FLOORS in Africa would like to thank Jim Gould, President of the Floor Covering Institute, for his views on the current state of the resilient flooring market, which is published here verbatim.
While the floorcovering industry has suffered through the worst recession in recent history, resilient flooring has broken through as the strongest category with the most promise and brightest future.
Resilient flooring, also called vinyl or PVC flooring, and its sub-categories of luxury vinyl tile (LVT) and fibreglass core sheet vinyl, create a family of resilient flooring offering major improvements in visuals, performance and ease of installation that have captured the attention of consumers. Today’s resilient flooring bears little resemblance to the linoleum and vinyl floors of the twentieth century.
Technological improvements have propelled the category from near extinction to a position of distinction with increased market share of all floorcovering in the USA from 12 to 17% in just six years.
Industry giant Armstrong World Industries invested over US$25-million to upgrade its felt-backed production facility in Lancaster, Pennsylvania exclusively to fibreglass. Last year, Belgium’s IVC built a US$75-million fibreglass sheet vinyl plant in Dalton, Georgia. LVT’s popularity has spurred acquisitions such as Tarkett purchasing Centiva and Mannington buying Amtico.
Other manufacturers are either building new capacity or looking for new partners or acquisitions to meet the demand. New product innovations in LVT and fibreglass sheet vinyl at Domotex, Surfaces and Domotex Asia were numerous and the most exciting of the New Year’s offerings.
What is fuelling the growth in resilient flooring? Advancements in digital imaging, printing technologies and surface texturing have created products that are nearly impossible to distinguish from stone and wood, helping resilient flooring move into more areas of the house. Where once it was traditionally limited to wet areas such as bathrooms and kitchens, it is now being installed throughout the home.
Vinyl floors are quieter and more resilient than ceramic, laminate and wood. These performance strengths have combined with resilient’s extreme resistance to water damage to steal market share from the laminate category. Resilient’s attractive price points make it a strong challenger to natural wood and stone.
Improvements in installation methods make fiberglass sheet vinyl and LVT two of the easiest products to install. The fibreglass liner in sheet vinyl products assures that the floor will lie flat with minimum, or in some cases, no adhesive, saving time, cost and fear of adhesive off-gassing. LVT’s new glueless click systems offer realistic wood-look planks that are easier to install as an alternative to wood flooring.
While these advancements have captured the attention of consumers resulting in a growing market share, there are potential issues on the horizon for this product category. Additives used to keep resilient flexible contain phthalates, some of which have been linked to potential health issues. While alternative additives have been developed, they could adversely impact cost.
As manufacturers rush to take advantage of the category growth, the speed with which new capacity is being added, especially in LVT, is a growing concern. It was only a decade ago that laminate soared in popularity and excess capacity was built globally. Manufacturers lowered quality standards to offer lower prices and the category’s profitability was squeezed to unacceptable levels.
Those companies investing heavily in the vinyl category, and especially LVT, should pay close attention to vinyl’s growth hoping that history will not repeat itself for many years to come.