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Carpet: Mills leverage versatility, resiliency of nylon

October 15/22, 2018: Volume 34, Issue 9

By Ken Ryan

 

While there is no doubt polyester has gained significant share in residential carpet over the last decade at the expense of nylon, the latter is still arguably the preferred fiber among flooring retailers, particularly nylon 6,6, which is noted for its resiliency.

Nylon has been used as a primary carpet fiber since the early 1960s, and its continued popularity reflects the material’s multipurpose use and outstanding performance, according to executives. “Nylon is the most durable and versatile of all fibers, providing excellent flexibility in creating a variety of carpet styles,” said Teresa Tran, director of soft surface portfolio management-residential, Shaw Floors.

Others agree. Jonathan Cohen, CEO of Stanton Carpet, calls nylon “the most trusted” fiber. “Compared to other fibers, it’s incredibly resilient and retains its appearance much longer than other fibers.”

T.M. Nuckols, president, residential division, The Dixie Group, which oversees the Dixie Home, Masland and Fabrica brands, touts the resiliency of nylon, in particular nylon 6,6, which he dubs “the most resilient nylon fiber used in carpet.” Nylon 6,6 has a tighter molecular structure, which equates to greater stain resistance and better durability under the most demanding conditions.

Stain resistance and withstanding heavy traffic are far from the only qualities that distinguish nylon from other materials. From a styling standpoint, nylon can’t be beat, either. “Nylon provides the designer with a much broader range of styling tools,” said Lisa Lux, director of product development at Anderson Tuftex. “Color is limitless; you can dye nylon to whatever you can dream. With nylon you have a wide variety of luster levels, yarn sizes and different dye abilities that can all be combined in unique and creative ways. Nylon also provides better performance on wear and texture retention tests. Paired with effective stain and soil resistance treatments, you have products that will endure for years.”

The Dixie Group’s sales team often discusses the performance qualities of nylon 6,6 during sales calls and product knowledge training sessions with its retail and design customers. The Dixie Group also works closely with its fiber suppliers, including Invista, Universal and Ascend on training materials and content in support of the nylon 6,6 story. “Facts about nylon 6,6 are easily communicated to sales associates and ultimately to the consumer—facts such as nylon 6,6 is the preferred fiber in airbags and parachutes,” Nuckols said.

Helping dealers win
To give its retailers the best opportunities to be successful, Shaw offers various resources to ensure RSAs understand the attributes of nylon carpet. As Shaw Floors’ Tran explained, “Purchasing flooring can be a confusing process; therefore, communicating a product’s benefits to consumers is critical and can make the difference between a successful or an unsuccessful sale. Through video and online trainings, product brochures and additional marketing materials, we ensure our retailers are as well-informed as possible.”

Invista, through its aligned retail partners—including the Stainmaster Flooring Center showrooms—offers a range of training options tailored to the needs of the industry. “Our most aligned retail partners benefit from in-store visits and live training along with combined training and promotional events such as the Stainmaster private sale,” said Jeff Dill, director of mill sales and specialty retail for Invista.

The attributes and range of dye affinities in nylon 6,6, for example, help make marketing programs such as Stainmaster PetProtect so impactful because dealers can easily demonstrate the product, Dill noted.

For retailers who would prefer a self-paced or online experience, Invista offers online webinars and videos that cover topics from sales techniques to product messaging to help retailers convey the Stainmaster story.

As an industry-leading Stainmaster PetProtect supplier, Phenix Flooring has partnered with Invista on a broad range of nylon products. “The inherent benefits of these nylon programs are their valuable history of consumer and retail sales associate brand awareness,” said Mark Clayton, president, Phenix. “Each also offers intrinsic benefits to the consumer.”

Stanton launched Atelier six years ago premised on leveraging nylon in developing a collection. Today Atelier comprises several hundred decorative SKUs across woven, tufted and printed products at multiple price points. “Atelier Marquee, one of our newest collections, interweaves nylon fibers with softness and silk-like luster yarns creating an iridescent effect in plush pile while offering a luxurious and soft hand,” Cohen explained.

New to the market this month is Stanton Street Decorative Commercial, a collection of high fashion broadloom and carpet tiles targeting a key segment of the market. The line features solution-dyed nylon in carpet tile, plank tile and broadloom for commercial with crossover residential application. Cohen said the variety in color and design in the collection offers numerous installation possibilities—mix-and-match tiles or create a custom layout (quarter-turned, herringbone, brick, among others). “It’s a low-cost, high-value solution to update a space and make quick changes while creating visual impact. We make it easy for our dealers to facilitate sales with our compact, user-friendly display complete with room scenes, specifications and sample support.”

Nylon’s future looks bright
Executives expect to see nylon 6,6 continue to be an important fiber over the next several years regardless of the steady popularity of polyester.

Shaw’s ongoing nylon strategy is to focus on style and design while playing off the color versatility and durability of the fiber. “With the resilience and versatility of this fiber type, nylon is an excellent solution for high-traffic spaces such as commercial, education and hospitality.” Tran said. “However, advances in color dyeing and texture offerings allow nylon to also fit into the residential category, where homeowners can enjoy the benefits of a beautiful and durable carpet.”

Nylon will continue to be Anderson Tuftex’s main fiber source going forward as it drives innovation through differentiated pattern looks. In fact, the company’s tufted pattern business comprises more than 40% of Anderson Tuftex’s line today. “Every product we make is an intentional design, utilizing every tool in our tool box,” Lux said. “We carefully select just the right fiber, constructing different twists and yarn combinations to create the most beautiful carpets. Tufting machine technology has advanced leaps and bounds from where the residential market was even 15 years ago. With nylon we have the ability to build distinctive fiber combinations, tailored to a specific machine type, depending on the look we are trying to achieve.”

Observers say there has been a clear trend in the residential segment toward the premium end, so-called “better goods” that offer striking looks and performance advantages. One reason for this is consumers are willing to spend more for high-end carpet if carpet is only being used in one or two rooms of the home. “This trend, of course, favors nylon,” Invista’s Dill said. “We expect to see the more luxurious, heavier weight cut-pile carpets, and most of the pattern styles will continue using nylon as the preferred fiber.”

Among fiber suppliers, Invista has a strong presence in nylon with more than 30 unique white fibers of varying denier, luster, finish and dye affinity that provides its mill partners with the ability to produce a range of carpet aesthetics.

One of those mill partners is Phenix, which still views nylon as a key performer for certain applications. Phenix on Main, for example, is a new nylon collection targeting government and education environments where the specifications on performance are more stringent due to the lifespan of the product on the floor.  “We plan to leverage nylon in this new arena for Phenix Flooring,” Clayton said. “Although nylon has lost significant market share to PET, we feel it continues to fill a need in certain situations.”

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Carpet: State of the industry—Higher-end, patterned products find a home as segment looks to rebound

September 3/10, 2018: Volume 34, Issue 6

By Ken Ryan

The higher-end residential carpet segment is growing in the low single digits in 2018, buoyed by a more robust economy that has given consumers the confidence to invest in better, higher-end goods.

While sales have risen an estimated 2% compared with the same period in 2017, unit volume is down roughly 4%-5%, executives say, as raw material increases continue. This has led to multiple price hikes in 2018.

