada said it will show 55 new sheet vinyl SKUs during Surfaces.