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Carpet: Playing at the high end pays big-time dividends

April 16/23, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 22

By Ken Ryan

Carpet mills are taking advantage of the new reality in flooring—with carpet relegated primarily to the bedroom, consumers are willing to spend more to make that soft surface area really stand out.

Indeed, carpet mills are finding that even in a shrinking market for soft surface, there is money to be made by playing at the high end. Some examples:

Anderson Tuftex

Anderson Tuftex had a strong showing at Surfaces. Since then, dealer reception to its new carpet products (Tavares, Tanzania and Heirloom) has been exceptional, according to Katie Ford, director of brand strategy. “The dealer base has been so supportive. If you are a dealer, and you want to make money, you have to have Tavares and Tanzania—and you probably need to have Heirloom, too. You need the whole line, really, because those three styles are distinctly different.”

Ford said there is nothing quite like Tavares in the market—a natural stone visual akin to a Venetian plaster. “It’s just beautiful. We have a rug version of it, too, and we had it installed at Surfaces; it’s everyone’s favorite.”

Tanzania, in denim blue, is offered in a broken Chevron pattern. Like fine wine, it is a product that gets better with age, Ford said. “Chevrons are showing up these days. These patterns are timeless and don’t go out of style.”

Another favorite is Heirloom, with a raised medallion within a small scale textural pattern. “It’s another timeless classic look,” Ford explained. “With AT, you know our products have that little extra craftsmanship to stand out.”

Dixie Group

By virtue of the fact that it is not a low-cost manufacturer, The Dixie Group must create differentiated products to be successful. That’s according to T.M. Nuckols, president, residential division, who cited two new PetProtect products for 2018—Signature and Trademark, which will be launched by Masland in the second quarter. “Also, Bombay Vibration is a remake of a classic Masland product and now made with PetProtect solution dyed nylon 6,6 fiber; it delivers great durability and stain resistance in a softer and more comfortable product.”

The Masland Energy line, coming in May, is a commercial segment offering with 20 well-styled products made with nylon 6,6 for durability and performance. Wholesale price points range from the low teens to mid 20s, “so we are not targeting the typical Main Street price points,” Nuckols said.

Foss Floors

Foss introduced its DuraKnit collection this year featuring a new construction technique for higher-end broadloom that enables the consumer to install an upscale look in tough traffic conditions. According to Brian Warren, executive vice president, sales and marketing, these products will never fray, zipper or unravel, nor will they fade. And while they are stain resistant and will never wrinkle, they still feature a soft hand and luxurious styling, he added.

In 2018, the company introduced its “Carpet Reinvented” DuraKnit display, which includes an interactive storyboard to highlight the line’s unique characteristics. “These innovations are helping the retailer achieve higher margins by providing a unique selling proposition,” Warren said.

Gulistan Floors

John Sheffield, vice president of sales and marketing, Gulistan, said the company is incorporating a very limited distribution strategy to allow dealer partners to maximize their sales and profits. “We have created a unique collection of patterns using our solution-dyed PET. With our Stainmaster offering, we are using the solution-dyed yarns and trying to fill product voids in the with new textures and yarn applications.”

Mohawk

When you talk high end, Karastan is arguably the first brand that comes to mind. Karastan has three premium yarn systems with which to work in developing products. “Having access to wool, SmartStrand Silk and Kashmere Nylon gives us the ability to develop unique looks and textures utilizing the attributes of these yarns,” said Bill Storey, senior vice president, Mohawk and Karastan. “In addition, we also have developed styles using a combination of two yarns. For example, Hampshire Bay has wool as the base yarn and SmartStrand Silk as the accent. The result is an elegant look that cannot be achieved with a single yarn system.”

Karastan’s new soft stone looks—Mackenzie and Berkeley —are standouts. “These styles create the look of natural stone in a luxurious, soft hand,” Storey explained. “This is achieved through our vintage weave process which utilizes SmartStrand Silk, space-dyed yarn.”

Phenix

The Cleaner Home collection is Phenix’s latest in innovative, trend-forward carpet designs. Refuge, Flourish and Well Being are a collection of three new multi-color patterned carpets that utilize innovative cut and loop technology which allows for varying amounts of cut vs. loop.

