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Mills find a niche with custom rug programs

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

By Ken Ryan

 

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

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

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

Anderson Tuftex

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

Couristan

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

Lexmark

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

Masland

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

Mohawk/Karastan

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

Nance Industries

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

Nourison

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

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

Phenix Flooring

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

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

Prestige Mills

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

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

Stanton Carpet

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

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Carpet pushes back against hard surface

July 3/10: Volume 32, Issue 2

By Ken Ryan

 

Screen Shot 2017-07-10 at 2.29.45 PMCarpet’s share of the overall flooring market has dropped from 50.9% of dollars in 2006 to 41.5% in 2016, according to FCNews estimates. While the downward trend has not been dramatic, it has been steady and consistent.

Carpet mill executives don’t need to look at statistics to know what is happening in the marketplace. The big ones (i.e., Mohawk and Shaw) have already transformed into total flooring solutions companies, well positioned to take advantage of any flooring trend. As Seth Arnold, vice president of residential marketing for Mohawk Industries, explained, “We are not working to stem the tide on anything. Our business is about meeting consumer demand wherever that may be.”

The smaller mills have options, too. Some have entered the hard surface category; others are contemplating such a move. And there are some who have stuck to their soft surface knitting, redoubling their efforts to deliver differentiated product.

So what are carpet mills to do about combating the inexorable gains of hard surface? Some advocate promoting the benefits of carpet. “It’s softer, warmer, more comfortable, quieter and safer than hard surfaces,” said T.M. Nuckols, executive vice president of the residential business for Dixie Home. “We also make beautiful styles and designs that can complement the many looks available in hard surfaces.”

Rodney Mauter, executive vice president, Lexmark Residential, has his own ideas. “We must keep driving the positives of carpet; after all, no one takes a nap on a hardwood floor, no one plays with the baby or puppy on a tile floor.”

Others say it is the carpet industry’s duty to continue to explore innovation and technology. “Whether it’s through style, design or performance, soft floor covering will continue to evolve and develop and ultimately remain a viable flooring option to consumers long into the future,” said Mike Sanderson, vice president of product marketing, Engineered Floors.

Soft, durable carpet provides a healthy profit margin for flooring dealers, especially when sold with pad. Some observers say the industry needs to drill down on that. “First and foremost, we need to put an end to the continuation of the race to the bottom in terms of PET pricing and overall devaluation of the category,” said Brad Christensen, vice president, soft surface category management, Shaw Floors. “The industry collectively needs to do more to promote the many benefits of soft surfaces, none more tried and true than its value compared to other surfaces. We don’t need to give it away.”

Other mills find focusing on a particular niche is beneficial. Stanton, for example, has grown its business by being selective about its patterns and offerings. “It’s about being thoughtful about the design part of it,” said Jonathan Cohen, CEO. “You can use existing technology that is out there to create something fresh. We can step it up a couple notches and produce something that is really good looking.”

Indeed, executives say there is no substitute for continually innovating to create new and compelling products. “Homeowners are no longer interested in 50 shades of beige,” Mauter said. “They demand every room of the home to denote personal style while providing comfort and performance. Easy care and maintenance is also important; products must clean easily and last.”

Ongoing initiatives
Research indicates that consumers shop by look and feel rather than fiber type. To that end, carpet mills are developing products that look great and can withstand high-traffic areas. That is no easy feat, but driving innovation is the only way to keep carpet relevant, executives say. “Carpet can be on the cutting edge of home décor,” Dixie’s Nuckols said.

Screen Shot 2017-07-10 at 2.30.06 PMTo address the hard surface opportunity for soft surfaces, Phenix has introduced a line of products that speaks to specific needs and that provide unique solutions for the consumer. In 2017 it introduced more patterns and textures to address the fact that carpet is often being used within individual rooms—as opposed to the entire home. “It allows the consumer to use carpet as a focal point of the room’s design,” said Mark Clayton, president and CEO of Phenix Flooring. “We also recognize the fact that broadloom carpets are often being used to create one-of-a-kind area rugs that can be used in conjunction with hard surfaces, so this provides additional opportunities to expand pattern and textural designs.”

Other companies are combining hard surface and soft surface in the same display systems to create a coordinated look for the home. Shaw’s TruAccents carpet collection pairs bold styles and patterns with hard surface visuals on a single merchandiser. “We understand that consumers want both hard and soft surface products in their homes, and this gives them a convenient, one-stop destination for ease of shopping and comparison,” Christensen said.

