By Ken Ryan
Flooring retailers have a compelling story to tell when touting the benefits of waterproof vinyl—and, in some cases, carpet and padding as well. The story becomes even more convincing when kid- and pet-friendly attributes are added.
These selling points have helped build and sustain the LVP category, which is growing by double-digits and today is fueled by SPC/rigid core offerings. “Being waterproof is—and should be—enough to sell the product,” said Rob Elder, co-owner of Hiller’s Flooring America, Rochester, Minn. “And as hot as the category is, I think it’s working.”
But waterproof is not bulletproof, and flooring dealers say they have to be careful not to overhype waterproof vinyl flooring. For starters, they don’t need to because the segment continues to flourish; however, the waterproof aspect can be misleading and requires an educated sales force to communicate that to consumers.
“Waterproof definitely resonates with consumers when you add the talking points of kids and pets again—they are all in,” said Penny Carnino, COO of Grigsby’s Carpet, Tile & Hardwood, Tulsa, Okla. “The problem for retailers is that what waterproof means to the consumer and what it means in regard to warranties are two entirely different things. Promising more to consumers with already over-the-top expectations makes our lives tough—a lot of the time all they hear is waterproof, and no matter how many times we explain that that is for topical spills, they don’t hear it. It’s so important to educate the consumer and try to keep their expectations realistic.”
Carnino’s fellow NFA retailer, Deb DeGraaf of DeGraaf Interiors, Hudsonville, Mich., echoed that sentiment, and said flooring retailers have to be cautious and not oversell the waterproof story. “It’s very similar to when laminates first took the industry by storm,” DeGraaf said. “So many were selling them as bulletproof and the best floor to buy. We all know where those expectations landed us. All the hot buttons for LVP today—waterproof, kid and pet friendly—are valid and certainly give the clients peace of mind when they are investing in new floors. Every product we sell has a story. We as retailers just need to be sure not to oversell the features and benefits.”
People and their pets
Long before pets became a selling point for flooring, many retailers were already actively involved in their community with pet rescue and pet adoption causes. In Marietta, Ga., most of the staff at Enhance Floors & More are involved with volunteering in animal rescue through Angels Among Us Pet Rescue. This cause has paid dividends in the showroom, according to Elisabeth Stubbs, owner.
“Quite a few of our clients have pets, so we get lots of questions about how well a floor will hold up with big dogs, puppies, active families, etc.” Stubbs said. “We tell our clients the waterproof story—LVP vs. laminate. We also have previous clients always willing to share their experiences down the road; this reiterates how great a choice these floors are for homes with kids and pets.”
The advantages of kid- and pet-friendly floors even resonate with homeowners who aren’t necessarily looking for the best flooring for dogs or small children. That’s the experience Andrew Wiebe has found in Red Deer, Alberta, Canada, where he operates Red Carpet Colour Centre Carpet One. “We’ve had great success by sharing the water, pet- and kid-proof story with our clients. Even those customers who don’t have small kids or pets identify with the messaging because they reason that if the floor can stand up to a busy household, it’ll be more than durable enough for their home.
“We often hear from our customers that while they loved the beauty of their last hardwood floor, or the scratch resistance of their last laminate floor, they were disappointed in damage that occurred from spills—in particular where dog water dishes are set or with small dishwasher/fridge leaks. Adding the kid- and pet-proof feature to a waterproof floor is the flooring trifecta.”
While the waterproof story is a natural one for hard surfaces, it also works for soft surfaces—sometimes even more so. That’s according to Tim Schoolfield, owner of Countryside Flooring America, O’Fallon, Mo, who said that while he tries not to oversell the waterproof aspect of hard surface, soft surface is a different animal. “I love the story a moisture barrier on the top of padding or the backing of carpet has,” he said.
Case in point is the LifeGuard blue backing on Shaw Carpet. “It really does keep spills from soaking through to the pad and onto the subfloor, making it easier to clean up spills and accidents,” he said. “The same is true with the moisture barrier on premium pads.”
Others say the resilient waterproof category has surged simply because it has achieved performance levels other floors could not. As Cam Haughey, co-owner of ICC Flooring, Indianapolis, explained, “For a long time, homeowners had a trade off to ponder when choosing hardwood flooring. Those hardwood floors were obviously beautiful and timeless, but resilient to scratching and moisture? Not so much. Gen one of laminate took a stab at accommodating the family and ultimately failed. Finally, you introduce innovation in technology for visuals and performance and now you have a beautiful floor in LVP with versatility for the most active family.”
(For a sampling of suppliers offering their best iterations of waterproof flooring, see the Aug. 31, Sept. 7 issue of FCNews.)