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Carpet Executive Forecast: Déjà vu all over again in 2020, mills predict

Dec. 9/16, 2019: Volume 35, Issue 12

By Ken Ryan

 

Carpet mill executives expect another soft year for residential carpet in 2020, with both sales and unit volume down, as the category continues its uphill fight against LVT-led hard surface. The encouraging news for carpet suppliers is the higher-end segment is gaining traction among consumers who are willing to pay more for better-end goods that complement the hard surface offerings in their homes.

Mark Clayton
CEO
Phenix Flooring
What is your projection for category growth for the industry in 2020?
Forecasts would indicate another soft year for carpet in 2020. Industry indicators point to the fact that the overall residential carpet segment was down mid-single digits in terms of dollars and slightly worse in terms of units [in 2019] vs. the same time period last year.

What segments/ products will fuel industry growth?
Better-styled residential products—specifically those which are within the mid- to better- end price ranges—will provide opportunity for growth. Patterned products and those that offer differentiated design aesthetics while complementing other surfaces will continue to see increased popularity.

Where do you see opportunities for next year? Challenges?
While it has lost some position in wall-to-wall installations, carpet plays an integral role in the overall design platform in the home while addressing consumer needs. We expect lower interest rates to create opportunities in new construction and residential replacement; however, concerns over another election cycle will also create uncertainties.

What are some of your company's biggest initiatives for 2020?
In 2020, we will include Microban antimicrobial protection on virtually all our PET offerings, including new and previously introduced items. We will also be launching a new internally extruded SD nylon platform, which also features Microban and is backed by an extensive warranty package. We will continue to build on the success of our Modern Contours collection with three beautiful new pattern products as well as new all loop constructions.

Chet Graham
President
Marquis Industries
What is your projection for category growth for the industry in 2020?
The carpet industry should be flat to slightly down in 2020. Continued pressure from click vinyl will hold this sector in check.

What segments/ products will fuel industry growth?
Soft carpet as well as cut pile and graphics styles will have several new and complementary introductions to fuel growth for 2020.

Where do you see opportunities for next year? Challenges?
Consumers are putting carpet in smaller areas in the home. As a result, they are upgrading their carpet to higher-end looks and feel. Challenges will be the continued influx of imported hard surfaces competing for the same floor space. Rigid core flooring has made and continues to make the most negative effect on the residential carpet sector.

What are some of your company's biggest initiatives for 2020?
We are expanding our carpet extrusion and tufting capacities and are looking at some other capital growth in the last half of 2020. We will have new categories in nylon that will provide high styling and value to the dealer base, which will bring Marquis back to our roots of providing great nylon looks with competitive pricing.

T.M. Nuckols
President, residential
The Dixie Group
What is your projection for category growth for the industry in 2020?
I expect residential carpet to be down again in 2020, with builder and multi-family being flat and residential replacement carpet being down 9%-12% as it continues to yield share to hard surfaces.

What segments/ products will fuel industry growth?
Focusing on bedrooms, stair runners, custom rugs; blending colors and tonal effects into well styled loops and patterns—these are the opportunities for residential soft surface flooring.

Where do you see opportunities for next year? Challenges?
Residential carpet will continue to see challenges in 2020, driven by continued consumer preference for hard surfaces. And, typically, election years are not the strongest for the flooring industry. But in today’s political scene, who knows? The opportunity for TDG continues to be in finding ways to innovate and create new and differentiated styles.

What are some of your company's biggest initiatives for 2020?
In 2020, TDG will celebrate 100 years in business. In terms of new products, we will expand our EnVision66 nylon program across all three divisions and cover a broad range of visuals and price points. We expect to launch 15-20 new styles using EnVision66 nylon in 2020. It has gained tremendous traction in the past year, and it is an in-house product brand where we can deliver a meaningful and consistent product and brand message to consumers.

