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Executive forecast: Laminate—Enhancements aim to level the playing field

December 10/17, 2018: Volume 34, Issue 14

By Reginald Tucker


As WPC and rigid core products continue to generate interest among consumers—while seizing share from competing hard surface categories—laminate flooring producers are not sitting idly by. Many suppliers are launching innovations of their own in areas such as water resistance, durability and eye-catching aesthetics.


Roger Farabee
president, wood & laminate

What is your projection for the growth of the category next year? We see the category growing in that 2% to 3% range.

What are the growth projections for your company in particular in 2019? We plan on exceeding the overall category growth.

What end-use segments and/or products will fuel this growth? We have been very strong in the home center segments, but now we’re actually seeing more growth at specialty retail.

Cite a few major company initiatives for 2019. Continued investment in the category. Many retailers are realizing they have an alternative to rigid vinyl that many customers prefer. They’re much more affordable, have better visuals and better waterproof properties.

Identify the “X” factor that will impact business in 2019. Ongoing pressure from LVT and WPC will continue to impact the laminate category. But we are committed to investing in this product segment.

Where do you see the greatest opportunities? We launched our first range of products using our GenuEdge pressed bevel technology, and we’re augmenting that in Mohawk and Quick-Step with additional platforms using the same technology with a milled bevel edge.


Drew Hash
Vice president, hard surface portfolio management
Shaw Floors

What is your projection for the growth of the category next year? We predict units will probably be down again, but dollars may be up slightly.

What are the growth projections for your company in particular in 2019? We expect to be up in dollars in the low single-digit range.

What end-use segments and/or products will fuel this growth? Definitely in the single-family arena, and that’s across multiple areas of the home. Consumers are becoming more comfortable placing the product in areas previously off limits to laminate.

Cite a few major company initiatives for 2019. We expect to launch a lot more longer/wider products and do more things, design-wise, that we haven’t seen before.

Identify the “X” factor that will impact business in 2019. The laminate category has done some things to make sure it can participate in the moisture-resistance story. Retailers are selling better, thicker, more moisture-resistant products.

Where you see the greatest opportunities? Definitely better end goods. Our business is heavily weighted toward specialty retail. To that end, we expect to see more activity in the 12mm product range as opposed to the 7mm to 8mm range.


Dan Natkin
Vice president, hardwood and laminate

What is your projection for the growth of the category next year? Flat to low single digit decline.

What are the growth projections for your company in particular in 2019? Slightly above market rate.

What end-use segments and/or products will fuel this growth? Continued demand in new home construction and some retail demand.

Cite a few major company initiatives for 2019. Expansion of our award- winning SpillShield technology.

Identify the “X” factor that will impact business in 2018. As in all other categories—the economy.

Where you see the greatest opportunities? Continuing to sell the total features and benefits package of laminate vs. selling on a single attribute: waterproof.


Derek Welbourn

What is your projection for the growth of the category next year? We see the laminate category growing slightly (2% to 3%) as a total for 2019.

What are the growth projections for your company in particular in 2019? We continue to experience strong growth for our business as we claim share of the laminate segment.

What end-use segments and/or products will fuel this growth? We expect to see continued growth in our laminate lines along with Sono, our new German innovation in the rigid core waterproof market.

Cite a few major company initiatives for 2019. We have a new technology for our Sono product line that we will be bringing to market in 2019. We have invested in digital printing technology that we feel is category changing. 

 Identify the “X” factor that will impact business in 2018. The markets will continue their fast and furious pace of change in 2019 and beyond. We don’t try to be all things to all people; we choose to focus only on the products we can truly be experts in and add value to our customers.

 Where you see the greatest opportunities? The innovation of water resistance and continued focus on style and design complemented by low cost continue to assist laminate in holding its own.

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Laminate: Category fights back against onslaught of WPC

September 17/24, 2018: Volume 34, Issue 7

By Reginald Tucker


The proliferation of WPC and rigid-core products on the marketplace has had a two-fold effect in the industry: It has generated tremendous excitement for retail sales associates and consumers alike, but it has also resulted in market-share losses of competing categories—namely laminate, observers say.

But that doesn’t mean laminate suppliers are not fighting back. Many are responding to the competitive pressures wrought by WPC by developing performance-enhancing innovations that take direct aim at the main attributes offered by WPC products, specifically resistance to water incursion. At the same time, laminate suppliers are promoting the category’s value proposition relative to WPC-type products.

“The laminate flooring industry is in a good place,” said Derek Welbourn, CEO, Inhaus. “It continues to enhance its core value proposition—which is a great looking floor that won’t let you down on performance.”