Mohawk is a total flooring company, and within that scope carpet remains a very significant piece of business. “How do we keep carpet part of the conversation?” Arnold asked. “The relentless focus we have on innovation, which is true of all our categories, is really true of carpet. We invest to stay competitive. The success we have with SmartStrand and all the innovations we brought to market has allowed us to keep carpet a profitable category.”

For companies that don’t have the depth and breadth of a Mohawk or Shaw, there are still niches to fill. Foss, for example, has focused on promoting non-woven, needle-punch broadloom and carpet tile products as an appealing and affordable accessory—or outright alternative—to traditional flooring. “Many consumers who prefer hard surfaces are attracted to our products because of their beauty and warmth combined with the attractive look and durability of a low-pile floor,” said Brian Warren, senior vice president of sales and marketing. “Not to mention, our products provide the consumer with a higher level of affordability and versatility because they work in virtually any application or market.”

Advice for dealers
While carpet manufacturers continue to explore ways to recoup market share, executives also believe flooring dealers can do their part to help combat the growth of hard surfaces. Strategies range from offering custom rugs made of broadloom to creating vignettes showing stairs with carpet inserts to upselling customers to better goods.

Screen Shot 2017-07-10 at 2.30.16 PMLexmark’s Mauter, for example, said his company coaches its retailers to think outside the norm by using different patterns with the same colorway to create subtle differences throughout the home without the need to change paint color or furniture. He also suggested making custom rugs out of broadloom to facilitate room size and dimensions and to create additional revenue.

Mohawk, for its part, emphasizes “X-plusing,” which is educating and selling the consumer on why trading up makes sense. As Arnold explains: “A consumer walks in and is planning to spend ‘X’ and instead of being traded down to lower priced goods—which are often lower-quality goods and reinforces the notion that carpet isn’t made well—offering a smaller selection of better quality product rather than a sea of sameness would be a better option. It’s about great marketing and storytelling. If you provide that customer with a compelling reason to trade up to a premium product like SmartStrand Silk you can X plus them 10%, 20%.”

Arnold said the successful retailers understand that less is more and having the right product at the right price point is key. “You have to set up your showroom for trade-up possibilities and allow consumers to feel the difference. Telling compelling stories and presenting extraordinary product is the formula for retailers.”

Clayton advised retailers to remind the consumer of the true benefits of carpet and hard surfaces and be sure they understand the potential challenges of each product. “Some consumers and their lifestyles would actually benefit from the utilitarian benefits of soft surfaces, not to mention the design opportunities.”

Shaw’s Christensen suggests retailers can help drive excitement by touting the many styling benefits and performance features. “Carpet today has a compelling performance story while also offering breathtaking visuals in a wide array of styling options. Retailers can continue listening to the needs and concerns of consumers and establish credibility by suggesting the right flooring solution for every space and every consumer appetite. There is no doubt that carpet will continue to play an important role for consumers. People forget that carpet is the largest category and still has a dominant position in peoples’ homes, and carpet remains a very import product to help drive this.”

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Lexmark names Mauter EVP, residential sales

Screen Shot 2015-12-16 at 1.18.44 PMDalton—Rodney Mauter has joined Lexmark Carpet as executive vice president of residential sales. Mauter will be responsible for overseeing the Lexmark Living and Tailored by Lexmark brands, as well as continuing to develop residential retail programs.

Mauter has over 19 years of experience in the residential flooring segment, most recently as senior director of sales operations for the Mohawk hard surfaces division. Previous positions include district manager of soft and hard surface, national retail marketing manager and territory manager for Mohawk Industries.

“Rodney brings experience in developing brands and sales teams and we look forward to building a stronger presence within the residential market.” said Todd White, founder and CEO of Lexmark Carpet.

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Lexmark acquires Northwest Carpet

Screen Shot 2015-07-01 at 1.22.53 PMDalton—Lexmark Carpet Mills has completed its acquisition of Northwest Carpet, a leading, Dalton-based hospitality manufacturer. Lexmark is a vertically integrated manufacturer that produces broadloom for hospitality, residential and niche commercial applications while Northwest specializes in solution-dyed broadloom for the hospitality market.

Northwest Carpets was founded in 1977 by Randy Coker and his father, Edward Coker. From the onset, Northwest has focused on supplying solution-dyed broadloom carpet to the price-sensitive and custom-oriented hospitality market. Randy Coker remains an investor in the combined company as part of this transaction.

