The impact multilayer flooring (MLF) has had on the market is undeniable. The key selling features, like moisture imperviousness, structural stability, and strength, are providing solutions and growing sales for retailers. Manufacturers have a lot in the works for the category to help retailers maximize their sales potential in 2018.
“This category continues to grow at unparalleled rates, and we see no slowdown in 2018,” said Harlan Stone, president of the Multilayer Flooring Association (MFA) and CFO and group CEO of Metroflor.
“Multilayer flooring continues to provide solutions to common consumer flooring needs: durability, water resistance, easy install, to name a few,” noted Jeremy Kleinberg, senior product manager, Armstrong. “We see this category continuing to grow in popularity as the products become even more visually attractive and realistic looking, and even better-performing.”
Jimmy Tuley, vice president of residential luxury vinyl tile (LVT) for Mannington, agrees. “The multilayer flooring category holds a major position in Mannington’s Residential LVT offering, and we see aggressive growth in the future. In 2018, we will be expanding our line with products featuring both new technology and updated style and design.”
Karndean expects to see 20-30+% overall growth, with rigid core driving larger category growth in residential and gaining traction commercially.
Kleinberg said polymer composite rigid-core floor products have seen explosive growth across the flooring industry since their introduction in 2012. Rigid LVT may be perceived by some as an evolution of LVT. It’s more stable and is less likely to show indentation marks — a problem with some of this category’s earlier products. “In addition to being waterproof, one of the benefits of MLF products is its rigidity, which means the product doesn’t telegraph as much and is easier to install over imperfect subfloors,” he said. “The product’s performance, combined with some great-looking, on-trend visuals, is grabbing attention of both consumer and commercial customers.”
Stone said the MFA has a long list of to-dos to increase the industry awareness, grow membership and build standards to help manufacturers, retailers and installers define and advance the category. This year, the association is working on second tier ASTM standards that define advanced performance. The group is also creating a lexicon for the category that expands beyond MLF and helps to determine the key defining technical characteristics of the different sub-classes. “We are working towards our two-level sustainability third-party certification program and closely coordinating our efforts in North America with our sister organization in Europe, the MMFA [Multilayer Modular Flooring Association],” Stone added.
In addition, the group is developing a third-party verified certification program for products that meet the ASTM standards, along with an icon that can be easily identified for all products that are certified.
One important aspect of ensuring MLF’s future success is making sure its great selling story is clearly communicated. “As the category evolves, we want to ensure consumers are seeing the value of these new products, from the realistic visuals to the performance benefits and installation flexibility,” Kleinberg said. “As far as leveraging the power of the Armstrong Flooring brand at retail, our goal is to not only deliver great products, but also the tools and training to boost in-store sales. We’re helping to drive consumers primed to purchase Armstrong Flooring products.”
Manufacturers are developing a variety of new sales and marketing tools to help retailers sell the category. “This category has been rapidly expanding and evolving,” Tuley said. “I would expect continued innovation in the visuals and several generations of core and cap technologies over the next several years. Because of all the change, there is some confusion in the market, so we are in the process of developing tools to educate and simplify this for the retail salesperson as much as possible.”
John Wu, president and CEO of Novalis Innovative Flooring, said the company feels strongly about the popularity and growth of this category into 2018 and beyond, and Novalis will be making a variety of products to meet the needs of its dealers: “We are taking a strong position in helping to define the category because there is still much confusion regarding terminology and understanding of the technology among the retail trade. Look for us to bring sales aids and online help in order to assist in the understanding and potential this relatively new category has to offer.”
To create demand, Armstrong launched a consumer campaign in September 2017, “The Floor is Yours,” kicking off a multi-year effort to bring the Armstrong Flooring story to life to a new generation of floor buyers. “The campaign focuses on our leadership in design and performance by spotlighting star performing products,” Kleinberg noted.
“The Floor is Yours” campaign includes a partnership with HGTV — widely considered among dealers and consumers to be a top media influencer, according to Armstrong Flooring — which helped the company capture 64 million impressions over an eight-week period and included 30-second television ads on HGTV; digital advertising; an Armstrong Flooring hub on HGTV.com; and social videos which HGTV will promote on its Facebook page.
