Hardwood Report 2012
By Jessica Chevalier
For the consumer, hardwood is the most desired flooring product on the market. Yet, because of its relatively high price tag, it has a great deal of competition for the consumer’s dollars. When asked about what poses the greatest competition for the category, one of the manufacturers with whom we spoke didn’t mention another flooring category, but instead said that new roofs, shiny new minivans and tuition costs are some of the greatest rivals for a customer’s discretionary income dollars.
Often, customers who want hardwood won’t settle for a lookalike product, like LVT or laminate, but they may put off the investment in lieu of purchases that seem more pressing. After all, a new floor won’t shield a customer from the elements, drive them to work or earn their kids an advantage in the competitive workplace. In most cases, hardwood flooring is an aesthetic purchase, not a compulsory one.
In fact, the majority of manufacturers with whom we spoke reported that hardwood’s price tag and the economy were the category’s greatest barriers to sale. All these statements boil down to the same idea: customers are holding on to their dollars more tightly and prioritizing needs over wants. This, of course, is no surprise since we are at the tail end of a significant recession. Even as customers feel more comfortable spending again, they are seeking investments that qualify as needs.
Ultimately, however, the recession may have brought about a change with regard to how homeowners view their homes, and this may eventually bring about a windfall of business for the hardwood category. Rather than looking at homes primarily as investments and making materials choices based on resale value, more homeowners are cocooning, planning to stay in their homes longer and making choices to last them for the life of their investment. In either case, hardwood wins out, since it’s the go-to flooring choice when a homeowner is looking to increase the value of their property.
According to Market Insights/Torcivia, “Market research has shown that each year a body of consumers equal to one-fourth of the current market is turned away from the product because they cannot afford it.” This speaks to the significant opportunity in the market for those hardwood manufacturers who are working to capitalize on the great desire for hardwood by innovating to bring down the product’s price tag. After all, while a customer may not want a faux hardwood, many are more than happy to install a prefinished product, particularly if it’s an easier-to-install hardwood like a click or floating system that is friendly to DIYers. These options, which eliminate the need for not just onsite finishing but installation as well, help consumers achieve their hardwood dreams at a more affordable cost.
In 2011, the $3.00 to $3.99 per square foot retail price point represented 23% of hardwood business; $4.00 to $4.99 and $5.00 to $5.99 per square foot accounted for another 21% and 20% of business, respectively, according to Market Insights/Torcivia. With these retail hardwood price points settled at the low end and showing few signs of edging upward, even those manufacturers who operate at the high end are looking for a means of differentiating their line through appearance or innovation to increase their value proposition with consumers. Ultimately, this drive toward value is impacting not only format but also style trends; in addition, it is affecting the channels.
Most hardwood flooring manufacturers are expecting gains in 2012. The National Wood Flooring Association (NWFA) reports that its members are optimistic about this year and are expecting single-digit growth in the neighborhood of 3% to 5%.
In total, Market Insights/Torcivia predicts that the total residential hardwood market will hit 818 million square feet of flooring in 2012, while the total commercial market will top out at 60 million square feet. In dollars, that’s $1.927 billion in the residential market and $159 million in the commercial market.
There continues to be a move toward engineered hardwood flooring. According to Market Insights/Torcivia, by dollars engineered wood is expected to account for 51% of the hardwood market in 2012, which officially beats out solid’s 47% holding (33% of which is prefinished). Every manufacturer with whom we spoke sells a mix of both engineered and solid products, and none of them see this trend reversing anytime soon. Certainly the recession expedited the progression, encouraging homeowners to dust off their DIY skills and choose some of the easier to install click and floating engineered wood flooring options over the more cumbersome solid wood options, but today’s preference for longer and wider looks is also more suited to engineered wood platforms, because they offer more stability than solid hardwood and are less susceptible to bowing.
The popularity of prefinished wood is surging for a variety of reasons. As fewer sand and finish professionals are demanded in the field because of the rise of prefinished wood, the trade is somewhat fading away, and this development makes it more likely that customers will choose a prefinished floor rather than go through the hassle of finding a vetted sand and finish professional (and taking a risk that the quality and look might not be what they expected). In addition, one manufacturer with whom we spoke believes that some customers now prefer the single-board look of prefinished wood to the plane look that unfinished wood creates, which is an appearance more like that of laminate and LVT.
