Mannington Mills’ Bodega Bay resilient flooring is designed to resemble natural sandstone at a fraction of the cost, the company says.

While much of flooring is feeling the sting of a sluggish economy, there are some segments that are bouncing back. A case in point is resilient. Manufacturers and retailers say they are beginning to see an uptick in consumer sales, particularly in upper-end residential vinyl floors. They say consumers who are eager to find flooring that offers a fresh look and high durability at a reasonable price are increasingly opting for vinyl.

Centiva’s Victory resilient flooring showcases the qualities that consumers are increasingly searching out, according to the company, by matching high-end looks with extreme durability.

It amounts to a sort of renaissance for the category, says David Sheehan, director of resilient and laminate business for Mannington Mills. “Because of the harsh economic conditions, people are giving vinyl a second chance,” he says. “Now that credit is tight, gas is up, and disposable income is down, consumers are becoming more selective with their dollars. They’re realizing, hey, this vinyl stuff looks pretty great, it performs very well and it meets my budget. It’s been an alignment of the stars for the category.”

He notes that consumers are favoring upper-end looks (such as luxury vinyl tile and plank) and fiberglass-backed offerings over base grade products. “All of the high sellers are in the middle- to upper-end price points. I think it’s the result of consumers being pragmatic during these tough times. They are selecting products because they know they’ll look great and last a long time.” He stresses that the groundswell of interest will not be short-lived. His expectation is that the vinyl flooring segment will continue to expand, “over the next five to seven years.”

Likewise, Todd Gates, vp sales for Karndean, sees the resilient category in a growth mode. “With this resurgence of the product category, I think it’s going to spark continued growth for years to come,” he says. He adds that this renewed interest will lead to better designs and technologies as manufacturers refocus on the suddenly hot segment.

“It’s like they say: Necessity is the mother of invention,” Gates says. “When the product category becomes more and more interesting to the consumer, you as a manufacturer have to create more intricate designs to stay ahead of the market. It’s not too dissimilar to what you saw in the laminate category 10 years ago. Suddenly you’ll start seeing dozens upon dozens of manufacturers that create vinyl cropping up.” The companies that are left standing after the initial surge of interest will help determine future trends, he adds.

Others involved in the category say the new generation of designs is catching the eye of the international community, expanding resilient’s reach as well. John Bonney, director of sales for Centiva, says his company has started to market its American-made products around the globe. “We’re really growing our international business,” Bonney says. “After the dollar started faltering, we were prompted to begin looking for new markets. We realized that we have some beautiful products that we can sell around the world, that are unlike anything else in those areas.”

The Acczent Wood collection of resilient products from Johnsonite offer several Green benefits. The product is made using more than 25 percent recycled content and carries FloorScore certification ensuring good indoor air quality.

Naturally, the environment is also a top concern. “We’re partly seeing resurgence in vinyl because it’s recyclable,” Bonney says. “The modern designer, especially on the West Coast, is asking about sustainability before anything else. You have to explain the Green nature of the product before you can go on to talk about aesthetics and performance.”

Some retailers report that interest in resilient is increasing dramatically. Steven Joss, president of The Vertical Connection Carpet One in Columbia, Md., for example, notes that the trend toward vinyl is defying the downward trends seen in other flooring areas. “We’re selling more and more vinyl fiberglass composition tile,” he says. “We do a fair job with luxury vinyl as well. I see the interest from consumers increasing, because the products are more durable, and they offer better looks.”

“Vinyl is definitely better than it used to be,” he adds.

Consumers gravitating toward high-end looks has also been the case at Leopold’s Drexel Heritage Gallery in Brecksville, Ohio, says Debi Danals, a designer and buyer for the flooring and furniture store. While she notes that clients who are remodeling seldom look at a resilient option first, when they do explore the category, they quickly gravitate to the best looks they can find.

“With home prices dropping, people are staying put and putting more money into their homes. They’re treating these remodeling projects like an investment,” she says. “That’s why they’re going for a lot of the higher-end things.”