Posted on

Award of Excellence: Mohawk returns to winner’s circle as Best Overall

May 28/June 4, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 25

By Ken Ryan

 

Garden City, N.Y.—For the third year in a row, Mohawk Industries was voted Best Overall Manufacturer—one of four Mohawk-branded honors, and six in all for Mohawk Group—in FCNews’ 22nd annual Award of Excellence competition.

Mohawk won for Best Carpet Manufacturer (Group A), Best Commercial Carpet Manufacturer and Best Laminate Manufacturer (Group A), as well as Best Overall. Further, two Mohawk companies took home top honors, including Dal-Tile, which was named Best Ceramic Manufacturer (Group A) for an unprecedented 20th consecutive year. Karastan won top honors for Area Rugs.

“At Mohawk, we continue to invest heavily in the future,” said Tom Lape, president of Mohawk residential, who attended the annual affair at the Garden City Hotel with several members of the Mohawk team. “We are honored that retailers recognize our products, such as the industry’s first hypoallergenic soft flooring—Air.o; our SmartStrand franchise and our revolutionary wood flooring—RevWood, as innovations that contribute to their business success and consumer satisfaction. Mohawk is not only thankful for their resounding endorsement of our products but also of our hardworking employees whose talent and dedication earned our company these prestigious awards.”

Dal-Tile has done what no other company or brand has done—won the award for two decades running. According to John Turner, president, the victory laps never get old. “Winning the Award of Excellence is meaningful to Dal-Tile because it reinforces how our customers feel about their relationship with our business and how they value our Daltile, American Olean and Marazzi brands,” he said. “Each team member plays a critical role in ensuring that we forge relationships with our customers through superior service and products that lead the industry in style, innovation and quality. Our long history of success in this awards program illustrates our commitment to excellence and the significant partnerships we enjoy with our customers.”

Mohawk wasn’t the only dominant company. It was a big night for Shaw Industries and its divisions as well, with five awards. Shaw won Best Manufacturer for LVT (Group A) and Best Manufacturer for Hardwood (Group A); Anderson Tuftex took home top honors for Carpet (Group B) and Hardwood (Group B), while USFloors took first place in the inaugural WPC/Rigid Core category.

“The Award of Excellence is a coveted and respected industry award and receiving this award for both LVT and hardwood is an immense honor for Shaw Floors,” said Herb Upton, vice president, hard surface. “We’re thrilled to see our latest hard surface products have been well received, and these awards confirm Shaw Floors leads the way in hard surface innovation.”

Drew Hash, vice president, Shaw hard surface products, added, “To be chosen for these prestigious awards by our retail partners speaks to the success of Shaw’s efforts to put customers at the forefront of all we do. We thank our dealers and Shaw associates who make our shared achievements possible.”

For the first time a separate category for WPC/Rigid Core was established, a nod to the explosiveness of the waterproof vinyl flooring segment. USFloors, marketer of the highly successful COREtec brand of WPC, won the award for WPC/Rigid Core after taking top honors for LVT the previous two years. “To achieve an Award of Excellence from your customers is the most meaningful and valuable recognition any company can wish for,” said Piet Dossche, president of USFloors. “I am very proud and honored to receive this trophy on behalf of our entire team of dedicated people who are working hard to provide the best product and service to our retail partners. The revolution our COREtec product has created in the WPC product category has been great for our customers who have embraced this exciting new product wholeheartedly. Thank you, FCNews and Informa Exhibitions, for organizing this yearly contest and event.”

Being part of the Shaw family, Dossche added, has given USFloors more opportunities to grow the COREtec business. “We are committed to remain the leader in this category and building COREtec into a strong consumer brand.”

Among the repeat winners, Emser Tile won for the second year in a row in Ceramic (Group B), and Inhaus took top honors for Laminate (Group B), marking its second consecutive year in the winner’s circle. “Emser Tile is proud to be recognized by our customers and receive the FCNews Award of Excellence,” said Bob Baldocchi, chief marketing officer. “As we celebrate our 50th anniversary, this recognition validates our service promise commitment to our customers and inspires us to continue to find new ways to innovate and enhance the overall customer experience.”

