Segment gets longer, stronger
By Melissa McGuire
Volume 26/Number 19; February 4/11, 2013
Las Vegas—Laminate may not have been the largest flooring category at Surfaces, but one thing was certain: The product still has a significant foothold in the marketplace. An overall consensus among retailers confirmed that while luxury vinyl tile is encroaching on laminate’s market share, the category not only has staying power, but growing power as well.
“Our business has grown 25%-30% this year alone,” said Doron Gal, CEO of Eternity Flooring. Headquartered in Pacoima, Calif., the company had positive feedback from the show and was very happy with the attendance. “We’ve seen more activity at this show than in years past. Even with the economy still down a bit, we’re seeing people buying.”
Pete Ciganovich, president of DeZign North America, was of the same mindset. “We’re offering beautiful, authentic hardwood looks at a fraction of the price. Because technology has become so advanced, we can give our customers exactly what they want at the price they want.”
And with Surfaces traffic seemingly up from years past, the laminate manufacturers were poised to display their latest and greatest to attendees as trends included longer lengths, thicker millimeters and higher AC ratings than ever before.
Displaying its products off the show floor, Cindy Thornton, marketing manager, told FCNews, the company is separating itself with the launch of Prestige, a 12.3 mm product featuring planks that measure 6½ feet long, 9½ inches wide and use the Best Loc X-Treme system. “With the 5G drop lock, the product just slides and drops. Our entire showroom took less than an hour to install. It’s a DIYer’s dream.”
Thornton said the product has been a hit on the commercial side with installations that include Heathrow Airport in London, malls, car lots and much more. “This product stands the test of time and is worry free. Plus, it has an A6 rating which makes it a perfect residential product as it will stand up to anything.
In addition, Thornton claims Alloc is the only HPL [high pressure laminate] manufacturer in the world with the only aluminum lock, drop lock for HPL. “When we spec a job, no one can bump us because of this. We have zero competition.” The advantages of HPL, she said, include stronger impact resistance, higher resistance to moisture, stronger construction, enhanced heat resistance and a higher wear resistance resulting in fewer scratches and scuffs.
Ciganovich said Surfaces was the perfect showcase for DeZign’s nine introductions. “Our booth was busy with customers and drop-ins looking to source product.”
Explaining the company is set apart by technology, in particular its press plates coupled with upscale, specialized imaging paper, Ciganovich said “people have been coming to our booth thinking what’s on the floor is real wood. And we can offer the retailer that look at a fraction of the cost of real wood.”
Among the higher-end introductions was Sapphire, a 12.3mm with a drop lock installation process. “We’re targeting this product for the high-end retail and specifier market. Surfaces attendees have really bonded with Sapphire because of the look and ease of installation.”
Likewise, Sorrento also held high acclaim. “We’ve enhanced the colors to bring seven visuals in the planking. It also has a suppressed bevel with a caulking look and a hand-sculpted, mid-luster appearance that comes in four colors. You can’t target the 99-cent market with this product; you’re targeting the high-end customer.”
Ciganovich said Sorrento has been well received internationally as the product is already shipping to Latin America and Ecuador. “A retailer can do exceptionally well retailing this product at $3.99. And depending on some of our customers who may buy containers and truckloads, they will do well at $2.99.”
The relatively new kid on the block rolled out its latest collection, Frontier, consisting of five colors in an authentic, heavily distressed style. “Dark colors and the distressed look are very popular right now,” Gal said. “The feedback about Frontier has been tremendous.”
Gal explained Eternity’s display and customer service sets it apart from the competition. He believes a manufacture can have a great product, but if the service is below par, “forget it.” He also noted the company maintains a healthy inventory of all its products.
Retailers attest to the value Eternity provides. “As far as vendors go, Eternity has, without a doubt, come out with the strongest line in laminate I’ve seen in the last four or five years,” said Larry Flick, CEO of The Floor Store with various locations in Northern California. “They have great paper, great quality control and the price is right. Our claims ratio with them is minimal, and they have great back stock.”
Formica debuted two new collections: Coastal Classics and Tradewinds. Coastal Classics features beveled-edge planks and rustic, reclaimed wood visuals and texture reminiscent of lumber that served for decades on a Southern Atlantic beach house. Four rustic decors are available. The Tradewinds collection features bold exotics with a soft-brushed texture. Species include blackwood, South American mahogany, Peruvian walnut and Caribbean jatoba. Both collections feature beveled-edge, 8mm thick, 5-inch-wide planks and carry a 30-year residential warranty against wear, stains and fading.
“Our Coastal Classics and Tradewinds collections have been received extremely well by each of our distributors,” said Fred Giuggio, vice president of sales and marketing.
Home Legend launched its new Modern Renaissance collection, which includes 16, 10mm SKUs. “Our SKUs are comprised of 5-, 8- and 10-inch widths in finishes and colors that take their cues from the natural products they replicate,” said Tiffany Davis, marketing brand and product manager. The line is AC4 rated with a limited lifetime residential warranty and 15-year commercial warranty and offered in a myriad of finishes.
The North American marketing arm of global laminate manufacturer Classen used Surfaces to showcase the expansion of two categories and the introduction of another. New is Boathouse, a six-SKU collection that marks Inhaus’ debut into the popular reclaimed wood-look category. “Reclaimed wood with rustic designs or painted finishes is a hot segment in real wood,” said Derek Welbourn, CEO. “We’ve taken some of the leading designs and put them on a 7mm product so it can retail at an aggressive price point. As we evolve the line, we will get
into more embossed-in-register designs and longer planks.” Welbourn believes these “boutique styles” appeal to a younger generation of consumers, “and coming out of the recession, where budgets are pinched, we feel this product can resonate.”
Inhaus also expanded its wirebrushed portfolio by debuting four-SKU Grande Long Plank. The style is similar to Natural Prestige, the company’s existing wirebrushed line, but in a 7-foot plank.
Finally, the Visions collection was enhanced with a matte finish on three existing products. Aggressively priced between $1.19 and $1.39 retail, the 7mm Visions offers a four-sided bevel in grays and taupes.
Garnering a Best of Surfaces Award for large booth, Quick•Step took the show by storm by highlighting two additions to existing collections and one completely new line. The company also introduced a new digital concept for retailers called augmented reality.
“Augmented reality is the same concept as a QR tag, but the next generation,” explained David Moore, assistant product manager of accessories. “We’ve taken five apps that can be launched on an iPad, Android or IOS system. When a retailer plays the app, a video shows on the screen but with the literal background on the video. It’s almost like you’re in a mini video that moves and reacts as you do. The five apps describe and illustrate the different attributes that our flooring offers.”
In addition to the app, Quick•Step unveiled an extension to its Reclame line. The 12mm, 7 1/2-inch wide product was initially launched last year. “We’ve added three new tones—dark, medium and light—which are more mainstream and trendy,” Moore said. “The reclaimed look is strong and does well in some markets, but we believe the addition will be a better international seller.”
The company also added to its 8mm platform, Veresque, which features a rolled bevel and GenuEdge technology. “It’s as realistic as you can get on the marketplace today,” Moore said. “The texture mimics a three-finger scrape resulting in a realistic and durable product.”
But the star of the show was Quick•Step’s newest collection, Dominion, slated to unveil later this year. “We’ve taken the reclaimed look and combined it with the scraping texture to form two looks in one,” Moore said. “And our highlight is our gray tones. Gray is the new brown.”