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Laminate Executive Forecast: Holding its own against onslaught of WPC, SPC

Dec. 9/16, 2019: Volume 35, Issue 12

By Reginald Tucker

 

The laminate flooring category continued to fight an uphill battle against the meteoric rise of competing hard surface categories—namely WPC, SPC and all its iterations, which now include hybrid products. In the face of it all, laminate suppliers continued to invest in the category while promoting the attributes that make it a viable alternative today.

Travis Bass
Executive VP, sales and marketing
Swiss Krono
What is your projection for the growth of the category next year?
We foresee 2%–3% growth.

What are the growth projections for your company in particular?
We have aggressive growth plans for laminate flooring as the market continues to shift away from Chinese products.

What segments and/or products will fuel this growth?
Thicker, water-resistant products give laminate a clear total advantage over vinyl products.

Cite a few of your major initiatives achieved in 2019.
Swiss Krono USA is now completing our HDF (coreboard), factory and we continue to invest heavily in product development. The addition of the HDF factory vertically integrates us.

Identify the “X” factor that will impact business in general in 2020.
The outlook for 2020 appears to be for steady, moderate eco- nomic growth. Tariff maneuvering and political shenanigans could provide some unexpected impact.

Where do you see the greatest opportunities?
Continued improvement of laminate looks and textures along with exploiting laminate’s environmental/sustainability story with the emerging millennial market as a “best choice” for floor covering.

 

Drew Hash
Vice president, hard surface
Shaw Floors
What is your projection for the growth of the category next year?
Laminate will grow in single digits.

What are the growth projections for your company in particular?
We will be in line with industry growth.

What segments and/or products will fuel this growth?
Single-family homes are popular in this category. Innovations in performance and design mean consumers are placing laminate in numerous areas of the home.

Cite a few of your major initiatives achieved in 2019.
Expanding our highly successful REPEL Laminate collection with new, on-trend visuals was a key initiative for 2019.

Identify the “X” factor that will impact business in general in 2020.
2020 may feature similar external uncertainties as 2019, which can impact consumer sentiment. Rigid core’s popularity continues to challenge market share, but laminate remains a viable flooring option for consumers.

Where do you see the greatest opportunities?
We see opportunities among better-end goods in this cate- gory. Printing and design technologies, along with surface innovations mean these products look and perform better than ever.

 

Dan Natkin
VP, hardwood and laminate
Mannington
What is your projection for the growth of the category next year?
We expect the category to be down low single digits.

What are the growth projections for your company in particular?
Up low single digits in 2020.

What segments and/or products will fuel this growth?
Moisture resistant/waterproof laminates will continue to lead the charge in this category. They combine the best attributes of laminate (long-term wear performance) with the moisture resistance of vinyl.

Cite a few of your major initiatives achieved in 2019.
Further enhancement to our award-winning SpillShield technology.

Identify the “X” factor that will impact business in general in 2020.
The X factor is the economy. We expect the category to be challenged again in 2020. While the home centers are increasing sales within the category, independent retail is contracting.

Where do you see the greatest opportunities?
A strong economy and home construction market should make it a great year for the category.

 

Adam Ward
Senior product director, laminate and wood
Mohawk
What is your projection for the growth of the category next year?
From an overall laminate market, we see it around that low 1% mark.

What are the growth projections for your company in particular?
We forecast mid to high single-digit growth with RevWood, so we see ourselves definitely exceeding the market for laminate flooring.

What segments and/or products will fuel this growth?
We’re seeing strong performance in both the builder community as well as residential remodel.

Cite a few of your major initiatives achieved in 2019.
Beyond the expansion of RevWood into different tiers, we’re definitely focused on RevWood Select in the builder community. We continue to build that out.

Identify the “X” factor that will impact business in general in 2020.
There’s a sea of product out there, and it’s confusing for the consumer. We need to make sure we’re continuing to tell the story about what makes us unique and better.

Where do you see the greatest opportunities?
We have an opportunity to continue to tell the story about what makes RevWood unique. There’s some additional features we will be rolling out, and we’re excited to share those new innovations.

 

Derek Welbourn
CEO
Inhaus
What is your projection for the growth of the category next year?
I see it growing slightly—3% in 2020.

What are the growth projections for your company in particular?
Slightly above the overall category growth rate.

What segments and/or products will fuel this growth?
We continue to experience strong growth as we claim share of the laminate segment and grow our new waterproof, rigid core product, Sono.

Cite a few of your major initiatives achieved in 2019.
We have invested significantly in our own design center, where our team works continuously to respond to trends and create new products quickly.

Identify the “X” factor that will impact business in general in 2020.
The evolution of water resistance as well as a continued focus on style and design coupled with affordable products for the consumer.

Where do you see the greatest opportunities?
The combination of leading design, wear performance and cost is a value proposition for laminate that is very powerful. Other categories will have problems competing with this.

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Laminate: Suppliers take a page out of WPC/SPC playbook

Dec. 9/16, 2019: Volume 35, Issue 12

By Reginald Tucker

 

Mohawk’s RevWood Plus owes its waterproof attributes to a combination of technologies designed to prevent moisture from reaching the joints.

It’s no secret that certain segments of the resilient flooring category—namely WPC and SPC—have seized significant share from competing hard surface categories across the board. No other category has felt that pressure more acutely than laminate, with category sales trends continuing to decline as consumers jump on the waterproof bandwagon.

However, laminate suppliers are not sitting idly by as WPC and SPC products gradually increase their market share. In fact, several major companies that supply laminate flooring products are taking a page right out of the resilient playbook by investing in technologies designed to boost laminates’ resistance to water incursion.

“Without a doubt, competition from WPC/LVT/SPC has grown tremendously in the past 10 years and have presented some headwinds for the laminate category,” said Dan Natkin, vice president of hardwood and laminate, Mannington. “The positive aspect of that is it has driven a renewed level of innovation to combat the single-selling point of these competing products.”

Mannington, which participates in a variety of categories—including rigid core flooring—has seen the writing on the wall for several years now. That’s why back in 2017 the company added SpillShield technology to its sig- nature, top-selling Restoration laminate collection. SpillShield was billed as an innovative new coating that protects against pet messes, standing moisture and spills. This means the product can go in bathrooms, laundry rooms and other areas prone to moisture.

“SpillShield responds to consumer demand for flooring that resists moisture,” Natkin explained. “Today’s homeowner needs peace of mind that her floor will stand up to everything her family can dish out—and that includes accidental spills and pet messes. Mannington laminate is already exceptionally durable; SpillShield adds that extra bit of assurance that her floor will look great and perform well for years to come.”

