In the battle to reclaim market share from look-alike categories, hardwood suppliers are rolling out an array of new wood floors designed to pique the interest of retailers as well as consumers. These range from wide-and-long plank products—which are still very much in favor—to specialty products featuring proprietary finishes and surface texture applications. It’s all about demonstrating why hardwood is still the most aspirational flooring product on the market.
Case in point is the latest offering from AHF Products. Following on the heels of the launch of its signature dent- and scratch-resistant Dogwood line in early 2022, AHF unveiled Dogwood Pro for the independent retail channel. Based on the same sturdy, densified technology as its predecessor, Dogwood Pro is as hard as ceramic tile but much warmer underfoot, according to the company.
“Compared to standard engineered wood, laminate and SPC, it’s much harder,” said Milton Goodwin, AHF Products vice president. “And the best part is it’s all natural hardwood. It’s a product that’s going to stand the test of time.”
AHF Products also took the wraps off Mystical Woods, which features reactive staining technologies for unique visual appeal. Reactive staining, which occurs naturally in nature when the wood is exposed to sunlight or other elements in nature, creates a white-washed visual. Suppliers have come up with a way to replicate that look during the manufacturing process. “We have recreated those same looks, only at a much faster rate than what happens organically in nature,” Goodwin said. “We’re able to capture this visual in a single application.”
With consumers continuing to demonstrate an affinity for genuine wood floors, other major suppliers are pulling out all the stops. Mohawk, for instance, has expanded its popular TecWood line to give retailers and consumers more options in 2023. Standout offerings in the line include Camden Isle (from TecWood Select), which comes in half-inch-thick boards, narrower widths and an on-trend color palette. Meanwhile, TecWood Plus—the highest tier in the TecWood offering—gets the Cottage Manor collection. The line features the popular band-sawn texture, which is defined by saw marks across the face of the boards that run perpendicular to the board’s length.
Another eye-catching product from Mohawk is the new Waterproof BelleLuxe wood line from the Karastan master brand. Advanced coating technologies provided by Mohawk’s WetProtect offers top-down protection, preventing spills from reaching the subfloor below. According to David Moore, senior product director, wood and laminate, the technology works by ensuring water-tight joints keeps household spills on the surface of the plank. BelleLuxe Waterproof wood is further protected by a proprietary waterproof finish.
The latest offerings from Mullican Flooring target the upper-middle to high end of the market. Earlier this year the company rolled out Nordic Naturals, a collection whose visuals are inspired by the clean attributes of Scandinavian wood but feature homegrown oak flooring from the Appalachian region. Available in widths ranging from 3 to 5 inches, the product has a suggested retail price of $6-$8 per square foot.
“Nordic Naturals is actually red oak that has been recolored and redesigned to reflect consumer demand for lighter tones,” said Pat Oakley, vice president of sales and marketing. “We’ve applied a new staining technique to get the right visuals we’re looking for.”
On the higher end of the spectrum is Mullican’s Castillian collection, which features European white oak and retails up to $15 per square foot. The line has been expanded to include several new SKUs, plus a herringbone design. “We continue to build on Castillian, which has been out for some time,” Oakley noted. “It’s an upper-end brand on the engineered side of the business that continues to do really well.”
European white oak species also figure prominently in the latest additions to Mannington’s hardwood flooring portfolio. For 2023, the objective, according to Cristen Del Bove, director of residential styling, is to elevate the popular species across all price points. This includes, from top to bottom: Sanctuary (5/8 inches thick in 4mm sawn face); Maison (9/16-inch thick, 3mm); TimberPlus (1/2-inch thick, 0.6mm sliced face); Latitude (1/2-inch thick, 2mm face); and the new Momentum collection (3/8-inch thick, 1.2mm face).
Then there’s the top-selling Prospect Park line, which gets two new European oak visuals, while the handcrafted Maison Chateau and Sanctuary—both produced by craftspeople in Guatemala—get four and six visuals, respectively.
Shaw continues to go wider/longer with the launch of Expressions, a beefy, 9½-inch product that keys in on popular trends while still appealing to the upscale buyer. Expressions comes in 10 initial colors available in both lighter, cooler tones and warmer hues. Suggested retail price range is $15-$17 per square foot.
“We’re seeing demands for more premium products,” said Matt Rosato, hard surface channel director, Shaw Floors. “In the past you had 3/8– or ½-inch products that were really big volume drivers, but we’re seeing higher sales performance of those wider, premium products. These include 5/8-inch-thick products with a 4mm veneer. Consumers love to see that construction, and they want to know that they can sand and refinish it—although they might not need to do that because of the durable finish that we put on it.”
Also new from Shaw is the Gallery collection that offers premium hardwoods hand selected by design experts to bring natural artistry into the home. With understated finishes and clean looks, these hardwoods embrace time-worn character and age gracefully over the years. Available formats span from 7 inches to 9 inches and include species such as hickory or European oak.
Fabrica Hardwood, a division of The Dixie Group, continues to refresh its upscale hardwood flooring offerings with products that aim to stand out from the pack. One noteworthy collection includes Relic, a sister product to the top-of-the-line Chateau collection, which Jamann Stepp, vice president, hard surface, described as a “wide-bodied,” 9 ½-inch product with a 4mm sawn face and 5/8 total thickness. Relic is that same build but in a clean ash species in a total of eight colors. Retail prices start at $13 per square foot and climb up from there.
Other players such as RIVA are eyeing opportunities at the upper end of the spectrum. The Spain-based company, which earned a 2023 Best of Surfaces award for Best Large Booth, showcased a curated selection of high-end hardwood floors also worthy of acclaim. This includes its namesake La RIVA collection, produced at its factory Miami and custom finished by famed artisan Tom Goddijn. The line comes in a range of 8-, 10,- 12- and 14-inch-wide widths and features finishes created through reactive staining processes. Suggested retail price range is $20-$25 per sq. ft.
Other suppliers are focusing on developing “high-end” looks but not necessarily wood floors that are going to break the bank. Such is the case with the latest offerings from Indusparquet, which specializes in exotic species from South America. While the deep, dark Brazilian cherries of old are not big volume sellers these days, the company does report strong interest in other species like Brazilian oak and tigerwood.
“We wanted to have something that we can give the market that’s different,” said Jodie Doyle, president of the company’s U.S. operations. “When you show people our new Brazilian oak or Tauri, they say: ‘That didn’t come from Brazil!’ Well, yes, it did. And that’s our No. 1 seller. That’s the story we’ve been telling—yes, we have this exotic stuff but we also have products that are not so much ‘meat and potatoes’ but more amenable to more people. The people who want Tigerwood are going to buy it. You can’t value engineer that product.”
In the current inflationary climate, one might assume that subsegments such as the ultra-high-end hardwood flooring market—defined as products that retail in the $14-$25-per-square-foot and up range—might take a big hit. However, that doesn’t appear to be the case as discerning consumers with loads of disposable income to spend continue to demonstrate a strong appetite for high-end products boasting equally upscale visuals and features.
“There remains an appetite for these products and it tends to be somewhat recession resistant,” said Dan Natkin, chief commercial officer at Bauwerk, parent company of the Boen and Somerset brands. “For those who can afford the best, they will always spend the money.”
Some industry observers say premium wood floors tend to be less affected by current economic conditions. “Consumers of these products are willing to cut corners elsewhere if needed in order to get the best possible hardwood product on their floor,” said Kevin Whaley, vice president of sales and product at LM Flooring, a division of AHF Products. “In the upper-end, hardwood still sells well and will continue to sell.”