Unfortunately, according to Welbourn, sometimes laminate is overlooked when consumers talk about the hottest trends in the industry today. On the plus side, the improvements manufacturers have made in the way of moisture resistance and durability are still drawing consumer interest while helping them address performance and design challenges.

“Ever since the change in core construction from particleboard to high-density fiberboard in the 1990s, laminate has stood up well to moisture,” Welbourn stated. “But now through innovation, this feature has been enhanced.”

Advanced technological innovation is at the heart of recent laminate product launches, such as Mohawk’s RevWood Plus. According to Adam Ward, senior director of wood and laminate, the company created RevWood Plus to deliver the look and feel of authentic hardwood but provide the toughness and durability associated with laminate flooring. “With RevWood Plus, we have taken performance to the next level,” Ward said. “The combination of Hydroseal, GenuEdge bevel technology and the Uniclic glueless system makes a complete waterproof system. The end result is a product that’s much easier for the consumer to maintain.”

Other industry executives tout laminates’ storied durability as a feature that allows the category to compete head to head with WPC. “We have been big believers in water-resistant laminate since we launched our Atroguard line in 2013,” said Barron Frith, president, CFL North America. “Water-resistant laminate is far from new for CFL. The ‘bulletproof’ reputation has proven to be a big positive for us since we launched Atroguard.”

As Frith sees it, more consumers looking for a floating flooring product are presented with the choice between vinyl products (LVT, WPC or other multi-layer products) and water-resistant laminate. When consumers started shifting toward more waterproof vinyl categories, he said, they did so without really realizing they were accepting a product that fell short in terms of scratch resistance—a plus in the laminate column. “No special coatings currently in the market on vinyl comes near the performance of a laminate in terms of scratch resistance,” he noted.

Amidst the onslaught of WPC-type products, some industry observers believe some laminate flooring suppliers have overcompensated by inflating product claims. “Without a doubt, the single biggest challenge is the ‘waterproof craze’ in our industry, particularly at independent retailers,” said Dan Natkin, president of the North American Laminate Flooring Association (NALFA) and vice president of wood and laminates, Mannington. “Most laminate is moisture resistant, and multiple manufacturers are developing new technologies to make the product nearly impervious to liquids.”

If looks could kill

While much-improved performance attributes are the primary means many laminate, suppliers are employing to recoup market share seized by WPC and rigid-core offerings, it’s not the only weapon in their arsenal. Manufacturers are also raising the stakes with respect to visuals and texture enhancements.

In Mannington’s case, Natkin cites the company’s award-winning Restoration collection, which grew by double digits in 2018. Among the top-selling visuals in the collection: Arcadia, Hillside Hickory and Fairhaven—all light rustic visuals that mimic real wood.

Wood visuals are also the rage at the Mohawk camp. Among its top-selling laminate looks, according to Ward, are Antique Craft, a 9 ½-inch wide x 7-foot-long plank that plays on the growth of wider/longer in the wood category. Another big mover is the Elderwood collection, a 7 ½-inch-wide product that replicates sawn-face oak.

“The level of realism you can get in a laminate product still beats what you can get in other categories, such as ceramic and LVT and rigid core products,” Ward explained. “Over the last couple of years, laminate designs have really evolved from what we’ve seen in years past.”

At Shaw Floors, two of its most popular laminate collections are Pinnacle Port and Designer Mix. The former boasts light scraping to provide a natural texture and combines the beauty of wood visuals with the REPEL water and scuff-resistant technology. Designer Mix features the on-trend visual appeal of differing plank widths. Products come in three variations of plank widths in a single box, allowing consumers to design the overall look of their spaces.

Clark Hodgkins, director of hardwood and laminate categories, Shaw, called out the Alloy line in particular. “It’s a stunning gray-tone wood look that works in any space. Its on-trend design and three-color visual variation, combined with the features of our Designer Mix product line, make it a stand out.”

CFL’s Frith points to the strides his company has made in the visuals department. “From a design standpoint, Atroguard puts a tremendous amount of effort in developing stunning, in-house design visuals using the specifics of laminate to really bring out something special. That includes experimenting with varying lengths or random widths within one box or developing designs from different wood species used within one product. Our biggest advantage is the number of unique visuals we offer within a given pattern, making it very realistic and hard to see repeats once the floor is installed. With vinyl or WPC products, this is technically more difficult to achieve.”

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Selling: Increasing sales prospects via key product placement

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.

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Selling: Tried-and-true tips boost sales

By Nicole Murray

With big-box stores continuing to leverage their size, scale and value-driven product offerings, specialty flooring retailers are looking for ways to differentiate themselves and compete on factors other than price per square foot.