And on commercial installations, with job schedules always tight and always getting tighter, a prefinished floor means quicker installation and move-in, so prefinished floors are often preferred in these circumstances. Of course, environmental factors weigh in as well, especially on commercial installations. Finishing a floor on-site produces odors and gases that adversely affect indoor air quality as they are applied and drying. Since prefinished floors are finished in the factory and fully dried long before they reach installation, there is no ill affect to a space’s air quality.
Over half of the manufacturers that we interviewed offer a click system on some of their hardwood flooring products. And most of those who don’t offer a system at present anticipate offering one in the near future. Interestingly, however, Model, which has had its click system for quite a few years, is seeing a trend back towards glue-down flooring. The company suspects that this might be due to the fact that customers who spend money to install real hardwood want their product to feel and sound like hardwood underfoot, and a floating floor can sometimes sound hollow like laminate flooring.
THE NWFA'S RESPONSIBLE PROCUREMENT PROGRAM
The National Wood Flooring Association (NWFA) started the Responsible Procurement Program (RPP) as a means of providing wood manufacturers with a tangible way of exhibiting their commitment to sourcing renewable product. The program, which was started a few years ago, currently has five member companies that represent about 60% of the wood flooring market: Anderson, Mannington, Mullican, Shaw and Sheoga.
LOOKS & SPECIES
Rustic and handscraped looks took over the market quickly and continue to be the favorites of consumers. This preference makes sense in consideration of how Americans live today; with stay-at-home spouses fewer and farther between, there is no one in the home dedicated to cleaning and polishing the hardwood floors on a frequent basis—and no one wants to spend their weekend free time on their hands and knees. Distressed floors are less fussy. They hide imperfections and dirt better. While some areas (like Texas) still favor heavy scraping and distressing, much of the country is shifting toward a preference for subtler timeworn and reclaimed looks. This trend is fairly pervasive—nearly every manufacture with whom we spoke mentioned it—as is a return to lighter tones.
While manufacturers report that they are still seeing a demand for mid-tone browns, in general the palette has shifted away from dark colors to more natural colors. Whitewashed looks are coming back. In fact, Max Windsor reports that its washed walnut is one of its best sellers, even though it’s the most expensive SKU in the company’s line. Browns still carry chocolate or espresso tones, rather than red tones. And greys have shifted from having harsh blue undercurrents to softer beige undertones. Overall, the popularity of greys continues to rise, and these new colorations make them easier to decorate around. Dark colors still have fans in some regions (again, like Texas), but the coasts, particularly, are looking for more lighter, brighter colors.
There aren’t a lot of changes with regard to what species are favored. Oak will always be the share leader of the U.S. market, but some manufacturers have noticed an uptick in demand for hickory and birch. Exotics have been negatively affected by a number of factors as of late. Since they often have a higher price tag, they haven’t fared well in the value-driven market, but a limited supply of lumber coming out of Brazil has stressed that market as well.
PRICE POINTS & CHANNELS
While price points remain low, the good news, according to Don Finkell, head of Shaw and Anderson’s hardwood business, is that the market has reached its bottom and price points won’t move any lower. Along with that, today’s customers are still willing to pay more for differentiated products and fashion items, so manufacturers who tap the high end of the market with unique products and innovations are still making sales. It’s the middle of the market that’s really struggling.
A few manufacturers noted that there is still a lot of pressure from imports in the engineered category, despite the International Trade Commission’s tariffs. Overall, the importers from China that we talked to seemed to feel that the tariffs were manageable; some have passed minimal price increases to cover the tariffs along to consumers, but none seemed to feel that the fees were excessive. According to the NWFA, which represents both U.S. manufacturers and importers from China, “Both sides felt that there were gains from the outcome. Neither side got 100% of what they wanted.”
