NWFA Expo Review: Engineered hardwood continues to "Rock On" at this year's expo - June 2017

By Beth Miller

The 2017 National Wood Flooring Association Expo, held in Phoenix, Arizona in April at the Phoenix Convention Center, attracted over 300 first-time attendees and 133 first-time exhibitors. While the overall attendance was lower than last year’s event in Charlotte, North Carolina, it was on par with past expos taking place in the western part of the country.

The expo’s “Rock On” theme was a tribute to the music that defines each generation. Workplace differences based on generational trends and behaviors were highlighted by the meeting’s keynote speaker, Matt Beaudreau of The Center for Generational Kinetics. During the opening session, the audience wore different colored glow stick bracelets based on their age to carry the theme a step further. NWFA board member Avi Hadad of Avi’s Flooring opened the expo with the national anthem à la Jimi Hendrix. 

Beaudreau provided some insight into multi-generational work environments, the “clues” each generation provides to foster understanding and how to lead each generation differently. Multiple generations now make up the workforce in the flooring industry as Millennials and even Gen Z work their way into leadership roles within each company. According to Beaudreau, each generation brings with it a different set of communication and technology skills, fostering the potential for miscommunication and value differentiations. 

The tone of the meeting was upbeat. The 5% growth within the hardwood flooring business has been outpacing both the economy and the growth of the industry overall. 

Collaboration was a key component in the well-attended interactive breakout sessions offered at this year’s expo. Educational sessions were offered that included marketing to Millennials, social media, cork installation and engineered wood flooring. Other educational sessions focused on employee management as well as diverse workforce management, speaking to the cultural and generational differences. The installation demos on the show floor were also well attended. 

Engineered hardwood continues to climb upward driven by the consumer’s demand for longer and wider planks in addition to site conditions that are less than optimal for solid hardwood from a humidity standpoint. Don Finkell of American OEM spoke to the growth that engineered wood is experiencing, predicting that it is expected to exceed solid by approximately 7% to 8% more within a year or two, with engineered currently standing at roughly 60% of the market and solid at approximately 40%. He attributes this growth to the need for wider planks, noting that while solid hardwood is capable of producing longer boards, it can’t go wider without having technical issues. This is where engineered wood takes over filling the need for wider, more durable planks. 

Dana Cole of the Hardwood Federation spoke briefly on the potential impact of regulation reform, tax reform, trade and healthcare under the current administration. Finkell commented that many in the industry are fearful of losing their supply chain if all of these reforms pass. A 20% tariff hike on Canadian softwoods has been placed on the table by the U.S., which would mean an increase in housing costs. 

The NWFA University’s online courses are convenient and easily accessible. All courses are available to NWFA members and can be completed at their own pace. Hands-on courses are available in addition to the online classes, and students have the option to complete online courses while simultaneously participating in the hands-on training. 

Next year’s show will be held April 10 to 13 in Tampa, Florida at the Tampa Convention Center. 

Out of the top five hardwood producers in the U.S., Mullican and Somerset were the only firms that exhibited.

The Johnson City, Tennessee producer, Mullican, announced in April its plans to bring full production of all sawn engineered products to the U.S. According to Neil Poland, president of Mullican Flooring, “The move will allow us to tighten quality control as well as to stay true to a long-standing corporate commitment to support domestic production.” In addition to the EuroSawn White Oak in a 7” width that is the first product to transition to the U.S., Mullican introduced five new American-made collections this year-three engineered and two solid. The Merion, Devonshire and Castle Ridge collections are 3/8” thick and protected by the company’s Alpha A’Lumina Real World Finish that carries a 25-year warranty. A wide variety of species are used in all three collections with numerous selections available-all offering Mullican’s lifetime moisture warranty system, Aqua Shield. The solid wood collections, Wexford and Nature, both offer 3/4” thick products with random lengths up to 7’. The Wexford Collection has prefinished and unfinished versions. 

Embracing the generational diversity, Somerset showcased its new marketing efforts-specifically to the Millennial generation-by beefing up its online presence. Available for viewing at the show, Somerset produced seven two-minute videos along with an eight-minute company profile to appeal to the tech-savvy generations. Convenience and product accessibility have merged with the introduction of QR codes that link a product to its corresponding video so the information can be reviewed on a handheld device at any time. 

Maxwell Hardwood Flooring, a leader in unfinished hardwood, celebrated its 25th anniversary this year at the NWFA Expo. In addition to the anniversary celebration, Maxwell revealed two new collections: Legacy Reserve and Legacy Live. Both collections are made of white oak. The Reserve is 3/4” rift and quartered lumber with lengths up to 12’ and the Live is 5/8” live sawn with lengths up to 10’. Both cuts seek to preserve the wood’s natural characteristics. However, the Live collection brings a rustic craftsmanship to the table. 

Mannington Mills, the sixth largest U.S. flooring manufacturer, showcased its popular Mountain View Hickory collection with five color offerings. With the expo taking place in Phoenix, Mannington pointed out that its most popular flooring in the Southwest is Pacaya Mesquite in the Antigua Collection. 

Now in its fourth year, American OEM introduced the new Hearthwood Collection. As the name suggests, the collection emulates the warmth of home in its sliced face engineered hardwood. According to American OEM, the Hearthwood collection is made in Tennessee using durable, safe and sustainable materials and will offer 12-16 SKUs-all 7” wide by 8’ long by 1/2” thick. The depth of color found in the planks accents the natural character in the wood.

The Quebec based industry leader in quality, Mirage, added to its Sweet Memories Collection with Gelato and Peppermint colors with a Cashmere matte finish. The Cashmere finish resists wear and tear and is easily maintained, making it ideal for high traffic areas. Found also in the Flair Collection, Sweet Memories continues with planks up to 73/4” wide with some measuring 82” in length. The collection is considered a character grade flooring with natural color variation and character marks that become more prominent over time. The new brownish-grey offerings are hot, according to Mirage.

Mercier, another Quebec firm, showcased some new products in two of its current collections. The Elegancia collection now offers White Oak Fjord, White Oak Element and White Oak Madera, along with simply White Oak in the Origins collection. Michel Collin, director of marketing, reported that beige is trending along with wirebrushed and sawmill distressed finishes. Mercier now offers even longer planks up to 86” in both solid and engineered wood flooring. 

Emily Morrow, formerly of Shaw Industries, debuted her new line, Emily Morrow Home, at the expo. After 30 years of interior design and product design, with 12 of those years directing Shaw’s design development, Morrow stepped out on her own to bring consumers a U.S.-sourced, engineered product that is unique and high end. Morrow noted that the cracked and filled grey flooring, which was on display, is most popular. 

Last year’s expo marked the first time Lauzon made an appearance in five or six years. However, the Quebec firm returned for a second showing this year, showcasing the Pure Genius technology on all of its hardwood floors. Pure Genius is designed to improve the air quality in a home. The Nostalgia Gray was mentioned as one of the more popular hardwood floors and is available in both solid and engineered in a 53/16” width.

Harris Wood, a division of QEP, introduced its Wynwood Commercial collection in January 2017 and showcased the new offerings at the expo, touting its benefits in high traffic areas. The Tennessee producer’s engineered collection mimics the character marks in real wood planks with varying wood grains and knot patterns. While the collection clearly targets the commercial market, it is intended for residential use as well. Eight colors are offered with three different species in 5” widths: maple, hickory and red oak. A five-year commercial warranty is offered on all floors.

Copyright 2017 Floor Focus 

Related Topics:Lumber Liquidators, NWFA Expo, Mannington Mills, Shaw Industries Group, Inc., RD Weis, Mirage Floors