Posted on

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.”

Posted on

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.

Posted on

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.

 

 

Posted on

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.”

Posted on

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.”

Posted on

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.”

Posted on

Southwind dealers sing the company’s praises

February 18/25, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 19

By Ken Ryan

 

Among mid-sized carpet mills, Southwind stands out for the way it has aggressively expanded into the hard surfaces arena. In three years, hard surface—LVT, WPC and hardwood—has gone from zero to an estimated 60% of Southwind’s overall business, and flooring dealers are quick to praise the Dalton-based company on the merits of product innovation, unwavering service and promptness.

Specialty dealers who spoke with FCNews were consistent and unanimous in their appreciation of all that Southwind represents. “We do well with their products—a few are actually some of our top 10 products we sold in 2018,” said Dave Snedeker, executive vice president, Bob’s Carpet & Flooring, with 17 locations in the Tampa Bay area. “We do both hard and soft surfaces with Southwind and have been very happy with their products’ performance on both sides.”

Barry McIntyre, owner of Flooring Depot in Panama City, Fla., said Southwind is now its biggest LVP supplier. He praised the company for its diversified hard surface offering, including 9-inch embossed in register boards, 6-inch products and a retro 3¼-inch offering that “nobody else has. They know what they are doing.”

Flooring Depot recently brought in 30 pallets of Southwind’s LVP, with much of that going toward the massive rebuilding and remodeling taking place in the Florida panhandle in the wake of Hurricane Michael, which hit Oct. 8, 2018.

Dave Meister, owner of Naples, Fla.-based The Floor Meister, is another fan of the new 3¼-inch WPC product Southwind introduced at Surfaces. “We will put it on our showroom floor,” he said. “I am 69 years old, and it reminds me of the old days. I like the old parquet look. People are buying that look again.”

Meister said 75% of his business in southwest Florida is now WPC. “[The majority] of people in Naples have cats and dogs. The dogs can’t ruin WPC.”

As much as dealers rave about Southwind’s products, they told FCNews they are equally impressed with the people driving the business.

“They are great to work with, and what I am telling you is from the heart because not everyone is like that,” Meister told FCNews. “Ken Allen, their rep who calls on us, is a first-class guy.”

Flooring Depot has been carrying Southwind for more than a decade—first with carpet and now WPC in a big way. McIntyre described the company as “awesome to deal with. I’ve known upper management for many years. Bret Perkins [vice president, hard surfaces] is really just a brilliant guy as far as picking out the right products and colors and pricing for our market.”

Bob Carpet & Flooring’s Snedeker cited Southwind’s straightforward approach to dealing with retailers as a plus. “They are always looking for a win-win situation for us both. They have great value in some of their offerings, and we have had a solid partnership with them for a long time.”

Brenda Fowler, owner of Village Floor Covering in South Point, Ohio, has been doing business with Southwind for 15 years—first on the carpet side and now with hard surface. “If you have a question on anything, they get right back to you,” she said. “If they don’t know the answer, they find someone who does. If there is a claim, which is very infrequent, they are right on it. They are just very responsive.”

Fowler said her most successful Southwind product continues to be Harbor Plank, a 6 x 48 WPC core with a high-density wood plastic composite and Uniclic locking system. Attached to each luxury vinyl plank is the Southwind IXPE underlayment pad, which is said to be impervious to water, hides subfloor imperfections and provides added sound absorption. “It has been selling like hotcakes,” she said.

Posted on

Carpet: Mills aim to please pet owners

February 18/25, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 19

By Ken Ryan

 

The broadloom industry has gone to the dogs—quite literally. Pet-friendly flooring is helping to drive the carpet segment, according to executives, as mills jostle for the lead position in this burgeoning subsegment with the newest in stain- and soil-resistant offerings aimed at pet owners.

“When Stainmaster launched the PetProtect campaign at the beginning of 2014, it really struck a chord with consumers,” said T.M. Nuckols, president of The Dixie Group’s residential division. “There was finally a carpet designed specifically for pet owners and their needs.”

Chet Graham, president of Marquis Industries, said pets are being embraced in our society like never before. “Consumers will search for a flooring product that will fit into their lifestyle with owning a pet.”

With the stain- and pet-protection market going full throttle, companies are stepping up to stay current with the latest trends.

Anderson Tuftex
For 2019, Anderson Tuftex has introduced a comprehensive assortment of Stainmaster PetProtect products called the Unleashed collection. The offering is a sophisticated mix of 12 styles including cut and loop patterns in both solid and mixed yarn constructions, four designed patterned loops and textured cut piles in both tweeds and solid colors. Lisa Lux, director of product development for Anderson Tuftex, said Unleashed provides consumers with a range of style options—all color coordinated—at great price points. The collection is constructed of Invista’s SuperiaSD nylon, a fiber system designed specifically to resist pet stains. “We separate ourselves by offering well-appointed, crafted design with all the features and benefits SuperiaSD nylon has to offer.”