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Carpet: New innovations, processes refresh soft surface offerings

February 2/9, 2015; Volume 28/Number 16

By Ken Ryan

(First of two parts)

From advanced dyeing techniques to new manufacturing processes to the marketing strength of Stainmaster PetProtect, the carpet category created a buzz at Surfaces. A look at some of the top introductions:

Dixie Home

Screen Shot 2015-02-09 at 2.34.06 PMDixie Home expanded its Stainmaster PetProtect line with Rockport, available in a multicolor pattern, and Fantasia, a cut and loop that gives a high-end look like wool. Magic Moment and Serene Moment, two other new products, also come with the PetProtect system.

Paul Comiskey, president, said the prominent location on the main floor generated steady traffic. “We have seen all the major dealers. The reception has been very good.”

Stainmaster PetProtect, first launched in November 2013, saw resurgence in 2014. “There were two distinct jumps with PetProtect during the year,” he said. “It’s being marketed a lot better, and when national advertising kicked in, it took another jump.”

Engineered Floors/Dream Weaver

Dream Weaver Carpet and Engineered Floors introduced its line of nylon carpet—PureColor solution-dyed soft nylon fiber. This continues the same technology and benefits achieved with PureColor solution-dyed PET and PureColor PureSoft Cashmere solution dyed PET fibers. “We see this as the future of nylon carpet,” said James Lesslie, assistant to the chairman. “Our solution-dye technology has revitalized the polyester carpet market; now we are extending our solutiondyed manufacturing expertise to soft nylon fibers.” Unlike most nylon products currently on the market, Engineered Floors’ has built-in stain resistance throughout the polymer.

At Surfaces, the company introduced 12 products in varying color palettes, weights, styles and textures under the Dream Weaver brand. Triumphant Jamboree and Celebration Jubilee were two standouts. The space dye tufting Engineered uses in these collections creates a “flecking” that is interspersed throughout the carpet. “Flecking is really getting the most wow,” said Mike Sanderson, vice president of product marketing.

Show attendees also previewed new merchandising displays as well as a new PureColor soft nylon video that highlights the company’s large carpet production facility, known as the SAM plant.

Invista

Screen Shot 2015-02-09 at 2.34.00 PMMaggie Bidlingmaier, vice president, residential surfaces, called PetProtect “the hottest product in the soft surface category.” She would have few naysayers following Surfaces 2015, in which new mills added Stainmaster PetProtect to their programs and existing customers expanded their assortments.

Launched in November 2013, this expanded assortment and continued advertising, including TV spots, have really elevated the brand in the eyes of consumers. “We have a lot of momentum going, and maintaining the momentum is the goal at this show,” Bidlingmaier said. “Our goal is to be the premium choice in all carpet segments. Whichever segment you are in, the best choice is a Stainmaster carpet.”

Gary Johnston, senior marketing manager, said even if consumers don’t have pets, the product still has value because of the inherent stain resistance.

T.M. Nuckols, senior director of product strategy, performance surfaces, said in 2015 nine mills are launching PetProtect styles compared to only two last year. “That just shows the market reaction.”

Flooring dealers with PetProtect signage can tie in with an Invista-led pet adoption program run by the ASPCA. At the end of 2014, 300 retail locations participated, and Invista is looking to double that number this year. Invista will help dealers find the right animal shelter in their area.

In addition to PetProtect, several mills are coming out with new TruSoft products in 2015.

Lexmark

Tailored by Lexmark (FCNews, Jan. 5/12) drew a great deal of retail attention at Surfaces. The company said the technology fills the opening between everyday LCL products and expensive patterned goods with the end result being high style at a great value. It is tufted in 100% solution-dyed PET, which allows a range of looks, including wide plank wood.

“When you bring out something like this you have a good feel for it, but you never know,” said Ed Williams, president. “You have to grow up a little bit at a time. This is only our third year in residential.”

Marquis Industries

“Subtler, softer and more sophisticated is what is selling,” said Larry Heckman, CEO of Marquis Industries, which operates the Best Buy brand. The company’s new Soft Harmony and Soft Sensations products speak to this subtler, softer trend. Heckman said these offerings will provide dealers with a value price point ($8.99 to $10.99) that can move and make money. “Because chip polymer prices have come down, we can come out with some value prices.”

