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What happens in Vegas shouldn’t stay in Vegas

by Celia Payne

Las Vegas—Surfaces 2012 presented the opportunity to shine—even brighter than the Vegas strip. The successful protagonists at the show know you must set yourself apart among a sea of introductions.

“The eagerness of new product is no longer the lure of the business,” said Bill Johnson of Johnson Floorcovering in North Hollywood, Calif. “A lot of mills are knocking themselves off, delivering the same product year after year. Manufacturers must figure out how to set themselves apart in order to stay afloat. Although the economy might be tough, manufacturers must listen to their customers to provide products that consumers actually spend their hard-earned money on.”

From new product introductions to forays into new arenas, exhibitors brought their A-game to the show. Mohawk even busted out an MC Hammer flash mob throwback to support its “Can’t Touch This” campaign for its new SmartStrand Silk in the middle of the convention floor. As the “Trader Joe’s Effect” sets in where consumers want the back-story of how it got here, manufacturers must relate.

“We go from booth to booth looking at the new products introduced for 2012 and they start to mesh together,” said Terry Ann Olsen, interior designer for Foremost Interiors in Salt Lake City. “It’s refreshing to find a humanistic connection with a value-apparent product that boasts the look and feel designers crave.”

Consumers want more than a product—they want a story they can tell their neighbors and family for years to come. Whether it’s expanding the green story, embracing patriotism through products Made in the USA, or a literal song and dance, there must be a union between product and consumer more than ever before.

Following is a small sampling of what carpet mills were showcasing a few weeks ago in Las Vegas.

Beaulieu of America

Beaulieu aims to Mesmerize and Dazzle in 2012 with its respective introductions. Mesmerize bestows the appearance of high-end sisal featuring a market-driven lineal design, while Dazzle offers the same appeal in an LCL version. Both introductions are part of the EverClean collection under the Bliss brand, made with Beaulieu’s own solution-dyed polyester with impeccable stain resistance and can be cleaned with a 50/50 solution of household bleach and water.

“Everyone appreciates the cleaning and disinfecting power of bleach, and now with EverClean, consumers can rely on what they’ve trusted for years without the risk of voiding the warranty as with other manufacturers,” said Ralph Boe, president and CEO.

EverClean carpets are made with Beaulieu’s own Magic Fresh built-in odor reducing treatment that continuously reduces common household odors from pets, cooking or smoking, as well as 3M Scotchgard Protector.

Dixie

Synergy, not replication, remains The Dixie Group’s road to success. With the company’s three brands—Fabrica, Masland and Dixie Home—it can offer the Stainmaster commitment with price points across the board.

The big story here was the introduction of products constructed of the new Stainmaster TruSoft fiber from Invista, which had been in development for more than a year. TruSoft is designed to be the softest Stainmaster fiber yet. Carpets constructed of this yarn are supposedly reminiscent of an elegant, soft bath rug but able to stand up to rigorous household traffic. Price points will be in the mid- to upper-end range. Dixie is one of two mills that will be marketing TruSoft products this spring.

“With the introduction of TruSoft, we seek to give consumers a tiered option to obtain the elegance and softness they want no matter which price point they can afford,” said Bill Waters, regional vice president. “The product offers the same yarn with different weights and construction so that each Dixie brand can represent a lifestyle and reason for all three to be on the showroom floor. The consumer wants options and we intend to give them.”

Gulistan

Gulistan expanded its soft offering with a better/best duo crafted with super-durable, super-soft Stainmaster Luxerell type 6,6 continuous filament nylon.

Jakarta and Bombay offer two clean, crisp, sophisticated multi-color visuals that fit a variety of budgets. “The marketplace continues to be all about soft,” said Tony Prespitino, executive vice president of sales and marketing. “When you give consumers the better/best option in a category they already long for, you’ll find they’ll trade themselves up in the showroom.”

He added that although a challenging economy still exists, consumers desire more personalized statements in parts of the home that also provide value and ease of care.

J. Mish

It’s more than carpet; there’s a story behind it. EccoTex is a renewable and repurposed blended wool that brings a green story into something practical. Made in the U.S., EccoTex products not only offer the environmentally oriented consumer a great option but also address today’s “value economy” costing half of what traditional wool products sell for in similar weights.

Lexmark

After years of success in the hospitality industry, Lexmark entered the residential arena for 2012. “We had the machinery and desire to expand, so it only made sense to extend our footprint,” said Patrick Whaley, sales manager. Described as a hybrid by Whaley, Lexmark encompasses a big company zeal with color displays and availability, but drives a price point unheard of for the higher-end look produced. “We want to keep it simple, stay in stock and be successful by offering A to Z in our new display.”

Ed Williams, president of the residential division, said the company conducted extensive market research to determine the best products and price points. “We think we’ve developed an ideal mix of styles that will appeal to a broad segment of consumers. We’re going to support our new line with the personalized and experienced customer service Lexmark has traditionally offered and provide additional training specific to retail.”

Phenix

After enjoying much success in solution-dyed filament yarn, Phenix expanded its product portfolio into solution-dyed Stainmaster BCF nylon to marry the stain performance of polyester with the resiliency of nylon. From entry-level price points to 52-ounce luxury products with cut pile to texture and patterns in between, the branded SolarMax from Phenix offers a one-stop shop for Vista-aligned dealers.

SolarMax is a new fiber from Invista that utilizes a custom nylon 6,6 solution dyed polymer and special yarn processing. This combination delivers a product with inherent stain resistance, strong color fastness and im-pressive fade resistance.

“Among the introductions includes the lowest weight Stainmaster product ever introduced in the market,” said Zach Kennedy, vice president of marketing for Phenix. “We want to offer a great value with the Stainmaster assets that brings the consumer in the door.”

Royalty

The California mill debuted its first PET offering in many years, delivering a great value with a clean finish and performance that is guaranteed with an extended wear, 10-year warranty. “Our Columbia, Endeavor and Discovery patterns combine value products with Scotchgard protection that consumers yearn for,” said Paul Engle, vice president of marketing for Royalty Carpet Mills. “There’s now a destination for pattern in the showroom.”

Stanton

Stanton reintroduced the Atel-ier program of printed carpets. Reminiscent of wire Wilton products, Atelier delivers the aesthetic at a value price point in a loop and cut pile. The program consists of the most introductions in one line from the company with 150 SKUs. “Consumers want color and design to add character to their homes,” said Jonathan Cohen, COO. “We are taking what customers like and evolving it to become more.”

White Oaks Carpet Mills

White Oak’s elite Varia-Loom technology offers dramatic pattern and design flexibility with the power to customize and control manufacturing variables, including pile height, needle and yarn size, stitching and gauge to produce luxurious carpets that are unique and one-of-a-kind. The company’s design experts can adjust the pattern and coloration of a myriad of design ideas to produce custom pieces without the long lead-times and expenses associated with many manufacturers.

“We shape our products with each customer’s needs, manufacturing room-perfect pieces with no minimum or maximum purchase,” said Hannah Crabb, director of development. “We’ve turned concepts drawn on legal pads into carpet realities.”