Floorscapes, ColorCenter dealers ‘Embrace’ new nylon, Silk
By Steven Feldman
Volume 27/Number 15; December 3/10, 2012
Orlando—Is it possible to charge more for a product, make more money and create a more satisfied customer? In a word, yes, and Mohawk Industries showed its Floorscapes and ColorCenter aligned dealers exactly how to do this here at its recent Solutions convention.
At the forefront of selling higher-margin products are four additions to the breakthrough SmartStrand Silk franchise as well as the introduction of Wear-Dated Embrace, billed by Mohawk as the softest nylon carpet on the market today and supported by third-party testing.
According to Tom Lape, president of Mohawk Residential, the key to selling higher-margin products and creating greater customer satisfaction at the same time involves selling solutions more so than product. “As an example, TempurPedic found people didn’t come into stores asking for foam mattresses. It found it could create a [more comfortable sleeping] experience and charge three to four times more than traditional mattresses.”
Lape said this is no different than selling soft carpet as a solution. “Ask the consumer the last time she played a board game on the floor or the last time she laid on the floor and watched TV. Or, on what floor would she want to walk barefoot to the bathroom in the morning?”
Mohawk has found products like SmartStrand Silk reverses a trend of retailers trading customers down to derive satisfaction. “Through the recession, people would ask what was on sale,” Lape said. “With fewer customers coming into the store, it was imperative for the dealer to do whatever it took to close the sale. The consumer is looking for value, and through that, she would be traded down. But we bucked that trend. Even in this tough economy, we are selling these higher price points and consumer satisfaction is hot.”
It’s only been a year since Mohawk took the wraps off SmartStrand Silk, but Lape has already classified the “breakthrough” as representing “the most seamless execution of any major product launch in our history while becoming one of, if not the most, important product launches in our history from a sales perspective.” The product’s success is greatly attributed to SmartStrand Silk’s combination of soft with built-in soil and stain resistance that never wears or washes off.
Originally launched with four styles—two casual textures and two tailored textures—Silk was enhanced over the summer with two multi-color products. Now Mohawk brings four distinctive, stylized products into the fold: three LCL patterns and one loop pattern.
Frank Andrew, senior product director, Horizon Carpet, explained the infusion of more fashion into Silk is not simply for style’s sake. “The multi-color look is surpassing sales of solid. The customer is seeking color and pattern interest.”
Colors on the four products range from 16 to 24 depending on style. Retail price points range from $3.29 to $4.59 a square foot and will join the six existing Silk products in their own display.
Donna Morris, RPM Carpets, East Harwich, Mass., told FCNews Silk has been great for business. “It sells itself because as soon as you show people the comparison to old fiber and you tell them it will also last, voila—they buy it.”
She also appreciates the new styles. “They are good additions to the basics we already had. We were limited in the past because customers would say, ‘I like this, but do you have it in this?’ And we would have to say, ‘No.’”
Jeff Katz, CEO of Dolphin Carpet & Tile in South Florida, told FCNews he has been doing well with Silk. “It’s very soft, and everything selling today is soft.”
And Mohawk customers are not the only ones who prefer Silk. The mill developed a mall intercept study in 10 cities with 300 consumers who were recent carpet buyers. In a two-part blind test, consumers felt two samples, one SmartStand Silk, the other a soft nylon. SmartStrand Silk was preferred 5:1.
“It was independent, third-party testing,” said Jason Randolph, SmartStrand’s product director. “That’s a huge element.”
The other half of the test involved asking consumers how they believed each carpet would wear. Most felt the softer to be less durable. However, Randolph said Mohawk can demonstrate Silk’s durability when consumers have concerns. “Silk offers three times the wear than ordinary soft nylon” by virtue of Mohawk testing that reveals soft nylon shows visible levels of wear after 20,000 footsteps vs. 60,000 for Silk.
While much of the conversation has surrounded triexta the past few years, nylon is still an important part of the business. However, soft is the key attribute today, no matter the fiber platform.
“In the past year we learned soft connects with consumers in an almost visceral way,” Lape noted. “The goal is to leverage all the technical knowledge and expertise we have in the processing and production of soft fibers to nylon. Both products represent substantial opportunities to grow and excite the consumer.”
