Flooring Forensics: Proper flooring specification and care in retail environments - Jul 18

By Lew Migliore

The science behind shopping recognizes that the tendency to spend money rises the longer the consumer stays in a store. Strolling through a showroom touching, smelling and tasting different products affords the consumer a fully tactile experience and the retailer the opportunity to provide a merchandising experience that puts consumers in the mindset to buy.

There is no denying that making the consumer feel comfortable during the shopping process is good for sales, and it stands to reason that flooring choices can contribute to shopper comfort. Determining the correct flooring type for the application while also managing store owner expectations is a necessary balance to avoid a whole host of issues that can arise in a retail environment.

Retail stores receive some of the heaviest traffic of any sector. The flooring used in these environments is expected to withstand high traffic levels and abuse while also being subjected to some of the worst maintenance, particularly when it comes to carpet-all the while maintaining its aesthetic.

There are pros and cons with all types of flooring. Certainly nothing is as soft, quiet and comfortable underfoot as carpet. If a store wants to promote a lush, upscale image, there is bound to be carpet on the floor. But the wrong carpet will ugly out quickly and soil rapidly. Color, style and design are also highly important with carpet. Light colors will show more soil, especially yellow tones. Dark colors will hide more soil but show more dust and lint. Patterned carpet is the best choice for hiding soil, dust and lint, and traffic wear.

Hard surface flooring is often chosen for cleanability and durability; however, it can also achieve a wide range of aesthetics from an industrial look to a warm, home-like feel. However, in the case of LVT and LVP particularly, the substrate must be extremely level, and the installation must be compliant with the product’s ability to expand and contract. Not doing so will create hollow spots and noise resonance issues as well as strains on the integrity of the material and the connecting system, which can crack or break. These products will and can indent when heavy items are dropped on them or placed on them for long periods of time, cutting short their appearance retention.

Keep in mind that maintenance and appearance retention are extremely important in a retail store, especially high-end ones where image truly matters. Although a lightly soiled carpet is easily maintained with a vacuum cleaner, carpets can spot and stain. Carpet is easy to install, offers a wide variety of design options and can be easily changed out-especially carpet tile, which is the ideal product if a change in mood is required frequently in a retail space. Hard surface flooring, such as resilient and hardwood, goes down and stays put for many years, while polished concrete and ceramic can last for decades.

The number one reason for a flooring failure is the wrong product in the wrong place. Professional installers will know whether a flooring product will work for a specific application. He or she will know what the products are capable of; how they are made; how they are to be installed; and whether they will or won’t work in an application, as well as the failure rate. In addition to simply choosing the wrong product for an installation, flooring failures can occur due to overselling a product, lack of installation skills or knowledge, acceptance of subpar space and substrate conditions, improper maintenance and product defect.

Maintenance costs are a significant factor with flooring, especially in retail stores; developers, managers and retail space owners must understand the care involved with a product and commit to that care. There’s nothing worse than entering a store and seeing a floor that hasn’t been maintained; it speaks to how the business is run. The best flooring materials still have to be properly maintained.

It is the responsibility of the firm selling the product to ensure it meets the end user’s expectations. The following questions should be asked in order to determine the suitability of a product for an installation:
• Is the flooring going to perform and last as expected?
• Is it the right product to use and why?
• Will it prematurely “ugly out” or fail?
• Can it be installed without problems?
• Will it be reasonable to maintain?

The best way to meet expectations is to partner with experts who know the products inside and out and have experience working with them. I also advise that a mockup be installed to determine if the product(s) will deliver the performance expected of them.

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