Resilient hears footsteps: Retailers say ‘demand for alternative flooring' is reshaping the category
June 15, 2007
For generations resilient flooring has lived up to its name. Whether in a sheet or tile format, products included in this wide ranging category have earned a reputation as practical, fashionable and-as the name suggests-highly durable. For many homeowners and builders, resilient has long been the No. 1 choice for kitchens, bathrooms, basements and other areas where the floor could be expected to take a beating. While resilient flooring still holds sway as a dominant area of flooring, its position is being challenged as never before.
Retailers and contractors participating in National Floor Trends’ exclusive survey on resilient flooring told us the biggest challenge facing the category is the growing demand for other types of flooring. The response reflects the advances seen in hardwood, ceramic tile and even broadloom carpet. As manufacturers in those areas have worked to allay concerns about long term performance in high traffic areas, the resilient segment seems to be feeling the pressure. And while “demand for alternative flooring” was by far the most frequent answer to a question about issues impacting the resilient business, concern about increased retail competition in the category and “eroding profit margins” also were mentioned prominently.
About half of those polled said they expected the resilient business to remain flat throughout the remainder of the year, while about 30% forecast a dip in sales and around 20% said they expected to see an increase. Those anticipating an increase offered a wide variety of reasons ranging from “a better economy” to “population growth.” Conversely, those bracing for a sales slump focused largely on options that are drawing consumers away from resilient. “Everyone wants wood flooring,” “increase in ceramic business” and “more builders specify tile and wood” were among the answers reflecting this sentiment.
But that does not mean retailers are soft on resilient nor does it suggest consumers have soured on the category. About 63% of the respondents said they often or always recommend resilient flooring to their customers while 35% said they did so sometimes. Only 2% said they never recommend the category. When asked what attributes drive a purchase, reliability and quality topped the list followed by design and styling. Other factors frequently mentioned were distributor support and customer request. Far less significant were sales rep support and sales incentive plans and rebates. Retailers also report that they have a good deal of influence over what type of resilient a consumer buys. About 25% of the respondents said most of their customers purchase a floor covering that differs from what the shopper initially had in mind.
Those interacting with consumers told us shoppers generally give resilient high marks for style, selection and quality. Still, the survey said consumers in a flooring showroom are most impressed with maintenance issues related to the category. Thirty-seven percent of the respondents agreed that consumers perceive the category to be excellent in the area of cleaning and upkeep. Style and selection did not rate nearly as high.
Asked to identify their No. 1 selling resilient flooring brand, Mannington was named by 35% followed by Armstrong (24%), Congoleum (18%), and Tarkett (12%). Ten other suppliers collectively accounted for 11% of the responses. A follow-up question asking for the attributes that made each brand a top choice once again confirmed that importance or quality, style and price. Still, there was one company that has clearly gained a high level of recognition. Respondents said the No. 1 reason offered for Armstrong’s popularity was the company’s brand name.
Other findings of the exclusive NFT poll were these:
• Most retailers-55%-devote 10% or less of their floor space to resilient products. Just over 80% said they devote no more then 20% of their floor space to the category.
• Although a chief selling point of resilient is price, about half of all resilient sales exceed $1,000 and nearly 20% of the orders are priced over $2,000.
• More than half of all resilient flooring are sheet products. Tile and luxury vinyl tile collective account for 27% of the volume at retail.
• In Luxury Vinyl tile, respondents collectively mentioned 16 brands as their No.1 seller. The top three rankings- Nafco, Mannington and Congoleum-accounted for 58% of the responses.
• Although opinions are almost evenly divided on whether installation work should be completed by outside contractors or full-time staff, there is one area of clear consensus. Asked if they specify adhesives, underlayment and other installation products for every job, 97% of those in the poll said they do.
• Using the Internet to drum up sales is still more the exception rather than the rule. About 13% of respondents said they “promote” on the Internet while less than one percent said they actually sell products online. The percentage of those who said they don’t use the Internet for any promotional or selling activity was 87%.