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Carpet: Patterns take on whole new dimension

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

By Ken Ryan

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Carpet: Retailers explore ways to keep category relevant

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

By Ken Ryan

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

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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.”

 

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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.

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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.”

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Who will emerge as the ‘comeback’ kid?

More retailers put their money on carpet vs. laminate

January 7/14, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 16

By Ken Ryan

The growth of hard surfaces, in particular LVT and its subsegments WPC and rigid core, has taken market share away from other flooring products, notably carpet and laminate.

While carpet is still the largest flooring segment (FCNews estimates carpet and rugs made up 57.3% of the overall market in 2017), that percentage continues to fall each year. In the residential market, carpet’s use is mostly relegated to bedrooms. What’s more, new home construction, especially in the South, is almost entirely hard surfaces. In the commercial sector, many new and updated hotels are opting for hard surface and rugs in spaces where carpet used to dominate.

So, which category stands to emerge as the leading contender for the comeback kid? Retailers FCNews interviewed overwhelmingly chose carpet.

“Carpet has the greater chance of a comeback,” said Mel Gauthier, owner of Nufloors Fort McMurray, Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada. “Vinyl plank has replaced a large portion of business in both laminate and carpet, but in the end a lot of people still want the warmth and comfort of carpet. Carpet fiber has come a long way and is now extremely soft, durable and stain resistant/proof.”

Bill Huss of D&M Interiors Flooring America in Appleton, Wis., agreed. “Carpet will definitely make a comeback, especially in our market in the Midwest. People who spend a lot of time inside, like we do in the long winters, will still enjoy the warmth, luxurious feel and noise-reduction properties carpet can supply. If prices from the mills start to stabilize, I think we could see an uptick in the future.”

Billy Mahone III of Atlas Floors Carpet One in San Antonio is already seeing carpet making a comeback in his market. “We might not be selling as much square footage-wise, but things have been evening out with customers typically selecting higher-quality products for the rooms where they install carpet in their home. With new stylish patterns hitting the market every day, and innovations like waterproof backing and durable/soft fibers, the carpet segment should continue to grow.”

Despite the fact that carpet has lost share over the years, Mike Melone, owner of Boss Carpet One Floor & Home in Carroll, Iowa, is also putting his money on carpet. “A significant part of carpet’s decline is due to shifts in consumer design tastes, which could swing back around at some point; laminate, on the other hand, is fighting a losing battle against vinyl products.”

For many retailers, it’s not just the choice between carpet and laminate; LVP has emerged as the wild card. “While laminate with new technology is looking better and becoming more water resistant, LVP is quickly replacing the laminate market share as rigid core is rapidly gaining market share,” said Kevin Rose, owner of Carpetland USA Rockford, Ill. “Meanwhile, carpet has always been a staple as people enjoy its softness.”

But any unforeseen shifts in consumer trends could throw a wrinkle in the mix. “If the LVP category falters with claims or some type of failures, then that could give laminate [the upper hand],” said John Taylor, owner, Taylor Carpet One, Fort Myers, Fla. “Carpet may never be used as it was throughout the house, but it will grow again in time.”

For the past 10 years, laminate sales have been almost nonexistent at Murray Floor & Window Coverings in Billings, Mont. However, Kevin Murray, owner, is beginning to see more interest in laminate with the new technology, water-resistant features and durability. “Luxury vinyl has taken most of laminate’s market share over the years, but consumers are finding it will scratch easier than laminate. Carpet has always been our No. 1 category in sales volume.”

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Carpet: Dealers praise Phenix’s focus on style, service

January 7/14, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 16

By Ken Ryan

Flooring dealers who carry Phenix Flooring products describe the company as nothing less than extraordinary. Much more than a manufacturer of stylish products with on-trend colors, Phenix routinely goes the extra mile to provide outstanding service while understanding and empathizing with its dealers.

As is a mid-sized mill that competes in an industry with such goliaths as Mohawk and Shaw, a company like Phenix has to be on point in several key areas to be successful. It starts with good products that resonate with customers, backed by excellent service and follow through. Dealers say Phenix checks all of those boxes.

People, service
“I value my relationship with Phenix at the highest possible level,” said Jeran Steuart, owner of Carpet Direct, Tulsa, Okla.

