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Tuftex: Styling and affordability define ‘boutique’ manufacturer

February 1/8; Volume 30/Number 16

By Ken Ryan

Screen Shot 2016-02-08 at 2.51.53 PMSteve Hernandez, owner of Hernandez Carpets of Commerce, Calif., has been doing business with Tuftex for decades—when it was primarily known as a “boutique” California carpet mill long before it became the premier residential carpet brand of Shaw Floors.

For Hernandez, Tuftex has lost none of that small-mill charm, even though it is part of a much larger corporation today. “These guys run a high-end boutique carpet mill with blue-collar management types—phenomenal management, I might add,” he said. “They want to grow their business; I dig it. I am all in with them.”

Los Angeles-based Tuftex has been manufacturing carpet in California for more than 44 years, beginning as a family-owned mill and growing through acquisitions. “We have the unique advantage of being part of a large company while still having the ability to operate more like a small organization because the entire enterprise is under one roof,” said Doug Jackson, vice president of Tuftex sales and marketing. “This gives us the ability to be more nimble, where manufacturing, marketing, product development, sales and quality control can communicate very easily.”

There are many elements that go into producing a quality carpet; for Tuftex, styling comes first and manufacturing second, according to Jackson. What that means is even if a product is difficult to manufacture due to complex yarn constructions or manufacturing processes, the design team will do whatever it takes to get the job done. “We will exhaust all possibilities to meet the needs of the marketplace,” Jackson explained. “Our product designers and colorist are exceptional; they are known for creating fabulous styles and colors that coordinate beautifully with wood, tile and other hard surfaces.”

Because of its unique position—a boutique mill within a large corporation—Tuftex can attack the marketplace from all angles and price points. “They are one of the only mills that can satisfy every customer—entry-level price points with a high-end look to higher-end price points,” Hernandez said. “They can check all the boxes from a style and affordability standpoint.”

Steve Hendricks, carpet buyer for RC Willey Home Furnishings, with 15 locations in four Western states, said Tuftex’s style is so unique a consumer is not going to be able to shop around and find a similar look.

Hernandez added, “But if you did find the same product, you would be paying a lot more for it.”

Several dealers said styling and affordability best characterize Tuftex. “They cover a broad range,” said Dan Mandel, co-owner of Sterling Carpets, Anaheim, Calif. “They do have the meat-and-potatoes product in the $8-to-$10 range, which works in our market as well as the upper-end products. They are our No. 1 go-to nylon mill.”

Hendricks said the things Tuftex does well—delivering high-quality carpet with top designs to the market, with few claims—allows dealers like RC Willey to be more profitable. “Tuftex wants to be your partner,” he added. “They know if you aren’t successful, they aren’t successful. The Tuftex reps who call on our stores do a great job of training our sales associates and maintaining their samples in our showrooms.”

2016 initiatives

Jackson said Tuftex’s goal is to position its core existing products and new offerings to capture a broader market, while at the same time providing its loyal dealer base with more mid- to upper-end selections. “We have a high-end market that is ready for a new player,” he explained. “We will market to the needs of a shopper who wants options—and we will start with color. Our opportunities will be through innovation, style and design, which will allow us to leave a consumer speechless, thinking, ‘I did not think they could do that in carpet.’”

Tuftex’s high-end Signature collection, which will feature 18 new products, comprises uniquely styled carpet and colors that range from luxurious cut and loop pattern to skillfully crafted and finely finished solids, heathers and multicolored textures, as well as lavish shags and cables that include a creative mix of yarScreen Shot 2016-02-08 at 2.51.59 PMns. According to Jackson, the color palettes offer a wide selection of elegant neutrals and rich accent shades.

Key to the presentation is the Signature Library display, which holds 50 flip cards and will house the line’s latest additions. “This display is a perfect fixture for retailers and builders that want to maximize their Tuftex product offering without sacrificing a lot of space in their showrooms,” Jackson explained.

The company will also debut Signature Towers—two units that can either accompany the Signature Library or stand alone. The rotating towers will highlight 28 of Tuftex’s most unique styles from the Naturals, Impressions, Striated and Artisan collections.

Jackson said the objective of the new product and merchandising launch is to make it simpler for dealers to identify which category is most suitable for their customers’ needs. To that end, Tuftex will introduce a multi-tier marketing strategy that will allow dealers to better categorize the product offering, thus appealing to a broader audience. The three tiers will concentrate on its Tuftex Classics, Tuftex Stainmaster PetProtect and Tuftex Signature lines.

The Classics tier offers an affordable range of simple and traditional nylon styles that have a sophisticated color palette. The products are aimed at mass distribution and new home construction, and will include small-scale cut and loop designs, casual loop patterns and everyday cut pile textures.

Tuftex will offer five new products in its Stainmaster collection, which will be merchandised in a PetProtect display. The Stainmaster products are made with SuperiaSD nylon fiber for added softness, durability and stain resistance.

Dealers speak highly of the new collections. “They are always cutting-edge with colors and styles, and the value of the product is great, Mandel said. “The line lends itself to West Coast styling.”

Being a California mill brings with it obvious advantages for West Coast dealers, namely in delivery time. “In the past, when dealing with mills on the East Coast, I often had to wait 10 to 14 days for delivery, sometimes as long as three months,” Hernandez said. “With Tuftex, if we order today, we get it tomorrow.”

Mandel agreed to the benefits of a West Coast mill in his backyard. “I love the fact we can go to the mill anytime and see what they are working on and give input. The Tuftex folks are very customer-friendly. They listen to the market and are receptive to what the market is telling them.”

While 2015 was a decent year for Hernandez Carpets, the owner said his business with Tuftex grew dramatically. “They decided they wanted to grab more market share, whereas in the past they were content with playing in their own backyard. They went from a cut-order mill to making product that a customer like myself could inventory. They are going to grab a ton of business.”

While always intent on manufacturing high-quality carpet with the latest, greatest colors and designs, Tuftex is equally proud of its environmental record. For seven consecutive years, the mill can claim zero waste sent to the landfill; it uses 80% reclaimed water in its dyeing operation. “That is outstanding for a state that is in a drought,” Jackson noted.