The laminate flooring industry continues fighting Slight upward trends since the middle of 2009
18 January 2010
2009 certainly wasn’t an easy year for the European laminate flooring industry. The situation in companies was characterised by falls in sales and reduced working hours. The impact of the global economic crisis on the laminate flooring industry was just as severe as in many other sectors. As a result, the total sales generated by laminate flooring manufacturers in the EPLF in 2009 fell below those of the previous year. But the sector seems to have broken its downward trend, as the association has observed slight upward trends in various European markets since the middle of 2009.
While the Western European market remained relatively stable during the crisis, Eastern Europe recorded dramatic falls in sales. Individual countries such as Poland, Rumania and Russia, which were still thriving at the start of 2008, seem to be recovering slowly. But we’ll have to wait and see whether this trend continues.
Germany is and remains the single largest market in Western Europe, followed by France, the UK and the Netherlands. Turkey, which is included in EPLF statistics for Europe, is recording growth in sales. But this is primarily due to 2009 being the first year in which sales for the two new Turkish EPLF member companies, Yildiz Entegre and Yildiz Sunta MDF, were recorded in the statistics. As expected, the Spanish market saw a drop in sales during the construction and real estate crisis.
Meanwhile, the industry plans to boost business through investments in design and development. The new laminate flooring that will be presented at appropriate trade fairs at the start of 2010 features some unique looks. White and grey are on everyone’s lips. Bleached, leached and stained wood and stone decors are the trendsetters. Many creative decors feature impressive individual motifs. They reflect consumers’ growing interest in design-inspired environments and the desire to put an individual signature on a room or building. The fast-growing property business, where laminate flooring is popular, especially in public housing and healthcare, is playing a key role in this respect.
Focussing on sustainability
Sustainability remains a hot topic on the laminate flooring market.
Consumers not only have higher expectations in terms of design quality and aesthetics, but also in terms of eco-friendliness. That’s why the EPLF was one of the first industry associations to develop environmental declarations for laminate flooring – so-called EPDs – in collaboration with the German Research Institute for Flooring Systems and the German Institute of Construction and Environment. EPDs have been available since the middle of 2009. These are a key decision-making aid for architects and planners and are included in the sustainability assessments for buildings. Several European countries now have certification systems for residential and public buildings.
The EPLF’s laminate portal (www.mylaminate.eu), which went online in January 2009 and has since received visitors from all over the world, is a key factor in this context. Here, consumers can find a multitude of information about the environment, care, laying, decors, sound insulation, prices and much more.
The EPLF is also active on an international level, participating in the committees responsible for producing an ISO standard for laminate flooring. After being completed in 2008, an initial draft standard with some notes was officially adopted last year as a “new work item” in the ISO committees. If the notes were implemented, a final vote will taken on the draft. The draft for the ISO standard builds on the European laminate flooring standard EN 13329 in a number of points and covers all common types of laminate floor production. It not only takes into account flooring with a melamine resin surface, but also directly and digitally printed flooring, electron beam-cured flooring, and flooring held together by glue-free connection systems.
Draft standard for underlay materials drawn up
Following just one year of intensive work in the CEN/ TC 134, the Technology Committee of the EPLF also submitted a draft standard for underlay materials at the end of 2009. Because laminate flooring is usually laid to be floating, the underlay materials form part of the flooring system and often provide sufficient grounds for complaint if the flooring is laid incorrectly. The draft standard provides detailed information about dimensions, mechanical and thermal features, sound, fire and emissions properties, resistance to humidity and durability. It refers exclusively to loosely laid underlay materials and not to insulating materials integrated in laminate flooring.
The EPLF has been involved in the subject of drum sound for several years. Despite the involvement of a number of experts in the industry, it is extremely difficult to register. In 2009, a working draft for a standard was completed, in which the selected sound generation method which uses an impact hammer was described in detail. The specifications put forward in this draft are currently being tested and refined in the best European test institutes. However, the entire process is far from complete.
In addition to statistical findings, the Market and Image Committee focuses on promoting the image of laminate flooring. Public Relations in 2009 and 2010 are very much focussing on the sustainability of laminate flooring and the benefits it provides over other floor coverings. The EPLF is also planning a project for 2010, which is to involve young people in particular with laminate flooring. Schoolchildren in art courses or other project groups are to develop their own laminate flooring in cooperation with EPLF member companies. Social media will ensure that the project receives the necessary attention.
2010 is sure to bring with it a multitude of exciting tasks and challenges, which the European laminate flooring industry will face up to with strategic professionalism and creative fighting spirit.
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