As part of an on-going effort to stay current on key industry issues and market trends, Floor Trends sponsors several market studies each year. These quantitative research studies are the basis for a series of informative, educational features designed to give a more insightful look at the state of the various segments of the floor covering industry.
The purpose of Floor Trends’ hardwood market study is to obtain feedback from flooring dealers/contractors concerning the hardwood flooring business in today’s competitive marketplace. Specifically, the study seeks to identify:
• Retail business activity and hardwood flooring sales
• Changes in the sourcing and distribution of hardwood flooring
• Issues facing the hardwood flooring segment of the retail business
• Future business expectations
The survey went out in early January to4,918 active, qualified domestic Floor Trends subscribers, selected on an Nth name basis, whose primary business is flooring dealer/contractor.
The good news that first surfaced last year looks like it will continue: following a disappointing 2010, annual sales of hardwood flooring products rebounded sharply in 2011. Sales stayed strong in 2012, with respondents reporting an annual sales average of $302,000 (Chart 1). Sixty-seven percent of those sales came from residential replacement, followed by builder/new construction at 23 percent. The commercial market continued to maintain a relatively low profile, but saw a 2 percent increase over last year.
Factory pre-finished wood, as you’d expect, continues to dominate, making up 89 percent of respondents’ sales last year (up from 86 percent in 2011). Jobsite-finished flooring claimed the other 11 percent.
Crystal ball time: when asked to gauge the sales potential going forward for hardwood in the residential segment, 57 percent of respondents said they expect business to “increase or significantly increase” in 2013, with 37 percent expecting things to remain the same. That positive sentiment is not as strong, however, when respondents were asked about the commercial market: 22 percent expect an “increase or significant increase” in business, while 69 percent expect sales to remain steady.
Interestingly, when it comes to total sales, respondents on average expect hardwood products to make up slightly less of their overall mix in 2013 (19%) than they did in 2012 (20%) (Chart 2).
As with all segments of the floor covering industry, a positive start to last year faltered somewhat due to a still-rocky economy and the elections. That said, expectations are high for 2013, and just like last year the single most important issue facing the hardwood flooring segment is pricing. Thirty-three percent of respondents cited competitive pricing as issue No. 1, down significantly from last year (44%). Competition from other hard surfaces (15%), foreign imports (12%), consumer knowledge of products (8%) and other concerns still lag behind.
Consumers – both residential and commercial – have high expectations when considering a hardwood floor, and retailers know that if a problem arises, they’re sure to hear about it sooner than later. Quality is crucial, that much is certain. But what sometimes flies under the radar is the issue of where the product originated, and how that corresponds with quality issues. We thought it would be interesting, then, to go beyond the usual brand/width/finish questions and ask, “Do you have more wood product quality issues with domestic or imported materials?” (Chart 3)
Five timesas many respondents (50%) said they had more issues with imported products than with domestic materials (10%). That number is up significantly from 2011 (36%) and 2012 (40%).
Following closely behind price (59%), product quality (58%) and product availability (53%) make up the top three “very important” factors affecting the evaluation of a product line. Interestingly, the environmentally friendly aspect (10%) and supporting marketing and merchandising products (5%) were cited by respondents as the leastimportant. (Chart 4)
The hardwood market continues to unveil new styles and trends. Residential business continues to show growth, and a renewed interest in hardwood applications by the A&D community should shore up the commercial market for years to come. Barring the unexpected, it’s a good bet that hardwood will continue gaining in strength, momentum and market share.
The Floor Trends Market Study Series is intended to help manufacturers and retailers better understand their markets and, more importantly, each other. This article is a snapshot of a comprehensive study examining trends and opinions in and of the floor covering industry. The conclusions are based on the opinions, preferences and purchasing behavior of professionals who agreed to participate in the survey.