Derek Welbourn, CEO of Inhaus, commented: “We feel extremely fortunate and are honored that our customers voted for us. We have a passion for our product offerings and strive to create products that people are excited about both in terms of innovative design and quality. In our eyes, this award is a recognition of our efforts, and we are very appreciative of that.”

A new classification (Group C) was established for the first time to recognize quality, smaller-scale companies. In carpet, Southwind won for Group C while HomerWood was honored in hardwood.

“Southwind and all of our employees are honored to have won this Award of Excellence,” said Richard Abramowicz, executive vice president. “It is a team effort—not one individual. Southwind strives to bring to market the most innovative and forward-thinking products that provide solutions to the marketplace. We would like to thank our valued customers for recognizing our efforts for this award.”

Methodology

Sponsored by FCNews and Informa Exhibitions, proprietors of The International Surface Event (TISE), the Award of Excellence is a way for manufacturers’ customers—retailers, distributors, designers, installers and specifiers—to honor the companies they feel consistently provide the best service, professionalism of sales force, management responsiveness, value, design, B2B, handling of claims and ease of doing business.

“The Awards of Excellence are honors bestowed to manufacturers by the heart and soul of the flooring industry—the retailers,” said Dana Teague, vice president, Design Group, Informa Global Exhibitions. “It is a pleasure and an honor for Informa/Surfaces to co-sponsor this year’s awards with Floor Covering News. We are delighted to share our enthusiasm for innovation with brands that continually strive for excellence. Surfaces is the platform that manufacturers use to launch or highlight many of the winning products to the delight of the thousands of retailers, distributors, designers and installers that come to Las Vegas every January. Congratulations to the recipients of this year’s awards.”

Readers of FCNews, as well as other industry personnel visiting trade shows such as Surfaces (and not employed by a manufacturer), voted between October 2017 and the end of March 2018 for the companies they felt best met established criteria in the following floor covering categories—Carpet, Commercial Carpet, Area Rugs, Resilient, Resilient Sheet, Resilient Commercial, Hardwood, Tile, Laminate, Cushion/Underlayment, WPC—as well as the Best Overall mill. Ballots were featured in FCNews and readers could mail or fax them back, as well as vote online and at industry events such as Surfaces.

While the category awards were done on a simple, one-vote-per-category/company format, the Best Overall award required voters to fill in their choice for first, second and third place. Votes were weighted so that first place was worth five points, second place worth three points and third place one point. Point totals were tabulated and the company with the most in each was named the winner.

As has been done for the previous nine years, individual category winners were selected in two or three groups based on their volume. Also, manufacturers did not have to pay a fee to be eligible to receive a vote, which has been customary since the first Award of Excellence competition. Any and all manufacturers of floor covering products in the above-referenced categories were allowed to receive votes.

More than 2,200 votes—representing flooring retailers, distributors, designers and installers—were cast, with more industry professionals voting online than ever.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted on

Carpet: Fiber report—Color, cleanability and durability get the nod

May 14/21, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 24

By Ken Ryan

Today’s carpet products are developed with the consumer firmly in mind as mills gather research to ascertain what’s on their customers’ wish lists. More often than not, it is luxuriously soft carpet that combines stylish design, vibrant colors with durability.

That’s a tall order to deliver, but consumers have shown a desire to spend top dollar for these goods, and mills are working hard to accommodate them. “When we talk to consumers, soft is one of the top attributes they want, so we put our resource and development toward that,” said Jamie Welborn, vice president of residential carpet product management and development, Mohawk Industries.

Shaw Floors, meanwhile, looks at today’s residential market and sees active families with kids and pets who put great demands on carpet. “They have greater expectations of performance for their flooring,” said Teresa Tran, director of soft surface portfolio management, Shaw. “They need their carpet to be durable and spill resistant, yet soft and beautiful.”