Following are proven tips retailers have employed in boosting their laminate sales.

Tip #1: Emphasize laminate’s performance advantages. Thanks to innovations in coreboard technology, the latest batch of laminate floors are touting moisture resistance—specifically against common occurrences such as spills, pet accidents, etc. More importantly, these advanced products translate into step-up products that offer higher margins over entry-level floors.

Jon Dauenhauer, co-owner of Carpet World, Bismarck, N.D., emphasizes the product’s performance by conducting water-resistant demonstrations near his laminate displays. “We have a demo board set-up that proves the product is impermeable to moisture. It is an easy segue into assuring her that she does not have to worry about the dropped ice cube or dog dish spilling.”

Tip #2: Merchandise accordingly. Position step-up products prominently in the showroom while deemphasizing entry-level options. That’s the advice from successful retailers like Jeff Firkus, account manager of Contract Interiors, St. Paul, Minn. “You want the customer to experience the products on your showroom floor but have to seek out the cheaper options tucked away in a book,” he explained. “She may fall in love with a more expensive option that you can prove has the visuals comparable to the real products because it is directly in front of her.”

Tip #3: Keep sales staff informed. The importance of continuously educating and training your staff cannot be overstated. Sales teams must have knowledge of the various laminate products, so they can effectively communicate the attributes and advantages.

“I am always encouraging my staff to learn as much as possible, because there is always going to be a new collection to learn about,” said Tammy Whitley, owner of World of Floors, Grayling, Mich. “I want them speaking with the reps, reading the magazines and attending the seminars.”

Tip #4: Promote your best sellers. Aligning your store with trusted, reputable laminate brands goes a long way in establishing credibility with the consumer, experts say. “I only put quality on my floor so well-known names are my go-to products,” said Matt Fuhr, owner of Carpets Plus Outlet, Kenosha, Wis. “If you can’t trust what you put on your own floor, why should consumers?”

Tip #5: Listen for cues from the customer. Before recommending a product, find out more about how she plans to utilize the space. For example, does she have pets in the home? Or maybe she plans on installing the floor in a high-traffic area.

“Laminate is a cost-effective product that requires low maintenance but can handle a lot of abuse,” Fuhr explained. “This product can be confidently suggested for many situations involving high-risk factors such as pets and kids. With laminates, she will know her family is receiving the best option.”

Tip #6: Look for add-on opportunities. When going out to the job site to take measurements, it’s a good opportunity to scout out adjoining rooms that might need flooring. This is helpful in homes that feature open floor plans as they allow a particular pattern or design to continue seamlessly without the use of transition strips or moldings.

“You want to avoid a consumer even considering the use of transitions by offering them an alternative solution,” Firkus said.

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Merchandising: Simple (but effective) ways to display laminate

By Nicole Murray

The various techniques used to merchandise laminate can have a direct correlation to product sales, observers say. Different showroom design tactics can be utilized to provide an easier shopping experience for customers as well as a more effective sales process for retail sales associates.

“It is an overwhelming process, and it is our job to simplify it,” said Rick Oderio, owner of Conklin Bros, San Jose, Calif. “Consumers can easily be inundated by the various amount of options, so it is important to narrow down their choices with clean, yet aesthetically pleasing displays.”

Listening closely to customer feedback is a huge factor in determining which products to display on the showroom floor. As Oderio explained: “At one time we brought in some inexpensive laminates, but our customer base made it clear that they want Mohawk products and the sales show for itself. The major manufacturers are successful for a reason, so relying on their visually appealing displays have proven to be a success.”

Pair like products together

Retailers suggest merchandising laminate products among similar categories as opposed to being placed next to competing segments like wood, because consumers are usually shopping for a specific visual as opposed to certain product types. “People are quicker to tell me the specific look they want but are commonly clueless of which overall product type best fits their situation,” said Fred Wee, owner of Interiors & Textiles, Palo Alto, Calif. His advice? “Let their lifestyle and desired price point determine product selection, and then use the information you have to make the best suggestions.”

Experts say laminate products should be displayed side by side so customers can visibly see and feel the difference between the various colors, patterns and textures available. “There are so many different options for various design capabilities, so having the products displayed side by side can help with narrowing down their final choice,” Wee explained. “For example, let them decide upon a color, and then browse the various textures and shades of the colors available. It is a visual process of elimination.”