These products feature a unique combination of colors that become visible at varying points in the construction to create a unique sculpted look with their own dimensional pattern.

Phenix’s Stainmaster PetProtect Design Solutions collection helps sell higher-end products in multiple surfaces by removing one of the biggest pain points for consumers—coordinating their flooring without the help of an interior designer. “It also helps facilitate overall larger tickets and enhanced profit opportunities for the retailer,” said Mark Clayton, president of Phenix Flooring. “We’re bringing hard surface and carpet together in one display and making it easier than ever for a consumer to walk in, visualize her entire home and purchase on the spot.”

Shaw

Shaw Floors continues to burnish its reputation as a leader in innovation with Bellera, a high-performance carpet line. Bellera’s high-design, on-trend offerings include tonals, accents, loops and bold-colored patterns.

“We’ve put Bellera to the test and can say this carpet will look as good in five years as it does on day one,” said Teresa Tran, director of soft surface portfolio management.

Bellera features Shaw’s spill-proof LifeGuard backing, Endurance high-performance fiber and R2X soil and stain resistance. “We’ve listened to the consumer and are proud to offer them the softness of a residential carpet that is durable enough to withstand their active lifestyle.”

Stanton

Stanton’s premise is differentiation. Three brands of note are Antrim, Rosecore and Crescent, which feature unique styling and are merchandised in high-end display systems. Stanton’s Atelier collection offers cut/loop woven nylon patterns provide greater design and color flexibility than the traditional LCL.

“These introductions coupled with our unparalleled use of color, design and multiple yarn types in woven patterns has set new standards,” said Jonathan Cohen, CEO.

Stanton is introducing Stanton Street, Decorative Commercial this summer. This new collection encompasses a mix of carpet tile, planks and decorative commercial broadloom for Stanton’s first dedicated commercial offering.

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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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Executive interview: Phenix rises under Clayton’s leadership

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

Mark Clayton

Industry veteran Mark Clayton has been at the helm of Phenix Flooring for the past five years. In that time the company has evolved into a significant player by introducing innovative products, turning its attention to a better product mix and merging with its yarn suppler Pharr Yarns. Many retailers who have sought alternatives to the big two have turned to Phenix. FCNews recently spoke to Clayton about the past, present and future.

You have been at Phenix for almost five years now. How has the company evolved?
When I first arrived, we were very focused on attacking the commodity and volume portions of the market whereas we’ve evolved into one of the leading producers of fashion-forward products. We still participate in these markets but our shift has been toward mid to upper-end products that leverage our unique design aesthetics. Our product design team, led by Susan Curtis, has transformed our product offering and focused on building differentiated products that speak directly to what the consumer wants.

Our sales and marketing efforts have also experienced an evolution. We’ve placed a tremendous amount of effort into building our sales force while making initial efforts into expanding our marketing reach; these remain two areas of focus for us.

We also completed our merger with Pharr last year, which has allowed us to evolve to a point where we have greater breadth of resources and talent.

How has the merger with Pharr changed/helped the Phenix business model?
We were once two completely separate organizations that had very similar objectives, capabilities and cultures. Phenix is now able to operate more effectively as a vertically integrated manufacturer, but it has also provided the ability for both companies to expand our product development efforts and bring more stylistic products to the market, quicker. Pharr also has a 77-year heritage of adapting to market demands, and they’ve been very supportive of our growth requirements. Like Phenix, Pharr had been committed to investing in and developing state-of-the-art manufacturing processes, and those combined result in a better product for the consumer.

Talk a little about Pharr Yarns and the strength it provides Phenix.
As I mentioned, Pharr Yarns has a 77-year history of meeting and exceeding the needs of its yarn customers. However, most don’t realize Pharr Yarns is part of a very diverse organization that actually supports five separate business units. Pharr not only participates in the flooring (Phenix Flooring) and yarn (Pharr Yarns) industries, but also has business units that service the high performance yarn industry (Pharr HP) as well as a land development group (Belmont Land) and hotel management group (Strand Hospitality Services).

Regarding the strength that Pharr provides Phenix, they allow us to be more competitive, enhance our product development cycle, provide resources for continued expansion and growth, and provide an additional level of support to help us continue our path forward.

