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Fall intros: Innovations entice dealers to sell better goods

September 16/23, 2019: Volume 35, Issue 7

By Ken Ryan


The newest product introductions in the flooring industry run the gamut from latest in rigid core construction to carpet tiles engineered for exterior applications. What these disparate products have in common, however, are technology advancements that will help define and differentiate these innovations as they hit the market at the height of the fall selling season.

Engineered Floors
Its Dream Weaver residential brand is bringing to market a brand new line of design-focused patterns, textures and colors called DW Select. Comprising 14 initial styles, these carpets bring textural nuances reminiscent of natural materials into the home. Featuring EFs’ proprietary twistX technology, DW Select features blended fiber components that enhance wearability and styling.

Foss Floors
Foss’ Grizzly Grass mimics artificial grass but eliminates the many negatives associated with tufted grass constructions. Available in both broadloom and tiles, Grizzly Grass features DuraLock technology, which bonds all fibers in place without the use of latex/chemicals. Its premium self-stick tiles includes the company’s peel-and-stick backing system, making installation over any surface easy. Grizzly Grass is 100% waterproof and comes with a lifetime warranty against fraying, zippering, fading, stain and wear.

Launched as Inhaus’ first 100% commercially focused floor, Moto is a 3mm-thick, PVC-free, glue-down resilient plank manufactured in Japan. It is made of a polypropylene mineral composite core, ultra-clear 20-mil polypropylene surface wear layer and embossed surface to enhance the texture of wood. It is also topped with a protective surface coating. Created in collaboration with the design community, Moto consists of a collection of 12 colors.

Mohawk’s new, 100%waterproof SolidTech Plus blends style and durability. With low pattern repetition, painted beveled edges and embossed textures, SolidTech Plus adds a more authentic, natural hardwood look and feel to the SolidTech collection. Mohawk said the new rigid flooring is three times more scratch resistant due to its tough wear layer and enhanced lacquer finish. Its EasyClean technology adds stain and soil protection, while a UniClic locking system creates a watertight seam that traps water on the surface.

Entice and Tempt—created with 100% SureSoftSD and protected by Microban antimicrobial technology, are classic, casual textures. Available to retailers this fall, the multi-tonal shades of the 15-color palette are designed to create a neutral statement that sets the tone for an interior space. Resourceful & Rational, the newest casual textures from Phenix, combines fresh, earthy colors to create a 30-color line. Protected by Microban and constructed with 100% SureSoft carpet yarn, Resourceful & Rational are ideal for active households. Determined, Eager & Energetic—the latest pattern collection from Phenix—is crafted from original artistry, pulling inspiration from natural materials and textures. Twenty natural colors are available in this Microban-protected grouping.

Philadelphia Commercial
The newest carpet collection by Philadelphia Commercial, Shape of Color, is a 24 x 24-inch carpet tile featuring the company’s environmentally guaranteed EcoSolution Q Nylon and EcoWorx tile backing. Engineered to perform, Shape of Color is ideal for high-traffic applications. This collection includes two styles offering design versatility while adding bold expression to any space—Block by Block and Line by Line. Block by Block has bold contrasting colors, saturated tonal hues and neutrals that encourage the uninhibited use of color being embraced in fashion, the home and the workplace. Line by Line features a subtle color palette and a sophisticated linear pattern that reflects the angles in Block by Block.

Shaw Floors
Distinction Plus is Shaw Floors’ latest WPC introduction featuring 7 x 48 planks with 10 visuals in a range of wood species, including oak, maple, pine and eucalyptus. Part of the Floorté Classic Series, Distinction Plus was designed with classic style and amplified comfort in mind. Its foamed, 100% waterproof core promises better sound absorption and enhanced comfort underfoot for a softer, warmer hard surface flooring option. Distinction Plus protects from splashes, spills and daily household traffic thanks to Shaw’s Armourbead finish and 12-mil wearlayer.

COREtec Stone presents a designer-curated collection of tile and stone designs. An embossed thermo-resin layer provides realism while integrated grout lines match the floor perfectly, without making a mess.

Chief among COREtec Stone’s achievements is a new, rigid mineral core that’s free of PVC and plasticizers. The rigid mineral core offers indentation resistance with dimensional stability, allowing the product to offer a 18 x 36-inch platform among its array of design-forward aesthetics and formats suitable for commercial or residential use. The rigid mineral core offers greater dimensional stability than WPC and SPC, making COREtec stone ideal for large spaces without using transition pieces. According to USFloors, moisture from the top or bottom will have no effect on COREtec Stone as its rigid mineral core is waterproof.

Opti-Wood rigid core hardwood flooring is now available in wider/longer premium planks—7-inch widths and 84-inch lengths featuring real hardwood bonded to Wellmade’s patented HDPC rigid core. Low-luster, wire-brushed finishes along with distressed and hand-scraped textures augment the collection’s dramatic visuals. Representing the next generation of engineered flooring, Opti-Wood is tolerant to temperature fluctuations while remaining stable in the most demanding environments. With its waterproof properties, Opti-Wood can be installed in areas prone to moisture and humidity, including kitchen, bath and below-grade applications.

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Carpet: Five key trends to watch in soft surfaces

September 2/9, 2019: Volume 35, Issue 6

By Ken Ryan


Blended tonals and ‘near-solid’ looks are gaining popularity. Shown is EF’s Dream Weaver brand.

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:

Color, design
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.”

Southwind offers Classic Traditions, a stylish line of patterned carpets that features Color Point technology.

Polyester’s push
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.”

Unconventional uses
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.”

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Carpet: In commoditized market, better goods still thrive

July 8/15, 2019: Volume 35, Issue 2

By Ken Ryan


At a time when the residential carpet market is flat to slightly down in both sales and unit volume (FCNews, June 24/July 1), the notion that a segment within carpet could be growing might seem improbable. And yet, a strong economy—plus advances in tufting technology and, ironically, the explosion of LVT-driven hard surfaces—has spurred higher-end carpet sales.

Some mill executives suggest the economy and a robust stock market play into the psyche of the affluent consumer who has the wherewithal to spend more for carpet if she wants to. While that is one main factor in the rise of better-end goods, it isn’t the only one.

“More intuitively, and in an odd way, the loss of share of carpet and the growth of hard surface has helped the higher-end carpet market,” said Bill Storey, senior vice president at Mohawk, who oversees the high-end Karastan brand.

Storey contends as carpet gets relegated to fewer rooms in the home, the consumer spends more money on soft surface products. “When you are in smaller areas of the home consumers get more adventurous, whether it be wall to wall or a carpet made into rugs with design and colors.”

