October 28/November 4, 2019: Volume 35, Issue 9
By Ken Ryan
Wood is getting a raw deal. That’s the impression among several leading distributor executives who believe hardwood flooring has been underappreciated and even marketed unfairly during this LVT rally.
By any measure, wood has been under tremendous pressure in the wake of the WPC/rigid core explosion and is being negatively impacted more than any other flooring segment. For example, multifamily used to be primarily the domain of hardwood. Now, it is almost exclusively rigid core. Observers say builders have begun replacing wood with cheaper SPC.
Marketing ploys that refer to laminate as hardwood and faux wood products that are vinyl have hurt hardwood as well, executives say. And yet, consumer surveys continue to support wood. A recent survey from the National Association of Homebuilders listed hardwood flooring as one of the top 10 features desired by U.S. homeowners. This data supports a similar finding in the National Wood Flooring Association’s consumer survey, which revealed 80% of homeowners would choose hardwood for their dream homes.
So, what gives? Executives are wondering that as well. “When I talk to almost anyone outside of our industry who has any personal interest in flooring, such as for their own home, they almost universally want a hardwood floor,” said Scott Rozmus, president and CEO of FlorStar Sales, Romeoville, Ill. “I wonder whether many such folks get talked out of that aspiration once they begin the shopping process.”
Bob Weiss, CEO of All-Tile, Elk Grove Village, Ill., is among those who view hardwood as a tremendous value proposition for consumers. He suggested retailers rededicate their efforts in that direction. “It is vitally important that we, as an industry, do not take the easy way out and only sell the LVT sector,” he said. “If we only sell that category, we are short-changing the consumer and might be foregoing higher revenues by not selling a balanced offering of flooring products.”
It is clear that distributors are rooting for a hardwood come- back as they continue to extol its merits in the marketplace. Jeffersonville, Ind.-based Gilford JohnsonFlooring, for example, is launching several new higher-end wood series at year’s end in the hopes this will serve as a catalyst. “Wood is good,” said Bill Schollmeyer, president and CEO. “It’ll come back certainly but probably not as much on the lower, base-grade end.”
Top 20 distributor William Bird, Charleston, S.C., said it is continuing to cultivate partnerships with hardwood manufacturers to meet demand in the growing Southeast. New to the lineup in 2019 is American OEM’s Raintree SPC/hardwood hybrid. “We are looking forward to growing our hardwood offering with the addition of the Raintree brand,” said Maybank Hagood, CEO. “This is an exciting new category of waterproof hardwood with a high potential for growth in 2020.”
Similarly, Houston-based Adleta has invested in hardwood, with a complete refresh that company president John Sher bragged is “beating the market.”