Exclusive interview: Jackson takes Tuftex on the road less traveled

July 10, 2017

July 3/10: Volume 32, Issue 2

 

Screen Shot 2017-07-10 at 3.06.41 PMSanta Fe Springs, Calif.—It’s been three years since Doug Jackson took the reins of Tuftex, the premium carpet division of Shaw Industries. While Tuftex has always enjoyed a reputation of high-end, trendsetting, West Coast styling—first as a stand-alone mill, then as a division of Queen Carpet before the latter was purchased by Shaw in 1998—the company today still maintains its longstanding identity while adapting to a changing climate. FCNews publisher and editorial director Steven Feldman recently sat down with Jackson to discuss what’s driving the mill and the brand.

How is Tuftex different as a company today than it was three years ago?
Two important aspects come to mind: First, everything is now under one roof. We brought our tufting facility back to the Santa Fe Springs location, which allows Tuftex to operate as a small, nimble mill. Sales, manufacturing, product development and marketing now share the same building for the first time in quite a few years. This gives us the ability to walk down the hall, walk into the plant and have immediate dialogue with any department. In addition, our regular roundtable meetings allow the individual business leaders to discuss and strategize face-to-face.

Second, our go-to-market plan has changed. Tuftex was an à la carte manufacturer. We had a couple of displays and everything was à la carte. Today, the line is broken into three distinctive categories: Classics, our value collection, focusing mostly on builder and roll sales; Stainmaster PetProtect; and Signature, our higher-end line. There is a product and merchandising strategy to help define who Tuftex is. We are building product with purpose and a specific home.

How much have sales increased over the last three years? What’s driving that?
In the past three years, sales have steadily increased…driven by our mix of products, styling, builder business, Stainmaster PetProtect and an unwavering focus on our customers. The essence of Tuftex can be summed up as: the right people, creating the right products and doing the right things.

Give me a collection or two that is really performing well in the marketplace.
The Naturals collections in the Signature category. This line incorporates the natural color variations of striated yarns and a handcrafted look and feel with texture that adds incredible performance with exceptional styling; it’s just right for the market. Another is our three-color ColorPoints…these styles represent the closest we’ve seen to woven products in a synthetic yarn. Even though they’ve only been out in the marketplace four months, the placements and sales have been outstanding.

What are you most proud of these past three years?
I am most proud of the fact Tuftex has grown its business in a soft surface category that has been mostly stagnant. Not many carpet mills can say they’ve grown their business each of the last three years. We have a simple, strategic go-to-market plan as outlined earlier. Customers recognize it and it’s working. As evidence, we have won FCNews’ Award of Excellence for three consecutive years. That is something we don’t take lightly.

What do you feel Tuftex does better than every other carpet mill?
Shaw Industries has the best claims ratio in the industry, and Tuftex has the best claims ratio within Shaw. So that makes us the best of the best. In addition, our utilization of different fibers, as well as the yarn mill in Yuma, Ariz., that services Tuftex exclusively, allows us to do things with yarn and yarn systems that other people can’t or won’t. The other thing is color. Tuftex is definitely known for color and we take advantage of that. We have one dye line at this facility and make hundreds of changes a day. In addition, we have a custom-dye program unlike any in the industry because we want consumers to have what they want.

Tell me one thing retailers might not know about Tuftex.
Tuftex is thought of as a high-end line, and we are a premium line. But we also represent value. We go to market in many different ways and are involved in many different businesses. However, we are at the high end of every business we are in. That includes the builder business—with product offerings in the mid to high end of design center selections. People who know us like us and know that we can make a lot of money for them. We are involved in retail, specified and resi-mercial/mixed use (high-rise buildings)…also a little hospitality. At the end of the day, Tuftex is about affordable luxury. In fact, we can be found in multiple areas of a retail showroom, not just the high-end area where people expect to find us.

Tuftex may be the premium brand of Shaw, but there are mainstream products, yes?
Everything Tuftex makes is premium—design, color, construction, finish, etc. It would be a mistake to downgrade the terminology of our product offering to mainstream, value or entry level. In Classics, we make foundational products that appeal to the widest range of consumer tastes and budgets, and we are particularly strong in new home construction. In Signature, we showcase extraordinary styles, colors, textures and patterns that inspire consumers to create elevated living spaces throughout the house—that can include just a single room or only the stairs.

What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced?
While our transaction rates are up to almost historical numbers, our yards per transaction have decreased approximately 30% over the years as carpet has taken a smaller portion of the home market. However, over the past year, we are seeing this trend reverse itself somewhat with an uptick of close to 10%. The reason being, I think, is people are finding carpet to be the better solution for stairs and bedrooms.

How does that trend continue?
We just have to get back to conveying that carpet is still cool. We do that by building the most beautiful, soft floor covering products in the industry, and by focusing on attributes such as warmth, comfort, softness and durability.

What’s new for 2017?
The Villa collection is definitely on fire. In addition, our staircase campaign is doing very well. Our custom color story is separating us. We have a custom area rug program and innovative usage of fiber technology in a series of new Caress products highlighted by the product Sundance. This year we also introduced a pattern wall—an upgrade to our Signature Tuftex library. The pattern wall was designed for shows and markets as a great way to showcase products and patterns. Retailers realized how well this wall highlighted the color and style of the Tuftex line and an unprecedented demand ensued with many having been placed in showrooms around the country. I am very pleased with this positive feedback.

How does Tuftex help retailers make money?
We are a frictionless supplier. We offer beautiful products, just in time, and custom colors backed by the industry’s lowest claim rate, at a price where retailers can make a nice profit. In short, it’s the right people with the right products doing the right things.

What are retailers asking of Tuftex today?
They are expecting us to continue to be an industry leader and staying ahead of the curve. Tuftex has always been known for innovation, so we are expected to continue being innovative with unique styling and industry-leading color. At markets, people expect to see the newest colors as well as something new and different from Tuftex.

Any plans for a Tuftex-branded LVT product?
Not at this time. I can’t predict the future, and things change, but not at this time.

 

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