Teresa Tran, director of soft surface portfolio management-residential for Shaw, said consumers continue to desire carpet due to its soft, luxurious texture and feel—an ideal complement to the hard surface that permeates many of today’s homes. “Comfort and carpet go hand in hand, and consumers are looking to make a statement with their flooring choices,” she said. “Carpet not only gives consumers comfort underfoot, but also allows them to choose design-driven flooring that showcases their individual style and personality.”

Jason Surratt, senior vice president of product and design, Phenix Flooring, is another executive who believes the growth of LVT and hard surface has fueled sales of higher-end carpet (defined at the retail level as $4.99 per square foot and higher). “With carpet being a smaller amount of an interior purchase, the consumer is more comfortable spending on a higher-priced good,” he explained. “Another point to consider is the smaller area of carpet is typically broken up by hard surface visually providing multiple styles or designs being used in the same home com- pared to a single product throughout.”

Today’s consumer is typically buying carpet on a room-by-room basis, not for the entire house. “Only a few rooms are getting carpet—typically bedrooms and possibly a hallway or stair runner,” said T.M. Nuckols, president, residential division, The Dixie Group. “This gives her flexibility in choosing different carpet styles for those areas. She is looking for something really nice to complement her hard surfaces, such as a pretty pattern or loop.”

Thanks to advancements in tufting and the creative skill of designers, there are options galore for consumers who prefer striking patterns, loops, tip shears and color options that have increased with dye variants and solution-dyed yarns. Nuckols said product development teams have used this tool kit of yarns and tufting technology to create a tremendous assortment of styles, designs and qualities to fit every taste.

Cool colors with a warm accent is a growing style, according to Chet Graham, CEO, Marquis Industries, whose company has used that trend to its advantage. “Higher-end goods are still being driven by soft handed products,” he said. “Products with a tighter and lower pile started to see growth toward the end of 2018 and continue to be a push through 2020.”

Laurie Dillingham, director of product styling and design for Engineered Floors, said today’s innovations are often inspired by ancient techniques that are being combined with modern technology to create a collaborative approach connecting the past with the future. Texture trends, she noted, are being influenced by eco-therapy, which refers to healing and growth nurtured by interactions with the earth. “Nuances of the natural landscape bring the outdoors in, and we find many consumers will seek products inspired by elements such as tree bark and natural stone,” she said.

So many of today’s higher-end carpets are designed to work alongside hard surface in the home, which is why natural stone looks or distressed hardwood visuals are so popular today. For its Karastan-branded Mackenzie line, Mohawk took a slab from a Daltile product and replicated it in carpet. “When we first showed it to people, they thought it was a granite slab from a distance—it looks so much like stone,” Storey said. “That product has been absolutely fantastic for us.”

Karastan’s No. 1 seller, Artistic Charm, a multicolor nylon with a grid-type look, offers definitive pattern and performance. When told the name sounds like a Kentucky Derby winner, Storey said, “It has been a horse for us.”

Continuing the hard surface replication Mohawk is coming to market with looks that conjure images of travertine and granite, including a carpet that mimics the veins in a granite slab. “It’s very fun to see,” Storey said. “As manufacturers we’ve been forced to up our game. There is so much great looking hard surfaces out there [that can inspire us] on the soft surface side.”

New introductions
Shaw’s 2019 introductions correspond with five specific design trends—modern farmhouse, sanctuary, urban luxe, coastal summerhouse and mid-century modern. Shaw Floors’ Caress styles can be utilized to achieve these themes. “For an urban luxe, high-end look, consumers can select styles such as Rich Opulence or Chateau Fare—to bring the outdoors in for a sanctuary feel, Ombre Whisper is a perfect choice,” Tran said. “Caress offers five sophisticated patterns and three solids, giving consumers stunning options to pick the soft surface that fits their personality.”

Phenix Flooring’s newest collection, Modern Contours, recently hit retail floors with great fanfare. Specifically, the sophisticated patterns in its Bespoke line have helped sell the coordinating textures merchandised in color palettes that demonstrate how Phenix’s hard surface offering pairs perfectly with Modern Contours.

The Dixie Group traveled far for inspiration for two of its newest high-end offerings—Fabrica Barcelona and Masland Victoria Island. Barcelona is home to the famous artist and architect, the late Antoni Gaudi. Known for fluid designs in unexpected applications and materials, Fabrica’s rendition of Barcelona epitomizes Modernism in form and function, the company said. Meanwhile, Victoria Island—a scenic and spectacular location in Canada—offers a design that imitates subtle landscaped patterns reminiscent of the area.

PureBac, a flexible backing system included in select Dream Weaver styles, is paired with PureColor solution-dyed fiber to make for a winning residential carpet solution for Engineered Floors. “There is no latex in PureBac, which means no scratched baseboards and walls during installation, making it an installer’s dream and saving the flooring dealer time and money,” said Mike Sanderson, vice president of marketing.

Stanton-branded products offer high style that complements all hard surfaces, which lends itself to bedrooms, hall and stair runners, as well as rugs indoors and outdoors. In the better goods segment, Stanton and its Rosecore brand have developed lush, brilliant, super soft nylon fiber with an opulent luster—products that are used throughout the home. In addition, Stanton offers on-trend flat weaves that can be used indoors or out, combining high performance and durability.

The higher-end goods tend to stand out in the market because of their ability to capture a specific audience, experts say. These products are created with unique perspectives and inspiration. AT has emphasized craftsmanship and tactility with Chase and Speak, pattern loop constructions within its popular Unleashed collection. The Wonderment collection of nature-inspired products, meanwhile, embrace what product designer Maeriel Mumpar calls “imperfection and irregularity” to provide a fresh perspective as seen in Stargazer, an ethereal, organic pattern that features 18 glowing shades and complements the company’s Metallics line of hardwood floors.

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Carpet: Dominance of LVT stifles soft surface growth

June 24/July 1, 2019: Volume 35, Issue 1

By Ken Ryan


Constrained by multiple interest rate hikes, carpet price increases and the continued onslaught of the LVT segment, the carpet industry experienced deficits across residential sales/volume and commercial sales/volume in 2018, marking the first time since 2010 that the segment finished in the red in sales and volume.

FCNews research showed overall carpet sales fell 0.5% in 2018 to $8.785 billion, while volume (including rugs) fell 4.2% to 10.75 billion units. Residential was down 0.2% in sales and 4.1% in volume. Rug sales, which has been the fair-headed child in the soft surface category in recent years, increased 2.3% to $2.591 billion, buoyed by the growth of hard surfaces and online sales. It was the sixth consecutive year of increases for rugs.

