Shaw’s Shenandoah

Quick-Step’s Arte Versailles Medallion

The days when laminate flooring stood its ground primarily as an economical alternative to hardwood, tile and stone are long gone. Today’s consumer is drawn to this wide-ranging product segment as a stylish and durable option. Often, shoppers are not weighing one laminate product against another as much as they are looking at how the overall category stacks up against other hard surface options.

Retailers and contractors participating in NFT’s exclusive survey told us alternative hard surface options are one of the biggest challenges confronting the laminate category. Also while there is no doubt that laminate flooring has  progressed significantly in recent years, many selling the product seem to be wondering what the future holds. The No.1 challenge for the category, according to the survey, is product innovation. Yet whatever questions continue to swirl around the segment, this much is clear: demand among residential consumers is steady and continues to grow. More than half those participating in the poll anticipate increase sales for the remainder of the year. Only 10% predict a dip in sales. Perhaps most importantly, 77% said they often or always recommend laminate to customers. About 85% said they seldom or never hear consumer complaints about the product once it is in place.    

Overall, the picture that emerges from the survey is that of a flooring category that has managed to stay competitive through innovation. While price is still an important factor-particularly as it relates to competition from big box retailers-retailers in the survey said it is not just budget-minded shoppers who choose laminate. Indeed, nearly one-third of survey participants said the average ticket for a laminate order exceeds $2,000, and 57% said it was more than $1,000. On a price-per-square-foot basis, most purchases were for $4 or less; still, nearly one of every five tiles sold was priced at $5.99 or more.

When retailers were asked to identify their No.1 selling brand, two manufacturers emerge as dominant players. Twenty-seven percent of those responding identified Quick-Step as their top brand while 18% said it was Wilsonart Flooring. Retailers were asked to list the qualities they find most compelling about their respective No. 1 brands. For Quick-Step, price was by far the most frequent answer. For Wilsonart, quality and “high pressure laminate” were the most frequent answers.

Other companies prominently mentioned were Shaw, Alloc, Armstrong and Mannington Mills. Each was named as a No. 1 seller by about 8% of the retailers. Twelve other brand names collective garnered 22% of the responses. Interestingly, a quality that was listed for several brands identified as top sellers-including Wilsonart-was availability.

Overall, retailers said the top considerations for selling and/or promoting a brand were reliability and quality, followed by design and styling. While 38% said distributor service and support, and 24% cited sales rep support, the portion of  respondents who named incentive plans and rebates was under 10%. The advances seen in the category were also evidenced by the fact that installation training and technical support were each mentioned by about 2% or fewer of the respondents.

The survey on laminate flooring also indicated that pricing pressures from other retail channels appear to be the most pressing concern for specialty dealers selling laminate. Specifically, the influx on big box stores selling the category was the No.1 issue.