January 20/27, 2014; Volume 27/Number 19
By Steven Feldman
Dallas—The floor covering industry began its long climb from the depths of the downturn last year as retailers saw more customers walk through their front doors, something that is only expected to continue in the years ahead. With such a backdrop, much of Mohawk’s 2014 carpet introductions reflect the return of that diverse customer who may be seeking more than higher-end products like SmartStrand and SmartStrand Silk, on which the company focused over the last few years.
“The entire market is coming back,” said David Duncan, senior vice president of marketing and sales operations. “Before, there were a limited number of customers coming into the store. The retailer has a choice of what he can sell, so it made more sense to start with a higher-end product that consumers gravitated toward. The whole idea of touching Silk and falling in love was real. But as the economy rebounds, you are getting more customers in the market, and we want to make sure whether she is a budget-conscious customer, middle of the road customer or high-end customer, we have the right offering for her.”
With that said, a big focus this year for Mohawk is adding value throughout its entire PET platform by virtue of its investment in the Continuum process (FCNews, Sept. 16/23, 2013). “We are definitely not going to relegate the polyester market to the competition,” Duncan said. “The purpose of the innovations we made, the announcement of Continuum, is to get deeper in that market, and that is illustrated by the 20-plus introductions in the polyester space.”
Mike Johnson, senior director of market development, noted that the PET market has evolved over the last couple of years with new manufacturers coming on stream, primarily focusing on lower-end products and going after the stocking, multi-family businesses. However, last year saw the beginning of better products hitting the market, and now he believes Mohawk can take this to the next level.
“We are bringing new technology and innovation to a very hot category,” Johnson said. “The Continuum process allows us to achieve a polyester that has a better raw material, so we are able to have 100% recycled content in our BCF PET. We are the only manufacturer with that. Couple that with technology that allows us to get a bulkier fiber along with the addition of Scotchgard, and our position is to make the best PET product out there and lead the industry once again. And, we will do that from 16 to 70 ounces. This is not just a commodity game for us. PET will live in builder, multi-family and retail.”
Phil Stoner, senior product director for Aladdin, the overarching brand of EverStrand PET, said Continnum brings a better value to polyester filament, so retailers “can make more money selling Mohawk polyester because it is a better product at competitive market pricing. That translates to a better value.”
As for specific products, in commodity (under $10) Mohawk is providing a volume base for its dealers with six new textured products that cover solid, fleck and barber pole visuals. “By bringing our dealers a better value in these products, it will allow them to hold their price and take share or they can get more money for the product,” Stoner explained. “They can go for share or margin.”
There are many trade-up opportunities, the highlight of which is a premium soft collection called EverStrand Soft Appeal. “What we have done here is take our experience in premium soft yarn technology and applied it to polyester,” Stoner said. “We are taking what we have learned in ultra soft and applied it to polyester and also maximized the bulk.”
Mohawk is also leveraging a premimum branded program called WearDated Allure. Six soft PET products will be launched—three solids in a 40-color range and three flecks that share a 10-color palette. “That brings not only the better Continuum program to the market, but also fourth-generation softness that we perfected with our WearDated Embrace and SmartStrand Sorona and SmartStrand Silk programs.”
Mohawk will continue to play the “hot hand” with Silk, Johnson said, by adding more fashion and style to the line. “Sorona has traditionally been a solid line for the most part.” Now Mohawk is introducing accent yarn into Silk to expand the color range and provide what he called a “subtle, sophisticated, clean look.”
SmartStrand Silk boasts six new products for 2014, including:
•two tonal LCL patterns with organic and geometric styles in trendy colors;
•two solid LCLs in stylish small- to medium-scale patterns;
•a textured loop with fleck, and
•a 70-ounce solid texture with 40 color options.
Johnson noted that nylon is still about 40% of the market and, as such, Mohawk is introducing a pair of fourth-generation WearDated Embrace LCLs called Artistic Outlet and Designers Delight in 20 colors apiece. “We developed a new yarn for our fourth-generation soft,” he said. “Bulk is coming back into the market, and we want to offer apparent value. These new LCLs will set the standard for apparent value in the marketplace by combining bulk and softness.” Embrace now offers 12 styles.