Mardi Gras is another introduction and features a cut pile, multi-color barber pole construction, tufted in the company’s Continuous Filament Solution Dyed Super Soft PET.

Phenix

Fresh off its incorporation into Pharr Yarns, Phenix came to Surfaces armed with its biggest introduction ever, according to Mark Clayton, CEO.

At the heart of these introductions is ColorSense, a proprietary process that delivers discrete yarn placement to produce a complex play of color. Clayton said individually colored yarns are carefully blended to achieve an overall balance of tone and fashioned into a sophisticated palette of multi-colored carpets.

“We positioned our company in the last couple years as a viable alternative for the customer and solidified that last year with retailers by building momentum,” Clayton said. “We want to expand our reach with independents but also increase our position with retail partners.”

Phenix’s new Artistry Collection, available in 40, 60 and 70 ounces, uses the ColorSense polyester fiber. Phenix also came out with new Stainmaster PetProtect carpets.

Stanton Carpet

Stanton debuted eight new products under the Atelier Icon brand that uses the Stainmaster PetProtect yarn system, marking the first time Stanton has marketed products under Stainmaster PetProtect. Additional introductions are scheduled for later in 2015, according to Jonathan Cohen, president.

In all, Stanton introduced 115 products. “We’re getting great feedback on everything we have here,” Cohen said.

Other introductions included the Block Island collection that features two wire Wilton patterns in undyed wool, with geometric patterns and a textural surface in five natural heathered tones. “We’re really trying to step it up with illustrious yarns and keep it in that wheelhouse of salable and different.”

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Upstart ‘niche’ mills survive, thrive through innovation

January 19/26, 2015; Volume 28/Number 15

By K.J. Quinn

Screen Shot 2015-01-19 at 3.35.29 PMIn the past 10 years, the carpet industry witnessed the entry of new mills during a time when flooring sales were sporadic. But despite facing long odds and stiff competition, these start-ups quickly ramped up operations, carved a niche for themselves and helping them thrive.

“Most of [the new manufacturers] are focused on a specific part of the market and are not trying to be everything to every retail channel,” explained Ed Williams, president of Lexmark Carpet Mills’ residential division. “There is also the opinion that different retail channels want to have larger numbers of suppliers for various reasons.”

Each “specialty” mill that entered the scene in the past decade filled a void or specific market niche, and/or introduced innovation previously unseen in a business dominated by three major players who represent approximately 80% of carpet industry sales.

“We have fundamentally shifted how carpet will be made in the future,” said James Lesslie, assistant to the chairman, Engineered Floors. “That’s what makes us different. Our competitors might think we’re a bunch of weirdos, but it’s the same story we tell customers.”

Engineered Floors was established in 2007, during a time when the carpet industry was mired in a deep recession. The residential carpet business was in a state of flux, having dropped nearly 50% from its peak in 2005. But the person behind the new company—industry icon Bob Shaw— gave credence that it could succeed. “We had a founder with a lot of experience in growing companies,” Lesslie pointed out.

Meanwhile, other factors came into play to create what Lesslie called, “the perfect storm. Polyester (PET) fiber went from No. 3 or No. 4 in residential volume and quickly became No. 1 in volume fiber. Solution-dyed became the fastest growing segment within polyester.”

Creating an edge in the market, Engineered Floors introduced a proprietary solution-dyed polyester fiber system called PureColor. What makes PureColor distinct is the color is part of the material and goes all the way through the fiber. By comparison, many other carpet fibers show color on the surface only, which can wear off or fade over time.

Screen Shot 2015-01-19 at 3.38.15 PM“It’s a tremendous challenge when dying carpet to make sure the color is consistent throughout the dye run,” Lesslie said, noting that putting the color into the fiber when it is made virtually eliminates “side match,” a major industry quality control issue. By tweaking the traditional carpet production process, the mill claims its quality levels are six times higher than the industry average.

A second major advantage is solution-dyed polyester carpet can be produced at less cost than competing products. Because of the way PureColor is made, the mill uses considerably less energy and 50% less oil than piece-dyed nylon. “We’re a ‘disruptive technology’ to the carpet industry,” Lesslie noted. “We streamlined carpet operations in one facility, but, more important, we eliminated the step of using water to dye carpet.”

Since its founding, Engineered Floors has executed a rate of growth and expansion not seen in the carpet industry since the late 1980s and ’90s— an estimated 400% over the past few years. Last year, the mill added

1 million square feet of capacity and announced another expansion that would more than double its workforce in northwest Georgia.