What’s more, carpet’s comeback has been impeded by the hard surface onslaught that continues to take share away from soft goods. In many cases within residential, carpet is relegated to bedrooms or so-called “comfort” rooms. On the plus side, however, consumers are more discerning about the type of carpet they want in their homes and are more than willing to spend more for better goods.

Overall, carpet is trending similarly to 2017, when FCNewsresearch showed sales inched ahead 0.6% to $8.83 billion. Volume is a different story, however. In 2017, volume (which includes area rugs) was up 0.4% to 11.250 billion square feet. However, mill executives said carpet is under pressure at the unit level so far in 2018 and is likely to remain that way due to raw material and inflationary pressures.

Still, the overall sentiment is carpet is making inroads as it attempts to slow the hard surface tide. “There seems to be a crowd mentality like you would see at a 5-year-old’s soccer game with everyone crowding around vinyl right now,” said Tom Lape, president of Mohawk residential. “However, all things considered, carpet is having a decent year. Better goods are having a nice run. We feel good about carpet.”

It’s easy to see why optimism is on the upswing. Just as a rising tide lifts all boats, a stronger economy is benefiting all segments of flooring, including carpet. “More homes are going into the ground, and even though hard surface continues to get the share in builder, carpet is gaining as well on a room-to-room basis as opposed to entire homes,” Lape explained.

Although there is some shortage in existing homes to purchase, some executives point to a growing stock market, rising wages, low unemployment and lower corporate taxes as contributors to the mild resurgence seen in home improvement investment. “The unemployment rate is low, and earned income is on the rise—all of which tends to lead consumers to make larger, more substantial purchasing decisions,” said Chris Johnson, senior vice president of sales at Phenix Flooring. “Whether that is in the form of transitioning from a rental position into home ownership, selling and buying a new home, or renovating their current home, it means new floor covering materials—including carpet—will be required.”

Beyond an improving economy, what’s also driving business in 2018 is the fact companies can deliver both innovation and value. As Brian Warren, executive vice president of sales and marketing at Foss Floors, noted, “Consumers are smarter than ever before and have a wealth of information at their fingertips. An educated consumer has already determined the value proposition of the product she is looking for. You need to pack in as much differentiation through innovation as possible at a fair and equitable price.”

Tim Baucom, executive vice president of Shaw Industries’ residential business, believes consumer demands are primary drivers in the marketplace today. “Consumer expectations of their soft surface products are higher than ever, and for us to succeed we need to meet and exceed those demands,” he explained. “Today’s consumer is looking for a carpet that will be beautiful and stylish while also accommodating her active lifestyle. We recognize that manufacturers will need to continue innovating, combining beauty and durability to meet these high expectations of residential carpet.”

Carpet remains what some call a “bifurcated” market, with activity strong at both the low and high ends of the spectrum, and weak to non-existent in the middle. In both growth areas, newer technology is creating patterns and multi-color looks that are sparking demand. “New tufting technology has unlocked new design capabilities, so you’re seeing a lot of companies invest there,” said Jeff Dill, director of mill sales and specialty retail for Invista. “The result is an incredible array of new patterns that leverage unique fibers to create beautiful designs. No longer are consumers limited to a wide range of beige on beige. Now their choices are wide ranging and stunning.”

With residential carpet being purchased more on a room-by- room basis, consumers are also looking for styles and designs that complement the hard surfaces throughout their homes. Dill believes consumers are still investing in their homes, and as part of that investment they want the best products they can afford. “One of those products happens to be high-quality flooring, but carpet still provides the consumer with great value while also providing incredible comfort underfoot and a quieter home.”

Paul Cleary, CEO of Lexmark Carpet Mills, has noticed a trend: As less carpet is used in the home, consumers are turning to more patterns. “Carpet has become more design-driven, and even smaller dealers are using vignettes more to showcase the design attributes of carpet,” he noted.

Some flooring dealers have noticed a spike in their carpet sales this year. Perhaps that is wishful thinking or perhaps that is because of all the flooring products, carpet provides the most productive margin and, thus, independent dealers must protect the category. They also have to have the right product in stock.

“If dealers are going to be successful today, then they better be selling what the dogs are eating,” said Joe Young, soft surface category manager for Engineered Floors. “These days, the dogs are eating polyester. More specifically, solution-dyed polyester due to the inherent performance benefits and advantages in multicolor styling. Polyester continues to take market share from nylon and other fibers at a quick pace.”

However, there is still ample room for nylon, as noted by Matt Rosato, category director for Anderson Tuftex. “Our research shows nylon as the preferred fiber of our premium customers, and we see continued popularity of our patterns, textures and shag offerings. Although consumers are putting more hard surface throughout the home, they still want something soft, durable and well-crafted to complement it.”

Still innovating
The Dixie Group reports its residential business is up vs. 2017, with strength in specialty retail across its Dixie Home, Masland and Fabrica brands. “We are developing new yarn combinations to create unique and beautiful carpet styles with color play and luster effects,” said T.M. Nuckols, president, residential division, The Dixie Group. “From new multi-color cut piles to distinctive designs in loop and pattern constructions, we are transforming the consumer’s perception of how carpet can make her home more beautiful.”

Marquis used Surfaces 2018 as the platform to capitalize on its soft products introductions. World Class, an upper-end, soft, cut- pile residential carpet with a drawn-down profile, is the big story of 2018 for Marquis, according to Chet Graham, president. “Our dealer network is having huge success with World Class in their new home sales and remodeling projects. Our color lines have continued to stay in the natural palette, and have been a great complement to our SPC rustic hard surface products.”

In 2018, Invista has doubled down on its two leading sub-brands: Stainmaster PetProtect carpet and Stainmaster LiveWell carpet. “The healthier home is an emerging trend we believe is here to stay,” Dill said. “For our Stainmaster PetProtect carpet, we worked with our designers to expand our color offering once again, enabling our mill partners to continue creating new and unique designs.”

EF’s signature 2018 introduction also plays on the healthy home-oriented theme via its PureBac collection. EF combined its most up-to-date looks in its proprietary PureColor Soft polyester with an innovative backing. “The face of the carpet is protected by our solution-dyed technology, providing better stain, fade and bleach resistance than conventional piece-dyed products,” Young stated. “On the back, we take it a step further with our proprietary PureBac technology.”

Not to be outdone, Phenix’s Cleaner Home collection continues to perform very well with consumers who are looking for products that can assist in keeping a cleaner home and promote a healthier lifestyle. “We know homeowners want products that last longer and work harder, and that’s exactly what this carpet—protected by Microban antimicrobial technology—does by continuously fighting the growth of bacteria,” Johnson said.

Stanton Carpet made its foray into the Main Street market in 2018 with Stanton Street - Decorative Commercial, which features carpet tile and plank from Stanton (for the first time) as well as decorative commercial nylon broadloom in modern, edgy designs that allow for versatile layout options and various applications from residential to heavy commercial spaces. The product will ship this fall.

When Shaw created Bellera High Performance Carpet, it knew consumers wanted their soft surface products to stand up to heavy foot traffic—and the messes that come with it. “With Bellera, consumers no longer have to sacrifice beauty for that needed durability,” Baucom explained. “We are so confident in this collection that we can guarantee Bellera carpet will look as beautiful in five years as it did on day one of install. Bellera is a disruptor in the flooring industry because of its top-to-bottom innovation and has positively impacted Shaw’s bottom line.”

