Residential carpet sales grew an impressive 17.2% in 2021, according to FCNews estimates, while the average selling price rose 7% last year and 12.7% in Q1 2022. Granted, price hikes had something to do with the increase in ASP; however, mill executives say consumer demand for high-end carpet is also driving soft surfaces.
“Consumers crave premium style and design in a quality product they can invest in and live on for years to come,” said Natalie Cady, director of premium brands residential channel strategy for Shaw Floors. “As we all know, the pandemic placed an increased focus on durability and cleanability for homeowners. People diverted travel and recreation budgets toward home improvement projects, which afforded them the option of investing in higher-end goods, particularly carpet that provided much-needed comfort and sound-dampening benefits. More affluent households will continue to fuel the high-end surge in carpet.”
Executives identified a few causes for the high-end surge:
Carpet is purchased on a room-by-room basis. The days when broadloom adorned the average American home are long gone, replaced largely by hard surfaces. These days consumers are buying carpet, albeit selectively—for example, a bedroom or perhaps a home office. “With many people working from home, the study and home office are moving toward carpet to help create a quieter environment,” said T.M. Nuckols, president of the residential division of The Dixie Group. “For these room-by-room purchases, the consumer is looking for something that really complements the hard surface floors running through the main living areas of the home. High-end carpet fits the bill.”
Buoyed by advancements in manufacturing technology, today’s high-end carpet more likely reflects fashion-forward trends than the boring beige of yesteryear. “In the last three years we have had a renaissance in styling where we are definitely seeing more patterns, more loops and bolder colorations,” said Jason Randolph, senior vice president of sales for Karastan, Mohawk’s luxury division. “Now that carpet is not a whole-house purchase, it allows the consumer to really express herself.”
Tim Hiner, senior director of product development and product management for Tarkett, agreed, adding: “There is more interest in making the carpet a focal point of a space. Carpet is no longer a background to showcase other furnishings. As a focal point, higher-end patterning and textures bring an elevated visual appeal to the space.”
Hard surface growth. It may seem counterintuitive to suggest that the growth of hard surfaces has fueled carpet’s high-end push, but that’s the reality for people who work from home and often find hard surfaces too noisy. “Instead of settling for a standard area rug size, the consumer can have the exact size needed to perfectly fit the room or the area she is covering,” TDG’s Nuckols explained. “And stair runners made from tufted or woven patterns are amazing and have become great statement pieces in the home. All of this activity is playing a key role in the high-end carpet surge.”
There is also the cost factor as high-end carpet is still generally cheaper than most hard surfaces. As Matt Johnson, senior director of residential carpet, Phenix, explained, “When you look at the overall cost, material and installation, carpet is still a relative value vs. hard surfaces.”
Depending on the type of hard surface selected, it is not uncommon for installed hard surface to cost $10 per square foot or more. For that price, the consumer can get a high-end carpet that looks great and also blends in with the rest of the hard surfaces throughout the home. “People are looking for style and design in the high-end part of the soft surface market,” said Don Karlin, director of broadloom sales, Nourison. “Carpet today, especially in the high end, has many, many patterns, styles and colors to choose from, and the high-end interior designer can be very creative.”
Home values rising. Nationally, the average home price climbed 29% since the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020, according to Zillow. For people who stayed put, that appreciation emboldened many to prioritize home improvements. “Any time you have high appreciation in your home it reinforces the decision that the home is a great investment, and you want to put better goods in the home,” Karastan’s Randolph said. “As well, availability and high home prices are keeping people where they are, and if they are going to do that you want to put better goods in. The remodel customer is really where it’s at.”
RSA wields influence. TDG’s Nuckols suggested that with a limited amount of carpet going into the home, the only way for RSAs to increase revenue and commission earnings on carpet is to push the higher priced, upper-end products. And since high-end carpet fits into most flooring budgets, RSAs are seizing the opportunity to trade up the consumer. There is also the belief that the more high-end goods RSAs can sell, the healthier the industry will be, observers said.
New offerings lift market
Anderson Tuftex’s 2022 offerings include Lyric, a premium Pet Perfect+ carpet featuring LifeGuard spill-proof technology, and Speak, an A/T Pet Perfect style with a premium pattern design. “They are great upsells for RSAs to promote at retail,” Cady said. “Our entire A/T portfolio of premium soft surface offerings provide leading style and design for the more discerning consumer.”
The Dixie Group has many high-end products across all three of its soft surface divisions, and said it will continue designing innovative styles through its EnVision nylon platform on the latest tufting technology—including Colorpoint and its TECHnique machines. “With our new 1866 by Masland and Décor by Fabrica programs, we are refreshing and expanding our decorative segment offering beginning in 2022,” Nuckols said. “All these initiatives will feed the growing high-end carpet segment.”
Dream Weaver, the residential brand of Engineered Floors, continues to tout its DW Select line, which Mike Sanderson, vice president of marketing, called “the gold standard of what high-end, design-focused carpet can be.” In 2022, the company introduced five new DW Select styles, adding more depth to its well-stocked line. “The availability of design, textures and colors ensures that there is a DW Select solution for any need,” Sanderson said.
Karastan has its usual bevy of high-end offerings, including Majestic Vision, Whitmere and Artistic, all part of the brand’s efforts to revamp its styling. Majestic Vision, for example, is made of Kashmere nylon, which combines luxurious feel, craftmanship, trend-setting style and durability. Hillsworth, a wool offering, includes a Navy blue coloration.
The big push at Phenix continues to be its FloorEver Pet Plus collection, specifically Mykonos, a cationic nylon that offers proven stain resistance. Launched at Surfaces 2022, Mykonos has been shipping to retailers since June. “It is unique and beautiful,” Johnson said.
Stanton Carpet’s luxury Rosecore brand features two premium products, including San Martino, which features the mill’s proprietary L.I.O.N. (luxury indoor outdoor nylon) yarn system, as well as Chain Stitch, a hand-loomed, 100% premium wool product.
Tarkett Home reported strong year-over-year growth with Captivation and Verona. Captivation is a higher weight, finely textured cut and loop with a bolder design, whereas Verona offers a more subtle design.