Linoleum, Asphalted-Felt-Base, and Other Hard Surface Floor Coverings, NEC

SIC 3996

Industry report:

This category covers establishments primarily engaged in manufacturing linoleum, asphalted-felt-base, and other hard surface floor coverings, not elsewhere classified. Establishments primarily engaged in manufacturing rubber floor coverings are classified in SIC 3069: Fabricated Rubber Products, Not Elsewhere Classified, and those manufacturing cork floor and wall tile are classified in SIC 2499: Wood Products, Not Elsewhere Classified.

Companies in the multibillion-dollar hard surface floor coverings industry supply flooring primarily for residential homes, which accounted for most of the market in the early twenty-first century. Coverings used in apartment buildings represented a small percentage of industry sales. Other major consumers of hard surface flooring, in order of industry purchases, included office buildings, mobile homes, hospitals, industrial facilities, hotels and motels, stores, and restaurants.

This small industry of only 64 establishments shipped products worth a total of $1.7 billion in 2009. Companies in this industry tended to be small in size, with about 53 percent employing fewer than 20 workers, and 25 percent employing more than 500 workers. Industry-wide employment totaled approximately 4,085 workers receiving a payroll of nearly $228 million.

Industry leaders in the early 2010s included Mohawk Industries Inc. of Calhoun, Georgia, with $5.3 billion in 2010 sales and 26,900 employees; Armstrong World Industries Inc. of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, with $2.7 billion in sales and 9,800 employees; and Wilsonart International Inc. of Temple, Texas, with 2010 sales of $337 million and about 3,400 employees.

In the first decade of the 2000s, linoleum had the lion's share of the market, at about 85 percent. Linoleum, a traditionally popular industry offering, is made in sheets by pressing a mixture of heated linseed oil, rosin, powdered cork, and pigments onto a textile backing, such as burlap or canvas. Synthetic coverings similar to linoleum are created with mixtures of resins, elastomers, and plasticizers. Typically, these newer types of flooring are more moisture resistant, durable, and workable than linoleum. In the middle of the first decade of the 2000s, another important company in the industry, Mannington Mills of Salem, New Jersey, began manufacturing floor coverings with DuPont's branded Teflon to increase quality and durability.

Englishman Frederick Walton invented the linoleum production process in 1860. The use of linoleum and similar floor coverings expanded greatly during the 1920s. Asphalt tiles were developed in 1930, and vinyl flooring was invented in 1945. However, it was not until the 1960s when flat concrete subsurfaces became standard in U.S. homes that hard surface coverings exploded in popularity. A profusion of synthetic flooring products during the 1960s and 1970s sharply increased industry sales. By the early 1980s, manufacturers were shipping about $600 million worth of flooring each year and employing about 3,000 workers.

Steady market growth and the development of new and better floor coverings more than doubled industry revenues during the 1980s. Advanced polymer technology and new plasticizers allowed the introduction of less expensive materials with higher performance. By 1989 industry participants were recording sales of $1.4 billion. The industry reported mixed performance in the 1990s. Showing only modest gains in the early 1990s, industry sales hit $1.73 billion in 1994, then drew back to $1.67 billion in 1995, when manufacturers reported sluggish retail sales. By 1997 sales were up to $1.8 billion. Continued strength in new housing starts in 1999, as well as general U.S. economic strength, contributed to growth in hard surface flooring.

The year 2000 was an unusual one for the industry, with many companies consolidating, filing for bankruptcy, and preparing for lawsuits related to new standards on asbestos. Shipment values fell 11 percent from $1.73 billion in 1998 to $1.54 billion in 2000. However, the industry rebounded, and by 2004 shipment values had increased to $1.83 billion, although a poor economy contributed to a decrease of approximately 13 percent in 2005. The downward trend continued into the end of the first decade of the 2000s as a result of the global economic recession and the resulting slowdown in construction. By 2011, however, the industry beginning to show signs of a recovery.

Increased manufacturing efficiencies, achieved through automation and restructuring, was expected to inhibit employment growth in this industry over the long term. Although the number of employees remained relatively stable throughout the late 1990s and early years of the first decade of the 2000s, by 2009 the workforce had shrunk to 4,085 workers, down from 5,941 workers in 2002. Projections of a 33 percent decrease in jobs between 2008 and 2018 offered little hope of revitalization. Increased demand for new synthetic coverings, however, was expected to create opportunities for some types of occupations, such as sales positions.

U.S. manufacturers in this industry continued to import more products than they exported in the early 2010s. According to Supplier Relations U.S. LLC, the United States imported $204.7 million worth of products in 2010, whereas exports were valued at about $700 million.

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