Go big or go home

John Dauenhauer, owner of Carpet World in Bismarck, N.D., recommends dealers employ larger samples to give the consumers the opportunity to visualize how the product will appear in their own homes. “When people shop in our store, we want them to feel like they are experiencing the products as a preview to what it would be like to have it installed in their home,” he explained. “It all comes down to the visuals and what looks best. You need to give the consumers the tools to confidently make a choice.”

Making optimal use of wall space also conveys a professional presentation. Retailers say the tactic is a great space saver for smaller locations looking for a visually appealing alternative. “We have laminate samples all along a big wall in black trimming for a clean and simple look that offers an easy shopping experience for the customer,” Conklin Bros.’ Oderio explained.

Don’t forget about the floor

Beyond utilizing wall spaces and traditional merchandising units, retailers have also achieved positive results by installing product on the showroom floor. Case in point is Dauenhauer’s Carpet World, which installed a variety of brands, colors and styles along the walkway of their showroom floor leading up to the laminate displays.

“There is a huge advantage of actually seeing the product installed and in action along the walkway,” Dauenhauer explained. “The job of visualizing how the floor will look and feel in their own homes is being done for the customers, all while showing them how the product handles the everyday wear and tear unlike the products seen in the displays.”

Place it front and center

If space allows, retailers also recommend placing laminate displays as close to the entrance as possible, so they are in a high-traffic area. Experts say this serves the dual function of displaying the category prominently while demonstrating how the floors can withstand dirt, rain or even snow consumers might track in when entering.

“Laminate is a durable product with water-resistant options; when it is exposed to rain and dirt, the displays are showing customers the high wear and tear it can handle by seeing it in action,” Wee explained. “Customers need to see it to believe it.”

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Laminate: End-use activity shifts amidst sales, volume declines

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


By Reginald Tucker


A palpable shift in import shipments, combined with the loss of significant domestic capacity when one major supplier shuttered its U.S. laminate operations, led to a simultaneous dip in both category sales and volume for the first time in many years. FCNewsresearch shows sales of laminate in the U.S. fell to $1.123 billion, a falloff of 2.7% compared to 2016. Volume shipped also decreased in 2017—albeit at a slower rate—as square footage at the first point of distribution hit an estimated 1.034 billion square feet, down 1.9% compared to 2016.

That would put would laminate sales at their lowest level since 2013—when sales reached just over $1.12 billion before rising each year for three consecutive years—and volume at its lowest point since 2011, when shipments totaled 1.02 billion square feet. The contrast is even more stark when comparing last year’s activity to laminate’s performance 10 years ago; at that time, U.S. sales hit $1.169 billion, with volume reaching roughly 970 million square feet.

Dan Natkin, vice president, hardwood and laminates at Mannington, and president of the North American Laminate Flooring Association (NALFA), concurs that U.S. laminate flooring sales were down about 2%-3% in 2017. But that doesn’t mean the category is down for the count. (In fact, Mannington’s top-selling laminate line was up by double digits last year.) “At the end of the day, it’s still a $1 billion product category,” he said. “We are forecasting 2018 will be a growth year for laminate.”

As of now, though, the laminate category has its hands full trying to fend off pressure from competing hard surface segments. In 2017, laminate represented 5.1% of total flooring sales and 10.6% of hard surface consumption. That’s down markedly from 2012, for example, when laminate flooring represented roughly 17% of all hard surface sales and a little over 15% in terms of volume. Meanwhile, competing products such as resilient and ceramic tile grew their shares of the hard surface market to 37.8% and 13.3%, respectively, in 2017.

While laminate has been facing some stiff competition, particularly from LVT, WPC and hardwood, not everyone believes the category lost as much share as has been reported. “Our research shows laminate was up about 1% to 2% in 2017,” said Roger Farabee, senior vice president, laminate and hardwood, Mohawk Industries. Meanwhile, Swiss Krono’s 2017 estimates put the laminate market around 1.3 billion square feet and about $1.3 billion in sales—a level that category has not seen since its heydays in the U.S. market some 20 years ago. Others still are split with respect to sales/volume activity within the category. Drew Hash, vice president, hard surface product category manager, Shaw Floors, estimates the segment was down in terms of overall square footage shipped in 2017 but up in revenues.

Nonetheless, suppliers are still bullish on the category’s prospects. “Most laminate companies would probably
say their mix of better-end goods has improved throughout 2017, and that trend should continue this year,” Hash told FCNews. “From our perspective, we
still believe—now that we have a model where we can truly take the most innovative products anywhere in
the world and put them through our systems with
our salesforce and service—
that it will be a growing part
of our business.”