It’s not just the carpet mills working on these innovations. Invista, maker of the Stainmaster and PetProtect brands, has spent significant R&D on its Antron fiber. It recently announced a $30-million expansion in small-lot equipment specifically for solution-dyed nylon 6,6 bulk continuous filament (BCF) fiber production to support growth of the Antron brand and the Lumena fiber portfolio that serves solution-dyed BCF nylon commercial markets. “The new technology will expand our capability to continue offering high-quality, solution-dyed nylon fiber solutions,” said Kip Kimball, vice president of Global Commercial Solutions and Home Textiles for Invista.

Phenix Flooring continues to work on new fiber systems that utilize unique cross-sections that—when combined with particular deniers and twist levels—produce textures and an outstanding tactile experience for consumers. “In addition, we constantly update our solution-dyed color bank to keep up with current color trends and styling preferences as well as supplement with leading space dye advances that give sophisticated ombrés and gradations of color,” said Chris Johnson, senior vice president of sales and marketing.

According to Mike Sanderson, vice president of marketing, Engineered Floors, consumers are becoming more receptive to the term “solution dyed,” and that is affecting their purchase decisions. “They are finding out that it’s superior to traditional piece-dyed carpets, which is exciting for our Dream Weaver retailers.”

Residential segment

The days when consumers carpeted the entire house are long gone, as residential carpet has been relegated mostly to the bedroom. However, studies have shown that when consumers are in the market for carpet, they are willing to spend extra money.

There’s even more encouraging news down the road, according to Shaw’s Brad Christensen, vice president, builder strategy, who observed that while Shaw is certainly seeing growth in its residential segments, single-family homebuilding is also trending.

“The average age of the first-time homebuyer is 32. With that statistic in mind, by 2025 there will be 24 million Americans between the ages of 30 and 34. Previous studies showed the millennial market preferred densely populated, walkable, urban neighborhoods that offer multifamily living spaces to the suburbs of their childhood. Yet, new surveys demonstrate that while millennials might be content urban, multifamily dwellers right now, they see themselves as single family homeowners in the future.”

Residential represents the largest growth segment for Southwind, according to Richard Abramowicz, executive vice president. As such, the company is putting the necessary resources behind it. “I think residential is the biggest growth opportunity for all of us and why we are trying to be innovative with our products. It’s a very big market.”

What’s new

Mohawk has championed the push of luxurious soft and that continues to be a major thrust with SmartStrand. As Mohawk’s Welborn noted, “SmartStrand fiber is softer than nylon and polyester, performs extremely well and has nice hand/bulk, and you will see us continue to expand in that area.”

As the movement toward cleaner homes grows, Mohawk, among others, is responding by adding Forever Clean to SmartStrand as well as ActivFresh technology to its Silk Colorwall line, which features new products in 2018. “Some of the products are tighter, denser, cleaner than the old Silk,” Welborn said. “From a technology standpoint, we added ActivFresh, an anti-microbial additive to the carpet, which is a new feature. You will see us expand in that growing segment.”

In Bellera High Performance Carpet, Shaw is giving consumers a wide variety of patterns, solids and textures from which to choose, albeit without sacrificing resiliency. “Our designers were extremely intentional with their choices, giving consumers numerous styles to match current trends,” Tran said. “We offer glamorous styles as seen in Outside the Lines, classic patterns in Diamonds Forever and Lead the Way, as well as visuals with a more organic look to complement modern farmhouse or coastal design trends. Each of these styles includes the attributes that make Bellera one of a kind.”

The fiber in Bellera has been treated with R2X soil and stain resistance technology and now features crush resistance to keep carpets lasting longer. To showcase the durability of its re-engineered fiber, Shaw simulated five years’ worth of activity with real people on Bellera carpet. When new Bellera samples and those with five years’ worth of wear were placed side by side, customers and RSAs alike were unable to tell the difference, Christensen said.