With a trend toward the lower price points, the big boxes and stores like Lumber Liquidators have picked up hardwood business, and, as a result, the independent retailer has had to become more specialized and creative in how they position their hardwood business. Some manufacturers believe that it isn’t that the big boxes have really stepped up their game as much as they have capitalized on the downturn and the homeowner’s corresponding preference for DIY products. Teragren’s Mike Boshart also believes that the big boxes have benefited from the fact that they are relatively new and therefore novel. Eventually, he believes, consumers will start migrating back to the independent retailer for its design center resources, installation services and broad assortments, and all those DIYers may be willing to lay down their tools and reclaim their weekends for relaxation as well.
While many manufacturers claim that they don’t serve the big box channel by choice, the fact is that the bulk of big box hardwood comes from China, and U.S. manufacturers don’t have the ability to compete with Chinese products on cost. According to DuChateau, however, another formidable adversary to the independent retailer is the online retailer, and those are sometimes offshoots of independent retailers who are seeking to reach beyond the local economies. In some cases, these retailers are drastically dropping their margins to make a sale. DuChateau doesn’t sell to retailers that don’t have a showroom, but it finds that is becoming a more complicated to determine which retailers are sticking with that model.
Shaw acquired Anderson in 2007 and last year consolidated the brand’s four hardwood lines to two: Anderson and Virginia Vintage. The consolidation eliminated about 40% of the company’s SKUs, which accounted for about 12% of sales. Previous to the consolidation, the company felt it had strayed from the Anderson story, and it took the opportunity of consolidation to redesign its displays and reinsert the company’s American-made narrative back into the display and marketing materials. Under both the Shaw and Anderson brands, the company has been working to get third party certification on all of its environmental claims. It is highlighting these certifications prominently in its marketing.
Both Shaw and Anderson sell solid and engineered products. On the Shaw side, the company has been working steadily to bring three plants it acquired (one from Stuart, two from Zickgraf) up to its quality standard. Currently, Shaw is balanced between solid and engineered options, while more than 75% of Anderson’s business is in engineered wood. Anderson sells all prefinished wood, and Shaw is over 95% prefinished. Neither brand offers a click system yet, though the company is keeping an eye on that market and expects to offer click hardwood products in the future. Both Shaw and Anderson finish all their hardwood flooring in the U.S. and manufacture the vast majority of it here as well.
Shaw has a standard commercial hardwood offering, and business in that market has been steady. Anderson does not have a specified commercial business, though it does make commercial sales through non-standard products (NSP), and it uses these NSPs to get an idea of the upcoming trends.
Both Shaw and Anderson saw modest improvement in 2011 and expect 2012 to bring the same. Last year marked the first year of growth for Anderson since it was acquired by Shaw. Though Anderson is moved through distribution and Shaw has its own sales force, both brands ultimately target the independent retailer.
Mannington makes engineered wood products, 99% of which are prefinished, for both the residential and commercial markets. The company had a few products exceed its sales expectations in the last year. Its Black Isle Hickory, a scraped and distressed product, was its most successful launch in five years. In addition, its Heirloom Hickory, a wire-brushed product with naturally distressed visuals, started slow but has picked up significant momentum in the last few months.
Mannington recently discontinued a click product sourced overseas and replaced it with an American made one called American Hardwoods with LockSolid. The product uses Välinge’s 2G mechanical locking systems. The line was soft-launched in late fall 2011 and is rolling out nationally right now. Thus far, the line has been well received. Over 80% of Mannington’s hardwood collection is U.S. made.
Mannington sells exclusively to a network of independent retailers. A few years ago, the company dipped its toes into the commercial market and has seen steady growth there. The company, a member of the NWFA’s Responsible Procurement Program, was up slightly in 2011 and is expecting 2012 to be a good year, the beginning of a real recovery.
Armstrong launched 49 new handscraped products (39 engineered and ten solid) at Surfaces 2011 and began rolling them out to the market in April and May of last year. Though the company did not yet have all the marketing tools together, retailers wanted the new products in their showrooms. By the end of this month, all Armstrong displays in the marketplace will be updated. Armstrong has had to add capacity to keep up with demand for these new introductions.
