The season of European fairs is launched, starting with Germany that in January has given hospitality to Domotex (wooden floor) in Hannover and the IMM showroom (furniture) in Cologne. These fairs have provided different indications on the perspectives, in the European wood market, for the next year.
German fairs have become more and more influent in the course of the years, since the centre of the European timber production has moved from southern and western to the northern and oriental countries; furthermore German industries have in these years established a extraordinary reputation as innovating leaders of products in wood and other materials.
Both of these fairs have underlined that at the moment there is a meaningful hindrance for tropical wood suppliers that look forward to increasing market shares in Europe. In fact the market is characterised by an increasing number of suppliers that offer a growth of productivity varieties, searching to increas market demand that, on the other hand, expands very slowly.
Wood is constantly put under pressure from materials “not-wood”. In the case where wood is preferred, the home producers dominate, with a definite preference for local species (in particular oak that represents nearly 80% of the European wooden floor production). On the other hand, the fairs have also underlined a tendency in the European market that potentially is able to offer important new opportunities for products in tropical wood. Desire of products that are “natural”, “authentic” and “particular”, supported by a strong “narrative” is able to result a benefit for producers and suppliers of tropical wood.
While durmast and oak remain dominant, the European buyers and producers are constantly searching for something new and distinct to get market advantage.
Producers of EU floors increase their market shares
The market trend that appears as a background for the Domotex 2017, held in Hannover from the 12th to the 15th of January, is shown in figure no.1 and shows that the home UE trade of wood flooring has grown uninterruptedly from December 2013. This has happened, in some way, for the improved consumption of wood floorings in the UE and, on the other hand, for the increasing role played by production establishments at low cost, in the oriental European countries, in furnishing wooden parquet to other European countries.
In the meantime, the big default in the UE commerce of wooden floors, that opened up to the market before the financial crisis, determined by the property bubble and from an invasion of asian products, has reduced drastically in recent years. Efforts of European producers to improve the competitiveness through innovation of products and of the marketing, encouraged by the relative weakness of the Euro and of other European currencies in comparison with the American dollar, have contributed in the last year to increase the UE exports of wooden floors towards other countries in the world.At the same time, the imports from outside the UE contest have continued to decrease in 2016. The biggest part of the decline of these imports is creditable to the trade drop with China, the biggest external UE supplier, representing about 60% of the total imports. The UE imports of wooden floors from China were about 16 million square-meters in the 12 months preceding November 2016, comparing with the 17.4 million square-meters in the year before and over 21 million square-meters in 2012.
Even the UE imports of wooden flooring from the tropical countries have decreased in these years (Fig. 2). Imports from Indonesia, until November 2016 were 1.16 million square-meters comparing with the 1.4 million of the year before. Imports from Malaysia during the same period pass from 1.31 million to 0.94 million square-meters during the same period. Data is particularly meaningful in the Indonesian perspective. In fact, it represents the deadline on which the immediate impact of the FLEGT licence system can be judged. The first FLEGT licenses have been issued around November and it will be interesting to surveillance if the tendential decrease of the UE imports from Indonesia can be inverted.
Evident increase of visitors at Domotex
The intense and expanding European Union competitiveness in this sector is evident through the numbers of Domotex 2017: 1409 exhibitors coming from more than 60 countries. The fair has had a notable success this year with a considerable increment of exhibitors, expository reserved space and with an even more higher percentage of foreign exhibitors and visitors comparing with the preceding edition. About 70% of the DOMOTEX visitors this year came from out of Germany, with the biggest part (43%) deriving from other EU countries. The total number of visitors has slightly decreased comparing with the preceding years, but with a meaningful increase of visitors deriving from the Middle East (+9%) as well as from oriental and central Asia (+16%). United States and UK visitors have increased too.
A section of potentially interesting innovations of the sector has been provided by the prestigious Innovations@Domotex, a selected showcase of products, chosen by a jury of experts in design, architecture, media and internal design. Choices testify the strong interest in bearable planning and a preference for natural products, where texture, materials, forms and surfaces take starting points from nature.
Sustainability, a strong theme in the floor design
The sustainability has been a strong theme through all the fair, with more and more manufactures willing to communicate the origin of the woods used, through forest certification and other mechanisms. Flooring producers that use other materials are exploiting the green image of wood. Very strong the presence of laminates and industrial floorings that surface aspect are so perfectly natural to result hardly distinguishable from the real wood floorings.
Like in the preceding years, the wood flooring in exposure in DOMOTEX 2017 is strongly oriented towards oak that had been presented in a wide variety of colours, textures and finishing touches. However, some producers tried to differentiate from the competition offering new kinds of wood.
Particularly encouraging for the tropical wood, the fact that two Peruvian producers were present at the showcase of Innovations@DOMOTEX. The press in DOMOTEX underlined the strong sustainability credentials of the two Peruvian companies, Amaz Floors and Maderera Río Acre. All of their wood drifts from FSC certified forests in Peru and the firms also guarantee the reduction of deforestation and deterioration issues (REDD) through VCS and CCB standards. Wood standards offered, such as Balm, Jatoba, Cumaru, Massaranduba and Garapa, are not much used or known in Europe in pavement and decking areas.
Trends in the colours and materials
The general conviction is that grey or the mixed grey and beige “greige” will remain among the best sold colours, while the darker colours will be less popular among buyers of internal floors. The texture structured surfaces, are seen as the future shot in the parquets and wooden floors. Articles have been displayed with a second-hand look, grainy texture and a brushed effect and often made from recycled materials. Vintage materials remain trendy, leaving in evidence holes and knots, the fissure and even knife-edge traces or the residual of cement. This is for wooden floors and laminates, with the last one committed to exploit more and more sophisticated technologies in digital printing.
Also in the showcase many innovations that drive to improve the lifecycle of wooden flooring, in environments such as kitchens and bathrooms, where wood has not been traditionally used. The French producer Design Parquet, for example, promoted its patented system Navylam+, a system composed of tropical wood listels, chosen for its aspect and for the natural durability, that are made pre-oiled and equipped with a system of integrated junction. Another highly innovative product, planned to extend subsequently the range of wood applications, is “Lambdafloor” from the polish company “Prestige”, that claims a layer of aluminium inserted between the surface of wood and the water-repellent base, increasing in such way the thermal conductivity of use in pave heating systems.
DOMOTEX 2017 has, finally, synthetized the productive tendencies for the next year: flooring products more and more flexible and modular, fast in installation and maintenance, without use of solvents in order to improve the air quality inside, health and hygiene that offer all a siege of other advantages in terms of duration and comfort of tread.