Phenix, which began showing carpet styles tufted from one of its new fiber systems during the winter markets, has identified a new yarn that provides great bulk and apparent value. “It has become one of our most anticipated launches, which we expect will lead to additional product opportunities,” Phenix’s Johnson said, referring to Opulence HD. “It’s a softer yarn that provides a look of luxury.”

Engineered Floors uses PureColor, a proprietary solution-dyed fiber, as its go-to market strategy at residential retail. “We try to educate the RSA and consumer on PureColor as often as possible,” Sanderson said. “Both groups are learning that since the color goes all the way through the fiber, stains that are detrimental to other carpets aren’t an issue with PureColor.”

Southwind’s Classic Traditions collection, a soft PET line, is being marketed as “eclectic patterns for everyday elegance.” It was shown at Surfaces 2018 and will feature eight stylish Color Point and LCL patterns that the company said are fashion-forward fabrics for the floor. “We had such a great response at Surfaces,” Abramowicz said.

Posted on

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.”

 

Posted on

Mohawk partners with Tough Mudder

Photo by Ronda Churchill www.rondachurchill.comIn the spirit of the groundbreaking marketing efforts that have become a Mohawk hallmark, particularly for new products, the company has partnered with the Tough Mudder challenge, which includes as many as 12 miles of obstacles over a muddy, rugged terrain at different locales held nationally throughout the year.

Mohawk had a strong presence at the recent World’s Toughest Mudder challenge, held in Las Vegas last month. This particular challenge culminates the yearlong Tough Mudder series with a 100-mile course completed over two days. Participants have 24 hours to complete as many laps on the course as possible. Toughest Mudder awards are given to one man, one woman and one team. Featured on the Las Vegas course were two pieces of SmartStrand Forever Clean—one where the participants camped for the night and the other at the end of Mud Mile, the muddiest portion of the challenge—with the Tough Mudder logo, proving the product’s durability and resistance to dirt and wear. The 12 x 20 piece on the Mud Mile was brought to Solutions with a steam-cleaned X celebrating SmartStrand’s 10th anniversary and serving as proof that Forever Clean is, in fact, the “toughest, easiest to clean carpet on the planet.”

To continue the branding message, Mohawk will participate in additional Tough Mudder events throughout the year. “It feels good to ‘come clean’ about carpet cleanability,” said David Duncan, Mohawk’s senior vice president of marketing and sales operations. “The easy connection with us and Tough Mudder is certainly the product and the challenge, but the other thing we love is the experiences of the people who participate. By partnering with Tough Mudder we have the opportunity to promote our brand and our product on the obstacle course. We will share the results in videos and social media posts that our Aligned retailers can use as well. In addition, we offer Aligned retailers event kits with everything they need to hold events in their local markets and at their stores.”

Will Dean, CEO of Tough Mudder, agreed that the partnership with Mohawk is valuable and helps in community efforts for both organizations. “I’ve been informed that despite our best efforts to destroy this material and get it covered in mud in a way that would make my mother’s hair turn gray, we’re going to be able to clean it,” Dean said. “The [Mohawk] team has been awesome to work with. We’re excited about it; we’re building community. It’s very important to me as we build this company that we have fun along the way, and we remember why we’re doing it. I’m thrilled to be working with these guys because they embody everything that we think of as being part of the spirit of Tough Mudder”

Posted on

Mohawk takes SmartStrand to the next level with Forever Clean

Forever Clean is next generation of triexta

By Jenna Lippin

Photo by Ronda Churchill www.rondachurchill.comOrlando—How do you make a great product even better? In the case of Mohawk’s revolutionary SmartStrand carpet, the answer is responding to consumers’ greatest needs by exponentially increasing the product’s performance attributes.

