January 19/26, 2015; Volume 28/Number 15
By Jim Gould
When Pergo came to North America in 1992, there was a lot of confusion about what it was. Was it a variation of laminated wood, now called engineered wood flooring, or a variation of resilient tile? Finally it was decided to create a new category called laminate flooring. Who decided? The industry.
Today our industry still struggles with statistical reports that vary by as much as 10% from one analyst to another. Sometimes carpet volumes include rugs, and those rug numbers include bathmats and walk-off mats. Ceramic numbers may or may not include wall tile, and what about floor tile that ends up being installed on a wall?
If you thought our statistics were confusing or inaccurate in the past, “you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.” Product evolution is happening at a faster pace than at any time in the floor covering industry’s history, driven by every manufacturer’s need to differentiate his company from the pack. New hybrid products combine different materials from multiple segments of our industry trying to develop something new. The result, if these combination products are successful, will be confusing and impossible to categorize, track and monitor.
What am I talking about? At the last Domotex show in Germany, Classen showed a wood powder/polypropylene coreboard on which it directly printed a design that is protected by a wear surface coating. Will that be laminate, wood or another new category called “synthetic coreboard with direct print and wear surface?” What about the USFloors COREtec product that combines a layer of cork with a synthetic WPC core and a top layer of LVT? Is it cork, laminate or LVT? If we assign a new category for that product the industry will end up with a very long list of product categories, or “other” will become the fastest growing product in the industry.
The excitement of the floor covering industry today is that we recognize the issues facing existing products, and we feverishly work to improve them. The result will be exciting new products, more satisfied consumers and more differentiation between suppliers. Domotex Germany, The International Surfaces Event and Domotex Asia/Chinafloors will be the first chance for manufacturers to introduce many of these exciting products to the industry. While I feel like a kid waiting for Santa to come down the chimney, I take pity on the industry’s statisticians and those on Wall Street trying to keep their scorecards up to date.