One trend that continues unabated is that soft flooring sells. Case in point is Mohawk’s SmartStrand, which continues to be an industry leader and innovator in luxurious soft. New offerings from SmartStrand, Karastan and Air.o Unified Soft Flooring stand out as Mohawk’s big three introductions in 2018.

“There has been a lot more consumer activation with Air.o,” Lape said, noting that a new series of Air.o products would be debuting later this year. “It would certainly appear that more retailers are getting comfortable selling and installing Air.o. Once they do two or three [of these] products they are hooked.”

At Foss, DuraKnit has been the breadwinner in 2018. These products feature unique construction characteristics that provide commercial-grade performance. “They will never unravel, zipper, fray or wrinkle and are great for anything that pets or people can throw at them,” Warren said. “They also are extremely inexpensive for the retailer—which translates into higher margin at retail.”

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Carpet: Manufacturers raise the bar on performance, style

July 9/16, 2018: Volume 34, Issue 2

By Mara Bollettieri

 

The industry’s leading carpet suppliers are not standing idly on the sidelines watching as hard surface continues to seize more market share. In order to keep the category competitive, many mills are leveraging technology to boost carpet’s performance attributes.

Industry observers believe today’s consumer is more educated when it comes to the various flooring options available. More importantly, she understands the difference between value-priced products and better goods.

“The consumer is buying hard surface products that are high style,” said Richard Abramowicz, executive vice president of Southwind Carpet. “For that reason, all of us as manufacturers have to produce a better piece of carpet today than we ever have in the past. And that is what we are doing.”

Chet Graham, president of Marquis Industries, agreed, adding that consumers today have more tools than ever to research their options prior to purchase. “The Internet allows them to understand fibers, twist levels, density, etc.,” he said.

To that end, manufacturers are targeting consumers who are likely to spend more for luxury carpets mainly because they are most likely only placing it in certain rooms as opposed to throughout the entire home. “The consumer walks into a store with an expectation on performance and style,” said Jamie Welborn, vice president of product management, Mohawk Industries. “It is important to get it right because you have a lot of competition. This is different than someone who buys a commodity product in bulk for multi-family housing because they expect a low price and a very plain carpet.”

This demand for higher-end product among discerning consumers is creating opportunities to raise the bar even higher with respect to product quality and performance. Take Shaw Floors’ Bellera line, for instance. The product features LifeGuard spill-proof backing and is made with Endurance high-performance fiber, which, according to Teresa Tran, director of soft surface portfolio management, provides improved durability, softness and aesthetic appeal. Bellera also uses stain and soil resistance technology, which allows for an easier cleanup.

Shaw is not alone. Engineered Floors is looking to generate buzz with its PureBac backing system technology, which is featured on its Dream Weaver carpet products for the residential market. “This technology offers unprecedented flexibility and dimensional stability,” said Mike Sanderson, vice president of marketing. In addition, the product is latex free, which allows for an easier installation by being lighter, softer and flexible. The line also comes with a 10-year, anti-delamination warranty.

On the commercial side, Sanderson cited the introduction of Engineered Floors’ Apex SDP fiber system for its Pentz Commercial Solutions line. “This advancement raises the performance bar of polyester for Main Street applications to what has been traditionally a nylon fiber solution,” he told FCNews.

Other major players are employing new technologies to improve carpet’s performance. Phenix Flooring, for instance, has invested in new tufting equipment to develop enhancements such as ColorSense. “This technology is a proprietary process providing a great multi-toned textural aesthetic,” said Jason Surrat, senior vice president, product and design. “ColorSense showcases dynamic color palettes that provides balance and flexibility when designing a room while delivering a dense, durable hand to maintain high-performance standards.”

While some manufacturers are building on their existing capabilities, others are investing in new production plants altogether. Such is the case for Foss Floors, which opened up its third new facility in five years in north Georgia.

According to Brian Warren, executive vice president, the new facility boasts state-of-the-art equipment for the manufacturing of advanced, non-woven flooring products.

Other companies are looking to leverage aesthetics as an advantage. According to Jonathan Cohen, CEO and president of Stanton Carpet, the company distinguishes itself from the others by producing decorative and colorful carpet. This year the company is introducing Stanton Street, which features decorative, trendy commercial products ranging from medium to heavy commercial application. The products can be used in residential applications as well, according to Cohen.

Tweaking the fiber recipe
Carpet mills are looking to further differentiate their offerings by focusing on the product’s core ingredient—fiber. For example, Dixie Group uses nylon 6,6 yarn in its offerings. “It is a high-performance fiber,” said T.M. Nuckols, president of the residential division. “We use blended yarns, unique constructions—anything that provides a differentiated look or aesthetic in carpet.”

For Mohawk, the key differentiator is its SmartStrand fiber, which, according to Welborn, is exclusive to the company in North America. This innovation allows Mohawk to offer softness, bulk and performance that is not accessible to others. “It’s a big advantage for us because it’s durable and easy to clean,” he said. “Our engineers construct it to last by clearly understanding what makes a carpet last for years.”

 

Keeping dirt, spills at bay
Behind every great carpet product are technologies that deliver the stain, soil and spill resistance that today’s consumers demand.

Perhaps the two most well-known companies in this field are 3M and Invista. These specialists develop the key innovations that give carpet manufacturers the ability to make products consumers and end users can enjoy for many years.

Invista’s Stainmaster LiveWell Carpet and Cushion System is specifically made for active families. What’s more, the product offers child- and pet-safe AllerShield technology designed to mitigate the impact of allergens and reduce dust build-up. It is stain and soil resistant, which allows for easy cleanup with food and beverage spills. The technology also has a breathable moisture barrier that allows water vapors to pass through—which helps inhibit the growth of mildew and mold.

Then there is 3M’s Scotchgard Protector, which works by surrounding each carpet fiber, from the tip to the backing, to create a barrier against everyday messes. The result is state-of-the-art soil resistance technology that aims to provide protection from both liquid spills and dry soil.

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Carpet: Hard surface onslaught keeps growth in check

June 26/July 2, 2018: Volume 34, Issue 1

By Ken Ryan

The uphill battle against unrelenting growth in hard surfaces across multiple segments kept the U.S. carpet market in check in 2017, with overall sales and volume essentially flat for the year. FCNews research shows sales inched ahead 0.6% to $8.83 billion while volume (which includes area rugs) was up a scant 0.4% to 11.25 billion units. Rug sales grew about 3% in 2017, the fourth year in a row the segment has grown, thanks primarily to the growth in hard surfaces.

Dissecting the category, residential carpet sales rose 2.5% in 2017, a reversal from 2016 when it fell 1.5%. Meanwhile, units were down an estimated 0.5%, also a departure from the previous year when volume was ahead 1.5%. A movement toward higher-end carpet and frequent price increases, allowed carpet sales dollars to increase even though units declined.

Overall, carpet and rugs make up 57.3% of the overall flooring market in volume, still the largest percentage of any flooring surface, yet waning from its dominant days of a decade ago when soft surface commanded 66.9% of the market. That year, carpet sales were down 10.1% and volume fell another 13.7% as the flooring industry was mired in a terrible housing crisis.

By 2012, carpet’s dominant market position was down to 64.6% (volume), a loss of 3.3 percentage points since 2007. Between 2012 and 2017, however, car- pet’s share as a percent- age of the overall industry has receded even more, down 7.3 percent- age points.

