Each year in May, laminate flooring manufacturers affiliated to the EPLF and their suppliers assemble for the Association’s Ordinary Members’ Conference. At the invitation of Egger, the conference took place this time against the panoramic mountain backdrop of picturesque Kitzbühel in Austria.
At the conference, the Association’s leadership was unanimously elected to office: Ludger Schindler (MeisterWerke) remains in post as Chairman of the Board and EPLF President, with Martin Prager (Kronotex) re-appointed as his Deputy Theo Smet (Unilin) was also re-elected as Coordinator of the Technology Committee. There was a change in the Market and Image Committee, which was previously led by Ralf Eisermann. The new Chairman is Volkmar Halbe (Parador), who – like Theo Smet – received a unanimous vote. Both are members of the EPLF Board. The EPLF’s new auditor is Stefan Pletzer (Egger), succeeding Johannes Schulte, who has held the post for many years.
Ludger Schindler welcomed a number of companies to Kitzbühel as new Associate Members: Hartmann Druckfarben – Printing Colours (Niedernhausen/Germany), Leuco – Tools (Horb am Neckar/Germany), Sealed Air – Packaging (Aneby/Sweden) and Selit Dämmtechnik – Insulating Technology (Erbes-Büdesheim/Germany).
As well as working on standardization at the CEN and ISO level and carrying out continuous monitoring of the market, the Association’s current focus is on the issue of "Sustainability". Not only does this dominate the work of the Technology Committee, with a representative of the committee currently intensely involved in the development of an Environmental Product Declaration for the B2B sector with the CEN/TC 134, but it also influences the Association’s communications in respect of end users. As the internet now stands alongside specialist suppliers and DIY stores as an increasingly important source of information for customers, the Association will shortly be setting up a laminate portal, which is specifically aimed at the end user and will pick up on topics such as "Decor Ideas" and "Drum Sound" as well as “Tips on Installation and Care" and in particular the “Environmental Impact” of the product. The project is headlined “Naturally Laminate!”
The property market business continues to remain a focus for the EPLF: in future, the Association is to take part in Contractworld – the special show dedicated to architecture and interior design at Domotex – at two-year intervals with a joint exhibition stand for its member companies. Up until now, the exhibition stand has received an excellent response from the trade audience, with more than 1,500 visitors coming onto the stand in 2008 to find out about the latest trends in laminate flooring for the property development sector.
Current sales figures from manufacturers affiliated to the EPLF indicate that it is still too soon to forecast results for 2008. Western European markets are posting a slight upturn, while Eastern European markets continue to grow. Russia and Poland head the rankings, although the new EU member states are also enjoying exceptional growth.
As well as looking at the current activities of the committees and the administration, the emphasis at EPLF conferences is as ever to draw on expert information for the benefit of member companies. For example, at Kitzbühel two presentations were given, which provided in-depth expert information and new insights to support companies in their marketing activities.
Julia Goercke, a graduate engineer at the Textile & Flooring Institute in Aachen (Germany), spoke on the subject of “Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) – Does the laminate industry need them?” In her presentation, she graphically illustrated how the environmental balance – from production through to disposal – will in future develop into a key competitive factor within the entire European construction industry.
Dr. Hanne Meyer-Hentschel, proprietor of the market research institute of the same name, raised the issue that “Not all customers are young – Opportunities in the 50+ growth market” in her presentation. The Institute which is based in Saarbrücken specializes in the senior marketing sector. The numbers and facts which Meyer-Hentschel presented demonstrate that the over 50s represent a target group with huge purchasing power, which companies could attract and retain for many years to come. To round off her presentation, the “Age Explorer” was introduced: a special suit which enables the wearer to experience the physical impact of the ageing process at first hand. EPLF President Ludger Schindler bravely volunteered to try it out.