January 2/9, 2017: Volume 31, Number 15
By Ken Ryan
The two hottest products in the flooring industry today come from the same family with many of the same characteristics siblings might have. You might say LVT and WPC are fraternal twins, similar but different—each with their own strengths.
This dynamic duo is likely to blaze similar paths to success rather than one product cannibalizing the other. Flooring executives representing retail, distribution and manufacturing were asked to chime in on these resilient products.
Parallel paths to success?
Some flooring executives say there is no reason LVT and WPC can’t be successful, suggesting these two products will travel parallel growth paths rather than competing for the same customer or application. “Both have legs,” said Scott Rozmus, president of FlorStar Sales, a top 20 distributor. “WPC is a very hot product, going well in all markets, and LVT is still red hot as well. There is an acceptance that a WPC core LVT is a different category than a dryback, traditional core LVT. We see dealers merchandising them separately.”
There are installation scenarios in which WPC is the preferred product, as well as instances where LVT is the choice. “WPC is thicker and thus has a higher perceived value,” said Pat Theis, vice president of sales and marketing at Herregan, a leading Midwest wholesaler, “and because it’s thicker, a quality WPC can hide subfloor imperfections better than LVT, which means less subfloor prep.”
Others believe while WPC is the hot new product, LVT has been dominating the flooring landscape for several years.
A rising tide lifts all boats
In the ever-expanding market for resilient flooring, the growing demand will allow both WPC and LVT to flourish, according to Billy Mahone III, manager of Atlas Floors Carpet One in San Antonio, who merged his laminate and resilient sections in his showroom in order to display a larger amount of LVT.
Lindsey Nisbet, head of product marketing and development for EarthWerks, which markets both LVT and WPC products, believes the products will coexist. “As the resilient category expands, it takes share from other flooring groups due to the diverse functionality, affordability, performance and styling. Depending on the performance needs of the application, LVT and WPC can each provide different attributes to fulfill the requirements of the customer. Therefore, while they seem to overlap in so many aspects, each one does carry certain qualities that make it stand separately from the other.”
Piet Dossche, CEO of USFloors, marketer of the WPC-leading COREtec brand, sees the growth of the solid click LVT segment stagnating as the more stable composite core construction of WPC eventually becomes the click, floating LVT floor of choice.
Many retailers are currently merchandising WPC within the LVT section, but some opportunistic dealers are displaying WPC in a new waterproof area. That makes sense because, as Josh Elder of Gainesville CarpetsPlus noted, we are talking about two different customers here. “The WPC customer tends to be a retail or residential customer,” he said. “She is looking for a product that is easy to install and maintain. With LVT, we use a lot of it in multi-family and commercial work. I see LVT capturing the price-sensitive products for multi-family under $1 square foot with WPC taking the majority of the residential business in the $1.50 to $3 square foot range, and then LVT stepping back in with the heavy commercial products.
“In the end I think the market still needs both products, and as long as they stay priced right they will not cannibalize each other in the long run.”