How much longer carpet’s steady decline will continue is not known, although there are industry executives who believe the rate of decline will start to slow and may stop entirely for a while. That line of thinking is credited to enhanced technology that can produce better goods that consumers demand, as well as an aging population, which—studies show—prefer softer surfaces, especially in their bed- rooms, which is still a solidly carpet segment within residential.

Carpet continues to play well in certain regions, in particular the upper Midwest, the Northeast and Canada, and is faring well at both the higher (above $15 retail) and lower end.

Mill executives who are looking for any signs of a carpet resurgence see indications that hard surfaces may get overstretched to the point where carpet rebounds. They point out that today’s newer homes tend to have higher ceilings than in the past; the argument goes that if the home is dominated by hard surfaces, there will be issues with noise. To abate this, soft surface is needed, and observers suggest broadloom would be a better solution than rugs. On the commercial side, the biggest complaint with restaurants isn’t the food or the service—it’s the noise, thanks to all hard surfaces.

Age is another factor in carpet’s long-term favor. The nation’s population has a distinctly older age profile than it did 16 years ago, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Its estimates show the nation’s median age rose from 35.3 years on April 1, 2000, to 37.9 years on July 1, 2016. Residents ages 65 and over grew from 35.0 million in 2000 to 49.2 million in 2016, accounting for 12.4% and 15.2% of the total population, respectively. Statistics like these give carpet executives a reason to be optimistic. “We still believe in the category,” said Chet Graham, president of Marquis Industries. “We know trends come and go and carpet is still more than half the industry. I think the numbers will get closer—with hard surfaces gaining more market share, but then we think carpet will inch up. As people get older, they don’t want to walk on cold floors.”

The improving economy has provided many consumers with the confidence to spend more on their homes, and that goes for all surfaces. “The increased popularity in hard surfaces has led to carpet being used more in the bedroom and retreat areas of the home,” said Mark Clayton, president, Phenix Flooring. “This has led to increased demand for better designs and improved styling in the carpet category and has led to the continued upward movement in the category in terms of face weights and retail price points.”

T.M. Nuckols, president, Dixie Residential, also endorsed the growth in hard surfaces as helping to create demand for better goods in carpet. “Consumers are looking for differentiated styles (patterns, loops, etc.) to complement the beautiful hard surfaces being installed,” he said. “And there is movement toward cut/bound rugs from broadloom styles. These can be area rugs, hallway runners, stair carpet or other niche applications in the home.”

If nothing else, 2017 was a year of volatility in the carpet world. Continued increases in raw material costs, led by polyester chip pricing, forced carpet companies to raise prices, in some cases multiple times during the course of 2017. The year also saw the departure of Beaulieu, which was acquired by Engineered Floors out of Chapter 11; and the abrupt shuttering of Royalty Carpet Mills, a long-time West Coast mill known for better goods. Some of Royalty’s business was picked up by Tuftex, which in 2017 was merged with Shaw’s Anderson hardwood brand to create Anderson Tuftex. AT launched at the beginning of 2018.

Category leaders Shaw and Mohawk, as well as the Dixie Group, benefited by the upheaval as well. In its 2017 financial statement, Dixie reported its residential sales benefited from its response to the market space vacated by Royalty on the West Coast. “We responded to the Royalty shut down by introducing our Pacific Living collection as well as adding numerous new dealers on the West Coast,” said Dan Frierson, chairman and CEO. “The impact of these efforts was an over 20% increase in sales for our West Coast regions for the second half of 2017 as compared to the same period the prior year.”

The loss of Beaulieu, once the No. 3 carpet mill, was a boon to Engineered Floors, which since its inception in 2009 has now become a $1 billion-plus company with a stronghold in the commodity segment of car- pet.

Commercial
Commercial carpet, which makes up 43.1% of the overall carpet market, was estimated at $3.805 billion in sales for 2017, with specified contract sales coming in at $3.104 billion and Main Street business at $701 million.

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

For the second year in a row, commercial lagged residential. In fact, estimates had commercial volume down 6% while sales declined 3%. The drop off speaks to the sweeping dominance of LVT, which has captured share in virtually every segment of the commercial market. If not for the continued success of modular carpet, the numbers would have been far worse. “Resilient is definitely taking share from carpet overall and some stained concrete is taking share from commercial,” said Michel Vermette, president, Mohawk Commercial. “You are definitely seeing [stained concrete] in retail and some corporate spaces, especially tech companies. At Google, Amazon and Nikon you see concrete. The floor is a bit louder; to compensate, they try to put some soft surfaces around it.”

Carpet tile now represents 60% of the commercial carpet market, and executives do not see that trend reversing anytime soon, as modular is easier to install and is the floor of choice for most commercial environments vs. broadloom. However, there is long-term hope for broadloom in office settings, executives said. That’s because new, open office spaces—table settings vs. cubes—are emerging where it is easy to move furniture pieces around, which in turn changes the whole installation thought process. As Vermette explained, “You could see—and I’m not saying it is going to happen—but where broadloom makes inroads in this space as it becomes an easier, simpler install because you don’t have all the lift in this space; maybe over time I may not have to spend as much; carpet tile is more expensive than broadloom. So, if you want a clean aesthetic, broad- loom could be a trend.”

Corporate and government sectors are also changing their environments, opting for less traditional spaces in favor of open and collaborative spaces. “Flooring solutions that help define separate spaces—such as carpet tile, which allows for different designs, color accents and patterns—help achieve that desired workspace,” said Bob Chandler, executive vice president, commercial division, Shaw Floors.

Among commercial segments, education saw a late surge in 2017 as bond money began flowing through the system. The full effect of that trend will be seen in 2018 and beyond. Broadloom also remains a viable alternative in segments of hospitality even though hard surfaces are making significant inroads, especially in renovations and boutique hotels.

While carpet tile continues to grow in the commercial space, it has never found a pathway to the residential segment. Some executives say carpet tile’s window of opportunity in the home—if it ever had one—is closed for good.

Fibers
In 2017, nylon continued to lose share to PET/polyester and has virtually been wiped out of the builder market. There is also consistent “deselection” in multi-family, observers say, in favor of polyester. On the retail side, soft nylon is favored at the upper end of a differentiated market; however, nylon is under immense pressure in the middle markets of residential. Despite the fact consumers have high expectations for soft nylon, it has not done well as a soft-performing product, according to industry observers.

Meanwhile, the rug business continues to be a bright spot in soft surfaces, with 2017 marking the third year in a row in which it has had a higher sales increase than carpet. Rugs continue to track through what some call a “remarkable” channel shift, largely away from the independent flooring dealer. These days you’re just as likely to see rugs in a Bed Bath & Beyond or on Wayfair than you will in an independent dealer’s showroom. In fact, by some estimates, rugs are only represented in 8% of specialty flooring dealers’ showrooms.

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Xpress Global Systems: Going the extra mile

May 28/June 4, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 25

By Reginald Tucker

In today’s hypercompetitive distribution economy, it’s no longer enough to simply move products from point A to point B. In order to gain an advantage, wholesalers must also go above and beyond by offering value-added services to manufacturers and retailers alike.

That’s precisely the edge that Xpress Global Systems, formerly Crown Transport, claims to offer its partners across the supply chain. “We’re the largest nationwide transportation hauler for the floor covering industry,” said Darrel Harris, CEO of the Chattanooga, Tenn.-based distributor. “Xpress Global is a company that’s been around for 40 years.”

