The Future of Flooring

Floors. Impactful yet often fade in the background when it comes to interiors. However, every year in September floors take centre stage at the Harrogate Flooring Show. There are so many different brands and products available from carpets to vinyl, not to mention the products which complement the flooring industry from blinds to carpet crushing machines. So, what has been happening in the flooring world and where are we heading?

What are the most noticeable changes when it comes to the retail market for floor coverings?

The value of the UK retail market for floor coverings has steadily declined since 2015. Although this decline is forecasted to pick up slightly, comparative to 2017 when the market was worth around 2.03 billion GBP, with concerns over a no-deal Brexit there is a degree of uncertainty and loss of confidence.

The market is saturated and has more potential sellers than buyers which creates a fiercer competition than previous years. There is also a competition for staff as there seems to be a shortage of skilled fitters. According to Interiors Monthly the cost of raw materials is also increasing. This could make it more difficult to keep product costs down which can result in retailers having to work to even tighter profit margins than before.

Chinese manufacturers may offer a solution to reduce production costs, as there seems to be an increased number of Chinese manufacturers such as Haima Carpet Corporation who produce over 10 million m 2 Axminster and Wilton carpet a year, and are keen to do business within the UK.

How is the industry impacted by digital changes?

Taking a digital approach is perhaps more important than ever. From flooring estimating software to space visualisers, becoming more digital can save time and money and create that highly coveted competitive edge. The flooring industry in general was initially slow to adopt, especially when it comes to digital marketing, however we see many smaller businesses catching up says Mike Hammond at Computers 4 Flooring. Search Engine Optimisation, Lead Conversion, Content Production and Distribution are just a few aspects of Marketing that are becoming critical for the success (if not survival) of any company, regardless of size.

Above Freetail showcases its product visualiser.

Digital technology has also impacted on the products that are available. Ever more sophisticated printing methods result in more detailed images, which in the case of wood effect floors means that they become very difficult to tell apart from their real wood counterparts. Fine detail digital printing has benefited flooring products by imitating stone or offering alternatives such as geometric patterns. Finally, technology changes allow for the creation of different format products, for example dry back or loose lay.

What tends to be most important to customers in terms of flooring?

Miriam Hall, Senior Retail Marketing Executive at Karndean suggests that many customers seek to install flooring themselves, which makes the ease of installation an important attribute of floor coverings, not just for professionals but also for the domestic buyer as well. (Picture shows Karndean Looselay Installation which is fast and easy to fit.)

She adds, that durability and ease of cleaning also rank highly when it comes to deciding on flooring products.

Lastly of course we need to mention the importance of design, however that tends to be the most subjective both in terms of when it comes to choosing a design and deciding on how important it is in relation to other attributes.

If we look at the industry from an environmental perspective, in recent years the demand for environmentally friendly products has increased. Whether they are produced using environmentally friendly materials, methods or waste being recycled, the sustainability is key.

What flooring designs are expected to be most popular?

Overall, pastel colours and various shades of grey are predicted to remain the most popular. This applies to carpets, vinyl, laminate and wood floors.

The dominant theme of 2018: ‘bringing nature indoors’ is expected to go from strength to strength within both domestic and commercial markets says Miriam Hall.

The three main consumer and design trends identified by Scarlet Opus Trend forecasting agency, are Wabi-sabi, ECO 2.0 – Nature Knows Best and Clarity. Laura Greenwood Creative Designer and Trend Forecaster and Laura Trowsdale Trend Researcher outline what these trends actually mean.

Above: Karndean display from the show – Bringing Nature Indoors

The Clarity Trend

ECO 2.0 – Nature Knows Best Trend

The Imperfect Beauty Trend

Wabi-Sabi or Imperfect beauty is centred around finding beauty in imperfections and repairing them with precious materials.
This trend encompasses a lot of metallics and shimmering materials and warm earthy tones. (See the living space on the right.)

ECO 2.0 – Nature Knows Best brings together our need for technology but at the same time tranquillity and nature. The colour palette here is soft pastels and candy colours mixed with the green of nature.

The Clarity trend developed as a response to our constant consumption of information. We are exposed to it more than ever, so the need to create tranquility and calm our minds is increasing. Well-being is a key concept surrounded by tones such as soft earthy colours and natural materials dominate.

How do these trends translate into the design of floor coverings? Large loop pile carpets are becoming more popular along with the various shades of oak, from greys to light browns. The perfect imperfection trend is reflected in more and more customers preferring flooring that looks natural. This includes the imperfections of the wood (whether real or imitation) such as holes and knots.

What about the industries that surround flooring?

Flooring of course ties in with many aspects of interior design from furniture and soft furnishings, which we tend to hear a lot about. However, one of the less often mentioned branches of interiors is blinds. A soft furnishing, but not quite. Many retailers offer both blinds and flooring making it easy for customers to bring the décor together. Additionally, offering complementary services and products can create a competitive edge when fighting for customers.

Gary Millican the MD of the manufacturer and supplier of luxury blinds Rol-Lite Blinds, explains the current and emerging trends for the blinds industry. There are definite similarities in terms of the blinds and flooring markets. Digital printing is getting more and more emphasis, offering more unique products and making synthetic manmade materials look natural.

In terms of colour trends for blinds greys seem to dominate everywhere, not just when it comes to textiles but also systems as well. Surprisingly this colour trend even translates to window frames adds Gary.

Plain designs are still the most popular, which resonates with the “Clarity” theme. Similarly to floors, geometric patterns are expected to grow in popularity, which ties in with the earlier mentioned “Nature Knows Best” theme. All of this indicate that there are some definite parallels that can be drawn between the blind and flooring industries.

And if we look even further ahead? – 2020

Although it isn’t a secret as such, I have coaxed Laura from Scarlet Opus to share just a little bit of information with me. One of the key influences on design will relate to the 2020 Olympics in Japan.

Here are the main points we collated:

• The UK floor covering market has shrunk and there are more sellers than buyers, which could be a reflection of the current economic uncertainty.
• There seems to be a general fitter shortage.
• Digital technology will continue to impact on the industry. Both in terms of product design and development and the way we do business
• The ease of fitting (regardless of who fits the products) is one of the most important product attributes along with durability
• Greys are predicted to continue to be the most popular colour of choice, not just for flooring but for soft furnishings as well
• Nature and wellbeing will continue to be an important influence on interior design

Post by Petra

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