In the beginning of 2011, EPLF announced: The laminate flooring industry is back on track. One year later, the association can only confirm this statement: The laminate flooring markets have been further stabilised and continue to offer great sales opportunities. Western Europe has found its equilibrium at comparably high levels and the Eastern European market shows consolidation tendencies also. “We are not bursting with joy, but we can be content,” concludes EPLF president Ludger Schindler in December 2011. Even though new floor coverings continue to be put on the market, laminate flooring is always able to assume a dominant role.
The European laminate flooring industry, which is frequently on everyone’s lips due to its new developments, is characterised by its innovative strength and technological know-how. “Extreme Surfaces” is the seasonal topic that one will find at the relevant industry fairs of 2012. With modern print methods, such as Embossed-in-Register and digital printing, the colors of surfaces are altered and gain never-before achieved levels of authenticity.This also lends a boost to stone decors, which are always slightly less popular with the consumers. Creative decors continue to be the domain of laminate flooring manufacturers, who intensely work with digital printing. Not everyone desires to enter this product segment; this decision depends on the strategic orientation of each company.
With the Woodflooring Summit, an ideal forum is given to the large number of new developments in the industry. “The focus of the hardfloor segment at Domotex will be a new driving force of the industry”, says Volkmar Halbe, head of EPLF’s Market and Image Committee. The association has been supportive of this idea of the Deutsche Messe AG from the beginning and agreed on it amongst its members. The great exhibitor feedback of the laminate and parquet flooring manufactures at the Woodflooring Summit speaks for itself.
Standardisation work on all fronts
The member companies’ achievements in research and development are supported by the association’s continuous standardisation work in Brussels (CEN) and Geneva (ISO). In 2011, a large project of the Technical Committee included a contribution to the revision of EN 14041, the so-called CE-Norm. The goal is to revise the standard in respect to the integration of ecological parameters, such as VOC- threshold levels. VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) are fleeting organic bonds that can be found in all building products and are emitted into the air. The revision is based on the existing legal guidelines pertaining to VOC-threshold levels, which is rooted in the approval procedures of the building inspectorates. The process as a whole has not yet been concluded. However, the development of a system to represent emission levels on product packaging has made great progress. The revised draft standard is to be released by the end of 2012.
Finally, the work on the ISO standard for laminate floorings, in which more than 20 countries worldwide are involved, continues to move forward. It is important to European manufacturers that the system of performance classifications found in ISO draft standard EN 13329 is included and updated in the ISO standard.
Market study, hot topic 2011
Image and communication are topics that have always been intensely dealt with by the Markets and Image Committee. The focus of 2011 was on the planning and implementation of a market study, analysing the image that the consumers of the three typical core markets Germany, France and Poland have of laminate flooring. For this project, EPLF cooperated with Deutsche Messe AG as the initiator of the Woodflooring Summit at Domotex 2012. The study confirms that laminate floors are popular with the consumers of all three countries, while architects have a more critical attitude towards the product, especially in Germany. An important result of the study is also that consumers are becoming more and more aware of the quality of laminate floors, which is also reflected in their willingness to spend more money on them. This is on par with the goals of EPLF and its member companies, since increased quality awareness adds value to the product’s perception, which further promotes the image of laminate flooring.
In addition to the statistical analyses among the members, the focus of the Committee is also on the provision of targeted expert information to EPLF member companies. This includes information on markets and products, the association’s policy, economic law, future developments and much more. In 2012, a mood barometer of the EPLF member companies will be developed once again to gauge the developmental trends of the coming years.
EPLF is sure that the success story of laminate flooring will be continued. This is confirmed by the recent market study and the 2011 sales figures. In a nutshell: The markets are on track.
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