While carpet and rugs comprise 54.8% of the overall flooring market—still the highest percentage of any flooring surface—it is 2.5% lower than the previous year and continues the category’s steady decline since 2006, just prior to the start of the Great Recession. In 2006, for example, overall carpet sales were $12.87 billion. In the 12 years since, sales have dropped 30.2%. Meanwhile, volume is down a whopping 38.9% over that span (17.62 billion units in 2006 to 10.75 billion in 2018). To view it another way, carpet/rugs has lost more than 13 market share points since 2008, when the category accounted for 67.7% of the industry sales; 2008 was the one year in the last 10 in which soft surfaces gained a market share point, and that occurred during the heart of the recession when virtually all flooring categories were taking it on the chin.

Following the downturn, which ended in mid-2009, hard surfaces categories have mostly grown while carpet has only managed to skim along the bottom, with small gains or losses along the way.

In this market, observers say any sign of instability can impact carpet sales by effectively keeping consumers on the sideline. In 2018, for example, there were many reasons to sit it out despite a relatively healthy economy. For starters, 2018 saw the Federal Reserve raise interest rates four times. Meanwhile, existing home sales slowed, and the year ended with the government in a shutdown. What’s more, carpet mills, facing inflationary pressure primarily from raw materials, passed along price increases on four to five occasions during 2018. That helped elevate the average selling price to $6.97 per yard compared with $6.70 in 2017.

Michel Vermette, president, residential carpet for Mohawk, called 2018 a tale of two halves: a strong beginning and a lackluster second half. “The year was looking to be OK, but then with all the increases in prices it came to a standstill,” he explained. “There was a lot of disruption in the marketplace. New housing came to a halt. When interest rates were announced in October, consumers went into a shell for the most part.”

The October rate increase from 2% to 2.25%, which drew the ire of the White House, was carried out to preserve a steady economy, according to the Fed. The fourth increase of 2018 took place in December as the central bank hiked its fund rate to 2.5%—the highest it has been since 2008. The funds rate is tied to most consumer debt, particularly credit cards and adjustable-rate loans. That move, coupled with rising raw material costs (up to 20% in some cases) for some components used in soft surfaces, impacted flooring sales in general and carpet in particular. “The carpet numbers did not keep up,” Vermette said. “We were playing catch up all year long [in 2018] and we’re still playing catch up. You also can’t ignore LVT/LVP and how it is eating at the rest of the market.”

Bifurcated market
A widening gulf between low- and high-end goods has defined the carpet segment in recent years. At the commodity end, solution-dyed polyester is driving the market and helping companies like Engineered Floors and its Dream Weaver residential brand take significant market share. Engineered Floors, already a top three carpet mill in just its 10th year of existence, enjoyed growth rates of between 20% and 30% in 2018 and is doubling down on solution-dyed polyester as its go-to fiber. “That’s where the growth of the industry is,” said Joe Young, soft surface category manager. “These days, if it is not soft multicolor polyester, it is hard to sell.”

At the upper end of the market, priced at $15 or more per square yard, companies are also finding success. “The last two years were solid for residential high-end carpet and rugs,” said Jonathan Cohen, CEO of Stanton Carpet. “Although residential continues to lose share vs. hard surface overall, there are pockets of growth in high-end decorative carpet and rugs.”

Continuing that same theme, Mark Clayton, CEO of Phenix Flooring, noted carpet’s average sales price continued to improve in 2018 as consumers opted for mid- to higher-end goods and products that exhibited more pattern and overall sophistication. “Since consumers have ‘broken up’ the overall floor of the home, in lieu of wall to wall, consumers have been willing to move toward better design/color options,” he explained.

Where carpet mills—and their retail partners—do not want to end up is in the dreaded middle of the market, which most define as the $8 to $14 per-square-foot price range, a veritable black hole for the carpet industry these days.

Commercial carpet, which makes up 42.9% of the total carpet market, was down 0.8% in sales and 5% in volume in 2018, marking the third year in a row that both sales and volume have fallen. FCNews estimates the commercial market at $3.774 billion in sales for 2018, with specified contract sales coming in at $3.07 billion and Main Street business at $704 million.

[Note: For years a large percentage of mills considered level-loop polypropylene a Main Street product, mostly installed in rental space/tenant improvement and low-end apartments and basements. Today, much of this business has been lost to low-end polyester cut piles. These cut pile sales are reported as residential, not Main Street. As well, some mills break out Main Street from their specified business; others do not.]

The down figures for commercial in 2018 continue a disturbing trend. The last time commercial sales were in positive territory was 2015, when it increased 2%. However, volume was down that year as well. The last year commercial carpet units grew was in 2014, when it rose 4%.

The struggles of the commercial business can be tied directly to the overwhelming strength of the LVT/SPC market that continues to expand its footprint in all applications, in the process pushing carpet to the margins. As Mike Gallman, president of Mohawk Group, explained, “You can’t talk about carpet without talking about hard surfaces.”

While broadloom is still an ideal solution in key targeted commercial segments, there continues to be a shift to carpet tile in overall demand due to its ease of installation, maintenance and design versatility. That’s according to Tim Baucom, president of Shaw Industries, who points out that the proper seam matching, row cutting, roll sequencing and seam diagrams required with broadloom can be difficult and result in a loss of profit if not properly executed. “Labor challenges—especially the need for and lack of qualified installers for broadloom—also have led to the increased use of carpet tile,” he explained.

As corporate and government sectors are changing their environments—utilizing less traditional office spaces and moving to more open and collaborative spaces—Baucom said flooring solutions like carpet tile can help define separate spaces to creatively achieve that desired workspace.

Education and healthcare combined make up almost one-third of the commercial carpet market. Baucom said carpet tile is rapidly taking share in K-12 education and is solidly in place in higher education. “We estimate that carpet tile now makes up about 80% of K-12 carpet installations. In many schools, broadloom is limited to stairs. In higher education, the move to carpet tile took place much earlier and now represents almost 90% of carpet installations.” Carpet as a whole continues to shrink in the healthcare segment. Carpet tile has about 90% of the carpet market in health- care and continues to grow in share while broadloom has decreased in the past year in acute care facilities and medical office buildings.

A path for success?
It is projected that hard surfaces, in particular LVT/rigid core, will continue to take market share from other flooring categories including carpet. How much longer carpet’s decline will continue is not known, although there are some optimistic voices who believe the rate of decline will start to slow especially if the 25% tariffs on Chinese imports—which impacts hard surfaces—continues beyond 2019. Some executives point to advantages in soft surfaces that are not always mentioned. “Carpeting, for a majority, is still produced in the U.S., and manufacturers need to educate consumers of the importance of supporting local production to help maintain domestic growth,” said Chet Graham, CEO of Marquis Industries. “If tariffs continue to put pressure on pricing levels, we should see some gain on soft goods even though I don’t believe it will come back to the high point from years ago.”

