With 2016 well under way, we checked in with retailers to see how laminate is fairing thus far. This year, laminate sales make up 8% of Enhance Floors & More’s business in Marietta, Ga. An uptick from 2015, where laminate brought the operation 7% of its sales, co-owner Elisabeth Stubbs partly credits the increase to Enhance Floors’ showroom displays.
“Have laminate installed in your showroom,” she said. “Most people that are opposed to laminate are standing on it and think it is real wood.”
Currently, Enhance Floors has dedicated two areas of its showroom to display laminate for customers, which helps consumers to see the laminate in use.
“One in particular we sell a lot of because it’s installed,” she said. “Customers see it, they like it, there’s no doubt in their minds what it’s going to look like.”
Sometimes the Enhance Floors’ team takes the sales process a step further by showing customers the laminate in action in their offices.
“Our office space is on laminate with rolling chairs; UPS bringing heavy boxes in and out; high heel shoes,” Stubbs said. “So people can really see—because we will let them back to take a look—laminate that’s been in a working environment for two years with no scratches.”
Websites like Houzz and Pinterest are exposing consumers to the latest in every aspect of design, including flooring. Because of this, many have an idea of what they’d like before they enter a showroom, however it is up to retailers to help them decide which floorcovering will work best in their environment.
For the folks at Kelly’s Carpet in Omaha, Neb., this is done by analyzing customer needs.
“We do a needs analysis to find out what their lifestyle is, as far as kids and pets, and then we put them with the best product that’s going to fit their lifestyle,” said Tommy Hughes, general manager of the retail operation.
According to Hughes, although consumers come into the showroom with an idea of what they’d like to purchase, they are often open to exploring other options with the guidance of a knowledgeable sales associate.
“There might be that customer that has come in looking for hardwood, but maybe a laminate is a better option for them,” he said.
Manufactures’ ability to recreate the realism of hardwood with laminate has allowed end-users to enjoy the classic look of wood with more durability and often at a lower price point. While wood grain looks in general continue to be the most popular laminate design across the board, the majority of laminate sales for Kelly’s Carpet are that of a rustic, reclaimed look, according to Hughes.
Similarly, reclaimed laminate looks like Armstrong Industries’ Architectural Remnants and Mannington Mills’ Restoration Collection are top sellers for Phoenix-based Baker Bros, according to Phil Koufidakis, president of the operation.
“Twelve-mil products with real special looks are selling—higher end wood visuals that are significantly more cost prohibitive in hardwood,” he said.
Although laminate units are likely down for Baker Bros, according to Koufidakis, dollars are slightly up.
“It’s always best for us to sell up the chain,” he said. “Better products, better visuals, better stories, higher dollars per unit.”
As with most operations, Koufidakis and the Baker Bros team not only compare and contrast laminate products to find the best fit for customers in the market for flooring, they also explore other flooring products to help consumers make the most informed decision.
“The bulk of the questions surround the difference not between laminates, but between laminate and other surfaces (i.e. hardwood and luxury vinyl plank),” said Koufidakis. “As always the most important part of the product is the visual, followed closely by the performance.”
For Ramtown Carpet One Floor & Home in Farmingdale, N.Y., consumers are moving away from laminate toward luxury vinyl tile because of its ease of maintenance.
With LVT you don’t have to worry about spills in places like the kitchen; it’s the waterproof qualities that sell them,” said Pam McKay, sales representative and project manager.
When laminate is sold, the most popular is the Quickstep in Dominion and Reclaime styles. “Large planks and long-plank looks like the Mannington Restoration collection are very popular,” McKay added.
At Ramtown, 95% of customers will have the laminate professionally installed, but there are a few die-hard do-it-yourselfers who will tackle the installation.
“The customers who are tradesmen will install it themselves, and we welcome that, but we make sure to give them the installation information and links to videos on YouTube so that that they know what they are doing,” she said.