According to Tom Lape, president of Mohawk Residential, SmartStrand has been the largest initiative in the 136-year history of Mohawk since the product’s launch 10 years ago. “But it’s not only about history; it’s about what we are doing next. SmartStrand represents a decade of innovation, and it’s about to get a whole lot better. Innovators look to where they can go.”

Launched in 2005, SmartStrand is made of triexta, which was the first newly classified fiber by the FCC in over 50 years. Two years later, SmartStrand became the carpet industry’s first bio-based product. Most recently, SmartStrand Silk, unveiled in 2012, set the standard in premium soft carpet. More than 7 million homes have been installed with SmartStrand in the past decade.

So, where does Mohawk go with SmartStrand, or, as Lape put it, “How do you make the best carpet on the planet even better?” Answer: “You make it easier to clean, easier to maintain and easier to enjoy.”

As such, on Dec. 5 Mohawk took the wraps off SmartStrand Forever Clean at its annual Solutions convention for aligned dealers here. Forever Clean is billed as the “toughest, easiest to clean carpet on the planet.” And, to prove that statement, the company is partnering with the Tough Mudder competition (see sidebar), the latest in a long line of creative marketing campaigns—Ricko the Rhino, License to Spill and SmartStrand Unleashed are some of Mohawk’s challenges that have put SmartStrand to the test.

The new secret sauce within Forever Clean is Nanoloc technology, the latest proprietary stain-fighting innovation from Mohawk, which adds a layer of protection to “lock out” spills and increase cleanability. “We worked on [Nanoloc] for several years to make it compatible with triexta, and we now have developed it to the point that with both permanency and effectiveness, we have a protection system that is literally unparalleled,” Lape said.

Because SmartStrand, or triexta, inherently has permanent, built-in protection, Mohawk has taken safeguard to another level with Nanoloc, making SmartStrand Forever Clean both stain resistant and easier to maintain. “With carpet today, maintenance is one of the biggest challenges the industry has residentially, so we [want to] make it easier for the consumer to clean and maintain her product,” Lape added. “Lower impact maintenance is the goal we have for next generation.”

In testing the Nanoloc technology with regular vacuuming and standardized soil, it was found that carpet with the protective treatment will release up to three times more soil than with a standard nylon or polyester product. When steam cleaned, triexta with Nanoloc exhibited the highest rates Mohawk has had in terms of efficacy rates, Lape said.

“We’ve tried to come up with a protection system using nano-based technology, and the whole point is that we want something that is not only going to give the benefit of repellency but long-term repellence, ease of maintenance and, most important, the improvement on soil release, which is the biggest breakthrough we’ve had with Nanoloc.”

Mohawk chemical engineer Jim Williams helped develop the breakthrough technology. He explained how triexta has low surface energy, meaning “it doesn’t like to have stuff stick to it, so we had to work really hard to come up with the right material we could put on SmartStrand. The particular material that we’ve used to coat the fiber is very durable, but, more importantly, it is flexible; it moves with the fiber. It isn’t a hard protectant, which oftentimes with foot traffic or heavier use will chip off into particles and go away. [Nanoloc] is the next-generation chemistry around protecting carpet fiber.”

David Duncan, senior vice president of marketing and sales operations, explained the new technology as providing two lines of defense: surface cleanability and core protection. According to Duncan, Photo by Ronda Churchillwww.rondachurchill.comMohawk has solved both problems with SmartStrand Forever Clean.

“The first line of defense is if I spill something, can I clean it up quickly? Typically if you buy a carpet treated with topical stain protection, you’ve got a good line of defense at first. But over time, what happens to the first line of defense? It starts to wear down. Then you’re left with the second line of defense, that core protection, which is really what SmartStrand has always had in its DNA.”

To help demonstrate this to consumers, Mohawk has armed 400 of its sales representatives with Carpet Performance Simplified kits that will allow them to take the Forever Clean message to 12,000 customers. Each demo box will include red dye, carpet samples and jars of water and cleaning solution, exhibiting Forever Clean’s exceptional cleanability and stain and wear resistance.

