So I’m just back from Surfaces and oh my goodness, but there was a lot of plastic there! Everywhere you turned, you saw wide plank in striking finishes, often distressed and weathered, with deep grain and tight knots; just rich with the real character of wood. But it was not real wood. Well, some might have had a wood component, wood on plastic, but so much of it really was just a picture of wood.
I found myself with friends in one booth looking down at a display floor. These two were veterans of 20-30 years in the wood industry and we looked down and asked each other “is this laminate or vinyl?” The finish was a bit washed out, we actually didn’t like the floor that much and couldn’t see much grain pattern. So we stood there and discussed it. “What do you think?” “I’m not sure, do you see the repeats?” “No, I haven’t spotted any, wait, is that one?” “No, look at this knot, do you see it again?” “No, I think it’s real wood.” And one of us walked to the edge and spots the core—“it’s real wood, I see a plywood core.”
Later I’m with another friend and we go up to a display—a lovely looking plank and it is only when we touch it do we see that it’s an image. And I visited with another company producing a vinyl with a theoretical 64 count on their repeats. They thought that it was likely that in smaller rooms, there wouldn’t be a single repeat in the installation. And it was a very realistic visual—without repeats and an inability to see the edge, I wondered if I’d know what it was in a home.
How scary is this where we can’t be sure ourselves of what we’re looking at? I don’t know what this means for the future of our industry. But I would suggest that if we want to continue to develop a market appreciation for the real thing, we need to make sure we aren’t hit with more attacks on our product. That means making sure we produce a high quality product that gives the consumer no reason to question the value of our material. That means getting up to speed and complying with Lacey and TSCA and the other regs. That means educating ourselves and then our customers about the real value of the real thing. We need to focus on selling the positive over the negative. It is more important than ever that we get out of the habit of selling fear—we are never going to win by focusing on the negative.