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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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California recycling bill signed into law

October 23/30, 2017: Volume 32, Issue 10

By Ken Ryan

 

Screen Shot 2017-10-27 at 11.19.36 AMThe two major carpet mills and industry trade associations gave a thumbs down to California’s new carpet recycling law, which will require manufacturers selling carpet in the state to implement a stewardship program that sets a carpet recycling goal of 24% by 2020.

At stake here, observers say, is the risk of losing carpet sales in a state of 40 million people. The California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) will have the authority to establish recycling targets beginning in 2020 and every three years thereafter. Legally, if no approved collection and recycling plan is in place for a particular carpet product, then manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers would be forbidden from selling that product in the Golden State. Worse, they could be subject to fines of $10,000 a day for violating the law.

Mohawk and Shaw are opposed to the new law, as is the Carpet America Recovery Effort (CARE) and the Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI). Bob Peoples, executive director of CARE, told FCNews, “The bill is law so I do not see any reason to respond. We are working to redraft our plan to comply and will submit the new version per the California schedule.” Mohawk and Shaw declined to comment.

Joe Yarbrough, CRI president, said in a statement that the vast majority of CRI members are not in favor of the law. “AB 1158 will add enormous cost and complexity that will negatively impact consumer costs as well as the health of the carpet industry. AB 1158 will have a detrimental effect on our industry and on the California economy because it includes requirements that are contradictory, makes it likely that any stewardship plan will fail, ignores the economics of the commodities markets, and will potentially close many of the businesses that currently receive subsidies and grants through the existing stewardship program.”

In 2010 the state of California passed legislation requiring manufacturers to develop a collection and recycling program. The program raised millions of dollars from consumer fees, and the carpet industry set a state goal of 16% carpet recycling by 2016. However, the rate was not achieved and fell from 12% to 10% in 2015, after which it grew to 11% in 2016. In April 2017, CalRecycle issued a finding that the program had failed to achieve “continuous and meaningful improvement” in rates of recycling and diversion of post-consumer carpet as required by the law. CalRecycle rejected the industry’s program plans and proposed $3 million in fines against CARE, the industry stewardship group.

Not every flooring entity is against this new law. Interface, along with Tandus Centiva, a Tarkett company, support the new law. In fact, Eric Nelson, vice president strategic alliances, Interface, told FCNews that his company was so committed to this cause that it “stepped away from the industry” to support and lobby for this bill.

“This isn’t a new initiative for us; we’ve been stewards of the environment for more than 20 years and sustainability is at the heart of our closed-loop design and manufacturing processes. Low petroleum prices have deterred recycling efforts, making a law like this imperative to advancing a circular economy. This law encourages us and others within the industry to continue innovating new means of production that continuously reduce our impact on the environment.”

Jay Gould, CEO of Interface, called the law “a positive step forward in driving a truly circular economy in our industry. While we have been committed to recycling product with our own ReEntry product take-back program for two decades, we felt it so important to push for this legislation that we joined a broad coalition of organizations to support and lobby for the bill.”

Supporters of AB 1158 cited the following as reasons why the bill needed to be implemented:

  • Carpet is made of 99% plastic, from fossil fuel, and more than 30 million pounds of carpet was incinerated in California between 2011 and 2015.
  • A CalRecycle waste characterization report found carpet to comprise 1.8% of the overall disposed waste stream in California.
  • Recycling 1,000 square feet of carpet and pad diverts 500 pounds of carpet and padding out of landfills and prevents 913 pounds of CO2 from being emitted into the air (the equivalent of 950 miles driven by car).
  • The demand for carpet is expected to increase to 14.6 billion square feet by 2019, an increase of 4.5%.
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Exclusive interview: Jackson takes Tuftex on the road less traveled

July 3/10: Volume 32, Issue 2

 

Screen Shot 2017-07-10 at 3.06.41 PMSanta Fe Springs, Calif.—It’s been three years since Doug Jackson took the reins of Tuftex, the premium carpet division of Shaw Industries. While Tuftex has always enjoyed a reputation of high-end, trendsetting, West Coast styling—first as a stand-alone mill, then as a division of Queen Carpet before the latter was purchased by Shaw in 1998—the company today still maintains its longstanding identity while adapting to a changing climate. FCNews publisher and editorial director Steven Feldman recently sat down with Jackson to discuss what’s driving the mill and the brand.

How is Tuftex different as a company today than it was three years ago?
Two important aspects come to mind: First, everything is now under one roof. We brought our tufting facility back to the Santa Fe Springs location, which allows Tuftex to operate as a small, nimble mill. Sales, manufacturing, product development and marketing now share the same building for the first time in quite a few years. This gives us the ability to walk down the hall, walk into the plant and have immediate dialogue with any department. In addition, our regular roundtable meetings allow the individual business leaders to discuss and strategize face-to-face.

Second, our go-to-market plan has changed. Tuftex was an à la carte manufacturer. We had a couple of displays and everything was à la carte. Today, the line is broken into three distinctive categories: Classics, our value collection, focusing mostly on builder and roll sales; Stainmaster PetProtect; and Signature, our higher-end line. There is a product and merchandising strategy to help define who Tuftex is. We are building product with purpose and a specific home.