With that, Mohawk took the technology behind Silk and applied it to the new Wear-Dated Embrace, which is billed as the industry’s softest nylon carpet. Lape said the secret sauce is doubling the number of fibers within a strand, which provides the ultimate softness.
“We are taking one of the best known brands in nylon and adding Embrace to that,” said Kent Clauson, Moahwk’s vice president of brand management. “It takes softness to a new level.”
But don’t just take his word. In a blind test of 300 consumers, Embrace was selected by a 2:1 ratio as softer when compared to another premium soft nylon.
Phil Stoner, senior director for Aladdin, the brand under which Embrace is launching, explained the science behind the breakthrough. “As you try to make a softer yarn, the softer you go, the leaner the fiber becomes. The challenge is to make a soft yarn with enough bulk so it is a salable product. We first had to learn how to process a low-dpf yarn. Then we had to learn how to run it through extrusion. Once you figure that out, you ask, ‘What happened to my bulk?’ That’s what we captured with Embrace. The jump we have on the competitors is huge.”
Eric Ruppert, Mohawk’s product director for residential nylon, noted when body is added to the product, there is usually not a clean finish. “We are able to get a clean product that has the body, the bulk and the softness.”
Embrace debuts in 11 styles: a good/better solid texture; a good/better/best berber fleck texture and a tonal texture; a solid tonal, and a solid and tonal pin dot. Color options range from 10 on the berber fleck to as many as 40 on the solid.
Embrace is backed by 20-year warranties on texture retention, wear, fade and manufacturer defects, as well as a lifetime warranty on stain and soil with Scotchgard Advance Repel Technology, exclusive to Mohawk. Retail price points range from $2.99 to $4.29 a square foot to the consumer.
“Embrace adds a best-in-class nylon to SmartStrand Silk, which represents best-in-class carpet,” Lape said. “We anticipate Embrace becoming a major contributing factor to our premi- um nylon segment.”
Jim Walters, president, Macco’s Floor Covering Center in Green Bay, Wis., is anticipating big things from Embrace. “I think it will resonate with the consumer because of nylon’s performance story. But with Embrace, all the consumer will have to do is touch it and she will want it. It will be a nice piece of the puzzle for us.”
Walters also likes the fact Embrace will play in the upper mid- to high-end arena, adding that Mohawk “got it right” in regard to Embrace’s color, style and design. “And I think the timing is right with all the pent-up demand in the remodel business. If you can give the consumer a good value, the business will be there.”
Innovation is the name of the game, according to Roger Farabee, senior vice president of market ing, Mohawk Hard Surfaces, but not just innovation for innovation’s sake. “We are trying to add value with meaningful features. You see and experience them over time. You can’t win just selling a 31⁄4-inch red oak prod uct, especially to make money. So we are always trying to create meaningful innovations in a way retailers can make more money. Durability is one, as is the ability to have a character textured product at a value price point.”
The company is particularly excited about the expanded Rockingham collection, which features Armormax for durability and Scotchgard for cleanability. “We introduced a slimmed-down version of this product a couple of years ago only in solid oak,” Farabee said. “We had such great success, we have now quadrupled the assortment.” The 34 SKUs now include solid and engineered; oak, hickory and maple; and three widths, all housed in its own merchandiser touting the Armormax finish.
“This finish is unlike anything in the market,” he said. “We performed many tests and found Armormax is up to five times more durable than the aluminum oxide finish.”
Farabee stressed the visuals also set the line apart. “Some Rockingham products use water-based stains. The traditional paint- or lacquer-based finishes tend to cover up more of the wood, whereas water provides a more realistic look. So there’s a great performance story as well as a great color and design story.”
Mohawk is also introducing textured products at a price designed to compete with Chinese products:
• Saunders, a 5-inch, soft-scraped, solid, launched last year in oak, hickory and maple, has been enhanced with a 31⁄4-inch option as well as Scotchgard.
• Cartwright takes the basic look of Saunders in four colors and mixes 31⁄4- and 5-inch widths in one carton. It is also Mohawk’s first solid scraped product with Scotchgard.
• Huntsville is an engineered hickory featuring a heavier scrape with chatter, also with Scotchgard.
• Anchorage is an engineered product with wirebrushing.
“The idea is to give consumers whatever level of texturing they want,” Farabee said. “And the great thing is we can do this all in the U.S.”