NWFA 2011 Annual Convention - June 2011
By Kemp Harr
According to research conducted by Floor Focus a few years ago, hardwood flooring ranks the highest among consumers as the most desirable flooring to have in their home. And yet in the Annual Report we published last month, we find that in 2010 hardwood flooring only grew 2.8% to command a 10.3% marketshare (in revenue). This puts it in third place behind carpets and rugs and just ahead of resilient, ceramic and laminate. This gap between desire and reality is most likely due to the installed price of hardwood versus the other less expensive alternatives like carpet or even resilient and laminate, which often imitate hardwood but cost less.
Under normal market conditions, up to 40% of hardwood flooring sales are driven by new home construction, so the current lack of home building is another debilitating factor in hardwood’s overall marketshare.
For the past 26 years, the National Wood Flooring Association (NWFA) has held an annual convention, which combines education seminars and board meetings with a trade show event. This year, the event was held in San Diego at the end of April. For logistics reasons, attendance is usually light when this group meets on the West Coast, and this year, when you factor in the current economic conditions, it was no surprise that registration was down 13% to about 2,000 people.
Despite the light attendance, the tone of the meeting was positive—now that the sales trends are moving in a positive direction—and also somewhat celebratory due to the festive “roasting” event of retiring Ed Korczak, who has led the NWFA for 17 years. And unlike many of the larger industry events, this group has a more fraternal, craftsman bond, likely due to an addiction to sawdust.
This year’s show revealed some interesting trends from a product standpoint. The use of exotic species is giving way to domestic species. Oak still represents over 70% of all hardwood flooring used, but maple, hickory and walnut are also becoming more prevalent. We’re also seeing a shift away from smooth and shiny traditional finishes to matte and even hand-crafted “character” finishes. Consumers are drawn toward the natural, reclaimed and timeless look. In certain instances we’re seeing more of the penetrating oil and burnished wax finishes that have been popular in Europe for years. While these finishes do require more routine maintenance, they don’t show scratches and are easier to repair than polyurethane or aluminum oxide coated products.
We found it interesting that several suppliers were taking preemptive moves to protect themselves from potential tariffs as result of the Commerce Department’s dumping investigation for Chinese sourced engineered hardwoods. Somerset is in the process of building a plant in Crossville, Tennessee that will replace its Chinese-based supply of engineered hardwood flooring, and DuChateau has moved its supplier base from China to Russia. And while Home Legend did not attend this show, we’ve recently reported that it purchased Baker’s Creek’s plant in Edwards, Mississippi, which will further diversify its supply base and reduce its dependency on Chinese manufactured hardwood flooring.
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