Proponents of the category—particularly those companies that continue to invest in new technologies and innovations in support of the segment—attest to laminate’s viability. “The laminate flooring industry is in a good place,” said Derek Welbourn, CEO, Inhaus. “It continues to enhance its core value proposition, which is a great looking floor at a leading price point that won’t let you down on performance. We see continued evolution in terms of design and features that are creating some amazing looks and furthering the value proposition of laminate.”

Other industry executives agree wholeheartedly. “It’s a wood product with the look and feel of solid hardwood but with less maintenance and more durability,” said Travis Bass, executive vice president, Swiss Krono. “It’s easier to install and offers a much healthier, sustainable environmental impact than many competing products.”

Part of that optimism, observers say, comes from evidence showing a continued shift in consumption by end-use channels. For example, in 2012, the new home construction market accounted for roughly 6.3% of laminate sales. But that has changed as more major home builders embrace the product category. FCNews research shows new residential construction accounted for 10% of sales, while the residential replacement sector maintained its share of nearly 88% of sales—consistent with its stake in 2012. Where the category has seen the biggest drop-off consumption-wise, however, is the commercial market. Estimated at 2.5% of category sales in 2012, laminate represented less than 0.2% of specified commercial in 2017. However, the Main Street market, which hasn’t moved the needle above 2.5% of sales since 2012, still seems to be popular among barber shops, boutiques and stores of that ilk.

“Laminate flooring has always been strongest in residential replacement, and this continued in 2017,” Inhaus’ Welbourn said. “We feel there has been an increase in new construction thanks to better designs.” But it’s the new home construction market where suppliers see the greatest potential. “We see a rapidly growing acceptance of laminate here,” Mannington’s Natkin said. In fact, he believes this sector may have accounted for as much as 15% of laminate sales last year. “Laminates have begun to take the place of entry-level hardwood in this sector.”

Changing channel dynamics
Just as end-use activity has changed in recent years, so has the sales activity as defined by distribution channel. FCNews research shows the specialty retail sector accounts for roughly one-third of category sales. What’s more, observers say, many of the laminate flooring products sold at this channel represent thicker, higher-margin items not typically sold at the average home center or mass merchant. Some observers feel specialty retail’s share was a bit higher than that. “We feel it might be as high as about 35%-36% given the growth in new home construction,” Natkin told FCNews.

Despite this optimism, however, the fact remains home centers and mass merchants still account for the bulk of laminate flooring sales. FCNews research shows Home Depot and Lowe’s increased their share of laminate sales to the tune of a combined 46%, up from 42% in 2017. That’s in keeping the big-box giants’ market share of laminate sales reported in 2012. Meanwhile, warehouse clubs, home décor outlets and the like accounted for roughly 10% of sales, down a few percentage points from 2016.

When it comes to actual profit margins, however, specialty retailers stand to emerge as the biggest beneficiaries. A cursory review of national home center laminate flooring pricing finds much of the products advertised target the $1.99-2.49 range, while many specialty retailers and buying group dealers concentrate on the mid-to-upper end of the price spectrum (those products retailing in the $3.49-$4.99 realm).

Price pressure from competing categories such as WPC, LVT and SPC, along with aggressive advertising promotions driving some of these categories, is also impacting how the traditional laminate customer views the product. “There is no doubt these hot categories have stolen growth from the laminate cate- gory and others,” Inhaus’ Welbourn stated. “However, laminate is in a much better cost position than these plastic- based categories, and it is able to deliver some of the best value in the flooring business. This fact, along with continued innovation in the laminate category, has kept it competitive.”

As consumer preferences shift toward more hard surfaces being incorporated into the home, resilient flooring has seen an uptick in market share. The challenge for laminate flooring manufacturers, executives say, lies in improving upon water-resistant technology. This was evidenced by the various performance demonstrations conducted at Surfaces 2018. Proponents say it is only fitting given the innovations that originally inspired the creation of the laminate sector. Suppliers say enhancing these features certainly has created greater value for laminate flooring. “Additional focus on design continues in laminate with further enhanced textures and high-definition printing contributing to creating the best designs the laminate category has ever been able to offer,” Welbourn added.

Many concede that laminate—much like other flooring products—has lost some market share to WPC/rigid core (roughly $950 million in sales last year). But from the consumer’s perspective, suppliers believe laminate is still a viable product that’s relatively inexpensive and offers several key attributes end users are looking for—realistic-looking patterns and design with proven performance.

Imports vs. exports
The changing import vs. domestic production dynamic is palpable—so much so that many industry observers are seeing almost a complete reversal with respect to the traditional laminate product mix. While FCNews research showed the share of domestic production of laminate rising from 60% to 64% in 2016 (compared to imports’ market share decline from 41% to 36%), some believe that ratio is even more lopsided.

