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Carpet Surfaces coverage: Mid-sized mills find ways to stake their claims

February 4/11, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 18

By Ken Ryan

 

For all the consternation and hand-wringing about the woes of the carpet industry in the face of a hard surfaces onslaught, you’d be hard pressed to find a mill executive at Surfaces bemoaning his place in the market.

Smaller mills have found a niche in higher-end goods with differentiated looks to keep growing their business, in many cases by taking market share. “The only upside to losing floor space to hard surfaces is when consumers are buying carpet they are buying a better priced carpet,” John Sheffield, vice president of marketing for Gulistan, told FCNews during Surfaces. “With that, the average selling price is going up. Better goods are easier to sell than ever before. When consumers are spending $4 [per square foot] for wood, spending $2 for carpet is not a big deal to them.”

In recent years, several carpet mills have branched out into hard surfaces—primarily WPC/SPC. However, carpet remains the primary focus for mills such as Engineered Floors. “Carpet is not dead,” said Joe Young, soft surface category manager for Engineered Floors, which saw its business increase more than 20%—or $200 million—in 2018.

Even as it expands its hard surface portfolio in residential remodel and Main Street commercial, Engineered Floors is first and foremost a carpet company with big ambitions. “We’re doubling down on where the growth in the industry is going—solution-dyed polyester,” Young said. “I don’t see anyone getting into anything else. These days, if it is not soft, multicolor polyester, it is hard to sell.”

In 2019, Engineered Floors is putting emphasis on its “destination showroom” for its residential brand (Dream Weaver) dealers. The new merchandising lineup includes three space-saving pedestal displays showcasing Dream Weaver for residential replacement, as well as Dwellings for new homes and Pentz for Main Street. Engineered Floors also updated its PureBac Destination color wall display.

Despite expanding its presence in the LVT space with new Stainmaster PetProtect offerings, Phenix Flooring’s roots are firmly planted in soft surfaces. That was illustrated at Surfaces with the introduction of Modern Contours, a line of 14 styles inspired by the fashion and couture bridal industries. “We’re getting tremendous response from our customers,” said Mark Clayton, CEO. “Our color direction and our pattern direction are getting the most notice.”

The materials and knitting techniques used to create Modern Contours are intended to create a high-end look to a room. Jason Surratt, senior vice president of product and design for Phenix, said the collection gives homeowners more flexibility and freedom to design creatively. “The design process Jason and his team have employed to create this collection is like nothing Phenix has ever explored before,” Clayton said.

Dave Snedeker, executive vice president, Bob’s Carpet & Flooring, Clearwater, Fla., also shared in Clayton’s enthusiasm. “Phenix’s new lines are their best introductions in years.”

At Stanton Carpet, new product development remains a core competency. The manufacturer/ importer showed off 112 styles and more than 700 SKUs with a phased rollout scheduled to launch in the coming months. Jonathan Cohen, CEO, said thriving in an age when hard surfaces is so dominant requires being aggressive and taking share. “You take calculated risks. Sometimes what you think is a single becomes a home run and what you think is a home run is a double.”

Cohen is confident that Cable Beach, a flat loomed, specialized polyester fiber that can be used indoors or outdoors, will be a big hit in 2019. “The look has gotten a lot of reaction. It’s our first non-machine made [product].” Stanton Street Decorative Commercial, a new collection of 17 high-fashion carpet tiles and broadloom tailored for the decorative Main Street commercial market, shows great promise as well.

The departures of Royalty Carpet Mills and Beaulieu, both strong Stainmaster players, created an opportunity for the likes of Gulistan to stake its claim. Now in its second year since the brand was resurrected, Gulistan is carefully introducing new Stainmaster products the company said it believes can provide solutions. “We’re not in a position to throw a lot of new products into the market if there is not a likelihood of success,” Sheffield told FCNews.

The Dixie Group, another Stainmaster player, grew mid-single digits in residential carpet last year. “We play in the residential replacement business and that business was down mid-single digits in 2018, so we were 6% to 7% ahead of the market,” said T.M. Nuckols, president, residential division.

To keep that momentum going, the company is hoping EnVision66, a collection of 10 products made with nylon 6,6 fiber, will be a standout. “It is a very simple program for retail sales associates to sell with common colors and a single price point.” Nuckols said nylon 6,6 provides a point of differentiation from other nylon products in the market.

