The Rise and Fall of the Wood Flooring Industry In America

Like many other trades in the United States, the wood flooring industry has seen its share of ups and downs over the last decade. Wood flooring business surged from 2002 to 2006, but this thriving domestic market was also facing the pressures of increasing imports and price wars.

Key Year for Wood Flooring

Imports claimed nearly half of the American wood flooring market in 2007, up from just one third of the market five years earlier. Domestic manufacturers tried to keep pace with shifts in American preferences – demand for exotic wood and eco friendly products like cork and bamboo was rising – but continued to lose ground against the purchasing power of larger retailers and wholesalers.

Several foreign suppliers established a presence in the US market, with China claiming top spot for importers. Relatively inexpensive materials and low wages in China allowed importers to offer wood flooring at lower prices. China’s market share increased in 2007, partly at the expense of other importers and partly at the expense of US wood flooring suppliers.

Recession Hits

The North American economy sunk at the end of 2007, taking the housing market along for a ride. The wood flooring industry felt the effects as well, with many retailers and contractors closing their doors during the Great Recession.

Experts state that the recession ended in mid-2009, although the wood flooring industry did not see significant recovery until 2010. The annual National Wood Flooring Associations survey, sent to domestic manufacturers and distributors in January of last year, reported increases in sales and confidence for 2010. Many respondents reported that price increases over the last two years have hurt their businesses, while more than half of NWFA members included in the survey stated that big box stores have affected their business.

It was clear that the wood flooring industry moved forward in 2010, recovering somewhat from the recession in late 2009. Most businesses saw steady numbers throughout 2011, with increased competition, unpaid receivables and Chinese imports remaining the top concerns in the industry.

Performance in 2011

It’s early for hard numbers on the 2011 year, but some information can be gathered on growth and challenges found in the wood flooring industry.

New homes sales hit a record low in February of 2011, while the sales of existing homes continued to decline in the same period. This bad news keeps a tight clamp on any improvements felt in the flooring industry.

The wood flooring industry is currently engaged in an interior battle over import duties on Chinese engineered wood flooring products. Major US engineered wood flooring manufacturers are demanding import duties be applied to Chinese imports, while a group of distributors, importers and retailers are fighting that move in an effort to save their businesses.

Although the courts will decide this matter, no matter what the outcome the wood flooring industry in America will be forever changed. This industry has come a long way, from a surging market, through a deep recession and into the recovery stage, with quality products and qualified installers leading the way.