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Carpet: Mills unfurl new products, enthusiasm for 2013

Beaulieu’s Gary Fisher, left, and Ralph Boe couldn’t be happier with the buzz created by Indulgence, the mill’s new soft fiber product offering.

By Louis  Iannaco

Volume 26/Number 19; February 4/11, 2013

(First of two parts)

In the case of the carpet mills exhibiting at Surfaces 2013, the phrase, “The people coming into our booth are buying, not kicking tires” was a popular refrain. And although it’s a sentiment the industry has heard in previous years, there seemed to be genuine enthusiasm as to what the rest of the year may bring regarding sales and profits.

The majority of attendees seemed impressed with the array of selections offered, which included bolder colors, more textures and patterns, three-dimensional looks and an ever-increasing number of soft products. For the most part, a steady stream of traffic moved briskly from booth to booth as an upbeat, optimistic atmosphere permeated throughout the broadloom segment.

Beaulieu of America

Officials were extremely happy with the response to Indulgence, which is constructed with the company’s 100% PermaSoft solution-dyed nylon fiber. Additional features include Beaulieu’s Magic Fresh treatment and Scotchgard Protector treatment by 3M. Initial plans are for Indulgence to have seven styles across 100 SKUs.

“We spent some time surveying the landscape of what was going on with TruSoft, SolarMax, SmartStrand, and Caress, and tried to come out with something we felt would totally encapsulate softness and performance,” said Ralph Boe, CEO. “Indulgence is incredibly soft and durable enough to spot-clean with a 50% solution of household bleach and water.”

Indulgence brings several features together—some for the first time in a single collection. Beaulieu’s Wrinkle Guard protection, a new carpet backing with a “lays flat stays flat” guarantee, is being introduced as part of Indulgence. The Bliss Serenity guarantee is also being launched as a “package of protection” that includes a lifetime no-exclusion stain-removal warranty, along with other guarantees.

Also new with Bliss Indulgence is a boutique-style merchandising display system that holds six dec boards with seven product blankets providing “a larger product sensory experience than typical dec boards,” he noted. “For all our lines we brought in some new styles, updated colors, and they’ve all been exceptionally well received. So we’re very happy with the show so far.” Also debuting at Surfaces and new to Beaulieu’s Hollytex label were Impromptu, a modular carpet tile collection, as well as new broadloom lines Hudson Square and Origins.

Said Gary Fisher, Beaulieu’s executive vice president of marketing, from the fiber to its features to the display design, “We believe Indulgence offers the dealer a real carpet-selling advantage. We’ve received great comments not only on the product but on the display unit because of its size, as it can be conveniently moved within a store so you can maximize visibility. And the longer blanket allows the customer to get a better visual in seeing how it might look in her home.”

Arnold Graff, commercial sales manager at Montauk Rug & Carpet in Farmingdale, N.Y., said of Indulgence, “It’s a solution-dyed soft nylon and it comes in patterns. And with its display unit, you can take the samples off, lay them on the floor and see what they look like.”

Best Buy

Larry Heckman, president, believed Surfaces was better than the 2012 edition. “The people coming into our booth are looking for more sophisticated, higher-end looks in the $13-to-$15 price range they can find for $7 to $10. Consumers are looking for big value and low profile, not necessarily the big hand friezes of the past, and selections that are textured yet not wild. They’re looking for shorter, tighter, denser—that type of a look.”

Products receiving high marks included Crystal Beach, Desert Winds and Ventura Hills, which are available in a 35- to 55-ounce range. “This series features a sophisticated, clean look,” he said. Stunning, Alluring and Sophistication is another series of three offerings in 35, 45 and 55 ounces, featuring “a sophisticated barber pole look and a much cleaner, finished look with tighter density.”

Best Buy also rolled out a soft yarn at the show that was greeted with a warm reception. “Caressable UltraSoft is our soft fiber,” Heckman said. “This has been quite a breakthrough for us. And, with our state-of-the-art equipment, we extrude solution-dyed polyester with Natural Shield, which features built-in stain, fade and wear protection. It’s environmentally friendly and uses less energy and water in the process.”

“I’m very impressed by what I see here at Best Buy with its soft polyester technology and the finish on its soft yarn products,” said Keith Richbourg, president of Design Superstore in Waco, Tex. “They have great colorways. I just placed an order.”

