Volume 27/Number 21; March 3/10, 2014
By Louis Iannaco
(Second of two parts)
At Surfaces, carpet executives and retailers were positive about not only the growth potential of the segment in 2014, but also the increased number of colors, textures and designs entering the marketplace. This year, bolder hues and more intricate patterns created a buzz as a plethora of new products lined the exhibit halls for dealers seeking to restock their inventories. And exhibitors were more than happy to oblige them with the latest state-of-the-art offerings as most expressed a strong 2013 would lead to an even better 2014.
President Larry Heckman noted some of the mill’s hottest products at Surfaces included polyester Saxony offerings French Quarter, Mardi Gras and Bourbon Street, constructed of 100% solution-dyed PET ultra-soft fiber. The trio also features multi-tone looks and the company’s Natural Shield stain protection.
“When it comes to color, profile and performance in a polyester, we’ve got all three,” he said. “We’re providing tight, dense construction, which makes for a high performance product. It’s a multi-color offering but muted due to its density. That makes it unique.”
Attendees were looking for something different, Heckman said. “‘What have you got for me that will make me some money?’ That’s what I’ve heard a lot at this show. We always try to provide a great product and value at multiple price points so the dealer is given the opportunity to make a good margin.”
According to Steve Cordella, vice president of sales, and Lynn Dunn, territory manager, the mill’s highlights were its 2014 Indoor/Outdoor broadloom line as well as Buckeye, Mulberry and Linden, a trio of undyed, 100% wool offerings that are part of Couristan’s Purity program. Re-inforcing carpet’s color theme at the show, Dunn noted, “This is a color business. If the color isn’t right, it doesn’t matter what the price is.”
According to Cordella, dealers felt so strongly about Mulberry that some actually bought stock in it. “It’s something they believe they can make money with; that’s why they invested in the product by buying the stock.”
As for the mood of the attendees, he said, “Last year we saw a definite improvement in the attitudes in how they felt about things; this year, even more so. They’re definitely buying, not just looking.”
The company scored big at Surfaces with 18 new PET products, according to marketing manager Laurie Bray. “They’re not your typical PETs. When you check other booths, you can see the difference. We have many different textures and colors, so the dealer has something new to choose from to show the end user.”
Another home run for Godfrey Hirst was its new printed wool products. The mill showed four of these selections at the show “just to see what the reaction would be,” Bray said. Two of the four, Linen and Tweed, had received such a warm reception that the pair will anchor the printed wool program for the mill going forward. “We’re known for our neutral colors, so we wanted to make a statement that things are going to be different than in the past. And the retailers have been ecstatic about them.”
Don Karlin, vice president of sales and marketing, noted the positive response to the mill’s new Ecco Tex blended wool collection. According to Karlin, the combination of undyed British wool and recycled PET creates “green” carpet with real value.
Because the wool is undyed and natural, it is biodegradable and sustainable. “The PET component is from recycled pop bottles, so you’ve got a repurposed story,” he explained. “Due to the recycled component, the overall cost of the product is brought down. When we show a sample and tell dealers how much it costs, you hear an audible ‘Oh, my gosh.’ That’s when they see it can make them money.”
And, while blended wool has been “around forever, it’s never been done in the U.S.,” Karlin concluded. “This is the only domestically made wool blend currently available in the market.”
For 2014, Kane has introduced a new proprietary product, a synthetic single-wire Wilton, which in the world of wool carpet starts at about $65 to $75 a square yard wholesale, according to vice president Joseph Frank. “We go to market with the same quality product, a synthetic yarn, for $19 a yard. We find a strong opportunity in that. The response has been tremendous.
“End users look at color and design,” he added. “They don’t even ask what the carpet is made from.”
According to general manager Myra Guce, the appeal of the company’s product is simple: “Green products are obviously a big interest, and a growing one. All our products are 100% green, as we don’t use any backing or chemicals.”
The mill represented the epitome of 2014 Surfaces trends, where everything was about color; Natural’s traditional neutral-hued offerings received a boost. “We’ve come up with new designs featuring colors,” Guce explained. “For example, in the summer we believe our blues will be a hot seller for beach homes. We’ve developed dyes that are not harmful.”
The company’s newest brand, Mantra Collection, was unveiled with approximately 140 SKUs; it was Prestige’s biggest statement at the show. “Mantra is a mixture of products, handwoven and handmade, mostly from India,” said president Peter Feldman. “It’s a fully-stocked program in our Calhoun, Ga., warehouse, featuring 50-foot width broadloom in wool and wool combinations, various designs and cut loop textures, some with a silk-like look and feel. It’s been tremendously received.”
A mid to high-end mill, Prestige enjoyed a solid 2013 and anticipates doing even better in 2014. “Business has been on an uptick for two years now,” Feldman said. “Some middle-of-the-road stores are catching up to that. Their business is better and they’re looking to get into better goods because that’s where their clientele is going. That’s where we come in.”
According to owner and president Ann Eaton, Southwind’s new solution-dyed nylon collection, Soft Solutions, generated quite a buzz at the show.
“We make our own fiber and have put together some very nice colorways,” she explained. “The combinations we offer have been attractive to the retailers; they’ve been very well received. People have made purchases, and when they buy that’s a very good sign. Things look very good headed into 2014, especially with this new launch.”
Surfaces was very positive for the Canada-based company, according to Stephan Guindon, executive director, North America, especially with the addition of U.S. distributors. “We’ve broadened our position. The number of retailers we’ve been exposed to through our new wholesalers has really helped our line, most notably with our new Zest collection.”
Zest is an olefin product in a 26-ounce construction that is design and color-driven “at a very unique mid-price point at retail,” he explained. “We have five products with very different visuals and colors. They’ve been well received by most of the retailers and distributors.”
Venture also garnered positive response to its new “step” display, which features five slots. “We already have several commitments on it,” Guindon said. “We’ve also included Zest into a regular boutique display. The presentation boards are all 24 x 36, so you get larger samples with all the specs. The boards make it easy for presentation purposes and training salespeople so they present Zest at one price point.”