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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 sales], 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.

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Dealers give Shaw’s Bellera stellar reviews

November 12/19, 2018: Volume 34, Issue 11 

By Ken Ryan

 

Few things excite a flooring retailer more than an exciting new product that is easy to sell, resonates with customers and generates a nice profit. Shaw’s Bellera High Performance Carpet fits that bill, according to dealers who have enjoyed early success with the 2018 launch.

“I give it an A+,” said Steve Weisberg, president of Crest Flooring in Allentown, Pa. “I love the product as do all my RSAs. Really, what’s not to like with all the features and benefits it offers? We have had very nice consumer acceptance, and the styles are mostly easy to sell.”

Bellera debuted with 13 styles, offering more than 200 unique product selections in solid textures, tonals, tweeds, loops and patterns. The product features LifeGuard spill-proof backing, which is also debuting its new blue color. Shaw said it believes the ‘Backed by Blue’ moniker appeals to consumers.

Dealers said the combination of a high-performance carpet and soil and stain protection has been a boon to the Bellera rollout. “The R2X soil and stain protection coupled with the Lifeguard backing are a powerful one-two punch,” said Craig Phillips, owner of Barrington Carpet, Akron, Ohio.

Matt Thornton, owner of Thornton Carpets, Sioux Falls, S.D., said the product has performed well, with nary a single problem in the time he has stocked it. “We got it before we had displays,” Thornton said. “Our reps are good for bringing in samples ahead of time. We’ve actually got one SKU in our showroom in a 12 x 20 area. So far, so good, is how I would describe it. Shaw has been a good provider for us. We try and support anything they come out with.”

More than two years in the making, Bellera was created from scratch based on discussions with consumers and flooring dealers. “We know consumers really want durability and performance, but they also want beautiful,” Heather Yamada, marketing director, retail, explained. “Here, they didn’t have to have one or the other; they could have both. We wanted to give them confidence that this is a great product.”

A “no-surprises, worry-free” warranty was also added to the feature set to provide consumers with additional peace of mind. “It’s unheard of to say you won’t have to worry about spills or pet accidents on carpet, but we’ve made that possible for consumers with Bellera,” said Tim Baucom, executive vice president, residential division.

The myriad benefits of Bellera make the sales process that much smoother for dealers such as Angie Cooper, sales manager for Direct Carpet Unlimited, San Marcos, Calif.

“I like to introduce the Bellera product after asking the client a few questions to determine the need,” Cooper said. “Once I establish a need, I use the information that I have been given to explain how this product will fit into their lifestyle. The nice thing about Bellera is it fits almost every situation for new carpeting. The key words and topics used in my pitch are pet friendly and kid friendly, with a worry-free, no exclusions, 10-year warranty.

“Then, there is the LifeGuard backing and R2X stain treatment, which is great for preventing spills from getting below the backing. Based on the story behind the product, along with the no-exclusions warranty, price and current selection, I definitely see a product we can make good money on.”

Steve Vanderhye, vice president of Banter Floors and More in Cedar Lake, Ind., echoed the sentiment of others, asserting that Bellera has all the markings of a legacy product. “The softness and look of the styles, the LifeGuard backing, the excellent warranty and the great pricing are the perfect combination to make this product a big success.”

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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.”