It’s been just over 4 months since Floor Covering Weekly published its 2018 Statistical Report based on findings by Catalina Research. And as wrap-up the 2019 holiday season—and with show season just around the corner—there’s never been a better time for a state-of-the-flooring-industry recap.

Flooring sales trends

According to the report, manufacturer floor covering sales increased an estimated 5.7% in 2018, reaching $27.2 billion.

Industry growth, which was stronger than predicted, was largely due to a 20% increase in total floor covering import shipments throughout the second half of the year. 

This increase was likely an effort to beat the 10% tariff imposed on Chinese-sourced products in September 2018, and the looming threat of an additional 15% tariff which took effect in September of this year. 

Unfortunately, this boost in import shipments didn’t translate into overall sales totals. Demand for residential floor covering slowed due to a decline in existing home sales, which in turn affected replacement and builder markets. 

Luckily, commercial demand continued to boost sales as nonresidential construction spending increased by 4.6% in the second half of 2018.

Floor covering product trends

Vinyl, ceramic, and porcelain coverings were the only types of flooring to see growth in 2018; carpet, hardwood, laminate, and stone sales all decreased to various degrees throughout the year.

LVT was by far the most popular type of vinyl flooring as far as sales were concerned—it accounted for a whopping 12.6% of 2018’s total floor covering dollars (up from 9.4% in 2017). This growth was largely due to innovations in the rigid vinyl category and widespread consumer preference for waterproof flooring options

That being said, classic vinyl tile and vinyl sheet both saw increases as well, though not to the extent of LVT and LVP. And given vinyl’s recent surge, we’re hearing many of the best engineered wood flooring manufacturers promise laminate and even hardwood flooring options with water-resistant or waterproof capabilities in the near future (such as Mohawk’s RevWood).

Ceramic and porcelain tile were the other growth leaders, and the only coverings to gain market share in the face of LVT’s soaring popularity. These products’ design-forward visuals and competitive pricing—not to mention their waterproof qualities—seem to have given them a leg up on the competition. Innovations to combat the ongoing installer shortage—such as snap-together tile flooring—may have played a roll in the surface’s growth as well.

Interestingly, when it comes to tile, we’re seeing a trend towards larger formats and thinner porcelain panels—not just as floor coverings, but on walls, countertops, and in other applications as well.

Both LVT and tile manufacturers are taking advantage of their respective sectors’ growth by investing in domestic production. As of 2018, imported products accounted for roughly two-thirds of ceramic and porcelain tile’s $3.9 billion in sales—and Chinese-made flooring represents 85.4% of resilient flooring imports by price. 

Of course, those numbers could be higher than normal due to 2018’s well-founded fear of tariffs on Chinese imports. As of publication, tariffs are fixed at 25% for List 1, 2, and 3 products (which include certain types of floor coverings). 

And while carpet still accounts for the largest piece of the flooring pie, it’s a shrinking slice. Residential customers are moving away from wall-to-wall carpet in favor of hard surface products, though area rugs are holding onto their share of total sector sales. Google search terms such as “most durable wood flooring” and “best hardwood floor brand” have continued to increase in volume compared to previous years.

Area rug sales will likely continue to remain healthy as customers keep shifting towards hard flooring; those surfaces can sometimes necessitate soft flooring accents (especially in living rooms and bedrooms).

Looking ahead at the flooring industry

As we know, the growth rate of overalls sales slowed in the first half of this year due to weaker building and consumer markets. 

A decline in new housing construction and existing home sales led to less demand for residential floor coverings, resulting in some of the slowest growth since the market began to recover in 2010. 

However, despite a recent climb, mortgage rates are much lower than they were at this time last year. This led to a slight (.03%) overall increase in floor covering sales in October 2019. 

What this means for flooring retailers

The numbers have proved that luxury vinyl is no fad. Its popularity has shown no signs of slowing down, and manufacturers have dedicated millions of dollars to bringing production stateside. Make space for this game-changer in your showroom!

And speaking of showroom space, consider showcasing area rugs or peel-and-stick carpet tiles. While it’s easy enough for homeowners to pick them up anywhere—or order them online—they’re still worth a spot in your display. 

Customers replacing their carpets with hardwood coverings will want to soften their space. Why not catch their attention while they’re already focused on their floors?

And while the housing market hasn’t been booming as of late, those lower mortgage interest rates could very well spark people to sell their homes. The real estate market is a major barometer for the flooring industry, though not the only one.

About the report

Catalina Research provides in-depth market research on construction materials, building equipment, home furnishings, consumer products, industrial equipment, energy and infrastructure products, and other industries. 

For this report, Catalina compiled and analyzed data from the U.S. Department of Commerce, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and proprietary sources. Catalina Reports are used to evaluate a market’s growth prospects and profitability, investigate target markets, gauge the potential of new products, and uncover acquisition candidates.

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Broadlume's Associate Director of Content Marketing, Samuel is a former travel writer, English teacher, and semi-professional trivia host. When he’s not creating content, he can be found doing crosswords, drinking coffee, and petting the office dogs.

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