Laminate: Beating the boxes with step-up products

HomeFeatured PostLaminate: Beating the boxes with step-up products

Long regarded as a value-driven, budget-friendly category, laminate flooring has been a mainstay of national home center chains, big-box stores and discount merchandisers. It’s not uncommon to see a significant portion of laminate floors selling below $2.49 per square foot at many of these chains and outlets.

While this price accessibility has exposed many consumers—especially DIYers and renters—to the category, it doesn’t present as tempting an option for those specialty retailers focused on products that offer higher profit margins.

However, that has slowly been changing in recent years as many laminate flooring suppliers develop a greater array of “tiered” offerings that not only deliver better margins but also eliminate some of the competition from big boxes, which—based on their sheer buying volume, size and national scale—can leverage pricing much more aggressively.

Utilizing technology, suppliers have been able to beef up their product offerings to better compete with the sea of waterproof hard surface alternatives on the market today. Combined with the resurgence of the laminate flooring category, this represents a golden opportunity for specialty retailers to trade consumers up to better floors.

Lamdura, the precision-made, technologically advanced laminate collection from Inhaus, provides the look and feel of real hardwood but is accessible to more consumers.

Take companies like Inhaus, for example, which leverages its engineering and design expertise to develop laminate products that provide dealers with a premium upgrade story. Specifically, its technologically advanced Lamdura line, which made its debut at Surfaces in 2022 and has since been expanded to include more collections and tiers for the specialty retailer to market.

“We make all of our own plates, and it’s all embossed in registration,” said Derek Welbourn, CEO of Inhaus. Even the company’s “entry-level” collection—a 7mm-plus-2mm pad—generates higher margins than products with a similar thickness found at home centers. For customers looking to trade up to thicker products, Inhaus offers an 8mm-plus-2mm option.

Other major laminate suppliers are also expanding and fortifying their offerings to entice more retailers to devote more showroom space and attention to the category. Eternity Flooring, which has long been committed to the laminate category even when the segment began to face intense pressure from rigid core floors and WPC offering, is doubling down on that commitment. The supplier continues to roll out an impressive array of multi-tiered, high-performance laminate products designed to fill voids in the market while giving retailers more opportunities to earn higher margins.

Sequoia XL, the 6-foot-long planks from Eternity, come with an MSRP range of $3.99-$4.99 per sq. ft.

As a case in point, Isaac Lee, marketing and product development manager at Eternity, cited its new Sequoia XL collection of 6-foot-long planks that tout optimal waterproof performance with an AC6 rating for wear and dent resistance—the highest rating currently available. Made in Spain, the products also boast trendy designs, including wood visuals that offer up to 24 variations before the pattern repeats. It’s built on a 6-foot x 9 ½-inch board and features a 3D textured surface.

“It really, truly feels like hardwood,” Lee explained. “It’s not like some of the other EIR products that you see in some laminates out there. These are some of the best-looking, trendy designs that offer visuals that are exclusive to Eternity.”

Another head-turner from Eternity is a product called Hyperion XXL (short for extra-long and wide) waterproof laminate flooring. “At almost 8-feet long, this is the longest laminate planks you’ll see in the market,” Lee stated. MSRP is $3.50-$4.50 per square foot.

If the upper end of the category is too high, Eternity also offers its workhorse Ecoessent, premium Aqua-Resilience waterproof laminate that comes in a 2-, 4- and 6-foot random-length planks. It sports an overall thickness of 12mm, which includes a 2mm attached pad.

Mohawk, another dominant player in the category, also continues to expand its popular RevWood collection by not only adding multiple tiers but also expanding its entire laminate portfolio by bolstering its Pergo-branded laminate offerings. By adding features like its Signature Imprint technology, the company can offer retailers a more compelling reason to step up the customer to better, more realistic-looking floors.

Mohawk’s signature RevWood line has been expanded to include more pricing options for consumers.

“With our new technology, Signature, it’s really about making the most accurate representation of real engineered hardwood,” said David Moore, senior director of product management, wood and laminate. The first stage in product development begins with sourcing a real wood visual and then scanning that sample to glean as much information as possible out of the source wood. The next step entails the application of texturing in the wear layer to match the characteristics of the wood pattern and graining in the underlying image. Using proprietary press-plate technology and manufacturing methods, Mohawk ensures the texture matches the wood marks.

Ditto for Mohawk’s Pergo line—the laminate brand that started it all more than 20 years ago. “With Pergo, the story is all about giving our retailers the opportunity to say ‘yes,’” Moore stated. “Oftentimes consumers go online to do their shopping, they get to the big box stores and they see the Pergo brand and then they call the specialty retailer to see if they have the brand and they say ‘no.’ What we’re doing with Pergo is giving them the ability to advertise and get people into the store.”

Other eye-catching laminate products that are loaded with features and benefits that can command a premium include Kingston from BHW and TheBLVD collection from Urbanfloor. The former boasts advanced EIR technology to create natural-looking oak patterns that replicate the heft and visuals of real wood on a 10-inch-wide platform, while TheBLVD sports 7.5-inch-wide, water-resistant planks featuring antimicrobial surface technology, deep in-register embossing and an AC5 wear rating. All these attributes, the companies note, can fetch higher prices at retail.

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Oct. 9/16, 2023

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