Other major laminate flooring suppliers have been busy developing water-resistant laminates over the past few years—some even longer. “When we brought Atroguard to market in 2013, we did so with the intention of offering a product that combines the natural visuals of hardwood and the rigidity and scratch and stain resistance of laminate with the same water resistance found in vinyl,” Thomas Baert, president of CFL Flooring, explained. “That has not changed.”

Other major suppliers have invested heavily in the laminate flooring category to compete more directly with resilient floors that tout waterproof capabilities. Such is the case with Mohawk’s RevWood Plus, which utilized a variety of advancements—Mohawk’s patented Genu-Edge technology, Hydroseal and the Uniclic system—to provide waterproof benefits on what is essentially a wood-based product.

“RevWood Plus has been engineered by Mohawk’s experts to offer homeowners a flooring answer that combines the look and feel of authentic wood with the toughness of laminate,” said Adam Ward, senior product director for wood and RevWood, Mohawk. “Featuring the ability to keep spills, accidents and tracked-in stain-makers on the surface for quick and easy cleanup, RevWood Plus is a top-performing and revolutionary wood flooring option that is both scratch-resistant and 100% waterproof.”

Another example is Shaw Floors’ REPEL Laminate collection, which boasts water-resistance technology. How it works: a barrier of proprietary water-resistance technology is applied to laminate flooring and activated when moisture strikes the surface or sides, thereby shielding the floor from damage. According to John Hammel, hardwood and laminate category manager, this protection gives consumers more time to discover and clean spills, demonstrating REPEL’s effectiveness at resisting moisture.

“Extensive product testing and research have proven this product has superior resistant to household spills or messes, and demonstrates that water-resistant claims for laminate products are legitimate,” he said.

Not just performance
Suppliers believe laminate can go head to head with WPC and SPC in areas other than water resistance. “From a design standpoint, a big advantage of laminate is the number of unique, realistic visuals that make it very hard to see repeats once the floor is installed—as opposed to vinyl or WPC floors for which this is, technically, more difficult to achieve,” CFL’s Baert explained. “Atroguard puts a tremendous amount of effort in developing in-house stunning 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 a particular product.”

Those companies who offer laminate point to the irony WPC/SPC products pose. “Most customers looking for flooring are asking for a wood look,” Mohawk’s Ward explained. “RevWood, RevWood Plus and RevWood Select are wood products—and that differs from all the WPCs and vinyl products currently available on the market.”

The technology utilized in RevWood Plus, according to Ward, delivers higher style and design with more realistic textures than competitive LVTs and rigid core products out there. “Looking at competitive laminate, WPC and rigid products out there, the customers can generally see the difference for themselves,” he explained.

To that end, manufacturers are increasingly utilizing technology to develop realistic patterns and designs. “Our styling team is able to take real wood and enhance it through advanced scanning and digital manipulation to get the exact look they want,” Natkin explained. “Add to that advancements in digital print and there are exciting times ahead for laminate.”

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Laminate: Latest click systems serve multiple purposes

September 16/23, 2019: Volume 35, Issue 7

By Reginald Tucker

 

Valinge 5G’s seal, utilized here on a Beauflor laminate product, is tight enough to lock out spills for up to 72 hours.

When glueless installation systems were first incorporated into laminate floors back in the early ’90s, the primary aim was to expedite the installation process. The innovation behind the snap-and-lock, tongue-and-groove panels allowed installers to finish a job in a shorter amount of time and not have to deal with handling messy adhesives or with cleanup after the fact. This enabled them to move on to the next job more quickly, thereby increasing their own profitability as well as the dealers who employed them.

With today’s advancements in glueless locking systems for laminates, the goal is to dramatically improve the product’s resistance to moisture incursion. On one hand, this helps put laminate flooring in a better position to compete against the likes of WPC and SPC—products that are inherently resistant to moisture. At the same time, the latest locking system innovations translate into step-up products that allow retailers to charge more money in a category laden with commodity-type offerings.

Take Inhaus, for example. The company has created a new water-resistant locking system that is an additional feature to the angle fold Megaloc locking system that’s standard on all Inhaus products.

As Derek Welbourn, CEO, explained, it is an enhancement designed to improve the water- resistant characteristics of the company’s products. “The joint is designed to prevent water from penetrating the product’s core and the site’s subfloor, which can occur during wet mopping or spills. This is achieved through a tighter fit between planks and a new patent-pending, overlapping architecture of the locking joint.”

Manufacturers across the board are incorporating advancements in their locking systems to weed out water. Mohawk’s RevWood Plus line, for example, entails a complete waterproof system comprising the Uniclic MultiFit locking system, Mohawk’s GenuEdge pressed beveled edge and the company’s HydroSeal perimeter coating to trap liquids on the surface of the floor, thereby preventing damage to the coreboard. 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.

I4F’s portfolio of patents currently comprises more than 2,000 patents and technologies spanning multiple categories, including laminate.

“With RevWoods Plus, we have taken performance to the next level,” said Angela Duke, director of brand marketing at Mohawk. “The combination of HydroSeal, GenuEdge bevel technology and the Uniclic glueless locking system—which keeps water from seeping past the joints—makes the flooring completely waterproof.”

Even those companies that have not updated their locking profile, per se, continue to tweak the technology to achieve the desired results. Mannington, for one, has added some new technologies over the past 24 months to elevate product performance. “Specifically, we introduced our SpillShield moisture protection and added a wax layer on the top of the tongue to further protect from moisture,” Dan Natkin, vice president of hardwood, laminate and resilient sheet, explained. “Those two technologies make the product significantly more resistant to everyday spills and mishaps.”

Teaming up
Increasingly, laminate flooring suppliers are working more closely with the companies that hold the patents for various locking mechanisms. The aim is to further enhance an already robust offering of glueless systems. Beauflor, for instance, recently launched a water-resistant laminate collection that features a Valinge 5G locking system. The design boasts a fold-down installation mechanism that makes the overall installation process faster and easier. There is no need for glue or nails because each plank is equipped with a flexible plastic tongue that is pushed into a wedged tongue-groove that snaps the product together. Once the tongue is secured, a clicking sound signifies the products are successfully locked together. The seal is tight enough to lock out spills for up to 72 hours.

Beyond the sheer bells and whistles, these enhancements provide real benefits for retailers and installers. As Tami Stahl, senior marketing manager for Beauflor, explained: “The Valinge 5G locking system is ideal for retailers because it meets the needs of different customers. It is easy enough for a DIY customer who wants to tackle his own home remodel project, and it’s a time/material cost saver for the budget-conscious customer. For professional installers, the Valinge 5G locking system reduces the time required to complete the job and does not require a backbreaking installation process. This allows installers to complete the job faster and move on.”

