The industry’s leading carpet suppliers are not standing idly on the sidelines watching as hard surface continues to seize more market share. In order to keep the category competitive, many mills are leveraging technology to boost carpet’s performance attributes.
Industry observers believe today’s consumer is more educated when it comes to the various flooring options available. More importantly, she understands the difference between value-priced products and better goods.
“The consumer is buying hard surface products that are high style,” said Richard Abramowicz, executive vice president of Southwind Carpet. “For that reason, all of us as manufacturers have to produce a better piece of carpet today than we ever have in the past. And that is what we are doing.”
Chet Graham, president of Marquis Industries, agreed, adding that consumers today have more tools than ever to research their options prior to purchase. “The Internet allows them to understand fibers, twist levels, density, etc.,” he said.
To that end, manufacturers are targeting consumers who are likely to spend more for luxury carpets mainly because they are most likely only placing it in certain rooms as opposed to throughout the entire home. “The consumer walks into a store with an expectation on performance and style,” said Jamie Welborn, vice president of product management, Mohawk Industries. “It is important to get it right because you have a lot of competition. This is different than someone who buys a commodity product in bulk for multi-family housing because they expect a low price and a very plain carpet.”
This demand for higher-end product among discerning consumers is creating opportunities to raise the bar even higher with respect to product quality and performance. Take Shaw Floors’ Bellera line, for instance. The product features LifeGuard spill-proof backing and is made with Endurance high-performance fiber, which, according to Teresa Tran, director of soft surface portfolio management, provides improved durability, softness and aesthetic appeal. Bellera also uses stain and soil resistance technology, which allows for an easier cleanup.
Shaw is not alone. Engineered Floors is looking to generate buzz with its PureBac backing system technology, which is featured on its Dream Weaver carpet products for the residential market. “This technology offers unprecedented flexibility and dimensional stability,” said Mike Sanderson, vice president of marketing. In addition, the product is latex free, which allows for an easier installation by being lighter, softer and flexible. The line also comes with a 10-year, anti-delamination warranty.
On the commercial side, Sanderson cited the introduction of Engineered Floors’ Apex SDP fiber system for its Pentz Commercial Solutions line. “This advancement raises the performance bar of polyester for Main Street applications to what has been traditionally a nylon fiber solution,” he told FCNews.
Other major players are employing new technologies to improve carpet’s performance. Phenix Flooring, for instance, has invested in new tufting equipment to develop enhancements such as ColorSense. “This technology is a proprietary process providing a great multi-toned textural aesthetic,” said Jason Surrat, senior vice president, product and design. “ColorSense showcases dynamic color palettes that provides balance and flexibility when designing a room while delivering a dense, durable hand to maintain high-performance standards.”
While some manufacturers are building on their existing capabilities, others are investing in new production plants altogether. Such is the case for Foss Floors, which opened up its third new facility in five years in north Georgia.
According to Brian Warren, executive vice president, the new facility boasts state-of-the-art equipment for the manufacturing of advanced, non-woven flooring products.
Other companies are looking to leverage aesthetics as an advantage. According to Jonathan Cohen, CEO and president of Stanton Carpet, the company distinguishes itself from the others by producing decorative and colorful carpet. This year the company is introducing Stanton Street, which features decorative, trendy commercial products ranging from medium to heavy commercial application. The products can be used in residential applications as well, according to Cohen.
Tweaking the fiber recipe
Carpet mills are looking to further differentiate their offerings by focusing on the product’s core ingredient—fiber. For example, Dixie Group uses nylon 6,6 yarn in its offerings. “It is a high-performance fiber,” said T.M. Nuckols, president of the residential division. “We use blended yarns, unique constructions—anything that provides a differentiated look or aesthetic in carpet.”
For Mohawk, the key differentiator is its SmartStrand fiber, which, according to Welborn, is exclusive to the company in North America. This innovation allows Mohawk to offer softness, bulk and performance that is not accessible to others. “It’s a big advantage for us because it’s durable and easy to clean,” he said. “Our engineers construct it to last by clearly understanding what makes a carpet last for years.”
Keeping dirt, spills at bay
Behind every great carpet product are technologies that deliver the stain, soil and spill resistance that today’s consumers demand.
Perhaps the two most well-known companies in this field are 3M and Invista. These specialists develop the key innovations that give carpet manufacturers the ability to make products consumers and end users can enjoy for many years.
Invista’s Stainmaster LiveWell Carpet and Cushion System is specifically made for active families. What’s more, the product offers child- and pet-safe AllerShield technology designed to mitigate the impact of allergens and reduce dust build-up. It is stain and soil resistant, which allows for easy cleanup with food and beverage spills. The technology also has a breathable moisture barrier that allows water vapors to pass through—which helps inhibit the growth of mildew and mold.
Then there is 3M’s Scotchgard Protector, which works by surrounding each carpet fiber, from the tip to the backing, to create a barrier against everyday messes. The result is state-of-the-art soil resistance technology that aims to provide protection from both liquid spills and dry soil.