In addition, Armstrong launched Performance Plus last month, a line that existed previously under the name Premier Performance. Performance Plus is an acrylic impregnated engineered hardwood that was originally more focused on the commercial market, now suitable for both commercial and residential use. Before re-launching the line, the company improved scratch resistance, updated the visuals and reconfigured the line to a 5” width. There are 30 SKUs in Performance Plus and species include oak, cherry, walnut, birch and maple. The acrylic impregnation of the wood enables soft species like cherry and walnut to have a hardness equal to or greater than exotics. The line is a higher end price point, but Armstrong believes that customers will be willing to pay for the performance that the produce provides.
Armstrong manufactures 95% of its products in the U.S.; the remainder is made in China, though the veneers from these products are made in the U.S. from domestically grown wood. Armstrong’s mix of engineered to solid products follows the market demand at around a 50/50 split. And prefinished hardwood makes up the bulk of its offering.
Armstrong sells products from price points that range from value to high end and serves both the independent retailer and the big box (though it does not sell to Lumber Liquidators). The company sells click hardwood flooring to its big box clients. 2011 was a good year for the company, and Armstrong is taking a fairly bullish approach to 2012.
Mirage, which has long been recognized for its product quality, launched 72 new SKUs in January. These included a stained knotty walnut; two new colors on Aged Maple in the Sweet Memories series; and two new species, hickory and white oak. Though such a large launch is somewhat surprising in the current economy, the company wants to stay abreast of current trends and offer its customers fashionable products.
Mirage—which sells prefinished wood, split evenly between solid and engineered goods—manufactures all its products in Quebec, Canada, where it has two plants. The company sells commercial hardwood and saw increased activity in its commercial sales during the second half of 2011. Mirage also sells a click product called Mirage Lock, which it introduced in 2006.
Mirage gets product to market through two-step distribution to specialty retailers. The company was flat in 2011, though it saw business pick up in the second half of the year. Mirage expects 2012 to close in line with 2011’s sales.
In April of 2011, Home Legend acquired Baker’s Creek in Mississippi. The acquisition thrust the company into domestic manufacturing overnight. Home Legend has spent the time since updating the facility’s equipment and determining what it will produce there. At this year’s Surfaces, the company rolled out its first Baker’s Creek products, a collection of eight engineered wood SKUs that are 1/2” thick, 5” wide and random lengths ranging from 1’ to 7’. The products hit a mid range price point, and all the SKUs feature Home Legend’s anti-bowing technology.
Baker’s Creek products are a combination of oak, maple and hickory; these are the woods that generate most of the volume of business for Home Legend. The line also includes two truly reclaimed products, both heart pine, and two exotics, Brazilian cherry and tigerwood.
Between the company’s two brands, 80% of products are engineered, and all products are prefinished. At Surfaces 2011, the company launched its first click hardwood with Renew & Restore, 43 SKUs including bamboo. While the company’s new Baker’s Creek products are produced domestically, Home Legend products are made in China with wood and veneers coming from South America, Europe, Russia China and the U.S.
Home Legend sells through Home Depot and also direct to specialty retailers. It is currently putting together a commercial program of products made in Mississippi, which will launch in the last half of the year. In 2011, Home Legend saw growth over 2010 numbers and expects 2012 to be a breakout year.
Max Windsor had a strong year in 2011 and plans to end 2012 up 20% over last year’s numbers. Because of 2011’s good showing, the company prepared three new ranges to introduce this year and rolled these out at Surfaces, to good reviews.
Max Windsor imports 100% of its products from China. Last year, before the ITC ruling, the company was concerned about this single source approach and began looking at suppliers. Ultimately, the company determined that China is its best fit and felt relief when the tariffs turned out to be relatively small. However, the company did have to implement a price increase early this year to accommodate them.
Max Windsor noted that the growing popularity of engineered hardwood over solid hardwood has been significant for the category. By the end of 2014, Max Windsor believes that solids will represent only 30% of the hardwood market. Because of this trend, Max Windsor discontinued its solid line last year. It now carries only prefinished engineered wood.
In the same vein, the company believes that click hardwood systems are an increasingly important trend, and it plans to introduce products with these capabilities shortly.
Max Windsor sells direct and focuses on larger independent, aligned retailers like NFA, Abbey and CCA members. The company estimates that about 10% of its flooring goes into commercial installations. Because commercial customers are more likely to keep up with scheduled maintenance, these installations are a boon for Max Windsor. The company hopes to double its commercial sales in the near future.