 

I4F continues to innovate
I4F, a group of companies providing patents and technologies to the flooring industry, continues to roll out new formats to fit a range of products for its licensing partners. This allows clients to choose which patents, or groups of patents, best meet their most current business needs.

Following are some of the latest I4F patented technologies:

3L TripleLock. According to I4F, 3L TripleLock is the easiest and fastest system for flooring installation on the market. With this system, there are no inserts needed like several other fold-down systems. The elimination of the additional insert on the short side allows manufacturers to improve productivity levels and reduce their product costs and carbon footprint. 3L TripleLock is suitable for existing high-speed production. According to John Rietveldt, CEO, I4F, the system has multiple installation benefits: it is up to 30% faster than basic click systems, there’s no squeaking and no special tools are needed for installation.

Click4U. This is an angle-system for the long side combined with 3L TripleLock on the short side. Just like 3L TripleLock, Click4U is suitable for existing high-speed production machinery. The system has multiple installation benefits as well. It is fast and easy to install without special tools.

“We constantly seek out innovations that are cutting-edge so our licensees get the best technologies out there,” Rietveldt, said. “Our portfolio of patents, now comprising over 2,000 patents and technologies spanning multiple categories, continues to grow.”

 

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Fall intros: Innovations entice dealers to sell better goods

September 16/23, 2019: Volume 35, Issue 7

By Ken Ryan

 

The newest product introductions in the flooring industry run the gamut from latest in rigid core construction to carpet tiles engineered for exterior applications. What these disparate products have in common, however, are technology advancements that will help define and differentiate these innovations as they hit the market at the height of the fall selling season.

Engineered Floors
Its Dream Weaver residential brand is bringing to market a brand new line of design-focused patterns, textures and colors called DW Select. Comprising 14 initial styles, these carpets bring textural nuances reminiscent of natural materials into the home. Featuring EFs’ proprietary twistX technology, DW Select features blended fiber components that enhance wearability and styling.

Foss Floors
Foss’ Grizzly Grass mimics artificial grass but eliminates the many negatives associated with tufted grass constructions. Available in both broadloom and tiles, Grizzly Grass features DuraLock technology, which bonds all fibers in place without the use of latex/chemicals. Its premium self-stick tiles includes the company’s peel-and-stick backing system, making installation over any surface easy. Grizzly Grass is 100% waterproof and comes with a lifetime warranty against fraying, zippering, fading, stain and wear.

Inhaus
Launched as Inhaus’ first 100% commercially focused floor, Moto is a 3mm-thick, PVC-free, glue-down resilient plank manufactured in Japan. It is made of a polypropylene mineral composite core, ultra-clear 20-mil polypropylene surface wear layer and embossed surface to enhance the texture of wood. It is also topped with a protective surface coating. Created in collaboration with the design community, Moto consists of a collection of 12 colors.

Mohawk
Mohawk’s new, 100%waterproof SolidTech Plus blends style and durability. With low pattern repetition, painted beveled edges and embossed textures, SolidTech Plus adds a more authentic, natural hardwood look and feel to the SolidTech collection. Mohawk said the new rigid flooring is three times more scratch resistant due to its tough wear layer and enhanced lacquer finish. Its EasyClean technology adds stain and soil protection, while a UniClic locking system creates a watertight seam that traps water on the surface.

Phenix 
Entice and Tempt—created with 100% SureSoftSD and protected by Microban antimicrobial technology, are classic, casual textures. Available to retailers this fall, the multi-tonal shades of the 15-color palette are designed to create a neutral statement that sets the tone for an interior space. Resourceful & Rational, the newest casual textures from Phenix, combines fresh, earthy colors to create a 30-color line. Protected by Microban and constructed with 100% SureSoft carpet yarn, Resourceful & Rational are ideal for active households. Determined, Eager & Energetic—the latest pattern collection from Phenix—is crafted from original artistry, pulling inspiration from natural materials and textures. Twenty natural colors are available in this Microban-protected grouping.

Philadelphia Commercial
The newest carpet collection by Philadelphia Commercial, Shape of Color, is a 24 x 24-inch carpet tile featuring the company’s environmentally guaranteed EcoSolution Q Nylon and EcoWorx tile backing. Engineered to perform, Shape of Color is ideal for high-traffic applications. This collection includes two styles offering design versatility while adding bold expression to any space—Block by Block and Line by Line. Block by Block has bold contrasting colors, saturated tonal hues and neutrals that encourage the uninhibited use of color being embraced in fashion, the home and the workplace. Line by Line features a subtle color palette and a sophisticated linear pattern that reflects the angles in Block by Block.

Shaw Floors
Distinction Plus is Shaw Floors’ latest WPC introduction featuring 7 x 48 planks with 10 visuals in a range of wood species, including oak, maple, pine and eucalyptus. Part of the Floorté Classic Series, Distinction Plus was designed with classic style and amplified comfort in mind. Its foamed, 100% waterproof core promises better sound absorption and enhanced comfort underfoot for a softer, warmer hard surface flooring option. Distinction Plus protects from splashes, spills and daily household traffic thanks to Shaw’s Armourbead finish and 12-mil wearlayer.

USFloors
COREtec Stone presents a designer-curated collection of tile and stone designs. An embossed thermo-resin layer provides realism while integrated grout lines match the floor perfectly, without making a mess.

Chief among COREtec Stone’s achievements is a new, rigid mineral core that’s free of PVC and plasticizers. The rigid mineral core offers indentation resistance with dimensional stability, allowing the product to offer a 18 x 36-inch platform among its array of design-forward aesthetics and formats suitable for commercial or residential use. The rigid mineral core offers greater dimensional stability than WPC and SPC, making COREtec stone ideal for large spaces without using transition pieces. According to USFloors, moisture from the top or bottom will have no effect on COREtec Stone as its rigid mineral core is waterproof.

Wellmade
Opti-Wood rigid core hardwood flooring is now available in wider/longer premium planks—7-inch widths and 84-inch lengths featuring real hardwood bonded to Wellmade’s patented HDPC rigid core. Low-luster, wire-brushed finishes along with distressed and hand-scraped textures augment the collection’s dramatic visuals. Representing the next generation of engineered flooring, Opti-Wood is tolerant to temperature fluctuations while remaining stable in the most demanding environments. With its waterproof properties, Opti-Wood can be installed in areas prone to moisture and humidity, including kitchen, bath and below-grade applications.

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Laminate: Performance enhancements give category an edge

August 19/26, 2019: Volume 35, Issue 5

By Megan Salzano

 

 

Resilient flooring and its rigid core brethren continue to flood the market and have no doubt grabbed market share from adjacent product categories. Laminate has felt the brunt of the onslaught, but pressure from the likes of LVT, WPC and SPC has jostled laminate producers back to the R&D drawing board to enhance their lines with in-demand performance features while continuing to tout the category’s well-known durability and aesthetic attributes.