The brand architecture with SmartStrand went from SmartStrand Silk at the top of the offerings, to SmartStrand Ultra, featuring an advanced warranty attribute, and SmartStrand, the base product. Going forward, the brands will be marketed to consumers as SmartStrand Silk Forever Clean, SmartSTrand Ultra Forever Clean and SmartStrand Forever Clean.

There is good reason for Mohawk to expand its SmartStrand brand. According to the company, 90% of its retail partners surveyed said they will sell more SmartStrand next year over this year. With consumers, 95% who have put SmartStrand in their homes are satisfied, which Lape noted is “astoundingly high. Nine out of 10 will purchase the product again. Why? Comfort underfoot, protection against spills and ease of maintenance.”

For Mohawk’s builder and multi-family line, the new product will be dubbed SmartStrand Nanolock, “our strategy and positioning is more technical for that side of the business,” Lape said.

Every SmartStrand carpet purchased today is now SmartStrand Forever Clean. Mohawk has transformed the collection and incorporated this new innovation in every square yard that is shipped, effective immediately. A point-of-sale kit will be sent to Aligned retailers immediately after Solutions so they can promote in-store that all SmartStrand products are now SmartStrand Forever Clean.

“We will have plenty of point-of-sale materials immediately,” Duncan noted. “All hands on deck, 100% total immersion.”

Posted on

Mohawk’s SmartStrand Unleashed campaign launches webisode series

Image of Mo on SmartStrand[1]-2Calhoun, Ga. — Mohawk continues to put the amazing soil- and stain-resistance benefits of SmartStrand carpet to the test. This year, Mohawk introduced the world to “Mo,” a messy, four-legged yellow lab who serves as a regular correspondent on the nationally-syndicated The Better Show. Now, Mohawk is launching Mo’s webisode series, Make Room for Mo, to showcase the durability and cleanability of SmartStrand.

According to the company, the fun-filled series, available for viewing on Mohawk Flooring’s YouTube page, provides a humorous narrative of the daily struggles experienced by a family with young children and a mischievous dog.

“SmartStrand Unleashed is a multifaceted campaign designed to educate consumers on the powerful benefits of SmartStrand, a premium soft carpet with durability and stain resistant features that can stand up to the messiest of pets,” said Elise Demboski, vice president of creative services at Mohawk. “The ‘Make Room for Mo’ webisode series serves as a fun way to connect with dog-loving consumers by featuring the occasional plights associated with pet-ownership while simultaneously communicating the benefits of SmartStrand as a way to overcome some of those challenges.”

Mo is currently serving as the world’s first canine correspondent on The Better Show, a lifestyle and entertainment program airing to one million viewers every weekday. Mo makes regular appearances on the show’s pet-oriented segments, which range in topic from throwing the ultimate dog birthday party to a how-to series on exercising with pets.

To add even more excitement to the campaign, Mo is also raising awareness for pets in need through Mohawk’s partnership with the Petfinder Foundation. In addition to making a donation to the Foundation and spreading the word about the organization via Mohawk Flooring’s Facebook page, the company also worked with the Petfinder Foundation to identify deserving dog foster homes throughout the country in need of pet-friendly products for their homes. In total, five foster homes were selected as recipients of a SmartStrand prize pack, including a carpet of their choice and a dog-bone shaped rug for the families’ dog(s) to enjoy.

Mohawk launched its 2014 national campaign, SmartStrand Unleashed, with Animal Planet’s Puppy Bowl X, which aired during the Super Bowl on Sunday, Feb. 2, 2014.

To learn more about the campaign and meet Mo, visit MohawkFlooring.com/Unleashed.

Posted on

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.”