Mohawk offers hardwood under both its Mohawk and Columbia brand names. Together, the company sells 55% engineered wood and 45% solid. In the current value-driven market, both Mohawk and Columbia have done well their handscraped lines, which offer character looks at a value price. Under Mohawk, the Brandymill and Maple Harvest products have seen success, and Columbia’s Pagosa has done equally well. The company sells only prefinished hardwood.
Both Mohawk and Columbia have engineered wood products that feature a click installation system. Mohawk offers click systems in the Arcadia, Aria, Pastiche and Pembroke collections. In Columbia, the Intuition Collection and the soon-to-launch Gunnison Collection offer the choice of either a glue-down or a floated hardwood floor.
The Columbia line offers a wide variety of character woods, including weathered looks like Pelican Oak in the Hatteras collection, sculpted looks like Roan Maple in the Amelia collection, timeworn looks, distressed looks, country rustic looks, hammer dents/nail holes/splits looks, natural knots/sapwood/heartwood/mineral streaks and chattered looks like the Pagosa collection. All Columbia products are domestically manufactured; the majority of Mohawk products are as well.
Columbia hardwood is sold through independent retailers, while Mohawk is sold direct. Both lines fared better than the hardwood industry in 2011. The company attributes this success, in part, to the fact that it reengineered both brands’ complete lines. The company expects similar success in 2012.
Mercier signed on with two new distributors in 2011. Jaeckle Distributors will cover the Midwest region in Wisconsin, Illinois, Minnesota, Indiana, Kansas, Iowa and Missouri. Michael Halebian & Company will serve New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware. For areas where the company does not have distribution, particularly in the South and on the West Coast, the company is planning to launch with the Alliance Group, a buying group.
Last year, Mercier made a commitment to rely less on petroleum and use more natural products. To that end, the company launched a new finish, Mercier Generations Greenguard Certification, which contains natural soy. The finish is VOC free and non-allergenic. As an added bonus, it is 30% harder than the finish that Mercier used previously.
Seventy-five percent of Mercier’s offering is in solid wood, though the engineered portion of the company’s business is growing. All products are prefinished and made in Canada.
The company offers click flooring, which was first launched in 2010 and expanded in 2011. In addition, Mercier offers commercially rated hardwood; all Generations products carry a five year commercial warranty. Mercier was up by 11% in 2011 and expects 2012 to bring the same growth.
Quebec City based Preverco prides itself on being a company that is ahead of the curve with regard to style and innovation. The firm has offered a hardwood click system, its PreLoc, for over five years, and it has offered a fully prefinished line since 1988. It also strives to be the first to respond to color and style trends, citing its Wave Texture series, introduced last year, as evidence of this. The company, which manufactures all of its products in Canada, targets the higher end of the market and sells solely through specialty floorcovering stores, specifically those that want to differentiate themselves from the big box through style and quality.
Sixty percent of Preverco’s offering is solid wood, though it sees a strong trend towards engineered, which is selling particularly well for the company. In addition, those products with the wave texture are flying out the door. Originally, the company thought that the wave texture would be a niche product only, but the product is showing strong mass appeal, in part because it suits many types of décor. The line is offered in 16 tones.
Over the last year, the company has been working with a third party to consolidate all of its product information into a single database. The database holds details on every ingredient used in Preverco’s finished products and is intended to help make sustainability profiles more transparent and readily available for end users seeking LEED points.
2011 was a flat year for the company. Preverco expects growth in both the U.S. and Canada in 2012.
DuChateau serves a niche market with its wide plank European designs. All of the company’s products are engineered and prefinished, and they are situated in the mid to upper end of the market. DuChateau wood flooring can be used in both residential and commercial applications, and the company sells exclusively to brick-and-mortar retailers. All DuChateau products feature oiled finishes.
DuChateau experienced growth in 2011 and was able to increase its sales staff and distribution. The company expects expansion this year as well. At Surfaces, DuChateau launched its new Heritage Timber Edition, which replicates the patina of reclaimed building materials with a distressed salvaged texture. DuChateau sources raw material from Europe and manufactures its products in Russia, China and Holland.
