Much ink has been used in flooring publications for the last few years telling us how various plastic planks are taking over the world, taking market share from all other flooring types.
While LVT is growing, wood also grew at 6.9 percent in 2018¹. And the global market for wood flooring is expected to rise nearly 7 percent per year through 2020, according to Technavio². Not to mention that the wood flooring manufacturing industry is an impressive contributor to the U.S. economy, employing more than 45,000 people and contributing $8.5 billion overall³.
What is also true is that the sky is not falling for natural products. In this same time frame, the tile industry launched a “Why Tile?” campaign, the Marble Institute of America changed its name to the Natural Stone Institute to better reflect the difference between its products and knockoff look-a-likes, and the NWFA launched its “Real Wood. Real Life.” campaign.
Many flooring options today emulate the look of tile, marble, stone, or wood, causing consumers a great deal of uncertainty about what they are actually purchasing. The common goal across all of these industries’ efforts is to educate the consumer on the benefits and characteristics of these various products. I think Marvin Gaye expressed it best, “Ain’t nothing like the real thing.”
A decade ago the same industry predictors told us that laminate and bamboo were going to take market share from wood flooring. And perhaps they did for a while. But today, bamboo is less than 2 percent of the market, and laminate is less than 10 percent. Wood has maintained throughout those years a consistent range around 20 percent.
No matter what the “other” product that looks like wood is – laminate, bamboo, LVT, SPC, WPC – real wood remains the choice of consumers.
The NWFA’s Consumer Research Study indicates that 80 percent of consumers want real wood in their dream homes. Whether they currently have wood in their existing home, or whether they aspire to have it in their next home consumers see real wood as their floor covering of choice.
The question is…why are we selling them anything else?
The wood flooring channel has to utilize the preference that they have with consumers and get the supply chain behind them in selling the consumer what he or she wants. Whether that means offering incentives, showcasing real wood’s unique attributes that can’t be mass-produced, or simply carrying the “Real Wood. Real Life.” logo on materials to reinforce the importance of using real wood, now is the time to figure it out. Let’s work together so that consumers want to ask for real wood, and let’s give them what they ordered instead of a substitution.
Sources: 1. 2018 Hardwood Market Report; 2. Dun & Bradstreet, Wood Flooring Manufacturing Industry Profile; 3. Hardwood Federation, Hardwood Industry Economic Impact Study.