Investigating how installing locally manufactured flooring positively affects and influences SA’s economy.

Everyone is familiar with the Proudly SA campaign, and while several organisations are indeed focused on purchasing local products to enhance the South African economy, there are those that aren’t sufficiently informed about the significant role that purchasing locally manufactured products plays in terms of benefiting the country’s economy.

Besides affecting the whole nation in a profound manner, going local also affects the flooring industry and, to ensure its benefits continue, going local has become a necessity, and there should no longer be any compromise. Industries need to break away from this ongoing belief that international products are of a better quality and standard – this cannot be further from the truth.

“Supporting local businesses and organisations is the least we can do to increase job creation and assist in building our economy and our nation,” reinforces Tim Prins from TC Design. “This concept can be taken even further as an initiative that ensures both products and services are provided by making use of fair labour practices and keeping environmental standards in mind. Some South Africans have the misconception that local products are ‘inferior’ to imported products; however, the exact opposite is true.”

He goes on to explain that Proudly South African is a great initiative that is multi-faceted. “The logo is a stamp indicative of quality as much as it is a symbol of a noteworthy initiative; it makes absolute sense therefore that this concept has spread into the flooring industry,” Tim continues. “In the world of commercial office design, we specify products to last anywhere from five to ten years and more, so this concept should get clients excited.”

In turn, Ciska du Toit from Inch Interior Design Studio adds that if a South African product can compete on the same quality and service level as its international counterpart, then it will be first choice. “In my opinion, the above, along with product guarantees, would determine whether local or international flooring products are specified,” Ciska highlights. “I can think of only a handful of flooring products that can compete on an international platform and we definitely need some more local competition. I would advise the local industry not to focus primarily on the short-term face value only. International product promises are often met with product integrity; however, this is not always the case with local products.”

Reinforcing Ciska’s opinion, Craig R. Bennett from Jossi Interior Design believes that most local designers are keen to support local flooring products as long as whatever is being offered is as efficient as its European counterpart. “By keeping our support local, projects would most probably become more cost-effective,” he says. “Local suppliers should have a better understanding of local needs but quality and product range would deter me, as a specifier, from selecting local as opposed to international products.”

Other advantages to specifying local flooring products are job creation and the impact on the environment. For example, local products drastically reduce the carbon footprint in comparison to imported products.

“As members of the Green Building Council of South Africa, we as a company are always mindful of the origin of specified products and how they are manufactured,” enthuses Tim. “Beyond this, specifying local products make us more aware of areas where local products excel and in which areas our local products perhaps fall short. That being said, our local manufacturers have been investing extensively in overcoming quality issues when compared to their international counterparts.”

He continues by noting that the most noticeable difference between a locally produced product and an imported one is the difference in the quality of the weave. “International flooring products appear more compact, which we translate as being a positive sign related to quality. However, our manufacturers have progressed significantly during the past few years and the results are starting to show. It should be added that the aforementioned characteristic has become less noticeable recently, making it harder to tell the difference between local and imported products.”

When questioned on why flooring products are being imported when there are equal and even better performing products in South Africa, Ciska explains that it is most likely as a result of the reputation, or the lack thereof, of local flooring product integrity. “Faith in a product must be gained and proven,” she emphasises. “As they say, ‘the proof of the pudding is in the eating’, and when faced with the choice of either a local or international flooring option next to each other, my confidence leans towards the international product, unless the local industry can prove otherwise.”

In conclusion, Tim offers some unique tips for flooring industry professionals. Firstly, education and collaboration is key. “It is hard to address the end user, which is why time needs to be invested in architects, interior designers and decorators to educate them on the types of products available,” he explains. “Ultimately, these individuals are a company’s brand ambassadors.”

The second tip is patience. “I firmly believe that this industry is still in its adolescent phase and has quickly become successful, with industry only now starting to understand its true capabilities and potential,” advises Tim. “As the years progress, we are taking leaps and bounds to minimise the gap between us and our international competitors, who may have grown slightly complacent given their ‘edge’ in the market up until now. In my professional opinion, the gap has never been this small.”

Industry experts are able to offer the most insightful contributing factors when specifying local South African flooring products. Although everyone may have their own unique and valid opinions regarding this matter, what remains agreed upon is the fact that quality, service and after-installation guarantees play a key role in the specifying process.

This is why the South African flooring sector continues to evolve and transform to ensure that it offers a superior product. However, without the support of industry, these attempts will be of little value – a scenario that should be avoided at all costs.

Acknowledgement and thanks are given to Tim Prins from TC Design, Ciska du Toit from Inch Interior Design Studio and Craig R. Bennett from Jossi Interior Design for the information contained in this article.