Surfaces carpet coverage: Suppliers find opportunities on the softer side

February 03, 2017

January 30/February 6, 2017: Volume 31, Number 17

By Ken Ryan

Screen Shot 2017-02-03 at 3.45.59 PMLas Vegas—Soft surface still represents nearly 50% of the flooring market and carpet remains the largest single category by a considerable margin. But you might not have known that at Surfaces which was dominated by hard surface introductions.

“As a carpet guy I am disappointed,” said Steven Lewis, owner of Lewis Floor & Home, Northbrook, Ill. “I go to Coverings to see hard surface and I go to Surfaces to see soft surface, but there is hardly any soft surface here anymore.”

Lewis made those comments while visiting the Dixie booth. This traditional carpet mill, like many others, is expanding into hard surfaces. However, if you were a retailer visiting the Mohawk booth you would believe carpet was thriving on the strength of its impressive display led by SmartStrand Silk Reserve, a soft luxury carpet noted for its beauty and durability.

The decline in carpet vis-à-vis hard surface comes at a time when many retail executives believe carpet mills are producing some of the most beautiful and durable carpet ever made. It would be foolish to write off carpet altogether. In fact, carpet has been faring well at the upper end of the market led by soft luxury, according to retailers. “Our high end carpet business is very good,” Lewis said. “The 50-up age group wants carpet and they want the better carpet.”

Better carpet often means soft, luxurious carpet that is durable. That is the selling proposition Mohawk makes with Silk Reserve. “We have the technology to bring this to a whole new level of softness, and with Silk Reserve it’s astonishing softness,” said Seth Arnold, brand director for Mohawk’s residential carpet business. “SmartStrand is a different fiber and you don’t lose that level of performance [as you increase the softness].”

Being successful at the upper end of the market is one way to stay relevant in residential carpet. Dixie continues to impress dealers with great new looks from its Masland and Fabrica brands. “The new Masland and Fabrica products were even more beautiful and interesting than usual, and they always introduce extraordinary products each year,” said Sam Roberts, owner of Roberts Carpet & Fine Floors, with multiple locations in the Houston market.

Other mills find focusing on your niche is a successful strategy. Stanton, for example, has grown its business by being smart about its designs and patterns, according to Jonathan Cohen, CEO, whose company introduced more than 100 products. “It’s about being thoughtful about the design part of it. You can use existing technology that is out there to create something fresh. We can step it up a couple notches and produce something that is really good looking.”

Stanton, which has also grown through acquisition, was not a player in nylon until purchasing Atelier in 2012. Today nylon is one of its most sought after fibers. It debuted a 30-pin display that lets retailers showcase the Atelier program in a compact, modern way. “You start with a great product but you still have to have it in stock and you have to service it,” Cohen said. “We are fortunate we have a great team and are expanding our niche. It’s about taking market share.”

Screen Shot 2017-02-03 at 3.46.06 PMLexmark is a smaller mill that is looking to carve out its niche in residential retail through differentiated offerings and winning displays. Rodney Mauter, executive vice president of marketing, said that when visiting retail showrooms he often couldn’t locate the Lexmark display right away. That led to a $2 million investment in the Lexmark Living display system. Shown at Surfaces, it holds 30 products in 24 x 36 inch card samples. The fixture also includes a new branded L, which Mauter said is patterned after the loopy L featured in the 1970s-80s TV show “Laverne and Shirley.”

Mauter said retailers told him the new display had to be to be “remarkable.”

He is confident this new display will pass the smell test. He has 500 displays ready to ship. “I expect us to grow double digits in 2017,” Mauter said. “The fixture is what we will be riding for the next few years. We needed the displays to be notable not novel. We felt we needed a new focal point. This is our debut of rebranding, the start of our relevance, where we are planting our flag on the map. We needed a vehicle to drive that message home.”

Engineered Floors, with its residential DreamWeaver brand, is also putting more emphasis on its new display systems as it looks to gain a bigger presence on the retail showroom. New for 2017 is Your Retreat, a clean display system that emphasizes the benefits of PureColor nylon. Meanwhile, Engineered Floors’ Main Street division, Pentz Commercial Flooring Solutions, also introduced a new display system as it aims to be the go-to Main Street brand for specialty dealers. “We are focused on creating a destination for our customers,” said Mike Sanderson, vice president of product marketing. “Every year we find a reason to invest more. There is no indication that we will be slowing down.”

At Surfaces Phenix announced an exclusive partnership with Microban, a top provider of antimicrobial technology and odor control solutions. Mark Clayton, CEO, said Phenix answered a consumer need for a healthier alternative. Microban tackles odor on the face of the carpet and in the air. “Microban has done a huge retail project and saw that the consumer wanted this in their carpet; they looked to partner with a reputable manufacturer and chose us,” Clayton explained. Phenix launched 10 products that use the Microban technology.

Screen Shot 2017-02-03 at 3.46.12 PMFoss describes itself as a performance flooring company more so than a traditional broadloom manufacturer. As such it looks for innovative products. It wowed dealers a year ago with a unique peel and stick carpet tile; this year it introduced a wool-like carpet that sells for one third of the price and can be used in multiple settings.

Dubbed the Cashmere collection, the products include Foss’ proprietary Duraknit technology for greater dimensional stability. Cashmere also features Natural Touch Fiber, made from 100% PET. “A lot of people don’t know what we do but when they find out they love us,” said Brian Warren, executive vice president, sales and marketing. “We look for those few points of light in the marketplace and plant our flag there.”


Area rugs also garner some attention
Las Vegas—Area rugs shared in the spotlight with other popular flooring categories at Surfaces.

Darrell Stevens, president of Stevens Omni, based in Mississauga, Ontario, reported retailer interest in the new products on display at his booth. “We are looking to expand our presence in the U.S., and this show is a real benefit for us.”

Screen Shot 2017-02-03 at 3.46.19 PMTwo years ago Kaleen occupied a 10 foot x 20 foot booth at Surfaces just to gauge interest. Since then the company has taken out a larger space each year based on the positive feedback it has received for its rugs and broadloom programs that can be turned into rugs. “Our sales here more than doubled what they were at the 2016 show,” said Blake Dennard, senior vice president.

Dixie Home, which includes the Dixie, Masland and Fabrica brands, recently launched a custom program to make any size or shape rug from its broadloom offerings. The progam has been well received, according to Jared Coffin, vice president, rugs and wool products.

Stanton is yet another broadloom company that has made a bigger commitment to rugs because of rugs’ natural pairing with hard surfaces. The company introduced 125 new products at the show including several woven nylons. Jonathan Cohen, CEO, said the company is continually pushing the needle. “Many of our inspirations come from high-end area rugs,” he explained.

For Nance Industries rugs have always been its bread and butter. Surfaces provided the right forum for the company to showcase its new custom-made rugs. “That is really our niche, and you are seeing a lot better growth in rugs,” said Mike Nance, principal. He said Nance employs two custom rug artists who can create most any design pattern or theme a customer can imagine at any size they choose.

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