Wood Cuts: More consumers are finding the “joy” of hardwood floors - December 2022

By Michael Martin

Hardwood flooring is gaining strength in the market. According to Market Insights, wood flooring grew by nearly 23% in market value for 2021, with total sales surging to nearly $3.1 billion. The 2022 Remodeling Impact Report, a joint study from the National Association of Realtors (NAR) and the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI), offers some interesting insights as to why.

While the report focused on the reasons for undertaking remodeling projects, it also measured consumers’ viewpoints toward their projects upon completion. Projects that made the renovators want to remain home or that sparked an increase of enjoyment received a high “joy score,” with ten considered a perfect score. Hardwood floor refinishing received a joy score of ten. Additionally, 64% of homeowners said they had an increased sense of enjoyment following the installation of their hardwood flooring, and 64% also said just thinking about the completed project gives them a “major sense of accomplishment.”

Before the pandemic, busy consumers were not necessarily focused on their home environments. It was all they could do to take care of their families, get to work and tend to a household where they spent only a few waking hours most days. When these overworked and overwhelmed consumers needed new flooring, they often were influenced by words like “waterproof” and “scratch-proof.” Sure, they loved the look of wood, but with the allure of these perceived benefits from non-wood products, it was easy to accept the “look” of real wood as good enough. That is not the case anymore. As consumers refocused their priorities, they developed a strong desire to have real, high-quality products in their homes, and real wood floors fit the bill.

The NAR/NARI report also offers a cost recovery estimate for remodeling projects. Realtors provided an estimate of the likely dollar value each project would add to a house during resale. In comparing that dollar value to the estimated cost of each job provided by NARI members, a “recovered project cost” percentage was tabulated. For interior projects, the highest percentage of cost recovered was from refinishing hardwood floors, at 147%. Installing new wood flooring came in at 118%.

Meanwhile, supply issues, tariffs on products from China and escalating transportation costs have made the gap between the cost of lookalikes and real wood much smaller. So, real hardwood is now more achievable because its cost has increased less and competing lookalikes are often much more expensive than they were pre-pandemic. Thus, at the point of sale, a consumer can get the real thing for a slight increase versus doubling the cost, and also increase their home’s value.

Research conducted by the National Wood Flooring Association (NWFA) shows that more than two thirds of U.S. consumers say they want wood floors in their homes. With a current population of 331 million people and a homeownership rate of roughly 66%, that equates to nearly 60 million households.

If real wood floors are what consumers want, why are retailers steering them to faux products-leaving potential profits on the table? Education is the key. Retail sales associates (RSAs) often do not have the product knowledge they need to sell real wood floors with confidence.

The NWFA created tools to address this challenge with the development of its “Real Wood. Real Life.” campaign. Based on our research that identified consumer motivations when making floor purchasing decisions, the NWFA developed materials for RSAs to help educate consumers about the differences between real wood flooring products versus the lookalikes, and the benefits of real wood flooring over look-alike options. The campaign comprises a variety of materials, including a Real Wood. Real Life. logo, digital and print ads, fact sheets, trade show graphics, media outreach templates, and a “Homeowner’s Handbook to Real Wood Floors.” All of these materials can be customized with individual company logos, which makes them a very affordable marketing option for retailers. And everything is downloadable for free for NWFA members.

Sadly, this issue is not limited to just flooring. We are hearing similar stories from our friends in the furniture, cabinet, molding and even lumber industries. Each is being affected by faux products that look like wood but have none of the benefits or the long-term value of real wood. To address this dilemma, the NWFA partnered with 30-plus hardwood associations and organizations to form the Real American Hardwood Coalition (RAHC). The group, which launched in late 2019, was established with a mission to increase sales of real American hardwood products through consumer outreach and marketing campaigns.

A lot has been accomplished in a short period of time. A nationwide consumer research campaign was conducted to understand current consumer perceptions of real wood products. A Real American Hardwood logo was developed and trademarked. Brand messaging has been established. An industry-focused website (realamericanhardwood.org) has been built. Social media accounts have been launched on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter. And we are only getting started.

The coalition also recently launched a consumer-focused website (realamericanhardwood.com) with a robust SEO presence that attracts and engages consumers and provides valuable information about the benefits and value of real wood products. Based on the findings of RAHC research, the campaign will focus on five pillars that consumers identified as key influences when making purchasing decisions: appearance, durability, value, health and sustainability. We have already won the battle on appearance-everybody wants to look like wood. We also know we offer the most durable option, the best long-term value, the healthiest home environment and the most sustainable product. Now the task before us is to educate consumers so they know, as well. Long term, the intent is to deliver in-store signage and educational materials to big-box stores, where many consumers start their purchasing journey, and to introduce a comprehensive social media advertising campaign that produces an educated buyer for real wood products.

I hope you’ll consider educating your RSAs about the value and benefits of real wood floors with comprehensive online training through NWFA University. The Wood Flooring Sales learning path includes 38 courses designed to provide RSAs with the knowledge they need to sell real wood flooring with confidence. Completing all the courses in the learning path and passing the accompanying assessments can lead to earning Wood Flooring Sales Advisor certification credentials through NWFA Certified Professionals. Courses are just ten to 20 minutes each and can be completed at the RSA’s own pace from a PC, tablet or smartphone. To date, more than 250 courses are available in four learning paths (sales, installation, sand and finish, and manufacturing). The cost is $199 per company per year for up to 50 users. More information is available at nwfa.org/nwfa-university.aspx.

Copyright 2022 Floor Focus 

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