Innovation and growth in PET

One specialty mill that quickly established a reputation as a leader in the development and growth of the residential PET category is Phenix. The company believes polyester’s continued growth in residential is due, in part, to advances in extrusion equipment that helps create a uniform, highly bulked yarn.

“Our objective is to continue to leverage our ability to manage a complex manufacturing process and bring differentiated products to the market,” said Susan Curtis, vice president of marketing and product development.

Phenix has particularly found success in responding to market conditions with products that meet the changing usage of carpet. “As the consumer redefines how and where she will use carpet, we have the opportunity to rethink how these products interact with other finishes and provide differentiated solutions,” Curtis noted. “In addition, the strength of our retail partner relationships and their desire for a viable and creative alternative supplier has been an important factor.”

The company plans to continue bringing products to market which center primarily on PET and nylon “soft” carpets.

High-end styles provide competitive advantage

Screen Shot 2015-01-19 at 3.43.14 PMEach supplier that entered the carpet industry in the early 2000s quickly established its own set of competitive advantages. For instance, Moda, established in 2005, had a goal of providing unique styling with superior quality and service. In the past two years the company has reported double-digit sales growth, a notable accomplishment during a time when the carpet industry was still recovering from the recession.

“We introduced tone-on-tone patterns unique to the marketplace,” recalled Don Kazarian, president, noting patterned carpet and solid colors were in vogue. “We had 18 styles in [approximately] 30 colors and everything from a typical cut pile to some very unique, random patterns.” Price points ranged from around $20 to $50 per square yard uninstalled, with the high-end product consisting of an 80-ounce cut pile, or a heavy three-tone shag carpet.

All Moda products are made from nylon 6,6 Stainmaster continuous filament fiber and beck dyed. “Submerged in the dye for a period of time gives us better color continuity,” Kazarian said. “It virtually eliminates end-to-end side match issues and allows us to do custom colors.” One of Moda’s top-selling products, Treanna, is a random cut-and-loop carpet with three color options, retailing for about $45 per square yard uninstalled.

The mill is launching two TruSoft carpets featuring tonal cut-and-loop patterns and two TruSoft texture cut piles. “We offer a very liberal custom color program,” Kazarian added. “Continued product introductions have been key to our recent growth.”

While the bulk of its business is conducted in Western states, Moda plans to expand its penetration nationwide, with an eye on Texas, south Florida and greater Chicago. Earlier this year, Moda became a specialty vendor to the National Floorcovering Alliance and was recently acquired by Royalty Carpet Mills, a move that provides access to tremendous manufacturing assets, Kazarian said.

Affordable fashion in high-end broadloom

In a similar vein, Dixie Home was introduced in early 2003 as a brand to provide stylish, differentiated products that offer affordable fashion in the more moderately priced sector of the high-end broadloom carpet market. Dixie Home styles are made from premium branded yarns and include traditional velvets, contemporary patterns and a wide range of textures in fashion-forward colors.

“We use premium materials throughout the manufacturing process, featuring an extensive array of Stainmaster products,” said Paul Comiskey, president of residential sales, The Dixie Group.

According to Dixie, the Dixie Home brand experienced rapid growth and enthusiastic market acceptance, surpassing the $100 million dollar mark in total sales.

Dixie Home’s manufacturing scale gives the mill flexibility, allowing it to quickly respond to new trends, keeping the latest patterns and colors within reach of a wide spectrum of soft floor covering consumers. Additionally, Dixie plans on expanding its pattern assortment with new technology.

Hospitality visuals meet residential Interiors

Lexmark, which produces commercial carpets for the hospitality segment, expanded its footprint when it entered the residential market in 2012 with a collection that included 18 styles. The line—which featured a high-end look that appealed to a broad segment of consumers—was designed based on extensive market research to determine the best products and price points. In 2015, the mill is introducing a residential line featuring unique styles based on linen and worn wood, designs typically seen in hospitality settings.

“Our key objective in the short term is to bring some differentiation to the marketplace, and our customers will see that with first-quarter introductions in 2015,” Williams said. “We will be offering a new collection of high-definition looks that will be very unique to Lexmark.” The new line is called Tailored by Lexmark (FCNews, Jan. 5/12).

