The influx of LVT means consumers are spoiled for choice, but laminates are here to stay.
In 1994, laminate flooring was introduced into the American market. This flooring material experienced nearly constant growth over the next 15 years and, according to Market Insights LLC, laminates peaked at 6.2% of the total flooring market in 2009. Today, in America, the laminate category appears to be taking a backseat due to the influx of Luxury Vinyl Tiles (LVT) into the market. In 2013, laminate flooring accounted for only 5.1% of the total flooring market [Floor Focus Annual Report 2013].
“There has been a huge influx of LVTs, but this has also come with some challenges. Many of the large suppliers have suffered losses. Laminates are currently making a strong comeback, especially since the latest developments such as waterproof laminates. Thanks to new technologies, laminates are less expensive and quicker to install. In my opinion, a good laminates is still a great choice,” comments Peter Geyer from FloorworX.
Other developments in the industry may also seem to point to a lack of confidence in laminate flooring or a change in the focus of suppliers. Some prominent international laminate flooring brands have slowly merged to fall under the umbrella of larger flooring groups while others have re-established themselves in the market with new names and concepts.
While the laminate market share has experienced some ups and downs, there is still definitely a place for this flooring category. Built environment and design professionals are still very interested in laminate flooring product ranges, mainly because there are so many differentiated design options available in the laminate sector. Besides design options, this flooring type is also very affordable when compared to even entry level hardwood. Laminate flooring manufacturers are able to keep the price of their products relatively low because the process involved in producing laminate flooring, which is frequently indistinguishable from real wood or stone, is often significantly cheaper than solid hardwood or stone.
Consumers are prepared to spend more on laminates
Laminate producers and suppliers will also be happy to report that the amount that consumers are prepared to pay for a square metre of laminate flooring seems to continually rise. This change may be attributed to consumers being willing to pay more for what they want and the greater variety in design and quality from laminate manufacturers.
While some users may still feel that a wood or stone imitator remains exactly that – an imitator – there are still many undeniable benefits to investing in engineered solutions such as laminates. Rare tree species, which would be very difficult to find in nature, can be mimicked with technologically advanced laminate manufacturing processes. Different types of wood and stone can also be combined into a single look thanks to laminate solutions. Authentic materials might be a user’s preferred option, but combining varying surface materials effectively can be extremely difficult, if not unachievable in many instances.
Laminate flooring markets in trendy, metropolitan cities also continue to flourish. For example, according to Laminateandhardwood.ca, the Vancouver property market is booming and one of the flooring sectors that continues to boom along with property development is laminate flooring.
“Laminates allow you to be creative with your colour scheme, as there are so many different shades available to experiment with. Maintenance, design options, affordability and aesthetics seem to be the top reasons for the popularity of laminates.
The European Producers of Laminate Flooring (EPLF) says that worldwide sales of 452 million m² of European-produced laminate flooring (467 million in 2014) was reported by the 20 Ordinary Members of the EPLF, but this relatively small drop in sales can be partly attributed to one Turkish member leaving the EPLF in 2015. Growth rates vary between regions and despite a difficult situation in Eastern Europe last year, PLF laminate sales were able to stay up in this region. The sales curve for EPLFs in North America has continued to rise since 2013 and that trend continued in 2015, with an increase of 32% – from 29 million m2 the previous year up to 39 million m². At 25 million m² (prev. year 18 million m²), the USA saw gains in 2015 of 37%, Canada achieved a good increase of 24% in 2015 with 14 million m² (prev. year 11 million m²).
The influx of LVT and the continuous addition of new flooring options as well as advances in the industry mean consumers are spoiled for choice, but this doesn’t take away from the myriad benefits that laminates offer both the commercial and residential flooring markets. Affordability, quality and designs mean laminates are here to stay.
Thanks and acknowledgement for information provided for this article are given to Finfloor SA; FloorworX; SAWLFA; www.laminateandhardwood.ca and www.eplf.com.