Floor Covering Weekly April 10, 2017 : Page 1

APRIL 10, 2017 NO. 7 • $4 VOL. 66 | FL O O R C OV ER I N G W EEK L Y US EXCLUSIVE Printed bamboo was just one of the many innovations on display at &QOQVGZ#UKC%JKPCƃQQT
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 THE INDUSTRY’S BUSINESS NEWS & INFORMATION RESOURCE Selling the real deal BY MALLORY CRUISE-MCGRATH It is no secret that hardwood is facing increased competition from look-alike hard surface prod-ucts that not only offer realistic wood visuals but also come with capabilities not inherent to wood such as waterproof properties, perceived easier installation options and lower price points. Suppliers, however, said that despite com-peting with these attractive qualities, hardwood remains a viable part of the retail floor because whether consumers choose solid or engineered wood, they are ultimately choosing a product that adds value to the home. It all comes down, they said, to communicating these inherent hardwood benefits to the consumer. “Each product — whether it’s wood, laminate, LVT (luxury vinyl tile), resilient or porcelain — has its place in the market. In the end, it’s a consumer’s decision about which product suits their lifestyle and budget best, and consumer studies continue to show that wood is the most preferred flooring type throughout most of the home,” said Dan Natkin, senior vice president of hardwood and laminate, Mannington Mills. Natkin also added that while laminate is frequently positioned as a good alternative for those looking for an entry-level builder grade product, the retail side of the business doesn’t see that exchange happening as much. “We have to be careful when communicating that these products are taking share because it’s not occurring as much in remodel as it is in builder,” he said. Continued on page 14 2017 Mercier’s White Oak Element

Selling The Real Deal

Mallory Cruise-Mcgrath

It is no secret that hardwood is facing increased competition from look-alike hard surface products that not only offer realistic wood visuals but also come with capabilities not inherent to wood such as waterproof properties, perceived easier installation options and lower price points.

Suppliers, however, said that despite competing with these attractive qualities, hardwood remains a viable part of the retail floor because whether consumers choose solid or engineered wood, they are ultimately choosing a product that adds value to the home. It all comes down, they said, to communicating these inherent hardwood benefits to the consumer.

“Each product — whether it’s wood, laminate, LVT (luxury vinyl tile), resilient or porcelain — has its place in the market. In the end, it’s a consumer’s decision about which product suits their lifestyle and budget best, and consumer studies continue to show that wood is the most preferred flooring type throughout most of the home,” said Dan Natkin, senior vice president of hardwood and laminate, Mannington Mills.

Natkin also added that while laminate is frequently positioned as a good alternative for those looking for an entry-level builder grade product, the retail side of the business doesn’t see that exchange happening as much.

“We have to be careful when communicating that these products are taking share because it’s not occurring as much in remodel as it is in builder,” he said.

In addition, new technology has allowed hardwood to be installed just as easily as any other hard surface floor covering. Locking systems being one example, according to Brad Williams, vice president of sales and marketing for Boa Franc (makers of the Mirage brand).

“This technology requires no glue, nails or staples and it can even be moved and reused. All the virtues of hardwood floors will give consumers peace of mind that their investment is protected,” he said.

Don Finkell, CEO of American OEM, also pointed to certain technical limitations that come with lookalike products. “With ceramic, for instance, there’s a limitation for how big you can go with the plank because it’ll break, but there doesn’t exist the same technical limitations on how wide and long you can go with an engineered hardwood plank,” he explained.

As far as waterproof capabilities go, Mannington’s Natkin said the industry may be focusing too much on that.

“How often does a floor actually flood? Most floors will survive perfectly well under the occasional spill. Waterproof is only necessary if you have regular standing water,” he offered.

GREEN STILL MATTERS

But perhaps, most importantly, hardwood is sustainable and contributes to healthier indoor air environments, something that continues to be front of mind for many consumers — especially in light of the Lumber Liquidators’ formaldehyde scandal a few years back. Industry executives said it’s important for dealers to share wood’s green properties with prospective customers.

In fact, Mullican president Neil Poland said hardwood flooring is hypoallergenic and doesn’t pose harmful emissions risks, thereby contributing to healthier indoor air quality.

Lauzon’s communications manager Priscilla Bergeron explained that hardwood naturally sequesters carbon. And, unlike petroleum-based products such as vinyl and synthetic carpets, she noted that wood is a renewable resource.

“While they are growing, trees transform CO2 into oxygen. But once trees become mature, the process stops. When a tree dies and rots in the forest, it releases all of its accumulated carbon dioxide back into the environment,” she explained. “A tree whose growth period has ended no longer releases oxygen and ceases to help clean our air. Cutting it down creates room for younger trees that will. When we transform a mature tree into a floor, the hardwood flooring actually stores the carbon indefinitely.”

Additionally, noted Shaw’s hardwood category manager Natalie Cady, hardwood’s carbon neutrality also resonates with consumers.

“Hardwood maintains a net zero carbon footprint. Eco-conscious consumers can feel good about purchasing beautiful flooring without sacrificing important green initiatives,” she said.

Engineered hardwood specifically, said Mohawk’s senior vice president of hardwood and laminate Roger Farabee, promotes sustainability as it potentially requires less virgin timber for production than solid wood. “That definitely has a positive message for people concerned from an environmental aspect,” he said.

Wood suppliers, along with the NWFA (National Wood Flooring Association), worked with the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) to create the RPP (Responsible Procurement Program) in an effort to educate retailers and consumers on wood’s natural benefits.

And to show just how active U.S. forests truly are, the U.S. Forestry Service conducted a survey recently which concluded that the growth rate for U.S. forests is nearly 2 to 1 in terms of number of trees grown versus trees harvested, decayed or dead.

“We also have conducted two life cycle analyses that prove wood impacts the environment better than any other floor covering related to life cycle analysis,” said Mullican’s Poland. The lifecycle analysis was done in conjunction with the University of Wisconsin’s U.S. Forest Products Laboratory.

NWFA president and CEO Michael Martin said wood is the only raw flooring material that can be renewed.

“These imposter products cannot duplicate the warmth and carbon sequestration wood provides as a flooring option. Plus, when properly maintained, wood floors can last for hundreds of years, which makes them a great long-term value,” he said.

VERSATILITY IS KEY

Armstrong’s hardwood product manager Chris Moore said it’s also important for retailers to focus on hardwood’s versatility, in both solid and engineered formats.

“You have the option to refinish which is a big plus to keeping floors looking new, but also to keep up with changing trends. Engineered wood also offers design versatility, plus more installation choices thanks to its dimensional stability and ability to adapt to environments,” he said.

Maxwell Hardwood Flooring president and CEO Tommy Maxwell said, in fact, custom finishes are where the hardwood industry sets itself apart. “People won’t want the same LVT they put in today 50 years from now but they will keep the same wood floor if they have the ability to refinish it,” he said.

Indeed, design versatility is important, and Lauzon’s Bergeron said repetitive patterns, which can be found in wood lookalike products, cannot be found in real wood floors.

This is of particular importance as the industry has seen a return to natural finish looks, noted NWFA’s Martin. Specifically, natural wood looks.

“Distressing is still popular, but the techniques are subtler now than in the past few years. Wider planks are gaining popularity as are longer lengths, gray tones and dual tone finishes (finishes that accentuate the grain),” he said.

Read the full article at http://bt.e-ditionsbyfry.com/article/Selling+The+Real+Deal/2758285/398820/article.html.

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