Of all the flooring segments, the wood category has been hit the hardest since the housing market crash and subsequent economic decline. While the sector is no longer falling off a cliff, sales continue to struggle as consumers become ever more vigilant with their spending.
The difficulties, however, have not stopped manufacturers from bringing out new products and technology for the fall selling season. While the handscraped, rustic look continues to be popular, companies are introducing a wide range of designs and features as they try to help retailers grab consumer interest.
The following is what some of the category’s leading companies are offering, as well as a newcomer with an already strong name in laminate.
Though there are regional preferences for certain species and finishes, Milton Goodwin, Armstrong’s vice president of product management-hardwood, said “handscraped wood flooring has been surging among consumers, across the country.”
With that, the company has launched products under both the Armstrong and Bruce brands reflecting this trend.
In the Armstrong brand is Rustic Accents and Artesian Hand-Tooled. The first is an engineered collection in acacia and walnut that is 1⁄2-inch thick and 5-inches wide. Artesian is also a 1⁄2-inch thick engineered product but in hickory, birch and oak, and features random board widths of 4-, 5- and 6-inches.
The Bruce brand is getting Frontier and Rustic Heritage for the fall. Goodwin said Frontier is an engineered product in hickory and birch with a “high-fashion blackwash finish,” available, in 5-inch wide planks. Rustic Heritage is a 3⁄4-inch thick solid wood collection in birch, white oak, hickory and acacia and planks are 4- and 5-inches wide.
Despite the tough market conditions, the Canadian mill is coming out with an aggressive array of products for the fall.
Luc Robitaille, vice president of marketing, said African Mahogany has been added to the company’s exotic series and has a “unique grain and striking color variations that create a one-of-a-kind look, which is exactly what people are looking for in an exotic species.” The product is available in 5-inch wide planks with a semi-gloss finish in three colors: brass, terracotta and bronze. The new Greystone and Graphite products add two new tones of gray to the Mirage offering, he noted. “Many consumers are looking for something different than the conventional brown tones, but still want a floor with a natural and mineral look.”
Greystone is a maple in clear gray, and Graphite is a dark gray in both maple and red oak. Both come in solid and engineered constructions with a new Cashmere—silky matte, low gloss—finish. “It has the look of an oiled floor but without the maintenance,” Robitaille explained.
Finally, the company is ad- ding extra wide (6½-inch) and long (over 69-inches) planks to its Sweet Memories series in handcrafted oak and aged maple featuring the Cashmere finish.
Tammy Perez, senior brand manager of hard surface, said the new Brookedale collection “promises to offer the consumer an elegant, high-end visual at a value price.”
Available in maple, hickory and walnut, the full collection features seven variations, each with subtle handscraping and pillowed edges. “The craftsmanship of Brookedale is exceptional,” she said, “providing consumers with a distinctive floor they are certain to enjoy for years to come.”
As an added feature, Brookdale is easy to install with the mill’s Clic & Press format featuring its Uniclic technology. With Clic & Press, Perez noted, “consumers can walk on their floor immediately—an added benefit for homeowners juggling a busy schedule.” In addition to a faster installation there are no gaps between planks.
In 2004 the company introduced the handsculpted Chatelaine Collection. Brian Greenwell, vice president of sales and marketing, said the line has been so popular Mullican is adding four more products before year’s end, bringing the collection to 10.
“Because the planks are machine milled and then individually scraped using hand tools,” he explained, “each floor has a distinctive, vintage appearance, which is what consumers are looking for.”
The four new products are oak sienna, birch chestnut brown, oak winesap and hickory natural. Chatelaine’s 3⁄4-inch, solid floors are prefinished and have Mullican’s Alpha A’lumina Real World Finish, which carries a 25-year warranty.
First previewed at Surfaces, DécorWood is a totally new offering from the traditional laminate company and is hitting stores this fall. Though it is among the wood introductions Roger Farabee, senior vice president of marketing for Mohawk’s Unilin divison, said it is not wood nor is it laminate. Rather, it combines the best characteristics of both. “It offers one of the most positive combinations of style and value in popular exotic hardwood visuals available.”
Offered in ultra long, 6¾- foot sustainable planks, Décor- Wood uses the mill’s proprietary HiDef Color Fusion Technology, which fuses color directly onto an eco-friendly wood-based substrate. Each plank is then finished with a semi-gloss urethane coating, like that found on real hardwood.
The initial offering has five exotic visuals—Brazilian Walnut, Golden Eucalyptus, Claret Cherry, Crimson Jarrah, and Garnet Tupelo—with a minimum of 18 unique planks per species.
Featuring a 35-year finish wear warranty and a Janka rating of 1977, Farabee said DécorWood planks are “far more dent and impact resistant than most domestic exotic or tropical exotic woods. And its superior photo-sensitivity rating means there will be virtually no color change, so planks retain the original brilliance of their design color and clarity.”