Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Axminster icon, Brintons Carpet, in default

Jim Gould
Comment on News.
Brintons Carpets is in default of their covenants with Lloyds Banking Group according to a recent article published in the British Business Sale Report  (British Carpet business seeking a white knight).

Brintons was a formidable competitor when I was a wholesale distributor of Mohawk Carpet supplying national chains like Wendy's, Bob Evans, Hyatt Hotels and others. This nearly 230 year old company managed by the sixth generation of the founders is based in Kidderminster, England. It has a brilliant history and was once the leader of pattern axminster carpet production globally. In America, their strength was in woven axminster carpet for the commercial market; in the UK and Europe patterned residential carpet was their largest market.  Late in the 20th century, Brintons purchased the Mohawk axminster plant in Greenville, Mississippi from Sam Silver.  Sam, an ex-Vice President of Mohawk, had purchased the plant from David Kolb and named it US Axminster. For a long time the Greenville Mill owned by Mohawk, US Ax and finally Brintons, was the only manufacturer of patterned axminster carpets in America. That plant was eventually closed and the equipment was sent abroad.

Technology improvements in carpet printing, color placement tufters, lower manufacturing costs of tufting, and carpet's shrinking market share have impacted Brintons and other manufacturers of woven carpets. I am still convinced that for performance and beauty, nothing beats an axminster. I hope that Brintons is able to weather this storm and continue their long history of making well styled, high quality and beautiful carpets for many future generations.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Clear thinking and innovation needed in the floor covering industry

Christopher Ramey
Neither the economy or consumer confidence will likely improve any time soon.  Clear thinking and innovation are necessary for our floor covering industry to increase revenue and become more profitable.   

Executives often dismiss long term issues during difficult times; too many other issues to resolve.  It is now time to take a new and long view of our industry’s critical issues.  For example, unit sales of carpet were decreasing for years before the financial implosion.  Most floor covering retailers did not recognize the decline because it was offset by price increases.  There are many more critical issues to consider.  Paraphrasing hockey great Wayne Gretzky: “are you going where the puck is or where it is going to be?” 

One of my favorite authors is Ed De Bono.  He is considered the father of lateral thinking.  He writes that we should all be aware of “errors in thinking.”  I share this because clear thinking is an imperative for the flooring industry to remain relevant and become vibrant.  He writes that there are five such errors in thinking:

1.    “Partialism
This error occurs when the thinker observes the problem through one perspective only.  That is, the thinker examines only one or two factors of the problem and arrives at a premature solution.

2.    Adversary Thinking
This is a "you are wrong, so I should be right" type of reasoning. 

3.    Time Scale Error
This is a kind of partialism in thinking in which the thinker sees the problem from a limited time-frame.  

4.    Initial Judgment
 Here, the thinker becomes very subjective.  Instead of considering the issue or problem objectively, the thinker approaches it with prejudice or bias.

5.    Arrogance and Conceit
This error is sometimes called the "Village Venus Effect" for the villagers on a small island who think that the most beautiful girl in the world is the most beautiful girl in their village; i.e. the thinker who believes that there is no better solution other than that he has already found.” 
Innovative thinking requires cognizance of errors in thinking.  As an industry we must find new ways to solve old problems rather than accepting the status quo or the “same old same old.”  

The first 30 years of my career were focused on business management in the floor covering industry.  My client base has expanded over the last five years to include hospitality, yachting, jets, retailers, sporting clubs and many categories in-between.  I work with many brilliant people.  The common thread is that they sell products and services in the premium and luxury segments.  Another commonality is that they are particularly good thinkers.  I will not accept anything less, and neither should you.

Think differently.  It may be the only way home. - Chris Ramey

Chris Ramey is president of Affluent Insights and a member of the Floor Covering Institute.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

What's changing in the carpet fiber industry?

Lew Migliore
While I’m best known as the guy who solves problems  (particularly in the carpet industry) I get asked a lot of things about carpet: what’s new in fiber and construction for example.  Things are changing.  Nylon, once the undisputed king, is giving way to polyester, and,  there’s a new fiber called PTT.  Let’s take a look at this and more….