“Our ultimate goal is to drive meaning and relevancy with key stakeholders, give consumers a further reason to believe in the Armstrong Flooring brand and offer retailers a tool box for working with and engaging end users,” said Armstrong’s director of brand marketing Ebeth Pitman.
US Floors, a division of Shaw Industries, also unveiled a consumer campaign for Coretec—the flooring brand that sparked the wood plastic composite (WPC) flooring revolution with its patented 100% waterproof core technology.
“When we developed our patented core technology, we knew it was a revolutionary product delivering the styles people love with the durability and easy maintenance they want in a floor,” said Piet Dossche, CEO and creator of Coretec. “That innovation created a whole new category of flooring. We continued to grow and develop Coretec, adding new styles, features and designs, until it became more than a product, it truly is a brand unto itself.”
The new consumer brand, which soft launched in the fall and officially began January 1, showcases a mobile-first strategy aimed at reaching, engaging and connecting with consumers, particularly millennials. The campaign centers around the question “What’s in your core?”, which celebrates the originality of the brand’s patented core technology by celebrating the originality and uniqueness of consumers.
“The new campaign is obviously grounded in our innovative core technology that makes our products unique,” said Kathy Young, vice president, retail innovation. “But it also resonates perfectly with consumers who prize their individuality and view flooring as a form of self-expression.”
The campaign coincides with the launch of a new website, COREtecFloors.com, which features streamlined product information pages, an interactive dealer locator and a factory-direct sampling program. An inspiration section offers content on a range of interior and design topics.
Additional content is more educational in nature, ranging from tips that guide Dream It Yourself renovators through the floor buying process, to how-to videos on expectations, prep, installation and care, answering the brand’s tagline “The Smarter Way To Floor.”
“We wanted the site to mirror the same values as the brand itself, namely style, strength and simplicity” said Kathy Young, vice president, retail innovation.“We’ve achieved that with a site that’s intuitive, functional and inspirational. You can find what you need quickly, or dive deep into inspiration.”
The branding campaign and website were conceived and designed by Big Red Rooster in Atlanta, a brand experience firm with extensive knowledge of retail and home improvement categories.
“From the beginning, we’ve been focused on the performance and style of our floors, while relying on our network of specialty retailers to forge customer connections,” Dossche said. “Now we want to continue to improve the buying process for today’s busy consumers. Our new site will inform and inspire homeowners while quickly and conveniently connecting them with their local retailer.” The campaign features a variety of personas aimed at speaking to the millennial consumer, which hinge on extensive consumer research Shaw has conducted to answer the pain points consumes face when shopping for flooring.
“Having been in the industry pushing 30 years now, I’ve seen the industry always has this inert ability to drive pricing down, commoditizing so many neat things that have been brought to market, especially since laminate came on board back in the mid-90s,” Jamann Stepp, US Floors director of marketing and product management, told Floor Trends. “Obviously we see a lot of competitors at our heels and trying to create their own Coretec-like product. We want to build on that brand and not get into a price-sensitive downward spiral and by going to the consumer and putting it in the face of the consumer so that he or she is asking for that when they do their floor shopping, it makes it easier and builds brand integrity. We want to make sure that we keep those price points where they should stay.”
Young added that a benefit the Coretec brand has is that it is not as private labeled, which allows consumers to find it without going through too many layers of confusion.
“We’ve seen brands be established and brands be torn down,” Young said. “The reality is the luxury vinyl category is new and flourishing and the millennial audience is very active in home buying. By targeting the millennials and first adopters of technology as our target audience, which is very refreshing in an approach, we speak directly to the consumer. We want them to go to our website and feel very personally engaged with the Coretec brand. We took a modern, simple strong approach with very easy to understand language. It’s digital-first strategy because these consumers spend 18 hours a day on some kind of device and we want to be in their world to help them along the way.”
Young said she hopes retailers will recognize the dollars Coretec has dedicated to be connected with the consumer to help set the product apart.
“There are a lot of coat-tailers out there and they have to do it on price and copying the leader to some degree,” Stepp added. “By the time we hit Surfaces, we will have 180-plus SKUs that will be in our three winged display galleries. We have breadth of selection; we feel like our fashion, styling, decor and R&D processes are really light years ahead. By having this website for the consumer, we hope these retailers are devoting a lot of real estate in their showroom to all things Coretec.”