The Dixie Group
PetProtect has been a great program for TDG over the past five years after Stainmaster launched the marketing campaign. “We have continued developing new PetProtect styles each year since 2014,” Nuckols said. “Our focus in recent years has been in creating differentiated and unique styles for this category. We have seen success in taking our PetProtect offering to the higher end of the market by making heavier, higher-quality products for the market.”

For 2019, The Dixie Group is launching 11 new introductions of PetProtect styles, blending yarns and colors to make products from cut piles to patterns and loops.

Engineered Floors
PureColor solution-dyed fiber is the company’s preeminent innovation in stain protection. The color goes all the way through PureColor fiber as opposed to traditional piece-dyed where the color only sits on top of the fiber. “Wine, pet stains and mud—all common household stains—are not an issue with PureColor,” said Mike Sanderson, vice president of marketing. Engineered Floors also provides added protection for pets through a lifetime pet warranty on all Dream Weaver carpet products.

Foss
All of Foss’ soft surface products are constructed of 100% post-consumer drinking bottles that are stain resistant, hydrophobic and feature the company’s patented DuraLock technology that warranties against products from fraying, unraveling or zippering. Foss’ carpet tiles also feature a peel-and-stick adhesive that is VOC free. “These tiles are all fiber from top to bottom, and they are extremely pet friendly,” said Brian Warren, executive vice president, sales and marketing.

Invista
Understanding the customer is an important part of product development and marketing. To that end, Invista has invested in its consumer insights, which has enabled the company to create products like Stainmaster PetProtect and Stainmaster LiveWell carpet that speak to specific needs Invista has uncovered.

To that end, Invista uses a proprietary, stain-blocker formula that is optimized for performance on nylon 6,6 fibers. This topical provides exceptional stain performance not only initially, but after repeated cleanings. Further, Invista offers its SuperiaSD fiber in its PetProtect branded carpets. This fiber features a modified nylon 6,6 polymer with built-in stain performance that allows for more aggressive cleaning on tough spills and pet accidents.

Marquis
Ultra-soft, solution-dyed polyester fibers has been at the core of Marquis’ styling. “All of our running line carpets, including our new nylon products Posh and Breathtaking, are produced using solution-dyed fibers,” Graham said. “Carpet produced using solution-dyed fibers have superior colorfastness and can be more aggressively cleaned compared to traditionally dyed carpet.”

Mohawk
In SmartStrand, Mohawk already had a lifetime, built-in stain protection engineered into the fiber. Then came SmartStrand Forever Clean with Nanoloc. This spill and soil shield allow for moisture absorption to reduce pet odors, thereby making the carpet much easier to clean. Forever Clean comes with an All Pet Protection and Warranty to cover all pets, all accidents, all the time.

As the trend toward cleaner homes grows, Mohawk introduced Air.o, a hypoallergenic soft flooring that is 100% PET, is VOC free and 100% recyclable. “Airflow is key,” said Jamie Welborn, vice president, residential product management, noting that Air.o’s construction allows 50% more airflow, which releases more particulates when vacuumed. “In Air.o, we created a high quality, sustainable, hypoallergenic soft flooring.”

Phenix
As one of Phenix Flooring’s newest introductions, Aficionado emphasizes any room with its intricate pattern and design while also resisting stains and odors with built-in Stainmaster PetProtect technology. At Surfaces, Phenix introduced eight new options of Stainmaster PetProtect, including Aficionado.

Also, for 2019, Microban technology will be included in all of the mill’s new polyester carpet introductions at no additional cost. Microban, a leader in antimicrobial technology, is exclusive to Phenix among carpet mills. It is also used in its Cleaner Home collection.

Shaw Floors
Shaw Floors’ extensive research found that consumers will buy flooring specifically for the love of their pets. The company’s response was LifeGuard, a spill-proof backing that has won rave reviews (see sidebar). The patent-pending backing provides a moisture-resistant barrier, keeping 100% of spills and pet messes
contained. “A lot of consumers buy specifically for the love of their pets, and to be able to give them a solution is really powerful,” said Teresa Tran, Shaw’s director of soft surface portfolio management-residential.

Stanton
Stanton recently introduced the Four Seasons and Tropix collections that include 11 new indoor/outdoor styles providing superior anti-stain properties that are backed by Stanton’s Stainsafe warranty. “When considering modern healthy home initiatives and busy lifestyles, we understand the consumer’s need for easy-care features,” said Jonathan Cohen, CEO. “These products offer exceptional performance attributes. For example, an indoor/outdoor rug is easily cleaned by taking it outside and hosing it off.”

 

Posted on

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

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

By Ken Ryan

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted on

Anderson Tuftex continues forward momentum

January 21/28, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 17

By Lindsay Baillie

 

It was one year ago that Anderson Tuftex made its Surfaces debut as a combined brand, showcasing hardwood and carpet products in an elaborately decorated, two-story booth. Throughout 2018 the brand has had the opportunity to show flooring dealers exactly what Anderson Tuftex is about and truly home in on what the brand’s consumer really looks like.

