No matter where you turn, another company is introducing its version of luxury vinyl tile (LVT), which is the fastest-growing segment of the flooring market.
In the 2016 Floor Trends Flooring Industry Study, 61% of retailers surveyed said they expect sales to grow in the resilient/vinyl/LVT category, with 23% anticipating significant increases. All respondents’ companies indicated selling LVT, while over three-quarters of respondents selling VCT and/or sheet.
There is so much to admire about these product innovations in LVT. Thanks to advances in technology, the flooring impressively replicates high-end materials like hardwood and stone but a fraction of the cost. Its thinness makes it easier to match to other surfaces during installation, and its performance and durability make it a logical solution for high-traffic commercial projects and residences for homeowners who want ease of maintenance.
The best LVT manufacturers have perfected digital printing techniques so that the flooring not only successfully emulates the grain patterns of natural wood and the movement of natural stone, but it also reproduces the subtle highs and lows in the color variations of these materials. Other than the fact that it’s softer underfoot than wood or stone, many LVT products are often pretty hard to distinguish from the real materials they are emulating.
The newest generations of LVT, referred to as WPC flooring or rigid LVT, has definite structural advantages in imperfect subfloor situations or water-prone areas. WPC flooring—which consists of LVT with a WPC core that serves as a backing—was introduced to the U.S. by USFloors in 2013 as a way to improve durability without sacrificing comfort. Several companies licensed the technology.
Of course, along with rapid growth of the category came countless imitations that usually couldn’t stand up to their inspiration. These less expensive and less technologically advanced flooring products often failed, causing callbacks and headaches for retailers and consumers. For this reason, many companies are moving away from using the term WPC in their marketing—not only because their products’ core compositions contain things other than wood fiber, but because they want to set themselves apart from products that labelled themselves WPC but couldn’t meet expectations.
Experts say subcategories are becoming more relevant in the market as more products are developed with different core compositions to increase their dimensional stability. Of course, as these subcategories of LVT continue to develop, it leaves consumers confused about what they are buying. One of the most frequent questions I get asked is how leaders in LVT will name their products.
As technology advances, it will be interesting to watch how manufacturers will set a precedent for naming products in the category and how others will follow. In this month’s issue, we explore the status of the LVT market today and forecast some of the trends for this important category.