Domotex Asia/Chinafloor: Largest show edition sees focus on WPC, betterment of Chinese life, image

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March 30/April 6, 2015; Volume 28/Number 20

By Jenna Lippin

Shanghai—In its 17th year, Domotex Asia/Chinafloor saw a 27% increase from 2014 in pre-registered attendees, reaching 30,989 visitors the week before the show—a record for the event. Exhibition space reached approximately 140,000 square meters consisting of 12 exhibit halls. An unprecedented 1,276 companies/organizations exhibited at Domotex Asia, representing 32 different countries of origin.

“We are confident to say this event is the only international trade platform for floor covering in the Asia Pacific area,” said David Zhong, president of VNU Exhibitions Asia, the show’s owners. “We have been improving the exhibition over the past three years, and it is now a perfect platform for not only purchasing floor covering but also for new product launches, similar to Domotex Hannover.”

In an exclusive interview with FCNews, Aida Cuko, international sales and marketing manager for VNU Exhibitions Asia, said the number of visitors to the 2015 event did, in fact, exceed show management’s exhibitions. “And in speaking to exhibitors, they feel there is a lot more traffic compared to last year. The attendance is telling of the show being better, which also tells the global economy is smoothly improving. The show is becoming important because Chinese people’s standards are growing so fast and they are so brand conscious. Chinese companies are investing in innovation and R&D in all industries. They don’t want to be that cheap copy anymore in any market.”

Exhibitor buzz

The tagline for this year’s event was “Color your success in flooring,” which show management said is meant to imply “the vitality and unlimited opportunities that China’s flooring industry has contributed to the global market.” With increasing innovation and general economic confidence internationally, the show saw many exhibitors who believe Domotex Asia is well worth the trip and investment. For example, Per Plate, manager of BU basic locking systems for Välinge, based in Sweden, said the value of the show comes from most flooring today being made in China. Plus, more than 50 Välinge licensees have a presence at Domotex Asia.

“This is a chance for us to have meetings with [many of our customers] and also to see distributors from all over the world who are visiting the show,” he said. “We’re trying to spread the word for our 5G locking system specifically, along with other flooring technologies. This is one of the most important shows for Välinge. There is always potential in factories that are seeking a good locking system or some other innovative technology.”

Lukasz Piatek, regional vice president of sales for Elegance Wood Flooring, also noted the importance of exhibiting at Domotex Asia because of the focus on manufacturing in China. “We see our largest customers here, both container-direct and not. This show also allows us to keep our fingers on the pulse of what’s going on in the global market. Major players from all over the world are here, so it gives us a chance to show [product] and stay in touch with the market overall.”

Consistent with Cuko’s reports on show traffic, Piatek said the event proved successful right out of the gate. “Sometimes it takes the first half of the day to warm up but it didn’t seem like that today. It seems like traffic is up and I think part of that is because the industry is doing well. Also, with everything going on with anti-dumping, compounded with the recent ‘60 Minutes’ story (FCNews March 16/23), people are covering their bases and developing contingency plans.”

While Elegance does not use Domotex Asia as a platform for launching products—Piatek said The International Surface Event (TISE) serves that purpose—they were previewing its new click product, yet to be named, featuring 2G and 5G locking systems.

Caroline Yu, international marketing manager, Novalis Innovative Flooring, noted a desire for high quality flooring at this year’s show, whereas in the past there was more price competition. According to Yu, this has much to do with the changing social and economic landscapes in China. “With the standard of living getting higher, especially in China, people are looking forward to a better life. They care about health, the arts, and when it comes to higher education younger generations are taking classes at universities, opening doors to everyone for opportunities in education. China has opened the door to a whole new world with a new president. The relationship with the world is more open. More westerners are coming here, bringing new ideas from everywhere, especially the European market.”

With the better quality of life comes a greater desire for environmentally friendly products, which Novalis can meet as the first Chinese manufacturer with health product declarations (HPDs) and environmental product declarations (EPDs). “People in China are finding ‘green’ and sustainability more important. In both homes and workspaces, people want to get more green from furniture to flooring.” The latest illustration from Novalis for this environmental movement is Fresh, a new product hard surface line that caters to health care and education set to launch in the United States in May.

The word in the aisles

With bustling halls throughout the expanse of the Shanghai Exhibition Center, numerous American exhibitors could be found taking in what is new and exciting in the global flooring market. While Lumber Liquidators has been on the minds of many at home, the general consensus was that the main story at Domotex Asia was WPC (wood plastic composites, wood polymer composites, wood composite core, etc.). Seeing the value in the growing category, show management decided to dedicate a portion of one hall to WPC and a session to educating attendees about related products. “WPC and resilient are growing really fast,” Cuko noted. “We have an international WPC forum as China is the one growing and drawing everyone else to [the category]. There are a lot of WPC manufacturers from the U.S., Australia, Europe, China—it’s an area we are [quickly expanding].”

Steve Ehrlich, performance solutions, product strategy and channel development for Invsita hard surface products, said he comes to the show to look at emerging innovations and new products, in addition to visiting the company’s offices and facilities in China. “WPC is the story—wood composite core products. There is a downsizing of hardwood business and a downsizing of laminate business, which is happening in the face of the changing way that the consumer purchases flooring in terms of natural vs. engineered or manmade products. I’ve seen innovation in installation, particularly with WPC 2G and 5G locking systems. There are a lot of people manufacturing products close to [USFloors’ COREtec offerings].”

Mohawk’s David Thoresen, senior vice president of commercial hard surface, said the LVT category is particularly interesting because in the recent past companies were “scrambling” to get into the category, creating a very crowded landscape today, while manufacturers are “jumping right into” WPC. “It’s going to be a very crowded category next year. The biggest takeaway from the show is WPC. Wood plastic core products are everywhere. Apparently there’s a low price of entry to get into the category and it shows.”

Lamett was one western company at the show touting a new composite product, its version called Novocore. The company does not consider the product to be WPC because its Novocore Premium has LVT mounted directly to a patent-pending core. Lamett dubs the product “the next revolution in waterproof floors,” with a quartz-enhanced urethane coating and clear, wear-resistant overlay, in addition to embossed film with wood grain or stone, high density vinyl, a rigid composite core and hypoallergenic cork backing.

Years ahead

With Chinese product reaching new heights in style and design, abandoning its image as cheap copycats, show management is looking to bring more and more American visitors to Domotex Asia in the coming years, believing there is an opportunity for not only business but also better interaction between the countries in general. “American [distributors] can find brands here they can sell to the U.S. customer,” Cuko said. “Shanghai is such an international city that culture and language aren’t barriers anymore. [Chinese] people would like to see Americans coming here. They are welcoming and friendly to the U.S. and European audiences because they want them here. This is an international market not only for China but other Asian countries; [foreign attendees] would have no chance to meet them elsewhere. There is now a 10-year visa in place for travelling between the U.S. and China, so once visitors apply they don’t have to do so again for 10 years. This show is part of the will of the Chinese government to promote good ties between the two countries.”

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