The good news first: Laminate flooring business – it’s booming! Generating worldwide sales of 479 million m², EPLF European Producers of Laminate Flooring, has recorded 2010 as the second best year in its history. With roughly 500 Mio. m², only 2007, the year before the crisis, was more successful. “ 2010 went better than expected. Not all markets are developing equally well at this point in time, but the upward trend is easily recognisable,” says EPLF president Ludger Schindler. The industry is back!
On the traditional western European core markets of the manufacturers who are organised in EPLF, overall growth is rather moderate. Germany remains the largest single market, followed by Turkey – which is counted to Western Europe for EPLF statistics – France, Great Britain and the Netherlands. Sales figures in Eastern Europe are rising just as rapidly as they fell in the year of the crisis 2009. Poland, Russia and Romania, the most potent Eastern European markets, are almost back to pre-crisis levels. But there is also an upwind in the United States. EPLF member companies with production sites there are up-to-par with American companies. In Asia, selected markets such as Israel or Iran, are performing well. Growth is even possible in China – though only in the high-quality domain.
The European laminate flooring industry is planning on boosting business with investments in design and development. Thanks to the continuous development of new printing technologies, the new laminate floors, which will be showcased at the relevant industry fairs in early 2011, are characterised by unique designs. „Pure structure“ is the seasonal topic – surfaces are etched, bleached, stained or leached. The focus is on both light, elegant wooden decors, such as ash tree and elm tree, as well as rustic looks in oak or walnut. The woods are often visually altered with greyish-white colours, creating the popular, typical old-wood design. Digitally printed, creative designs that create new furnishing ideas with abstract motives are currently on the rise. Here, the popular grey-white theme also plays an important role. However, with a completely different implementation than in wood or stone, e.g. as an offset white stripe design on a crème coloured background.
Standardisation works on all fronts
The association accompanies the corporations’ achievements in research and development with constant standardisation work in Brussels (CEN) and Geneva (ISO). The draft standard for underlay materials, which was created in record time in 2009, is well on its way to becoming an EN-standard. The draft describes the requirements and testing methods for loose underlay materials of laminate floors and creates a uniform evaluation system for this crucial part of the floor. Drum sound continues to be a topic in the focus of EPLF’s work: By now, the draft standard has been submitted at CEN-level and it looks as though it will become valid for the laminate flooring industry.
Furthermore, a revision of the harmonised standard EN 14041 regarding the identification of VOC-emissions is also planned. The foundation for this are the existing regulations of VOC thresholds, which are based on the German technical approval procedures. At last, the work on the ISO standard for laminate flooring, in which more than 20 countries are involved world wide, is making enormous progress. It was important for the European manufacturers that the system, including the performance classification, was adopted and updated from EN 13329 for the ISO standard. EPLF supported this vehemently. However, there are many more projects at CEN level, to which the EPLF is contributing in the respective committees. Topics, such as “fine particulate matter in the indoor environment” are dealt with here.
Image and communication are topics that have always had a permanent place in the Markets and Image Committee and are intensively cultivated there. For 2011, the association plans a large-scale market study, targeting end users, the trade and/or architects. The goal is to find out how the image of laminate flooring is currently represented on the market. Furthermore specialized information for the EPLF member companies stands in the focus of the working group. This concerns market and product informations, association policy, commercial law, future research and much more.
One can look forward to all the other plans and implementations lined up for 2011. The “Woodflooring Summit“ is definitely a top-topic and will be organised in a two year cycle by Hanover Fair at Domotex, starting in 2012. A high-impact presentation of the European laminate flooring and parquet industry and its suppliers is planned in a central venue at the fair, embedded into a modern design concept, framed by an exciting supporting programme and accompanied by concentrated marketing and PR-measures. The laminate flooring industry has a very positive attitude towards this project and EPLF has promised its full support to Hannover Messe. Thus, the year 2012 is already beginning to cast its shadows!
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