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Wall-To-Wall Innovations

Consolidation, technology and versatility combine to shape the future of this challenging and ever-changing market.

Peggy Whaley

Carpet OverviewBy Peggy Whaley, Carpet Editor Wall-To-Wall Innovations Consolidation, technology and versatility combine to shape the future ofthis challenging and ever-changing market. Consolidation in the floorcoverings industry has been massive in the last few years. There were over 250 separate corporations about five years ago now there are 60. In the last few months, $2.5 billion of an $11 billion industry have been consolidated into mills that were already doing over $5 billion. Five to seven companies produce about 80 to 90 percent of the carpet market. Today there are fewer individual companies to make decisions that affect the entire industry. This creates even stronger competition between the major competitors.Fortunately, growth has been strong for the carpet industry in the past few years. This years projections are strong again. The rug portion of the business continues to grow as well. Carpet corporations are growing in other ways and taking advantage of its existing distribution capabilities and expanding product offerings to include wood, ceramic tile, laminates and other home furnishings products, such as comforters, throws and table textiles. CRI - Issue Driven

The CarpetandRug Institute (CRI), Dalton, Ga., is the national trade association for the carpet and rug industry. CRIs membership consists of manufacturers and suppliers representing over 90 percent of all carpets and rugs produced in the United States. CRI is led by Ron VanGelderen, president, and Dan Frierson, CEO, the Dixie Group, who is chairman of the CRI Board.According to VanGelderen, CRI will be issue driven with an outreach attitude. The focus will be on: various technical issues in fields of health, the environment and schools; issues addressed with governmental agencies; and communication of all the findings on these issues.CRI has many challenging roles. For instance, carpet in the school market is being challenged because there is a perception that carpet is more difficult to clean. The fact is, nationwide, maintenance tends to be lacking and budgets are diminished because of added demands for budget and other issues, such as security. CRI and the industry will focus on communicating the facts to schools and assisting them in knowing how to specify appropriate carpets for school, and how to care for carpet and other floorcoverings effectively and efficiently, VanGelderen said. The Bigger Get BetterWith hard surface flooring growing dramatically and getting stronger with many carpet manufacturers as well, diversification appears to be the name of the game. Even Shaw Industries Inc., Dalton, Ga., is now marketing ceramic and laminate floorings as well as carpets and rugs.If you include Armstrong World Industries, a dominant vinyl floorcovering business, in total North American floorcovering sales, youll see four dominant floorcovering players: Armstrong, Shaw, Mohawk and Beaulieu. They control 60 percent of the total North American floorcovering sales.Shaw Industries is considered the largest carpet mill in the world with 1998 sales of over $3.5 billion. After trying the retail business for a few years, its retail operations were sold to the Maxim Group. The firms addition of Queen Carpet and its commercial divisions, Designweave and Patcraft, gave a tremendous boost in the commercial market. Mohawk Industries, Calhoun, Ga., made even bigger in-roads after purchasing Aladden Mills in 1994. Several others mills were acquired and then last year, it made another significant move by acquiring World Carpets. Mohawk then acquired Image Carpets, the nations largest producer of polyester carpet, and Durkan Patterned Carpet. Mohawk is also strong in both residential and commercial carpets. The firms 1998 sales were over $2.6 billion.Beaulieu of America, Dalton, Ga., had 1998 sales of about $1.5 billion. Beaulieu, a privately owned firm, has also made several acquisitions in 1998. It acquired Marglen Industries, Columbus Mills and Peerless Carpet of Canada. Strong in both the residential and commercial markets, Beaulieu is the only carpet manufacturer in the United States that makes its own polypropylene polymer.Carpet mills are now manufacturing various sizes of carpets including: modules or carpet tiles for the constantly changing office; 6-foot goods for ease of handling; the traditional 12- and 15-foot broadloom goods; and 4-meter carpet for export.These new systems and products are answers to end users desire for a variety of products that meet various performance and installations needs. An example of this is the need for a moisture-impervious carpet for health-care and educational use, or a more sectioned surface for walking comfort and insulation and sound abating qualities in retail installations. Fiber AdvancementsCarpet mills and fiber manufacturers are having research and development successes in producing new fibers. There are advancements in old fibers; new backing systems which includes advancements in soft backing, attached cushions, PVC (polyvinylchloride) backings and hard backing that are alternatives to PVC and entirely new products, such as Sollenium from Interface.Fiber companies are still where a large majority of the action takes place. They definitely keep pace with whats happening and todays technologies. These companies dont just adapt to change, they sometimes lead it.And where would the industry be without marketing Relationship marketing abounds and has been around since we bartered with fur pelts and salt. But there is a difference. Its now also about continually reinforcing your brand name so goods or services are continually seen.BASF realized this and has started a marketing campaign with a new direction. The campaign is centered around a new adaptation of its familiar slogan, We dont make the carpet, we make the carpet better and focuses on advantages accountability, sustainability, versatility and durability. This new campaign was launched at the recent NeoCon market in Chicago. BASF is among the top 10 producers of chemicals and related products in the United States, Canada and Mexico, with sales of $7.2 billion in 1998.With its reputation for innovations for solution-dyed nylon, BASF has introduced 10 new colors for its contract nylon carpet products. Designers and specifiers will be excited about the versatility these new colors bring to our current color pallet, said Ian Wolstenholme, sales and marketing manager for BASFs carpet fiber products said. BASF is also incorporating recycled content in all of its branded Zeftron® solution-dyed and natural nylon carpet yarn products. Additionally, it is extending its 6ix Again® carpet recycling program to all mill extruders who use BASF Ultramid® Nylon 6 polymer containing recycled content as part of BASFs ongoing commitment to environmental responsibility and sustainable development.DuPont Flooring Systems is a fully integrated flooring product and services distribution network. Dedicated to delivering total customer satisfaction, it is a single source for floorcovering needs, including products, installation, maintenance and reclamation.Most of the new technology at DuPont improves styling capabilities of Antron® Legacy nylon and Antron Lumena® solution nylon. Dave Findlay, director, DuPont Chemical Flooring, related that DuPont has concentrated on developing new tools to help mill customers create carpets with deeper, richer, more vivid colors with its Antron Legacy nylon. We have introduced nearly 20 new colors in a smaller fiber size to provide more versatility with both color and design, Findlay said. A new innovation for Antron Lumena is the DuPont ColorLink technology that creates a random pattern of color throughout the carpet, a styling capability that has not previously been possible with solution-dyed nylon fiber.Continuing to lead the industry in surface energy technology, DuPonts DuraTech® patented soil-resistance treatment is the most durable fluorochemical/soil-release product available today. DuraTech is an integral part of Antron Legacy nylon and Antron Lumena solution-dyed nylon. Findlay says that DuPont continually takes steps to improve their environmental offering.More than 50 percent of the production of Antron Lumena solution-dyed nylon contains recycle-content nylon. In addition, DuPont Flooring Systems is committed to keeping all carpet removed out of landfills. Since Carpet Reclamations Programs inception, approximately 44 million pounds of carpet have been reclaimed, Findlay said. New TechnologyThe carpet industry has countless combinations of carpet patterns, textures and fibers. New technology is making the fashion side of the industrys products very exciting. The advancements in tufting technology allow many more patterned and textured carpet styles. The advancements now offer fashion-oriented choices instead of the majority of products being a commodity of beige plush.VanGelderen noted that this is happening in residential as well as commercial business and seems to be the norm instead of the exception. The challenge on the residential side will be to encourage traditional carpet retailers to stock the new patterns and assist the consumer in knowing how to decorate with them.On the commercial side, the designers are embracing the patterns easily and quickly.

August 1999