Wood: Opportunities abound at segment’s higher end
By Reginald Tucker—With the hardwood flooring category facing so much competition from alternative (and often cheaper) categories designed to mimic real wood, one might surmise that the upper mid-range to the higher end of the hardwood flooring could suffer. That turns out not to be further from the truth, as suppliers report strong consumer interest in wood floors sold at the higher end of the spectrum.
“Top top hardwoods remain very popular, especially for higher end homes,” said Adam Ward, senior product director at Mohawk. A prime example, he said, is the Karastan brand of hardwood floors, which hit price points in the $10 to $12 range when it originally launched in early 2020. “The product is doing well,” Ward said. “We’ve made some nice updates with new products that shipped earlier this year.”
Other large, full-line suppliers are also seeing encouraging activity at the higher end of the wood spectrum. A good example of this is The Dixie Group, which in recent years has expanded its luxury Fabrica brand to include high-quality hardwoods. The Fabrica Fine Hardwood line of the same name includes a growing portfolio of products ranging from varieties of white oak, hickory and maple (some native, others imported from Portugal, Canada and parts of Asia) in 3mm, 3.5mm, mm and 4 mm.
“Each collection and SKU in the Fabrica wood range has been carefully designed and selected to provide quality and character that provides each homeowner with her own unique installation,” said Jamann Stepp, vice president of hard surfaces at The Dixie Group.
Some of these products, he noted, sell for over $20 per square foot. “All of Fabrica’s wood products use expert manufacturing and craftsmanship, along with high-quality raw materials, including multi-layer and solid Baltic birch platforms. There is no rotary peeling or cut veneers in the Fabrica Wood program.”
At Provenza Floors, known for its reputation for specialty trade-in products, the higher end collections continue to thrive, despite a market dominated by price-sensitive, resilient and wood-look laminate floors. “Customers are looking for wood products that are out of the ordinary,” said Larry Purcell, sales director for Provenza, Midwest and Northeast.
In particular, he mentioned the company’s popular Volterra line, a collection of wide plank, light wire-brushed technical floors with an ultra-matte finish. “We’re seeing a lot of interest in that product,” he added.
Even the rustic sub-segment of the hardwood flooring industry – a niche market that has ceded some to the popularity of smoother, cleaner wood visuals. Paul Rezuke, vice president of sales in the US, Wickham, mentioned the strong appeal of its Mountain Home Collection, a line of character that was installed throughout its booth on Surfaces earlier this year. “It’s a more expensive product — about $10-$11 per square foot — but people love it,” he said. “It has so much character; no two plates are the same.”
Another notable high-end product is Americana, from Harris Wood. This wide/long board offering is positioned as a step forward from the company’s more economical 3-, 4- and 5-inch products. “Americana is a real, 8-foot-long x 9-inch-wide statue,” said Renee Tester, vice president of the market. The product was featured on the entire floor of its booth at the NWFA earlier this year. “Part of the line since its launch in 2019, Cumberland Oak is one of our bestsellers. We are also expanding the line to include maple and hickory varieties.”
The time is now
Proponents say that the demand for quality wood flooring products among today’s consumers is directly related to the fact that people spend more of their disposable income on home improvements than on travel and entertainment. This coupled with the fact that, historically, wooden floors have long been equated with more expensive products. “Buyers purchasing larger, higher-end homes choose hardwood floors for their natural beauty, quality 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 the new home construction and remodeling market is very strong for hardwood these days.”
Drew Hash, vice president of hard surface, Shaw Residential, agreed. “With so many people sitting indoors due to COVID-19 restrictions, many have been looking for ways to improve and invest in their homes,” he explained. “Hardwood is a highly coveted and sought-after product that adds value and gives any space a lofty look.”
Brad Williams, vice president of sales and marketing, Boa-Franc, creator of the Mirage brand, agreed. Not only did he point to continued activity in the home replacement market, but he also alluded to the types of flooring products used in luxury homes. “We have many products to help our retailers succeed in the market and differentiate themselves from the competition,” he said.