My Take: The flooring industry, by numbers

July 05, 2017

June 26: Volume 32, Issue 1

By Steven Feldman

 

Screen Shot 2016-07-15 at 3.46.11 PMSo when the dust settled, FCNews’ exclusive research revealed the flooring industry in 2016 was up 5.1% in dollars and nearly 4% in volume. This is the seventh consecutive year in which dollars outpaced volume, meaning the average selling price of most products continues to rise. Attribute that to some price hikes and consumers buying higher-priced goods. Every category showed gains with the exception of carpet, which posted the slightest of losses.

All in all, the industry continues its rebound from the Great Recession. Hey, it may not be as good as the mid-2000s, but then again, neither am I.

Unless you have just awoken from a year-long coma, you know the resilient category, specifically LVT and to be more accurate, WPC/rigid core, is driving the growth. The joke on the street is one company said to the other, “How’s your sheet business?” Response: “Why? Do you want to buy it?”

A few words about our numbers, which we believe to be the most accurate in the industry. We comb government and industry data, and we speak to a lot of people—particularly on the resilient side—because it is the category driving the industry right now. Just about every manufacturer shared with us their proprietary numbers. The lone holdout was Armstrong. Repeated phone calls and emails to various individuals were left unreturned. So in this case we were forced to talk to countless individuals with knowledge of their business. We are confident we got close enough to ensure the most accurate aggregate number.

A couple of things to keep in mind about our numbers:

  1. The ceramic number we report is strictly floor tile. The general rule of thumb is flooring constitutes about 78% of the ceramic floor/wall tile market. So after we did the research and came up with the total floor and wall number, we applied the factor.
  2. Our total industry sales do not include stone flooring, which admittedly is a significant number. Why? Because we don’t feel we can apply the same degree of accuracy to the stone flooring market that we assign to every other category. Most people interviewed for this report feel there is no way to determine whether a particular square foot or linear slab of stone—be it granite, marble, slate, travertine, etc.—that gets sold is going on the floor, wall or countertop. Some stone can even wind up in other applications. So rather than just guess, we’ll leave that to you.
  3. You will notice a lower rubber number from years past. Reason being: We are only taking rubber sheet and tile flooring into consideration this year. We have eliminated the cove base, stair treads, accessories, etc. We estimate the rubber flooring market to be about $180 million. It’s probably in the $550 million range when everything else is counted. We have adjusted numbers from prior years to reflect this change.

There are several industry reports out there, and all have their own methodology. Some rely on government numbers, which are a good start. But sometimes the government misclassifies products, especially as it relates to wood. Others estimate, particularly as it relates to proprietary company information—which is fine if you’re looking to just get into the ballpark but don’t care where you’re sitting. Some industry associations do a good job of having their manufacturer members report confidential sales to a third-party research firm. The RFCI does a good job of this. The problem is it only takes into account member sales. When you don’t include companies like USFloors, Beaulieu, Raskin, Forbo and a host of imports, you are not painting a complete picture.

In any case, rest assured a lot of effort went into compiling the numbers for this issue. We are confident that you’ll find them to be as good as any out there.

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