Somerset is now manufacturing its entire product line in the U.S.; it has plants in both Kentucky and Tennessee. Somerset has been adding engineered products to its lineup over the last couple of years and is seeing growth on this side of the business. Unfinished hardwood is still an important part of the company’s line. In 2012, the company plans to introduce a light commercial offering.
Somerset’s new engineered facility in Crossville, Tennessee takes a piece of hardwood that would generally produce one square foot of flooring and slices it into veneers for five square feet of flooring. In addition, the company sends no waste to landfills. Instead, it recycles all its sawdust, sending 50 loads of sawdust weekly to be made into wood fuel pellets. Last year, Somerset exceeded 2010 sales. The company sells through distribution to retailers.
QEP/Harris Wood now manufactures all its hardwood flooring in Montpelier, Indiana and Johnson City, Tennessee; previously, three collections were made in China. Engineered wood comprises 85% of the company’s offerings, and unfinished wood accounts for less than 5% of business.
QEP/Harris Wood licenses Välinge’s 2G and 5G locking systems for its Springloc lines, which include Springloc Traditions and Springloc Today, both offered under the Harris Wood brand. The new Springloc Today line, introduced in the last year, is a collection of handscraped looks. The company is adding other components of floating systems to its offerings as well, including a private labeled underlayment.
The commercial business waned a bit for QEP over the last year, but the company is now receiving increased calls about its commercial products. QEP sells Harris Wood to the distribution market only. Otherwise, the company operates as an original equipment manufacturer. QEP had a good year in 2011 and anticipates gains in 2012.
Quebec based Lauzon has been working steadily on a number of new initiatives. Last year the company launched its Line Art collection using hard maple as a substrate but with a unique linear grain that is achieved by culling the board and utilizing a proprietary stain technique. Line Art comes in four colors, and the grey tones have really taken off. In addition, the company has been working on revamping its color palette. It brought in a design trends consultant to analyze the color offering and found that some of its darks were too dark and some of its mid-tone browns were too red. The company added more chocolaty mid-tone browns, a few new dark tones and softer greys with beige undertones.
Lauzon is in the process of launching a new display vehicle with a good, better, best value proposition. The display will feature a discovery center, which will help customers understand the value and benefits of the brand, and will change the way the products are displayed. The display will start rolling out across North America in June.
Lauzon makes all its products in Quebec. It has three factories and is vertically integrated. Lauzon manages many of its own forests, and several of these are FSC certified. The company offers FSC certified products to customers at no upcharge. In addition, the company recycles all its sawdust, using some to fire boilers that heat the kiln and some to make pellet fuel.
Seventy-five percent of Lauzon’s offerings are solid wood products and all, both solid and engineered, are prefinished. The company sells a bit of commercial hardwood but would like to develop that market more. Lauzon gets its products to market both direct and through distribution. Ultimately, all products are sold through specialty dealers.
Last year was flat for Lauzon, though the company saw significant increases in New England, California and the Southeast. The company believes that 2012 will be a better year, though it expects the recovery will be slow.
Model used last year, a slow year sales-wise, as a time to transition itself to a company with a multi-level sales approach. Up until now, the company has focused on selling to specialty retailers either direct (in the U.S.) or through a combination of direct sales and distribution (in Canada). The company is now exploring other options. On the retail side, Model sees a significant shift towards big box type retailers and believes that manufactures have to accept this shift and reconsider their approach. In addition, they need to ask themselves, am I focusing too much on creating high-end product rather than fulfilling the needs of the market? In 2010, Model made a $4 million investment in new equipment, which improves material yield and gives the company the ability to work in different segments of the market.
Quebec-based Model is a zero waste company, from sawdust to office supplies, owned in part by Dion Sawmill, which operates the largest privately held forest in Quebec. The forest produces birch, soft maple and hard maple and is mostly FSC certified. Model receives its supply almost exclusively from Dion.
Model sells both residential and commercial hardwood flooring. In 2007, the company introduced its Model Extreme finish, which comes with a ten year warranty for high traffic coverage. The company believes, however, that the hardwood industry still needs to educate the A&D community about the abilities of finishes for commercial use; it’s then, Model believes, that commercial hardwood business will really take off. Model also offers a lock system called ModelLoc that was introduced in early 2009.
