Following an invitation from Unilin, the latest meeting of members of the EPLF European Producers of Laminate Flooring was held in the beautiful Belgium city Bruges. The Board was unanimously re-elected at the meeting as follows: Ludger Schindler (MeisterWerke) was voted back in as EPLF President and 1st chairman of the board; his deputy and therefore 2nd chairman of the board is Martin Prager (Kronotex). Volkmar Halbe (Parador) and Dr. Theo Smet (Unilin) also join the board as the re-elected representatives of the Marketing and Technology Committees.
Association President Ludger Schindler welcomed the Austrian firm Neuhofer Holz, a provider of profiles and fastening systems, Ewifoam from Kronach (Germany), a manufacturer of foam materials, and Glatfelter from Gernsbach (Germany), a supplier of special papers and composites to Bruges as new extraordinary member companies. The association now comprises 21 ordinary and 27 extraordinary member companies. The ordinary members include manufacturers of laminate flooring, while extraordinary members are supplier companies from the laminate flooring industry (decorative papers, machines, skirting boards etc.).
One key point on the agenda at the meeting was the economic situation within the European laminate flooring sector which, given the ongoing economic crisis, is still considered tense. While Western Europe has stagnated at a moderate level, drastic falls in sales have been recorded in Eastern Europe. The drop between 2009 and 2010 in Russia alone was more than 13 percent. Several people however confirmed that we are slowly getting through the worst and that things are improving on the Eastern European market. Trends on the North American and Asian continents, both of which are recording positive sales growth, are good to see. The highest level of growth is however in South Africa, possibly thanks to the World Cup in June 2010.
The association's work is currently focusing on numerous standardisation activities at CEN and ISO level, ongoing observation of the market and statistics and promotion of laminate flooring. While EPLF is continuing to put a lot of work into a drum sound standard for laminate flooring, it submitted a draft standard for loose underlay materials to the CEN in Brussels at the start of 2010. Since the improper laying of underlay materials is a recurring source of complaints for the industry, this is an important step towards a standard system of organisation and evaluation. Alongside the ISO standard for laminate flooring which is to be passed towards the end of 2011, in the future the association will also be working on an ISO standard for healthy, safety and the environment. This will require a lot of work.
EPLF plans campaign with German “Schüler-VZ”
In terms of marking, positioning laminate flooring as a distinct product away from other types of flooring, such as vinyl, is increasing in importance all the time. EPLF handles the continual flow of PR work for the association and its member companies and is already focusing on children and young people, tomorrow's potential customers. In the autumn of 2010, the federation will be launching a campaign with the German Internet platform “Schüler-VZ”, to which EPLF is contributing its know-how and contacts. Trainees from various manual professions will work together under the motto "We are renovating a school" – to do just that. The campaign is being supported by “Schüler-VZ” and various print and TV media. EPLF will provide the general public with details of the project in good time.
In addition to the Working Groups, the focus of the EPLF meetings is always on specialist information from member companies. There were two presentations in Bruges, both offering interesting approaches to market development. Hongfan Li, chief editor of China Wood International, informed the EPLF members of the current trends on the Chinese market and Patrick Mijnals from the Matthias Horx Zukunftsinstitut spoke on the topic of "Lifestyles in 2020 – social change and new target groups." He explained to the audience tiger ladies, super daddies and super grannies and certainly raised a few smiles. Mijnals believes that different lifestyles will also result in different housing setups which will require a number of new approaches to innovative flooring solutions.
The EPLF meeting in Bruges closed with plenty of new ideas and impressions. It goes without saying that participants also took in the beauty of this idyllic small city in north-west Belgium. After all, they couldn't miss out on the setting of the famous black comedy: In Bruges. . .
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