After all these years it seems hardwood flooring is finally getting the recognition it deserves. Increasingly, consumers are coming to fully appreciate that the benefits of wood flooring go beyond the aesthetic. Environmental concerns, long-term value and easy maintenance have all added to the appeal. At the same time, the category is being advanced by the addition of exotic species, new plank widths and glueless installation.
The upbeat assessment is confirmed by a new NFT wood market study that asked retailers about the category’s performance, including their expectations for the future. The consensus is clear: wood is good and getting better. More than 70% of those polled predicted that hardwood’s popularity in the residential segment will continue to grow throughout the remainder of the year. About 26% said it will remain about the same, while only 3% of those participating in the poll anticipate that they will see a dip in hardwood sales through the remainder of the year.
Overall the findings of the poll suggest that store owners and contractors are more bullish about hardwood than any other segment of flooring. Among the key finding in the study were these:
Hardwood ranks as the second leading floor covering category, accounting for just over 20% of the sales of those in the poll. (Carpet remains dominant, accounting for 40% of sales.)
The wood business is still dominated by oak and red oak. More than 25% of the retailers named another species as their No. 1 seller. Most frequently mentioned was Brazilian Cherry.
Engineered hardwood, with about 53% of the business, holds a slight edge over solid.
Retailers are far more optimistic about the residential side of the business than the commercial segment. While 39% said commercial sales will increase this year, the consensus was that it will stay flat.
Nearly 50% of those surveyed said they devote 10% or less of their retail space to hardwood displays and products. About 30% said it occupied between 11% and 20% of the space, while 25% said more than 20% of their floor space was hardwood.
While hardwood has gained popularity in commercial settings, retailers reported that more than 90% of their business is residential.
Likewise, factory pre-finished accounts for more than 88% of the business. Just over 11% of the business was site finished jobs.
While nearly 30% of the respondents said planks 2.5 – 3” wide are their No.1 seller, there is also no clear consensus on the width of planks being sold. (About 20% said less than 2.5” while 27% said 3.01 to 4” and 23% said 4.01” or more.)
One finding that should be of particular interest to manufacturers: retailers and contractors confirmed that product quality and price are far more important than incentive programs, marketing support or even a manufacturer’s reputation. When given a list of eight factors likely to influence their decision to carry a line, quality, product availability, style and price were the dominant themes. Ranked last was “brand reputation.” Also seen as less important was “sales rep knowledge/support.”
This may help explain why the survey indicates that no one supplier is even close to dominating the industry. Although such companies as BR-111, Anderson Hardwood Floors, Mohawk Industries and Mannington were prominently mentioned when retailers were asked to name their No. 1 selling brand, the list of hardwood players mentioned is extensive. When asked to identify their top selling brand in the machine area the 430 participants in the survey collectively identified 47 brands. Only Anderson, Mohawk and Mannington were each named by more than 10% of the respondents. Collectively those three brands account for 37% of the responses.
In the exotics species category, BR-111 stands out. The 15-year old Miami-based company was identified as the top selling brand by nearly 25% of the respondents. No other brand was named by more than 7% of the respondents.
In the much smaller reclaimed wood category, Mohawk was identified as a top seller by 21.7% of those polled while Armstrong’s Bruce Hardwood Floor line was ranked No. 1 by 13%. Still, while the segment seems to be gaining popularity, only 15% of those participating in the poll said they offered the category. (In contrast, nearly 90% said they carried machine/hand-scraped wood, while more than 80% said they sold exotic species.)
There is no clear consensus on the number of brands typically offered by retailers and contractors. Although the average is around four or five, about 20% said they sold only one or two brands while another 20% said they offered three. Just under 18% said four; while 15% said five. Just over 25% said they stocked six or more brands of hardwood.
About the SurveyThe preceding is a snapshot of a new comprehensive study examining the hardwood flooring market. The conclusions are based on the opinions, preferences and purchasing behavior of retailers and contractors in the U.S. flooring covering business who agreed to participate in the survey. The survey was conducted and the finding were compiled by Clear Seas Research, a division of BNP Media.
The study was mailed to 3,500 flooring retailers and contractors. Those targeted were qualified subscribers to National Floor Trends (NFT) who report sales in excess of $500,000. A total of 430 survey questionnaires were completed and returned for a response rate of 13%. Of those responding 69.6% said they were president or owner of the operation and 19.2% said there were a manager/supervisor.
For more information: The full and complete survey is available from Clear Seas. For information about ordering or to find out more about Clear Seas Research services, contact Kelley Trost at email@example.com.