According to Harris, Xpress Global Systems’ fleet entails nearly 300 trucks, and the company owns roughly 600 pieces of trailing equipment. From a logistics standpoint, about 75% of its freight originates out of Dalton, with approximately 20% coming out of the Southern California area.

“The majority of our business that we handle is LTL—less than truckload—shipments predominantly for floor covering businesses,” Harris explained. “We also have a fair amount of our business dedicated to warehousing. We store freight for our customers, and most of the time that freight then finds its way onto our trucks for local distribution.”

Xpress Global Systems also maintains a brokerage division (XTMS) that’s able to arrange transportation, truckload brokerage and LTL if it’s outside the scope of the company’s normal activities. Operating out of Xpress Global System’s Tunnel Hill, Ga., facility, XTMS is designed to provide additional services for the company’s large customer base in the region.

Harris cites additional competitive advantages. “By far it’s our expertise in handling floor covering, specifically rolled goods. Our employees are very well trained, experts in their field. It’s a type of product that requires special handling. You hear so many different stories in the industry about carpet being damaged when shipped using general commodity carriers. It’s not that we never had that problem, but it’s a very low claims percentage. Less than half of 1% of our shipments result in a claim, because we take great care of our equipment. Plus, our network is set up to make sure the carpet is handled properly.”

But it’s not just soft goods. Xpress Global is also equipped to handle pallets of hard surface products such as LVT. “We really put a big focus on the hard surface of segment of the business,” Harris said. “What’s really good about it from a transportation perspective is those goods commingle well in a transportation mode. Over the past few years we have really put a focus on exploring those opportunities with our customers.”

Creative solutions 

Xpress Global Systems also excels in what Harris refers to as “reverse logistics.” For example, if freight is delivered to a retailer but the shipment is rejected, Xpress can arrange to send it back to the originating mill. “We can assist the retailer for any reason that might create a scenario where they would need to return the product,” Harris explained.

Another competitive advantage Xpress Global Systems offers is its sheer size and scale. “There’s no one that has the broad coverage area to match our 33 facilities across the country,” Harris said. “That is something that’s very unique and special in this particular space focused on floor covering.”

So why would a retailer prefer to have Xpress Global ship their products from a mill as opposed to just paying the mill to have the product shipped to them? Harris explains the thought process. “What we find is many retailers don’t always take the time to really understand their overall freight costs or the logistics behind it. So there could be significant cost savings with us. Also, we have capabilities in so many different areas that are all built around floor covering, which translates into other solutions we could bring to the table that they might not even be aware of. For example, we can store goods for clients in various parts of the country without them having to spend the extra funds to basically put brick-and-mortar facilities in. In essence, they can use our facilities as an opportunity to position their freight for their customers, and we can  handle shipping it out for them. So there’s just a lot of creative things we can do by opening up those discussions directly with the retailers.”

Robbie White, senior manager of distribution and logistics for Beauflor, is a believer. “Xpress Global has given us a lot of capacity that we didn’t have. But they have also worked with us on drop trailers, especially on nationwide coverage of rolled goods. With the proactive reporting they provide, we don’t have to wait on exceptions to come up. They’re really good at managing those exceptions for us.”

Other Xpress Global Systems customers attest to the distributor’s high level of service. Jared Warnack, vice president of Lowe’s division for Phenix Flooring, has been a client for more than 15 years—and for good reason. “They are a very integral part of our company. They service the majority of the nation for us, and they do a wonderful job.”

Warnack attributes that track record to the leadership at Xpress Global Systems. “When Darrel Harris [CEO] came on board, he changed some of the policies to help improve customer focus. For example, he created a customer advisory board comprising logistics personnel from most of their major manufacturer customers, and we talk about issues we face every day in the industry. Xpress Global Systems then uses that feedback to improve their service and offerings. That’s why so many specialty retailers and big box stores use them as their preferred carrier.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Carpet: Fiber report—Color, cleanability and durability get the nod

May 14/21, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 24

By Ken Ryan

Today’s carpet products are developed with the consumer firmly in mind as mills gather research to ascertain what’s on their customers’ wish lists. More often than not, it is luxuriously soft carpet that combines stylish design, vibrant colors with durability.

That’s a tall order to deliver, but consumers have shown a desire to spend top dollar for these goods, and mills are working hard to accommodate them. “When we talk to consumers, soft is one of the top attributes they want, so we put our resource and development toward that,” said Jamie Welborn, vice president of residential carpet product management and development, Mohawk Industries.

Shaw Floors, meanwhile, looks at today’s residential market and sees active families with kids and pets who put great demands on carpet. “They have greater expectations of performance for their flooring,” said Teresa Tran, director of soft surface portfolio management, Shaw. “They need their carpet to be durable and spill resistant, yet soft and beautiful.”

It’s not just the carpet mills working on these innovations. Invista, maker of the Stainmaster and PetProtect brands, has spent significant R&D on its Antron fiber. It recently announced a $30-million expansion in small-lot equipment specifically for solution-dyed nylon 6,6 bulk continuous filament (BCF) fiber production to support growth of the Antron brand and the Lumena fiber portfolio that serves solution-dyed BCF nylon commercial markets. “The new technology will expand our capability to continue offering high-quality, solution-dyed nylon fiber solutions,” said Kip Kimball, vice president of Global Commercial Solutions and Home Textiles for Invista.

Phenix Flooring continues to work on new fiber systems that utilize unique cross-sections that—when combined with particular deniers and twist levels—produce textures and an outstanding tactile experience for consumers. “In addition, we constantly update our solution-dyed color bank to keep up with current color trends and styling preferences as well as supplement with leading space dye advances that give sophisticated ombrés and gradations of color,” said Chris Johnson, senior vice president of sales and marketing.

According to Mike Sanderson, vice president of marketing, Engineered Floors, consumers are becoming more receptive to the term “solution dyed,” and that is affecting their purchase decisions. “They are finding out that it’s superior to traditional piece-dyed carpets, which is exciting for our Dream Weaver retailers.”

Residential segment

The days when consumers carpeted the entire house are long gone, as residential carpet has been relegated mostly to the bedroom. However, studies have shown that when consumers are in the market for carpet, they are willing to spend extra money.

There’s even more encouraging news down the road, according to Shaw’s Brad Christensen, vice president, builder strategy, who observed that while Shaw is certainly seeing growth in its residential segments, single-family homebuilding is also trending.

“The average age of the first-time homebuyer is 32. With that statistic in mind, by 2025 there will be 24 million Americans between the ages of 30 and 34. Previous studies showed the millennial market preferred densely populated, walkable, urban neighborhoods that offer multifamily living spaces to the suburbs of their childhood. Yet, new surveys demonstrate that while millennials might be content urban, multifamily dwellers right now, they see themselves as single family homeowners in the future.”

Residential represents the largest growth segment for Southwind, according to Richard Abramowicz, executive vice president. As such, the company is putting the necessary resources behind it. “I think residential is the biggest growth opportunity for all of us and why we are trying to be innovative with our products. It’s a very big market.”

What’s new

Mohawk has championed the push of luxurious soft and that continues to be a major thrust with SmartStrand. As Mohawk’s Welborn noted, “SmartStrand fiber is softer than nylon and polyester, performs extremely well and has nice hand/bulk, and you will see us continue to expand in that area.”

