by Steven Feldman
Welcome to Floor Covering News’ annual statistical issue. You’re about to be inundated with all kinds of numbers with the idea of framing 2011. Don’t be frightened. It will all come into focus by the time you’re done reading.
Now here’s the confusing part: In the next few months you will be faced with other statistical reports—if you haven’t already—some from research firms, some from other flooring publications. These companies are all reputable. Nonetheless, I’m here to tell you the numbers you will find in this magazine are as accurate as humanly possible.
Let me explain why. Some just republish an existing market report. Some of these reports are just based on government numbers. Some reports use government numbers as a base and are then vetted somewhat through some informal conversations, usually with associations.
Now I will tell you what we do. Obviously, we have a basis of information from past years from which we start. We also look at government numbers, but you have to be careful because there can be some misclassifications. Of course, there are the import numbers. But that’s not what separates us. You know what does? Reputation and work ethic.
The work ethic entails us speaking with countless flooring manufacturers across every category. I’d say combined, the FCNews team spoke with more than 30 suppliers. I know I talked to about 20 alone. But once we get the right person on the phone, it is our reputation of integrity—as a magazine and as individuals— that gets us information privy to so few. The proprietary data we receive is only for one purpose: to come up with aggregate category numbers. That’s why you will never see company market share charts in FCNews. The information we receive is kept confidential until it can be forgotten. In most cases, we don’t even share it with each other. It is this type of cooperation that is a win for everyone.
So with that said, when the dust settled and all the numbers were crunched, dollars were up around 2.5% from 2010 and unit growth stayed relatively flat. So it’s a good news/bad news situation: Unfortunately, no more flooring was sold in 2011 than 2010. The good news is no less flooring was sold. The dollar increase was the result of some price increases and product shifts, like broadloom to carpet tile and VCT to LVT on the commercial side. But it beats a sharp stick in the eye.
Speaking of LVT, if anyone is looking for a shining star, it continues to be this product category. You’d be hard pressed to find a product with more technological advances over the last five years. First came more realistic visuals. Now you’re seeing it spread to the installation side, whether it be click systems or the increasingly popular true loose lay, where no adhesive of any type is needed, save for the perimeter of the room. This resilient sub-segment drove the category to a 6.3% gain.
One category that continues to undergo a metamorphosis is laminate. The average selling price has dropped to $1.07 as the home center channel continues to take share from specialty retail. But lost in the shuffle are lumber/salvage yards and price clubs, all of which operate with smaller margins. The other dynamic is imports, which have fallen under $400 million for the first time in quite some time. With Kronotex and Unilin increasing production stateside, we are seeing more Made in the U.S.A. products.
Here’s the bottom line: While the second half gave back all the advances made in the first half, the year could have been much worse. And we have seen much worse.