by Emily J. Cappiello
During the past few years, nylon has been losing market share to polyester in the residential carpet fiber market. While nylon remains the top dog in the commercial segment, industry insiders predict that the shift toward the use of polyester on the residential side will continue during the next few years.
“Solution-dyed polyester is continuing to experience strong growth in the first quarter of 2012 at the expense of nylon,” said James Lesslie, assistant to the chairman, DreamWeaver/Engineered Floors. “If you look at the worldwide marketplace in synthetic fiber, polyester is a 90 billion pound marketplace and nylon is a 6 billion pound marketplace.”
TM Nuckols, director of production development and innovation for Invista Surfaces, echoed his sentiment. “Polyester continues gaining share in the residential market, which has been an ongoing trend during the past few years. Solution-dyed fibers are also growing, driven by several small manufacturers.”
According to Mike Sanderson, marketing manager at Shaw, value pricing is still top of mind to consumers when it comes to carpet, and using polyester can fill the void for those goods in the marketplace. One trend has been the switch from staple polyester to filament polyester.
Steve Sieracki, Shaw’s vice president of residential marketing and product management, added that innovation and product development is happening on both sides. “Nylon continues to be the most durable and high performing fiber offered on the market today.”
Besides the fact that polyester is gaining ground due to its attributes, David Duncan, Mohawk’s senior vice president of marketing, said that’s not the only reason; people have been shopping differently. He said there has been a shift toward carpets that are engineered to be extra soft without having to sacrifice durability and soil protection. “Consumers are spending more time in a home and this has them looking for new ways to infuse more comfort and more enjoyment into the home environment. We don’t expect this trend to go away any time soon, which is why the industry as a whole is working to offer carpet that is soft, warm and welcoming.”
While a small but select segment of the market, wool remains under some price pressure. “Raw wool prices have stabilized, but energy and material cost continue to rise,” said Hallie Cobb, executive director of Wools of New Zealand. “The price for wool at retail is more important now than in the past.” She added that $6 to $7 per foot seems to be the top price for what is currently selling at retail.
As for new products, Cobb cites wool and silk blends and tone-on-tone colors will continue to grow during 2012. “Wool accented with a silk or faux silk [are trending]. This kind of styling cannot be duplicated in any other fiber. Blending with faux silk can help give a perceived value than 100% wool because of the styling,” she said.
Although things seem to be stabilizing for the category, there will still be challenges for carpet fiber going forward this year. According to Nuckols, “Raw material inflation and the impact of volatility on all raw materials will continue to challenge all of us in our industry [and many others]. We must continue to find ways to deal with increasing and unpredictable raw materials costs while we maintain momentum of bringing the industry product innovations.”
As for the future, Mohawk’s Duncan predicts one type of carpet fiber will continue to gain market share. “SmartStrand—which is made from the triexta fiber—continues to capture market share as well as grow in popularity with retailers and consumers alike. We expect triexta will gain even more market share moving forward.”
New goods rollout — From increased softness to stain resistance, here is some of what’s new in the fiber world for 2012:
EverClean, launched at Surfaces 2012 as part of Beaulieu’s Bliss Collection, is a line of solution-dyed polyester carpet. The collection boasts new styles—from high-end berbers to linear patterns—that the company claims cannot be stained. The line is enhanced with Magic Fresh for odor elimination and Scotchgard for stain protection.
Invista’s two newest fiber innovations in 2012 are Stainmaster carpet with TruSoft fiber and Stainmaster carpet with SolarMax fiber. Stainmaster carpet with TruSoft fiber is being promoted as the softest Stainmaster fiber yet. Stainmaster carpet with SolarMax fiber delivers stain resistance, fade resistance and color fastness along with a soft touch, according to Invista. Utilizing a custom nylon 6,6 solution dyed polymer and special processing, it’s available in face weights starting at 32 ounces.
SmartStrand Silk with DuPont Sorona is an all-new triexta carpet. Smart-Strand Silk is a soft carpet with built-in stain and soil protection. Smart-Strand Silk offers all the advantages of SmartStrand, including resistance to staining and soiling, durability and sustainability through innovation.
Live Free is a solution-dyed, continuous filament carpet fiber that, according to the company, “looks better, feels better, lasts longer and resists stains and fading better than any other carpet fiber in its price point.” Live Free offers 6.5 twists per inch of fiber, which helps ensure the carpet retains its original appearance longer than ordinary carpets.
Shaw’s Anso Nylon has developed even further in 2012. By introducing a small collection of subtle tonal friezes, in addition to a variety of other styles, the Anso Nylon offerings encompass a complete array of home carpets.
In 2012, Shaw introduced several new carpets in its ClearTouch BCF fiber brand. ClearTouch is a continuous filament fiber that offers the tried-and-true attributes of polyester as well as reliable performance characteristics such as excellent appearance retention and long-term wear. In addition, these products also claim Cradle to Cradle certification for their recycled content (25%) and sustainability measures used in production.
Dynex SD Lustre is the commercial flooring industry’s first high-luster solution-dyed nylon, according to the company. The fiber produces silky sheen, luxurious luster and saturated colors reminiscent of luxury silk and linen—all with the performance, colorfastness and cleanability of solution-dyed yarn.