“The ratio appears to be shifting in favor of domestically produced laminate due to the increase in capacity that came online in 2017,” Shaw Floors’ Hash said. “We estimate closer to a 70/30 split between domestic and imported laminate, respectively, as domestic capacity continues to increase.”

Swiss Krono’s Bass has the domestic/import split closer to 60/40, respectively. But even he’s in agreement that German producers increased their share the past year. “I believe Europe’s share shifted from 14% to 19% while China’s share of the overall pie fell by double digits.”

To some industry experts, the dramatic drop in imports from China reflects a paradigm shift. “What we’re seeing is a preference for European and domestic supply,” Welbourn said. “As the domestic suppliers add capacity, the volume of imports will go down and the ratio of import vs. domestic will be reduced.”

Not everyone, however, believes the full impact of all this additional capacity is being felt at present. Some industry experts feel the biggest ripples are yet to come. “It really hasn’t had an impact yet because most of that new capacity has not yet come online,” Mohawk’s Farabee told FCNews. “We’re certainly seeing companies putting more capacity in the U.S., going after all the big- box customers in particular. This will continue as that capacity comes online.”

In some cases, this new capacity simply displaces product that had previously been made in Europe by those same companies that are now producing domestically, observers said. This phenomenon will likely put pressure on the remaining producers both in the U.S. and in Europe to be able to compete not only on price but also in terms of product performance and visuals. “It will be interesting to watch because there’s a lot of new capacity coming online in a category that’s not really growing,” Farabee said “However, we do expect some price pressure.”

The road ahead
In spite of the challenges facing the laminate sector, manufacturers believe laminates have a place in the market. “In some cases, we’ve lost sight of what makes laminate great—phenomenal realism, all bio-based, superior indentation and scratch resistance, and the fact the vast majority is made in the USA,” Natkin said. “Most laminate is significantly moisture resistant as well with multiple manufacturers developing new technologies to make the product nearly impervious to liquids.”

Natkin is not alone. “We see continued growth for the laminate category at a pace between 2% and 5% in 2018,” Welbourn said. “We estimate as a whole will have a higher rate of growth as the housing sector continues to recover.”

While the laminate flooring category has certainly ceded some market share, the fact remains it is still a viable option since its official entry into the U.S. marketplace more than 20 years ago. “As manufacturers, it’s our job to remind people of the incredible benefits laminate flooring offers,” Mohawk’s Farabee pointed out. “It’s a wood-based product; it’s the most durable hard surface product outside of ceramic; it’s the easiest to install; it’s the most cost-effective product on an installed basis; and it offers the most realistic visuals of any replica product on the market.”

Barron Frith, president, CFL North America, maker of the Atroguard brand of laminate, concurs. “The bulletproof reputation has proven to be a big positive for us since we launched Atroguard more than four years ago. Today, many large players are getting into the game and pushing these products to their distributors. We believe the combined marketing power of the big players has already started bringing much attention to the category, and we would not be surprised to see a slightly stronger growth for the category in 2018.”

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Active families are no match for RevWood Plus

By Mara Bollettieri

Gabriel Rodriguez, manager of Carpet Liquidators, Everett, Wash., is in a unique position—he is both a retailer who sells Mohawk’s RevWood Plus flooring and a consumer who has used the product almost exclusively throughout his own home.

In many ways, Rodriguez fits the profile for the prototypical customer that Mohawk had in mind when it developed RevWood Plus. The store owner, along with his fiancée, have four pets (two cats and two dogs) and a 5-year-old son. A family of that size not only required a floor that can stand up to the rigors of an active household, but the owners also desired a product that was visually appealing. RevWood Plus’ waterproof attributes, trendy looks and All Pet Protection warranty—along with its ease of maintenance—proved to be the winning combination.

“The boards are made with Mohawk’s HydroSeal, which gives you the peace of mind for spills,” Rodriguez told FCNews. “There are LVT products out there that are waterproof, but LVT is not very strong. RevWood Plus has the best of both worlds.”

RevWood Plus’ highly touted scratch resistance, in particular, was a big draw for Rodriguez. Although his pets are house trained, there are occasional “accidents.” Then there’s junior, who often drips water all over the floors after bath time. But with RevWood Plus, Rodriguez is not at all concerned about water damage. “Not only does it look phenomenal, but it has just been holding up perfectly fine,” he explained. “I know the boards aren’t going to swell up, and I don’t worry that we’re going to have to replace all of the floors, which can cost a lot of money.”

