May 25/June 1, 2015; Volume 29/Number 4
By Jenna Lippin
Carpet tile continues to find favor in Main Street applications for a number of reasons, with experts citing characteristics like design flexibility, selective replacement, less waste material and ease of installation. It is easy for dealers and end users to sell and move the product in terms of shipping and handling as well, and is typically more readily available than other flooring options. Designed for light commercial applications, carpet tile can also stand up to varied levels of traffic in public spaces.
“Carpet tile can withstand the heavy foot traffic of commercial environments,” said Quentin Quathamer, commercial brand and marketing manager, Philadelphia Commercial, a division of Shaw Industries. “Product development and innovation have brought down material costs, and due to the modular nature of the product there is less waste which further lowers project costs. Carpet tile is also easy to install and repair, requiring minimal business disruption. This is particularly appealing to Main Street customers, who are often small business owners for whom business downtime can have significant financial impact.”
Chris Post, director of sales operations for Aladdin Commercial, a Mohawk brand, said the use of carpet tile in Main Street environments is unlimited. “We see it in educational settings such as schools and libraries, doctors’ offices, restaurants, retail shops, churches. A lot of it has to do with there being less disruption in the workplace.”
Ken Leviner, director of business development for Aladdin, added, “A major feature of carpet tile is occupied space. You can get into some areas overnight and just replace the flooring with carpet tiles. With the adhesives we use there are less odors and VOCs, so the workplace can be right back up the very next day. It helps diffuse the installation dilemma, and is ideal for selective replacement. Typically with carpet tile, if properly maintained, you’ll see a life of about 15 or 16 years where a similar visual in broadloom typically lasts only seven to eight years before it ‘uglies out’ and the end user gets tired of it.” Making the process even easier, some companies are now offering floating carpet tile options that can be installed over existing flooring.
John Wells, president and CEO, Interface Americas, said the company continues to build a case around carpet tile as the surface of choice for all commercial applications, including Main Street. He noted that acoustics are becoming an issue in Main Street settings in which hard surfaces are installed throughout. He cited recent studies suggesting that louder noise has either hurt productivity in offices or even hurt business. This helps the idea of at least integrating carpet tile for a productive and conducive work space in a Main Street application.
To help make Main Street carpet tile more accessible in the showroom, manufacturers have tailored displays to help these specialized products stand out. Post said he has often seen commercial products “in a back room somewhere or lost in a sea of architect folders.” Aladdin has separate displays for Main Street carpet tile instead of having them roll into existing commercial merchandising. “People selling Main Street have three to five go-to products. They have a comfort level with them because they’ve done a few jobs with them, or have talked about them more, or have them laid out on the showroom floor for demonstration purposes. You can’t communicate broadloom that same way.”
Philadelphia Commercial offers a self-contained carpet tile display system, which provides the key elements a retail sales associate can use to help Main Street customers make a purchase decision, Quathamer explained. “Visualization tools are key with carpet tile. Often there is not the same sort of common repeats as there are in broadloom. And because you can mix and match carpet tiles with various accent tiles or create new patterns by turning some of the tiles in different directions, we offer visuals with our display to showcase the different looks that can be created with multiple installation methods and patterns. It helps paint a picture of what’s possible for the customer.”
Design possibilities are another benefit of carpet tile, allowing for customization that isn’t possible with broadloom. To help illustrate this advantage, retailers can create vignettes with carpet tile in the designated commercial/Main Street area of the showroom. “This allows the retail sales associate to showcase the beauty and durability of carpet tile,” Quathamer added. “And they create an interactive demonstration area to illustrate the ease of installation—changing the design on the spot for the customer.”
Leviner noted that end users can simply do more with carpet tile, including creating a border or inserting a rug visual in a hard surface floor. “You’re seeing more and more commercial carpet being put on dealers’ floors. They like to showcase this kind of product. Plus it’s easier for them to change out. They can create new patterns every six months. They can throw in an accent color to change up a showroom. I’ve been in showrooms that had the same carpet for 30 to 40 years because the dealers say it’s a pain to move displays and disrupt the floors. Like the end users in Main Street, they don’t want to disrupt their businesses. Once they see they don’t have to, they can communicate the benefit to the customer.”
In differentiating carpet tile from other Main Street product options, Quathamer said dimensional stability is key. Therefore, the manufacturing process for carpet tile is much different than that of broadloom, both in terms of tufting and backing. “If you simply cut broadloom carpet into squares, it would shrink, cup, curl and not provide the tear, tensile or delamination strength required for even the lightest foot traffic. With carpet tile, each tuft is woven and locked into place and supported by a sturdier backing.”
According to Leviner, the real performance attribute for carpet tile is its backing. “The backing itself is the shock absorber. It absorbs much of the impact of foot traffic, taking emphasis off of the fiber. You don’t need a 26 oz. or 28 oz. product; if that was necessary you would see wholesale prices of $26 to $28.” Carpet tile in lighter face weights is becoming increasingly popular, many coming in at lower than 20 oz.
Quathamer anticipates carpet tile continuing to be a poplar flooring choice for Main Street customers. He noted that carpet tile has traditionally been constructed with nylon fiber to meet the performance needs of commercial spaces, but options with polypropylene face fiber are becoming more preferred. Therefore, “it will be increasingly important for retailers and Main Street customers to understand the technical performance of these products, which are well suited for areas with very light foot traffic.”
To meet increasing demand in the Main Street market, Aladdin has added coordinating LVT to its collection of both carpet tile and broadloom. With a “solutions-based proposition,” the company is making sure color families and products work together. “What’s driving carpet tile is the end user who wants to see somewhat of a simplified selection process,” Leviner concluded. “A one-stop shop with a dealer who is partnered with a flooring manufacturer. We have that dealer’s back and know the right product for every end-use area.”