“It has pushed laminate to innovate to compete,” said Derek Welbourn, CEO, Inhaus. “Today’s laminates are better than ever and offer a value that is hard for any flooring category to compete with.”

Roger Farabee, president, North American wood products, Mohawk Industries, noted the laminates of old are no longer a growth opportunity for dealers but it’s those lines born anew with higher added value that will bring the category back to life. That value is coming in the form of major performance enhancements that allow the category to compete with resilient players.

Water-resistant/waterproof lines, for example, have become a must-have for laminate consumers, and manufacturers have obliged. Mohawk’s RevWood Plus, for example, touts all the benefits of its RevWood counterpart, such as stain, scratch and dent resistance, but with the added value of waterproof performance.

Eternity Flooring enlists its Triple Moisture technology to enhance its laminates. “It is a special wax coating process to prevent moisture from penetrating the HDF core,” explained Isaac Lee, regional manager for northern California, Eternity Flooring. “We do see laminate flooring in the forecast making a comeback with manufacturers implementing 100% waterproof systems to their products, which looks positively promising for the laminate flooring category.”

Mannington continues to improve its SpillShield technology and this year even upgraded its warranty to a waterproof surface warranty (featured on its Restoration Collection series). “Laminate has always been one of the most durable flooring types available,” said Dan Natkin, vice president, hardwood, laminate, resilient sheet. “With the growth of SPC and WPC, it became time to develop technologies to address the moisture resistance as well.”

For CFL, water-resistant laminate has been the name of the game for five years. “We believe we are the industry leader in water-resistant laminate and set the standard five years ago when we introduced these products to the market,” said Barron Frith, president, CFL North America.

Water resistance is also driving performance at Inhaus. The company has tapped its potential by adding the feature to all of its laminate offerings such as its Classic Estate collection, according to Welbourn.

However, water damage is not the only consumer concern laminate floors are able to assuage. Laminate’s scratch, stain and dent resistance, for example, are still “incomparable” to their resilient competitors, manufacturers say. Of the category’s durability, John Hammel, director of category management, hardwood and laminate, Shaw Floors, noted, “Durability is laminate’s competitive edge, and its price point combined with its durability make laminate a great value.”

New looks and on-trend design capabilities are also key selling points for today’s laminate. Shaw’s Hammel explained high-resolution printing advancements have elevated the overall performance value of laminate. “Embossed-in-register technology allows us to emulate texture and add depth to a flooring visual,” he said. “Consumers have a variety of laminate options from which to choose, including grouted tile, realistic wood plank and stone visuals—giving them a durable, low-maintenance product with high style. RSAs can promote that the on-trend visual appeal is enhanced by realistic embossing.”

Another major story behind laminate’s selling potential is its eco-conscious construction. Most laminate flooring is bio-based, renewable and recyclable. In addition, RSA’s are able to explain that laminate is not made with PVC or plasticizers like traditional resilient flooring. Juxtaposed to its resilient counterparts, laminate’s sustainable story rings clear. “When showing a WPC or SPC product to consumers, many feel that because of it being a plastic vinyl product, it does not belong throughout their entire home, which is one of the many reasons why 100% waterproof laminate flooring is showing consistent growth in the market,” Eternity’s Lee explained.

Overall, manufacturers agree laminate’s selling potential is continuing to grow as new and expanded performance attributes join the category’s tried and true benefits. As Mannington’s Natkin said, “Now we combine the best parts of laminate—bio-based, renewable, recyclable, highly scratch resistant and indentation resistant—with significantly improved topical moisture resistance and you really have the best of both worlds.”

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Retailers sing the praises of Quick-Step’s NatureTEK

August 19/26, 2019: Volume 35, Issue 5

By Reginald Tucker

 

Out and About Floor Covering, Cascade Flooring America, Westland Carpet One and Ventura Flooring all operate in diverse markets and service different customers. But there’s something they all have in common—their affinity for the Quick-Step laminate brand from Mohawk Industries.

Constructed on essentially the same platform as Mohawk’s breakthrough RevWood—which is based on melamine overlay coupled with a high-resolution decorative image supported by an HDF core that has been enhanced with features that significantly boost the product’s resistance to moisture—the Quick-Step NatureTEK line aims to offer consumers all the visual attributes of a wood floor without the shortcomings.

“I’ve personally always been a big fan of the engineering behind Quick-Step, and the new NatureTEK Plus series with its waterproof features is really allowing us to market the product aggressively,” said Sonny Parsons, co-owner of Vancouver, Wash.-based Cascade Flooring America. “We’ve had a long history with Quick-Step.”

With virtually everyone in the industry chasing waterproof LVT/P and other variations of rigid core, Parsons said it’s exciting to see alternatives compete for that share of the market. What’s more, he’s seeing demand from seemingly unlikely places. “A couple of local regional builders have adopted the product over LVT, which is the new standard for us in this area,” he told FCNews. “We are really trying to educate customers to let them know this is a viable option as well. People are embracing it and putting it in their homes.”

Other dealers such as Out and About Floor Covering in Meridian, Idaho, also report strong builder usage of Quick-Step laminate. “Quick-Step is a great product—we sell a lot of it,” said Randy Walker, store manager. “We really like the performance and visuals. It’s one of our favorite laminate floors.”

The sentiment is much the same at Westland Carpet One, West Covina, Calif. For Stephanie Gonzalez, office manager, it’s the line’s aesthetics that are catching consumers’ eyes. “The visuals in the Quick-Step line are phenomenal,” she said. “People look at them and compare them to real hardwood.”

And that’s precisely the point. The fact that NatureTEK’s wood looks sell for a fraction of the cost of the real thing—yet still provide a good profit margin—is a plus. “I would love to sell hardwood to every client, but when you can’t sell wood because of the customer’s lifestyle or limitations, laminate is way up there on my list,” Gonzalez explained. “I con- sider it a high-quality product.”

NatureTEK’s performance attributes—namely the product’s waterproof features—are key selling points for retailers. It all starts with the Uniclic locking technology, which ensures an extremely tight connection between the planks—the product’s first line of defense against moisture incursion. The next critical component is Mohawk’s GenuEdge technology, which applies the decorative paper all the way to the edge of the board so there’s no exposed HDF core in the middle of the plank. For additional protection, Mohawk applies its signature HydroSeal, which coats the outside of the planks to prevent moisture from penetrating the product. For good measure, Mohawk recommends installers apply a silicone bead around the perimeter of the installation as an additional layer of protection.