Meanwhile, Brad Flack, owner, Flack’s Flooring, Cumming, Ga., said it’s the people that distinguish Phenix. “Our representation with their people is the gold standard for how a retailer-supplier relationship should be. It is second to none.”

It’s an old adage: people like doing business with people they like. “Their leadership—Mark Clayton, Chris Johnson, Tom Pappas, Mike Donarumo, Jason Surratt and Jason Hair—are caring, thoughtful and dynamic,” Steuart added. “Our relationship with Phenix is one of a kind and irreplaceable. They care about my business and profitability as much as I do. They understand the value of partnerships with the retailer better than anyone else.”

Flack agreed, citing the Phenix sales team’s interpersonal and communication skills as market differentiators. “Their reps seem to look at issues through our lens—they understand what the retailer is really going through, and their reaction is swift. They let you know not just with their words but with their actions. It is 100% true and has been for a while.”

Tom Garvey, owner of Garvey’s Flooring America, Northumberland, Pa., said it doesn’t matter who calls on his shop, he knows he is going to receive consistently excellent service. “They are strictly service focused. Tom Pappas [vice president of strategic business development], who oversees retail, doesn’t play the power game with me. I love it when people are just simple to work with.”

Product
No matter how nice and responsive the sales team is, dealers can’t win unless the product performs and yields a profit. This, dealers say, is never an issue with Phenix. In fact, Steuart noted Phenix’s first-in-class ability to respond to trends and colors and create new products and styles is amazingly fast.

“They focus their product line on what the homeowner wants, which makes selling their products extremely easy and extremely profitable,” he told FCNews, calling Phenix “the nimblest mill” in the industry. “Whether you are selling their polyester or their Stainmaster PetProtect, you know you are getting best-in-class performance. Our annual mill tour to the Mecca of Dalton always begins with Phenix. Mark and his team are at the cutting edge of value, performance and looks for the industry. Back orders are virtually non-existent with Phenix.”

Other dealers laud Phenix’s carpet products for the option they provide to upgrade customers within the same color line. “It gives you the ability to get a customer sold on a color and then have pricing options to give them to help make a decision,” said Kelly Taylor, president, Ambassador Floor Co., Chesterfield, Mo. “Our company still has a large builder market we make selections with, and Phenix products get us into the price points our builders need along with providing value in their products with very little issues [on delivery or claims].”

Garvey said he has never had a claim on Phenix carpet. “I am dealing with truckloads. Not only are they giving me the pricing, but they are also giving me the service and quality I need. They are ahead of the game with their tone-on-tone color combinations. It is very easy for my decorators to sell their carpet; they are one of the best mills out there.”

 

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Executive forecast: Carpet—Mills focus on the finer things in fiber

December 10/17, 2018: Volume 34, Issue 14

By Ken Ryan

 

Even as the overall residential replacement market has declined in recent years, there continues to be positive news emanating from the higher end of the carpet segment, primarily so-called “better goods.” This middle to upper-end segment offers dealers improved margin opportunities while giving their consumers what they desire—luxurious soft goods in their homes. This trend is expected to continue into 2019.

Mark Clayton
CEO
Phenix Flooring

What is your projection for category growth for the industry in 2019?We expect to see continued growth in the overall floor covering industry similar to what we saw in 2018. The hard surface category is expected to continue to outpace soft with growth in the mid-single- digit range, while carpet is expected to experience growth in the low-single-digit range.

What segments/products will fuel industry growth?Better styled residential products, specifically those within the mid-range 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 carpet has lost some position within wall-to-wall installations, it continues to play an integral role in overall design platform within the home while addressing functional consumer needs.

What are some of your company’s biggest initiatives for 2019? In keeping with consumer trends, Phenix will be introducing a broad range of uniquely styled products that allow the consumer to create and design individualized solutions. This means more patterned designs along with products that leverage our unique design capabilities and our expertise at blending color.

 

Katie Ford
Director of Brand Strategy
Anderson Tuftex

What is your projection for category growth for the industry in 2019? We expect the carpet industry to be flat overall, while units could be down a hair. We expect modest growth at AT, however.

