Lauren Moore 2017-05-19 01:28:29
Over the past five years, luxury vinyl tile (LVT) has grown by leaps and bounds. With advances in design, expanded installation options, enhanced performance capabilities, new players entering the category and innovations in the up-and-coming multilayer flooring (MLF) subcategory, the LVT landscape looks quite different than it did just five years ago. “When you have a product that offers easy installation, beautiful visuals and is 100 percent waterproof, all at an affordable price point, it’s no secret why LVT has seen significant growth in the last five years,” said Clark Hodgkins, director-resilient, Shaw Floors. It’s the fastest-growing segment of the flooring market, said Gary Keeble, director of marketing for Metroflor Corp. “LVT is a category in which seemingly all flooring companies want to have a presence,” he said. While that means more competition, it also leads to increased innovation. “Because the LVT category remains so popular, it’s garnering attention from more manufacturers and suppliers, which heightens the competitive landscape and broadens the product scope,” said Jeremy Kleinberg, product manager, resilient, Armstrong Flooring. Jimmy Tuley, vice president of residential resilient business with Mannington Mills, referred to the category’s growth over the past five years as explosive, and that as the category continues its evolution, it will continue to grow rapidly. VISUALS, INSTALLATION OPTIONS MAKE AN IMPACT One of the biggest evolutions within the LVT category over the past five years has been its improved visuals. “It’s gone from looking like vinyl to having extremely realistic visuals, which makes it more attractive to consumers,” Tuley said. Hodgkins also cited the enhanced visuals as a game-changer for LVT. “Many of today’s consumers have a difficult time distinguishing between LVT with a hardwood visual, for example, and actual hardwood. The same can be said for LVT products with tile and stone visuals as well,” he said. Mimicking the look of real wood and stone “is vinyl’s job,” said Kurt Denman, chief marketing officer with Congoleum. “Whether it’s through EIR (embossed in register), better board separation because of edge treatments, wider planks, mixed widths, we’re seeing things now we didn’t see five years ago. There’s been an incredible transformation in the category.” In addition to enhanced visuals and textures, Eric Erickson, vice president of sales, marketing, design and business development with Beauflor, said the evolution of installation methods over the past five years has been noteworthy. Originally a primarily gluedown product, there are now several different click options, as well as loose lay, especially among MLF products. “You can find an LVT that will work for about any method of installation or environment,” Erickson said. Click products in particular have made a big difference, said Jonathan Train, president and CEO of Earth- Werks. “It has really broadened the scope of where and who can install LVT,” he said. Additionally, loose lay has become an alternative to direct glue installation, Hodgkins said. “It reduces the amount of adhesive used, saving installers time, which, in turn, saves consumers money.” John Wu, president and CEO of Novalis Innovative Flooring, said LVT has also been embraced across all installations — residential, Main Street, commercial specified, multi-family and others. “It’s a much more robust flooring category, and it will be even more so five years from now,” he added. Train added that LVT has become more widely accepted by the consumer. “It is no longer a niche product,” he said. “With all the major flooring producers now sourcing and offering LVT in their line, it has become more mainstream. We have always believed in the quality and benefits of the product. It just took some time for everyone to jump on board.” MLF’S RISE Perhaps one of the biggest contributions to the LVT category’s growth has been the proliferation of MLF. “Polymer composite rigid-core floor products have seen explosive growth across the flooring industry since their introduction,” Armstrong’s Kleinberg said. When the product first came onto the scene, it brought a lot of features and benefits to the consumer, but it still had its limitations. David Sheehan, senior vice president of product management with IVC, cited issues with indentation and buckling with some wood plastic composite (WPC) products as examples. “The growth of the category has been phenomenal with all major mills, importers and distributors participating in the MLF game,” said Jamann Stepp, director of marketing and product management, USFloors. “This composite waterproof core flooring has injected a level of excitement in the flooring industry not seen realized since the introduction of laminate flooring in the mid-1990s.” Now, this new sub-category within LVT provides desired solutions, such as waterproof capabilities, quick installation options and the ability to hide subfloor imperfections, in addition to the aesthetic benefits found in traditional LVT. MLF has taken “the best features of LVT and expanded upon them to create an improved resilient product,” Shaw’s Hodgkins said. Its biggest advancement, he said, is its ability to virtually eliminate telegraphing. “Subfloor imperfections have previously been a significant concern for consumers interested in LVT flooring,” he added, and MLF has alleviated those concerns. “Overall, the impact of MLF has been positive on the resilient category,” Stepp said. “However, the success of the MLF category has pulled sales away from other resilient categories.” LVT is the majority of the resilient category as a percent to total, he said, but MLF constructions are growing at a much more substantial rate than LVT on a year over year basis. However, Novalis’ Wu said this new subset of LVT hasn’t cannibalized traditional LVT. “We believe it has added incrementally to resilient,” he said. IVC’s Sheehan pointed out that while MLF has taken away from some glue-down LVT, he doesn’t believe glue-down LVT will be going away anytime soon. “Especially in the world of commercial, where you have heavy rolling loads, uneven subfloors, pivot points, hospital beds and rigorous, heavy traffic, probably the best solution is going to be a glue-down LVT,” he said. EarthWerks’ Train agreed. “Gluedown is still a preferred product in many applications due to performance and cost,” he said. “MLF has grown the LVT category as a whole.” LOOKING AHEAD Experts in the category expect innovation to continue. “I believe you will continue to see the product evolve in performance, features and benefits,” Beauflor’s Erickson said. “I also believe you could see some of the technologies evolve into other categories.” Mannington’s Tuley said that thanks to innovation in the category, especially that brought on by MLF, the category hasn’t plateaued. “Instead of seeing the natural product evolution where you take off fast and then flatten out, I think the innovation we’ve seen over the past five years and will see in the next couple of years will allow us to stay on a growth path.”
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