By Steven Feldman This issue marks the debut of the Real Wood Coalition campaign, which involves eight leading hardwood flooring manufacturers/suppliers seeking to promote hardwood flooring to retailers and retail salespeople. FCNews is providing the forum both in print and digitally to get the message out. We are also lending our editorial expertise to the cause.
A little about the Real Wood Coalition campaign and why it is important. First, this should in no way be construed as disparaging to any other flooring category. Every single one of them has a plethora of attributes and has earned their place in consumers’ homes. That includes laminate, flexible LVT, WPC, rigid, wood/rigid hybrids, sheet, ceramic and soft surface. But I believe retailers who are not finding success with hardwood flooring today are missing a profit opportunity. I’m thinking, in many cases, it’s like it was 20-25 years ago when hardwood was just getting rolling. Many salespeople may be relatively new to the industry and not know how to position a product with a higher price point. Some may not be completely educated on wood. And others may look for the easy sale when a customer walks into the store asking for waterproof flooring.
Here’s the thing about wood: It is aspirational. Every other product category has emulated hardwood looks. It is estimated that about 92% of laminate visuals are wood. Many now refer to the LVT category as LVP(lank). Even some of the most popular ceramic/porcelain looks today mimic wood.
The other thing to keep in mind when selling wood are the profit dollars. I’m not talking margin dollars; I’m talking profit dollars. Some suppliers have told me the retailers who try to always make a 40% margin on hardwood are the ones struggling to sell the product. It’s OK to make a 30% margin given that wood costs more than other types of flooring. Some retailers have told me they need to sell twice the number of waterproof jobs to make the same money as one hardwood job.
The Real Wood Coalition campaign aims to do a few things. First, it will educate retailers on the basics of the category, the trends, what to look for in a supplier, etc. There will also be articles on selling, where retailers who have been having success can share some of their tips whether it be how to upsell, merchandise, market, position, etc. We’ll also look to spotlight some of the coalition members’ products, whether they be something brand spanking new or an existing collection that has proven to be popular with consumers for an extended period of time.
Talking to the coalition members, the consensus is that now is the time to promote the category. Consumers have more disposable income than they’ve had in a while. Why? They have nothing else to spend it on except home improvements. They’re not taking lavish European vacations right now and many are not even going out to restaurants. They’re sitting at home watching Netflix and want to refresh their surroundings. Remember, people like to spend money. It’s almost like it burns a hole in their pockets.
Also, there is a lot of relocation happening. People escaping the cities. People buying bigger houses as they work from home—temporarily or permanently. People moving to states like Florida and Texas where the weather (normally) tends to be better and state taxes are non-existent. All this presents an opportunity for new flooring.
In closing, just a few words about the charter members: AHF is the largest hardwood flooring manufacturer in North America; Mirage and Mercier are two Canadian mills most renowned for their quality; Indusparquet is the leading South American manufacturer; Mullican and Somerset count themselves as two suppliers whose offerings are made completely in the USA; Nature Flooring is one of the world’s largest hardwood manufacturers with plants in five countries; and Torlys prides itself on its knack for developing innovative solid and engineered flooring products. More companies are expected to join the coalition going forward.