As the movement toward cleaner homes grows, Mohawk, among others, is responding by adding Forever Clean to SmartStrand as well as ActivFresh technology to its Silk Colorwall line, which features new products in 2018. “Some of the products are tighter, denser, cleaner than the old Silk,” Welborn said. “From a technology standpoint, we added ActivFresh, an anti-microbial additive to the carpet, which is a new feature. You will see us expand in that growing segment.”

In Bellera High Performance Carpet, Shaw is giving consumers a wide variety of patterns, solids and textures from which to choose, albeit without sacrificing resiliency. “Our designers were extremely intentional with their choices, giving consumers numerous styles to match current trends,” Tran said. “We offer glamorous styles as seen in Outside the Lines, classic patterns in Diamonds Forever and Lead the Way, as well as visuals with a more organic look to complement modern farmhouse or coastal design trends. Each of these styles includes the attributes that make Bellera one of a kind.”

The fiber in Bellera has been treated with R2X soil and stain resistance technology and now features crush resistance to keep carpets lasting longer. To showcase the durability of its re-engineered fiber, Shaw simulated five years’ worth of activity with real people on Bellera carpet. When new Bellera samples and those with five years’ worth of wear were placed side by side, customers and RSAs alike were unable to tell the difference, Christensen said.

Phenix, which began showing carpet styles tufted from one of its new fiber systems during the winter markets, has identified a new yarn that provides great bulk and apparent value. “It has become one of our most anticipated launches, which we expect will lead to additional product opportunities,” Phenix’s Johnson said, referring to Opulence HD. “It’s a softer yarn that provides a look of luxury.”

Engineered Floors uses PureColor, a proprietary solution-dyed fiber, as its go-to market strategy at residential retail. “We try to educate the RSA and consumer on PureColor as often as possible,” Sanderson said. “Both groups are learning that since the color goes all the way through the fiber, stains that are detrimental to other carpets aren’t an issue with PureColor.”

Southwind’s Classic Traditions collection, a soft PET line, is being marketed as “eclectic patterns for everyday elegance.” It was shown at Surfaces 2018 and will feature eight stylish Color Point and LCL patterns that the company said are fashion-forward fabrics for the floor. “We had such a great response at Surfaces,” Abramowicz said.

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Carpet: Playing at the high end pays big-time dividends

April 16/23, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 22

By Ken Ryan

Carpet mills are taking advantage of the new reality in flooring—with carpet relegated primarily to the bedroom, consumers are willing to spend more to make that soft surface area really stand out.

Indeed, carpet mills are finding that even in a shrinking market for soft surface, there is money to be made by playing at the high end. Some examples:

Anderson Tuftex

Anderson Tuftex had a strong showing at Surfaces. Since then, dealer reception to its new carpet products (Tavares, Tanzania and Heirloom) has been exceptional, according to Katie Ford, director of brand strategy. “The dealer base has been so supportive. If you are a dealer, and you want to make money, you have to have Tavares and Tanzania—and you probably need to have Heirloom, too. You need the whole line, really, because those three styles are distinctly different.”

Ford said there is nothing quite like Tavares in the market—a natural stone visual akin to a Venetian plaster. “It’s just beautiful. We have a rug version of it, too, and we had it installed at Surfaces; it’s everyone’s favorite.”

Tanzania, in denim blue, is offered in a broken Chevron pattern. Like fine wine, it is a product that gets better with age, Ford said. “Chevrons are showing up these days. These patterns are timeless and don’t go out of style.”

Another favorite is Heirloom, with a raised medallion within a small scale textural pattern. “It’s another timeless classic look,” Ford explained. “With AT, you know our products have that little extra craftsmanship to stand out.”

Dixie Group

By virtue of the fact that it is not a low-cost manufacturer, The Dixie Group must create differentiated products to be successful. That’s according to T.M. Nuckols, president, residential division, who cited two new PetProtect products for 2018—Signature and Trademark, which will be launched by Masland in the second quarter. “Also, Bombay Vibration is a remake of a classic Masland product and now made with PetProtect solution dyed nylon 6,6 fiber; it delivers great durability and stain resistance in a softer and more comfortable product.”

The Masland Energy line, coming in May, is a commercial segment offering with 20 well-styled products made with nylon 6,6 for durability and performance. Wholesale price points range from the low teens to mid 20s, “so we are not targeting the typical Main Street price points,” Nuckols said.

Foss Floors

Foss introduced its DuraKnit collection this year featuring a new construction technique for higher-end broadloom that enables the consumer to install an upscale look in tough traffic conditions. According to Brian Warren, executive vice president, sales and marketing, these products will never fray, zipper or unravel, nor will they fade. And while they are stain resistant and will never wrinkle, they still feature a soft hand and luxurious styling, he added.

In 2018, the company introduced its “Carpet Reinvented” DuraKnit display, which includes an interactive storyboard to highlight the line’s unique characteristics. “These innovations are helping the retailer achieve higher margins by providing a unique selling proposition,” Warren said.

Gulistan Floors

John Sheffield, vice president of sales and marketing, Gulistan, said the company is incorporating a very limited distribution strategy to allow dealer partners to maximize their sales and profits. “We have created a unique collection of patterns using our solution-dyed PET. With our Stainmaster offering, we are using the solution-dyed yarns and trying to fill product voids in the with new textures and yarn applications.”

Mohawk

When you talk high end, Karastan is arguably the first brand that comes to mind. Karastan has three premium yarn systems with which to work in developing products. “Having access to wool, SmartStrand Silk and Kashmere Nylon gives us the ability to develop unique looks and textures utilizing the attributes of these yarns,” said Bill Storey, senior vice president, Mohawk and Karastan. “In addition, we also have developed styles using a combination of two yarns. For example, Hampshire Bay has wool as the base yarn and SmartStrand Silk as the accent. The result is an elegant look that cannot be achieved with a single yarn system.”

Karastan’s new soft stone looks—Mackenzie and Berkeley —are standouts. “These styles create the look of natural stone in a luxurious, soft hand,” Storey explained. “This is achieved through our vintage weave process which utilizes SmartStrand Silk, space-dyed yarn.”

Phenix

The Cleaner Home collection is Phenix’s latest in innovative, trend-forward carpet designs. Refuge, Flourish and Well Being are a collection of three new multi-color patterned carpets that utilize innovative cut and loop technology which allows for varying amounts of cut vs. loop.

These products feature a unique combination of colors that become visible at varying points in the construction to create a unique sculpted look with their own dimensional pattern.

Phenix’s Stainmaster PetProtect Design Solutions collection helps sell higher-end products in multiple surfaces by removing one of the biggest pain points for consumers—coordinating their flooring without the help of an interior designer. “It also helps facilitate overall larger tickets and enhanced profit opportunities for the retailer,” said Mark Clayton, president of Phenix Flooring. “We’re bringing hard surface and carpet together in one display and making it easier than ever for a consumer to walk in, visualize her entire home and purchase on the spot.”

Shaw

Shaw Floors continues to burnish its reputation as a leader in innovation with Bellera, a high-performance carpet line. Bellera’s high-design, on-trend offerings include tonals, accents, loops and bold-colored patterns.

“We’ve put Bellera to the test and can say this carpet will look as good in five years as it does on day one,” said Teresa Tran, director of soft surface portfolio management.

