June 9/16, 2014; Volume 27/Number 29
By Jenna Lippin
The term LVT is known as the abbreviation for luxury vinyl tile, although it often encompasses the plank format as well. Some companies, such as Beaulieu America, Mannington and Mohawk, have given the category their own unique spin with the introduction of LVF (flooring) and LVP (plank).
That being said, most retailers and consumers envision LVT as either square tiles resembling ceramic tile and stone or planks that mimic hardwood. However, many category leaders have developed shapes and sizes that stray from the standard 12 x 12, 16 x 16, 18 x 18 and 24 x 24 offerings.
One of the reasons several LVT manufacturers began to develop different shapes and sizes, particularly larger rectangles, is because the category tends to mimic the “real thing,” such as natural stone. As these product evolve, so, too, does LVT.
“A lot of what goes on with wood and porcelain will influence the faux categories,” said David Sheehan, vice president of commercial hard surfaces at Mannington. “We observed about four or five years ago a lot of modular installations taking place in porcelain tile where manufacturers were marketing combinations of shapes and sizes. We created Adura Elements on the residential side to mimic what was going on in natural stone and porcelain installations. That’s where we began to think outside the square, and the 12 x 24 format was our first entrée into non-standard formats like a square or a plank.” Today Mannington offers Adura Rectangles, which features 12 x 24 tiles in both click and glue down.
Also offering a 12 x 24 size is EarthWerks, which has had the shape in its portfolio for some time. However, Jonathan Train, vice president, agreed that larger selections have become prevalent in recent years due to LVT’s propensity to mimic natural products. “Both stone and wood tend to be ahead of the curve in style and design whereas LVT tends to lag behind, which I think will always be the case because it is bought for more functional [reasons].”
John Geier, product manager, hard surface, at Beaulieu added that because of the general nature of LVT (or LVF, as the company calls it), it can be designed to mimic other products such as ceramic. With that comes larger sizes.
“Resilient, or LVF, is going to mimic some painted concretes in a bigger format tile,” Geier said. “Those are possible now because of the make up of the product, as it is stable enough and durable enough to make larger sizes.”
Armstrong’s Alterna, which features 8 x 16 and 12 x 24 tiles, expanded to cater to the consumer who is looking for something unique. “Alterna has been extremely successful over the last several years and is continuing to grow in market share,” said Yon Hinkle, product manager. “One thing we considered was who we weren’t appealing to. We wanted to give the customer who wasn’t looking for the square shape but loved the product something to maximize the capability of custom designs.”
Customization is a major selling point for rectangular-format LVT, as different shapes and sizes of the same product can be intermixed to create unique, personalized designs.
Sheehan said he sees customization in both the residential and commercial markets, including Mannington’s Amtico brand. “Amtico was doing a variety of non-standard sizes well before we purchased the company. In the commercial world, these sizes have existed for quite a while. The basic Amtico offering today comes with 280 visuals, and sizes like 12 x 24, 18 x 36 and 9 x 18 may be requested. All of these are available because we manufacture them here, so our customers can order non-standard sizes that can be shipped within five to seven business days.”
With different shapes and sizes available to consumers, they can customize their flooring designs that go beyond anything “suggested” by the manufacturer. “When you’re talking about truly custom, you’re looking at designing something from the line that doesn’t already exist,” Hinkle said. “We get pictures from customers that say, ‘Look what I did!’ with some kind of inset or a border look that we didn’t have. [Dealers] may have [creative] installations in-store. When I think about the customization, or the ‘design elevation’ of the product when installed, I’m thinking about the customer who loves that beige slate look we have but wants to do something a little different than what you typically see. They like the color and design but want to see it jazzed up a little bit with other shapes and sizes to create a real premium look. Without having to go to an additional expense, customers can make unique floors.”
Beyond 12 x 24
In terms of what’s to come, the industry can anticipate some new ideas regarding LVT shapes and sizes going into 2015.
Perhaps the most recent development, earlier this month at NeoCon Mannington Commercial unveiled a new concept called Intersected. The LVT product is a graphic floor tile that combines different shapes and sizes, which are actually neither square nor rectangle. “Different shapes and sizes create something visually interesting and takes us out of those typical, less appealing [commercial] spaces,” such as a break room or office supply space, Sheehan explained.
If you really want a hint of what’s to come, most executives said, once again, all you have to do is take a look at stone and ceramic.
“I think what you’re going to see is all different shapes and sizes going into installations, more because of the visuals that can be created,” said Mark Hansen, vice president of Novalis Innovative Flooring. “We see that now in many flooring products. Flooring is a creature of what other people do. As stone and ceramic looks are popular in rectangular shapes, you will find that in other hard surface products. It will feed off of each other.”