Carpet: Latest advances in color and texture invigorate fiber category

May 16, 2016

May 9/16, 2016; Volume 30, Number 23

By Ken Ryan

Screen Shot 2016-05-16 at 4.59.31 PMThe growth of hard surfaces may have taken market share away from soft surfaces, but the news is not all doom and gloom for carpet. In fact, the popular looks in hardwood and LVT have inspired mills to move away from basic beige to develop multicolor, textural visuals offering varying degrees of softness.

“[Carpet] is no longer a blah floor that you decorate around; now it is a floor that comes to life,” said Mike Goodall, senior vice president of product management at Mohawk Industries. “People don’t want solid color beige anymore—they want something texturally different, which is exciting for the category.”

Color textures are driving many of the decisions in carpet fibers these days as the market has shifted quickly and rather dramatically from beige to multicolor. According to Mohawk research, as little as four years ago 8 in 10 people bought solid color; today that number is 5 in 10. “They are looking for something with color variation,” Goodall explained.

Trey Thames, vice president of marketing and product management, Shaw Floors, said today’s consumer demands customization for her home like never before. “It’s no longer acceptable or desired to have the same cookie-cutter home interior looks of the past,” he said. “This new consumer is willing to take more color and design risks in carpet instead of simply playing it safe with traditional beige tones.”

Creating these textural, multicolor looks can be done any number of ways—with solution- or space-dyed processes the most common. Whatever the process, the move is toward more vibrant fibers being incorporated and combined into new product introductions. “One reason for this trend is the influence of metallic tones in home design,” said T.M. Nuckols, senior director of product strategy for Invista, which markets Stainmaster and Pet Protect. “Consumers are attracted to the mixture of using more reflective surfaces that create a glamorous look no matter what their individual style may be.”

In 2012, super soft fibers burst onto the scene as the hot trend. While some mill executives suggest that ultra soft has given way to “soft enough,” others argue that ultra soft is as strong as ever.

According to Nuckols, ultra-soft programs had a strong run for two years before the shift. “It is not clear if this trend is being driven by mills, retailers, consumers or a combination of all,” Nuckols said. “Regardless of where this is originating, it is a trend we have picked up.”

Goodall, however, said there are two distinct softness levels vying for share and that super soft is still very much in the game. “We do a lot of analysis on buying trends, especially in that premium customer level. Close to 50% of our business is super soft, or silk fiber. It has leveled off but it has entrenched itself to nearly 50% of the market. While others are pitching soft enough, we are not.”

Doug Jackson, vice president of sales and marketing at Tuftex—the high-end carpet brand of Shaw—said softness is just one component of a range of features consumers are seeking today. “We see our customers focusing on different attributes that include style, color, performance, maintenance and a soft hand,” he said.

Another strong selling point: carpeting that offers protection from pet accidents. To that end, pet-related products that offer lifetime warranties are becoming more meaningful, according to Mike Sanderson, vice president of marketing at Engineered Floors/DreamWeaver. Engineered Floors recently unveiled a merchandising logo touting its lifetime pet warranty on its DreamWeaver line of residential products.



The growth in hard surfaces is impacting residential carpet across all segments. Builder and multifamily, which focus on lower end goods, are trending better than residential replacement observers said. Conversely, residential replacement is faring better at the higher end. According to Nuckols: “Growth in hard surfaces could be helping drive this in a couple of ways. First, the consumer may be selecting upper end, nicely styled carpets to better complement new hard surface products. Also, the consumer is probably paying a higher average price point for hard surfaces, which may lead to a willingness to pay a bit more for carpet.”

Tuftex has benefited by the continued growth in the new home construction market. Its 2016 Classics launch, for example, offers an affordable range of simple and traditional nylon styles that have a sophisticated color palette of neutrals and accent shades. Jackson said these products, which are positioned as offering “affordable luxury,” are ideal for mass distribution and range from small scale cut and loop designs to casual loop patterns and everyday cut pile textures.

Rodney Mauter, executive vice president, residential division, Lexmark Carpet Mills, said both the residential and multifamily units are experiencing a slowdown for soft surface products but that there is still demand with builders and within the residential replacement market.

Thames said Shaw sees “better-end retail” growing at a faster pace than in recent years. “That’s encouraging because it reinforces the notion that consumers are willing to pay more to achieve the color and style they want to complete her design vision.”


Latest innovations

Being a West Coast mill has its advantages for Tuftex. The company uses its Yuma, Ariz., yarn facility to twist and cable unique fiber combinations. Plus, due to Yuma’s close proximity to Tuftex headquarters in southern California, Jackson said the company’s product development team can quickly experiment and build creative novelty yarns and accents that are developed into a variety of different carpet styles. “We continue to experiment with a mixture of fibers with different dye characteristics to create products that have exceptional color combinations,” he said.

At Surfaces 2016, DreamWeaver received positive feedback from its products featuring VariColor, a new patent-pending technology that produces unique tonal variations. “It offers a rich balanced look,” Sanderson said. “The visual, the look of what we have created, is positioned as the next evolution.”

Invista continues to round out its PetProtect line with new colors and designs. Included in the update are lower luster fibers in the Luxerell and TruSoft families. “These fibers provide a soft touch and a natural, wool like appearance,” Nuckols said.

Mills that predominantly offered piece-dyed products in the past are taking advantage of the growth opportunity Invista has created with SuperiaSD PetProtect, Nuckols stated. “Just because a nylon is solution dyed does not necessarily mean it is stain resistant,” he explained. “SuperiaSD has been engineered at the polymer level to be inherently stain resistant.”

Speaking of stain protection, for over 50 years, 3M’s Scotchgard Advanced Repel Technology has been the gold standard and an industry leader in quality stain and soil protection. 3M Scotchgard continues to invest in R&D to maintain peak performance across multiple fiber types for a customer base that includes Mohawk, Beaulieu, Godfrey Hirst, Lexmark, Phenix and Royalty Carpets.

Mohawk has brought some of its innovative printing technology capability from the commercial side to residential nylon. Vintage Visions is one such example, as the company is able to create elegant patterned looks that are different than anything that can be created from a tufting machine.

Shaw Floors continues to drive innovate in its premium Anso nylon fiber platform to maximize performance. Of late, Shaw has taken its Anso nylon with R2X technology and coupled it with its LifeGuard waterproof backing system to provide what Thames calls “the ultimate in performance.”

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