NWFA indicates category growth

[Nashville] The National Wood Flooring  Association (NWFA) held its annual Expo April 16-19 here at the Music City Center. Under the theme “Strike a Cord,” the NWFA incorporated new ideas and events to the Expo this year, with a strong emphasis on education.  

“We expanded education sessions to a full hour, increased overall trade show hours, included an off-site mill tour to reinforce our education sessions and added a new three-hour Wood Flooring University with three tracks: certification, contractors and distributors/manufacturers. This format provided a deep-dive into issues affecting these specific business types that we had never tried before,” explained Michael Martin, president and CEO of NWFA.   

One indication that the category is indeed growing was the excellent turnout here at the Expo. At 3,036 attendees, it was the show’s highest attendance in more than five years, according to the association.   

“This is a 30 percent growth from our 2013 show in Dallas, and continues our growth trend for the last three years since we rebuilt the show in 2012. We also had 20 more companies on the show floor this year than in 2013, and we had 51 first-time exhibitors,” said Martin. 

One key topic discussed during general session was that wood’s popularity is not just seen in its own category growth but in the fact that many other categories are mimicking wood looks and styles. For example, ceramic tile and LVT are increasingly using wood grain visuals while cork is being made in lengths up to 72 inches to mimic wood planks. Technology too is being used to bring wood grain looks to bamboo through digital printing while laminate makers are using thicker wood veneers to offer greater durability. Even carpet is being shown in wood grain patterns.

Trending products
Some of the most popular wood trends, witnessed at the show, continue to be varying shades of gray, white-washed and darker colored floors. 

And, according to industry executives, low gloss finishes have also gained traction as they now feature performance enhancing and easy maintenance capabilities. Consumers are also continuing to show a preference for 5-inch and wider width products which has encouraged suppliers to produce products of these sizes. 

Armstrong brought to the show its Prime Harvest collection, a 12 color engineered line in high and low gloss finishes. The company has also added walnut and cherry offerings to its popular America Scrape collection. 

“This is a great show for industry and we’re happy to support the NWFA. Low gloss, matte finishes are a hit. We believe the second, third and fourth quarters will be better,” said Milton Goodwin, vice president of product management, wood and laminate, at Armstrong.

On point with the long plank trend, Maxwell Hardwoods showcased its long lengths Townsend Additions 2 foot to 10 foot unfinished engineered line with a 4mm wear-layer and Russian birch platform. 

“We’ve been seeing a significant increase in demand for long plank unfinished engineered products. We’ve made substantial investments in advancements and improvements in the technology used in our plants,” noted Will Maxwell, Maxwell Hardwood Flooring.

Traffic was steady at the Pinnacle Interior Elements booth, according to Brenda Cashion, vice president of operations. The company recently went through an expansive effort to rebrand itself.

“Customers have been taking a growing interest in what we’re doing. They are talking with us about comprehensive programs and we’re seeing much different attitudes. Also, our new displays have been a hit,” she said. 

Adding extensions to its popular Imagine and Sweet Memories lines, Mirage brought to NWFA products that reflect the most popular industry trends including textured and wire-brushed products. 

“We haven’t seen this many people in four or five years. The Canadian market is experiencing a shift in building and we’re happy with how things are going. We expect the second half of the year to be good,” said Luc Robitaille, vice president of sales and marketing at Boa Franc, maker of the Mirage brand. 

Mannington brought to the show its new Pecaya Mesquite product from its newly introduced Antigua collection. According to Dan Natkin, director of wood and laminate business at Mannington, while the year started off slow due to the weather, attendees at the show were optimistic and enthusiastic. 

“The show was great. We’ve seen more retailers here than in quite awhile,” he said.

Brian Greenwell, vice president of sales and marketing at Mullican said the show was particularly busy for the company this year. 

“Our Castillian line got a lot of play at the show this year. It’s on trend with current styles and colors. Everyone has been positive and we’re enthusiastic for the remainder of the year,” he said.  

Another big trend at the show was advanced finishes. For example, Mercier highlighted its new Pure Expressions finish which features a six to eight percent gloss level and easy maintenance. 

“Our Pure Expressions oil finish is new to Mercier and continues to grow in popularity,” said Michel Collin, director of marketing at Mercier Wood Flooring. “There is a good vibe in the industry that business is coming back.” 

Digitally printed cork
One product in particular that has been making great strides in growth and popularity within the wood segment is cork. A number of suppliers have upped their cork game and featured high-quality, stylish cork products at the show this year. 

Harris Wood said it is making a big push in cork this year as it modified its cork display and is working on a three tiered — good, better, best — Harris Cork program. 

“Cork is doing well. We’ve been seeing a significant increase in sales and popularity of cork,” said Renee Tester, product marketing and technical services manager at Q.E.P.

According to Ann Wicander, president, WE Cork, the idea behind the company’s custom printing process for cork has wowed customers. 

“The resolution and customization is great with the custom printing process on cork. The cork market is doing really well. Despite the weather we’re seeing a good increase in sales,” she said. 



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