EU imports from China, by far the largest external supplier accounting for around 60 percent of total imports, were 16.0 million sqm in the 12 months to end November 2016, compared to 16.2 million sqm a year earlier and over 21 million sqm in 2012.
EU imports of wood flooring from tropical countries also declined again in 2017. EU flooring imports from tropical countries were 3.04 million sqm in the 12 months to end November 2016, compared to 3.68 million sqm a year earlier and 5.61 million sqm in 2012.
In the 12 months to November 2017, imports from Malaysia were two percent more than the same period the previous year. However, imports from Indonesia, Brazil, and Peru all fell by over 25 percent in the same period.
Laminate Flooring Losing Market Share
Much of the competitive pressure on real-wood flooring comes from the laminate flooring industry, which is large with sales figures dwarfing those of the parquet industry.
However, this sector is also now losing share in Europe to a range of non-wood flooring solutions such as luxury vinyl tiles, porcelain tiles, and products made of recycled materials and other renewables like bamboo and cork.
According to data released by the Association European Producers of Laminate Flooring, total European sales of laminate flooring were 346 million sqm in Europe in 2017, around one percent less than in 2016. Sales in Eastern Europe increased two percent to 128 million sqm.
However, this was insufficient to offset a decline in sales in Western Europe, by two percent to 218 million sqm.
European laminate flooring manufacturers are compensating for the decline in European consumption by increasing sales in other parts of the world, particularly North America and Asia.
Hardwood Flooring Colour Trends
The trend towards darker colours keeps growing and growing. It's been on the rise for the last decade.
Hardwood flooring continues to grow in popularity, and it is by far the preferred flooring type for homes. Ironically, this is followed by all sorts of products trying to mimic the look of hardwood flooring, regardless of whether it’s porcelain tile that looks like wood, engineered wood planks or a whole slew of other knock-offs.
Cool tones are strongly preferred. There is a strong move away from warmer tones and a preference towards browns that are more pure and cooler. Grey flooring has been on the rise. Over the last two to three years, it's obvious that more variations on the greys where people will blend in some browns for a grey/beige (or griege) look. White washes have also grown in popularity.
On the opposite extreme to dark, the second most popular floor choice is light—going natural. But the theme is a consistent one. There’s a preference to drown out the yellows and go for cooler tones. Hence those that are more up on the trends are going for the high grade and more environmentally friendly water borne polyurethane.