October 15/22, 2018: Volume 34, Issue 9
By Ken Ryan
While there is no doubt polyester has gained significant share in residential carpet over the last decade at the expense of nylon, the latter is still arguably the preferred fiber among flooring retailers, particularly nylon 6,6, which is noted for its resiliency.
Nylon has been used as a primary carpet fiber since the early 1960s, and its continued popularity reflects the material’s multipurpose use and outstanding performance, according to executives. “Nylon is the most durable and versatile of all fibers, providing excellent flexibility in creating a variety of carpet styles,” said Teresa Tran, director of soft surface portfolio management-residential, Shaw Floors.
Others agree. Jonathan Cohen, CEO of Stanton Carpet, calls nylon “the most trusted” fiber. “Compared to other fibers, it’s incredibly resilient and retains its appearance much longer than other fibers.”
T.M. Nuckols, president, residential division, The Dixie Group, which oversees the Dixie Home, Masland and Fabrica brands, touts the resiliency of nylon, in particular nylon 6,6, which he dubs “the most resilient nylon fiber used in carpet.” Nylon 6,6 has a tighter molecular structure, which equates to greater stain resistance and better durability under the most demanding conditions.
Stain resistance and withstanding heavy traffic are far from the only qualities that distinguish nylon from other materials. From a styling standpoint, nylon can’t be beat, either. “Nylon provides the designer with a much broader range of styling tools,” said Lisa Lux, director of product development at Anderson Tuftex. “Color is limitless; you can dye nylon to whatever you can dream. With nylon you have a wide variety of luster levels, yarn sizes and different dye abilities that can all be combined in unique and creative ways. Nylon also provides better performance on wear and texture retention tests. Paired with effective stain and soil resistance treatments, you have products that will endure for years.”
The Dixie Group’s sales team often discusses the performance qualities of nylon 6,6 during sales calls and product knowledge training sessions with its retail and design customers. The Dixie Group also works closely with its fiber suppliers, including Invista, Universal and Ascend on training materials and content in support of the nylon 6,6 story. “Facts about nylon 6,6 are easily communicated to sales associates and ultimately to the consumer—facts such as nylon 6,6 is the preferred fiber in airbags and parachutes,” Nuckols said.
Helping dealers win
To give its retailers the best opportunities to be successful, Shaw offers various resources to ensure RSAs understand the attributes of nylon carpet. As Shaw Floors’ Tran explained, “Purchasing flooring can be a confusing process; therefore, communicating a product’s benefits to consumers is critical and can make the difference between a successful or an unsuccessful sale. Through video and online trainings, product brochures and additional marketing materials, we ensure our retailers are as well-informed as possible.”
Invista, through its aligned retail partners—including the Stainmaster Flooring Center showrooms—offers a range of training options tailored to the needs of the industry. “Our most aligned retail partners benefit from in-store visits and live training along with combined training and promotional events such as the Stainmaster private sale,” said Jeff Dill, director of mill sales and specialty retail for Invista.
The attributes and range of dye affinities in nylon 6,6, for example, help make marketing programs such as Stainmaster PetProtect so impactful because dealers can easily demonstrate the product, Dill noted.
For retailers who would prefer a self-paced or online experience, Invista offers online webinars and videos that cover topics from sales techniques to product messaging to help retailers convey the Stainmaster story.
As an industry-leading Stainmaster PetProtect supplier, Phenix Flooring has partnered with Invista on a broad range of nylon products. “The inherent benefits of these nylon programs are their valuable history of consumer and retail sales associate brand awareness,” said Mark Clayton, president, Phenix. “Each also offers intrinsic benefits to the consumer.”
Stanton launched Atelier six years ago premised on leveraging nylon in developing a collection. Today Atelier comprises several hundred decorative SKUs across woven, tufted and printed products at multiple price points. “Atelier Marquee, one of our newest collections, interweaves nylon fibers with softness and silk-like luster yarns creating an iridescent effect in plush pile while offering a luxurious and soft hand,” Cohen explained.
New to the market this month is Stanton Street Decorative Commercial, a collection of high fashion broadloom and carpet tiles targeting a key segment of the market. The line features solution-dyed nylon in carpet tile, plank tile and broadloom for commercial with crossover residential application. Cohen said the variety in color and design in the collection offers numerous installation possibilities—mix-and-match tiles or create a custom layout (quarter-turned, herringbone, brick, among others). “It’s a low-cost, high-value solution to update a space and make quick changes while creating visual impact. We make it easy for our dealers to facilitate sales with our compact, user-friendly display complete with room scenes, specifications and sample support.”
Nylon’s future looks bright
Executives expect to see nylon 6,6 continue to be an important fiber over the next several years regardless of the steady popularity of polyester.
Shaw’s ongoing nylon strategy is to focus on style and design while playing off the color versatility and durability of the fiber. “With the resilience and versatility of this fiber type, nylon is an excellent solution for high-traffic spaces such as commercial, education and hospitality.” Tran said. “However, advances in color dyeing and texture offerings allow nylon to also fit into the residential category, where homeowners can enjoy the benefits of a beautiful and durable carpet.”
Nylon will continue to be Anderson Tuftex’s main fiber source going forward as it drives innovation through differentiated pattern looks. In fact, the company’s tufted pattern business comprises more than 40% of Anderson Tuftex’s line today. “Every product we make is an intentional design, utilizing every tool in our tool box,” Lux said. “We carefully select just the right fiber, constructing different twists and yarn combinations to create the most beautiful carpets. Tufting machine technology has advanced leaps and bounds from where the residential market was even 15 years ago. With nylon we have the ability to build distinctive fiber combinations, tailored to a specific machine type, depending on the look we are trying to achieve.”
Observers say there has been a clear trend in the residential segment toward the premium end, so-called “better goods” that offer striking looks and performance advantages. One reason for this is consumers are willing to spend more for high-end carpet if carpet is only being used in one or two rooms of the home. “This trend, of course, favors nylon,” Invista’s Dill said. “We expect to see the more luxurious, heavier weight cut-pile carpets, and most of the pattern styles will continue using nylon as the preferred fiber.”
Among fiber suppliers, Invista has a strong presence in nylon with more than 30 unique white fibers of varying denier, luster, finish and dye affinity that provides its mill partners with the ability to produce a range of carpet aesthetics.
One of those mill partners is Phenix, which still views nylon as a key performer for certain applications. Phenix on Main, for example, is a new nylon collection targeting government and education environments where the specifications on performance are more stringent due to the lifespan of the product on the floor. “We plan to leverage nylon in this new arena for Phenix Flooring,” Clayton said. “Although nylon has lost significant market share to PET, we feel it continues to fill a need in certain situations.”