Wood flooring continues to be a popular choice for consumers looking to bring a sophisticated, organic look to a range of interiors. Manufacturers and retailers alike shared their thoughts about key styles and how they will continue to drive sales during the coronavirus pandemic—and beyond.
Wood is more appealing than ever, as people strive to find ways to bring elements of the outdoors into their favorite rooms. “There is a certain segment of designers and end users that prefer a natural product, whether it be wood or stone. They want that as a part of the design in their homes and in commercial spaces,” said Jamann Stepp, vice president of hard surfaces for the Dixie Group.
The color and texture of wood helps to set it apart from other flooring. Even though options like LVT may be lower in cost, customers are willing to pay more for a unique product that is designed to last. “Wood flooring has character, and you can definitely see the difference. I think that’s a driver that’s coming back around,” said Justin Atcheson, vice president of retail sales, Atlanta Flooring Design Centers.
Wider planks are still popular because they help to create a fresh look. “Now, we have a nine-inch wide plank. We’re seeing premium cuts, and a desire for that cleaner, lighter wood grain that is just naturally beautiful. That’s really been the driving force behind my best selling products,” said Emily Morrow Finkell, CEO of Emily Morrow Home.
Width continues to be important, but now consumers are looking at length as a way to create interesting flooring detail. “We’re still seeing the trend toward a wider floor, but there’s a growing awareness of the importance of length. Our floors go up to 12 and 14 feet long, which is different. A lot of the standard import products are six to seven feet. People want the variation that you can create with different lengths,” explained Chris Sy, president of Carlisle Wide Plank Floors.
For wood flooring sales associates, samples are tools that can highlight the characteristics of wood in a way that a printed catalog or website simply can’t. Sample sets are especially valuable to clients who are further away from a store or showroom. “We have a two-foot by two-foot sample which can be easily handled by a retail sales associate as well as a consumer,” Stepp noted.
“If you don’t have a good size to be able to show the customer, they’re definitely not going to make an informed decision. So for the more expensive, wider products, you definitely want to have a larger piece. The textures, the beveling, the thickness, and all of the other variables for wood make that sample imperative,” Atcheson added.
The displays that are found in stores have become crammed with products, which often overwhelms. There has been a streamlining that has become more effective for retailers, which allows them to focus on the quality of the goods they are selling, not just the quantity of brand names on offer.
As the Dixie Group continues to promote its Fabrica wood flooring collection, they have made sure to focus on a simpler presentation that draws people in but doesn’t overwhelm them with too many choices. “At retail you can get lost in a sea of sameness. Our display is catchy without being gaudy or over the top,” Stepp said.
Atcheson noted that the team took advantage of the downtime during the pandemic and completely redid the showroom location in Suwanee, Georgia. They now have a single, large showcase to display products, with less of an emphasis on manufacturers or labels.
“One of the major areas we focused on was hardwood. We realized at the end of the day that the consumer doesn’t care as much about brands as they do about quality, finish, and color. All of those elements are drivers of the decision to purchase, more so than brand names.”
Joe Finkey, commercial sales manager for Martin’s Flooring, has actually seen an increase in sales, and he believes that with more people staying at home, customers are readily spending on renovation projects. “At this point we’re 17 percent ahead of where we were last year. We’ve gotten better at social media marketing, and we have good results. We’re going to continue to fine tune that.”
“Americans are going to spend money one way or the other—they can’t vacation, and they are going out less, so they’re spending money on home remodel, which is what we like,” added Jason Randolph, senior vice president, Karastan. The company rolled out its new hard surface hardwood and vinyl program earlier this year and placed about 90 percent of its new displays by August. The team had to order more displays to meet demand, he said.
For Morrow Finkell, what she doesn’t have in size or budget, she makes up for with one-on-one attention. “We’re a small, boutique brand, and because we’re a domestic manufacturer we can offer a certain level of service to our clients.”
Because she works closely with her retailers, Morrow Finkell can provide everything from free samples to warranty information quickly, and she’ll respond to queries directly. “By the time a homeowner or a designer walks into the retail store, I have already connected with them on a very personal level. That’s something the bigger companies really can’t do.”
National Karastan Month launched in September and runs through the entire month of October.
“In the past, the national Karastan promotion has been focused on carpet and now retailers can focus on BelleLuxe, our hardwood program, LuxeCraft, our LVT program, and carpet as well,” Randolph said. “It’s really giving our retailers a lot more bang for their advertising buck right now.”