While more favorable economic triggers may help carpet down the line, mill executives say the industry must do a better job of exciting consumers on the look and merits of the product. More recently, mills have taken a page from hard surface trends by developing carpet that replicates distressed looks or even stone visuals—all meant as a complementary piece to hard surface in the home. “We as an industry are going to have to innovate a little more—be fashionable,” Vermette said. “[Mohawk is] putting money into carpet. We’ve made nice investments in tufting and fiber. We have the resources to reinvent ourselves compared to some others. Companies that have not made the investment, or took too long, are not here anymore.”

Stanton’s Cohen said there are still plenty of opportunities to promote soft surfaces as a complementary home décor to hard surfaces—whether it is used for area rugs, runners or wall-to-wall for bedrooms. “The older generation is already aware of this, but the younger generations need to be reminded of [the benefits of carpet] in new and unique ways. There is a huge replacement cycle opportunity as [these products] become a real fashion statement that can be replaced more frequently than previously to keep the aesthetics of the home updated. Specialty retail needs to have a regular cycle of updating the look of their showroom while staying appropriately active on social media.”

Phenix’s Clayton believes that in the coming years the share of carpet should stabilize and maintain a prominence in the home thanks to the category’s aesthetics and functional benefits such as softness underfoot, noise abatement and overall design capabilities.

With few notable exceptions in commercial, the carpet market has turned decidedly toward solution-dyed polyester. In 2018, PET captured virtually all of the growth, grabbing share from olefin and nylon. “Some of the competition will have to reset,” Mohawk’s Vermette said. “If you are highly leveraged in nylon you will have your hands full.”

T.M. Nuckols, president of the residential division of The Dixie Group, concurred, noting “From a trend standpoint, where we had been seeing nylon make a bit of a comeback over the past few years, we are now seeing PET and triexta resurging and taking more share of the residential market. This is being driven by the large mills due to the increases in nylon prices over the past 12-18 months.”

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Area rug: State of the industry—Rise of e-commerce, pricing pressures constrain growth

June 10/17, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 26

By Ken Ryan


If you are just returning from a five-year sabbatical from the flooring industry you might not recognize the area rug business circa 2019.

Dwindling are the days when the average specialty flooring retailer devoted racks of handmade, high-end Persian and Oriental rugs for discerning customers. E-commerce has changed the way consumers shop for rugs, and as a result the market has become more fragmented with price points being increasingly compressed.

This is not to suggest the area rug business isn’t adapting in the face of these challenges. Industry observers say manufacturers and specialty dealers have responded by marketing custom-created rugs to keep pace with all the changes. The challenge for today’s specialty dealer is the sheer number of places a consumer can find a commodity rug—furniture stores, general merchants, home centers, the local convenience store and, of course, the web. “In the last five years, e-commerce has been the biggest disrupter of the rug industry,” said Bart Hill, senior vice president product development and operations, Mohawk Home. “Then there has been retail consolidation, mainly larger chains. We used to do a lot with Sears and Kmart. We are losing a retailer a year, which is significant. Then there is the continued influx of machine-made rugs sourced primarily from Turkey which has driven down price points.”

From a percentage standpoint rugs are essentially flat in 2019 year-to-date vs. the corresponding period in 2018, research shows. The category is outperforming carpet in the residential segment on a percentage basis on the strength of hard surfaces, which has led to add-on sales for rugs.

Flooring executives said 2019 started out OK for rugs before hitting a soft spot in the second quarter. Unit demand is still faring well, but deflationary pressures have hurt average selling prices. “The Internet has changed the rug business and made it super competitive,” said Jared Coffin, vice president of product management for The Dixie Group (TDG).

TDG is a good example of what many mills are doing in today’s landscape. Although not a typical rug company, all three Dixie Group brands (Masland, Fabrica and, to a lesser extent, Dixie Home) sell custom-made rugs. The growth category for TDG has been fabricating off its broadloom collection where it can customize, say, a 9 x 11 1⁄2-foot rug to fit the approximate size of a customer’s room. “That business is up 10%-15%,” Coffin told FCNews.

Similarly, Anderson Tuftex markets the fact it can take any A/T carpet style and turn it into a rug that will complement any room in a consumer’s home. Customers can choose from a standard rug size or customize it to fit their specific needs, the company said.

Online sales make their mark
What has influenced the rug market the most is the role of e-commerce. With sites like Wayfair and Amazon offering 5 x 8 rugs for as little as $59–$79 compared to $299–$399 a few years ago—flooring stores cannot compete. “The top 80% of the business is $199 or below for e-com,” said Blake Dennard, senior vice president, Kaleen Rugs & Broadloom. “Smart brick-and-mortar dealers are not selling that [commodity] rug, they’re going after the better-end goods—the handmade, wool offerings. If you are going to take up space in your store you only have so many display arms to show your rugs; in that case, it’s better to move those higher-end goods to help compensate for the price erosion.”

Dennard said the days of walking into a carpet store and seeing 5 x 8 racks with 40 rugs in each display is pretty much over. “Those racks have come down. Retailers are instead doing sample programs and fabricating rugs out of their broadloom. That market has completely changed in the last five years.”

As the rug business shifts, dealers are offering private-label programs or selling higher-end goods. Cherry Hill, N.J.-based Avalon Flooring, with 14 stores in three Mid-Atlantic states, sees both good and bad forces influencing the rug market today. “The ‘bad’ is the race to the bottom on price points,” said Gerry Yost, director – area rugs and window treatments. “The ‘good’ is more customers are coming to retailers like ours because they bought a bargain rug and now would like something better, and they need help choosing a rug that will complement their décor.”

O’Krent’s Abbey Flooring in San Antonio has been selling rugs for more than 100 years. However, business has become more difficult over the last handful of years given the explosion of online retailers, according to company executives. “In order to deal with this consumer change, we have in turn focused increased efforts on custom rugs made from broadloom carpet in order to maintain margin and retain our hard surface customer’s rug business,” said Margie O’Krent, rug buyer. “In doing so, we have been able to keep our area rug sales volume flat in a year over year comparison.”

Mills are actually seeing greater demand for rugs these days because of the growth of the e-commerce model and the move toward custom-cut rugs. “We are shipping more units in the opening price points, primarily driven by online growth,” said Gerard O’Keefe, vice president of sales, Nourison. “We have gone to a seven-day work week in our main distribution center to accommodate demand and are in the process of adding more distribution capacity. Meanwhile, the emergence of large national players in online retail and an overcapacity in supply chains, combined with changing consumer buying habits toward rugs have led to an erosion of price points. This, along with the inevitable return [on investment] requirements, puts operational pressure on all companies to get to a particular sales number.”

Focus on differentiation
As custom programs proliferate, mills are trying to differentiate their offerings with larger rug sizes and extra wide-width broadloom combinations. “Programs like our 50 to Infinity come into play as really viable solutions for the brick and mortar players,” O’Keefe said. “It provides a great opportunity to offer something that differentiates them and keeps them out of the fray of competing with e-commerce.”