How much have sales increased over the last three years? What’s driving that?
In the past three years, sales have steadily increased…driven by our mix of products, styling, builder business, Stainmaster PetProtect and an unwavering focus on our customers. The essence of Tuftex can be summed up as: the right people, creating the right products and doing the right things.

Give me a collection or two that is really performing well in the marketplace.
The Naturals collections in the Signature category. This line incorporates the natural color variations of striated yarns and a handcrafted look and feel with texture that adds incredible performance with exceptional styling; it’s just right for the market. Another is our three-color ColorPoints…these styles represent the closest we’ve seen to woven products in a synthetic yarn. Even though they’ve only been out in the marketplace four months, the placements and sales have been outstanding.

What are you most proud of these past three years?
I am most proud of the fact Tuftex has grown its business in a soft surface category that has been mostly stagnant. Not many carpet mills can say they’ve grown their business each of the last three years. We have a simple, strategic go-to-market plan as outlined earlier. Customers recognize it and it’s working. As evidence, we have won FCNews’ Award of Excellence for three consecutive years. That is something we don’t take lightly.

What do you feel Tuftex does better than every other carpet mill?
Shaw Industries has the best claims ratio in the industry, and Tuftex has the best claims ratio within Shaw. So that makes us the best of the best. In addition, our utilization of different fibers, as well as the yarn mill in Yuma, Ariz., that services Tuftex exclusively, allows us to do things with yarn and yarn systems that other people can’t or won’t. The other thing is color. Tuftex is definitely known for color and we take advantage of that. We have one dye line at this facility and make hundreds of changes a day. In addition, we have a custom-dye program unlike any in the industry because we want consumers to have what they want.

Tell me one thing retailers might not know about Tuftex.
Tuftex is thought of as a high-end line, and we are a premium line. But we also represent value. We go to market in many different ways and are involved in many different businesses. However, we are at the high end of every business we are in. That includes the builder business—with product offerings in the mid to high end of design center selections. People who know us like us and know that we can make a lot of money for them. We are involved in retail, specified and resi-mercial/mixed use (high-rise buildings)…also a little hospitality. At the end of the day, Tuftex is about affordable luxury. In fact, we can be found in multiple areas of a retail showroom, not just the high-end area where people expect to find us.

Tuftex may be the premium brand of Shaw, but there are mainstream products, yes?
Everything Tuftex makes is premium—design, color, construction, finish, etc. It would be a mistake to downgrade the terminology of our product offering to mainstream, value or entry level. In Classics, we make foundational products that appeal to the widest range of consumer tastes and budgets, and we are particularly strong in new home construction. In Signature, we showcase extraordinary styles, colors, textures and patterns that inspire consumers to create elevated living spaces throughout the house—that can include just a single room or only the stairs.

What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced?
While our transaction rates are up to almost historical numbers, our yards per transaction have decreased approximately 30% over the years as carpet has taken a smaller portion of the home market. However, over the past year, we are seeing this trend reverse itself somewhat with an uptick of close to 10%. The reason being, I think, is people are finding carpet to be the better solution for stairs and bedrooms.

How does that trend continue?
We just have to get back to conveying that carpet is still cool. We do that by building the most beautiful, soft floor covering products in the industry, and by focusing on attributes such as warmth, comfort, softness and durability.

What’s new for 2017?
The Villa collection is definitely on fire. In addition, our staircase campaign is doing very well. Our custom color story is separating us. We have a custom area rug program and innovative usage of fiber technology in a series of new Caress products highlighted by the product Sundance. This year we also introduced a pattern wall—an upgrade to our Signature Tuftex library. The pattern wall was designed for shows and markets as a great way to showcase products and patterns. Retailers realized how well this wall highlighted the color and style of the Tuftex line and an unprecedented demand ensued with many having been placed in showrooms around the country. I am very pleased with this positive feedback.

How does Tuftex help retailers make money?
We are a frictionless supplier. We offer beautiful products, just in time, and custom colors backed by the industry’s lowest claim rate, at a price where retailers can make a nice profit. In short, it’s the right people with the right products doing the right things.

What are retailers asking of Tuftex today?
They are expecting us to continue to be an industry leader and staying ahead of the curve. Tuftex has always been known for innovation, so we are expected to continue being innovative with unique styling and industry-leading color. At markets, people expect to see the newest colors as well as something new and different from Tuftex.

Any plans for a Tuftex-branded LVT product?
Not at this time. I can’t predict the future, and things change, but not at this time.

 

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Executive forecast: Carpet mills continue to invest in technology, hope for a turnaround

Carpet mills continue to invest in technology, hope for a turnaround

 

By Louis Iannaco

 

In broadloom, it continues to be about the housing market and, according to mill execs, jobs. 2011 can best be described as flat, and as for what executives see for 2012, all indicators continue to point to housing/the economy and unemployment as key indicators for the category’s health.

This is not to say mills have not invested in themselves, and plan to do so in the coming year with technology and social media playing major roles. A light at the end of the proverbial tunnel continues to be commercial, which once again fared better than residential. Continue reading Executive forecast: Carpet mills continue to invest in technology, hope for a turnaround