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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: Mills up the ante in the fight against spills

Stain protection update

February 13/20, 2017: Volume 31, Number 18

By Ken Ryan

 

What drives carpet purchases? If ongoing research is to be believed, it’s all about stain and soil protection. So if you want customers to spend more money, the carpet products retailers offer should incorporate such treatments.

Stainmaster PetProtect from Invista was a big hit in large part because it addressed a huge consumer need, executives say.

The American Pet Products Association (APPA) estimates 70 million to 80 million dogs and 74 million to 96 million cats are owned in the U.S. Approximately 37%-47% of all households have a dog, while 30%-37% have a cat.

“Our consumer research shows pets actually influence flooring purchasing behaviors even more than children in the home,” said Brad Christensen, vice president of soft surface category for Shaw Floors.

Soil and stain protection play a pivotal role in the growing trend of healthier floors and homes. Extensive research has been done on consumer preferences toward healthy homes and how pets are incorporated into the family environment. “Consumers are looking for products that can do more for them, passively keeping their homes cleaner, healthier and looking great,” said Susan Curtis, senior vice president, product development for Phenix.

Following is a look at some recent introductions featuring stain and pet protection carpets.

Screen Shot 2017-02-20 at 3.18.48 PMEngineered Floors
The company’s Lifetime Pet Warranty promises “complete relief for you and your pet,” according to Will Young, residential brand manager. “That means we will stand behind our carpet when it comes to dog and cat accidents in the home for the life of the product.” The warranty is available on most DreamWeaver styles, particularly those on its new Your Retreat 65-color wall display, which was introduced at Surfaces last month.

Screen Shot 2017-02-20 at 3.18.56 PMLexmark
All of Lexmark’s 2017 introductions feature 100% solution-dyed PET fiber that is inherently very stain resistant. What’s more, Lexmark added Scotchgard Protector by 3M to provide greater stain and soil protection. This one-step application process treats the entire carpet fiber. As a result, spills stay on top of the surface and dirt does not adhere to the floor.

Screen Shot 2017-02-20 at 3.19.01 PMMohawk
SmartStrand Forever Clean, installed in more than 7 million homes and heralded for its durability, stain resistance and comfort, has become an even smarter choice for active families with pets. Mohawk enhanced this popular carpet with All Pet Protection, a warranty and protection system that covers all pets, all accidents, all the time. SmartStrand Forever Clean comes with Nanoloc, an advanced nanotechnology that encapsulates the SmartStrand fiber to create a spill and soil barrier.

Screen Shot 2017-02-20 at 3.19.07 PMPhenix
Phenix’s major 2017 introductions address consumer needs related to pet protection and healthier homes. Cleaner Home, which comprises 10 new carpets with antimicrobial protection, was developed in an exclusive partnership with Microban, a leading producer of antimicrobial additives. As well, Cleaner Home was developed using a highly engineered PET polyester yarn called Opulence HD and includes SureFresh, an odor capture technology to provide a smarter soft surface flooring option.

Screen Shot 2017-02-20 at 3.19.13 PMScotchgard by 3M
When applied during the manufacturing process, Scotchgard by 3M-branded products provide a protective treatment by surrounding each individual carpet fiber with an invisible shield, making the carpet resistant to water- and oil-based stains as well as soiling from everyday use.

Screen Shot 2017-02-20 at 3.19.27 PMShaw
Shaw Floors continues investing in carpets made with its exclusive LifeGuard waterproof backing system, which provides an optimal carpet for pet owners. “Thanks to this industry-exclusive system, pet accidents stay on the surface longer for easier clean up,” Christensen said. “And for those accidents not discovered immediately, consumers now have the peace of mind knowing that pet urine and other liquids will never soak through the backing, into the cushion and onto the subfloor.” New for 2017, the LifeGuard waterproof backing system was added to Shaw’s popular Anso Color Wall in a product called Titanium, which offers 150 new SKUs.

Screen Shot 2017-02-20 at 3.19.33 PMStainmaster PetProtect
Invista’s Stainmaster PetProtect carpet and cushion system provides a breathable moisture barrier that helps prevent accidents from penetrating the padding and subfloor, which enables more thorough cleaning. As well, PetProtect also reduces the attraction between pet hair and carpet, allowing consumers to easily remove the hair with normal vacuuming.

Screen Shot 2017-02-20 at 3.19.42 PMStanton
Stanton announced a new partnership with 3M Scotchgard with the introduction of 15 products treated with Scotchgard Protector by 3M. The carpet introductions are made of nylon type 6 and type 6,6. Each of the new Stanton styles is treated with Scotchgard Protector 3M and is covered under a 10-year stain and soil protection warranty.

 

 

 

 

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Shaw debuts ‘game-changing’ carpet protection system

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

By Ken Ryan

Screen Shot 2015-01-19 at 1.00.04 PMDalton—Shaw Floors has introduced an innovative carpet protection system for residential applications that covers the entire product, from face fiber to backing. Marketed under the brand LifeGuard, these carpets are treated with Shaw’s patented R2X stain and soil resistance protection, while a patented 100% thermoplastic commercial-grade backing provides a moisture barrier engineered to be highly resistant to liquids soaking into the carpet padding and subfloor.

This carpet protection system was previously only available for commercial floors but has now been adapted for residential use.

The product will be officially introduced at the Shaw Flooring Network convention in Orlando Jan. 20-22. Retailers who have display programs will receive demonstration kits beginning in March. “The reaction we are getting is amazing, especially when you see the demo,” Trey Thames, Shaw’s vice president of residential marketing and product management, told FCNews. “We have people who have been in the industry for a long time who say this is the best thing they have seen. Our demo really calls this out.”

The carpet protection system is being sold under the name H2O for Flooring America and Carpet One dealers. Retailers at both CCA Global groups’ winter conventions in early January (see stories on pages 40 and 44) were enthusiastic about the demonstrations that included pitchers of water being poured on the carpet without the liquid reaching the product’s bottom layer.

Among those impressed was Chris Green, president of Great Southeast Flooring America in Melbourne, Fla., who called LifeGuard/H2O “a game-changer within our industry.”

Thames said some carpets promise protection against liquid spills and other accidents, including those caused by pets, but don’t address the reality of what really happens when spills occur. “Liquids still soak through the carpet backing and spread, leaving stains and potential odors.”

The idea for LifeGuard arose about a year ago, Thames said. “There was a lot of talk about pets from a variety of people, but what we saw was a lot of new marketing and no new innovation. We could have done the same thing but we wanted to make something that was really better, not just for pets, but all liquids as well. We came up with a better system.”

Shaw said carpets with LifeGuard are easier to clean and maintain as the R2X protection keeps most liquid spills on the surface for easy removal. The LifeGuard backing prevents any excess moisture from reaching the padding and subfloor. Even spills that were initially overlooked can be later cleaned because of the total fiber and backing protection, the company said.

With a flexible backing system, LifeGuard allows installers to easily bend and manipulate the carpet to facilitate installation, and it slides 25% more easily over the pad, according to Shaw. LifeGuard’s backing is also easy to stretch and trim, and cold temperatures don’t affect the installation process. “Installers love it,” Thames said. “One installer said it’s like cutting through butter.”

Shaw is offering a lifetime delamination, edge ravel, tuft bind warranty on carpets treated with the LifeGuard carpet protection system.