Posted on

Invista expands Stainmaster into polyester market

Entry-level Essentials line includes PET, nylon styles

by Matthew Spieler

Kennesaw, Ga.—The times they are a changing. As the Bob Dylan song denotes, there is no stopping time and the changes it brings. And so it goes with Stainmaster. The industry’s first stain-resistant nylon fiber is branching out to now include polyester under its umbrella.

Invista, owner of the Stainmaster brand, announced the name will now be used on an entry-level line of carpets consisting of both nylon 6,6—the traditional fiber used by Invista to make Stainmaster-branded yarns—and polyester.

Called Essentials, the collection is, essentially, the entry-level line known simply as Stainmaster Carpet, except it will now include products made with polyester, along with the current 40-plus nylon styles offered under the moniker.

Three mills—Mohawk, Phenix and Shaw—will be the first manufacturers to offer Stain-master Essential polyesters, with initial products expected to be out by mid-month. “These three are in the process of sampling the products for release, while other manufacturers are getting ready for either later this year or in the first quarter of 2013,” Steve Griffith, chief marketing officer for Invista Surfaces, told FCNews.

By the end of the first quarter next year, he said there will be 20 to 30 styles offered with each consisting of 20 to 40 colors, but the final number of SKUs will be determined by the individual mills and how they want to roll out their launches. The new styles will carry a warranty consistent with other Stainmaster products in the line, namely 10-year texture and durability, and lifetime stain and soil guarantees.

Zach Kennedy, vice president of marketing for Phenix, noted the company is “very excited” to be among the first three mills partnering with Invista on its first launch into polyester. “We know the Stainmaster name resonates with consumers and we are excited to see how well the brand can lead to sales outside the realm of nylon.”

For Phenix, he said the initial launch will include three styles with at least six more by the winter markets. Compared to the nylon products Phenix already produces for the Essentials collection, the polyester ones “are higher in weight and are more of a frieze construction. We are producing the carpets with very fashion-forward multicolored looks.” Products are solution dyed and carry a minimum of 25% recycled PET.

Shaw’s Trey Thames, vice president of residential marketing and product management, said the company “has partnered with Invista to introduce a limited collection of four Stainmaster-branded polyester products this month.”

He noted all products are made using “our premium, soft, high twist, high performing PET yarn consistent with Invista’s requirements. They are all filament PET styles containing a minimum of 25% post consumer recycled content processed at our Clear Path recycling facility.”

Because the products are pieced dyed, Thames said “retailers and consumers will see a nice range of color offerings, including 20 solids and 10 tweeds in our 40-ounce style. Our two tweed products yield a stunning blended visual.”

New Essentials products will feature in-store merchandising materials, including product labels, brochures and literature. Most merchandising will come next year, Griffith said, once there is enough product in the market. Being these are entry-level products, along with in-store merchandising, Invista plans on supporting it with interactive marketing, some of which can be seen on its website now. In addition, new product training is available from Invista at stainmaster link.com or by contacting a strategic accounts manager.

The initial launch of products will be available through Stainmaster Flooring Centers, Stainmaster Showcase Dealers and other Stainmaster-aligned dealers, including Lowe’s and Carpet Direct.

Griffith added nylon and polyester styles will not be an exact match. “These won’t be one-for-one products, rather they will compliment each other. Entry-level products are generally lower weight and with polyester that means the styles will be textures and friezes; you won’t find any loops or patterns.”

The initial polyester Essentials launch will consist of products starting at 30 ounces and go up to 55 ounces. And while a 55-ounce carpet does not sound like an entry-level offering, Griffith said that is because Invista defines entry level on performance and how long the product will last. “Weight is one factor but there are other considerations such as the construction that affects how a product performs.”

 

Extensive testing

He noted the company “tested every polyester product” it could get its hands on, which amounted to more than 100, and after extensive testing of constructions and weights “selected the handful that met our Stainmaster product specifications” and also satisfy consumers “looking for good performing value products that will live up to their expectations in terms of durability, stain resistance and ease of cleaning.”

Griffith told FCNews the strategy of expanding the Stainmaster name to polyester carpet was 18 months in the making as Invista “researched thousands of consumers and dealers and focused a lot of our energy on what each needs,” and also went through the exhaustive testing already mentioned.

“We would not have done this if we thought it would diminish the Stainmaster brand and all it stands for,” he explained. “There are over 25 years of equity and consumer trust built in the brand, and if we felt the polyester carpet would not meet the durability, performance and styling standards expected from the Stainmaster brand we would not be doing this.”

When it came to consumers wanting such a product, he said Invista research shows for 30% of end users, budget is their No. 1 concern, meaning they are looking for a product that will not break the bank but, at the same time, will live up to their family’s lifestyle. In other words, they want value.

Dealers feel the same way, Griffith added. “They want to build their brand in their own market and most of that comes from referral and word-of-mouth business.” So they want a product that will meet their customers’ needs in terms of durability, stain resistance and ease of cleaning while still giving their salespeople the confidence in selling it. “We are filling that gap with Essentials,” noting this is especially true for those dealers who carry a broad selection of products from low to high end.

In fact, since May, Invista has been communicating and previewing the new styles to ensure as many of its key customers were on board with the initiative. “This is a very important decision,” he explained, “and we wanted to communicate the specifics with our dealer and mill customers as early as possible.”

While polyester is inherently stain resistant, it is not soil resistant. As such, Griffith pointed out the Stainmaster polyesters will feature Invista’s proprietary anti-soil chemistry. “More than half the carpet claims are made due to soiling. Our objective is to meet the staining, soiling and durability expectations of consumers.”

Unlike traditional Stainmaster fibers, Invista is not the one providing the yarn to mills. Rather they are using their own polyesters and constructing them to meet Invista specifications in order to place the Stainmaster logo on them. “Technological advancements and innovations may happen where we eventually make the polyester ourselves,” he said.

While the initial Stainmaster polyester offering is at the entry level it is this unknown of what the future will bring as to why Invista is not ruling out polyester Stainmaster styles may one day be available at higher price points.

“Technologies change, innovations happen,” Griffith said, “so we never say never. But our testing of what is available now will not allow us to attach the Stainmaster name to higher price levels.”

To learn more about the new Stainmaster Essentials line, visit stainmasterlink.com or contact your local Invista and/or mill reps.