Hard surface introductions
Mohawk is entering 2014 with an impressive array of hard surface introductions and expansions, stretching across all categories. The focus for each—hardwood, laminate, LVT and ceramic—is what Mohawk calls “character wood.” While this theme is interpreted differently in each category, it is all about personality.
“Wood looks are driving a big chunk of design across all categories,” said Roger Farabee, senior vice president of marketing for Mohawk Hard Surfaces. “From a hard surfaces standpoint, with the technology we have, we can create any look; consumers just have to select the right product for their needs. You want a distressed look—do you want wood, LVT, ceramic or laminate? We can satisfy your needs. We have been doing that forever with stone looks.”
Artiquity, perhaps the most popular engineered hardwood product unveiled at all the regional shows, seeks to capitalize on the popular European visual featuring oversized planks—6 feet long and ½-inch wide. A sawn face offers an authentic solid look. “The key here is this collection offers a European influence for American tastes,” Farabee said. “Up until now, most of these types of products have been created for European tastes. We are offering that look interpreted in a better visual for the U.S. customer at a more reachable price point. I think it will play well in major metro markets as well as in Canada.”
As for the rest of the hardwood intros, Farabee cited the trend toward a less aggressive surface structure and, as a result, “everything we are launching is following that trend.” The Antique Artisans collection includes four ½-inch engineered products—Clarett, Keywest, Dawson and Venetia—in varying widths ranging from 4 to 8 inches. American Retreat, an extension of the Armormax series launched in 2013, is a ⅜3⁄8-inch medium wire-brushed oak in 3- and 5-inch planks. Channing, the one solid introduction, debuts with four oaks and two hickories in traditional 2¼- and 3¼-inch widths as well as a multi-width in a wide variety of colors with a subtle brush. “This is the first nice factory-finished, wire-brushed, solid strip product I’ve seen,” Farabee said. Finally, the extremely popular soft-scraped Henley, an engineered, 5-inch product introduced last year that hits a mid price point, was expanded with two new grays and a mocha.
While it’s no secret this category has been under pressure for the past few years, Farabee said retailers can still make money by finding ways to differentiate themselves on selection and service. “Focus on mid- to high-end products. No one makes any money on entry-level product—even home centers. They are there to draw customers and hopefully trade them up to better products.”
The headlining intro here is Havermill, the first 12mm laminate from Mohawk. The collection is available in planks measuring 5¼ inches wide x 47¼ inches long in 10 designs and colors. Havermill is constructed of at least 74% recycled content, made in the USA and features its own Uniclic locking system. Mohawk is also refreshing the entry-level, 8mil Carrolton with new character visuals and eight additional colors, making 15 total options for the line.
The character wood look continues here with Treyburne, which features multiple options in a rustic oak, rustic hickory and an exotic, all a result of Reveal imaging technology. Oversized planks range from 6 x 24 to 9 x 36. On the stone-look side, Ava Terina (marble) also employs Reveal technology, creating realistic and sophisticated visuals. Viella mixes travertine, limestone and concrete looks with a granillia (reflective particles) finish. Senato is a travertine-look floor/wall combo in 12 x 12, 18 x 18, 24 x 24, 12 x 24 and a 10 x 14 wall size. Maraval glass and stone mosaic is expanding with a new color and deco blend in the line’s six colors. New accent collections have been added with Arbor Metals, Crystal Coves Glass and Dynasty Bamboo Glass.
Two years ago Mohawk broke into the LVT business with the launch of Noblesse, and last year it took the wraps off the entry-level Prospects, a 2mm product constructed of virgin vinyl and designed for multifamily. This year saw the debut of a step-up product in Prospects Plus, a mid-level intro geared toward commercial use in Configurations, as well as extensions to the Prequel and Simplesse collections. Prospects Plus offers a wearlayer that doubles the thickness (12 mil) of the original product and features a 6 x 48 plank visual. Configurations continues the character wood theme but has also been augmented to include stone visuals. Simplesse was enhanced with three stone visuals and a 12 x 24 selection.
“Even though the product isn’t new, the applications of better printing technology and better designs have rejuvenated an old category and made it new again,” Farabee said. He attributes the success, among other things, to the consumer’s comfort with buying from a company on which she can rely.