Eighty-percent of Model’s offerings are on the solid wood side, and 75% of its products are prefinished. Often the unfinished wood the company sells is used for installations like gymnasiums; very little of it goes to residential use.
Model believes that 2012 will definitely be a better year than 2011.
Teragren, the Washington based bamboo company that started as Timbergrass in 1994, added to its Portfolio collection with Portfolio Naturals, rolled out at Surfaces. Portfolio Naturals comes in four natural strand looks—Java, Chestnut, Wheat and Brindle—and features a Välinge modified 2G locking system. Portfolio Naturals is a complement to the company’s Portfolio Colors collection, which was rolled out a few years ago.
Though Teragren started as an unfinished house, the company’s offerings are now about 90% prefinished. It is becoming increasingly hard for the company to support unfinished business, and soon all unfinished products will be available only by special order. Teragren believes that the distinct plank look of prefinished wood is now accepted—and even preferred—by consumers, though it still sees some interest for unfinished flooring in the commercial market.
Teragren manufactures all of its flooring in China, with the same manufacturer it has worked with since its inception. Last year, the founders of Teragren, David and Ann Knight, decided to step away from the company to pursue domestic sourcing of bamboo, which has always been a goal of the company. The pair is now working on building a plantation in the southeastern U.S. that will supply bamboo for a variety of industries, including the building materials industry.
Teragren sells bamboo flooring for both residential and commercial applications. The company reports that the commercial market was one of the first markets to come back, and Teragren is hoping to further capitalize on those opportunities. Teragren sells flooring—mostly through distribution—to the specialty retail channel. While 2011 was a flat year for the company, it anticipates strong growth this year.
USFloors sells hardwood, bamboo and cork flooring in both the residential and commercial markets; commercial sales are made through the USFContract brand. The company’s residential products are sold through both the independent retailer and big box channels. USFloors employs its own sales force.
The firm sells a combination of solid and engineered products; the majority of the company’s line is prefinished. In traditional hardwood, USFloors specializes in European style products: oil finished hardwood in wide and long plank formats with varying degrees of character. Two collections in their hardwood line are Castle Combe and Navarre, both of which are certified FSC Pure. Castle Combe is a very rustic look in a reclaimed style with hard cracks and feature planks with faux peg inserts. Navarre is a more tailored look that can be used in either an urban or country décor. The company has been selling oil finished hardwood for four years, but it is putting more focus on these products, which target the upper end of the market, in 2012.
In cork, this spring the firm will introduce Cork Canvas, a digitally enhanced cork with a surface printed to replicate stone, travertine or slate, so customers can enjoy a stone visual but with the comfort underfoot that cork provides.
Last year the company rolled out several multi-width bamboo products, which did well in the market. This spring, it is adding to two more to its Traditions line, Hand-Scraped Java and Antique Autumn.
In addition, the company is launching a strand woven eucalyptus flooring, which will become part of the Traditions line this spring. Strand woven eucalyptus produces a more rustic look than strand woven bamboo with more knots.
USFloors sales were decent in 2011, though margins were pinched. The company is cautiously optimistic about 2012.
Mullican is seeing significant growth in its engineered business, which currently makes up 20% of its hardwood offering, and, as a result, is now opening a plant in Johnson City, Tennessee to manufacture some of its engineered products. The new plant will open during the second quarter of 2012; at present, most of the company’s engineered products are made in Asia. All of Mullican’s solid hardwood products are made in the U.S. The company expects the gap between its solid and engineered business to narrow in 2012.
In addition, the company is selling much more prefinished flooring than it used to; prefinished hardwood now accounts for 80% of business. The company offers a click hardwood product called Austin Springs, which features a Välinge 5G locking system.
Mullican sells hardwood through two-step distribution and also sells a limited amount of product to big box stores. The company saw a mixed 2011, with prefinished business as the bright spot, and is budgeting an increase for 2012. In fact, Mullican’s January 2012 numbers were ahead of January 2011 numbers by double digits. Mullican was the first company to carry the NWFA RPP designation for solid products.
Copyright 2012 Floor Focus