Lexmark has made investments in its manufacturing operations within the past few years, which included opening a new, larger facility to accommodate new equipment and offer better service and unique styling. “Our competitive advantage is just being good in a lot of areas,” Williams said. “Sometimes it is the little things that count and it is easier to manage that if you are a smaller player.”

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Lexmark to produce residential designs reminiscent of hospitality successes

January 5/12, 2015; Volume 28/Number 14

By K.J. Quinn

Screen Shot 2015-01-16 at 12.28.52 PMWhen dealers check out Lexmark Carpet Mill’s new residential boutique collection of patterned goods at Surfaces 2015, executives are confident the designs will turn heads.

“We have done good market research and I think retailers are going to flip out when they see it,” said Ed Williams, president of Lexmark’s residential division. The new styles are made from a new pattern LCL machine that “enables us to create some unique looks in residential that haven’t been seen before.”

The new line, called Tailored by Lexmark, is made possible by tufting equipment that enables the company to create patterns that have a higher level of definition than a standard cut loop machine and to vary the density in a single piece of carpet. These two characteristics together allow the mill to create more sophisticated looks with depth and dimension not previously possible.

“We can produce cut piles and other types of carpets,” Williams said. “This machine can make patterned groups with more of a three-dimensional look, a real high-definition product.”

The inaugural line consists of eight styles ranging from refined linen to worn wood, with each pattern consisting of multiple colors. “The looks range from refined and formal to rustic and weathered,” said Justin Cash, vice president of business development and marketing. “Everything is produced using solution-dyed yarn, giving it outstanding fade and stain resistance.”

To help distinguish the line, Lexmark has created designs that resemble looks typically seen in public areas and guest rooms in hospitality settings, a market serviced by Lexmark since 1993. “I think the collection gives a very high-end designer look at a very reasonable price,” said Elisabeth Stubbs, owner of Enhance Floors & More in Marietta, Ga., who previewed the line. “I see these designs used for stair runners, rugs and, of course, wall-to-wall installation. I think the value and the stain resistance are important parts of the story.”

Michael Goldberg, chairman and CEO, Rite Rug, Columbus, Ohio, also spoke to the exceptional designs featured in Tailored by Lexmark. “The new patterns are beautiful; Lexmark’s extensive experience with hospitality styling can really be seen in their new styles. I believe there has been a lack of residential patterns for years, and Lexmark is helping fill the void with on-trend styles that will hit the right price point for consumers.”

Screen Shot 2015-01-16 at 12.29.00 PMIn recent years, home trends have moved more toward tone-on-tone paint schemes as the difficult process of changing wallpaper and/or faux finishes have made them a thing of the past. The new carpet styles tie in with upscale design trends prominent within residential interiors today.

“Many of the new designs are quite unique and innovative,” Stubbs said. “The styles are very graphic and will definitely [allow carpet to be] a statement piece in the home.”

The Tailored collection helps consumers create an iconic look in areas of the home where carpet is the preferred floor covering, mainly bedrooms, game rooms and formal living spaces. “The collection looks high end, so margins should be excellent on these products,” Stubbs added. “I think these patterns must be displayed in large sample sizes, so they are easily discernable. I think if displayed properly, clients will naturally gravitate toward this collection.”

With the new collection from Lexmark, consumers are provided with a highly styled look and exceptional value, while the designs are unique enough to enable retailers to maximize their profit margins, Lexmark executives said. The products are positioned in the upper mid-range and are expected to retail for around $30 per square yard, uninstalled.

In addition, Lexmark is developing a merchandising display that will allow consumers to visualize the carpet as it will appear inside their homes. “We’re working on a new display, similar to something you would find in a high-end fashion boutique,” Cash explained. “It will leverage large swatches that can be laid flat on the floor.”

Williams added, “It’s going to be an attractive boutique display with blankets on it, and it will be sure to catch the eye. The consumer is going to be drawn to it.”

Tailored represents the latest innovation since Lexmark entered the residential sector in 2012 after years of success in the hospitality industry. Since that time, Lexmark has invested in new machinery and extended its footprint, which has enabled the mill to create an ideal mix of highly styled carpets appealing to a broad segment of consumers.

“Our new manufacturing facility has put corporate headquarters, tufting, extrusion and heat setting under one roof,” Williams said. “The [larger space] has allowed us to continue to add manufacturing equipment.” The equipment additions—which include two extrusion lines, heat setting equipment and a 1⁄12-gauge 4 E loop scroll—will allow Lexmark to offer better service and unique styling.

