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Couristan bolsters sales team

Troy Corey

Fort Lee, N.J.—As Couristan prepares for an explosive 2018 and the launch of several new collections at Surfaces 2018, the company has hired two leading residential floor coverings sales executives to service the Manhattan and Southern California markets.

Troy Corey will ensure dealers in New York City will have access to Couristan’s residential broadloom and area rug collections, while Nick Maugeri will be responsible for the Southern California region. Both executives bring more than 30 years of experience forging relationships with specialty and high-end retailers and will report to Len Andolino, executive vice president of Couristan’s residential division.

Nick Maugeri

“We are committed to developing the strongest salesforce to bring our collections to market,” Andolino said. “Both Troy and Nick have unbelievable track records in the high-end floor covering sector, and we look forward having them leverage their experience and deep relationships to expand Couristan’s reach within these two incredibly important markets.”

Prior to joining Couristan, Corey spearheaded sales at GCC International. His expertise spans on product development and manufacturing, and includes strong sales connections all over the United States. Prior to this, he served as national sales manager and buyer for his family business, Rosecore.

For nearly 20 of Maugeri’s 35-year career, he worked for his family business, Wool Merchants, which manufactured, imported and distributed high-end wool carpeting. During this time, Maugeri developed relationships with Southern California’s most prestigious retailers and distributors. In 2001, he left the family business to pursue a career as an independent agent of broadloom and area rugs.

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Carpet: State of the industry—Higher-end goods boost residential end of the market

August 28/September 4: Volume 32, Issue 6

By Ken Ryan

 

Screen Shot 2017-09-05 at 11.43.04 AMAfter a slow start to 2017, the residential carpet category gained some traction in the second quarter, resulting in a 2% rise in sales over the year-ago period, with units up 0.5% overall in the first half. Executives cited sales of better goods, an uptick in consumer confidence and price increases that have firmed up the marketplace.

The U.S. carpet category continues its ever-so-slight recovery from the Great Recession, its growth held in check by hard surfaces. “We have seen patterns, loops and differentiated product at the upper end doing disproportionately well and outperforming the medium end of the market,” said Tom Lape, president of Mohawk Residential.

T.M. Nuckols, executive vice president of residential business for the Dixie Group, which oversees the Dixie Home, Masland and Fabrica brands, agreed that better goods at the higher end of the spectrum and well-styled products are seeing the greatest activity in the residential market these days. If the products offer soil and pet stain protection—as many of them do—it’s a plus.

The 2% growth in residential carpet is a welcome sign for a category that has shown little to no growth in the last three years. In 2016, for example, FCNews’ research showed carpet sales down 1% to $8.7813 billion while total volume—which includes carpet and area rugs—gained 1.2% to 11.22 billion square feet.

There are some positive signs in housing that should favor a boost in carpet sales going forward. Between July 2016 and July 2017, U.S. home values increased 6.8%, according to Zillow, the online real estate database interest. That number is expected to rise another 2.7% within the next year, the company said. This uptick in home prices has helped boost consumer confidence among homeowners, which has increased two months in a row. As a consequence, the residential replacement market has experienced growth as spending on remodeling projects has moved higher. While most of that spending has been for hard surfaces, soft goods have not been shut out entirely.

However, rising home prices are a double-edge sword because it prevents many would-be buyers, especially older millennials, from entering the market. The flip side is that has resulted in a more robust multi-family segment. The multi-family production index (MPI), which provides a composite measure of three key elements of that market—construction of low-rent units, market-rate rental units and “for-sale” units, or condominiums—jumped 8 points to 56 in the second quarter as all three components increased.

“Improved units can be attributed to a fairly good builder market in both multi-family and single family as well as the return of home equities in the retail remodel sector,” said Brad Christensen, vice president, soft surface portfolio management, Shaw Floors.

Screen Shot 2017-09-05 at 11.43.21 AMThe Main Street segment of the business continues to perform reasonably well, with carpet tile continuing to grow in both small, local businesses and specified commercial. Broadloom, however, continues to lose share in both sectors.

