March 30/April 6, 2015; Volume 28/Number 20
By Ken Ryan
Carpet mills are bringing a multitude of new technologies to the marketplace to further differentiate their products while providing enhancements to color, fiber constructions, merchandising systems and more.
Today’s products are softer and more fashionable than ever and thanks to sophisticated show floor displays, dealers are better equipped to tell the story in their stores.
Dan Phelan, vice president of marketing at The Dixie Group, which oversees the Dixie Home, Masland and Fabrica brands, said the company is investing in tufting capabilities that allow for two- and three-color wool and nylon pattern products. “As the new introductions have started to hit the marketplace they have been met with a wonderful response. All three of our residential brands go to market with unique style and design. We continue to offer items that take advantage of our unique approach to the market and utilize our continued investment in tufting technologies.”
Engineered Floors has grown rapidly on the differentiated attributes of its solution-dyed fiber. “We are the only mill that produces 100% of our products using solution-dye technology,” said James Lesslie, assistant to the chairman. “Solution-dye technology is simply putting color all the way through the fiber during the extrusion process. With this technology all of our carpets have built-in bleach, fade and soil resistance. Our state-of-the-art facilities allow us to produce carpets with quality levels that are the highest in the industry.”
Mike Sanderson, vice president of product marketing, said the company continues to perfect its technology. Proof of that are its PureColor Polyester S2 with soil and stain resistance introductions in 2015 and PureSoft Polyester launches last year. “In a continuing effort to be a comprehensive flooring provider to our customers, we are in the process of taking that same advanced technology and introducing some of the softest and most stylish PureColor Soft Nylon N2 available,” he explained.
Godfrey Hirst is using innovative marketing props to help retailers sell more carpet. With the recent introduction of its Stainmaster PetProtect collection, the company is offering dealers a dog house with a black lab to help bring attention to the new products. “This tool is great for the showroom floor especially when busy parents are shopping; their children can use it as a place to go while customers are selecting carpet,” said Laurie Bray, marketing manager. “It also ties in nicely with the Stainmaster Pet Adoption promotion currently in place.”
Godfrey Hirst also provides extras with its wool products, from sheep giveaways to the “Green Vignette,” which features various components of banners, wool bales and sheep designed to separate the Godfrey Hirst display in the showroom. “With all of our products we provide posters and POP visuals for advertising,” Bray said. “We try very hard to meet our dealers’ marketing needs. After all, they are our partners in the marketplace.”
T.M. Nuckols, senior director of product strategy, said Invista is committed to understanding how the consumer shops, when she shops and what is most important to her in a flooring product.
Through its research, one thing the company learned is homeowners love their pets, but are also concerned with how their floors look. That led to the introduction of the Stainmaster PetProtect carpet and cushion system, its most successful program right now.
“From a product standpoint, our lab trials proved that our unique solution-dyed nylon fiber, SuperiaSD, delivered strongly against two of the key needs pet owners have: resistance to tough stains and easy hair release while vacuuming,” Nuckols said. “When combined with Stainmaster carpet cushion, the system allows pet accidents to be thoroughly cleaned and completely removed. This helped reduce lingering pet odors.”
To promote its strides, Invista developed messaging and merchandising content that connects with consumers and RSAs. It expanded the color line of SuperiaSD to 33 colors, giving mills more options for differentiating their product offerings.
Karastan is leading the industry in fashion, design and innovation on several fronts, according to Bill Storey, vice president.
When it comes to fiber, Karastan offers Smartstrand Forever Clean Silk, Kashmere Nylon and New Zealand Wool. “This allows us the ability to take advantage of unique characteristics and features of each of these yarn systems when constructing our products,” Storey said.
Most of the Karastan wools are produced on Karastan’s patented Karaloc equipment, providing unique designs woven through the back for superior durability. The company also utilizes state-of-the-art tufting machinery that allows color to be placed in pattern and designs made from 100% cut pile and cut and loop.
The company employs dedicated colorists who focus on trends in higher-end home furnishings as well as the trends in apparel so that Karastan products lead in color, style and design.
Lexmark created a buzz at Surfaces 2015 with its new Tailored by Lexmark collection that the company said “fills the opening” between everyday LCL products and expensive patterned goods. The result: sophisticated styles at a value price point.
Tailored by Lexmark products are created with tufting equipment that develop patterns with a higher level of definition than a standard cut loop machine, varying the density in a single piece of carpet.
