At the invitation of Kaindl, the members of the EPLF met near Salzburg for their annual general meeting on 5 and 6 June. Despite some people experiencing difficulties travelling through areas affected by flooding, over 70 members met at the idyllic Fuschlsee lake. Many exciting topics were discussed at the meeting of members, including the situation on the world market, the Wood Flooring Summit 2014 and international standardisation. The members of the "Technology" and "Market and Image" working groups had already met for intensive project work on the preceding day.

European Laminate Flooring Quality for the Whole WorldThe president of the association, Ludger Schindler, welcomed Çamsan Entegre Agaç (Hendek – Sakarya, Turkey), a manufacturer of MDF board and laminate flooring, to Salzburg as a new ordinary member. The EPLF currently has 22 ordinary and 23 associate member companies. The ordinary members include the manufacturers of laminate flooring while the associate members are their suppliers.

Market remains stable overall

One of the main topics of the meeting of members was the economic situation in the European laminate flooring industry. Positive developments in 2012 once again confirm how well laminate flooring is accepted by the general public. Compared with the same period in the previous year, the market for laminate flooring produced in Europe by member firms was relatively stable overall in the 1st quarter of 2013, although there were differences on the individual sales markets: figures for Asia and South America were up and Eastern Europe increased slightly too while North America and Western Europe remained stable at a relatively high level. Between 2007 and 2012, global sales of laminate flooring increased by 1.5%, but fell in Europe by 4.4%.

In 2012 for the first time, the ordinary EPLF members also provided sales figures by product thickness. Around 45% of all laminate flooring sales were products with a thickness of ≤7.5 mm, around 45% were 8-9 mm thick and the remaining 10% ≥10 mm. Products 8-9 mm thick are the biggest sellers in Eastern Europe and Turkey. In Western Europe, and Germany in particular, customers prefer ≤7.5 mm products.

EPLF: "We bring the industry together"

The EPLF is the world's largest regional inter-trade organisation for the flooring industry and its central function is to represent the interests of European exporting manufacturers. In 2012, the market share of laminate flooring production in Europe, including Turkey, supplied by EPLF members was 89%; globally the figure was 53%. – But the competition isn't letting up. China has caught up and in 2012 was for the first time the largest individual producer with a market share of 28%, ahead of Germany with 27%. Given the current situation, intensive market development by the EPLF and its market companies is more important than ever.

The EPLF continues to focus on the markets in Turkey and Russia. Turkey currently makes up 8% of global production while Russia has more than doubled its share of production since 2007 to reach 5%. There are three Turkish producers in the EPLF at present. The association is now considering whether to also invite Russian manufacturers onboard. They would however have to ensure strict compliance with European product quality standards and be prepared to be inspected by neutral institutions.

European quality campaign for Russia

It is with some concern that the EPLF is seeing the Russian laminate flooring market being flooded with mass produced Chinese goods, which also do not meet high European standards. There is a risk that these products will damage the reputation of laminate flooring amongst Russian customers. The EPLF has therefore decided to initiate a quality campaign to raise awareness of the high-quality products of European manufacturers and to distance itself from inferior cheap products.

Ludger Schindler says: "European laminate floors have a lot to offer. They are environmentally-friendly, high-tech products, manufactured in a sustainable manner. In other words, they are gentle on resources and socially responsible. European quality is synonymous with long-lasting floors, innovative products for enhanced interior comfort, leading design for versatility and individuality, good value for money and, importantly, ecologically-sound products which guarantee safety for customers and their families."

Cooperation with the MMFA

The EPLF is following the development of what are known as LVT (Luxury Vinyl Tiles) with interest. The EPLF was involved in the founding of the new inter-trade organisation MMFA (Multilayer Modular Flooring Association), a move praised at the meeting of members. It is hoped that convivial and constructive collaboration with the MMFA will continue in the future.

Wood Flooring Summit 2014

The EPLF is working with trade fair organizer Deutsche Messe AG on preparations for the second Wood Flooring Summit, which will take place in 2014 at Domotex in Hanover. It is highly probable that the event will attract more exhibitors and be larger than the first summit in 2012. On the previous day, Susanne Klaproth from Deutsche Messe AG had presented the latest plans to the EPLF's "Market and Image" working group and stressed the value of the specialist input of the association. The EPLF expects the event in Hanover to benefit the laminate flooring industry. Chairman and representative of this working group Volkmar Halbe says: "It is already clear that the Wood Flooring Summit 2014 will be a huge success for everyone involved."

Progress in standardisation work

The international standardisation projects undertaken by the EPLF's Technology working group remain highly diverse. Chairman Dr. Theo Smet presented the most important results of the past few months. Good progress has been made on work to revise EN 14041 for elastic, textile flooring and laminate floors. The technical details in EN 13329, 14897 and 15468 are no longer up to date. For example, one revision involves harmonisation with the new underlay standard. The first draft, which was finalised by the group in the last week of May, will be officially submitted shortly. The new standard for underlay materials FprCEN/TS16354 has been submitted and is currently waiting for a response from the committees. The EPLF is now working on its own "Underlay materials data sheet" on test standards and key details, which will be published later in the year.

EPLF's 20th anniversary celebrations in 2014

After a varied annual meeting of intensive discussion, a wealth of information, interesting presentations from experts and plenty of scope for networking, the EPLF is now preparing for 2014 and the association's 20th anniversary which will of course be celebrated in a fitting manner. The EPLF is returning to its roots. The next meeting of members will take place where it all began. Member companies Windmöller and WPT invite members to join them in Ostwestfalen-Lippe on 14 and 15 May 2014.

For information about laminate floors and an overview of members of the European brand producers in the EPLF, visit www.eplf.com and www.mylaminate.eu

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