What segments/products will fuel industry growth next year?Textures, which are 65% of the industry, are making a comeback, and patterns are hot right now. We expect to see more unique carpets for staircases.

Where do you see opportunities for next year? Challenges? We’re expecting to see a lot of growth in our PetProtect segment. We have a very comprehensive program, from textures to loops to patterns. Regarding challenges, we continue to monitor the labor situation, which is causing pain points in certain regions.

What are some of your company’s biggest initiatives for 2019? In addition to our comprehensive PetProtect program, we have other launches for carpet in 2019. Some new offerings will come from our Signature collection as well as new opening price points with our Classics program.

 

Chet Graham
President
Marquis Industries

What is your projection for category growth for the industry in 2019?Carpeting should see a slight increase over 2018. The bright spot will be home improvement as consumers continue to hold their property longer and look for better upgrades.

What segments/products will fuel industry growth?Carpet will still fuel some growth with consumers moving back into this category with better quality and styling.

Where do you see opportunities for next year? Challenges? Combined styling of our hard surface and carpet product lines is one of our strongest opportunities. The biggest challenge in 2019 will be fending off the large influx of overnight hard surface companies.

What are some of your company’s biggest initiatives for 2019? We will continue to make capital improvements. After a large expansion in our yarn processing in 2018, we plan to make more investment in our tufting operations. We will continue our trend of being the best value carpet manufacturer in the industry.

 

T.M. Nuckols
President, Residential Division
The Dixie Group

What is your projection for category growth for the industry in 2019?I see carpet continuing its trend for the last few years—down in units due to hard surface preference, flat in dollars due to price increases and mix shifts toward better goods.

What segments/products will fuel industry growth?I expect better goods to outpace the market average as the consumer opts for better products in the residential replacement segment.

Where do you see opportunities for next year? Challenges? In recent years, we have been able to grow our carpet segment even while the residential replacement carpet market has declined. I believe we can continue this trend in 2019. We will refresh some key categories, including PetProtect, and focus on having the right mix of products across all our brands.

What are some of your company’s biggest initiatives for 2019?We’re expanding in hard surfaces including new WPC, SPC and hardwood products. We have built momentum with Masland Energy in 2018 and will continue driving that as an upper end Main Street offering. We will complete the launch of our EnVision66 program as a value offering in our Dixie Home line.

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Carpet: Mills raise ante on performance, product design

November 26/December 3, 2018: Volume 34, Issue 12

By Ken Ryan

 

Innovation came in many forms in 2018. For some carpet mills it was about new tufting technology. For others, it was room visualization tools. In one case, it was about partnering with social influencers of the feline persuasion.

It all added up to a year of excitement in a soft surface category that is looking to make headlines of its own after years of ceding the spotlight to hard surface products.

Following is a rundown of some key carpet innovations and product introductions in 2018.

Anderson Tuftex
The brand’s two big carpet introductions in 2018 were Terra Linda and Fair Isle, signature products from the AT Signature collection, which places an emphasis on premium textures and styles. “Textures are a huge part of the carpet market,” said Matt Rosato, director of products for hardwood and carpet. “Tone on tone, solid, berber—they all need them.”

In particular, Rosato cited the best-selling Terra Linda line with its heather cut pile, full tones and vibrant colors. “It has been a fantastic product with tremendous volume both for stocking dealers as well as special order.”

Katie Ford, director of marketing, added: “Terra Linda is a state of mind. The color palette appeals to a lot of buyers.”

According to Ford, Anderson Tuftex’s soft surface products stand out, in part, because of its shearing process, which is precise, noticeable and shows clear definition. In particular, Fair Isle is noted for its tight hand and density.

The Dixie Group
Creating differentiation among PetProtect products in the Dixie Home and Masland divisions has been a major initiative in 2018. “PetProtect has been a strong segment of our business for the last several years, and we saw an opportunity to build on that success by creating new pattern and loop pile carpets with heavier face weights and beautiful designs,” said T.M. Nuckols, president, residential division, The Dixie Group.

In Dixie Home, the division launched Eminence and Willow Lake, two striking LCL patterns with great hand and a very soft touch. Larson, a two-color loop with a great touch and styling, was also introduced. “These new Dixie Home PetProtect qualities combine upscale looks with great apparent value, and they all deliver with the durability and performance of PetProtect,” Nuckols added.

