By Nicole Murray
Laminate flooring remains a viable option for flooring retailers who can position the product category as a suitable choice for high traffic areas, for its ease of cleaning and maintenance, for offering a range of colors and designs that mimic stone and hardwood flooring, and for being easy to install and relatively affordable.
FCNews spoke with Mohawk executives and several retailers about proven selling strategies. Following are their recommendations on how to best present laminate to the customer.
Laminate vs. hardwood
There are consumers who walk into a retail showroom interested in purchasing hardwood flooring. But that doesn’t mean they cannot be persuaded to look elsewhere. “When we talk about the difference of laminate and hardwood flooring it is typically someone looking for hardwood who didn’t realize how expensive some of these hardwood products can be,” said Chris Green, owner of Great Southeast Flooring America in Melbourne, Fla. “Meanwhile, their budget is telling them they should be in the laminate category. That’s where we can tell them they can be in laminate and still get the same desired effect.”
A laminate floor with a walnut visual may fetch $3.99 a square foot—compared with $7 or $8 a square foot for a real hardwood walnut. Oftentimes, the customer cannot tell the difference between the laminate and hardwood, a testament to the technology advancements in laminate. It’s also important to point out that laminate flooring is appropriate for nearly every space in the home, including damp areas like bathrooms and basements, where solid hardwood is not recommended.
Mohawk executives subscribe to a different tactic. They advise retailers place their RevWood displays right next to real hardwood products, thereby creating a more level playing field. “We realize retailers may be a little hesitant to do that, but it goes back to simplifying the retailer’s shopping experience,” said Angela Duke, director of brand marketing, Mohawk. “Our research shows dealers should group all their wood products and wood-based products together, then take the consumer through her shopping journey based upon her performance requirements, lifestyle and then the benefits and features she is seeking.”
As Duke explains: “We know consumers, especially those with active families that have pets and kids, are looking for some type of performance product but still want the high-end wood look. Now we’re able to show them RevWood or RevWood Plus. Having them all grouped together is beneficial for the retailer.”
Mike Lekocaj, co-owner of Niko’s Import-Export, based in Macomb, Mich., follows Mohawk’s recommendation. “We have it right next to the wood section. The younger generation seems to like it; they don’t care as much if it is laminate or wood, as long as it looks good.”
Laminate vs. resilient
The popularity of LVT has hurt the laminate category to some degree. And while LVT has proven to be an amazing success story in the market, laminate has its advantages as well, retailers said. For one thing, laminate is greener than vinyl because the materials that go into laminate are primarily made of wood byproducts—96% of a laminate floor is made from wood and wood fibers. These sources are renewable, unlike other flooring products that tend to have high petro-chemical content.
Laminate vs. carpet
Before getting into the difference between the products, dealers may want to ask this question: “When do you plan on selling your home?” This is important because a well-manufactured laminate floor will hold its value longer than carpet. A quality carpet may last 10 years in a high-traffic household while a top laminate floor can last up to 30 years. Laminate is also easier to install than carpet and thus saves on labor costs.
Furthermore, laminate’s stain- and moisture-resistant surface coating makes spills and other messes easy to handle, which is another selling advantage over most carpet. There is also the advantage of superior indoor air quality: laminate flooring, does not trap dirt, dust or allergens, for example.
Laminate vs. ceramic
Similar to hardwood, customers at the high end will often desire ceramic or porcelain tile because of its durability and high-end look. But laminate has some distinct selling advantages over tile, retailers say: comfort underfoot, cleaning (laminate does not require grout, which facilitates cleaning and maintenance), and most importantly, the installation cost of laminate is a big difference. Not only are the laminate flooring sections smaller, designed to interlock and easier to work with, but laminate floors can also be floated. This saves considerable time and installation cost, experts say, making it more seamless for the customer.