Bellera features Shaw’s spill-proof LifeGuard backing, Endurance high-performance fiber and R2X soil and stain resistance. “We’ve listened to the consumer and are proud to offer them the softness of a residential carpet that is durable enough to withstand their active lifestyle.”

Stanton

Stanton’s premise is differentiation. Three brands of note are Antrim, Rosecore and Crescent, which feature unique styling and are merchandised in high-end display systems. Stanton’s Atelier collection offers cut/loop woven nylon patterns provide greater design and color flexibility than the traditional LCL.

“These introductions coupled with our unparalleled use of color, design and multiple yarn types in woven patterns has set new standards,” said Jonathan Cohen, CEO.

Stanton is introducing Stanton Street, Decorative Commercial this summer. This new collection encompasses a mix of carpet tile, planks and decorative commercial broadloom for Stanton’s first dedicated commercial offering.

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Mills find a niche with custom rug programs

March 19/26, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 20

By Ken Ryan

 

As hard surface products continue to take market share residentially, carpet mills are facing some choices: hope the pendulum swings back to broadloom, or get in on the action. Many of them chose the latter, offering custom area rug programs as an add-on sale to hardwood and other types of hard surfaces. In fact, for some mills, business has been flourishing in this era of hard surface growth.

“I tell people we are no longer in the carpet business,” said Don Karlin, director of broadloom sales for Nourison, which is strictly a soft surface supplier. “I tell people we are in the hard surface business and rugs are the complementary piece. The world is all about fabricated rugs.”

Following is a sampling of some custom rug programs and offerings available today.

Anderson Tuftex

A/T, a Shaw Industries brand, will continue to utilize the custom area rug program Tuftex has had for the past several years. “We can cut any of our A/T carpets into a custom area rug up to 24 x 36 feet,” said Katie Ford, director of brand strategy. She said shapes for area rugs include rectangles, squares, rounds and ovals, as well as floor and stair runners. “We also offer a full assortment of edge treatments such as binding, serging, fabric and leather.”

Couristan

Couristan has built on the success of a custom area rug program it started in 2014. Its program allows dealers to fabricate a Couristan product into a custom area rug that addresses their customers’ decorating needs. Today, Couristan’s broadloom business is heavily fabricated, with more than 50% of its business in fabricated rugs. “The hard surface [category] has actually helped our business,” said Len Andolino, executive vice president–residential division, Couristan. “We are pushing the envelope with fabricated rugs.”

Lexmark

Lexmark Residential recently launched its Unite Custom Rug Program that lets retailers select their choice from any of Lexmark Living’s three broadloom pattern collections. “What is great about this program is it is built on the same construction as our hospitality line, which is our bread and butter,” said John Madden, general manager, Western region.

Masland

Masland’s program, Custom Area Carpets and Rugs, expands design options for the floor and offers custom capabilities. Options range from wall-to-wall to inset area carpets and rugs to loose-laid rugs on top of flooring surfaces. This Dixie Group brand has a custom program that can make any size or shape rug from its broadloom offerings. The program has been well-received, according to Jared Coffin, vice president–rugs and wool products, who noted, “Rugs gives us an insight into trends; therefore, it’s an important part of our business.”

Mohawk/Karastan

Karastan, Mohawk’s high-end rug supplier, lets users create their own looks with its Inspired Luxury program. Customers are able to choose looks from a select group of styles, 100 color options and custom rug bindings. In addition, at Surfaces 2018, Mohawk Home showed Vintage Tapis, a hand-knotted collection available in four sizes including 10 x 14. The line is designed with soft, natural cotton rather than jute. According to Mohawk executives, the most sought-after line at the show was Spike Market with Everstrand fiber. This premium polyester is produced with up to 100% post-consumer content from plastic bottles. The rugs are stain resistant.

Nance Industries

For Nance Industries, rugs have always been its bread and butter. “That is really our niche, and you are seeing a lot better growth in rugs,” said Mike Nance, principal. The company showed new custom-made rugs at the show. In fact, Nance employs two custom-rug artists who can create almost any design pattern or theme a customer can imagine at any size they choose.

Nourison

Fifty to Infinity is a custom-rug program by Nourison that utilizes the very best in woven broadloom rugs. Each rug is made to order from premium woven broadloom carpeting and serged on the edges for a quality, finished look. Production time takes seven to 10 business days. Available sizes range from

5 x 7 to 10 x 10 and everything in between.

Phenix Flooring

Phenix is no stranger to trying new things—or markets, for that matter. At Surfaces, it announced its entry into the area rug business under the Cleaner Home Rugs banner.

Mark Clayton, president and CEO, said the move into rugs is a nod to the explosive growth of hard surfaces. “With so many beautiful patterns in our line, this is just a natural addition to what we are doing for hard surfaces.”

Prestige Mills

Add Prestige to the list of carpet mills looking to leverage the growth of hard surfaces. According to Peter Feldman, president, a high percentage of the company’s broadloom business ends up as rugs, in some cases cut by their dealers after shipping. “While cutting broadloom carpet into rugs is good for the rug business, you are only using part of the room with rugs, so more carpet is required if you are going to go that way,” Feldman said. “It is a challenge, but we are up for it.”

Prestige Mills also sells rugs under the Stark Studio Rugs label. Stark, the wholesale rug division of Stark Carpet, is a to-the-trade carpet, fabric, rugs and wallcovering specialist with a significant presence in the custom-rug space.

Stanton Carpet

Stanton is well known for the style and design of its broadloom selections. But the fact is many of the company’s inspirations come from high-end area rugs, according to Jonathan Cohen, CEO. Stanton has been selling custom rugs for years. The company even has a “Create A Rug” page on its website that allows customers to choose carpet style and color, select the finish (i.e., hand serging, binding options) and then use the custom rug visualizer to choose their rug.

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Carpet: From stain and soil protection to cleaner homes

February 19/26, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 18

By Ken Ryan

 

Carpet that offers stain and soil protection is no longer merely a trend but a standard feature offered by mills throughout the industry—albeit with new iterations being added continuously. Today’s push is also about providing a healthier home environment, with some companies highlighting products that offer hypoallergenic and antimicrobial properties.

Flooring executives say this trend was borne out of extensive consumer research. For example, Chris Johnson, senior vice president of sales, Phenix Flooring, cited a recent Gallup poll finding that 89% of consumers are already using an antimicrobial or antibacterial product at home. “We know consumers are looking for products that work harder and have added benefits beyond what’s expected,” he said.

To that end, in 2017 Phenix introduced its Cleaner Home collection in partnership with Microban, a leader in antimicrobial technology. Additives are infused into the carpet, protecting against the growth of stain and odor-causing bacteria and mold. The collection also features built-in SureFresh odor capture technology designed to eliminate common household smells that can linger.

“In 2018 we are expanding the collection with three new carpet products, so consumers now have even more options from which to choose in order to outfit their home with the cleanest, hardest working carpet,” Johnson said.

Mohawk Industries also conducted expansive consumer research and uncovered some interesting data to use in its own product development. For one, hypoallergenic flooring actually attracts consumers to the soft flooring category and, in fact, doubles the percentage of people who are considering carpet into actual buyers. “In the last 10 years of research I have not seen anything that doubles purchase consideration, at least not for carpet,” said Seth Arnold, vice president, residential.

