Posted on

Soft offerings ignite segment’s comeback

Beaulieu’s new Indulgence is constructed of PermaSoft solution-dyed nylon.

Carpet revived with new yarn systems

By Louis Iannaco

Volume 26/Number 20; February 18/25, 2013

In the first few years of the millennium, when the economy was robust, the consumer seeking new flooring would often spend her discretionary income on hardwood, ceramic tile and laminate. After all, hard surfaces offered style, texture and pizzazz.

Executives on the soft side knew they had to do something to draw the consumer’s eye back to broadloom. Utilizing state-of-the-art technology, mills started producing new textures and patterns. Plus, the luxurious feel of “super soft” yarn systems helped lure that consumer back to carpet. Whether with nylon, triexta and now solution-dyed polyester, the soft fibers wars are officially on, helping to ignite a broadloom comeback.

Chief among the players that spearheaded carpet’s revival is Invista. As the creator of the first soft nylon products—Stainmaster Tactesse fiber in 2000, followed by Luxerelle in 2009—the company believes its latest soft offering, TruSoft, takes the category to another level.

Stainmaster carpet with TruSoft fiber is being promoted as “the softest Stainmaster fiber yet.” The new soft nylon 6,6 fiber—which can be manufactured in many colors, styles and patterns—will help carpets stay soft, durable and aesthetically pleasing while delivering the benefits of Stainmaster carpet stain and soil resistance, noted Steve Griffith, chief marketing officer, Invista Surfaces.

Shaw’s Aquatic Art offering, shown here in Artic Frost, is part of the mill’s new Caress super-soft collection featuring Anso nylon.

Dixie Home offers TruSoft in its broadloom and received a lot of positive feedback from Surfaces attendees. The use of a premium yarn system differentiates the mill from its competition regarding soft offerings, noted Dan Phelan, vice president of marketing for The Dixie Group. “We found that we can put a finish on a TruSoft fiber that is much like the old staple fibers, where we get some fantastic finishes out of these soft products. Our customers have told us they want soft, but they want soft in nylon and they want a brand in nylon that’s soft. We can’t think of a better position to be in than having the Stainmaster brand as the component and using it in a premium product.”

Beaulieu of America

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

Indulgence brings several features together, said Ralph Boe, CEO. Beaulieu’s Wrinkle Guard protection, a new carpet backing that guarantees “lays flat stays flat” performance, is combined with the Bliss Serenity guarantee, which is also being offered as a “package of protection” with Indulgence that includes a lifetime no-exclusion stain-removal warranty, as well as other warranties.

The Indulgence offering is a dense group, featuring 60- to 80-ounce carpets. “We put about twice the twist we would normally put in a higher denier per filament nylon,” Boe said. “As a result, we feel confident that the yarn is going to be very firm and stable and maintain its definition.”

Dream Weaver Carpets

At Dream Weaver, a division of Engineered Floors, president Melvin Silvers recently told FCNews many things make its new PureSoft Cashmere product, introduced at Surfaces 2013, different than anything else on the market today, with the most important being it is constructed of solution-dyed polyester.

“This allows us to create unique colorations—combinations that cannot be achieved by piece dying as we’re barber poling it, so it has the appearance of a solid but it really isn’t.” This allows for a more natural look, he said. “When you think of nature, there are variations of color. We can achieve that now.”

According to Silvers, what differentiates Dream Weaver’s soft product from other carpets is its process. “Ours is 100% solution dyed, which means we don’t have to go through a continuous dye range, and we feel the tip definition in our finishes are so much better. And because we don’t go through the mechanical dye process of extraction, it’s cleaner compared to other types of dyed polyesters. Ours doesn’t have that worn look; it maintains its looks.” Being solution dyed also means the product is totally fade resistant. “Plus, there are no side-match issues, and the dye lot variation is two times as good as anything else out there.”

Silvers noted two types of soft when it comes to carpet. “Ours is pillowy soft; it’s very fluffy. We were able to keep a lot of bulk and still maintain its softness. Other soft products don’t have the bulk; they just have a soft hand.” To the consumer, he said the visual alone “creates more apparent value compared to other products. They can see it is soft before even touching it. Then when they do touch it, they’ll understand why cashmere is in the name.”

