Carpet: Despite LVT dominance, soft surface sees opportunities

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Jan. 6/13, 2020: Volume 35, Issue 14

By Ken Ryan

Observers say consumers are willing to pay extra for carpet these days. Shown is Dixie Home Envision 66.

For more than a decade hard surface has taken market share from carpet, a trend that shows no signs of abating. But rather than curse their fate, carpet mill executives are looking to parlay LVT’s dominance into market opportunities.

Within residential, carpet is primarily relegated to bedrooms or so-called carpet islands within the home. To blend with hard surface in the home, mills are developing visuals that tie in with wood or vinyl, often with color as the differentiator. “There is no doubt the soft floor covering market has shifted toward multicolor due to the meteoric rise of hard surface,” said Joe Young, vice president of operations, Engineered Floors.

Mill executives say consumers are buying carpet one room at a time rather than for multiple rooms or the whole house. They are also spending more money on carpet than ever before. “As bedrooms are pretty much the last stronghold for carpet in most homes, the consumer is looking for something that provides a great complement to her wood, tile or luxury vinyl floors running through the rest of her home,” said TM Nuckols, president of the residential division of The Dixie Group. “The consumer is willing to consider a higher price point for carpet, especially when she understands what she can get for spending a little more—higher quality, heavier face weights and differentiated styles. The trend toward hard surfaces is helping drive better goods in carpet.”

Proponents believe carpet provides important benefits not available with other flooring options. These include softness, comfort, design, warmth underfoot, enhanced safety and sound abatement. “While it has lost some position within wall-to-wall installations, carpet plays an integral role in the overall design platform within the home while addressing functional consumer needs,” said Mark Clayton, president of Phenix Flooring.

Engineered Floors’ Young echoed that theme, adding, “Understanding the value that soft surface brings to the so-called carpet strongholds within the home—such as bedrooms—we look to accentuate benefits like comfort and safety while also looking for ways to share the space in the contemporary open floor plan.”

Dealers stay the course
While there is anecdotal evidence that some flooring dealers have scaled back their percentage of carpet to make room for additional rigid core and WPC lines, there are legions of dealers for whom carpet remains a mainstay category. Kevin Frazier, president/owner of Knoxville, Tenn.-based Frazier’s Carpet One Floor & Home, belongs in that camp. He described 2019 as a good year for carpet, growing from 43% of its overall material sales to 46%.

“I attribute the jump to three things—No. 1, the continued rise of carpet tiles (for both commercial and residential applications); No. 2, the fact that 2019 saw the introduction—from several of the mills—of some great-looking product at surprisingly sharp price-points (especially for bulk purchases); and No. 3, we saw a significant number of competitors in our market (both local and national) substantially decrease the amount of carpet they are showing, while we continued to invest heavily in stocking carpet. So, we had less competition while selling from a wider and more beautiful selection of product. No wonder car- pet sales increased for us.”

Jon Dauenhauer, owner/manager of Carpet World Inc., Bismarck, N.D., said carpet is still a “driving force” in his market, accounting for half of their sales. “Our cold weather market creates a demand for warmth and comfort. The majority of homes in our market have full basements and our customers prefer carpet in the basement.”

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