February 4/11, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 18
By Reginald Tucker
Las Vegas—It’s no secret that much of the attention (and real estate) on the show floor during TISE was trained on LVT/WPC/SPC products. But that didn’t stop laminate flooring suppliers from showcasing their latest innovations as a means to regain market share from the red-hot resilient category.
Indeed, some of the industry’s top laminate flooring suppliers are utilizing technology to bolster the category’s already well-known attributes—durability, realism, ease of maintenance and, more recently, resistance to water incursion. The goal, suppliers say, is to remind retailers and consumers that there are legitimate alternatives to WPC.
Mannington, for example, is emphasizing the category’s performance aspects—even if that means de-emphasizing the word laminate. “We’ve taken the ‘L’ word out of laminate,” said Dan Natkin, vice president of hardwood and laminate. “We’re not really calling it laminate because there are some preconceived notions about the category. Instead, we talk about the category from the performance standpoint; it’s really one of the best residential—and even commercial— flooring products you can get in terms of indentation and scratch resistance and now even moisture resistance. It’s a product category that really performs and continues to grow for us.”
This unconventional marketing strategy is evident on all of Mannington’s laminate displays, which tout the company’s best-selling Restoration collection as opposed to traditional category identifiers. Display panels tout the line’s features and benefits, including the product’s waterproof attributes. According to Natkin, this is what consumers ultimately respond to.
“Outside of smartphones, I’ve never seen anything take off as quickly as this waterproof thing in terms of how it’s perceived in the minds of the consumer,” he told FCNews. “She walks into the store and asks, ‘Is it waterproof?’”
Some of Mannington’s dealer partners also conduct durability demonstrations on the show floor as a means to drive home the product’s advantages.
“Some of our RSAs take a ball peen hammer to a laminate floor to demonstrate the indentation resistance of the product,” Natkin stated. “This helps dealers get over that initial hurdle.”
The company is so confident in the performance of the product that it has updated its warranty coverage. “Two years ago we introduced technology called SpillShield, which dramatically improved the moisture resistance of laminate,” Natkin explained. “Now we’re able to apply even more and do some more things to make the product more waterproof. The level of moisture it can resist matches the level of any other type of flooring.”
The category rebranding strategy is not unique to Mannington. In fact, prior to Surfaces 2018, Mohawk made the move to designate a whole new category for products that, from a purely construction standpoint, might be considered laminate. And with that, RevWood was born.
“Last year we introduced RevWood here in a major move to rebrand the category and focus on what Mohawk does best—innovation in style and design,” said Adam Ward, senior director of wood and laminate. “Sales grew in a category that was flat or declining. All of that revolves around the story we’re telling—a real wood product that features the industry’s only waterproof solution. The reaction we got from customers was phenomenal.”
Mohawk dealers agree. “It combines the best attributes of laminate flooring—scratch resistance—with the waterproof attribute that has made LVT so popular,” said Matt Norman, owner of Norman’s Floorcovering, Newberg, Ore.
Richard Scherzer, owner of About Floors n’ More, Jacksonville, Fla., concurs. “The waterproof is the magic,” he said.
Looks good, too
Suppliers have also made strides in the aesthetic department. TISE served as the platform for manufacturers to not only launch new laminate products but also extend existing collections. Mohawk, for instance, added 14 SKUs to RevWood Plus this year and took the wraps off RevWood Select. (RevWood Select features standard bevel, while RevWood Plus boasts the GenuEdge bevel. Built on a step-up platform, Select provides a 10 year warranty vs. lifetime warranty with RevWood Plus.
The new lines and extensions bring the total RevWood offering to more than 50 SKUs. Antique Craft, a wider/longer option available in a 9 ½-inch-wide x 80-inch-long plank, was a key highlight at the booth this year, while Southberry, which is a similar looking product to Antique Craft but not as wide, made its official debut.
Then there’s Western Ridge, non-oak, wirebrushed pine look; Crest Haven, which boasts a reclaimed saw-cut visual; and Woodcreek oak, which aims to strike a balance between rustic and fashion forward.
“We’ve taken some of our best-selling designs in RevWood Plus and converting them to Select,” Ward said. “All of the latest style and color designs are in there.”
Dealers like what they’re seeing. “The realistic wood looks, the quality of the embossing and the length of the boards are all key selling points,” Scherzer noted.
Mannington also rolled the dice on new introductions. Its top-selling Acadia series gets two new colors (brown with a touch of gray and a true gray tone). Meanwhile, the featured installed floor in the laminate corner of the booth showcased an embossed in register plank in plank design called Station Pine. “We purchased some old reclaimed pine and then we scanned it and began manipulating it to create that plank in plank look,” Natkin said. “It’s going like gangbusters.”
Other major laminate suppliers have also expanded their best-selling lines to keep up with consumer demand. Inhaus, for instance, unveiled trendy, new realistic wood looks such as Danville, Parkwood and Eden. It’s all about giving retail and distributor partners more affordable options that still perform well compared to their resilient counterparts.
“Laminate has a lower cost of production than PVC and at the end of the day it is a good, old wood-based product that has some inherent value over plastic,” said Derek Welbourn, CEO. “We will continue to create an amazing amount of value with our laminate offering and focus on promoting the competitive advantages that laminate has over other categories—mainly, design, cost and wear. It’s an amazing value proposition that people shouldn’t forget about.”
Eye-catching new laminate looks and merchandising vehicles were also on display at the Legendary Floors booth. The company is so optimistic about laminate flooring’s potential in the U.S. market that it revamped its entire laminate program. The company is launching 12 new products—four 8mm products and eight lines in an 8mm format—both with a pad attached. Also, a revamped merchandiser features manageable samples with full room scenes on the back of the panel. The space-saving unit allows dealers to showcase 40 SKUs in a relatively small footprint.
“With all the SPCs and vinyl products out there, people are finding they are not the indestructible products people thought they were,” said Nathan Carter, West Coast sales manager, SEM Group, parent company of Legendary Floors. “We’re finding a lot of the builders want a laminate product with a water warranty on it. This means you can put it in a bathroom or kitchen as long as you put a silicone on the edges. Any topical water is covered for three days.”