Melvin Silvers
EVP, residential sales and marketing
Engineered Floors
What is your projection for category growth for the industry in 2020?
We have a very optimistic outlook on 2020 and beyond. We see conservative yet steady growth within the soft surface, hard surface, residential and commercial categories. All of which hinges on our ability as an industry to invest in both innovation and technology.

What segments/ products will fuel industry growth?
We expect specified and Main Street commercial to grow. This, we believe, is consistent with the current trajectory of the market and industry.

Where do you see opportunities for next year? Challenges?
The industry recognizes opportunity and continues to invest heavily in commercial modular carpet manufacturing, soft surface fiber innovation and domestic production. The industry also often shares the same challenge, which is its ability to anticipate change—whether it’s the latest innovation, preference of a consumer or the evolution of the market.

What are some of your company's biggest initiatives for 2020?
Our biggest initiative remains to be the flooring provider of choice to our customers—by cultivating the relationships we have while exploring new ones. To simply provide a product of quality that will instill confidence, whether it’s residential or commercial, soft surface or hard surfaces—we want our customers to be successful.

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Carpet: Significant innovations enrich category in 2019

Nov. 25/Dec. 2, 2019: Volume 35, Issue 11

By Ken Ryan

 

Behind every great carpet is an innovation that went into the design and engineering of the product to create something unique and different. In a year in which carpet sales were lagging, there was no decline in the area of innovation as carpet mills delivered pioneering dyeing processes, enhanced twisting technologies and other performance-enhancing methods to the market.

  1. ANDERSON TUFTEX
    About the product: AT Carpet Stain + Soil Remover is a newly rebranded carpet stain and soil remover that is approved for use on stain-resistant carpets and rugs. The range of products covered encompass wool, water-safe fabrics such as clothing and furniture, and automobile upholstery. AT Carpet Stain + Soil Remover is Cradle to Cradle certified.
  2. DIXIE HOME
    About the innovation: As the residential space trends toward polyester, Dixie Home’s goal to offer a great value in a product that delivered great durability drove the development of its EnVision66 program. “We started with nylon 66, the best fiber in carpet,” said T.M. Nuckols, president, residential division, The Dixie Group. “We designed a collection of mid-weight cut piles, patterns and loops, which hit a value price point and shared the same color palette.”
  3. ENGINEERED FLOORS
    About the innovation: DW Select by Dream Weaver is notable for its twist multiplier (twistX) technology that uses a 3- ply yarn as opposed to the more traditional 2-ply. The third ply secures the twist and adds to the bundle density size of the yarn, thus providing enhanced performance along with enriched style and design. DW Select will launch with 13 products but may grow to 20.
  4. FOSS FLOORS
    About the product: Grizzly Grass is a new construction that mimics artificial grass but eliminates the negatives associated with tufted grass constructions. Most artificial grass installations are exposed to extreme conditions and are prone to zipper, lose tufts, fray, delaminate and degrade. Foss Floors seeks to eliminate these negatives with Grizzly Grass, which is available in both broadloom and tiles. It also features DuraLock technology, which bonds all fibers in place without the use of latex or other chemicals.
  5. KARASTAN
    About the products: Ideal Vision is a SmartStrand carpet that features blended multicolor yarns with enhanced color clarity and maximum color performance. Natural tones are intermingled with pops of greens, blues, gold and burgundy for numerous design possibilities. Magnetic Allure: The plush tonal accent color yarn of this carpet seems to react to its surroundings, changing slightly depending on the backdrop.
  6. MOHAWK
    About the innovation: ColorMax is a new dyeing process providing blended colorations, high color clarity, enhanced color saturation and maximum color performance. “ColorMax brings multi-coloration to a new level because it blends vivid and rich colors into amazing shades that set your home apart,” said Jamie Wellborn, vice president of residential carpet product development.
  7. PHENIX
    About the product: Modern Contours was a culmination of innovative products, technologies and merchandising that generated excitement through 2019. Modern Contours’ merchandising blends patterns and textures in fashion-inspired palettes along with coordinating LVT styles to showcase a full flooring solution. Modern Contours features Phenix’s SureSoftSD fiber for comfort underfoot.
  8. PHILADELPHIA COMMERCIAL
    About the product: Shape of Color, Philadelphia Commercial’s newest carpet collection, is engineered to perform in high-traffic applications. It includes two styles offering design versatility—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. Line by Line features a subtle color palette and sophisticated linear pattern.
  9. SHAW FLOORS
    About the innovation: After investing a year in research, design and digital, the Anso Colorwall was reimagined in 2019 as “Color That Speaks to You.” This featured updated colors housed in a new, modern merchandising display, coupled with a digital presence for a simplified carpet shopping experience. The display unveiled 60 new “novel solids” with a subtle hint of color variation, tonal textures in 60 warm neutrals and 18 new accents offering a pop of color.
  10. SOUTHWIND
    About the product: Classic Traditions is a solution-dyed polyester that provides an upscale look at a value price. New to the fold is a highly styled line of level cut and loop carpets designed in Southwind’s So Soft solution-dyed PET fiber featuring a 1/10-gauge construction. These carpets are fashioned in combinations of solid and barber pole yarns.
  11. STANTON
    About the innovation: As customers continue to gravitate to lush carpet in solid and patterned looks, Stanton’s new fiber innovations set the stage for an ultra-soft experience. Pattern goods continue to be a creative focus for Stanton. “We believe our next hot look will be livable statement pieces in your home,” said Christine Zampaglione, senior director of marketing.
  12. TARKETT
    About the innovations: In the soft surface category, Tarkett has introduced new fiber innovations, including a finer denier, solution-dyed nylon. This fiber is approximately 30% smaller than traditional commercial-grade nylons, thus reducing the potential for crush and wear while not sacrificing aesthetics.

