September 2/9, 2019: Volume 35, Issue 6
By Ken Ryan
The advancement of hard surfaces in the residential space may have taken market share from carpet, but it has not signaled the segment’s death knell by any means. Indeed, hard surfaces’ ascent has actually helped carpet, in part, by prompting mills to develop new looks and applications that complement hard surfaces in the home.
Following are several important trends to watch:
As hard surface takes a share of the residential market, the desire for more stylish and fashionable carpet seems to be on the rise—with color being the primary catalyst. “There is no doubt the soft floor covering market has shifted towards multicolor due to the meteoric rise of hard surface,” said Joe Young, soft surface category manager, Engineered Floors. To match the natural wood, stone and woven looks being offered within hard surface, Young said blended tonals and “near-solid” looks are becoming increasingly popular. “These naturally inspired multicolors are generally very difficult—and costly—to generate unless working in solution-dyed yarns.”
According to Teresa Tran, director of residential soft surface portfolio management, Shaw Floors, many consumers see carpet as the foundation of the room. “So, typically—if they are looking for a pattern—they will gravitate to smaller scale. We’re also seeing bolder style choices for smaller rooms, which provides added dimension and depth to the space.”
To that end, Shaw Floors has reimagined its Anso Colorwall to meet and exceed the consumer’s design preferences while providing the highest quality product performance. “After a full year of research, our new Color that Speaks to You experience gives consumers the confidence to select color that is most meaningful for them,” Tran stated. “Every color on the wall is inspired by a mood, memory or moment to connect the comforts of carpet to the comforts of home.”
Not too long-ago solid carpets dominated the landscape, but today non-solid multicolored carpet accounts for 60% of retail sales. Much has to do with technology and the cost to add accent colors. “Ten years ago, we only relied on space-dyed/fleck yarns and they were costly, so when you did the carpet it looked very spotty,” said Jamie Welborn, vice president of residential carpet product development, Mohawk. To remedy this issue, Mohawk created innovations including ColorMax, a dyeing process that provides blended col- orations, superior color clarity, enhanced color saturation and maximum color performance. The ColorMax color palette is designed to coordinate with the blending seen in natural products in wood and stone. Mohawk is also investing in new tufting technology to make multicolor patterns that are cleaner and crisper to the eye.
Whereas in the past you’d find beige cut pile throughout a home, today people are mixing a broad range of styles in nearly every room. Phenix’s newest collection and display, Modern Contours, capitalizes on this trend with color palettes that feature coordinating cut piles, patterns and its hard surface LVT, making for a comprehensive flooring solution. Jason Surratt, senior vice president of product & design, said the cut-pile textures and patterns use state-of-the-art yarn-dyeing technologies to create unique tones and ombré effects that achieve a stunning home aesthetic.
Luanne Holloway, head of product development for Southwind, observed that improved pattern-making capabilities are noteworthy in carpet styling, such as Color Point technology that can place yarns with pinpoint accuracy and clean detail, without having to bury or pull down yarns to create a more complex, intricate pattern.
Hard surface surge
Mill executives say consumers are buying carpet one room at a time and not for the whole house as LVT-related products encroach on areas that were once the domain of soft surfaces. “Bedrooms are pretty much the last stronghold of carpet in most homes,” said TM Nuckols, president of the residential division of The Dixie Group. “The consumer is looking for something that provides a great complement to her wood, tile or luxury vinyl floors running through the rest of her home.”
The dominance of hard surface residentially has also aided carpet in another way—sale prices have risen. Hard surfaces tend to be higher priced than carpet on average, and as that segment has grown, consumers in general are spending more on flooring. Nuckols noted that on a per square foot basis, the consumer is willing to consider a higher price point for carpet, especially when she understands what she can get for spending a little more—higher quality, heavier face weights and differentiated styles. “The trend toward hard surfaces is helping drive better goods in carpet.”
Turning broadloom into rugs
Consumers love the solutions that waterproof vinyl flooring can provide, but they also desire something soft and warm underfoot. Increasingly, the solution is rugs over hard surface. To that end, mills are offering turnkey binding operations that make it easy for retailers to offer custom rug programs to their customer. As Nuckols explained: “With the variety of constructions and colorations available today, broadloom styles make beautiful area rugs, and rugs with custom sizes and shapes are easily created through cut-and-bind operations.”
Jonathan Cohen, CEO of Stanton Carpet, agreed, adding, “With the growth of rugs we have seen patterning trends becoming enlarged to make a bold statement. From highly patterned rugs to interesting textured and plushsolid rugs, the opportunities are endless.”
Polyester, a low-cost fiber, has grown significantly over the past decade to where it pretty much owns the entry-level segment. And nothing is growing faster than solution dyed. “The solution-dyed story for PET carpet fibers in the market today is strong and noteworthy,” Southwind’s Holloway said. “The color is built into the solution-dyed fiber, does not wearoff and offers superior fade resistance to harsh sunlight along with inherent stain-resistance. Innovations in PET production and carpet construction have resulted in improved performance for carpets made of this fiber.”
Pam Rainey, vice president of residential product design for Anderson Tuftex, has witnessed some interesting carpet trends during the Milan Design Week earlier this year. “Many of the exhibits and showrooms displayed carpet in unconventional ways from floor to wall to ceiling,” she explained. “It’s being seen in all spaces again bringing us back, or forward, into a 1970s-inspired vibe.”
On the commercial side, fewer end users are desiring carpet products the way they used to, whether it’s traditional broadloom or carpet tile. That’s according to Terry Mowers, vice president of commercial design, Tarkett North America. “Simply put, very few designers and their clients are specifying carpet products for the entire floor plane, resulting in a smaller carpet order per project.”
Specific areas of carpet (a.k.a. carpet “islands”) are being specified to delineate various work functions from lounging to desking/benching. (Benching systems are used to create or convert a working space into a more open plan using bench-like desks, which more than one person can utilize at a time.)
Carpets are “coming away from the wall,” Mowers said, allowing end users complete autonomy to continually transform a space. “By not using a wall-to-wall installation, carpet is able to accommodate and complement space-adaptable walls, furniture and technology to provide an innovative solution—and meet the needs of how we work individually—as a team and within a space.”