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My take: The numbers don’t lie

June 26-July 2, 2018: Volume 34, Issue 1

By Steven Feldman

 

After literally months of combing through industry statistics and making countless phone calls, the 2017 statistics are in. As you have already read, unless you habitually begin your read with this column, FCNews pegged floor covering industry sales for 2017 to be a shade under $22 billion as well as 19.736 billion square feet, resulting in gains of 3.85% and 3.2%, respectively. While we are quite confident in these projections, it is more than probable that other industry forecasts will be slightly different.

First, some reports contain sales of stone flooring. I have seen some reports that have estimated the stone category to be around $1 billion. Stone includes marble, granite, travertine, slate, etc., which have uses beyond flooring. To this point, I don’t know if anyone has pinpointed whether a square foot of stone is used on the floor or a countertop, indoors or outdoors, or even a statue. Until I am comfortable with something more than anecdotal, it is not included.

Another part of the floor covering world not included in this report is polished concrete. Can concrete actually be considered floor covering? Or is it flooring? Or does it matter? There are people who tell me the polished concrete business is bigger than anyone in our industry appreciable business in the category with
wants to admit. Is it even part of our industry? It requires a completely different skill set to sell and install, and I don’t know how many of our readers are actually involved in the category.

Now, when it comes to ceramic tile, you may see that number somewhat larger in other reports. That’s because other reports are likely to include wall tile. Today, so much of ceramic can be used interchangeably on the floor or wall. We have reached out to many knowledgeable industry insiders, and the feeling is floor tile represents about 75% of the total ceramic number, give or take. So that’s what we use.

Likewise, our rubber numbers include only tile and sheet flooring. Last year we made the decision to eliminate cove base, accessories, stair treads, etc. We revised our numbers back five years to reflect this change. So that $217.4 million encompasses what we are seeking to identify.

Arguably the most difficult category to nail down accurately is resilient. There is so much that constitutes the segment: residential and commercial sheet, LVT and now WPC. You also have VCT and the inexpensive peel-and-stick tile sold primarily at home centers.

But FCNews has taken a unique approach these past few years. I personally call every manufacturer that does any appreciable business in the category with the caveat that I promise confidentialityto the point where we will not even publish market-share information. We don’t request numbers down to the penny, but just enough insight on the respective categories. The manufacturers agree to share proprietary information: residential vs. commercial; LVT vs. sheet; felt vs. fiberglass; dryback, click and loose-lay; VCT; and, of course, WPC and rigid core. For this year, we kept WPC and rigid core together; next year we will separate the two segments.

Everyone is constantly guessing the size of each resilient segment. Now you have reliable numbers. Are they exact to the dollar? No. Are they as good as anything out there? For sure. And for the record, WPC/rigid was around $950 million last year with an average selling price of $1.95. (Since I am asked that question at least once a week by someone.)

The only variable is the import and “other” LVT number. This is the piece we estimate. There are a lot of companies doing between $2 million and $10 million in LVT; it would be impossible to talk to each and every one of them. But we are able to arrive at that number with a high degree of confidence.

Enjoy the accuracy of this report.