LG Floors NatureLife collection

The price of resilient flooring is rising-and consumers seem willing to pay it. Over the past five years the average resilient flooring transaction grew from under $1,000 to over $1,600. During that same time frame, the universe of retailers who said their average resilient transaction exceeds $2,000 increased from 8% of those polled to 17%.

Mannington's Sobella

Although largely driven by the rising price of fuel and raw materials, the increasing price of resilient flooring has also apparently yielded a better product. When retailers were asked by our survey five years ago to identify the No. 1 challenge facing resilient flooring makers, nearly one-half of the respondents said it was product innovation. The percentage of retailers offering that answer in the most recent survey dipped to one-third of the respondents. Then as now, those polled believe the biggest challenge facing the business is alternative hard surface flooring, typically hardwood and tile.

Tarkett Linoleum

The survey leaves no question that resilient flooring remains a core area of the flooring industry, but it suggests that the category is also losing a bit of its presence at retail. Those participating in the most recent survey said they devote about 12% of their merchandising space to the category; down from 16% in a survey five years ago. Also slipping is the average number of resilient floor covering transactions each month. Retailer say they currently finalize an average of 14 sales each month. While the figure is up slightly from 12 a year ago, a survey five years ago indicated that retailers completed about 21 resilient transactions in a typical month.

Overall,NFT’sexclusive survey of 375 retailers found that the changes seen in the resilient flooring market mostly involve the quality and design of the products. While the products may be slightly less prominent in the average showroom, resilient sales tend to surpass other hard surface areas in dollar volume. Among those participating in the survey, resilient accounts for about 14% of their sales. The figure is slightly higher than ceramic tile or hardwood (which each accounted for 12% of sales) and well below carpet, which accounts for 47% of sales and remains the No.1 floor covering product.

Another constant in the resilient arena is the popularity of sheet product. While there are a number of product segments that fall under the umbrella of resilient flooring, the No. 1 choice remains product that can be rolled-according to the survey it accounts for 50% of resilient sales. Fiberglass reinforced vinyl, resilient tile and luxury vinyl tile each accounted for about 12-13% of sales while linoleum generated 8%.

In a response that reflects the slumping U.S. economy, retailers say they are expecting a sizeable dip this year in business generated by building and new construction. While such projects accounted for about 12% of their business last year, they predict the figure will be no higher than 4% this year. The area expected to help make up the difference represents the biggest chunk of  resilient business: the residential replacement market. Last year it accounted for 58% of the retail flooring business. This year, that figure is expected to climb to 65%.

The survey indicates that the supply chain for resilient flooring seems relatively stable. Retailers told us they rely on a few select manufacturers and acquire products mostly from traditional flooring distributors. Nearly 70% of the respondents say the number of suppliers they carry has not been altered over the past year while 81% said they still acquire product from a distributor.

Questions about supplier preferences also confirmed the continued strength of the resilient category’s top two manufacturers. Armstrong was identified as the No. 1 supplier by 31% of the respondents; followed closely by Mannington, which was similarly recognized by 28% of those surveyed. Congoleum, which was identified as the top seller by 17% of the retailers, was the only other supplier named by more than 10% of the respondents.

In the much smaller luxury vinyl tile segment, Congoleum was identified as the No. 1 seller by 22% of those polled, edging out Mannington and NAFCO which were each named by 21% of the respondents.

Our survey indicates that retailers play a major role in the buying decisions of consumers, even if the shopper has a specific product in mind when they begin the process. About two out of five customers ultimately purchase something else based on information provided by the retailer, the survey said. About one-fourth of those responding said they can successfully steer the consumer to a specific product at least half the time.

The survey asked retailers what factors (beyond price) they look for in brands they promote. By far the most popular attributes were the reliability/quality and durability.  The No. 3 consideration was distributor support followed closely by product design and styling.  The attributes participating retailers deemed least significant include: advertising co-op funds, merchandising support and incentives plans/rebates.

Consumers wonder: How do I keep it clean?

We asked retailers: “What concerns, if any, do you hear from customers” about their resilient flooring purchase. It turns out they are far more likely to ask “How do I keep it clean?” than “How long will it last?” In fact, our survey shows that warranties and life expectancy are not big issues in the minds of those who purchase resilient flooring. They are far more likely to wonder how to keep their new flooring looking new.

The top two consumer concerns as related by those participating in our survey are cleaning/care and maintenance of the flooring. Also prominent on the list are two concerns that have long been an issue with hard surface sheet products: seams and cut/tears. (Dents, gouging, scuffmarks and wrinkles were also mentioned, but not nearly as often.)

Still the survey indicated that consumers expect resilient flooring to live up to its name. Of the 22 specific concerns identified by respondents, the two at the bottom of the list were “how long will it last?” and warranty issues.

Editor's Note

This article is a snapshot of a new comprehensive study examining the resilient segment of the flooring market. The conclusions are based on the opinions and preferences of floor covering retailers who agreed to participate in the survey. The survey was conducted and findings were compiled by Clear Seas Research, a division of BNP Media which is also the parent company ofNational Floor Trends.

More than 400 floor covering retailers, whose primary business is retail/flooring contracting participated in the study, which was conducted between February 18 and March 18, 2008. A total of 375 qualified respondents completed the entire survey.

This in-depth research study provides up-to-date information on key issues and market trends analyzed over a five-year period, starting in 2003. The comprehensive trended report is available from Clear Seas Research. For information about ordering or to find out more about Clear Seas Research services, contact Sarah Turner at turners@clearseasresearch.com.