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PET developments address color, performance

July 7/14, 2014; Volume 28/Number 2

By Louis Iannaco

Screen Shot 2014-07-14 at 11.27.38 AMWith the development of soft carpet fibers in recent years, there’s no doubt the proliferation of these super soft yet durable yarns into the marketplace has been the major trend in the soft broadloom category. Mills continue to perfect and fine-tune their soft products while at the same time working on the next big thing.

So in addition to soft, or as a subsequent result, what else do the mills have going on when it comes to polyester? The emphasis is on making more colors available, increasing performance and developing proprietary initiatives such as odor-resistant technology and stain resistance. Executives from several of the industry’s major polyester producers recently gave FCNews details on the latest from their respective companies and the segment overall.

According to James Lesslie, assistant to the chairman, Engineered Floors, while soft continues to be the fastest growing category within polyester, combining beiges and grays—as the company does with Dream Weaver’s natural Tonal Solids collection—remains the fastest growing trend. “The unique ability to blend colors with solution-dyed fibers allows us to create new looks with an endless array of color combinations.”

Polyester continues to be a favorite with many of Beaulieu America’s dealers. In order to respond to demand, two of the mill’s most popular polyester collections, Bliss Healthy Touch and Bliss EverClean, received updates this year. “We added 84 SKUs to Healthy Touch and 54 to EverClean,” noted Matt Johnson, senior director, product management, residential division.

Both collections bring the softness and inherent stain resistance of the company’s polyester together with proprietary features such as Magic Fresh odor reduction, 3M Scotchgard and, in the case of Healthy Touch, Beaulieu America’s antimicrobial Silver Release treatment. “We plan to continue improving and expanding our polyester line in 2015,” Johnson said.

As noted, the trend toward softer fibers in polyester carpet continues and Shaw is innovating to meet that demand, said Trey Thames, vice president, residential marketing/product development. “A good example of Shaw’s latest PET evolution is the Clearly Chic Collection, introduced earlier this year. Not only a ‘super soft’ carpet, the collection is available in bold colors and features ClearTouch Platinum PET construction with a high twist yarn that also offers great performance.”

As Shaw focuses on innovative processes and sustainability, another initiative for the mill is its recently announced $17 million investment in the new Evergreen recycling facility in Ringgold, Ga., which will process both nylon and polyester carpet (see story on page 3). Complementing Shaw’s carpet recycling portfolio, “Evergreen Ringgold will create a high purity post-consumer recycled material that can be used in a broad range of applications,” Thames noted.

Extruding excellence

Investing in fiber technologies continues to be key for the industry’s major polyester producers. Mohawk is continuing what it started two to three years ago in reinvesting for the future by making considerableScreen Shot 2014-07-14 at 11.28.04 AMcapital investments with heavy emphasis on extrusion and product innovation.

According to David Duncan, senior vice president, marketing and sales operations, the mill is currently well positioned with a full assortment of next generation fiber technologies in SmartStrand as well as polyester BCF and nylon platforms. “As we continue into 2014, we believe we now have the capacity and capabilities with our patented Continuum PET BCF technology to lead the industry in the next round of polyester innovations.”

Susan Curtis, vice president, marketing and product development, Phenix Flooring, believes polyester’s continued growth in residential is due in part to advances in extrusion equipment that help create a uniform, highly bulked yarn. “Polyester has a naturally soft hand and feel,” she said, “and improved yarn bulk adds tactile value. Continued advances in polyester resin chemistry intended for bottles and packaging have improved the performance of BCF PET, making it a more flexible fiber.

“Additionally, a stable polyester supply chain with huge scale creates favorable economics for PET as carpet yarn consumes only .5% of the supply—even at half the North American residential carpet market.”

As previously noted, creating new looks through the blending of colors is paramount among polyester’s latest innovations. At Lexmark, Ed Williams, president, residential, believes the development of new patterns through the use of colors is critical when it comes to polyester and the different looks it can offer.

“We’re working mostly on pattern designs in different color combinations to give a sophisticated, toned look,” he said. “We’re also focusing on broad-based looks that will have widespread appeal. We’ve just shipped two post-Surfaces introductions—Chesterfield and Chandler Heights—that have new and fresh color the market seems to embrace.”

Larry Heckman, president, Best Buy, noted the prevalence of polyester styles continues in the marketplace because they can be produced at very competitive price points. This has helped polyester become the mainstream residential carpet choice in many markets across the U.S.