True believer
There’s no shortage of laminate floors on the market that claim to be impervious to water damage. But Rodriguez knew he had a winner with RevWood Plus early on when he was introduced to the product by Mohawk reps who conducted training for his employees.

“They had this little display and they poured gallons of water onto it,” he told FCNews. “None of the water was getting through because the locking mechanism is

so tight; the boards aren’t exposed. I was like, ‘Wow, that’s a phenomenal product.’”

Rodriguez’s fiancée is pleased with the floor as well, but more so for its aesthetic appeal. “Since I’m more of the flooring guy, I’m the one who really focuses on the performance,” he said. “She just loves how it looks.

The design is really great, and that’s one of her favorite things.”

The Rodriguez family is so confident in RevWood Plus that the product is installed in almost every room in their new home. “It’s literally installed everywhere,” he said. “Every bathroom, every closet.”


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What retailers need to know about RevWood

By Reginald Tucker


When it comes to positioning RevWood and RevWood Plus for maximum sales potential, product placement is key. Rather than grouping the product in with competing laminate floors—many of which retail on the lower end of the spectrum—Mohawk is advising its dealer partners to aim high. In other words, place RevWood displays on a more level playing field right alongside other hardwood flooring displays in the showroom.

“We realize retailers may be a little hesitant to do that, but it goes back to simplifying the retailers’ shopping experience,” said Angela Duke, director of brand marketing. “Our research shows dealers should group all their wood 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 who 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. But if a consumer says, ‘You know what, I’m not really concerned about scratches but I’m looking for a natural hardwood product.’ Then we can take them to our TecWood line, which is our engineered hardwood product. So having them all grouped together is beneficial for the retailer.”

Options galore
Of course, it can’t hurt when you offer dealers a compelling package of styles and visuals to sell. All RevWood/RevWood Plus collections are designed to address consumers’ aesthetic needs while providing the durability, performance and value homeowners crave. Each collection features the latest embossed-in-register technology and beveled edges for ultra-realistic detail.

Following is a snapshot of the initial patterns and designs:

Elderwood: This collection is available in four trending colors with distinctive knots and grain patterns. Elderwood provides a choice of sophisticated oak visuals in 12mm planks measuring 7 ½ inches wide x 54 11⁄32 inches long.

Antique Craft: Five color options in time-worn hardwood looks available in trending soft brown and gray tones in longer, wider planks spanning 9 7⁄16 inches x 80 ½ inches.

Sawmill Ridge: An ensemble of reclaimed hardwood visuals in four fashionable colors that coordinate with a variety of today’s design

styles. Natural wood character is enhanced with deep texture to high- light knots and varied grain patterns. Plus, Sawmill Ridge features radial saw marks, adding a rustic charm inspired by vintage hardwood planks produced by the early sawmills. Planks are 12mm thick, 6 1/8 inches wide x 47 1⁄4 inches long. Dealer excitement surrounding the project launch is evident in the number of displays that have been purchased thus far. According to Duke, more than 1,200 merchandisers have been shipped since the official launch at Surfaces 2018.

Mike Fleming, owner of Carpet Liquidators in Seattle, is a fan. “We’ve had some early success with it,” he told FCNews. “The styles and colors are out of this world, and that’s why we’re selling it.”

With respect to product placement, Fleming chooses to straddle the line. “Because we are a stocking dealer, we put RevWood toward the front of the store with laminate but next to the engineered hard- wood,” he said. “I was concerned about the price point because it gets into the engineered wood category; however, the styling and colors are just spot on.”

Mike Lekocaj, co-owner of Niko’s Import-Export, based in Ma- comb, Mich., is also a believer in RevWood. “It’s a very good product. What I like in particular are the width and the length—9 inches wide x 7 feet long. That’s what’s doing well with consumers. Mohawk did a very good job with the colors.”

With respect to placement, Lekocaj, follows Mohawk’s recommendation. “We have it right next to the wood section,” he said. “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.”

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Extolling the performance attributes of RevWood Plus

“Wood without compromise.” That’s the overarching tagline and driving philosophy behind Mohawk’s new RevWood Plus collection—the step-up product to the entry-level RevWood line.

In developing RevWood Plus—an offering loaded with bells and whistles designed to boost performance attributes for end users and profits for dealers—Mohawk took into account the challenge active families face when evaluating wood flooring as an option for their homes. Compared to solid wood flooring, RevWood Plus aims to provide the solution for homeowners seeking stylish wood options that can perfectly accent any room design—all while meeting expectations that it will withstand the wear and tear active families place on their flooring.