Masland said it is expecting a strong year in nylon with Stainmaster PetProtect styles as well as a refresh of its wool offerings. At Fabrica, the goal is to build on its recent success in both nylon and wool, with new designs that round out and complement the current offerings.

In 2018, Marquis leveraged its new, state-of-the-art twisting and heat seating equipment to produce carpeting with lower profiles to meet consumers request. The process provides a high-density level for better performance and durability. Proof of that is a new 2019 offering called Phenomenal, a solution-dyed polyester. “It’s got the hand that consumers really want—not blown up,” said Chet Graham, president. “It has a nice, clean profile and twist rate.” Graham said dealers should expect to see additional color combinations using solution-dyed fibers to achieve more sophisticated styling.

Every flooring company touts differentiation, but few can truly define it the way Anderson Tuftex can as it pairs carpet and hardwood in its new introductions. Anderson Tuftex drew raves for both soft and hard surfaces. Unleashed features carpets made with Stainmaster PetProtect fibers with built-in stain protection and pet hair resistance to make clean up easier. “Anderson Tuftex fulfilled all my Stainmaster needs,” said Rob Elder, co-owner of Hiller’s Flooring America, Rochester, Minn.

These pet-friendly carpets have been curated with two new hardwood additions: Kensington and Buckingham. Crafted from white oak harvested in the Appalachian Mountains and manufactured in South Carolina, Kensington and Buckingham are premium, sawn-face, white oak floors designed to timelessly add refinement to any home.

Anderson Tuftex went so far as to visit pet stores to gather research and information on pets and flooring. “We learned that pet-friendly products will usually lack style and design while it will have performance and durability,” said Katie Ford, director of brand strategy. “We have the style and design and performance.”

Southwind insists it is a carpet mill, but its mix of hard surface to soft is now 60/40. At Surfaces, Southwind pushed Classic Traditions, a solution-dyed polyester that provides an upscale look at a value price point. The company occupied a larger booth than previous years, and that may have contributed to an increase in activity. “We did more business in the first day than we did the entire show last year,” said Richard Abramowicz, executive vice president of sales and chief marketing officer.

 

Mohawk shows off its technology, marketing might
Las Vegas—Mohawk backed up its massive booth presence at Surfaces with an impressive array of technology and new products. At the top of the list on the soft surface side was ColorMax, its innovative dyeing process used on select SmartStrand and Karastan styles.

ColorMax, which won a Best of Surfaces award for innovation (see story on page 14), stands out for its ability to provide blended colorations, superior color clarity, enhanced color saturation and maximum performance. “ColorMax is high-definition carpet,” Jamie Welborn, vice president, residential product management, told FCNews.

For 2019, Mohawk is introducing four ColorMax styles in the SmartStrand Silk Reserve product portfolio. In addition to the infusion of ColorMax products, the Silk Reserve line is also expanding with more patterns. Three additional ColorMax styles are being added to Mohawk’s revamped Ultra Colorwall. They will join four new solid products featuring an updated 48-color palette and two new tailored tonal styles that offer subtle tone-on-tone colorations. All styles in the Ultra collection feature Forever Clean and All Pet Protection.

Air.o
As Air.o gains traction in the retail channel, Mohawk is beefing up marketing efforts around the hypoallergenic soft flooring for 2019. The manufacturer is providing dealers with five reasons why they can succeed with Air.o.:

  1. Double your market opportunity for soft flooring.
  2. Maximize the volume of your highest-margin category.
  3. Separate yourself from your competitors.
  4. Simplify your installation process.
  5. Increase customer satisfaction.

“The environmental story, the hypoallergenic story with Air.o really resonates with millennials,” Welborn said. “I see it as the future of soft flooring.”

Four new multicolor Air.o styles will be added to the current 12-style assortment. With multiple price points and thicker weights, these additions provide customers with greater design options while offering an easy-to-clean, VOC-free floor.

New Air.o additions—Rest Assured I (40 oz.), Rest Assured II (50 oz.), Peaceful Moments I (45 oz.) and Peaceful Moments II (55 oz.)—offer innovative styling with new multicolor yarns.