Today, commercial flooring is required to perform like never before.
No longer is it a simple choice of material and colour, instead retailers are placing much more thought into the durability, comfort and sustainability of their flooring.
This has been prompted by research to suggest that flooring can generate sales through the likes of consumer perception, wayfinding and navigation techniques and environmental applications.
Despite these positive findings, in Australia, flooring manufacturers are hardly experiencing a boom. An IBISWorld October 2014 report found that demand for floor coverings has suffered due to slower retail spending.
"Floor covering retailers have struggled over the past five years, with industry revenue expected to rise by an annualised 0.2 per cent over the five years through with industry revenue expected to rise by an annualised 0.2 per cent over the five years through 2014-15," the report states.
However, a refocus on the brick and mortar retail store could create a rise for the industry.
Many retailers with online arms are opening or re-designing their physical stores to be a visual reflection of the brand and website.
Design is now at the forefront of these stores in a bid to capture their customers' attention to not only visit the store but to stay, experience and buy.
Flooring holds plenty of opportunities to contribute to the branding and ambiance of the store.
A webinar entitled Flooring as a Revenue Generator was recently conducted by Tarkett, a global leader in flooring. The panel, which featured LEED AP IC+C editor of retail environments Jo Rossman, Bermeyer Associates IIDA Stephanie A. Jones and Tarkett senior design manager Janette Murray, outlined some of the trends retailers can expect over the next 12 months.
Rossman found concrete floors with sustainable properties to be a preferred flooring material, adding that wood and oak are very popular and there is a resurgence in tiles and marble.
Jones confirmed this, noting that durability and sustainability are these materials' key features.
Apple is renowned for its sandstone floors in its retail stores, which is sourced and cut from a quarry outside Florence, Italy.
"(Another) really big trend in materials is realistic faux materials to which manufactures are making similar materials," Jones said.
Beyond The Floor
Flooring materials have been creeping up walls and ceilings for a while but Rossman has observed other parts of interiors such as fixtures and countertops featuring flooring materials.
She said the trend was moving toward "surfaces morphing into each other; the counter moves over and becomes the wall and moves down."
A material like Marmoleum for example is highly durable, non-toxic and anti-microbial according to Green Building Supply. Its easy maintenance could see it applied to floors and countertops, creating a connection through colour and texture.
Rossman noted that not all consumers understand LEED or Green Star certification, so stores need to communicate their environmental initiatives.
"A design within reach, sourced from a lake in Canada perhaps," she said. "Sourcing things which tugs on the heartstrings of the consumer."
This could include reclaimed timber from old buildings or up-cycled textiles in the form of vinyl and carpets. In some cases, these materials surpass the durability and longevity of newer products.
Pop-up stores continue to challenge manufacturers to come up with flooring solutions that are quick to assemble and disassemble but still offer a clean and visually appealing look.
As a manfacturer, Murray has observed an increase in easy-to-install, movable floating and glueless floors to meet the temporary/pop-up shop demand.
Flooring is taking on the responsibility of keeping sound contained within a space.
Murray believes this is all part of the "take good care of yourself" motto.
In Australia, Regupol offer an Impact Sound Acoustic Underlay that can sit under timber flooring.
"The degree of impact sound improvement lies between 18 and 20 dB, depending on the type of material used," the company states.
Tarkett also offers a series of acoustic vinyl products floors and stairs. Its Tapiflex Excellence 65 product features a 0.7-millimetre PVC wear layer and offers resistance to indentation, abrasion and tearing. It also has a high density foam backing with closed cells to reduce impact noise and create a soft foot landing.
"We want our customer in the shop to feel good," Tarkett said. "If you've got the comfort level, we put a lot of time and effort in that. We need to be a lot of everything to a lot of people," she concluded.