Market research has shown consumers desire the warmth and comfort of carpet in their homes. To meet that need manufacturers are focusing on the look and feel of carpet more so than fiber type. As Christensen explains: “Consumers want a stylish, high-performing carpet that complements their uniquely curated living spaces and demand both design and function in a variety of price points.”

Rodney Mauter, executive vice president of residential marketing for Lexmark, sees value and fashion, especially, as the primary inspiration for consumers. “She wants her bedrooms and family rooms to be just as much of a statement as the rest of her home. As carpet manufacturers we must continue to exceed performance standards while offering more color and fashion choices.”

The dwindling middle
Carpet continues to play well in certain regions, in particular the upper Midwest and Northeast, observers say. Meanwhile, both the low and upper ends of the market are showing fairly brisk activity. Engineered Floors, the No. 3 carpet company, is flourishing in the lower-end polyester market, which continues to be strong. The upper end, which counts Dixie, Shaw (Tuftex) and Mohawk (Karastan), continues to shine. However, the mid-range market—$8 to $13—is struggling. “Rather than building products that fit your assets, build products that fit your customers’ needs,” Lape explained. “We have to figure out a way to create compelling products for our retailers even if it is hard.”

Innovative offerings
Screen Shot 2017-09-05 at 11.43.26 AMMohawk’s SmartStrand is an example of a compelling product that has enjoyed tremendous reception at the retail level, with new iterations like SmartStrand Reserve giving dealers more profit potential. “SmartStrand Reserve has hit the market with very solid acceptance across our dealer base,” Lape said. “Our prior research told us consumers loved luxurious soft performance carpet, and since our launch earlier in 2017 our research has now been proven true with the introduction of SmartStrand Reserve.”

Several advancements in technology have driven today’s exceptional quality, performance and styling looks. Improved yarn systems offer softer hand along with a range of visual aesthetics coupled with enhanced performance and durability. According to Susan Curtis, senior vice president, product development for Phenix, developments in tufting technology continue to open new ways to design creative carpets. She said additional attributes are being engineered into carpet products that enhance the consumer’s use and experience with the product.

Mark Clayton, president of Phenix, said innovations in tufting technology have provided opportunities for manufacturers to create more compelling textures and color palettes for the consumer.

Technology’s contribution to carpet has kept it as a viable flooring solution especially in the areas of improved stain, soil, wear and fade resistance—in addition to affordable pricing. That’s according to James Lesslie, executive vice president at Engineered Floors, whose company introduced an advanced polyester extrusion process fiber system called Apex SD.

Screen Shot 2017-09-05 at 11.43.32 AMAt Shaw Floors, its LifeGuard waterproof backing system is now offered as a trade-up option for dealers. In 2017 Shaw added LifeGuard to its Anso Color Wall in a Titanium collection with 150 new SKUs. “We’re listening to consumers more than we ever have before and adapting our strategies to meet their needs,” Christensen said. “Making LifeGuard an optional upgrade on more styles is just one example of this new approach.”

Products that offer stain and soil protection continue to resonate with consumers, the majority of whom own pets, studies show. To that end, the Dixie Group introduced a significant number of new products under the Stainmaster PetProtect brand, including many new carpet styles under its Dixie Home and Masland lines.

Phenix’s Cleaner Home carpet, meanwhile, features built-in Microban antimicrobial technology to protect against the growth of stain- and odor-causing bacteria and mold. Recognizing consumers’ growing desire for a cleaner home without cleaning more, Phenix combined these three unique components—a new fiber with two proactive technologies—to create this new carpet collection.

In terms of innovation and initiatives perhaps no one has been as busy as Engineered Floors. “Our top innovations are hard to pinpoint because 2017 has been so busy for us,” Lesslie explained. “So far this year, we’ve launched a totally new website, expanded our social media, broken ground and are in the process of completing a new modular carpet manufacturing facility, added several new Main Street commercial products through our Pentz brand and introduced Apex SD. And we’ve got four more months to go.”

