The surveys are in and the data compiled for the 2001National Floor TrendsVinyl Flooring Study. Based on our tallies, the top-selling brand of vinyl floor covering is Mannington, which holds a slim lead over second-place Armstrong. Mannington and Armstrong are way ahead of the pack with each commanding 33% and 31%, respectively, of dealer sales. Congoleum is in third place with 12%, followed by Tarkett at 11%, Domco with 8%, Azrock 1%; Nafco 1%, and others -- including Allied Tile, Estrie Colors Plus, Forbo and International Floors (Centiva) -- accounting for 3% of our totals.

Our findings on vinyl floor sales are based on responses from a representative cross-section of the dealer/contractor segment of NFT's subscriber base. The study was designed and conducted by the market research staff of Business News Publishing Co., in conjunction with the editorial staff of NFT. A sample of 1,500 active qualified floor covering dealers/contractors was selected on an Nth name basis from the domestic circulation list of NFT subscribers. All told, the study garnered a 22% response rate.

Our survey participants also identified their second best-selling vinyl floor covering brands. The results are as follows: 29% cited Armstrong as their second-best seller; 21% named Mannington; 21% Congoleum; 13% Tarkett; 9% Domco; 2% Azrock; 1% Metroflor; 1% Nafco; and others -- including Amtico, Johnsonite, Karndean, Lonseal and Forbo -- were named No. 2 sellers by 3% of respondents.

The top three reasons for Mannington's popularity, according to comments from survey participants, are "style," "colors and patterns" and "price." "Name recognition," "inlaid construction" and "quality" are the top three characteristics respondents cited as strengths of the Armstrong brand.

Floor covering retailers and contractors ranked product quality as the most important attribute in determining whether to sell/promote a brand/manufacturer of vinyl floor covering. Next, in descending order of importance, were "product design and styling," "distributor service/support," "price," "customer request," "ease of installation/maintenance," "sales representatives," "merchandising support," "technical support," "training," "incentive plans," and "rebates."

According to our survey, "installation and qualified installers" remains the single most-important issue facing the vinyl floor covering industry today. Sixty-six percent of dealers surveyed said their vinyl business is impacted negatively due to other flooring types; 45% pointed to eroding profit margins; 38% cited increasing competition from other flooring channels; 34% said increasing numbers of big box channels were among the most important issues facing the vinyl segment; 25% pointed to consolidation of retailers and manufacturers; and 10% cited consumer brand switching. (Multiple responses were allowed for this survey item.)

In addition, survey participants were asked what challenge or challenges were most likely to impact vinyl floor covering manufacturers over the coming two years. "Alternative hard-surface flooring" was cited by 72% of respondents, 43% said "product innovation," 33% named "installation services," and 19% pointed to "ability to meet consumer demands."

Editor's note: National Floor Trends commissioned another in our ongoing series of market studies to help retailers/contractors enhance the success and profitability of their businesses. Identifying current product/sales trends, and projecting the industry's future direction, is imperative to making strategic decisions that ensure growth and prosperity.

Single copies of our unabridged vinyl flooring survey are available for $225 each, or for $195 each when multiple copies are ordered.

Among the topics covered are: Vinyl Floor Covering as a Profitable Flooring Alternative to ceramic, wood or laminate floors; Customers Look at Vinyl Floor Covering; Average Number of Vinyl Sales per month; Floor Space Devoted to Vinyl Floor Covering Products; How salespeople recommend Vinyl Floor Covering; Expectations for Vinyl Floor Covering Sales in 2001.