Despite global tensions, a cooling economy, higher interest rates and a split U.S. government, members of the Resilient Floor Covering Institute are optimistic about the state of flooring.  

“You hear a lot of things in the news these days, but there's a reason, from a pure numbers standpoint, to be excited about what's ahead,” said RFCI President and CEO Bill Blackstock.

More than 100 top flooring executives met at Montage Palmetto Bluff in Bluffton, South Carolina, May 2-4, 2023, for the Resilient Floor Covering Institute's 2023 Spring Board of Directors and Associate Member Meeting. 

Blackstock noted the resilient category has grown market share over the last seven years and continues to grow. 

“From a dollar and a unit standpoint, our resilient growth grew again into double digits in 2022, despite the headwinds of last year,” Blackstock said. “And so the big message there is, there's massive innovation in the sector, and innovation usually is something that tends to grab market share. Resilient is in most every sub segment of the residential sector, and commercial is just grabbing share because of the fundamentals of what the product is."

While the residential market has cooled, Blackstock said the when interest rates begin to lower, it’s going to be a V-shaped recovery. 

“All of a sudden we're going to go from finding some headwinds to single-family and multi-family into the hundreds of thousands and beyond units short. There's reason to be optimistic on that.”

In addition, Blackstock said the renovation that happened during the pandemic on the single-family side of he business is still occurring. 

Commercial flooring business continues to stay steady even though a hybrid work environment will continue to exist in many markets. 

“We've had strengthening in the office and hospitality—the business traveler is back," Blackstock said. "Education K through 12 is steady and remained pretty steady through COVID and continues in higher ed. Healthcare on the acute and the senior living side—they had such a hard time during COVID trying to deal with that, but the fundamentals in those two markets of healthcare—acute and senior living—and what's taking place with a human inversion on age is showing good strength there."

At the meeting, Blackstock said Engineered Floors and Karndean became voting members of the organization. Amorim Cork and AM Stabilizers, a global supplier of liquid and powder heat stabilizers for both flexible and rigid PVC applications, became associate members, bringing the total membership to 44 companies. 

The event included a number of speakers. Cliff Pyron, Chief Commercial Officer,  Georgia Ports Authority (GPA), provided a look at the billions invested and what's needed to continue to gain market share. The Port of Savannah moved 11.4 percent of the nation’s loaded international containers for Fiscal Year 2023 through December, with more than two million twenty-foot equivalent units.

Dr. Tom Kurfess, who is Chief Manufacturing Officer at Georgia Tech and the executive director of the Georgia Tech Manufacturing Institute, spoke about artificial intelligence in the manufacturing environment.

“Finding people to do work is a challenge," Blackstock said. "Even with the headwinds that currently exist there are two job openings for each person. We're in rare space right now. There's no doubt, from a manufacturing standpoint, artificial intelligence is going to be on advanced robotics or key mechanisms for the future in manufacturing."

Other speakers at the event included Stuart Hirschhorn, Catalina Research; Allison Foley, Venable, LLP; Ned Monroe, The Vinyl Institute; Vicki Worden, Green Building Initiative; Susannah Enkema, Shelton Group; Matt Seaholm, The Plastics Industry Association; and Jay McDonald, Middleton McDonald Group.

See recent coverage of RFCI's Beautifully Responsible campaign and the TalkFloor podcast Resilient Flooring: A Sustainable Outlook!