Walk into any retail flooring store these days, and you will see lots of wood on display. Look a little closer and you will see that much of it may look like wood, but is not wood at all. Every flooring category has a wood-look product because wood is what consumers want. Why, then, has wood flooring lost market share to look-alike products in recent years? The answer is simple: confusion.
At this year’s NWFA Wood Flooring Expo in Orlando, one of our show partners shared with us that he recently had purchased new wood floors, only to learn after experiencing a problem with them that what he actually had purchased was a laminate floor that looked like wood. He indicated that the flooring retailer he bought his floors from presented and sold the product as being wood, and he thought they were, until a reputable contractor shared the bad news.
Sadly, this confusion is not limited to just flooring. We’re hearing similar stories from our friends in the furniture industry, the cabinet industry, the moulding industry, and even the lumber industry. Each is being affected by faux products that look like wood but have none of the benefits or the long-term value of real wood.
That’s why the NWFA partnered with 20-plus hardwood associations and organizations to form the Real American Hardwood Coalition. The group, which launched in late 2019, was established with a mission to increase sales of real American hardwood products through consumer outreach and marketing campaigns.
A lot has been accomplished already. A nationwide consumer research campaign was conducted to understand current consumer perceptions of real wood products.
A Real American Hardwood logo was developed. Brand messaging has been established. A board of directors has been seated. Operating by-laws have been documented. Logo trademarks have been secured. Presentations have been made at various industry trade shows, including the NWFA Expo. An industry-focused website has been built (realamericanhardwood.org). A fund-raising campaign has been initiated. Trade press articles have been distributed and published. Social media accounts have been launched (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter). A video has been created to present the plan to the industry (view it on YouTube). And we’re only getting started.
Next steps include the development of a consumer-focused website with a robust search engine optimization (SEO) presence that attracts and engages consumers and provides valuable information about the benefits and value of real wood products.
A campaign of this magnitude takes money. The initial funding for the campaign was provided by the 20+ hardwood associations – including the NWFA – that formed the Real American Hardwood Coalition, but for the campaign to be successful, and to gain market share for real wood products, it will take the entire industry working together to secure the funds to make it happen.
Based on the findings of our research, the campaign will focus on five pillars that consumers identified as key influences when making purchasing decisions: appearance, durability, value, health, and sustainability. We have already won the battle on appearance – everybody wants to look like wood for a reason! We also know we offer the most durable flooring option, we know we offer the best long-term value, we know that real wood promotes a healthier home environment, and we know our product is the most sustainable. Now the task before us is to educate consumers so they know as well. In other words, we need to remove the confusion about what is, and is not, a real wood product.
Long-term, the intent is to deliver in-store signage and educational materials to big-box stores, where many consumers start their purchasing journey, and to introduce a comprehensive print and audi
Use the Real American Hardwood logo on your company website, social media accounts, product packaging, sales literature, marketing materials, business cards, company vehicles, and more. The logo is available to you, for free, as a member of the National Wood Flooring Association. You can download it at realamericanhardwood.org.
So how can you help spread the word about real wood products? Start by following Real American Hardwood on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter (@realamericanhardwood), and tag us on your social media accounts as well (#realamericanhardwood).
Use the Real American Hardwood logo on your company website, social media accounts, product packaging, sales literature, marketing materials, business cards, company vehicles, and more. The logo is available to you, for free, as a member of the NWFA. You can download it at realamericanhardwood.org.
Finally, a campaign of this magnitude takes money. The initial funding for the campaign was provided by the 20+ hardwood associations – including the NWFA – that formed the Real American Hardwood Coalition, but for the campaign to be successful, and to gain market share for real wood products, it will take the entire industry working together to secure the funds to make it happen.
If you don’t think the need is great, just take a look at the numbers. According to the U.S. FLOOReport 2020 produced by Market Insights, wood flooring represented 14 percent of the floor coverings market in 2014. By 2019, wood flooring dropped to 11 percent. Further, in 2016, the total U.S. market share for wood flooring was about $3.249 billion. In 2019, that figure dropped to about $2.933 billion. That represents a loss of about $316 million in just three years. That is money that helps our industry grow, puts our children through school, and puts food on the table. It’s money that we want back in our industry, not in the hands of fake products that mislead consumers.
With the impacts of COVID, and the shut-downs that resulted in the unprecedented accumulation of discretionary spending dollars, consumers are more motivated than ever to create beautiful, durable, and healthy home environments. Help us attract those dollars back to real wood products by donating today to accomplish our mission and expand our reach. Visit realamericanhardwood.org to learn more.
Anita Howard is chief operating officer for the National Wood Flooring Association in St. Louis, Missouri. She can be reached at email@example.com.