Wood Flooring Retail Distribution Channels

Retail distribution channels are important to wood flooring manufacturers and distributors due to their heavy dependence on the residential replacement market. The Main Street commercial market (consisting of retailers, professional offices, and service providers) is another potential market for retailers. Residential replacement and Main Street commercial markets represent about 51 percent of total wood flooring sales.

However, a weak housing market and increased competition from luxury vinyl tile have caused wood flooring retail sales to decline between 2017 and 2019. During 2019, wood flooring retail sales are estimated to decline by 6.4 percent to $5.7 billion. As a result, wood flooring lost share of total U.S. floor coverings retail sales. Wood flooring’s share could decline to 13.9 percent of total retail floor coverings sales during 2019. This is down from 15.6 percent in 2017. This reversed some of the inroads made by wood flooring between 2007 and 2017.

The most important retail channel for wood flooring is specialty floor coverings stores. Wood flooring is more likely to be sold by a specialty floor coverings retail store (retailers with 50 percent or more of total revenues derived from the sale of carpet and area rugs) since specialty floor covering retailers are better able to satisfy the needs of the higher-end buyer attracted to wood flooring than big box retailers.

As a result, specialty floor coverings retail stores are estimated to capture some 48 percent of total wood flooring retail sales during 2019. This is higher than specialty floor coverings retailers’ 41 percent share of total floor coverings retailing. However, specialty floor coverings stores have experienced increased competition from value-priced hard surface flooring retailers such as Floor & Decor. Hard surface flooring retailers also have relatively high levels of wood flooring sales per store.

Value-priced hard surface floor covering retailers gained share as manufacturers introduced factory-finished and easier-to-install wood flooring and foreign manufacturers imported competitively priced engineered wood flooring. These flooring products were targeted to the do-it-yourself buyer who generally is served by home centers and valuepriced hard surface flooring retailers. In 2019, value-priced hard surface flooring retailers could have captured 30.2 percent of total wood flooring retail sales, up from an 18.3 percent share in 2007. Meanwhile, home center’s share of wood flooring retail sales is relatively flat at about 20 percent.

Specialty floor coverings retailers are joining buying groups or becoming part of a franchised network in order to source flooring at more competitive prices and better compete with the big boxes. Members of these groups are able to become more price-competitive with home centers and value-priced hard surface floorings retailers while providing a higher level of service. Buying groups and franchise networks also offer retailers sophisticated market services such as Internet marketing.

Home Depot and Lowe’s remain the leading wood flooring retailers despite the inroads made by value-priced hard surface floorings retailers and efforts by specialty floor covering retailers to become more competitive. Home Depot could have accounted for 9.5 percent of total U.S. wood flooring retail sales in 2018, and Lowe’s another 7.8 percent. Home Depot has held on to this share since 2012, while Lowe’s has lost some share during the 2012 to 2018 period.

Meanwhile, value-priced hard surface flooring retailers have made inroads in wood flooring retailing over the past 17 years. The leaders in this channel are Lumber Liquidators and Floor & Decor with 415 and 106 outlets, respectively. In 2018, Lumber Liquidators accounted for 6 percent of total wood flooring retail sales and Floor & Decor another 2 percent.

Lumber Liquidators, however, lost share since 2012. Lumber Liquidators originally lost share due to the controversy about the formaldehyde emissions released from the company’s Chinese-made laminate flooring. The controversy also hurt their sales of wood flooring. Lumber Liquidators continued to lose share in recent years due to their increased reliance on vinyl plank products. For example, wood flooring represented only onethird of total Lumber Liquidators sales in 2018, down from 47 percent in 2012. This downward trend has continued into 2019 since first half wood flooring sales dropped by 14.9 percent. This will reduce Lumber Liquidators share of wood flooring retail sales significantly.

Floor & Decor also reduced its reliance on wood flooring as vinyl planks increased in popularity. However, the overall strong sales growth for Floor & Decor continued to keep wood flooring sales on a positive trend. In 2018, Floor & Decor total revenues increased by 23.5 percent, and increased by 19.1 percent in the first half of 2019. Company wood flooring sales increased by 14.9 percent in 2018, and by 6.9 percent in the first half of 2019. These trends will allow Floor & Decor to continue to gain share of wood flooring retail sales.

Catalina Research tracks wood flooring industry trends, including an analysis of U.S. manufactured versus foreignsourced products, end-use markets and distribution channels, factors driving demand, and the outlook for 2019 and beyond. This data and information is part of the Catalina Report on Wood and Laminate Flooring released in July 2019. For more information, contact Stuart Hirschhorn, Director of Research at 561-988-0853 or shirschhorn@ CatalinaReports.com.

Stuart Hirschhorn is Director of Research for Catalina Research Inc. in Highland Beach, Florida. He can be reached at 561.988.0853 or shirschhorn@catalinareports.com.

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