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.”
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.