For the Interzum 99 the laminate flooring manufacturers presented a successful mixture of ideas. Warm dark colour tones are the trend - mahogany, cherry, and alder which, in part, display an occasional reddish tinge. In the new "aged wood design" these tones combine to produce an extremely graceful ambience of colour that is rich in contrasts. The décor gives the appearance of an old wood floor, marked through striae and various effects of wear and tear. Comfort and elegance are reflected in the colours. Parquet Imitations are already proving themselves to be classics. Predominant in this range are parquets in bamboo, 2-stave beech and oak. Reproductions in stone, in light as well as dark tones, were also presented at the Interzum.
EPLF - For more Quality
The recipe for the success of laminate floorings is an attractive design combined with a high degree of durability and a long life span. It is precisely the brand manufacturers who are constantly endeavouring to optimise the quality and usefulness of laminate floorings. The producers of leading brand names have amalgamated in the Association of European Laminate Flooring Producers (EPLF). The aim of the association is to create awareness on the market for quality in laminate floorings. Members of the EPLF can become only such companies, who commit themselves to high quality standards and have corresponding manufacturing experiences.
The EPLF was also the driving force behind the drawing up of the new European standard for laminate floorings, which was submitted in August 1998 as a European pre-standard and will be passed in the autumn of 1999. For the first time the criteria that are to be placed on a high quality, high standard laminate flooring are systematically listed in the EN 13329 - the title of the future standard. Quality will no longer be defined solely through the abrasion resistance factor but through numerous demands of quality such as withstanding forceful impact, resistance to stains, reaction to burning cigarettes, moving furniture about, maintaining its original state and much more. Thereby an end will finally be put to the much-quoted "Olympics of abrasion data ".
Pictograms create Sales Security
On the basis of the named criteria the standard defines the class demands which - illustrated by easily understood pictograms - are to appear on the packing of every product in the future. Through this more clarity and purchasing security will be created for the consumer. The class demands imposed in the residential/commercial spheres are divided into high, moderate and low usage. Bedrooms and guestrooms for example fall into the class of " low residential usage" (class 21), living rooms and dining rooms in the class of " medium residential usage" (class 22) and stairways and entrance halls in the class of "high residential usage" (class 23). Analogue to this is classification in the commercial area.
In the view of the EPLF, the EN 13329 will fundamentally change the "world" of laminate floorings. According to Ulrich Windmöller, the chairman of the EPLF: "The industry now has a unified standard of quality which makes it possible to distinguish between high quality and inferior products". The need for this will not least be dictated by the constant expansion of the offers on the market with the danger that the characteristics of usage of the different products on offer are poles apart: on the one hand products of quality on the other hand cheap offers.
Further Growth and Greater Price Pressures
Like many products laminate floorings are also subjected to the competition of rising prices. Following the boom-like development since the beginning of this decade of this still relatively young market, the first signs of saturation are now appearing. As a result of the increasing demand new production plants are emerging world-wide, the number of producers and also the trade structures are increasing - and with them the price pressures. Windmöller: "Seen globally there is still growth but the build-up of capacity exceeds the market potential many times over."
In 1997 the production of laminate floors reached a level of 100-120 million m2 in Europe. In 1998, according to the first survey of the EPLF, the volume produced by the European manufacturers was 120-150 million m2. It has been predicted that by the year 2000 this could exceed the 200 Million square metre mark. Nevertheless, in Germany (which has a market of approximately 35 Million m2) it appears that the times of two-figure thrusts of growth are past. This, the largest single market in Europe, is followed by Austria, France, Great Britain, the Netherlands and Switzerland, from the point of view of the export strong EPLF members. The market coverage of the EPLF in Europe is about 60 to 70 per cent.
The enterprise must find its course between the chances of market expansion on an international level and the downward pressure on prices through additional production capacity all over the world. In the future, more than ever before, subtly differentiated marketing will be demanded. With the EN 13329, in the face of the short history of the industry, an instrument has been created for the laminate flooring business with the help of which, by formulating standards for the sector, crisis developments like in the wall-to-wall carpet industry, as experienced in past decades, can hopefully be avoided. In this respect the EPLF believes it is entirely justified in further optimism even if in a subdued form.
Verband der Europäischen Laminatfußbodenhersteller e.V.
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