Floor coverings might not be the first thing a retailer thinks about when envisaging a shiny new store format or reviving a tired shop, but few elements of a store interior can make such a dramatic difference or enable a store to hit this year’s on-trend quite so definitely.


And that role is borne out by a little US-factoid, which contends that 70% of commercial floor coverings are replaced for reasons other than wear and tear.

Not surprising then that sustainability is writ large on the CV of most flooring manufacturers and a trend that really got a grip of the industry in 2010 has carried forward forcefully into 2011. A strong sustainable approach is expressed not just in the materials used and their more obvious eco-credentials but in the fixing techniques, many of which now largely eschew the potent adhesives of past years.

Design wise, retailers are more prepared to make a statement, especially with colour. One of the industry’s most design-led companies, Milliken, focused on offering its Fixation carpet tile in 40 colours on a high performance, carbon neutral base. It also offers smart neutrals to add simple detailing. “Colour is a great way to signpost a store,” says Carol Appleton, design director for Milliken Contract.

Although an increasing variety of hard floorings are available, carpet has also retained its popularity and Wilton Carpets Commercial has developed a Ready to Go carpet offer, which includes the floral Fantasia design from its Symphony collection, recently used in the Bury store of Peter Jackson The Jewellers.

Jewellery retail specialist Hallmark Design and Shopfitting opted for this design to add a luxury feel to the interior. “The Symphony carpet presented a delicate pattern with enough variety of colour, allowing the rest of the interior’s colour palette to be drawn from it, hence the pinks and lime greens used on walls and furnishings,” says Joanne Coleman of Hallmark Design and Shopfitting. “We recommend carpets on a regular basis as they really add a sense of luxury to the environment.”

Carpet does also bring about homely connotations, while hard flooring alternatives have many practical benefits. There is now a third category, with hybrid products such as the Flotex collection from Swiss-based Forbo, which offers the comfort of a carpet with durable, hygienic, and environmental benefits.

“Specifiers are increasingly looking to floor coverings based on good design, solid economical benefits, and best ecological performance,” reflects Angus Fotheringhame, general manager UK & Ireland, Forbo Flooring Systems.

Like Milliken, Amtico International has been a driving force in experimenting with finishes and designs. The vinyl floor specialist says its design team travels around the world observing the changing design trends, which are then translated into its latest creations. Amtico adds that recent collections such as Metal, Mica Mix and Travertine are a direct result of its approach.

Lorna Williams, design manager at Amtico International, says: “We pride ourselves on being at the forefront of design and creativity. We thrive on the challenge of capturing the essence of the constantly changing design trends and take our digital camera everywhere we go; often our best discoveries are found in the most unlikely places. We believe if you want to stand out in floor design you have to look higher than flooring for inspiration.”

Going green

Commitment to the environment has become a must for all flooring manufacturers and, for retailers, there is plenty of choice in underlining their own green principles. By signing a partnership agreement with the Environmental Protection Encouragement Agency (EPEA), Dutch-based Desso was the first carpet manufacturer in Europe to adopt so-called ‘Cradle to Cradle’ design. This means that its products are made from pure components that are easy to disassemble to create new products in both the biological and technical cycles. Products are made using manufacturing processes that rely on renewable energy, seek to conserve water and embrace social responsibility.

Hard flooring giant Armstrong has also taken a sustainable approach to its DLW linoleum range, which consists almost entirely of organic and mineral raw materials (98%), of which 80% are renewable. LPX Finish, which Armstrong applies to the entire Lino Art collection, also provides easy cleaning and maintenance throughout the entire lifecycle.

The carpet industry has also pushed its own sustainable agenda, for example, Milliken’s Paste Up range is PVC-free and can be supplied with a bio-based TractionBack adhesive-free installation system to eliminate off-gassing and Volatile Organic Compounds. While the full significance of that is probably best left with a carpet fitter, it all sounds terribly impressive. Made in the UK and independently certified as carbon neutral, Paste Up contributes to LEED credits and other green building standards and the carpet can be taken back for non-landfill disposal as part of the Milliken Carpet Take Back programme.

These approaches suggest that all of the big manufacturers will offer full recyclable products before long, and the diversity of designs and styles provide retailers with something of a baffling choice. What has emerged over the past two years is an “anything goes” aesthetic and eclectic mixes of the bold and brash with the subtle and understated mean retailers can have their floor anyway they want, so long as it’s green.

Six trends to look out for in 2011

  1. The combination of hard flooring and carpet for interior environments are popular, with the softer floor covering often used to denote and signpost areas and for luxury zones.
  2. Dark woods, often with a bespoke stain, are a design ethic carried over from 2010 and are likely to feature throughout the year. Also on-trend are longer-length floorboards and natural-looking finishes. A number of ranges now feature over-sized planks.
  3. Retailers are likely to be prepared to allow themselves a little experimentation with surface materials to meet with the tougher expectations of sustainability. Products made from materials such as hemp, banana, raffia, bamboo and grass are showing up on an increasingly common basis. Yes, really.
  4. In carpet designs there is a shift away from standard, hard borders towards more flowing designs and an increasing trend towards design repeats pushing to the store perimeter.

    Flowing and repeat patterns are popular carpet designs

    Flowing and repeat patterns are popular carpet designs

  5. Manufacturers such as Dutch group Desso have laid down something of a gauntlet by sourcing sustainable raw materials, introducing new manufacturing methods, and recycling used carpets from clients. In Desso’s case, the company’s first range of 100% recyclable carpet tiles is now on the market.
  6. The wow factor is definitely in. While subtle palettes remain the order of the day, expect to see some more outlandish uses of vibrant carpet designs and colours to make a strong brand statement.