Carpet, laminate continue resurgence – Floor Covering News
By Ken Ryan The explosive LVT segment and its double-digit annual increases may still claim the most attention and showroom space from retailers, but the rigid core no longer has a monopoly on growth in the flooring industry. In fact, laminate and carpet have emerged as ascending categories in the red-hot retail flooring market.
In recent years, purchasing groups such as CCA Global had emphasized laminate in favor of LVT to where it was barely relevant. Today, however, laminate sales among CCA members have doubled in the past two years. Many observers were caught off guard by the revival of laminate, but not all. “The laminate category never died out — it just shifted from independent dealers to home centers,” explains Dan Natkin, vice president of hardwoods and laminates, Mannington. “Now it has shifted back to the independents. I wish we could keep up with demand.”
Carpet, meanwhile, experienced a disastrous COVID-19-induced second quarter in 2020, with home sales falling by a staggering 27.4% in dollar terms, according to FCNews estimates. That low-water mark followed a period of several years of negligible growth and declining market share. Today, carpet is literally on a roll with three consecutive quarters of double-digit increases on the residential side.
Below is a closer look at the comeback that laminate and carpet are currently experiencing.
The segment’s rise is more than anecdotal; it can be reflected in sales. In 2020, US laminate flooring sales grew 5.8%, while volume grew 4.2%, according to FCNews estimates. It was the first time in five years that the category was in the plus column.
What’s behind the turnaround? For starters, more product was sold in the thicker 10mm-12mm range than in the thinner entry-level 7mm-8mm range often found at discount merchandisers and large box stores.
Inhaus CEO Derek Welbourn said he sees opportunities for laminate to regain lost market share through new product/technology advancements. “Water-resistant products and enhanced visuals with digital printing combined with traditional improvements to laminate products such as embossed-in-register designs and beveled edges will drive the growth of the laminate segment,” he said. “It’s all about creating more value for consumers with products that offer durability, good looks and ease of use.”
Retailers of floors that were tied to laminate even during the lean years are now being rewarded with solid sales. Dealers cite the product’s great looks and superior scratch resistance as fuel for the turnout, noting that Mannington’s Restoration and Mohawk’s RevWood deliver outstanding performance. “Customers have found that laminate is more resistant to scratches than many of your hard products that have been so popular over the past 24 months, and that the biggest problems with laminate in the past have been lower quality laminates,” said Ted Gregerson, president. from Ted’s Abbey Carpet & Floor and Floors To Go, Anniston, Ala. “That’s why we sell a lot more laminate, and it’s all your high-quality, 12mm laminates with good warranties.”
Inventory of laminate has risen at a time when LVT, mainly sourced from China, has been stalled by rising container costs, product shortages and multiple rounds of price hikes, among other challenges. At the same time, retailers are embracing the many Made-in-USA laminate offerings (no fees) and technological advancements that have enhanced the segment. “The laminate of yesteryear is not the laminate of today,” said Olga Robertson, president of the FCA Network, Shorewood, Illinois. “I have an LVP in the bar in my basement and I’m replacing it with laminate. The best looking laminate in the industry is Mannington’s Restoration line, and we’ve seen a huge resurgence in business.”
Robertson said homebuilders, including Lennar and Pulte Homes, have switched to laminate because they believe LVP is unaffordable. “As production builders go, so does the rest of the industry that has to serve these large production builders,” she said. “Laminate is more affordable than LVP and is also waterproof. In my opinion it is a better product than LVP.”
No floor segment has benefited more from COVID-19 than carpet. As people spent more time at home during the pandemic, they found that unlike other products, carpet was more conducive to a quiet, warm and safe environment. While residential carpet’s comeback started with a small gain in Q3 2020, the last three quarters have seen dramatic spikes, as reported to the Carpet & Rug Institute (CRI): 13.4% increase in dollars in Q4 2020, 18% gain in Q1 2021 and a 54% increase in the second quarter compared to the same period a year ago. Year-to-date, sales of residential carpets are up 35% year-on-year.
“There is a lot of optimism in the category right now and everyone is enjoying the lift and the goodness,” said Brad Christensen, director of category management for soft surfaces at Shaw Industries. “The more people talk about soft surface, the more new buyers realize there are things that can improve their lifestyle.”
Softness and noise reduction are certainly two factors that have benefited carpet; however, the real catalyst has been technological advancements that have led to more patterns and vibrant colors. “While carpet has been banned from the bedrooms, we are definitely seeing a resurgence in ‘better’ carpets,” said Sam O’Krent, president of O’Krent Floors, San Antonio. “Fashion is making another statement in carpet and consumers are embracing the warmth and beauty of landing their toes on carpet early in the morning.”
The growth of mass-dyed products has also paid off. According to Joe Young, soft surfaces category manager for Engineered Floors, the reality is that factories today make better carpet with performance characteristics that make it a viable option throughout the household, with a solution dyed the fiber of their choice. “Solution dyed reduces the age-old fear of carpet stains, fading or fading in a short time,” he said. “Solution-dyed carpets also offer more mixed multi-colors that transition visually smoothly from a hard surface to a soft surface. These performance and aesthetic improvements only add to the underfoot comfort that people have always loved about carpet.”
Whether carpet can keep the good times rolling is up for debate. However, there are some dealers who claim that the category never really fell out of favor in the first place. “We have experienced no carpet slowdown,” said Cathy Buchanan, owner of Independent Carpet One Floor & Home, Westland, Michigan. “We’ve sold a lot of carpet and I stick with the demographic reasoning. Michigan has more cool weather than warm, and comfort and sound absorption are a key factor.”
Typhannie Watson, owner of Carpeting by Mike, Somerset, Wisconsin, agreed, adding, “Midwesterners still love their warm, fluffy, soft floors.”