September 5, 2016; Volume 31, Number 6
By Ken Ryan
Flooring retailers report that WPC (wood plastic composite) has taken off as one of 2016’s most electrifying products, thanks in large part to the ability to demonstrate its many benefits.
One such dealer is David Britt, owner of CW Floors & Lighting, with multiple stores in Texas. After a slow start in 2016, WPC has been his biggest product category. “WPC has skyrocketed in our stores lately. The end user understands the value and the benefits of its many applications. We absolutely are able to demonstrate the value of WPC easily as well as the benefit of having application options that other products can’t give the consumer.”
Britt is not alone. Bonnie Fenwick, co-owner of Olde Towne Floors Carpet One Floor & Home in Jacksonville, Fla., said WPC products have made a huge mark on the industry this year. “I attribute that to the consumer’s desire to have a product that meets the demands of their very active households. They want a product that has the visual of wood but the ability to be easily maintained.”
Palmer Johnson, a manager at Carpet One Floor & Home Tulsa, in Tulsa, Okla., said WPC is the product that has surprised him the most in 2016. “I believe the thickness of the product combined with the wonderful visuals offered by the manufacturers create an apparent value that resonates with customers.”
Just as LVT was the biggest surprise at Gainesville CarpetsPlus Colortile in Gainesville, Fla., in 2015, WPC has been doing the honors this year, according to Josh Elder, owner. “I expected to see growth in that segment but not at the rapid rate the industry has seen thus far. The growth has been in both the glue-down and the floating core products.”
Desire to differentiate
In an effort to differentiate their products, suppliers are branding their WPC offerings with names such as enhanced vinyl plank, engineered luxury vinyl flooring and waterproof vinyl. Shaw Floors, for example, brands its Floorté as enhanced vinyl plank with an “improved formulation” that gives it greater density than WPC.
Dave Snedeker, division merchandise manager-flooring, for Nebraska Furniture Mart in Omaha, believes the category has certainly been the big hit of 2016 thus far. “WPC has created its own category with us and continues to grow.”
Flooring retailers point out that perhaps the greatest feature and differentiator that WPC has over LVT is these composite constructions can be installed directly over damaged or uneven subfloors without showing or “telegraphing” the imperfections. When directly installed over ceramic tiles, no grout lines show, thereby saving cost in either breaking out the tile subfloor and leveling out the grout line—or even the entire floor.
Proponents say WPC’s dimensional stability is superior to most solid LVT constructions. These traits, they say, enable large rooms to be installed without transition pieces. The rigidity of the core makes for a much more installation friendly and stronger click locking profile, installing as easily, quickly and reliably as laminate or engineered wood. The visuals are as authentic as real wood looks and the waterproof guarantee makes WPC suitable for installation in wet applications.
All these sellable attributes are favored by flooring dealers such as Craig Phillips, president of Barrington Carpet in Akron Ohio. “We are definitely riding the wave of popularity that WPC products are on. WPC products give us the ability to offer wider, longer planks while not compromising stability for our customers. WPC is ideal for customers that want laminate or wood but their lifestyle or environment dictate the need for a waterproof product.”
Eric Mondragon, hard surface buyer for R.C. Willey Home Furnishings, with 14 stores in four Western states, couldn’t agree more. “WPC can absolutely be a dominant player in the resilient category. WPC is what the LVT category has evolved to.”