Lexmark’s equipment additions, which include extrusion lines, heat setting devices and a ½ gauge 4 E loop scroll, will allow the company to offer better service and styling.
David Duncan, senior vice president of marketing and sales operations, said Mohawk’s success is built on its “continuous commitment to innovation.”
An example of this committment includes the new high-bulk yarn in SmartStrand Forever Clean, in addition to a completely unique bi-color solution-dye yarn in the line that creates a three-color visual rather than a more common, single-color technique used for traditional barber pole colorations. “The result is a carpet with a tighter construction and more subtle color change,” Duncan said.
Furthermore, an innovative high-coverage, space-dye technique traditionally used in commercial has been applied to the SmartStrand Forever Clean Colorwall update, resulting in visuals with balanced blending of color compared to the more stark or even spotty visuals of traditional fleck carpets.
Mark Clayton, Phenix CEO, said being responsive to market conditions with products that meet the changing needs of consumers is key to the mill’s differentiation. In January the company launched 26 new styles, which, paired with a two-year evolution of its product line, represents a 65% growth overall. “Color is the primary component in carpet selection and we have strength and expertise in development of solution-dyed styles, developing a rich underplay of color that is beautiful and flexible. Additionally, in the past three years Phenix has rebranded itself, bringing a fresh, contemporary look to all of our merchandising and visual communications.”
The company’s new proprietary ColorSense technology is an inventive process that delivers randomization of color, in which individually colored yarns are blended to achieve distinctive color articulation and an overall balance of tone. “We employ this technology in both Stainmaster PetProtect and our SureSoftSD PET solution-dyed polyester carpets, supporting our belief that quality goes beyond a well-made product and addresses the aesthetic sensibilities of our consumers.”
Royalty Carpet Mills
Andrea Greenleaf, president, said she believes Royalty Carpet Mills differentiates itself in the marketplace by listening to its dealers. “We continue the entrepreneurial spirit my father started and that usually aligns with our independent carpet retailers who share the same spirit. We combine that with the ability to provide the highest quality carpet, with the best service in our industry. That is a winning combination. Our hands-on approach with our customers will serve us well as time goes on and customer service becomes a bigger issue.”
Royalty has separated itself by investing in three state-of-the-art tufting machines that have enabled the California-based mill to launch more than 50 styles. “Each has its own unique capabilities,” Greenleaf said. “We have a great product development department and the proof of that was with our introductions at Surfaces 2015. Our Brocotto and Merletti introductions were received by our customers with such a favorable response that even I was shocked. The products are just being placed in stores and dealers are saying that they have not seen anything so beautiful or different in years. Moda’s Stoneworks and Striatta employ the same technology and the sample demand has been so great we are already remaking product. Our PetProtect items also feature innovative styling that will set us apart from the fray.”
How do you develop new options for a product category, hitting home runs in the marketplace? That was the challenge Shaw’s in-house design team faced with Caress, its luxury brand and softest carpet.
According to Trey Thames, vice president of residential marketing and product management, Shaw’s design experts helped product development create patterns that were viable and sellable for flooring dealers because they are so “classic and elegantly subtle.”
The result was Shaw’s Caress Patterns collection, available as an add-on package to the existing Caress display. With a tower of 10 new styles, dealers will be able to expand their offerings to include these defined loop and sisal patterns created with advanced colorpoint technology.
Shaw is also differentiating its offerings with the Anso Colorwall, now featuring 46 new colors. The layout for the display unit also changed to give dealers two options for changing out the old colors for the new, addressing the different East and West Coast showroom needs.
Thames said Shaw understood that the consumer’s taste had changed to more muted, nature-inspired colors with a large influence on modern neutrals. “We also knew that color display varied widely from the East Coast to the West Coast based on our own sales research. We wanted to address those variations.”
Whether creating an aesthetically pleasing cut pile product for builders or a 100-ounce shag for upscale homes, Tuftex’s product and marketing team is always seeking to differentiate itself from the competition. With its West Coast style and fashion, the brand has created its own segment in the marketplace, offering designs that bring color and warmth to peoples’ homes.
Suzanne Zurfluh, product marketing manager, said the Tuftex product team is accustomed to designing carpet constructions that aren’t always typical or easy to manufacture. “They do this by blending unique yarn combinations, creating one-of-a-kind thread-ups and being on the forefront of machine technology.”
Tuftex has also invested in selling systems, including Color Coordinates, which offers a range of Stainmaster carpets representing constructions in the mid- to high-end price points.