“We’ve been waiting for technology like that,” Gonzalez said. “When you communicate the benefits and features to the customer, it’s almost a given for the client to upgrade to it.”

Sal Hossinzadeh, owner of Ventura Flooring, Simi Valley, Calif., is also a believer. In fact, he has stocked the Quick-Step brand as long as his doors have been open. He’s excited about the transition to NatureTEK, but he’s particularly thrilled to see popular collections from Quick-Step (i.e., Reclaime and Colossia) will be retained. “There are some really nice visuals in those lines, especially the wide planks,” he said. Available in three platforms—NatureTEK, NatureTEK Plus and NatureTEK Select—the collections give consumers a range of options. NatureTEK Plus and Select retail at about $3 and $3.50 per sq. ft., respectively.

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Laminate: Segment feels heat from hard surface counterparts

June 24/July 1, 2019: Volume 35, Issue 1

By Reginald Tucker

 

Fierce competition from alternative hard surface categories—combined with a diminished number of laminate displays in many independent specialty retail showrooms across the country—kept the category’s growth in check for much of 2018.

FCNews research shows laminate flooring sales dipped to just over $1.103 billion last year, a 1.7% decrease from 2017. It also represents the second consecutive year of sales declines in the category.

Likewise, volume took a hit as square footage sold fell to roughly 1.012 billion square feet, a 2.1% decrease over the prior year on top of a 1.9% decrease in volume sold in 2017.

To put things in greater perspective, laminates’ part of the overall flooring market fell to roughly 4.8%, down from 5.1% of total industry dollars in 2017. With respect to volume, the category represented approximately 5.1% of total square footage sold, down slightly from 5.3% in 2017. Going back 10 years, laminate represented roughly 5.7% of total industry sales and 4.4% of volume.

The falloff is even more pronounced when measuring laminates’ performance against competing hard surface categories. Last year, for example, the category accounted for about 9.5% of total hard surface sales and 11.2% of hard surface volume sold. That’s down slightly from 10.6% of sales and 11.6% of volume in 2017, respectively. But just five years ago, laminates’ share of total hard surfaces was 15% in dollars and 17% of square footage.

It’s no coincidence that the laminate category has lost the most market share over the past five to 10 years; over that same time span, certain segments of the resilient flooring category have increased share. “Without a doubt the biggest issue facing the laminate category is competition from WPC/LVT/SPC,” said Dan Natkin, vice president of hardwood and laminate, Mannington. “These categories have grown tremendously in the past 10 years and have presented some headwinds for laminate.”

Other laminate flooring manufacturing executives—even those who participate in the competing rigid floor covering segment—agree. “Clearly the biggest pressure on laminates is the competition from rigid core vinyl in all its forms,” said Derek Welbourn, CEO of Inhaus, manufacturer of the Sono ceramin-based line as well as company-branded laminate flooring. “As the industry statistics clearly show, these resilient products are continuing to claim market share against all categories and, in particular, laminate flooring.”

As more retailers participate in the explosive rigid core sector, they are devoting more of their floor space to these products and less to others, namely laminate. “During laminates’ heyday between 1996 and 2003-04, the average retailer had five-plus laminate displays on the showroom floor,” said Drew Hash, vice president, hard surface product/category management, Shaw Floors. “Now you’re lucky to see one laminate display on the showroom floor.”

Mannington’s Natkin agreed. “At independent retail, we have seen some choosing to dedicate less space to the laminate category, instead focusing in on two or three key brands they know and trust.”

Not everyone is in agreement that the laminate category has fallen off to the degree that many suggest, however. “We continue to estimate high market share for laminates in North America than what is published,” Inhaus’ Welbourn stated. He puts 2018 volume in the 1.2 billion-square-foot range. “The added features have driven more top-end sales, escalating the average sales price of laminate.”

Other executives such as Travis Bass, executive vice president of sales and marketing for Swiss Krono, a private-label supplier, believes volume was even higher than that in 2018. “We believe the market to be approximately 1.3 billion square feet and in excess of $1.2 billion in sales.”

Changing dynamics

Along with the overall shift in hard surface preferences, there has also been some movement internally within the laminate category as it pertains to how and where the product is being sold, distributed and consumed. For instance, laminates’ share of the commercial sector continues to dwindle (combined Main Street business and specified commercial business account for only 1.1% of sales) while residential replacement and builder applications are holding steady. FCNews research showed a slight uptick in new construction applications (12% of sales) with residential replacement activity—the leading end-use sector for laminates—hovering around 87% of sales.

“Residential remodel is still the strongest market for laminate, but we’re seeing growing acceptance among the builder community,” Mannington’s Natkin said.

In that same vein, industry observers reported greater activity at the home center level as big boxes dedicate more space (and SKUs) to flooring. FCNews research shows that Home Depot and Lowe’s collectively generated roughly $13 billion in total flooring sales in fiscal 2018. With respect to laminate in particular, there has been strong activity among entry-level laminate products in the $0.99 to $2.49-per-square-foot range. For 2018, FCNews research showed the major big-box chains—including Home Depot, Lowe’s and Menard’s—grew their collective share of laminate flooring sales to 51% of the market, as the specialty retail segment’s share dipped slightly to roughly 28%. The industry also saw other mass merchants—including the likes of warehouse clubs and Lumber Liquidators—increase their respective shares of the market.

The good news for specialty retailers is the kinds of laminate products in which they choose to specialize generally represent higher-margin opportunities. “We’re seeing more activity with the 12mm laminate products at specialty retail vs. the less expensive 8mm products you generally find at the home centers,” Shaw’s Hash explained. “Not only do the thicker products translate into bigger profits for our retail partners, but they also mean better-performing products for the consumer.”

Domestic vs. imports
The high volume of entry-level laminate flooring products moving through the home center channel—combined with fewer brands being represented at the specialty retail level—has impacted the supply chain dynamics in recent years. As stateside suppliers look to remain profitable in a market segment where the basic wholesale price of the product hasn’t budged much, there has been an increasing reliance on private-label manufacturers located in the U.S. Companies like Clarion and Swiss Krono, for example, have invested millions in their stateside operations to meet demand for what they view as a steady home center business. At the same time, they continue to make higher-end goods for some major American suppliers.

Nonetheless, the U.S. market is still attractive for laminate manufacturers based in Europe, China and, to a lesser extent, Canada. While imports have fallen off somewhat over the past two to three years, inbound shipments still represent a respectable portion of laminate flooring products making their way to U.S. shores.