 

 

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Carpet: State of the industry—Soft surface cedes share as hard goods climb

October 14/21, 2019: Volume 35/Issue 8

By Ken Ryan

 

Shaw’s Bellera High Performance Carpet features R2X soil/stain resistance with LifeGuard Spill-Proof backing. It is designed for use in active households.

Hard surfaces’ unrelenting march into most areas of the home continues to push carpet to the margins in the residential segment, a trend that grew stronger in 2019 as both sales and unit volume declined compared with the year-ago period.

The general consensus among leading flooring executives is the residential carpet segment is down 6%-8% in the first nine months of 2019 in sales, while units have fallen 8%-9%. That sales are faring slightly better than units is due in part to price increases.

The latest dip for residential carpet began in earnest last September when a hike in interest rates—the third of four in 2018—was announced. Mill executives said the rate hike deflated whatever momentum carpet had going for it and resulted in an underwhelming end to 2018. After a lackluster start, activity picked up in the second and third quarters of 2019, albeit not enough to make up for lost ground.

The culprit in carpet’s descent is the continued encroachment of the LVT segment. The dominance of hard surfaces has also factored into how carpet is used in the home. “Whereas in the past carpet was more likely to be used wall-to-wall throughout the entire home, today it’s more likely to be used as an integral design element of the specific space or room within the home that’s being decorated,” said Mark Clayton, CEO of Phenix Flooring.

According to industry data, fewer than 40% of homes today have carpet, with most of that in the bedrooms—an area where soft surface still maintains a stronghold. However, not so long-ago carpet represented about 64% of the flooring surface in homes. “I think carpet is going to [go lower] before it starts to tick back up, but won’t get back to the 60% mark,” said Jamie Welborn, vice president of residential carpet product development for Mohawk.

While mill observers acknowledge that the ascent of WPC/SPC has impacted soft surfaces the most, so has a slowing economy, which has mostly affected the single-family residential replacement segment. “Our retailers are definitely telling us foot traffic is slower and consumers are not spending on flooring today even with a fairly good economy,” Welborn said. “The majority of our dealers tell us three to four people out of 10 come into their store asking for carpet, which is a change from past decades when it was a much higher number.”