Silvers said the final major differentiator for PureSoft Cashmere is its quality. “It’s been constructed and thoroughly tested to ensure it gives superior performance.” It is produced with Engineered Floors’ own SoilShield treatment.

Mohawk Industries

Mohawk’s Wear-Dated Embrace, which features the first true fourth-generation soft nylon, is the mill’s second soft fiber system.

Mohawk took a commanding position in the soft fiber marketplace in 2011 with the introduction of SmartStrand Silk. The mill then expanded its reach in soft fiber with a second fiber system, this time in nylon, with its Wear-Dated Embrace, the first true fourth-generation soft nylon, noted David Duncan, senior vice president of marketing. “It offers an exceptional softness different enough from SmartStrand Silk to reach an additional segment of the market.

“Our consumer research shows that people have different preferences when asked to define soft,” he explained. “When asked to select between carpet samples, 64% chose SmartStrand Silk, 26% selected Embrace, and 5% chose competing products. So, with our two soft fiber systems, we cover a broader spectrum of the market than any other carpet manufacturer—90% of potential buyers.”

Embrace uses two times the fiber of ordinary soft carpet to achieve its full, rich softness, Duncan noted. “In a blind test, Embrace was shown to be twice as soft when compared to other premium soft nylons.” The additional fiber also makes the carpet more durable: Testing showed no loss of performance even after 30,000 foot passes.

Recently, Mohawk expanded its SmartStrand Silk offerings with new products that address key consumer color and styling targets. “Amazingly, SmartStrand Silk has three times the fiber content compared to ordinary soft carpets,” Duncan said.

In a blind test, consumers preferred the softness of SmartStrand Silk 5-to-1 over competitive premium soft nylons, he noted. “This puts SmartStrand Silk in a softness category all its own, but equally important is the fact SmartStrand Silk demonstrates a performance boost compared to traditional soft carpets. In fact, in accelerated wear testing, SmartStrand Silk actually remains beautiful three times longer than comparable soft nylon carpets.”

Duncan said SmartStrand Silk is the only luxuriously soft carpet that has built-in lifetime stain and soil protection that never wears, washes off or diminishes over time. “Even powerful stains like mustard, red Kool-Aid and red wine are no match for this carpet, which is easily cleaned with just water and requires no topical chemicals. In addition, durability is built into SmartStrand Silk’s triexta fiber. This superior fiber bends easily, rebounds quickly and resists the crushing and matting that can occur with other carpet types.”

Phenix

The all-new SureSoft collection of “super soft” carpeting will receive the lion’s share of Phenix’ spotlight in 2013. “We’re going to encourage the consumer to ‘get lost in the feeling’ with SureSoft,” said Susan Curtis, vice president of product/marketing development. “These are carpets that encourage the barefoot lifestyle because of the tactile comfort they deliver underfoot.”

In solid colors, the collection will include Footloose, a 45-ounce product; Fancy Free, a 65-ounce version, and Footsies, a low-profile 55-ounce style.

“Footloose and Fancy Free are made from super-soft PET fibers that contain 25% recycled content. Footsies completes the collection with a more taut construction that’s aimed at consumers who resonate to a more ‘tailored’ aesthetic,” Curtis said.

The other three SureSoft styles—Hop, Skip & Jump, Head Over Heels and Dancing on Air—combine soft with color-shift optics. “These three innovative models combine SureSoft construction with Microflek, a trademarked Pharr yarn that incorporates reflective fibers,” Curtis said. “What we’re offering is a beautiful hand and finish, and color. We’re really trying to bring a beautiful palette.”

Mark Clayton, the mill’s president and CEO, noted that with the soft products coming into the market today, “we’ve taken a step beyond by introducing a beautiful tip definition and finish as well as color offerings that you may not see with our competitors. This is still a value category, and with our soft products we’ve gone a step further than what people expect to see.”

Shaw Industries

Shaw has enhanced one of its most recognizable brands within a new collection, Soft Shades, presenting soft, durable carpets in a range of colors and constructed of Shaw’s premier Anso nylon fiber. It has also introduced the Caress by Shaw Collection featuring Anso nylon that covers a range of looks from traditional to contemporary.