A cursory view of statistics provided by the European Producers of Laminate Flooring (EPLF) bears this out. Last year, manufacturing members of the EPLF (including Classen, Alsapan, Berry Alloc, Egger, Haro, Faus, Kaindl, Balterio, Swiss Krono and Krono Flooring, among others) achieved worldwide sales of European-produced laminate flooring totaling 4.9 billion square feet, down 4.6% compared to 2017. This indicates that even with a downward trend in some regions, the global laminate market remains at a high level.

North America in particular continues to be a profitable sales region for the European laminate flooring sector, although weaker figures from Canada have mitigated those results. At 476 million square feet, total sales for North America in 2018 are off about 10.4% against the previous year. With around 330 million square feet sold in 2018, the U.S. market exhibited a slight reduction of 2.4%, while Canada recorded just under 146.3 million square feet for 2018, representing a drop of 24.5%.

By comparison, in Western Europe, the “home market” of the EPLF, sales declined further in 2018. Last year total member sales to the region reached 2.42 billion square feet, down 7.3% compared to the previous year. Meanwhile, EPLF sales to Latin America and Asia once again recorded the biggest increases. EPLF sales to Latin America grew 4.7% to approximately 200 million square feet in 2018 with Chile, the largest individual market, rising 5% compared to the previous year. Mexico recorded 42 million square feet, down from 46.3 million square feet in 2017, while Colombia registered 22.6 million square feet, up from 17.2 million square feet the year prior.

In Asia, EPLF producers achieved total sales of around 323 million square feet, up 2.8% over the previous year.

Silver linings
While the laminate flooring segment faces ongoing challenges from external forces and internal dynamics alike, suppliers continue to invest in the category. Mohawk Industries, for one, is looking to continue ushering the category into the next stage of its evolution via both its RevWood and Quick-Step NatureTEK offerings—products that tout enhanced durability as well as resistance to water incursion.

“We have a pretty good base here in the United States for production of RevWood products,” said Jeff Juzaitis, vice president, product management, Mohawk. “We have a breadth of design styles that satisfy almost every design whim. So that’s our focus—keeping the features at the forefront of the market and making sure we have price points across the entire range. We have the best partners out there in the marketplace to convey the story of RevWood to our end consumer who’s going to put it on the floor.”

It’s specifically the “waterproof” segment within the laminate flooring category that Mohawk sees the greatest potential. “In a world where everybody is being bombarded by rigid LVT, it’s really refreshing to have a different product category to talk about,” said Paul Murfin, senior vice president of distribution at Mohawk. “I would argue that this category of flooring is actually the fastest growing category in the industry today, growing faster than SPC or WPC. We are potentially looking at high-double or potentially triple-digit growth for this type of product.”

Quick-Step distributors like Owings Mills, Md.-based Elias Wilf tend to agree. “The laminate category has taken a pretty good hit over the past few years; WPC and rigid core floors certainly haven’t helped that,” said Jeff Striegel, president. “But the relaunch of Quick-Step in the form of NatureTEK just goes to demonstrate that if you keep a product current, fashionable and in line with the attributes that consumers are actually interested in and looking for, it still has a meaningful place on the floor both in the retail space and at the builder level.”

For companies like Shaw Floors, the greatest opportunity lies in step-up products. “Sales of our better-end, moisture-resistant products—which we classify as Repel—are doing very well in the market,” Hash explained. “Where we have had more challenges within the laminate category, quite frankly, is on the entry-level side where there’s more pressure from inexpensive 7mm-8mm products vs. the higher quality 12mm option, which accounts for a much smaller piece of the pie.”

The goal, according to suppliers like Shaw Floors, is to put more “distance” between the types of laminate products primarily sold at home centers and mass merchants vs. the more differentiated, higher-margin goods predominantly peddled by independent specialty retailers. “At Shaw we have launched 72-inch laminate boards, which have come a long way compared to a time when everything was 48-inch, fixed lengths,” Hash stated. “Also, with laminates today, the depth of the embossing is much better and the visuals are much stronger than they were in the past. When you take into account the apparent value of the products along with the visuals and the water-resistance story tacked on—it’s still a great value for the product.”

Swiss Krono’s Bass agreed, citing the vast improvements made in recent years. “With the product evolution into moisture resistance, laminate has solidified its place in the overall floor covering market. Moisture-resistant laminate gives the consumer a desired wood product with a wonderful environmental story and a great product with the best features and benefits of all floor covering choices.”

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Laminate: Latest looks aim to excite today’s consumers

June 10/17, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 26

By Reginald Tucker

 

In the battle to regain market share lost to red-hot categories such as LVT, WPC and SPC, laminate flooring suppliers have raised the ante in terms of performance—particularly the product’s water- and dent-resistant attributes. But they are also seeking to generate attention—and, by extension, more real estate on the showroom floor—by kicking things up a notch or two in the aesthetics department.

To that end, laminate manufacturers are leveraging various technologies, innovation and some creativity to get retailers excited about the category again. “Laminate designs over the last couple of years have really evolved from what we’ve seen in years past,” said Adam Ward, senior director of wood and laminate, Mohawk. “The level of realism you can get in a laminate product still beats what you can get in other categories such as ceramic, LVT and rigid core products.”

In Mohawk’s case, that realism is primarily due to the decorative papers used to render the primary image, plus an innovative four-color process employed to bring the visuals to life. These technologies have paid big dividends for Mohawk, whose RevWood line earned the company top honors in the laminate category in the 2019 Award of Excellence competition. “The level of pressing detail and registered embossed combined with our in-house design really takes design to another level, and it’s why we positioned the category as RevWood over laminate,” Ward explained. “The things we can do from a visual perspective—combined with our waterproof story—really has elevated the category over some of those other imitations that have come into the market.”

Examples include the Antique Craft collection, a 9 1⁄2-inch wide x 7-foot-long plank that plays on the growth of wider/longer in the wood category. According to Mohawk, it features ultra-realistic design and texture combined with bevels that mimic the texture of a real wood floor. Then there’s Collosia, a collection that resides within Mohawk’s Quick-Step brand. In keeping with its name, the product boasts 80-inch-long x 10- inch-wide boards available in modern urban looks in a variety of fashion-forward colors. “What we’ve been able to do with these products is bring retailers back to the category,” Ward said.

Mohawk is not alone. Inhaus, which also earned an Award of Excellence for its laminate offerings, believes the category still has a lot to offer retailers and, ultimately, consumers. “Laminate is one of the flooring categories with the lowest cost complemented with leading scratch and wear resistance,” said Derek Welbourn, CEO of Inhaus. “Furthermore, working with clarity of pressed melamine and digital printing there are design abilities that other categories don’t have. Our goal is to match these technical qualities with great designs complemented by the ability to bring these designs to the market with greater speed to offer our customers something that other categories cannot.”

