Why LVT is today’s flooring sensation
By Ken Ryan
Oct. 21/28 2013; Volume 27/number 13
Luxury vinyl tile (LVT) isn’t merely the shining star in the resilient category—it may just be the best all-around product the flooring industry provides its customers, according to some distributors who continue to grow their businesses on the back of LVT offerings.
“First off, it is a visually stunning product,” said Jeff Striegel, president of Elias Wilf. “You cannot tell the difference between LVT and wood, the visuals are that amazing. And the performance…I don’t think there is a better product out there in the market than LVT.”
As the resilient category has soared in recent years, flooring distributors have increased their percentage of the business. Some distributors even place LVT in its own category, separate from resilient, as a testament to the product’s performance.
FlorStar Sales’ business, for example, is now 69% resilient, and that percentage has been steadily rising. “Other products within the resilient category, such as sheet, continue to do well, particularly in the commercial and property management arenas, but nothing like LVT,” said FlorStar president Scott Rozmus. “Advancements in the different types of sheet flooring as well as increasingly realistic designs have contributed positively to resilient. Armstrong’s StrataMax, unique within the industry due to its superior backing and installation flexibility, has been a leader for us.”
T&L Distributing’s business is 37% resilient, of which 20% is LVT. Yet, these figures were calculated before T&L launched IVC’s Moduleo, a domestically produced LVT line.
Bob Eady, senior vice president of sales and marketing, said T&L was drawn to Moduleo by the product’s stability, superior locking system, exclusive patents and larger pattern repeats. “For 2013, T&L is proving to be very strong in both sales and bottom line,” Eady said. “At our current rate we will have the largest year in company history, meaning we have made up all the sales volume that was lost during the recession years of 2009, 2010 and 2011 in Texas.
“We attribute a large part of that growth to our new facility and the increased amount of inventory we are able to stock and have for immediate delivery,” he explained.
Sheet vinyl continues to be a winning product for many distributors. At Ohio Valley Flooring, vice president of sales and marketing Jeff Garber said sheet has experienced “small growth in terms of dollars, but with price erosion we have seen good growth in terms of units.”
Adleta and Readers Wholesale have also benefited from the vibrancy of resilient. “Business has been good; the best product? No surprise, it is LVT,” said John Sher, Adleta president.
And Lucky Burke, president of Readers Wholesale, added, “We have had a very solid year with vinyl—both sheet and LVT.”
The tremendous growth and success exhibited by LVT in recent years has led to a spate of products entering the market, and some distributors worry this will hurt the category.
“Not that choice is a bad thing, but when so many companies you’ve never heard of are trying to introduce LVT, it’s tough to know whether they’re reputable or not,” said Jeff Jaeckle, president, Jaeckle Distributors. “Most respectable manufacturers already have LVT on the market. I’m not saying new companies are not reputable, but it’s just hard to know. This also places downward margin pressure on manufacturers, distributors and retailers. LVT has been very strong in the multi-family category and at some point multi-family is going to become overbuilt. I expect we have another year of good multi-family growth, but it should slow down after 2014.”
Rozmus agreed that with many LVT products entering the market, quality and performance could be compromised. “As no-name suppliers try to compete, generally they begin with price. The way [a manufacturer] can improve its ability to compete on price is by taking out quality or performance, to the extent garbage product arrives in droves and end users begin to have bad experiences with a category. [Consumers] may then sour on that category and move on to some degree. Hopefully, that does not occur with LVT or, if it does, the category impact is limited.”
Many distributors said the smart strategy is to align your business with strong brands that have a track record of quality, style and success. This will have a two-pronged result: continued growth in your own LVT category and thwarting the effectiveness of knockoff products.