By Steven Feldman
Volume 26/Number 20; February 18/25, 2013
Hicksville, N.Y.—Shaw Industries is bullish this year. Excitement has been built by virtue of everything from consumer sentiment to its plethora of product introductions for 2013, many of which set new benchmarks for the company in terms of styling and technological innovation.
“I’m most excited about the attitude we are seeing from our customer base and the excitement that seems to be building about 2013,” said Randy Merritt, president of Shaw. “For the last five years, we would come into every new year hoping for a better year. I think evidence shows this year will be better. I’m excited our customers are excited—they are seeing traffic, and they saw a good end to 2012. There are physical signs home building is increasing, and that means remodeling is going to increase. So it’s not just hope this time.”
Merritt said he is just as enthusiastic about “some great new products we have across the board in carpet and hard surface.” Caress, Shaw’s entry into the super-soft carpet arena, is at the top of his list.
“In carpet, soft is the buzzword,” he said. “And Caress is as soft as anything out there. But it’s also about the colors and styles. It’s a total collection of 27 products that work together. That instantly makes it the largest collection of soft products out there.” Constructions include a semi-frieze, smooth saxony, semi-frieze tweed, semi-frieze tonal, semi-frieze accent, solid loop, loop tonal, and solid and patterned designs.
Caress, constructed of Anso nylon, will retail for $35 and up, product only, as a higher-end line. The lowest cut pile ounce weight is in the 50s. “We are making sure to build products that would fit the definition of quality and provide the performance the consumer expects,” Merritt said.
While much of the conversation lately centers around value, he said consumers still want “better” products. “We were pleasantly surprised at the success we have had with TruSoft. We didn’t think the consumer would migrate to these price points. But they are selling themselves up to these softer products.”
In addition to softness, Caress offers Shaw’s patented R2X stain and soil resistance treatment to help preserve the original look and feel of the carpet. Each product in the Caress line is Cradle to Cradle Silver Certified.
Caress is not the only introduction Shaw believes will resonate with consumers. Soft Shades is another soft carpet but at different price points and styles that will have a greater appeal to the masses, Merritt said. “It’s priced where people may not be able to reach the top of the line but still want the luxury of soft carpet.”
Greg Scott, director of residential product development, reiterated that Soft Shades is a softer nylon product at the more affordable mid price points. “We looked at the Caress program, where it would be price point wise, its level of softness, its variety of styling, and we decided we needed something that would fit underneath that in all aspects.”
Constructed of Anso nylon, Soft Shades offers a 40-color line in 12 on-trend styles—three good/better/bests: a textured saxony, a twist and a berber fleck cut pile. It also goes into an LCL and a textured loop. The collection will be supported by the tagline, “So Soft, So Tough, So Proven.”
“The breadth of styling, warranty support and durability asset is robust within the Soft Shades collection,” said Mike Sanderson, product marketing manager. “I think we’ll find throughout the year that this creative, affordable collection will become a core feature of a comprehensive product inventory.”
Merritt summed up the Caress and Soft Shades intros: “Retailers may be surprised how these products sell themselves and how they are able to get more money for them. Selling better goods create better margin opportunities. One dealer told me his unit sales were flat last year but his dollars were up 15%. It’s the result of selling better goods.”
Shaw is particularly excited about resilient, a category that continues to grow not only industry wide, but for the company as well. “This category has as much excitement as we have had in a long time, especially LVT,” said Jeff Sills, executive vice president of sales. “We are introducing 41 SKUs across our LVT platforms. It represents the largest number of introductions in any category.”
Consumers will certainly not be disappointed with the styling as it results from collaboration with the company’s Anderson team. “We feel Anderson has the most unique and well-styled visuals in the industry today,” Sills said. “If anyone wants to see the newest trends, he or she goes to Anderson. So we are taking that culture across our other product categories. The feedback we are getting is how realistic our visuals are in LVT and laminate.”
Array is Shaw’s umbrella brand for its LVT, and among the additions are new products featuring VersaLock locking installation. Northampton Plank is a 4mm line offered in five colors, while Aviator Plank is a value-priced, 3mm, 6-inch wide, 48-inch long product. Priced at $2.99 retail, Aviator Plank offers six color options, including two scraped hickories, two European oaks and two limed hickories.
“The 3mm allows us to come down in price to appeal to the masses,” Sills said. “The concern was whether we could find a profile that could perform at that thickness, but Aviator performs every bit as well as a 4mm.”
Also, Resort Tile has been expanded from six to 12 SKUs. This addition comprises three new travertine products in two configurations: traditional 16 x 16 and a Versailles pattern. A breakthrough in the groutable tile market, the new Versailles pattern is the “most upscale visual we offer in resilient tile,” said Clark Hodgkins, category manager for Shaw Resilient. Retail price point should be about $3.49.
Additionally, within the Array collection the dry back New Market Plank line has been extended with a 3mm, 20mil style in five top-selling New Market colors.
Finally, Shaw is also taking the wraps off Easy Street Plank, its first foray into the true loose lay category. Easy Street Plank employs what the company is calling the VersaFit installation method, although these 6 x 48 planks also provide the option for a perimeter glue or full-spread installation. Styling ranges from contemporary to rustic in six colors. And at 4mm thick, Easy Street features a commercially rated 20mil wear layer coated with Shaw’s Armour Bead finish, which results in a lifetime residential and 15-year commercial warranty. The product should retail for about $3.99 a foot.
Shaw is now a player in every LVT installation category. “The market will decide where the market winds up,” Sills said. “We will participate in all three because certain geographies prefer certain systems.”
Shaw is expanding its laminate collection using the latest imaging technology, the most durable wear layers and versatile wood looks. Canterbury, inspired by the old oil-rubbed floors of Europe, offers a white oak visual designed for urban settings. The 8mm product focuses on an upscale, fashion-forward color line in a sawn faced oak look. A low-gloss, smooth texture adds to its richness and elegance.
Breton is an 8mm limed hickory visual inspired by European styling in three colors. A low-gloss, smooth surface allows its natural colors to show through, highlighting the grain for additional visual interest. “We are seeing the limed look proliferate across the country,” Sills said. “Plus, we added a lot of the hot gray tones to it.”
Avenues, offered in four wood visuals, is designed for the value-oriented consumer searching for an affordable upscale design. The 10mm product offers a pressed bevel visual in an acacia, limed hickory and whitewashed. An aggressive warranty ensures Shaw’s commitment to preventing stains and wear-through.
The big news at Shaw on the wood side is American Restoration, which features a new, unique reclaimed barnwood look that boasts a completely different distressing technique. Rather than a scrape, the finish replicates an old handrubbed finish.
“We have been working for a year to bring this product to market,” Sills said. “There has been lots of movement around reclamation. Everywhere we have been, retailers have fallen in love with it. It just may be the next handscraped visual to take over the market. We think the product will start a new design trend in the industry.”
The four-SKU American Restoration, part of the Epic Hard-wood engineered collection, offers a 7-inch-wide plank in 5-foot lengths. It features Shaw’s Scuf-Resist Platinum finish with a low-luster sheen, which produces the oil-rubbed look. It will retail for $4.49 to $4.99, slightly lower than the traditional handscraped hickory market.
Epic features Cradle to Cradle third-party certification and EnviroCore, an environmentally responsible core board that is made either from post-industrial recycled content or wood byproducts extracted from whole trees, rather than select parts. Epic contains 50% less newly harvested wood than conventional engineered hardwood floors.