To that end, Inhaus has invested in its own design center, a 40,000-square-foot facility that includes a workshop for raw materials, manned by 22-member team that works continuously on design. “This helps us create new products at a faster rate and respond to trends in the market as quickly as possible,” Welbourn added.

Major suppliers continue to dedicate resources to give themselves an advantage through innovation and differentiation. “Our styling team is able to take real wood and enhance it through advanced scanning and digital manipulation to get the exact look they want,” said Dan Natkin, vice president, hardwood and laminate, Mannington. “Also, with the newer technologies in printing, we can also create a broader array of visuals with less repeats.”

As an example, Natkin cited Arcadia and Sawmill Hickory, top-selling offerings from Mannington’s award-winning Restoration collection.

CFL Flooring, another innovator in the laminate sector—among other categories—has also made great strides in developing eye-catching looks. Utilizing its vast experience in hard surface flooring production, as well as its manufacturing scale, the company is able to leverage those attributes to its advantage. “We have a broad range of fashion-forward design visuals available in varying lengths or random widths across many species, including handscraped or embossed-in-register real wood surface structure,” said Barron Frith, CEO of CFL’s U.S. operations. “Our biggest advantage is the number of unique visuals we offer, making it very realistic and hard to see repeats once the floor is installed, which technically is more difficult to achieve.”

For CFL, staying on the forefront of innovation is the name of the game, according to Frith. “We continue on the path we started in 2014, when we were the first to launch water-resistant laminate and solely focus on water-resistant solutions with special sizes—herringbone, blended lengths and widths, etc.—as well as special designs that require a significant amount of pattern variation.”

Seemingly across the board, suppliers are leveraging technology to develop realistic patterns and visuals. “High-resolution printing advancements are opening up the opportunity to produce unique, one-of-a-kind looks,” said John Hammel, director of category management, hardwood and laminate, Shaw Floors. “Consumers can now choose from laminate with grouted tile, realistic wood plank and stone visuals, giving them a durable, low-maintenance product with high style.”

A winning proposition
The latest innovations we’re seeing in laminate are designed to do much more than dazzle consumers. The main objective is to keep the category relevant in the face of increasingly stiff competition. “Laminate still has many advantages over other categories like resilient or wood, such as its scratch resistance and strength,” CFL’s Frith said. “Warranties are very similar with waterproof products as well. Bathrooms, three-season rooms, spills or large-area installation without T-moldings are all warranted, so we believe these types of products still have a bright future ahead.”

Mannington’s Natkin agreed, adding, “Laminate is already the most scratch- and indentation-resistant printed product category on the market today. It is also visually more realistic than LVT; it lacks that plastic look.”

It’s a message that laminate suppliers are hoping will resonate deeply with retail sales associates—those on the front lines with consumers. “The com- bination of leading design, wear performance and cost create a value proposition for laminate that is very powerful,” Inhaus’ Welbourn stated. “Other categories will have problems competing with this.”

At the end of the day, it’s all about providing trade-up opportunities for retailers. As Mohawk’s Ward explains: “With RevWood Plus and our other RevWood products, we are giving consumers and specialty retailers a reason to turn back to the category where they may have traded down consumers in years past—particularly with the millennial and younger customers who might not necessarily require a hardwood or demand it. This has given retailers a reason to trade up from a cheaper laminate that they may have looked at in the past.”

All this, plus laminate’s proven value proposition and high-performance attributes, will go a long way in helping the category recoup market share, suppliers say. “Today’s consumers are looking for affordable laminate flooring, but with higher quality, style and design than the laminate of the past,” Shaw’s Hammel stated. “The trend toward thicker products, combined with improved high-end visuals and realistic embossing, means laminate isn’t simply an entry-level product.”

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A look back at 2018’s top introductions

April 29/May 6, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 24

By Lindsay Baillie and Ken Ryan

 

In a marketplace plagued by “me-too” products, it is up to manufacturers to develop standout flooring. Whether it’s carpet, hardwood, laminate, tile or resilient, suppliers have had to step up their game in style, design and performance to excite flooring dealers and customers alike.

In 2018, the industry saw a plethora of new products enter the scene. Following is an overview of those products that stood out to flooring retailers.


Terra Linda by Anderson Tuftex

About the product: Terra Linda is a 100% Stainmaster Luxerell BCF nylon carpet with textured styled. Available in 24 colors the signature product also features A/T’s Softbac Platinum Backing.

Sierra Nevada by Audacity from CFL
About the product:
Audacity’s water-resistant laminate floors are available in five collections—Classic Naturals, Hearthside, Lodge, Monticello and Vintage. In the U.S. and in Canada, Audacity Flooring is sold exclusively through select Armstrong Flooring distributors.

Adventure II by Engineered Floors
About the product:
EF’s Adventure II is a 5.5mm luxury vinyl plank with a 22-mil wear layer and a ceramic bead finish. Available in nine wood-look visuals, the 7 x 48-inch plank can be installed floating and comes with a 10-year commercial warranty and a lifetime residential warranty. What’s more, Adventure II is Floorscore certified for indoor air quality.

Sono by Inhaus
About the product: Sono is a 100% recyclable, PVC-free flooring that is made up of 60% mineral powder and 40% polypropylene. Sono is waterproof, easy to install and highly stable under both humidity and heat. The company continues to invest in its digital printing to ensure quality, on-trend visuals.

RevWood Plus by Mohawk
About the product: 
RevWood Plus is a revolutionary wood floor destined to make consumers rethink the wood category. RevWood Plus planks offer reliable durability that resist stains, scratches and dents. Thanks to its 100% waterproof flooring system, spills, accidents and tracked-in-stain-makers are kept on the surface for quick, easy cleanup.

Sweet Memories collection by Mirage
About the product: 
Mirage’s Sweet Memories collection features the manufacturer’s exclusive staining and brushing processes to create floors with the charm of yesteryear. Variations, knots, cracks and other natural characteristics help to create the collection’s authentic appearance.


Titanium by Karastan

About the product: Karastan’s Titanium rug collection is grounded by a careful combination of both traditional and transitional patterns. The collection is meant to satisfy a craving for contrast with a fashion-forward fusion of matte and sheen finishes.


Acrylx by Raskin

About the product: Acrylx is a solid surface waterproof floor available in three collections: Premier Home, Premier XL and Premier G-Core XL. Acrylx’s high-density core is made of pure materials and minerals that are tightly bonded with polymers to create a solid core that is more impact resistant and denser than other floors.


Great California Oak by Republic Floors

About the product: Great California Oak is an extra-wide, pure SPC floor with beveled edges and realistic grains. The 100% waterproof flooring carries a limited 25-year residential warranty and a limited 10-year commercial warranty. What’s more, it features the company’s new antibacterial EVA underlayment padding.


