Last month’s National Wood Flooring Association Expo and Conference near Washington, D.C. (in National Harbor, Md.) provided another burst of optimism for the industry. The attitude of attendees and exhibitors was upbeat. They came to the show with a purpose, looking for the latest in education and networking opportunities, and learning about new wood flooring and related installation products.

Show organizers said registrations for the 25th anniversary event were up from last year’s show in Long Beach, Calif. I think one of the main reasons for the increase is the easy access to the event from neighboring states on the East Coast.

Floor covering industry consultant J. Michael Marks of Indian River Consulting Group, based in Melbourne, Fla., confirmed what many industry pundits have felt: The economic recovery will be slow and steady. During his presentation, Marks said the recovery would be similar to the one in the ‘80s, with some ups and downs but generally a strong momentum toward growth. He said he believes the industry is already in recovery, and should look to building business based on what opportunities are out there now.

He added that floor covering industry growth achieved between 2002 and 2008 should be viewed as unusual and that the industry will not repeat this growth pattern soon. Marks also predicts the builder ranks will consolidate in the next several years with the top 20 builders representing 50% of housing starts.

In the near term, domestic wood manufacturers are facing a shortage of lumber to due to our country’s recent wet and snowy weather conditions. At present time, many saw mills do not have enough logs to create their products, and more may face a shortfall by the summer, according to several show goers NFT spoke with at the event.

If the domestic log shortage happens as soon as some industry veterans are predicting, it could force increased demand for wood flooring lines from Canada and abroad that have a plentiful supply. Hopefully the timber producing states have seen the last of the inclement weather, which will give the timberlands time to recover and an opportunity for the saw mills and manufacturers to ramp-up production again.

But no matter what the challenges, hardwood flooring remains a popular product selection by consumers for their new homes and remodeling projects. The wide variety of wood species, finishes and colors allow for custom-look jobs when a prefinished product is selected, with a lower installed price than site-finished. The versatility of the category ensures hardwood will remain popular for a long time to come.

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