“RevWood Plus is the premium offering in the line while RevWood is the opening price point,” Angela Duke, director of brand marketing, Mohawk Industries, explained. “It has more premium visuals, longer/wider planks and more textures, while RevWood features more of the commodity-type visuals. However, both brands feature state-of-the-art technology and are made in the U.S.”

Mohawk created RevWood Plus to deliverthe look and feel of authentic wood but providethe toughness and durability associated withlaminate flooring. The product boasts the abilityto keep spills, accidents and tracked-in stainmakers on the surface for quick and easy cleanup. What’s more, it is billed as a waterproof flooring system that’s scratch resistant.

Several distinct attributes of RevWood Plus work in conjunction to form what Mohawk calls a complete waterproof system. From the Uniclic MultiFit locking system to Mo- hawk’s GenuEdge pressed beveled edge and HydroSeal perimeter coating, these innovations are designed to trap liquids on the surface of the floor, thereby preventing damage to the core. The waterproof seal is so reliable, according to Mohawk, that consumers can even regularly wet mop a RevWood Plus floor—something unheard of with traditional laminate floors.

“With RevWood Plus, we have taken performance to the next level,” Duke said. “The combination of HydroSeal, GenuEdge bevel technology and the Uniclic glueless locking system—which keeps water from seeping past the joints—makes a complete waterproof sys- tem. On top of that, we are able to offer All Pet Protection as well. The end result is a product that’s much easier for the consumer to maintain.”

Mike Fleming, owner of Seattle-based Carpet Liquidators, has only had the product for about three months. But he likes what he’s seeing so far. “The waterproof story is a great feature for customers to do a trade-up sale in laminate vs. the [cheaper] competition in laminate,” he said.

And thanks to RevWood Plus’ environmentally friendly construction, it’s also a product that allows the homeowner to sleep easier—literally. “RevWood Plus products are low in VOCs, so it contributes to good indoor air quality as well,” Duke stated.

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RevWood—what’s it all about?

A whole new spin on traditional wood flooring

By Reginald Tucker


A revolutionary engineered flooring product that combines the look and feel of authentic wood with the tenacity of laminate. That’s how Mohawk Industries describes its new RevWood and RevWood Plus lines—a pair of collections tailored for consumers who desire the aesthetics real hard- wood offers without the hefty price tag associated with high-end wood or the limitations associated with natural wood products.

In essence, RevWood is billed as a revolutionary wood flooring (hence the “Rev” in “RevWood”) that’s built to withstand the rigors of today’s active households. The product, which features a laminate decorative layer bonded to an HDF engineered core, is designed to resist stains, scratches and dents while still rendering a realistic hardwood visual. While RevWood does not usher in an entirely new flooring category unto its own, the positioning of the product is intended to challenge typical consumer notions of how they perceive traditional laminate flooring products and engineered hardwood flooring.

Back in early 2017, Mohawk conducted extensive consumer research—including targeted focus groups and surveys—to determine how shoppers discern the differences between the various hard surface flooring products available today. The company also wanted to find out what factors consumers consider when making their final selections.

“Specifically, we wanted to know what they thought about wood, vinyl and laminate products,” said Angela Duke, director of brand marketing, Mohawk. “We learned from consumers that their shopping experience can be very complex and frustrating. Our main goal is to make shopping for flooring very easy and simple to understand, and that’s precisely what we’re doing with the launch of RevWood and RevWood Plus.”

Consumers who participated in Mohawk’s focus groups reviewed samples of laminate, vinyl and wood planks, and they were asked how they would categorize each product. The results, according to Duke, were enlightening. “In the consumers’ minds, they put a natural divide between vinyl and wood—there’s really no middle ground here. But when they

looked at the solid wood, engineered wood and laminated wood samples, consumers put them all in the same group.”

Based on those findings, Mohawk saw an opportunity—and seized it. “We capitalized on what we learned, and that led to the creation of the RevWood and RevWood Plus brands,” Duke explained. “We know consumers understand there’s prestige in hardwood, but they also have a hard time justifying paying a lot of money for a solid hardwood floor—nature’s ‘gold’ standard. It represents the highest quality in the mind of the consumers, but it’s also the highest cost. But wood is not as durable or scratch resistant as laminate, so consumers don’t get all the benefits.”

Making the mental leap from laminate to hardwood was not as difficult for consumers, Duke argues, because of the way Mohawk’s laminate products are constructed. “Our laminate products are mostly made up of wood,” she noted. “It wasn’t a big challenge for us to put laminate and engineered wood in the same category because the consumer automatically did that for us.”