Flooring Industry Becomes More Competitive

Lancaster, Pa — For a little more than 20 months, club owners have had more flooring choices than in the past. That's because in November 2007, rubber flooring manufacturer Dodge-Regupol split into two companies — ECORE International and Regupol America. As a result, one large vendor has become two vendors, creating more competition, more flooring choices and helping to decrease flooring prices.

Some manufacturers in the flooring industry aren't enthusiastic about the split, says Rick Snyder, CEO of U.S. Rubber, a Colton, CA, supplier of flooring products made from recycled rubber. The Dodge-Regupol breakup has added another manufacturer to an already crowded market at a time when club openings and refurbishments have decreased, he says.

“If it gets too competitive and we're all going after the same slice of business, it's going to impact our margins,” Snyder says. “We are definitely interested in seeing how things shake out. We hope it doesn't end up in a price war.”

However, some manufacturers say they've benefitted from the split. Mateflex, a Utica, NY, flooring manufacturer and distributor, has had a 25 percent increase in its rubber flooring sales since the Dodge-Regupol split, which loosened the company's stronghold on the market, says Gabe Martini, sales manager for the company.

“Before, we had a giant we couldn't compete against,” he says. “Now, consumers are in the mindset to shop around. When they start shopping, they won't just look at these two companies, but they are bidding other companies as well, which has opened up the market.”

David Phillips, designer for Fabiano Designs, Montclair, NJ, says, “The more flooring companies, the more opportunities to do something special or unique,” Phillips says.

Bob LePage, vice president and CEO of Gold's Gym franchises in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, says that he has noticed a decrease in the cost of solid black rubber fitness flooring but not in higher-end flooring materials with a higher color blend.

This drop in rubber flooring pricing may make fitness flooring a buyers' market, but factors beyond the Dodge-Regupol split could be causing the decrease, says Phillips. Pricing often depends on a project's location, flooring quantity, color flecks and connections with vendors.

“Pricing with rubber flooring as with all pricing of late is very different than what was happening a year ago,” Phillips says. “There have been a lot of cutbacks in budget, though the manufacturing companies still require [that] their product be spec'd over the other. That makes it very difficult to try to compare pricing at this time.”

The two companies involved in the split are headquartered only 25 miles from one another — and each has plans to make competition more difficult.

ECORE International, Lancaster, PA, retained all of Dodge-Regupol's operating units and brands. Since last fall, ECORE added more than 30 color patterns. It also partnered with Nike to include Nike Grind dust in Everlast Sports Surfacing. The company also plans to launch a new laminated system for indoor and outdoor sports surfaces this fall.

“These improvements benefit ECORE's customers by providing an expanded color spectrum and increasing recycled content resources, setting a new paradigm for design when working with recycled rubber surfacing,” says Kathryn Ross, director of marketing at ECORE.

Meanwhile, Regupol America, Lebanon, PA, has rebranded its sports and fitness flooring surfaces as Regupol Aktiv and is manufacturing the recycled rubber flooring at its plant in western Pennsylvania. The company introduced two color lines last December for clubs' free weight, selectorized, cardio and walkway areas.

“We've been very well received, and we look forward to working in the marketplace,” says George Soukas, president of Regupol America. “We've had a very exciting and promising start.”

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