Mohawk and its Karastan brand aim to differentiate their products through unique fiber extrusion abilities as well as rug fabrication with an emphasis on 10- and 12-foot cuts. “We control our own destiny with our raw materials supply,” Hill explained. “For us it’s about adding textures—providing that value equation. We have to be innovative on the front end. We are a fashion business where color, design and texture are still very important.”

Mohawk believes it has the added advantage of doing most of its manufacturing (80%) in the U.S., which is increasingly important in this age of tariffs against U.S. trading partners. “We still see signs of life for rugs,” Hill added. “We’re seeing pent-up demand in the home furnishings category that has been soft, and we expect a pickup in the second half of 2019. Overall, we are bullish on the category even though there are still issues with global economic factors.”

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Carpet: Fiber report—Latest soft intros take cues from hard surfaces

May 13/20, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 25

By Ken Ryan


The growth of hard surfaces is viewed in some circles as an impediment to the health of the broadloom industry. And yet, mill executives say it is hard surfaces that are influencing some of today’s positive trends in soft surface fiber.

Indeed, there are many fiber technologies in play today that enable multi-color dyes and tonal carpets to complement hard surfaces to create a fashionable home. Several mills are looking to take advantage of this opportunity. “The growing trend of hard surface throughout more of the consumer’s home is creating an inert need for the softness and comfort of carpet,” said Jason Surratt, senior vice president of product and design, Phenix. “We’re seeing a trend for more tactility with varying textures and blends of fiber twist levels within standard cut piles. Coloring and pattern design are also trending toward bolder selections. This is also attributed to hard surface breaking up living spaces and providing a more neutral tone throughout the consumer’s home.”

The encroachment of hard surfaces throughout the home means fewer rooms—or even spaces within a room—are designated for carpet. But wherever soft surface does reside—whether a carpet or a rug—it tends to incorporate more richness in style, patterns and vibrant colors. Jamie Welborn, vice president of residential carpet product development, Mohawk, cited data showing that solid carpet represents less than 40% of Mohawk’s sales in carpet compared with 60% for a non-solid coloration. “When I got into product development eight years ago it was a solid world and beige and brown was 90% of our sales,” he recalled.

Many consumers are looking for tried-and-true colors and visuals from their carpet, according to mill executives, and will often gravitate toward a smaller scale pattern. “Convergently, consumers selecting soft surface for a smaller room are getting bolder in their style choices,” said Theresa Tran, director of soft surface portfolio management, residential, Shaw Industries.

Pushing the envelope
As consumer demands drive product development, mills are relentlessly seeking to push fiber and product innovation forward to see how it can best meet consumers’ high expectations. These innovations include product and merchandising efforts.

One of Shaw Floors’ 2019 marketed programs—Color That Speaks to You—is a refresh of its Anso Colorwall, a successful merchandising and selling tool for more than two decades that now provides RSAs an easy-to-explain narrative about style and performance. Tran said this display gives consumers soft surface options and a pathway to selecting the carpet that fits their style preference and performance needs. Simply the Best, another marketing program, offers 13 styles and a palette curated with a variety of greige hues to be more on-trend with what consumers currently demand.

Mohawk’s ColorMax has resonated with the retail market and consumers due to its color clarity, depth and balance. To that end, Mohawk will expand its ColorMax offerings in the coming months. “ColorMax is one of those things where, until you see it up against a traditional carpet, you don’t realize the magnitude of it,” Welborn said. “I think we hit a home run.”

For Engineered Floors/ Dream Weaver the emphasis remains on balance, be it a soft subtle tonal or a vibrant blend of bold color combinations. As Mike Sanderson, vice president of sales and marketing, explained, “It’s the balance and consistency throughout the entire product that we strive for and that we notice continues to attract the consumer.” PureBac, the company’s most innovative backing system, continues to gain momentum with both the RSA and installers, Sanderson said. “Using our Colorburst technology, we continue to create and develop styling and innovation that remain on the cutting edge of styling.”

Foss Floors, which is exclusively a PET provider, has taken what worked in specified commercial—bolder, accent colors—to the Main Street and residential markets. New introductions such as Couture and Cutting Edge feature 9 x 36 planks with nine colors in two different styles. Foss also introduced a 24 x 24 carpet tile, again using bold colors to accent the line, to much fanfare in Main Street and residential applications.

Anderson Tuftex’s Unleashed collection, shown at Surfaces, has taken off in a big way, according to Pam Rainey, vice president of product design. “All of the carpets in the collection are made with Stainmaster PetProtect, so they’re stain and pet hair resistant along with having high-performance durability and comfort,” she explained.

Invista continues to expand its color and style portfolio of solution-dyed fiber to both stay on trend and increase the options its Stainmaster customers have to utilize. “Stainmaster PetProtect carpet already has a strong foundation, but the more we tell the story with retailers and consumers, the more we see excitement grow around it,” said

Jeff Dill, director of mill sales and specialty retail. “From social media and beyond, the response is exciting. Because of this enthusiastic response, we’ll continue to build our SDN [solution-dyed nylon] fiber portfolio to increase the options of looks and color palettes available to the market.”

The Dixie Group relies on its differentiation to stand out, and to that end has created some unique designs and patterns for its Masland and Fabrica brands. “Also, we are continuing to focus on our new EnVision66 nylon program as a point of differentiation,” said T.M. Nuckols, president, the residential division, The Dixie Group. “We are seeing good results and strong growth with this program, and this part of our business will continue to grow.”

Phenix unveiled new fiber and yarn initiatives at Surfaces that created buzz. This included a high lustered metallic yarn in a Stainmaster PetProtect line that refracts light differently, giving a luxurious pop within a traditional cut pile texture. In Modern Contours, a new polyester line, Phenix offers dealers a new, subdued tonal yarn system.

Stanton Carpet is marketing super-soft, plush nylon fibers that are soft to the touch and offer an opulent luster that is aesthetically pleasing and performs well. Examples include Jazzy, Swing, Muse and Mambo. With these new developments in soft nylon, the yarns have evolved to an almost silk-like touch. In addition, Stanton has unveiled a broad assortment of delustered super-soft nylons such as Starry Night, a soft cut-pile nylon with metallic yarn sprinkled throughout. Oxford Street, Regent St., and Marble Arch are innovative designs atop a plush nylon base offering what the company believes is the right balance of pattern, soft touch and performance.

Soft fiber continues to be the headline at Southwind Carpets as illustrated in its So Soft PET carpet line known for its exceptional softness and comfort. The solution-dyed feature of the yarn is also a prime factor for the security of fade resistance, color-fastness and inherent stain resistance.