 

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Carpet: Spoiler alert—Broadloom isn’t going away

January 16/23, 2017: Volume 31, Number 16

By Ken Ryan

Screen Shot 2017-01-16 at 12.16.53 PMWith hard surfaces growing and gaining market share over soft surfaces every year, it might be easy to dismiss carpet as a has-been product. And yet, carpet is still the queen of floor covering, the largest percentage category by more than three times that of runner-up resilient, the fastest-growing segment.

Carpet has lost market share, no doubt, but the drop-off has not been as steep as feared. In 2006, for example, carpet represented 50.9% of the flooring market in dollars. Ten years later, carpet is still at a healthy 43.4%. The next closest category is resilient at 13.3%.

Further illustrating the point, carpet remains an $8.9 billion category, which is up from $7.8 billion five years earlier. That’s a $1.1 billion increase, or 13.2%. The problem is on the residential side, where sales have dropped from $5 billion to $4.8 billion over the last five years, assuming we classify the $770 million Main Street business as commercial.

“Carpet wouldn’t be the first flooring category to be written off,” said Tom Lape, president of Mohawk Residential. “Laminate was a high-flying category that became commoditized, and many retailers and distributors have backed off the segment considerably. However, laminate remains a viable product at the higher end.”

And so, too, will carpet, which continued to do well at the high end as well as low end. Carpet has been the most popular floor covering in America for decades and with good reason—carpets feel soft, reduce noise and insulate rooms. In fact, new carpet is the lowest VOC-emitting flooring choice available, proponents say. It acts as a passive air filter, trapping dust, pollen and other particles and removing them from the environment. Studies have shown that people with asthma and allergy problems have seen symptoms improve with carpet.

For the long-term health of flooring dealers, carpet needs to remain viable. As everyone knows the replacement cycle of carpet is faster than hard surfaces, which means more transactions for dealers. A customer who buys a hardwood floor today may never need another floor in her lifetime. A good carpet needs to be replaced in about 10 years. Flooring dealers want carpet to rebound for obvious reasons.

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

Manufacturers believe it is important to bring true innovation to this category to excite consumers. “We have to give the consumer a better story and solution. We have to excite those in the trade and make it exciting and fun for consumers to buy carpet,” Lape said.

Some dealers say too much of the spending activity these days is at the commodity level. Bill Zeigler, owner of Charles F. Zeigler & Sons, in Hanover, Pa., said he would be interested in knowing what percentage of the carpet sold today is low end and going in new construction or apartments. “The lower quality carpet sold over the last decade will not be replaced with more carpet in most cases. A mistake made in this industry is letting builders drive the market. I could go on and on about this topic alone.”

Focus on the high end
Screen Shot 2017-01-16 at 12.16.58 PMWhile low-end carpet has had its moments, the upper end has flourished. This is where the Mohawks, Shaws and Beaulieus of the world play. Lape said the question for the industry is: “Are we going to play to win or play not to lose? At Mohawk, we are going to continue to invest.”

Steve Weisberg, owner of Crest Flooring in Allentown, Pa., knows carpet will always be an important category. “I think the question should be, ‘Will carpet ever dominate the home as it once did?’ My answer to that is, ‘No, it won’t,’ but as more product such as Shaw’s LifeGuard is produced, I do believe there will be more uses for soft surface products than there are now. Consumers still love soft surface floor covering; the industry just has to find ways to allow carpet to have more viable features and benefits. LifeGuard is a very positive start to doing this.”

LifeGuard, with a waterproof backing system, responds directly to consumers’ need for ease of maintenance combined with the comfort and softness of carpet. Brad Christenson, vice president, soft surfaces, Shaw Floors, said LifeGuard has successfully elevated Shaw’s carpet collections and made for an easier upgrade for homeowners.

