Hard nylons

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by Kelly Kramer

As part of keeping up with changing times, I feel compelled to write once again about being able to stand behind the products we sell.

Over the past couple of decades I’ve been one of the few people in the industry who pushed toward selling more polyester carpets. Being a flooring historian of sorts, I know the evolution of how polyester was given a bad name back in the ’60s and ’70s. Back then, manufacturers took a lower cost yarn and built some very thick shags and other styles and made a very appealing apparent value carpets. The problem was they flattened out quickly.

These thick piled carpets were poorly built in twist, stitch rate and were normally made with a staple yarn to look even thicker. To prove how poorly many were made, you needed a carpets rake to bring the pile back up. At the time consumers loved them because they felt like a mattress under foot. But soon enough the homeowner was back at the dealer with numerous complaints. Needless to say, the dealers of old placed a bad news label on anything polyester.

A couple of decades passed before mills made a concentrated effort to revitalize polyester. After all it has some fantastic benefits over nylon. It is less expensive, has a softer feeling and is naturally more stain resistant. The trick for the manufacturers this time around was to put better structure in the twist, heat-setting and go to a continuous bulk filament. Now they had a product we could get behind.

Even though a polyester carpet with the same specifications as a nylon one would still flatten out a bit quicker it was still a pretty good deal for consumers who lived in homes with medium to low traffic. And it was more stain resistant and, yes, had such a nice, soft cotton like feel.

After about 10 years of polyester slowly but surely taking market share from nylon, the nylon producers found a way to soften up the fiber. If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em, right?

Well, the word soft in yarn means it will flatten quicker no matter what the twist level is. So now we had these expensive soft nylons that were much higher in cost than their competitor polyester products. When these soft nylons came out, I said, “Why bother?” They cost more, are naturally less stain resistant than polyester and they flatten out just as quickly. In fact the first ones I saw come off the roll were flat as a pancake and had to be brushed up as soon as they were installed. And like polyester in the early days, the complaints were soon numerous.

So, in the essence of not just dumping a new investment idea, the warranties for the soft nylon products were simply changed so us dealers did not have a snowball’s chance to make a successful claim for customers. So much for standing behind what they make, just don’t lose market share.

What’s even worse is polyester manufacturers started to build some very poorly structured, low ounce, low twist level carpets for the new home and apartment markets. That is a disaster waiting to happen. The only positive to these cheap lines is they are pretty stain resistant.

It is obvious that the race to the bottom between polyester and soft nylon is on. But not for me. Until manufacturers start building better soft yarn carpets and standing behind what they make, I’m going back to selling what one of my readers calls “good old hard nylons.” For the good of your buyers, and your stores, you might just want to do the same.

Thanks for reading.

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