Wood: Opportunities abound at segment’s higher end

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hardwood
The Belleluxe collection of high-end hardwood from Mohawk’s Karastan line targets the upscale consumer.

By Reginald Tucker—With the hardwood flooring category facing so much competition from alternative (and often less-expensive) categories designed to emulate real wood, one might assume that the upper-mid-range to higher end of the hardwood flooring might suffer. Turns out that couldn’t be further from the truth as suppliers report strong consumer interest in wood floors that retail at the high end of the spectrum.

“Hardwood at that upper end continues to be very popular, especially for higher-end homes,” said Adam Ward, senior product director, Mohawk. A prime example, he said, is the company’s Karastan brand of hardwood flooring, which hit price points in the $10-$12 range when it originally launched back in early 2020. “The product is doing well,” Ward said. “We’ve made some nice updates with new products, which started shipping earlier this year.”

Other major, full-line suppliers are also seeing encouraging activity at the higher end of the wood spectrum. Case in point is The Dixie Group, which in recent years expanded its upscale Fabrica brand to include high-end hardwood. The namesake Fabrica Fine Hardwood line includes a growing portfolio of products ranging from white oak, hickory and maple species (some domestically sourced; others imported from Portugal, Canada and parts of Asia) in 3mm, 3.5mm and 4mm sawn-face constructions.

“Every collection and SKU in the Fabrica wood program is meticulously designed and selected to provide quality and character that provides each homeowner with her own unique installation,” said Jamann Stepp, vice president, hard surfaces, The Dixie Group.

Some of these products, he noted, retail for more than $20 per square foot. “All Fabrica wood products employ expert manufacturing and craftsmanship along with premium raw materials, including multi-ply and solid core Baltic birch platforms. No rotary peel nor sliced-face veneers exist in the Fabrica Wood program.”

At Provenza Floors, which is well known for its reputation for specialty, trade-up products, higher-end collections continue to do well—despite a market that’s dominated by price-sensitive “wood-look” resilient and laminate floors. “Customers are looking for wood products that are not your usual run-of-the-mill,” said Larry Purcell, Provenza’s director of sales, Midwest and Northeast.

Specifically, he cited the company’s popular Volterra line, a collection of wide-plank, lightly wire-brushed engineered floors with an ultra-matte finish. “We’re seeing high interest for that product,” he added.

Even the rustic sub-segment of the hardwood flooring sector—a niche market that has ceded some share to the popularity of smoother, cleaner wood visuals. Paul Rezuke, vice president of U.S. sales, Wickham, cited the strong appeal of its Mountain Home Collection, a character-heavy line that was installed throughout its booth at Surfaces earlier this year. “It’s a higher-end product—around $10-$11 per square foot—but people love it,” he said. “It has so much character; no two boards are the same.”

Another standout high-end product is Americana, from Harris Wood. This wide/long board offering is positioned as a step up from the company’s more economical 3-, 4- and 5-inch products. “Americana a true, 8-foot long x 9-inch-wide visual,” said Renee Tester, vice president of market. The product was on full display across the entire floor of its booth at NWFA earlier this year. “Cumberland Oak, part of the line since its launch in 2019, is one of our best sellers. We’re also expanding the line to include maple and hickory species as well.”

The time is right

Proponents say the appetite for higher-end wood flooring products among today’s consumer is directly related to people spending more of their disposable income on home improvements vs. travel and entertainment. This coupled with the fact that, historically, wood flooring has long been equated with higher-priced products. “Buyers who are purchasing larger, more premium homes are choosing hardwood floors for their natural beauty, high-end finishes and products that add value to their home,” said Neil Wenger, vice president of distribution sales at Mullican Hardwood Flooring. “The high end in both new home construction and the remodeling market are very strong for hardwood today.”

Drew Hash, vice president of hard surface, Shaw Residential, agreed. “With so many people stuck indoors due to COVID-19 restrictions, many have looked for ways to improve and invest in their homes,” he explained. “Hardwood is a highly coveted and sought-after product that adds value and an elevated look to any space.”

Brad Williams, vice president of sales and marketing, Boa-Franc, maker of the Mirage brand, concurred. He pointed to not only the ongoing activity seen in the residential replacement market, but he also alluded to the types of flooring products that are going into upscale residential properties. “We have a lot of products to help our retailers succeed in the market and differentiate themselves from the competition,” he said.

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Sept. 13/20, 2021

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