How do you view Phenix’s competitive advantages compared to other carpet mills?
Our competitive advantages are that within the category we participate, which is residential carpet products mostly consisting of solution dyed yarn systems, we bring differentiated, style conscious, innovative styling to the consumer. We are committed to being highly responsive to the needs of our customers, bringing them reliable on-time performance in what can be an otherwise challenging product category to service effectively.

I mentioned Pharr and Phenix had very similar cultures as individual organizations and now as one company we’ve further strengthened our commitment to our core values, which is who we are FIRST: Family, Innovation, Responsiveness, Strong Relationships and Trustworthy.

Is the focus today more on PET or nylon? Why?
Both of these categories play a big role in what we do. I believe within the residential carpet market we participate in two of the hottest sectors: solution-dyed polyester and Stainmaster Pet Protect solution-dyed nylon. You could say we are more focused on PET as this is where the majority of our SKUs reside, but we are just as much committed to the growth and expansion of the nylon category. In fact, many don’t realize Phenix is the largest volume manufacturer of products featuring the Stainmaster Pet Protect badge.

What would you say is the sweet spot in terms of retail price point for Phenix?
Our product offering has evolved over the past five years to the point that our average face weight and subsequently price points are higher today. I would say our “sweet spot” in terms of retail prices would be in the mid to upper $20s per square yard.

With the growth of hard surface dominating headlines, particularly LVT/WPC, and many other mills getting in that game, any plans for Phenix to start marketing the product?
Yes. Phenix actually soft launched into the category in 2016 at Surfaces and has since been building on the success of that initial rollout. We now feel we are ready to support a more comprehensive rollout and will be introducing four new hard surface products at Surfaces we’re really excited about. We’ve also recently announced the hiring of Jason Hair, a hard surface industry veteran, to support and execute our hard surface strategy.

You all have talked about a desire to reach the consumer, maybe create some brand awareness. How do you plan on accomplishing this?
We’ve also recently made a strategic hire in the marketing area, further solidifying our commitment here. Industry veteran Merrie Barnett came on board earlier this year as our new VP of marketing to provide the focus and resources needed to take our marketing and business efforts to the next level. Our marketing group will be executing a strategy focused on leveraging our relation to the overall Pharr organization, we will be expanding our reach in both digital and social platforms, and we will continue to expand our penetration in traditional marketing outlets.

What’s the big story heading into Surfaces?
We are really excited about Surfaces. In fact, this will represent the most dynamic rollout of new programs in Phenix’s history. Phenix will introduce the new Cleaner Home collection, which will target those consumers looking to simplify the cleaning process while protecting their family. This collection will feature 10 new styles manufactured with our new Opulence HD 100% solution-dyed PET fiber, creating a luxuriously soft and refined appearance. The Cleaner Home collection also features exclusive Microban technology, which works continuously to prevent the growth of stain- and odor-causing bacteria and mold, providing a new level of cleanliness and peace of mind. Microban is the most recognized consumer brand in the growing antimicrobial segment, and its products are featured on a wide array of home products.

In addition, products within the collection feature SureFresh Odor Capture Technology, which actively freshens the air in the home by capturing and neutralizing a broad range of household odors. All of these unique technologies have been brought together to meet the needs of the consumer who wants to create a healthy, clean home and expects products to proactively help her achieve this.

Next, Phenix will be introducing the first ever Stainmaster Pet Protect luxury vinyl product. Free Expression will feature both stone tile and wood plank on an oversized, loose lay LVT platform. The most unique feature of this new introduction will be how Phenix has chosen to merchandise it. Phenix’s new display mechanism will feature not only luxury vinyl but also Stainmaster Pet Protect carpet options, offering consumers flooring solutions for their entire home in a single point destination, one-stop-shop display.

We’ve taken it one step further with this display by simplifying the design process for the consumer. Phenix created seven custom lifestyle palettes featuring both our new Stainmaster Pet Protect luxury vinyl with our Stainmaster Pet Protect carpet effortlessly coordinated together, helping take the guesswork out of flooring design for the consumer. Phenix will be the first in the industry to offer a coordinated soft and hard surface display with the added protection of Stainmaster Pet Protect.

Phenix will also be making a statement in hard surface with a new rigid core luxury plank and new water-resistant laminate. These products will each offer unique, industry-leading technologies which address the needs of today’s consumer.