Since arriving in America in the mid-1990s, laminate flooring has represented something new, different and innovative. Offering the look of hardwood with superior scratch and scuff resistance, technological advancements have helped the category improve in looks, texture, applications and durability.
But in retail circles the key was how to position the product to consumers. Should it be sold as part of the hardwood section or on its own? How much of it should be in displays, part of vignettes or on the floor itself? And what about the increasing ceramic-look SKUs?
According to Michael Barrows, vice president of residential sales for Atlanta Flooring Design Centers, the company positions its laminate displays on the hard surface side and incorporates it with wood and ceramic. “With the advances in technology, laminate has gotten to the point where it truly does look like wood and tile. Some of the laminate we installed on the showroom floor is actually mistaken for a real wood floor. Laminate, as a whole, has come a long way with decorative and stylish patterns that definitely stretch the visual limitations.”
The advantages to a laminate floor are many, especially for an active family, he noted, and that’s how it should be positioned. “Laminates give the consumer ease of maintenance and an extremely durable product that truly is a value for the life of your home,” Barrows said. “Over the last five years it has become one of the more popular do-it-yourself flooring products because of its ease of installation. Unlike installing ceramic tile and wood, the time and tools needed to complete the project are minimal.”
Sam O’Krent, owner of O’Krent’s Abbey Flooring Center in San Antonio, said in general, the company positions laminate much in the same manner it positions its other product lines. “We believe in highlighting as much product as possible as a display floor. It’s difficult for a consumer to visualize what a product will look like in her home based on a small sample. It’s been proven, time after time, that items displayed on the floor become our biggest sellers. It takes the fear out of the purchase decision.
“Along the same line, we highlight products on A-frame racks where eight to 10-foot boards are pieced together to showcase a ‘special of the month.’”
According to Alicia Self, store manager of Color Tile & Carpet in Salem, Ore., showing a variety of laminate styles on the showroom floor is key. “We like having 6 x 10-foot section of different products on our showroom floors to properly give an idea of what it [looks like]. We try and lay different textures, finishes, widths and characteristics of products on the floors to give our customers ideas of what she may or may not like. This enables her to visualize easier.”
Color Tile & Carpet also displays its stock merchandise on the showroom floor. “This gives the customers a way to touch our products and get a better idea of the makeup,” Self said. “It also allows her to take it home with her that day.” She noted that distributors often donate products to put on her showroom floors. “This helps us so we don’t have to absorb the cost. They can showcase their products as well, so it really works out best for both of us.”
As for special-order products, Color Tile & Carpet displays in large format so its customers can get a better idea of the products. “We keep duplicates on hand as well so our customers can checkout samples,” Self said.
According to David Hartman, executive vice president of sales and marketing for Pergo, dealers should focus on product innovations that provide added value to consumers, such as the exclusive technologies offered in the Pergo portfolio, including its click systems and PerfectFold locking technology.
“Consumers react favorably to products and features positioned throughout the value chain,” he concluded. “Even though they are remaining cautious with their discretionary spending, we have seen and will continue to see a demand for premium and value-branded products.”
Editor’s note: For more on sell- ing laminate flooring, see FCNews’ special supplement, A retailer’s guide to selling laminate flooring.