Brian Warren, executive vice president of Foss Floors, agreed that the economy is hurting the category to the degree that—at least in some situations—it is influencing how consumers shop. “We are seeing rapid growth in products designed for the DIY channel. Many consumers are looking for flooring options that can be a simple home project and not break the bank.”

The fibers contained in Mohawk SmartStrand are engineered to maintain their softness while resisting crushing and matting.

Challenges/opportunities
While the strength and popularity of the LVT segment has had a deleterious effect on carpet, there are other factors at play, which include higher raw material and labor costs and even a volatile political climate ahead of what will surely be an eventful presidential election. These caution signs are butting up against what is still, in general, a pretty strong economy—with the unemployment rate having declined to 3.5% in September, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the lowest level since 1969 when it was also 3.5%.

“The economy is divergent at the moment with a seemingly strong backdrop in employment, stock market and inflation [in check] while simultaneously the Fed is cutting interest rates, existing home sales are soft and trade wars are dragging on,” said Jonathan Cohen, CEO of Stanton. “Capturing growth now requires more aggressive approaches coupled with extremely careful planning.”

While more favorable eco- nomic triggers may help carpet down the line, including further rate cuts (the Federal Reserve lowered interest rates by a quarter of a percentage point in September and suggested it was prepared to move aggressively if the U.S. economy showed additional signs of weakening), 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 have to make carpet more appealing and exciting to the consumer,” Mohawk’s Welborn said. “We can do this with better performing carpets such as ease of maintenance and more durability. We also need to make it more fashionable, as we see consumers buying more patterns and requesting more colors.”

Teresa Tran, director of soft surface portfolio management, residential for Shaw Floors, said she sees encouraging signs in the form of advancements in technology that are providing innovative solutions for homeowners. “There is significant growth and excitement in modular soft surface flooring,” she said. “Consumers may see hard sur- face products answering their performance needs. However, recent soft surface developments are taking on these challenges directly, proving that innovation in soft surface can defy and reshape consumer expectations. Our opportunity as manufacturers is to reimagine what soft flooring can be and do.”

One recipe for recovery involves product innovation along with fair pricing and consumer education, according to Foss’ Warren. “The consumer is smarter than ever before as the internet provides a wealth of knowledge,” he added. “Most shoppers are very educated on what they are looking for by the time they enter the store. The key is to differentiate features and benefits in a sea of sameness while emphasizing the performance and value of soft surfaces.”

Modern Contours from Phenix includes styles that mimic luxury fabrics, materials and knitting techniques.

Outlook
With little to change the current market dynamic, the residential market is expected to stay flat to slightly down for the remainder of 2019 and into 2020. “Hard surface growth will continue to impact soft surface sales and carpet floor share within retail stores,” said T.M. Nuckols, president of the residential division of The Dixie Group. “2020 is an election year. That coupled with our volatile political environment will make it very difficult to predict how the flooring market will play out.”

In a strong economy, mills can somewhat offset declines through additional volume and growth in new housing and renovations. “But, if we have a recession in six to 18 months, the decline will be exacerbated,” said Christian Kuswita, director product management soft surface, Tarkett North America.

Commercial
The commercial carpet market in 2019 has faced many of the same constraints as its residential brethren, as broadloom continues to be cannibalized by tile and hard surfaces, especially LVT, ceramic and concrete. That has led to a slightly down first nine months for commercial in both sales and volume. The one saving grace for commercial is carpet tile, which has grown at the expense of broadloom. “[Carpet] tile is also affected by hard surfaces, but not as significantly as broadloom,” Tarkett’s Kuswita said. “The commercial market will continue to move toward hard surfaces at the expense of carpet, especially broadloom. The current economy will also have some effect on the growth or decline of the industry. If economic conditions worsen in the next six to 18 months, expect prices to decline as manufacturers try to maintain share.”

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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.

Inhaus
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
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.

Phenix 
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.

USFloors
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.

Wellmade
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
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.

Fiber
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.