Chris Coltran, an industry consultant who works with several flooring retailers, predicts the pendulum will swing back to broadloom, particularly the luxurious higher-end market. “Why wouldn’t carpet make a comeback? Long hair in the ’70s and short hair in the ’80s are back in style today. Miniskirts in the ’60s, gone in the ’70s and back again in the ’80s. It doesn’t matter whether it’s clothes, cars, colors, styles; they come and go with the decades and carpet won’t be any different.”

More important, carpet will continue to be an integral component of a retailer’s business, Coltran added. “If you threw out all your carpet displays and only sold hard surface, you would lose a big chunk of your business. Successful dealers are focused on selling higher-end, more profitable carpets to make up for the lack of yardage in homes.”

Soft and luxurious resonates with consumers, research shows. Mohawk put that statement to the test during 10 “mall intercepts” in which it compared 10 products. Consumers chose softness each time, Lape explained, noting, “That is what she wants to walk on; that is what she wants in her home.”

At its Solutions meeting in December, Mohawk introduced SmartStrand Silk Reserve, a product the company said has managed to make silk feel even softer. Dealers attending the show gave it a two-thumbs up (FCNews, Dec. 19/26, 2016).

It is that level of innovation that is needed for carpet to reclaim its status as the queen of the home. “With its warmth, softness and coziness, carpet is increasingly being associated with offering a tranquil reprieve from chaotic lives,” Shaw’s Christenson said. “There will never be a product category more suited for this environment than carpet.”

 

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Harley joins BPS as new COO

City of Industry, Calif.—Bentley Prince Street recently announced a key addition to its executive leadership team with the hiring of Jim Harley as Chief Operating Officer (COO), effective immediately. Harley is a seasoned industry executive with approximately 35 years of manufacturing and operational experience in the floor covering industry, most recently as the Senior Vice President of Manufacturing for Tandus Flooring. In his new role, Harley will manage all aspects of the company’s manufacturing, operational and customer service activities. Continue reading Harley joins BPS as new COO

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Corporate, healthcare fuel commercial business

But lack of public funding stalls institutional

by Steven Feldman

It wasn’t too long ago the flooring industry was lamenting a downturn in the commercial market as the re-cession that decimated the residential side of the business began to spread like wildfire. But those days seem to be in the rear-view mirror as commercial flooring posted low-single digit growth in 2011. Knowledgeable observers pinned the growth anywhere from 2.5% to 5% in dollars, a little less in units. Continue reading Corporate, healthcare fuel commercial business

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Luxury meets savings during national Karastan month

DALTON — The perfect luxury design solution has never been more attainable. Karastan is extending a strong consumer rebate offer as part of its semi-annual National Karastan Month sales event. The rebate encompasses many of Karastan’s design-driven broadloom and rug styles, and includes Karastan’s premier wool, SmartStrand with DuPont Sorona, Wear-Dated and Stainmaster fibers. Consumers can earn up to $1,000 cash back on select styles during the celebration, which takes place April 18th through May 30thContinue reading Luxury meets savings during national Karastan month

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Nourison appoints Tollison account executive

Saddle Brook, N.J. — Nourison is pleased to announce the appointment of Matthew Tollison to the position of Account Executive for the North Carolina, South Carolina territory. He will be responsible for managing and developing business within this important region.  Continue reading Nourison appoints Tollison account executive

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Broadloom producers place spotlight on their best

When it comes to showcasing the best of the best, broadloom producers are giving dealers and consumers a lot more to choose from these days, including a larger palette of colors, new softer-than-ever yarns and the strongest durability and performance story in industry history. Here are some of the high-end products on the market today.

Beaulieu of America

Evolve from the Bliss by Beaulieu HealthyTouch collection is one example of a higher-end, successful product from the largest carpet-only manufacturer in America, noted Jeff Meadows, chief marketing officer. “Evolve proves conclusively that ‘high-end’ need not be ‘high-priced’ because it combines the softness and style of a fine luxury residential carpet with incredible practicality for everyday life.” Continue reading Broadloom producers place spotlight on their best