Southwind’s solution-dyed offerings come in blue, blue-green and green, with multiple textural effects and lusters. Its Classic Traditions collection of LCLs and Color Points is an example of soft, solution-dyed fiber in layered, textural, lustrous carpets.

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A look back at 2018’s top introductions

April 29/May 6, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 24

By Lindsay Baillie and Ken Ryan


In a marketplace plagued by “me-too” products, it is up to manufacturers to develop standout flooring. Whether it’s carpet, hardwood, laminate, tile or resilient, suppliers have had to step up their game in style, design and performance to excite flooring dealers and customers alike.

In 2018, the industry saw a plethora of new products enter the scene. Following is an overview of those products that stood out to flooring retailers.

Terra Linda by Anderson Tuftex

About the product: Terra Linda is a 100% Stainmaster Luxerell BCF nylon carpet with textured styled. Available in 24 colors the signature product also features A/T’s Softbac Platinum Backing.

Sierra Nevada by Audacity from CFL
About the product:
Audacity’s water-resistant laminate floors are available in five collections—Classic Naturals, Hearthside, Lodge, Monticello and Vintage. In the U.S. and in Canada, Audacity Flooring is sold exclusively through select Armstrong Flooring distributors.

Adventure II by Engineered Floors
About the product:
EF’s Adventure II is a 5.5mm luxury vinyl plank with a 22-mil wear layer and a ceramic bead finish. Available in nine wood-look visuals, the 7 x 48-inch plank can be installed floating and comes with a 10-year commercial warranty and a lifetime residential warranty. What’s more, Adventure II is Floorscore certified for indoor air quality.

Sono by Inhaus
About the product: Sono is a 100% recyclable, PVC-free flooring that is made up of 60% mineral powder and 40% polypropylene. Sono is waterproof, easy to install and highly stable under both humidity and heat. The company continues to invest in its digital printing to ensure quality, on-trend visuals.

RevWood Plus by Mohawk
About the product: 
RevWood Plus is a revolutionary wood floor destined to make consumers rethink the wood category. RevWood Plus planks offer reliable durability that resist stains, scratches and dents. Thanks to its 100% waterproof flooring system, spills, accidents and tracked-in-stain-makers are kept on the surface for quick, easy cleanup.

Sweet Memories collection by Mirage
About the product: 
Mirage’s Sweet Memories collection features the manufacturer’s exclusive staining and brushing processes to create floors with the charm of yesteryear. Variations, knots, cracks and other natural characteristics help to create the collection’s authentic appearance.

Titanium by Karastan

About the product: Karastan’s Titanium rug collection is grounded by a careful combination of both traditional and transitional patterns. The collection is meant to satisfy a craving for contrast with a fashion-forward fusion of matte and sheen finishes.

Acrylx by Raskin

About the product: Acrylx is a solid surface waterproof floor available in three collections: Premier Home, Premier XL and Premier G-Core XL. Acrylx’s high-density core is made of pure materials and minerals that are tightly bonded with polymers to create a solid core that is more impact resistant and denser than other floors.

Great California Oak by Republic Floors

About the product: Great California Oak is an extra-wide, pure SPC floor with beveled edges and realistic grains. The 100% waterproof flooring carries a limited 25-year residential warranty and a limited 10-year commercial warranty. What’s more, it features the company’s new antibacterial EVA underlayment padding.

Bellera by Shaw Floors

About the product: Created with a holistic approach to meet the design and performance needs of consumers, Bellera is a top-to-bottom innovation known for style and durability. With Bellera, Shaw’s new Endurance high-performance fiber is combined with proven technologies such as R2X soil and stain resistance and LifeGuard backing to create a worry-free carpet.

Harbor Plank by Southwind
About the product: 
The Harbor Plank series features planks 6 x 48, with a high-density wood plastic composite core and a Uniclic locking system. Attached to each luxury vinyl plank is the Southwind IXPE underlayment pad, which is impervious to water, hides subfloor imperfections, provides added sound absorption and comfort underfoot.

COREtec Pro Plus by USFloors
About the product: 
The COREtec Pro Plus Series consists of two collections: COREtec Pro Plus (5mm total thickness) and COREtec Pro Plus Enhanced (7mm total thickness). COREtec Pro Plus Enhanced includes all the features of the Pro Plus collection coupled with a four-sided enhanced bevel for added realism.

Radius by Stanton Carpet

About the product: Stanton’s Radius broadloom carpet is available in Stanton Street, the company’s Decorative Commercial line. Radius is a cut-pile nylon and is crafted for residential to heavy commercial application.

TruTEX by Tarkett
About the product: With its unique textile backing, TruTEX luxury sheet flooring resists mold and mildew while adding superior strength against rips, tears and gouges. With 20 realistic, high-definition stone and wood designs, TruTEX is easy to install over existing floor coverings, greatly reducing the time spent preparing subfloors.



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Carpet: Suppliers extol soft surfaces’ healthy attributes

April 15/22, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 23

By Ken Ryan


Google the question “Is carpet healthy?” and one of the first entries is attributed to the American Lung Association, which states: “Carpets may trap pollutants like dust mites, pet dander, cockroach allergens, particle pollution, lead, mold spores, pesticides, dirt and dust. Chemicals used in some new carpets, carpet pads and the adhesives used to install them can harm your health.”

This is not the kind of testimonial the carpet industry wants to see at a time when it is losing share
to hard surfaces. However, mills, retailers and groups such as the Carpet & Rug Institute (CRI) are fighting back with their own research that show today’s carpet isn’t unhealthy at all—especially when properly maintained. In fact, published research shows well-maintained carpet can actually reduce airborne allergens, thereby contributing to healthier indoor air quality.

Carpet mill executives are touting the healthy side of car- pet at a time when the concept of a healthier home is not just a marketing tool but a selling advantage as well. “We have all heard the opinions that carpet is not healthy because it harbors dust and allergens,” said T.M. Nuckols, president of the residential division, The Dixie Group. “On the other hand, there are opposing views that recognize carpet as a very good filter.”

Most of the carpets The Dixie Group manufactures uses nylon 66 as a building block. This fiber is known for durability and resiliency, and together with its stain- and soil-resistant treatments, provides exceptional cleanability as well. “With regular vacuuming and hot water extraction every 18 months, nylon 66 carpets stay great looking for a very long time,” Nuckols explained. “Nylon 66 carpets that look fresh and new for many years are a sign of a clean and healthy home.”

Although there have been—and continue to be—unwarranted negative claims made related to soft flooring, the reality is carpet can be a great option for people concerned about health issues. “Carpet actually has a very positive effect on improved indoor air quality, which is a huge health benefit for many people today,” said Richard Abramowicz, executive vice president of sales and chief marketing officer, Southwind. “It traps dust, pollen and pet and insect dander, and then when the carpets are cleaned and vacuumed properly, it helps keep us from breathing those particles.”

