December 22/29, 2014; Volume 28/Number 13
Next-gen SmartStrand unveiled at convention
By Jenna Lippin
Orlando, Fla.—Mohawk aligned dealers were introduced to the manufacturer’s latest carpet innovation, SmartStrand Forever Clean (FCNews Dec. 8/15), at this year’s Solutions convention held here Dec. 4-5, leading to one of the most exciting events in recent years, according to a number of aligned Floorscapes and ColorCenter retailers.
Aligned dealer Deb Degraaf, co-owner of DeGraaf Interiors in Grand Rapids, Mich., said Forever Clean answered the call she helped make over the years as a member of Mohawk’s advisory council. “We used to always talk to [Mohawk president] Brian Carson about it, and I said, ‘If you ever come up with something that will allow [consumers to] beat up on SmartStrand and not soak right through to the backing, you’ll have a game changer.’ So we are really excited about it. That’s always been one of my concerns; it won’t stain, but it’s still difficult to clean up for consumers. Now it beads up; you can take a paper towel and dab it. I think they’re going to give the competition a run for their money.”
Gary Cissell, president of Mill Creek Carpet with multiple locations throughout Oklahoma, Kansas and Missouri, was equally excited, saying Forever Clean will be responsible for a new buzz in the flooring industry. “It’s fantastic. Every so often you have to [generate] a buzz to get sales teams excited and I think this product will do that. We’re probably going to position it based on the fact that you get style that goes along with its durability and cleanability.”
According to Mohawk, the goal is for SmartStand to be the most appealing, high performing product for consumers, making it the top selection for salespeople on the showroom floor. “It’s about engagement for our own salespeople and keeping a product like residential carpet exciting,” said Tom Lape, president of Mohawk Residential. “We believe in innovation—innovative product and innovative marketing. We still believe SmartStrand is poised to grow two to three times the industry average because we continue to provide more innovative and compelling product to consumers. Ninety percent of retailers are selling SmartStrand and our goal is to make sure it becomes a more compelling part of all retailers’ stocking strategies and more of a go-to product for RSAs in their daily sales routine.”
While SmartStrand Forever Clean was obviously the big story at Solutions, the marketing that goes along with it was also a hit with aligned dealers, specifically Mohawk’s new partnership with Tough Mudder (FCNews, Dec. 8/15). “The toughest event on the planet is partnering with the toughest, easiest to clean carpet on the planet,” said David Duncan, senior vice president of marketing. “We’re Mohawk, so we can’t just talk about it—we have to prove it. We needed a challenge so intense it defies all conventional thinking about cleanability. SmartStrand was the best carpet ever invented; SmartStrand Forever Clean is the best carpet ever invented again.”
In addition to SmartStrand Forever Clean, 10 new SmartStrand Ultra—now SmartStrand Ultra Forever Clean—products were released at convention, all offering two weights of good/better/best and texture. These products come along with the new Mohawk Edge display, offering high performance with a low cost and small footprint, and the new Color Wall to help display the latest SmartStrand products with pieces that are easily changed as more updates become available over time.
Retailers who have had success with SmartStrand over the years are ready to embrace the product updates. Lou Morano, owner of Capitol Carpet, with four locations throughout Palm Beach, Fla., has remained committed to SmartStrand over the years, particularly because his staff has faith in the product. “Salespeople like [SmartStrand] because they really believe in it. We’ve been selling it for five years with no claims. They bring it to people and say, ‘This is the best thing in the universe.’”
Mohawk also refreshed its soft polyester and nylon offerings in EverStand Soft Appeal and Wear-Dated Soft Touch, respectively. The goal with the array of new EverStand products is to target trade-up customers, driving higher-level looks that hit the $15 mark at retail. “There is an opportunity to increase retailers’ margins, but what we’ve been seeing is a race to the bottom,” said Seth Arnold, Mohawk’s director of brand. “What we’re trying to do within polyester is provide products that really serve to get that value-conscious customer that comes in to upgrade into something that helps restore the average ticket price. If our dealers are going to compete in that value-range category, we want them to compete at the top end of that. The way we’re doing that is through color and style.”
New selections from Wear-Dated Soft Touch are being dubbed the “carpet man’s carpet,” using “Cadillac parts in a Chevy,” according to Arnold, as Mohawk has integrated yarn typically used in Karastan-type products into the nylon collection. “We’ve developed a product that we know is going to be soft enough and will bring maximum durability. It’s that dense, plush, thick nylon. We’re going back to our roots, so to speak. It plays really well between polyester and Silk. We know from feedback that this really hits a sweet spot our retailers have been missing in nylon.” The collection will feature 29 new styles.
The aforementioned Karastan brand has been updated to continue the “renaissance” it began last year, to which it has received “terrific response,” said Bill Storey, senior vice president of Karastan. “Pattern is really selling well, and I think part of that is with hard surface growing so fast, consumers are willing to try something unique and different. In the past you would have a solid color throughout the whole house, but now carpet is relegated to certain areas of the house, so consumers are willing to be more adventurous. Also, I think patterns will bring younger people into our brand, which is what we need to do.”
New styles from Karastan have been unveiled in SmartStrand Silk, Kashmere Nylon and wool.
Additionally, the Aladdin Commercial brand has been completely rejuvinated with new styling that allows for coordination across all of its broadloom, modular tile and LVT offerings. The goal for the brand is to offer products that can be used in all commercial environments.
Hard surface refresh
The big story on the hard surface side for 2015 is the extension of Mohawk’s proprietary Armormax finish from hardwood to two new laminate collections: Cottage Villa and Rustic Legacy. Both are offered in the colors, designs and finishes that have been successful in hardwood, with rich character and fashion-forward color palettes featuring grays and browns, along with wider widths and longer planks. “Rustic is showing no signs of going away,” said Roger Farabee, senior vice president, Mohawk Hard Surfaces. “I think because laminate is a lower risk product in the sense that it’s less expensive to install, and it’s easier to remove and replace if you make a mistake, people are willing to take more chances.”
In hardwood, two ½-inch engineered products were unveiled: Sandridge and Northfield. Sandridge is offered in multi-width—4, 6 and 8 inches—while Northfield is 7 inches wide. “We’re very excited to be able to do longer, wider products with enhanced character along with Armormax and Scotchgard protection, and manufacture them in the U.S.,” Farabee said. “That’s a big achievement we’ve been working on for a long time.”
On the subject of longevity, Mohawk also expanded its Brandisi hardwood collection, which was the first major scraped product in the market that Mohawk pioneered 10 years ago. In fact, More than 50 million square feet have been installed in the last decade. For 2015 the color palette has been updated with more fashionable options.
In porcelain, the story continues to be the expansion of Mohawk’s Reveal Imaging technology. Intros for 2015 include Travata, which features limestone looks with “tremendous variation” from piece to piece, and Volturno, an update to the company’s successful slate looks with random, multicolor visuals.
No new luxury vinyl flooring products were introduced, but new lines will roll out in the beginning of 2015 once Mohawk’s Belgium manufacturing facility is completed and fully functional.