For 20 years, the EPLF (Association of European Producers of Laminate Flooring) has represented the interests of the European laminate flooring industry. The EPLF Market and Image committee, which has been led by convenor Volkmar Halbe since 2008, closely observes market developments. These observations are converted into concrete measures for press and public relations work, as well as for the image promotion of laminate flooring as regards end consumers and trade professionals. The European laminate flooring industry thus develops joint press-related strategies to face the new challenges arising in the international sales markets. Given the current global situation, intensive market development by the EPLF and its market companies is more important than ever. Activities currently focus on the sales potential in Russia and Turkey, in addition to markets in Asia, and China in particular.
With the slogan “Quality and Innovation made in Europe” incorporated into the association logo, the members of the EPLF have recently been flying their flag on the international market. Quality and innovation are precisely what European brand-name manufacturers are internationally renowned for; they offer laminate flooring with certified quality, mature technology, excellent usage characteristics and positive environmental credentials, and that are pleasing to the eye and the touch, combined with ever new and creative designs. The new slogan is intended to emphasise the positive image of European laminate flooring and to raise awareness of the exceptional quality products and technological leadership of EPLF members, especially in the growing export markets outside Europe.
Russia: tackling problems, seizing opportunities
The EPLF is actively working to counter fake labelling, which damages the reputation of the entire product category, particularly in regional markets such as Russia. “The high proportion of inferior-quality and incorrectly-declared goods imported from Asia to markets such as Russia makes things difficult for EPLF manufacturers, as it tends to cause lasting damage to the image of laminate flooring,” says committee chairman Volkmar Halbe. “This is an unacceptable situation, not only for European manufacturers but also for consumers, who are poorly informed and get swindled with counterfeit products”. In addition, this leads to unclear, fragmented distribution structures and to customs and logistics problems, as well as to a lack of product standards and knowledge at the point of sale at the end of the distribution chain.
On the other hand, the Russian market offers considerable opportunities for the future. The EPLF forecasts a positive development for this market in the next few years, with growth rates of up to 5%. In the medium term, Russia could thus achieve a volume similar to – or even greater than – that of the Turkish growth market. For this reason, the EPLF created its own Russian working group in autumn 2013 to prepare concrete measures for a consistent quality drive. The association leverages its existing contacts in Russia in order to initiate further specific processes in this country, particularly in testing and standardisation work where there is a backlog in demand. The EPLF also wishes to promote professional training for Russian sales representatives within the regions, and is already undergoing preliminary discussions on this matter. There is a clear demand and tremendous interest among Russian traders for improved product expertise. Volkmar Halbe is aware of this: “Our members believe that Russia offers considerable opportunities for the future, but we will need a great deal of patience. Short-term success will not be forthcoming in this complex market”.
Positive rollback in China
EPLF members are currently enjoying an upward trend in China. Sales figures have steadily grown in China and Hong Kong in the last two or three years. This is a sure sign that European manufacturers are once again breaking into the Chinese market with quality and innovation, following a very difficult slump a few years ago. In the high-end segment, the EPLF sees growing potential for European-made quality laminate flooring, According to Halbe: “Chinese customers want a slice of the 'Western' lifestyle - which is excellent news for top-quality European-made products. Only genuine European-made flooring exported to China is certified pursuant to strict EU standards. It therefore meets very high requirements in terms of product quality, sustainability and environmental protection, qualities which are being increasingly demanded by Chinese consumers”. But the EPLF is convinced that European manufacturers, with their considerable manufacturing expertise, will spare no effort in maintaining the lead over their Chinese competitors. To do so, the EPLF will continuously support its members through ongoing standardisation efforts and an active quality policy for European products.
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