Despite a difficult trading environment in the laminate flooring market, 2003 has developed positively, according to the European Laminate Flooring Association (EPLF) in Bielefeld, Germany. This applied to export markets as well as for home German market. Association members sold some 190 million square metres of laminate flooring in the first two quarters of 2003 worldwide. This is around 25% more than the same period in 2002. After a short summer lull, business improved strongly at the end of the year, giving the EPLF an estimated total sales figure in 2003 of nearly 400 million square metres. This represents a significant increase over the previous year, which recorded sales of 334 million square metres.
North America and Canada yielded very healthy sales growth in 2003. However, Europe remains the most important market. Britain, France, the Netherlands, Spain and Italy showed very good growth rates, but the largest sales increases were achieved in Eastern European; specifically the Baltic states, Russia, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Croatia.
This trend is not new, but has increased enormously in 2003. The German market also showed positive growth throughout 2003. With estimated sales of 63 million square metres, there was an increase of 7% compared with the previous year (59 million square metres), showing that focused marketing in Germany, the largest European market, can generate further sales gains.
The EPLF represents the leading European laminate flooring manufacturers. The association has 21 ordinary members, i.e. manufacturers of laminate flooring, from 11 European countries. The association sees itself as a platform for the exchange of opinions and experiences of the producers of laminate flooring and their supplier industries. These suppliers are represented as associate members of the association and cover a wide range of woodworking material manufacturers, paper producers, décor printers, impregnators and machine manufacturers. Alveo AG (Lucerne/Switzerland) joined as new member in 2003. The number of associate members stands at 31, plus five support members (institutes or well known personalities in the industry).
Statistics in the spotlight
Much useful detail work was the centre point of the activities of the EPLF in 2003. The core task of the marketing committee is the continued production of sales statistics based on the information contained in quarterly sales surveys and the twice-yearly industry performance monitor, then the comparison of these figures with the capacity estimates from machine producing members and suppliers’ estimates. Ralf Eisermann, ELPF board member and chief of the marketing committee states, “This is the basis for valid market information for our members, a true service of a well managed industrial association”.
A further keynote in 2003 was the marketing of the association at international exhibitions. In addition to “Domotex”, the EPLF generated close media contacts with “Swissbau” in Basle, Switzerland, “Construmat” in Barcelona, Spain and
“Bygg Reis-Deg” in Oslo, Norway. In Shanghai, China, the EPLF was represented for the first-time as a part of the German government involvement in “Domotex Asia/Chinafloor” backed by a broad publicity campaign in Asian trade magazines and a speech at the laminate symposium, which received a very good response. Through its members, the EPLF appears on a regular basis at one of the most important American flooring exhibitions (SURFACES, Las Vegas), where contacts with the American sister association (NALFA) are maintained and developed.
PR and Public activities are always a major topic for the EPLF. After “Impact Features”, the key theme for 2003, promotion in 2004 will concentrate on new and unique features of laminate flooring - a hot topic for everybody in the industry. The public relations work in 2004 will commence under the headline “Sensual Surfaces - new surfaces for new laminate flooring made from timber, tiles or natural stone”. The target audience is the international press and trade magazines, followed by a complete 2004 re-launch of the international web page. The association will also participate in a programme of lectures at the international laminate flooring congress in Berlin, which takes place from the 19th to 22nd of April 2004. Experts from the EPLF support groups will report on the tasks, targets and structures of the association and the current challenges within the laminate flooring market.
News also from the technical committee within EPLF: Early in 2003 the EPLF had, in co-operation with industry and other institutes, developed a programme for the creation of norms for measuring drumming sound. This establishes how drumming generated by walking on a laminate flooring can be measured and evaluated. The loudness of noise is evaluated in Sone-values, which are integrals of the curve of the specific loudness in relationship to the critical width. These Sone-values are absolute and linear figures, which can be compared with each other and thus represent an objective evaluation method. With a few tests still to be undertaken, the process for establishment of the standards will shortly commence at the ISO offices in Vienna.
All EPLF-members have agreed to measure the drumming sound of laminate floorings by using the technique described in this new draft and also to amend their publicity accordingly. This measure is intended to avoid conflicting messages given on product packages, brochures and catalogues. The draft is available in English to any interested party. It can be ordered from the EPLF office at email@example.com.
“Tension and Compression Forces” Working Group
Another working group within EPLF looks at the ways in which tension and compression forces affect the dry tongued and grooved joints of installed laminate flooring. The influences of changes in climate can be determined and evaluated more accurately with knowledge of the physical rules behind them. On a European level, the EPLF is working on a harmonization standard for product usage in the building industry, where flooring belongs. Within the framework of these efforts a minimal standard for fire resistance of laminate flooring could be developed. Internationally, the association is part of all ISO committees working towards the development of a world standard for laminate flooring. The EPLF is financing the work of this ISO committees chaired by the Swedish flooring specialist Peter Ringö.
Summing up, 2003 was a year of many challenges for the market and the industry. Some of these will be overcome and others will remain tasks to be dealt with in future. The EPLF is there to deal will these matters and is looking optimistically to the future.
Market Development Graph
EPLF members list