Masland took it a step further with creativity and design. First, it launched Bombay Vibration, an updated take on the classic Masland product Bombay. Bombay Vibration has a broad color palette with colors ranging from residential to Main Street commercial. Two offerings, Signature and Trademark, use unique blended yarns in linear tip sheared loops and provide the look of wool with the performance of PetProtect.

Engineered Floors
One of the company’s most significant innovations has been the EF-EYE Visualizer, a new tool that was initially targeted for Engineered Hard Surfaces products but has been extended to Dream Weaver and Pentz products beginning January 2019. “Almost immediately after launching EF-EYE, we started getting requests from our customers to add residential carpet and Pentz to the tool,” said Emily Scott, marketing communication manager. “Dealers are so excited to use EF-EYE, they want it for every product category.”

A second innovation is PureBac, a flexible backing that makes installation easier.

Invista
In 2018, Invista focused on marketing messages through influencers and unique partnerships. “We went to people who had large followings,” said Jenny Wilburn, senior content marketing manager. “People really are starting to trust those influencers and believing in them as opposed to brands.”

Invista influencers included mom bloggers as well as pet influencers such as Venus the Two Face Cat, which has 1.6 million followers on Instagram and 1.3 million followers on Facebook. Invista provided PetProtect flooring for the owners of Venus. In return, Invista received favorable posts such as this one from Venus: “I spend a lot of time on the floor (when I’m not sleeping on someone’s lap, bed or chair), so I am really enjoying our new carpet and luxury vinyl by Stainmaster, which my family loves. Stainmaster PetProtect flooring is durable, comfortable and easy to clean! Purrfect for pet-friendly homes! #Stainmaster #PetProtect @sponsored.”

Marquis
In 2018, Marquis put into place new state-of-the-art twisting and heat seating equipment. This equipment allowed the company to produce carpeting with lower profiles to meet consumer requests. This process provides a “clean” lower profile with a high-density level for better performance and durability, according to Chet Graham, president. “Also, this allows for more color combinations with more sophisticated styling while using solution-dyed fibers.”

Mohawk
Mohawk’s introduction of SmartStrand Silk Reserve carpet achieves new levels with softness, durability and easy maintenance. The Reserve fiber features permanent built-in stain and soil protection that won’t wear or wash off. It is enhanced with Nanoloc spill shield and soil protection, which makes cleaning up quick and easy, and Mohawk’s All Pet Protection and Warranty. Through an independent walk test, SmartStrand Silk Reserve endured 60,000 steps—the equivalent of seven years of foot traffic—and still looked fresh.

Mohawk’s new Air.o soft floor covering is a complete breakthrough in carpet, representing a new flooring category called USF—Unified Soft Floorcovering. Air.o leverages the Niaga technology that looks at soft flooring from the consumer backwards instead of the manufacturing plant forward. Air.o features a two-part design unified by a single polymer.

Phenix
Phenix has enjoyed success with many of its innovations, but Cleaner Home has been a standout. It utilizes new fiber and backing technology, including Microban antimicrobial protection and SureFresh odor blocking benefits. The collection is made from OpulenceHD fiber, which lends itself to precise designs that create a refined appearance.

Jason Surratt, senior vice president of product and design, called Phenix’s Colorpoint tufting solution a game changer. “It allows the designer to precisely place carpet and cut and loop texture exactly where we envision within our pattern providing a crisp, clean design. Our latest patterned carpet launch, Karma, is a great example of this tufting technique.”

Shaw Contract
Synchronize, a custom carpet collection, offers three different manufacturing technologies inherent to the needs of hospitality designers. The machine-tufted patterns offer precision pattern details and capture a carved aesthetic in multilevel cuts and loops in patterns designed specifically for larger open hospitality areas, rugs and corridors.

Shaw Floors
LifeGuard spill-proof carpet backing answers the need for a worry-free carpet experience. With LifeGuard, no odor-causing spills or pet accidents soak into the carpet, pad or subfloor. This innovation emphasizes Shaw Floors’ leadership in the soft surface category by creating products that exceed the needs of consumers.

Shaw is positioning its Bellera High Performance Carpet as a game changer in the industry. 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.