Soft yarn is doing very well in his area, Richbourg explained. “The soft products get such an immediate consumer reaction that it gives us, as retailers and salespeople, a lot of confidence. It’s been great for the product category, so we’re trying to reassort our stocking position with soft yarns and are looking at products from Best Buy to Shaw and Mohawk with their soft yarn systems.”

Dreamweaver

According to Melvin Silvers, president, traffic was strong and sales were abundant. “Everything seems to be gravitating to the soft products. We have some introductions that rival any soft cut-pile. That’s been really good for us.” The mill’s PureSoft Cashmere drew a lot of attention. “We have nine new products in the collection,” he said, “including LCLs, cut-loops and what we call Soft Harmony, which is a multi-color offering that has been doing very well for us at the show.”

Mitch Adler, president of Bonded Carpet in San Diego, was very impressed with Dreamweaver’s Santa Barbara, a 38-ounce barber pole product. “It’s a great value and a good higher-end product for apartments.” He also admired what Dreamweaver had on the floor of its booth. “I love the way this Twilight product looks and hides the wear pattern. It looks like a flat [product] yet it shows more like a barber pole.”

Invista

Invista’s Steve Griffith and Michelle Rice were in a heavenly state due to the warm reception the mill’s TruSoft fiber received at Surfaces.

The company unveiled its Stainmaster Retail Center, featuring an expanded portfolio of fiber innovations/ brand extensions in a “fresh, interactive manner,” noted Steve Griffith, chief marketing officer, Invista Surfaces. Some of the company’s mill partners—including Dixie Home and Royalty—adjoined to the company’s booth, making it easier for dealers to see over 75 new carpet styles rolled out under the Stainmaster umbrella.

Griffith was pleased with the reactions that the TruSoft, SolarMax, Active Family and Essentials lines received at the show as well as the recent sales growth reported by Stainmaster Flooring Center dealers on the new products. “In addition to these innovations, retailers in our booth saw an exciting collection of new Stainmaster carpet styles made with Tactesse and Luxerell fiber.” As announced in mid-2012, all Stainmaster carpets now have a lifetime warranty on stain, soil, static shock and pet-urine stains, a warranty that’s getting good consumer acceptance.

Through its market research, Invista has spoken with over 10,000 consumers over the past year, he noted. “Our intent is to fundamentally understand what the barriers are with a purchase and how people purchase, because technology has changed the way people collect information. Much of our TruSoft, SolarMax and Essentials offerings are just hitting the shelves now, and things are exceeding our expectations.”

According to Griffith, after six years of decline there has been a major change in the way consumers think and shop, and Invista has invested heavily in consumer research to try to understand the ‘new norm’ among consumers.”

Michelle Rice, vice president, retail channel, noted the dealers she talked with are very excited about the company’s new products and selling approach. “Across the board, everyone who has carried Invista in their stores these past few months are very positive about it. It’s much easier to get the consumers where they need to be, to qualify them and close more sales. TruSoft is the one I’m hearing a lot about. People are saying it’s just nice to really see this thing start to take off and create a lot of excitement.”

Royalty Carpet Mills

Territory manager Mike Herbst said he felt there was “a good turnout” on day two of the show. Once again, the featured product was soft. “We’ve been showing all our new soft fiber products. We have our type 6,6 Royal Premiere nylon that is very innovative in its styling. We have our multi-tones, a high-value item that has done very well here, as well as the new Stainmaster TruSoft we’re launching that’s been very well received.”

White Oak Carpet Mills

White Oak was all about dimensionality. “We want to create a product that causes the customer to look at it and touch it,” said Aaron Pirner, president and CEO. “Many of the products in the marketplace are flat. Our products offer a dimensional experience that leaps off the floor and calls out to you.”

Offering a full portfolio of custom products made only from 100% New Zealand wool, White Oak’s in-house design experts have the technology to create custom virtual design samples of a customer’s desired carpet quality, he noted. “These advanced digital images are able to simulate the rich colors and dynamic textures of the customer’s ideal carpet.”

White Oak’s VariaLoom technology offers dramatic patterns and design flexibility. “We can customize and control manufacturing variables—including pile height, needle and yarn size, stitching and gauge—to produce luxurious carpets that are unique,” he said.

Gary Lester of UnderFoot Luxury Flooring & Fine Rugs in Scottsdale, Ariz., was impressed. “There have been some very sharp items on the high end. White Oak has some fabulous products they’re presenting in 3-D. They have the old GAF Viewmasters as well as an HD screen that demonstrate how dimensional their carpets are, so when you present it to somebody outside of a show like this, they’re actually going to feel the effect of the 3-D.”