January 19/26, 2015; Volume 28/Number 15
By K.J. Quinn
In today’s connected world, flooring suppliers realize they not only need great products to help retailers make money; they also must provide consistent and timely information. Starting in early 2015, the Dixie Group will unveil products across its residential portfolio and introduce the first of several tools that will make it easier to conduct business with its three carpet brands.
“With all brands within the Dixie Group we try to provide differentiated styling to appeal to to the fashion-conscious customer and add diversity to the retailer’s assortment,” said Paul Comiskey, president of residential sales. “We do not see carpet as a construction material, but rather as a design element.”
The new products and tools set for dealers—which will roll out at Surfaces 2015—are part of a branding strategy aimed at meeting customer needs and providing dealers with the necessary support for boosting sales of Dixie’s Masland, Fabrica and Dixie Home brands.
“We have had quite a bit of success with all three brands,” reported Phil Koufidakis, president, Baker Bros., with seven locations in the Phoenix area. “Our business with them has grown substantially over the past few years.”
While details about the launch were not available at press time, some line extensions will be introduced in early 2015 while others will be unveiled by the second quarter.
“We have a history of investing in new technology and a willingness to mix yarns,” Comiskey said. “This allows us to create new looks that mainstream mills have a hard time emulating.”
Investments in product development is nothing new at Dixie, which reports having grown its residential business 88% from 2009 to 2013 with sales up about 10% in 2014. Dixie’s manufacturing scale gives it the flexibility to respond quickly to new trends, keeping the latest patterns and colors within reach of a wide spectrum of consumers.
“Dixie has less distribution than most [mills], and its products can be sold as a fashion item rather than a commodity,” Koufidakis explained. “Everyone knows it is difficult to make money in a commodity.”
Targeting customer needs
As business conditions improve within the flooring industry, Dixie’s three brands are well positioned to meet pent-up demand. “Value can be found at every price point, and aesthetics are just as important a factor in determining and appreciating value as face weight and/or price per ounce,” said Sam Roberts, owner, Roberts Carpet & Fine Floors, Houston. “They consistently have the most beautiful, comprehensive line in the industry.”
While each label targets different customers, they share a common theme: All brands use predominantly Stainmaster fiber and wool, which Dixie believes are fibers that provide superior performance. As well, with Stainmaster, the variety of lusters and dye levels provides Dixie with styling tools not available in other fibers, the company said.
“The Dixie Group’s relationship with Stainmaster and its continued dedication to stay cutting edge yet sellable completely separates it from most,” Koufidakis said. “Plus, with its three brands they can do that in a good/better/best scenario.”
Dixie will soon introduce patterns in both pre-dyed yarns as well as new Stainmaster fibers, TruSoft and Pet Protect. “The advent of ‘soft’ carpets upgraded many consumers into price points that are the strength of our assortment,” Comiskey said. “With Stainmaster Pet Protect, we took advantage of a performance story that has been quickly endorsed by the retail community.”
Select retailers sell Dixie Home carpet, a brand that experienced rapid growth and enthusiastic market acceptance since it was founded in 2003. Renowned for stylish tufted broadloom carpets that fall within more moderately priced segments of the high-end broadloom market, Dixie Home designs are made from premium-branded yarns and include traditional velvets, contemporary patterns and a wide range of textures in fashion-forward colors.
“With Dixie Home you will see an expansion of our Stainmaster Pet Protect as we look to take that [line] into more fashion-focused categories,” Comiskey said.
The design strategy at Dixie Home focuses on fresh, easy-care designs that meet the needs of active lifestyles and creates an ambience of simple, casual elegance. “Our tag line is ‘affordable fashion,’” Comiskey noted. “Using technology similar to what we use in our higher-end brands, we work to give the retailer different textures than he is accustomed to seeing in price points between $1.99 and $3.99 per square foot (uninstalled).”
Coming off its 40th anniversary year, Fabrica remains a fixture in the high-end residential arena, where the brand is renowned for its distinctive styles, colors and high performance in broadloom carpet, and custom and hand-tufted rugs. Fabrica offers a color assortment unmatched in the residential carpet business, Comiskey said, including the ability to customize the colors of the vast majority of its products. New patterns to debut at Surfaces will be an expansion of new technologies displayed last year.
“We believe pattern is evolving past solid color cut and loop,” Comiskey noted. “You will see us addressing this in both nylon and wool.” Color will continue to be a big part of the Fabrica story, he added, through the expansion of Dixie’s Permaset technology.
Most Fabrica products are sold through the decorator/design trade, with remaining sales coming from specialty segments such as high-end retailers, luxury yachts, furniture stores and the upscale home building market. “We provide product to retailers and designers in retail price points from $4.99 to $8.99 (per square foot uninstalled),” Comiskey noted. “We continually invest in new tufting technologies, so we can lead the way in innovative patterns and textures.”
Masland celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2015 and, similar to Fabrica, has been long recognized for its styling and design. A major expansion of Masland’s wool and pattern assortments is in the works for 2015.
“We will be at market with 10 introductions for our Masland Avenue collection,” Comiskey said. “Additionally, we will continue our expansion of Masland wools utilizing the assets from our Robertex purchase.” In nylon carpets, there will be an emphasis on patterns both in pre-dyed yarns as well as new Stainmaster fibers, he added.
Although there is some overlap, Masland fits between the Dixie Home and Fabrica brands, with the strength of the line sold from $2.99 to $6.99 per square foot uninstalled at retail.
“We do very well with all Dixie brands, with the largest success coming with Masland,” Roberts said. “All three are primarily better goods lines, with Dixie being basic, upper-middle to better-end goods; Masland being the high-end product and Fabrica being more of an elite line.”
Merchandising and marketing
To better showcase Dixie’s new lines, the company will introduce a number of updated displays. “With many dealers freshening their showroom spaces, sightlines and product category anchor points have become more refined,” explained Dan Phelan, Dixie’s vice president of marketing. “By offering furniture-quality displays that properly showcase the breadth of each brand, it not only gives the consumer a better shopping experience, but a path forward and space to continue our investment in product differentiation.”
Many of Dixie’s partners display products from all three brands in a gallery setting. In doing so, there is a starting point on the selling floor where retail salespeople can show products that set the store apart from local competition.
“They are positioned as key items in our Stainmaster Flooring Center displays, as well as having separate/additional footprints in the showrooms,” Koufidakis said. “These brands can fill a style and design option for most customers at a wide variety of prices. They also have some great ‘vanilla’ textures that are category winners.”
Dixie also works closely with dealers to consistently plan sale events in the peak spring and fall selling seasons. “Over the last several years, as our product lines have grown, so has our in-store position and the expectation of more marketing tools for the sale events,” Phelan explained. “We have invested in visual tools that help create a sense of urgency as well as lead the customer.”
For example, Dixie’s new web-based portal, DixieGroupOnline, allow dealers to access all sorts of information—from simply checking stock on a daily basis to reviewing live order information. “We are excited to begin the process of simplification and become more information centric for our partners,” Phelan said. The user-friendly site is considered a critical tool for helping retailers succeed in an increasingly competitive business environment.