Wood: Segment makes strong play to take back share

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February 2/10, 2020: Volume 35, Issue 16

By Reginald Tucker

Las Vegas—Water, water everywhere. That seemed to be one of the primary themes across many of the hardwood flooring introductions on the Surfaces 2020 show floor, as manufacturers rolled out their own iterations of alternative cores, topical treatments and innovative, moisture-repelling installation systems. The bevy of introductions in this subcategory is clearly in response to the rising popularity of LVT/WPC/SPC products whose claim to fame is high resistance to water damage and/or moisture incursion.

But hardwood suppliers are not stopping there. With so many wood look-alike products dominating the market, manufacturers of the “real thing” are working overtime to remind retailers that genuine hardwood remains arguably the most aspirational product available on the market today—one that has proven, time and time again, its ability to add value to the home. To that end, hardwood suppliers are focusing more attention on the upper echelon of the flooring market, as retailers and distributors alike clamor for products that boost their profit margins—not choke them.

Following are illustrations of some of the prevailing trends in hardwood showcased at TISE 2020. (Look for more coverage in upcoming editions of FCNews.)

WATERPROOF/HYBRID CORES
The beauty of wood lies in its inherent aesthetic qualities, but its hydrophilic nature proves to be a challenge when developing waterproof products. Utilizing alternative core materials and advanced technologies, however, suppliers said they have come up with the right combination of beauty and performance.

“We’ve had tremendous success with COREtec Wood,” said Natalie Cady, hardwood category manager, Shaw Industries (pictured here). She cited the line’s construction, which features a 2mm-thick veneer bonded to a mineral-based core attached to a waterproof cork backing.

SPOTLIGHT ON THE HIGH END
If you can’t beat ’em, don’t play in their sandbox. That’s the message from hardwood suppliers who said they still believe there’s a market for high-end wood flooring products as opposed to pursuing low-margin opportunities.

“Most products in the Fabrica wood line retail between $6-$14 per square foot, with some custom handscraped products retailing for $18 per square foot,” said Jamann Stepp, vice president of hard surfaces, The Dixie Group.

LIGHTER, COOLER TONES PREVAIL
Gone are the days when dark, heavily handscraped products dominated the market—at least for now. Consumer tastes are driving the development of kinder, gentler tones with high-tech finishes that still provide the performance consumers expect.

“All the consumer research we’ve done shows colors and tones migrating toward the lighter end of the spectrum and away from the dark, heavily scraped colors and textures,” said Dan Natkin, vice president of hardwood and laminates, Mannington.

WIDER/LONGER STILL REIGNS SUPREME
This trend, as some observers say, still has “legs.” The demand for wider/longer planks—and the impact the look conveys in today’s open floor plans—is showing no signs of abating. “Wide- plank flooring is only beautiful when it’s on a long board,” said Tony Markarian, U.S. sales manager. “It’s the preferred look among many consumes today.”

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