Styling has come a long way in space dying and yarn blending, Heckman said, while polyester’s natural characteristics play a significant part in providing value by being virtually stain proof with very low static build up. “Today, polyester can be extruded in ultra-soft deniers for exceptional underfoot comfort, which is in high demand.”

Best Buy’s polyester improvements have come from advances in extrusion techniques that include fiber design, enhanced yarn drawing and crimping. “This improves features such as tensile strength of the yarn and bulking characteristics for a bigger value and hand,” Heckman explained. “It also improves brightness and luster levels of the yarn which are important characteristics for better performing and better selling styles.”

The next major advancement is space-dyed solution-dyed polyester, he noted. “This is one of the biggest technological breakthroughs in polyester styling—creating crisp and bold color clarity in both jewel tone colors and cut pile berber space dye styles. Best Buy has been one of the pioneers to perfect this new process. It’s done on our new computer controlled space dye line.”

According to Heckman, the technology is a combination of applied space dyes and heat levels. The new line heats the yarn to a maximum level just below the melt point to allow dye to penetrate the fiber core, which is then quick cooled through a cooling chamber. The process is completed with saturation steam heat by a heat set unit. “The result is a rich space dye with great color clarity and crisp color bursts.”

Performance counts

Screen Shot 2014-07-14 at 11.27.59 AMWhen you have a major shift like soft in the industry, it can take retailers two years to absorb the impact, executives noted. “We are really just completing the cycle of converting their floors,” Lesslie said. “All our PET PureColor and PureColor Cashmere fibers are solution-dyed. We get excellent quality/field performance with our products, and our customer claims ratio continues to be very low. From our viewpoint, polyesters offer the consumer excellent value and performance.”

The economy also continues to play a role in the value attributes end users shop for when they make their purchases. Recent economic conditions created a shift in consumer buying trends towards value-oriented products, which has driven the increase in polyester’s market share, Duncan noted.

He specifically cited that the trend toward soft continues to maintain its relevance. Over the past year, Mohawk expanded soft into polyester with its newest collections: EverStrand Soft Appeal and Wear Dated Allure. “We took our proprietary knowledge we acquired through the development of our SmartStrand Silk and Wear Dated Embrace soft collections and used it in PET to make EverStrand Soft Appeal and Wear Dated Allure.”

Mohawk’s Continuum technology, a proprietary, intensive purification process designed to remove industrial lubricants and oily residue, “ensures Mohawk’s soft polyester carpets—including EverStrand Soft Appeal and Wear Dated Allure—resist dirt, grime and contaminants that cause other PET carpets to become dingy over time,” Duncan explained.

“Mohawk is dedicated to consumers’ needs and we’ve made significant investments in manufacturing to improve our polyester product offerings,” he continued. “Mohawk knows that consumers do not want to forego style for value and this improved technology has significantly expanded our line of PET products. Now, we offer a variety of fashionable PET styles and textures.”

Polyester has seen tremendous growth over the past five years, Thames noted, “evolving from a ‘nice value alternative to nylon’ to a strategic component of every carpet manufacturer’s overall product offering.”

Improvements in heatset and twisting technology have helped improve PET’s overall performance and the economic downturn made the value proposition that polyester has always provided even more attractive, he explained. “Our strategy is based on providing the best polyester product lineup for value, performance and color/style versatility. This is no different than what we do in nylon. As the world’s largest producer in both fiber types, Shaw responds to changing trends by providing our customers with products that meet their needs.”

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Mills unfurl new products, enthusiasm for 2013

By Louis Iannaco

Volume 26/Number 20; February 18/25, 2013

(Second of two parts)

Carpet mills exhibiting at Surfaces 2013 witnessed genuine excitement from attendees resulting from the many new products that were offered as well as their own expectations toward what the rest of the year may bring regarding sales and profits. Attendees found carpet mills offering bolder colors, more textures and patterns, three-dimensional looks and an ever-increasing number of soft products. Continue reading Mills unfurl new products, enthusiasm for 2013

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What happens in Vegas shouldn’t stay in Vegas

by Celia Payne

Las Vegas—Surfaces 2012 presented the opportunity to shine—even brighter than the Vegas strip. The successful protagonists at the show know you must set yourself apart among a sea of introductions. Continue reading What happens in Vegas shouldn’t stay in Vegas