Luanne Holloway, head of product development for Southwind, added, “Not only does carpet add beauty and make a style statement for your living space, but it actually has health benefits as well that make it a right choice for your home.”

Carpet mills are investing in R&D to back up their claims that today’s carpet is healthier. Earlier this year Engineered Floors and The Dixie Group stated they are no longer using perfluorocarbons (PFCs) in any of their new offerings. As Mike Sanderson, vice president of marketing for Engineered Floors, explained, “We have never used the chemical on our PureColor products, which includes the entire portfolio of residential styles; and since 2018 J+J and EF Contract are PFC free as well.”

Sanderson said PFCs are a human-made chemical that does not break down rapidly in nature and causes long-term negative impacts on the environment. “Just like with our environmental accomplishments in manufacturing—30% less energy, 42% less greenhouse emissions and 87% less water—0% PFCs speaks to EF’s commitment to our stewardship for the health of our planet as well as the consumer.”

According to Carrie Edwards Isaac, vice president of residential marketing and consumer strategy, who oversees the Shaw Floors and Anderson Tuftex brands, material health is top of mind for many of today’s consumers. “The food we eat, the product we bring into our home, the chemistry that goes into the materials, the clothes we wear all play a role,” she explained. “We have rigid guidelines as to how we source. When it comes to our products, we want them to be safe and healthy for people using them, whether it is the commercial space or the residential space or even B2B—we want people to understand we are a company that stands behind our products. We are asking deeper questions than some others might, because we know the requirements when it comes to material health.”

On the soft surface side, Shaw Floors/Anderson Tuftex offers two solutions—LifeGuard protection and R2X, a topical treatment. “It becomes a system that is virtually indestructible,” Edwards Isaac said. Anderson Tuftex sells Stainmaster PetProtect, which repels pet hair that can be vacuumed up easier. “We have you covered in every regard when it comes to healthy homes,” she added.

Mohawk’s Unified Soft Flooring introduction, Air.o, helped usher in a new era of hypoallergenic flooring. Since its launch, Air.o’s hypoallergenic and VOC-free properties have resonated with consumers. “Studies have consistently shown that carpet is actually more beneficial than hard surface floors for those with breathing difficulty, because it traps dust/dirt vs. hard surfaces,” said Jamie Welborn, vice president of residential carpet product development, Mohawk. “Like any household item, you need to have a regular cleaning cycle.”

Phenix Flooring has championed the healthier home trend for several years. Its latest product launch, Modern Contours, is a collection of soft surface styles protected with Microban’s antimicrobial technology—a special treatment that will not wash off or wear away. It also protects against bacteria, mold and mildew. “While Modern Contours is also stain, spill and soil resistant, Microban’s technology takes cleanliness to the next level by fighting against any bacterial growth underneath the surface,” said Jason Surratt, senior vice president of product and design.

Foss Floors’ solution-dyed carpets are 100% PET and feature the company’s Dura-Lock fused-core fiber lock system, which is latex and VOC free and is made from recyclable material.

Mills are collaborating with their dealers to convey the healthy carpet story to consumers, as many continue to harbor long-held doubts about soft surface. In-store demonstrations, in particular, are critical to dispelling myths. “We’re changing the pitch from just being about beauty to form and function as a critical component,” Edwards Isaac said. “You want to hit on those things and help them on their journey through demonstration or storytelling.”

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Carpet: Patterns take on whole new dimension

March 18/25, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 21

By Ken Ryan


As consumers increasingly move toward single-room installation for their broadloom needs, they are opting for bolder, edgier looks in patterns and prints. More importantly, they are willing to open up their pocketbooks for the right visuals.

These new looks in patterns and prints run the gamut from small to medium-scale design and organic patterns based on linen and weave looks to distressed and rustic visuals that have long been the domain of hardwood flooring. Distressed and rustic, a look that has been seen mostly in rugs, is not as common in broadloom primarily because it is not easy to pull off. However, mills are actively seeking ways to incorporate that distressed look into broadloom.

Executives say bolder patterns are coming into the market but are shown in a subdued, warm neutral palette that’s not overpowering. “We have noticed that patterns in general, but especially in wall-to-wall carpeting, are growing into many more consumers’ home choices,” said Jason Surratt, senior vice president of product and design for Phenix Flooring. “They are wanting styles that deliver texture and dimension with lots of cut and loop to counterbalance the increase of hard surface in the home.”

Ten years ago, solid color LCL was the fastest growing segment of the residential carpet market. Today, patterns with multiple colors, striated effects and tonal variations are becoming very popular. In addition, small-scale geometric patterns once dominated, representing approximately 75% of pattern sales in the market, according to T.M. Nuckols, president, residential division, The Dixie Group (TDG). “Today, patterns are trending larger and more abstract. Product designers are getting more creative, and the consumer is following them into this new space. At TDG Residential, well over half of our sales are in the patterned carpet category.”

The growth of hard surfaces has influenced changes in patterns as well. Terry Mowers, vice president commercial design, Tarkett, said soft surface is literally coming “off of the walls.” What she calls new “islands” (or area rugs) of soft surface provide a cleaner, crisper format to introduce bolder patterns and larger scale. “This was difficult to achieve wall-to-wall without visual distraction. But the increasing use of resilient flooring has provided new opportunity to create bolder, more dynamic use of pattern in smaller, thoughtfully placed areas.”

Tufting technology
Carpet industry observers credit advanced tufting technology for producing a new level of pattern precision heretofore not achievable. Indeed, today there is an abundance of tufting technologies that allow manufacturers to create patterned carpets. The most prominent are LCL, scroll loop and Color

Point tufting machines. “All of these technologies are available across multiple gauges to accommodate different-sized yarns and create a variety of face weights and aesthetics,” Nuckols explained. “We utilize all of these technologies in our products.”

Stanton Carpet
is well known forproducing on-trend, high-fashion products and patterns.
While geometricdesigns such as herringbone and stripes are still quite popular, Stanton noticed a trend toward more organic, curvy, natural motifs. “Our new styles, Marble Arch and Regent St., illustrate the trend toward more expressive designs with abstract marbleized and brushstroke looks printed on plush nylon that would look great in any room,” said Jonathan Cohen, CEO.

Another trend incorporates bold patterns paired with rich colors. Stanton’s Delphi, for example, features a geometric motif modestly scaled and layered onto an abstract pattern in contrasting colors on a Wilton loop construction, a versatile and unique weave structure.

