By Megan Salzano It’s one thing for a manufacturer to be in business for 100 years; it’s quite another to continue innovating and remain relevant over that long stretch. Forbo Flooring Systems has succeeded on all those fronts.
Forbo was founded with an expressed focus on linoleum flooring products. It has incrementally expanded not only its product lineup but its command of the market. Today, the company leads the category with nearly 100% market share. Its domination of the linoleum market was forged with its Marmoleum product line—a 100% bio-based product composed of renewable ingredients including linseed oil, pine rosin and wood flour—making one of the most sustainable products on the market. In addition, Marmoleum is also hygienic with natural antistatic and antibacterial properties.
When it comes to visuals, Marmoleum features a wide range of color and design options to create multiple looks suitable for all rooms in the home. It is also available in multiple sizes and direct glue-down and floating floor formats.
But it’s not only the product that Forbo supplies that makes it stand out from the crowd. Flooring retailers who have carried Forbo for years tout the ease at which they do business with the supplier and its innovative thinking. “Our relationship with Forbo has developed over many decades into one of trust, support and friendship unlike any other vendor,” said Joel Hirshberg, president, Green Building Supply, Fairfield, Iowa, which has been a Forbo customer since 1995. “They have our back; they do things right; they make life easy; they incentivize our sales; they don’t make sudden changes without telling us; they are available by phone all day long; and they appreciate our business.”
Tim Ruzek, operations manager, Galaxie Floor Stores, Bloomington, Minn., which has been carrying Forbo products since the early 2000s, agreed, adding his appreciation for the design innovation Forbo prioritizes. “I like that they’re always innovating with new colors and new styles, so it doesn’t get stagnant,” he said. “They keep coming out with new products even though they don’t have any competition. And I’m impressed that they don’t gouge their pricing structure.”
Ruzek added that Forbo’s recently released and innovative online portal has been a boon to his business. “Forbo has a fantastic website that is very interactive and gives customers a lot of design ideas,” he explained. “They also created a really nice online ordering portal for retailers so we can order 24/7—whenever it’s convenient for us. It’s one of the best websites to order products from.”
Hygienic & sustainable
When it comes to the product itself, Marmoleum has experienced somewhat of a renaissance in the last year as consumers shifted their product preferences to align with their needs during the pandemic. For example, consumers began to look into the health and hygiene of the products they chose—a pain point Marmoleum answers well. “Homeowners today are looking for flooring products that provide naturally healthy benefits to protect their family during a time of pandemic uncertainty,” said Tim Donahue, U.S. residential national sales manager, Forbo. “Marmoleum provides many natural answers to homeowners concerns about creating a healthy indoor environment.”
Forbo’s retail partners attested to the draw of Marmoleum’s natural features. “People like it because it’s an all-natural product made from renewable resources,” Galaxie Floor Stores’ Ruzek explained. “It works across the board as far as age range, too. If you like natural products such as real hardwood, cork floors, stone products, then Marmoleum fits right in.”
Ruzek added that, as a natural product, Marmoleum easily supports the hygienic needs of today’s consumer. “It is a nice product to live on because it’s naturally antistatic—dust and hair don’t cling to it like vinyl flooring, making it is easy to clean,” he explained.
Another major selling point for Marmoleum is its sustainable properties. While the trend was significant among millennials prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020 brought a renewed focus across generations to “green” product lines. “Marmoleum may be one of the first bio-based flooring products to be climate positive,” Green Building Supply’s Hirshberg said. “Sustainability is nothing new to Forbo. It’s who they are, and you can see it and feel it throughout their company and their products. They offer a model worth emulating. There are very few manufacturers that can claim such a long, sustainable history. That’s something we want to be part of and something our customers want to be part of, too.”
While flooring products like the ever-expanding rigid core segment have grown exponentially in the last few years, it’s true that the category felt a pinch in 2020 when supply shortages started to impact the U.S. market. Those shortages have continued into 2021, causing some consumers to turn to alternative selections—such as Marmoleum—that are easily accessible.
“Marmoleum is not subject to the volatility that surrounds petroleum-based ingredients in other flooring products,” Donahue explained. “Marmoleum ingredients are naturally grown and harvested and are readily available. Utilizing our many North American distribution locations makes shipping Marmoleum to a flooring dealer easy and simple. All of the supply of Marmoleum comes from our manufacturing facilities in U.S.-friendly countries in Europe, not subject to bureaucracies, tariffs, supply delays and political turmoil in flooring products made in other parts of the world.”
Donahue added that the bottom line when it comes to Marmoleum’s availability is that “when the consumer is ready to install Marmoleum in her home, we have it ready.”
In today’s market, health and hygiene only go so far. Consumers want to know they have options when it comes to the design of their home. As such, Marmoleum continues to add to its robust lineup. “Consumers are wanting unique colors and designs to add a more creative tone to their home,” Donahue said. “Dealers and designers have more fun decorating with Marmoleum.”
For Ruzek, Donahue’s claims are true, and Marmoleum’s design options are a draw for all demographics in his market. “Younger people like to do more of the fun patterns and striking colors, whereas older people like to stay more neutral,” he said. “The fun thing about Marmoleum is you can cut it in any shape or size that you want. We can do borders, insets, heat welding feature stripes, checker boards with a border—a lot of custom work. You’re only limited by your imagination.”