Mohawk’s research also found that 69% of people who are in the market for flooring replied “yes” to a question as to whether anyone in their household has a breathing or respiratory condition (including allergies). “What we found is the market size for hypoallergenic is as large as the market size for pets,” Arnold noted. “There is also a similarity; people are emotionally attached to their pets. There is also an emotional connection to a product that can help relieve symptoms from breathing issues.”

Consumers are more interested in health and well-being than ever before, and that includes the foods they eat, their exercise routines as well as the products they purchase. Studies show that nearly 30% of consumers would be willing to pay more for a product in their home that offered health benefits for all members, including their pets.

According to Teresa Tran, director of soft surface portfolio management for Shaw Floors, being able to clean your carpet effectively makes a huge difference in the goal of having a healthier home. “Most spills are caught hours, maybe even days, later,” she said. Shaw’s answer is R2X, a stain and soil repellant wherein stains are kept on top of the fiber as long as possible. That’s where its LifeGuard backing comes into play. According to Shaw, the product is engineered to prevent liquid from seeping into the subfloor. “This gives consumers peace of mind and the cleanest carpet for healthy living,” Tran noted.

When Mohawk introduced Air.o in 2017—ushering in a new category called Unified Soft Flooring (USF)—the product was touted for its strength, flexibility, dimensional stability and ease of installation. It checked all those boxes. However, since it is also made of 100% PET, Air.o’s fibers don’t absorb moisture, which helps prevent the growth of allergens, the company stated. Air.o’s construction also provides better airflow and releases dust and dirt more easily when vacuuming.

While Air.o is the fresh new star in Mohawk’s soft surface galaxy, its SmartStrand collection continues its legacy of providing enhanced protection against pet stains and the like for consumers. As Arnold explained, “Nylon protection can wear off over time but  SmartStrand is built in and never washes off. When we enhanced SmartStrand with Forever Clean we added nanotechnology.”

This fiber treatment,  called Nanoloc, repels dirt, dander, spills and stains before they reach the fiber. Mohawk offers an All Pet Protection guarantee with the line.

New introductions
Bellera is Shaw’s new premium soft surface introduction for 2018. The product comes with a specialized dye chemistry and LifeGuard backing system to give the line exceptional durability, the company stated. Shaw offers a

“No Surprises, Worry-Free Warranty” on the product.

Phenix’s Cleaner Home collection includes 10 new carpets, all with antimicrobial protection for the life of the product. Additionally, Cleaner Home was developed with a highly engineered PET yarn.

Foss Floors’ DuraKnit products are constructed of 100% post-consumer drinking bottles that render the product completely stain resistant and hydrophobic, the company stated. Featuring a patented DuraLock technology, which is guaranteed to never fray, unravel or zipper, the carpet is pet friendly.

“Our carpet tiles feature a peel-and- stick adhesive that is VOC free,” said Brian Warren, executive vice president of sales and marketing. “These tiles are all fiber from top to bottom. We have eliminated the need for smelly, VOC-laden adhesives and difficult installs.”

Warren said he can vouch for these products from personal experience. “I have four shelter rescue dogs and a cat. Believe me, these attributes are important and when combined with the inherent stain resistance of our Natural Touch PET fiber, these products are Fido-proof.”

At Surfaces Engineered Floors sought to educate retailers on PureBac with Ultra-fresh protection. This innovative treatment aims to inhibit the growth of bacteria and fungi responsible for creating unpleasant smells and staining in textile and plastic products. By controlling unwanted microbes, Ultra-fresh antimicrobials keep products fresh, hygienic and odor free.

The effort to keep soft surfaces free of soil and stains has existed for decades and is not a new trend. In fact, protection for carpet dates back to the 1950s, when 3M first worked on a chemistry that would later be introduced as Scotchgard Protector. To this day Scotchgard Protector remains a premium antidote to stain and soils. When applied at the mill, Protector is done in a one-step- application process that treats the entire carpet fiber from top to bottom. The deeper the penetration, the better the resistance to stains, which means the carpet is easier to clean.

With the help of national television commercials, Invista’s Stainmaster brand was launched in 1986 and became arguably the most recognized brand in flooring. Over the years, Stainmaster has evolved with new treatments and protection systems, most recently the PetProtect carpet and cushion system featuring a breathable moisture barrier that helps prevent spills and accidents from penetrating the padding and subfloor. PetProtect is now used on both soft surfaces (carpet and rugs) and LVT. Invista also markets Stainmaster Active Family and Stainmaster LiveWell. The latter is a carpet and cushion system designed with AllerShield technology to help reduce the bonding of allergy-aggravating particles into the carpet fibers.

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Anderson Tuftex turns heads in Surfaces debut

February 5/12, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 17

By Ken Ryan and Reginald Tucker

 

Putting the brands together just makes sense because this is how people live in their homes. That’s how Katie Ford, director of brand strategy, describes the thought process behind the combination of the Anderson and Tuftex brands to form one company.

Rest assured, this is not just a merger of brands for simplicity’s sake. “We have reconceptualized both brands, updated the merchandising along with a new website so everything is fresh,” Ford said. “It’s on trend with everything our consumer is looking for. She’s not thinking about hardwood or carpet; she’s thinking in terms of how the overall room is going to come together.”

Retailers got a firsthand look at the combined Anderson Tuftex at Surfaces.

Wood
According to Ford, Anderson’s hardwood offering had somewhat “fallen off over the years and started looking like everything else.” So when the company decided to put the two brands together, she said the goal was to make sure it came out with some bona fide show stoppers. The first is called Fired Artistry, a new design available in four colors. Ford explained the origin of the name: “It’s based on an ancient Japanese wood preservation technique call yakisugi. We paint it black, put the stain on top and then hand sand off an area so you can see the black peeking through the product. It has great board definition as well as a matte, low-luster finish. It’s definitely trending in hardwood.”

Another head turner is Triology, which comprises oak, maple and hickory in one board. By using this combination, Ford said, customers get different patterns due to the grain variation. “When we do the painted technique on top of it, you can see how the different species take the color differently. Everybody wants distressed, time-worn and lived in, and you’re really seeing that look on this product.”

Anderson Tuftex also sees an opportunity to promote more traditional products inspired by old ¾-inch favorites in the line (Bernina hickory and maple). As Ford describes it: “It really goes back to that antique, old-school visual. With its thin strips, it almost looks like an antique floor in an old warehouse. Because it’s not your wide-plank board, it has a timeless feel to it.”

Then there’s Old World, a long/wide board product that Ford calls the “star of the show.” Available in an 8-inch-wide format in lengths up to 72 inches, the line is a fixed-link 6 x 24 herringbone that can be installed in various patterns, including a basket weave. For good measure, the line features a naturally oxidized aging process (NOA) for effect. “It already has great bones; we just added this oxidation process to speed up the aging process to get a look that would naturally occur over time.”

Carpet
Anderson Tuftex showed three lines for 2018, including Tavares and Tanzania, each noted for their patterned cut-pile constructions in Stainmaster Luxurell nylon fiber with SoftBac backing.

This premium brand is not afraid to be bold and edgy. At its booth, Anderson Tuftex installed a distressed concrete visual more commonly seen in hard surfaces. The ability to use advanced technology to create such a look in carpet can also complement the brand’s wood products. Another Anderson Tuftex SKU showcased a 3-D raised medallion. “Our carpet styling is on point,” Ford said.

Anderson Tuftex will be introducing carpet styles in nine design themes in 2018. Products will begin shipping in March.