“Being at Surfaces in 2018 was a big moment of success,” said Katie Ford, director of brand strategy, Anderson Tuftex. “We had a lot of big wind there and FCNewsrecognized us for a few different achievements. I think just bringing these two great brands together and letting everyone see our whole message (‘Designed with Intention, Crafted with Care’) was a big win for us that started the year off right.”

Another win for the brand was the number of retailers who signed on as partners during the show. “They really just embraced the newness of the brand and the way we wanted to show up in store; we were really surprised by it and happy to see we had more partners than anticipated,” said Carrie Edwards Isaac, vice president of residential marketing, Shaw Industries. “We had more retailers take on our feature display for wood, and as a result many added or even updated their signature merchandising unit for carpet.”

For dealers such as David Chambers, director of flooring of Nebraska Furniture Mart, the combination of Anderson and Tuftex into one brand was a logical move. “Other manufacturers have tried blending a couple of different brand names and making them into one. I thought this made a little bit more sense for Anderson Tuftex. They both have more of a premium value for the consumer, and they do a really good job tying those two pieces together.”

One of the features about Anderson Tuftex that really stands out to Chambers is its service. “They’ve done a great job servicing the dealers that have partnered with them. We’ve seen a nice increase with the brand. I think part of that are their efforts in driving that new brand forward.”

Other dealers, including Anthony Yates, vice president of sales, Yates Flooring Center in Lubbock, Texas, agree. “Two categories of flooring that we are selling less volume of is carpet and wood. But within both of those categories we are selling higher quality and higher end. Anderson Tuftex provides that now in both categories.”

Yates said he sees the combination of the brands as the creation of a single stop for total-home, higher-end products. “Our sales associates see the transition from just being a segment of flooring to a whole-home design selection area,” he added. “If the brand continues on its modern trend toward our millennials in designs and product types, it will continue to grow.”

Fast track to market
Throughout 2018 and into 2019, Anderson Tuftex has been working on executing in store and drawing consumers in to experience the brand alongside its retailer partners. One piece to this puzzle has been increasing the brand’s speed to market.

Anderson Tuftex admits that getting its mostly hand-crafted wood and meticulously designed soft surfaces in store required a bit of a learning curve early on in 2018. “The speed to market in terms of getting everything in store took a little longer than we hoped for,” Edwards Isaac explained. “We learned a lot from that and have made pretty significant changes to our processes so we can be at Surfaces, Domotex USA and our Shaw Flooring Network convention, and still be ready to roll and market much faster.”

The brand is also refining its messaging and photography to enhance the in-store experience and target a wider consumer audience. “We had initially started really focused on one type of consumer persona called the ‘Pursuer,’” Ford explained. “We added another called the ‘Achiever’ into the mix this year who is still very confident in his approach to shopping for flooring, but he’s male and a little bit more about performance and function.”

To develop this new persona type, Anderson Tuftex conducted extensive research. “We looked at everyone who was buying floor covering in the market and what their motivations were and why they were coming in store,” Ford explained. “We definitely feel we’ve captured the right consumers for this brand.”

New initiatives in 2019 are also geared toward enhancing consumer and retailer in-store experiences with the brand. Some of Anderson Tuftex’s brand new initiatives include a revamped merchandising display, innovative products, updated brand and marketing strategies as well as unique social media and advertising plans—to name a few.

As part of Anderson Tuftex’s continued effort to connect its hardwood and carpet in the marketplace, the brand will be combining its product and marketing strategies. “We’re going to market under the lens of ‘Art of Play,’ and that will really reach both our consumers and our retailers,” Edwards Isaac said. “What better way to enjoy your home and/or help someone with his or her home than to really talk about what’s driving the project and what’s driving the consumer’s need for new flooring?”

In addition to being more intentional with its soft and hard connections, the brand is looking to turn heads with its latest introductions. “Our product lineup is probably the most well edited and, to some degree, unique in the marketplace,” Edwards Isaac explained. “It will range from a PetProtect product line all the way up to really beautiful, ColorPoint carpet. You’ll also see the thickest and most unique hardwood we have ever launched.”

On the soft surface side, Anderson Tuftex is launching six new products in the middle range as well as new flooring in its PetProtect line. To house these new products, the company is also introducing Studio, a new 34-pin display that boasts simplicity and ease of use.

“When we were doing an evaluation of our lineup of carpet products last year, we realized we had a pretty significant gap in the $13 to $23 [wholesale] price range,” Ford explained. “They needed a home so we’ve created this great fixture called Studio, which is very simple and easy to use. It will be at all the shows this season.”

Tying the new products and marketing together is Anderson Tuftex’s updated advertising strategy. As Edwards Isaac explained: “We’re really excited about our social media and traditional advertising plan for 2019 and look forward to partnering with our retailers who are already doing some advertising of their own and providing them with additional assets.”