Bellera by Shaw Floors

About the product: Created with a holistic approach to meet the design and performance needs of consumers, Bellera is a top-to-bottom innovation known for style and durability. With Bellera, Shaw’s new Endurance high-performance fiber is combined with proven technologies such as R2X soil and stain resistance and LifeGuard backing to create a worry-free carpet.


Harbor Plank by Southwind
About the product: 
The Harbor Plank series features planks 6 x 48, with a high-density wood plastic composite core and a Uniclic locking system. Attached to each luxury vinyl plank is the Southwind IXPE underlayment pad, which is impervious to water, hides subfloor imperfections, provides added sound absorption and comfort underfoot.


COREtec Pro Plus by USFloors
About the product: 
The COREtec Pro Plus Series consists of two collections: COREtec Pro Plus (5mm total thickness) and COREtec Pro Plus Enhanced (7mm total thickness). COREtec Pro Plus Enhanced includes all the features of the Pro Plus collection coupled with a four-sided enhanced bevel for added realism.


Radius by Stanton Carpet

About the product: Stanton’s Radius broadloom carpet is available in Stanton Street, the company’s Decorative Commercial line. Radius is a cut-pile nylon and is crafted for residential to heavy commercial application.

TruTEX by Tarkett
About the product: With its unique textile backing, TruTEX luxury sheet flooring resists mold and mildew while adding superior strength against rips, tears and gouges. With 20 realistic, high-definition stone and wood designs, TruTEX is easy to install over existing floor coverings, greatly reducing the time spent preparing subfloors.

 

 

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Laminate: Distributors go high ‘TEK’ with Quick-Step rebrand

April 1/8, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 22

By Reginald Tucker

 

Quick-Step sellers will be pleased to learn the Reclaime collection will still be available despite the changeover to NatureTEK.

Mohawk first hit a home run with last year’s breakthrough RevWood collection, an engineered flooring product designed to go toe-to-toe with other waterproof offerings such as WPC and SPC. Now it’s Quick-Step’s turn at bat as the similarly constructed NatureTEK line looks to win favor among stocking distributors.

Built on the same platform as RevWood—which is based on melamine overlay coupled with a high-resolution decorative image supported by an HDF core that has been enhanced with features that significantly boost the product’s resistance to moisture—the Quick-Step NatureTEK line aims to offer consumers all the visual attributes of a wood floor with- out the shortcomings.

Available in three platforms—NatureTEK, NatureTEK Plus and NatureTEK Select—the collections aim to provide retailers with a multi-tiered product offering that allows trade-up opportunities while giving consumers a range of options from which to choose. The NatureTEK Plus and Select offerings, which retail at about $3 and $3.50 per square foot, respectively, are imbued with waterproof attributes.

“We refer to NatureTEK—what essentially used to be our laminate platform—as ‘wood perfected,’” said Paul Murfin, senior vice president of distribution at Mohawk Industries. “It combines cutting-edge technology with the latest in design trends to deliver beautiful floors with unparalleled resistance to scratches and stains.”

Like RevWood, NatureTEK Plus and Select lines owe their waterproof qualities to Mohawk’s complete installation system. It all starts with the Uniclic locking technology, which ensures an extremely tight connection between the planks—the product’s first line of defense against moisture incursion. The analogy Murfin likes to use is when you try to put a size 10 foot into a size 9 shoe. “It’s going to be a very snug fit,” he explained.

The next critical component is Mohawk’s GenuEdge technology, which applies the decorative paper all the way to the edge of the board so there’s no exposed HDF core in the middle of the plank. For additional moisture protection, Mohawk
applies its signature
HydroSeal, which
essentially coats the
outside of the planks
to prevent moisture
from penetrating the product. For good measure, Mohawk recommends installers apply a silicone bead around the perimeter of the installation as an additional layer of protection.

“The whole idea of NatureTEK Plus and Select is to keep moisture on the perimeter of the product and prevent it from penetrating into the floor,” Murfin explained.

Longtime Quick-Step distributors said they like what they’re seeing in the newly reborn NatureTEK line. “The methodology behind the program is sound,” said Aaron Stred, vice president of hardwood, NRF Distributors, a top 20 wholesaler servicing eight states in the New England region. “The TEK programming ties up a lot of proverbial loose ends for Quick-Step. What once seemed fractured is now easily digestible by the retailer.”

While the waterproof attributes of NatureTEK Plus and Select are a big draw, the main allure is the aesthetic appeal. As Stred explains, “Quick-Step has left the more traditional laminate visuals behind in lieu of some very forward-thinking products. The products don’t go out onto limbs that are the ‘color of the moment,’ but rather they hit a medium in color, sheen and texture that has been pretty crowd pleasing within an array of collections.”

Other top 20 distributors such as Owings Mills, Md.-based Elias Wilf are also singing NatureTEK’s praises. Jeff Striegel, president, believes it’s just what the segment needed. “The laminate category has taken a pretty good hit over the past few years; WPC and rigid core floors certainly haven’t helped that. But the relaunch of Quick-Step in the form of NatureTEK just goes to demonstrate that if you keep a product current, fashionable and in line with the attributes that consumers are actually interested in and looking for, it still has a meaningful place on the floor both in the retail space and at the builder level.”

Striegel is particularly impressed with the combined technologies utilized within NatureTEK Plus and Select that render the products waterproof. He not only views it as a game changer but also a playing field leveler. “I think Quick-Step has established a meaningful parity with the WPC category in terms of the waterproof aspect,” he explained. “And when you take a look at the things that are inherent within this laminate product (it’s substantially more stain resistant than WPC, eight times more scratch resistant and has a higher psi, which gives much better dent resistance than any of the WPC products) it provides a real point of differentiation.”

NatureTEK’s eye-catching visuals are equally impressive. “When Mohawk introduced NatureTEK, they did it with phenomenal styling,” Striegel said. “If you were to put that product right next to wood, it looks more like wood than real wood. It is the most authentic replication of hardwood that you’ll find in the industry today.”

Nothing but upside
While it has only been a year since NatureTEK’s official rollout, Mohawk believes the product’s potential is unlimited. In fact, when viewed through the prism of a category unto itself (waterproof laminate), the company believes its growth will outpace that of WPC.

“In a world where everybody is being bombarded by rigid LVT, it’s really refreshing to have a different product category to talk about,” Murfin stated. “I would argue that this category of flooring is actually the fastest growing category in the industry today, growing faster than SPC or WPC. We are potentially looking at high-double or potentially triple-digit growth for this type of product. I’m telling distributors to think big with this product.”