In the past, carpet mills were limited to a solid cut loop pattern, but technology has opened the doors to numerous possibilities. “[Previously] you could never place the yarn where you wanted it to be on the tufting machine,” said Brittany Stanley, senior manager of design for residential, Mohawk. “Now you are no longer limited. You can take one pattern and easily create five or six options based on where you place the yarn. It is amazing what you can do now.”

Beautiful and bold looks have become a hallmark at Anderson Tuftex, where distinct character and elemental design is illustrated in many of its collections, none more so than Unleashed, its signature 2019 offering. As Maeriel Mumpar, designer, product development for Anderson Tuftex, explained, “There is a tactile, three-dimensional quality to the pattern designs with a sense of playfulness that translates as an engaging and approachable product to our consumers.”

Other mills also see a growing trend in linear patterns and designs that don’t distract from the overall décor. This movement is especially prevalent in residential and Main Street markets. “We have invested heavily in state-of-the-art equipment that gives us the ability to provide patterns that were previously impossible for non-tufted carpet products,” said Brian Warren, executive vice president of sales and marketing, Foss Floors. “We also provide the consumer with a virtually unlimited range of product offerings in carpet tiles and planks featuring Foss’s Self- Stick technology, giving the homeowner or business owner the ability to be their own decorator, mixing and matching patterns and designs.”

Luanne Holloway, head of carpet development at Southwind, said the minimalist trend in design and color has worked for consumers in the past few years. To that end, the company introduced Classic Traditions, a collection of patterns designed to transition seamlessly into any décor. “We have incorporated advanced technology to create layers of texture and color in areas of cut and loop, all achieved with the ever-important soft hand,” she said. “All of these patterns are collected on a circular display that rotates for easy use and visualization by the consumer. We think the path to simplify and reduce clutter in our lives and in our homes will continue.”

Mill executives credit social influencers and home improvement shows with helping shape opinion and drive changes in patterns and prints. Pam Rainey, ASID, IIDA, Shaw Floors’ vice president of product design, cites the HGTV show “Fixer Upper” as having enormous sway. “I don’t ever recall a single show having such an influence as that show has had on design trends. ‘Fixer Upper’ has helped launch the modern farmhouse movement, which has influenced all floor covering for at least three years. Sometimes they cross into each other—the modern farmhouse and the coastal look.”

As carpet manufacturers take advantage of the technology at their disposal, they believe the results will invigorate the category. “We’re excited to be able to take more risks with our patterns,” Mohawk’s Stanley said. “It is nice to be able to push the envelope and offer some more unique looks. We’re excited to see where the future takes us.”

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Carpet: Retailers explore ways to keep category relevant

March 4/11, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 20

By Ken Ryan


As the industry knows all too well, the replacement cycle for carpet is many years earlier than that of hard surfaces, which translates to more transactions—and higher margins—for specialty dealers. Conversely, a customer who buys a rigid vinyl floor today may not need another floor for a generation. For the long-term health of the specialty flooring channel, dealers agree, carpet needs to remain vibrant and viable.

Carpet, too, is not just another product in a dealer’s showroom, industry observers say. For some, carpet was the first product sold—the product that launched their business. Today, even as hard surfaces continue to grow—with the LVT segment taking share from carpet—retailers remain resolute in keeping carpet top of mind as a mainstay business that they can’t live without.

“Carpet is the most profitable part of our business, and it is the product we have the least amount of problems with as far as installation is concerned,” said Paul Johnson, president of Johnson Carpet One, Tulsa, Okla.

However, dealers are not in this fight alone. Industry executives believe it is incumbent upon manufacturers to bring true innovation to this category to excite consumers. “We have to give the consumer a better story and solution,” said Tom Lape, president of Mohawk residential. “We have to excite those in the trade and make it exciting and fun for consumers to buy carpet.”

To that end, mills are getting smarter with their investments—focusing more on capability and process efficiencies than on capacity, such as advanced tufting machines that can do more with texture and color. This gives dealers much more to work with in their conversations with customers.

Hiller’s Flooring America in Rochester, Minn., displays about 25 carpets on its showroom floors, spanning many different patterns and textures. “It’s much easier to sell when you can see it, feel it and imagine it in your own home,” said Rob Elder, co-owner. “We do a large amount of business in commercial, and we are caught up in the LVP/LVT gold rush as well. But when you get right down to it, carpet is still our industry’s bread and butter.”

Carpet has typically fared better in colder climates such as Minnesota. However, it has its place in California as well as the Southwest, dealers say. Anthony Maye, vice president of sales, Yates Flooring Center, for example, said the market in west Texas has historically been strong, and that has continued even as carpet has gone through market changes. “We see that carpet has transitioned to a complementary category to the hard surface types,” he told FCNews. “The middle weights and class of carpets have moved down, but multi-family base grades have moved up and our higher-end carpet from specialty mills has greatly increased. The trend is: consumers want less carpet, but better carpet.”

To meet that need, Yates is expanding its selection of higher-end carpets, patterns, softs and wools and creating a showroom to showcase that selection and tap that market. “The mills are doing a great job of helping to disclaim the ‘carpet-holds-dirt’ mentality of the consumer with easier-to-clean, pet-friendly and hypoallergenic innovations,” he added.

There are few people who are bigger advocates of carpet than Cathy Buchanan, owner of Independent Carpet One Floor & Home in Westland, Mich. Buchanan touts the importance of soft surfaces any chance she gets. “As a Carpet One retailer, our name says it all. So, no, we couldn’t survive without it nor would I want to. There is a place for carpet and there always will be, especially in the colder climates of our country. There is nothing better than the warmth and cozy atmosphere carpet emits. The ambiance and sound absorption is a necessity with a house full of kids. Carpet is also safer on steps and much more conducive to bedrooms.”

There is some talk in the industry that the dominance of hard surfaces over carpet may slow and carpet share may start to reverse the recent trend. One explanation is new home builds. Newer homes tend to have higher ceilings than previous iterations, thereby causing noise reverberation against a hard surface backdrop. The noise issue is also impacting some commercial environments, including corporate office spaces. While area rugs can help, carpets act much better as sound absorbers, executives say.

Carpet One’s Buchanan said the threat against carpet is nothing new. She recalled a time in the 1990s when hardwood was the go-to floor and led to a resurgence in hard surfaces. “All of a sudden carpet came back into the limelight because every home was loud, hard and cold. I think this will happen again.”

Buchanan said the introduction of Mohawk’s SmartStrand was brilliant because it answered concerns about stains and pets. “My staff is very confident selling this yarn system and other similar [systems]. I wouldn’t count carpet out. It’s easier to install and offers much better margins.”

Hiller’s Elder added that installation is also easier and smoother with carpet than all other hard surface options. “If I can make more money, have fewer callbacks and make my end user happy, why wouldn’t I push carpet? Tack on the fantastic warranties that carpet manufacturers and yarn companies offer, and I think you have a winner.”