Originally posted on floorcoveringweekly.com 10/24/2011
Leading distributors said that laminate flooring is losing market share to luxury vinyl tile (LVT), which offers quiet, waterproof wood visuals in floating installation formats.
“After 10 years, people are tired of the ‘clickety-clack’ sound of laminate,” said Jeff Hamar, president of Calif.-based Galleher. “LVT is just a better looking product without the sound issues. Lower-end laminate lost its appeal to dealers because it’s all going through home centers and at the higher end, there’s a growing preference for LVT visuals.”
Fred Reitz, former president of the National Association of Floor Covering Distributors (NAFCD) and vice president, operations, J.J. Haines, said that the advent of floating LVT and fiberglass-backed sheet vinyl negates laminate’s decade-long advantage associated with its ease of installation.
“LVT sales are growing nicely and it’s coming from laminate,” he said. “The average consumer today has floating floor opportunities outside of laminate. And that was laminate’s greatest draw for a long time. Now the focus is on its durability.” However, distributors also said that the quality of LVT has improved dramatically with realistic styling and design and that its durability is now being backed by extensive rip, tear and gouge warranties. Comparatively, they said laminate quality is declining and increasingly being offered on thinner direct pressure laminate (DPL) coreboards as opposed to the thicker high pressure laminate (HPL) formats of first generation product.
“Laminate was new, exciting and different and a lot of people had a bad idea about vinyl — having something other than vinyl was a sign that you ‘made it,’ ” said Scott Rozmus, president of Illinois-based Florstar. “I’m not saying laminate is bad, but its relative quality has declined. The laminate consumer experience, and therefore the rate of repeat business, has declined as well.”
Jim Gould, president of the Floor Covering Institute (CFI), introduced laminate flooring to the U.S. market after discovering Pergo at Domotex Hannover in 1992. He said that LVT now has a wider appeal, particularly to builders and commercial specifiers, because it addresses the sound and water issues that have hampered laminate flooring.
“No matter how good we make laminate, we have not been able to impact that ‘laminate’ sound and water exposure,” he said. “In that regard, LVT has some significant benefits and as it grows, it’s stealing share from laminate.”
Laminate’s loss of share to LVT is being taken in stride, though, according to Hoy Lanning, CEO of N.C.-based CMH Flooring Products. “Laminate flooring experienced tremendous growth at the expense of vinyl flooring in years past and now LVT is starting to take some of that business back,” he said. “Laminate is still a great product with a great look and we’re still selling a significant amount of it.”