Posted on

Mohawk: Continuum drives PET; character wood is hard surface story for ’14

January 20/27, 2014; Volume 27/Number 19

By Steven Feldman

Screen Shot 2014-02-12 at 12.06.41 PMDallas—The floor covering industry began its long climb from the depths of the downturn last year as retailers saw more customers walk through their front doors, something that is only expected to continue in the years ahead. With such a backdrop, much of Mohawk’s 2014 carpet introductions reflect the return of that diverse customer who may be seeking more than higher-end products like SmartStrand and SmartStrand Silk, on which the company focused over the last few years.  Continue reading Mohawk: Continuum drives PET; character wood is hard surface story for ’14

Posted on

SmartStrand Unleashed 'kicks off' with major results

Mo with I Heart NY WallNew York — Before a record 13.5 million people watched the Puppy Bowl on Animal Planet during Super Bowl Sunday, visitors to New York City were treated to a live “Puppy Bowl Experience” at Discovery Times Square. Mohawk was actively involved in the weeklong celebration, which created millions of consumer impressions for Mohawk and its retailers via a detailed plan encompassing digital, social and experiential components.

As the official carpet sponsor of Puppy Bowl X, Mohawk’s SmartStrand starred on the field and created the perfect stage for the entire 15,000 square-foot facility.  Visitors enjoyed a fully interactive experience, including a live Puppy Bowl game, tailgating activities and photo opportunities with Mohawk’s SmartStrand Unleashed mascot, “Mo.”  More than 5,000 attendees snapped photos with Mo, including top-tier media and celebrity guests.

“Both Animal Planet and event visitors were amazed by the durability and cleanability of SmartStrand carpet,” said Elise Demboski, Mohawk’s vice president of creative services. “Not only did SmartStrand hold up beautifully to the large volume of human guests, it also came clean after six days of accidents and messes made by all the canine players. All attendees received a SmartStrand Silk carpet sample and several people were already on their mobile devices on-site to locate a local Mohawk retailer. The ‘Puppy Bowl Experience’ proved to be the perfect interactive setting, enabling thousands of people to experience SmartStrand carpet in a way that generated major editorial coverage and social media excitement.”

In addition to several on-air mentions during the big game, Mohawk was brought to life online through the live Puppy Bowl X Times Square Practice Cam at AnimalPlanet.com, through multiple digital banner advertisements and mid-roll videos directing consumers to MohawkFlooring.com. Mohawk maximized on the weeklong action with daily sponsored posts on Facebook and Twitter, reaching more than 200,000 targeted consumers. Through Mohawk’s social media vendor partnership, aligned retailers had access to social posts and images, so they could share the excitement with consumers in their respective markets.

To build on the social success of the SmartStrand Unleashed kick off, Mohawk invited 10 top-tier pet-focused bloggers to participate in the “Puppy Bowl Experience” and blog about the event and their experience with SmartStrand carpet.  According to Demboski, the resulting posts engage targeted consumers in an organic way that yields great convergence results.

“We’re just getting started! The Puppy Bowl is only the beginning of Mohawk’s year-long SmartStrand Unleashed campaign, and retailers can promote the sponsorship throughout the year,” Demboski said. “Stay tuned to MohawkFlooring.com/Unleashed for new developments and to view Mo’s adventures on The Better Show. SmartStrand Unleashed is a multifaceted campaign designed to generate leads for our aligned retailers, while providing them with a fun, unique way to communicate the powerful benefits of SmartStrand.”

Mohawk’s aligned partners recently received the SmartStrand Unleashed POP Kits, which includes a full suite of marketing materials and event kits,  available now on MohawkToday.com.

Posted on

Mohawk’s 2014 national campaign targets pet lovers

mohawkDallas—Mohawk continues to put the amazing soil- and stain-resistance benefits of SmartStrand carpet to the test. Now that SmartStrand has successfully taken on zoo animals, messy kids and a cross-country tour of squirts and spills, Mohawk is going toe-to-toe—or paw-to-paw—with “Mo,” a messy, four-legged yellow lab, in some of the most unpredictable and unscripted moments ever. Continue reading Mohawk’s 2014 national campaign targets pet lovers