Nylon has been the dominant fiber used in carpet for several decades. There have been fluctuations over the years where nylon, polyester and polypropylene (olefin) have gained and lost share, and while nylon still holds the largest fiber share, polyester is gaining fast, especially in the residential segment. 

It’s hard to pin down actual fiber shares. Reports vary, but recently Floor Covering News reported that in 2005 polyester had a 13% market share which increased to 18% by 2009. During that same time, olefin shrank from 28% to 22%, indicating that polyester’s rise was at the expense of olefin. Recent estimates coming from Invista say that nylon now holds about 50% market share while polyester has increased to 30% or higher.

The shift in fiber is not the only change. In the residential market changes in configuration, coloration and sustainability are also taking place.


What’s happening with nylon fiber supply and demand?
In the commercial market, nylon is still king and its dominance there won’t change any time soon but it is losing market share in the residential side and there are a couple reasons for that. Nylon, as a raw material, costs 30-40% more than polyester because nylon’s largest ingredients are petroleum based while polyester PET, made from terephthalic acid and ethylene glycol, is not so susceptible. The demand for nylon chemistry worldwide has strained the supply of raw material and today nylon is a difficult commodity to source and receive in a timely manner.  This has extended production times and backlogs, on commercial carpet especially, to as long as 10 weeks.  As demand for commercial carpet rises, and that is definitely happening today, delivering carpet to the end user in a timely manner is becoming a problem. This is causing fits of frustration in the industry.

Besides being more readily available (a whole lot more is made globally and less susceptible to cost swings than nylon) polyester has inherent attributes which make it more resistant to staining and color loss -  both important factors in carpet performance and marketing.  When twisted adequately it will also perform extremely well.  The extrusion and processing capacity for polyester has increased exponentially and performance issues of the past, particularly matting and crushing, have been greatly overcome by properly twisting and heat setting the yarn. The result is that while polyester’s growth previously came from olefin’s share, polyester is now taking market share from nylon too.

Wool, which only occupies 2% or less of the market, is a factor in high end goods within the luxury market and in rugs.  It’s also used extensively in the hospitality market in four and five star rated hotels.  The use of wool in carpet has actually increased worldwide due to the rapid development of the world’s economies.

What’s new in fiber?
Triexta (PTT) fiber (only available now from Mohawk via DuPont) is a new form of fiber which actually possesses attributes of both polyester and nylon, but according to the FTC it is neither and has been given a category of its own: PTT. It is the first new classification of fiber for residential carpet since nylon was added 1959.  PTT is priced higher than PET and somewhat lower than nylon and is less susceptible to rising petroleum costs.


The preference in construction type has been shifting for some time from staple to continuous filament (or bulked continuous filament “BCF”), thus more fiber is used to produce BCF yarn as opposed to staple yarn.  The primary reason for this change is that BCF takes fewer steps and is therefore less costly to produce. Staple construction is a step-by-step process requiring extrusion of the fiber, cutting, blending, drawing, spinning and heat setting.  In contrast, BCF is extruded, crimped, wound and packaged at the extrusion machine.


Mohawk's solution dyed Colorstrand
Most polyester used in carpet today is “solution dyed” meaning pigment is added to the polymer melt before the fiber is extruded making color an integral part of the fiber.  The significance of solution dyeing is that it makes the fiber more colorfast and resistant to atmospheric color compromise such as UV light, ozone and oxides of nitrogen.  Solution dyeing also makes fiber more inherently stain resistant.  Polyester is inherently a more colorfast fiber and is also less susceptible to stain than nylon head to head.  This is another advantage of polyester over nylon.


Much of the polyester used in carpet is made of recycled content: recycled beverage containers. Staple polyester can be made out of 100% post-consumer content from bottles while filament can be up to 25%.  The carpet industry is one of the largest recyclers of plastic bottles in the U.S.  In fact, Mohawk already uses 25% of every recycled bottle in the U.S. and Shaw will become the largest recycler of bottles in the nation when its plant is running at full capacity. PTT adds to carpet’s sustainability story because it is 37% bio based content and it is mostly dyed with aqueous (water) based dye systems.

With all the attributes of polyester, sourcing, increased performance and additions of bio based resources coupled with the carpet industry’s ability to enhance the performance of the fiber it’s easy to conclude that polyester will continue to increase share in the residential market.  It has also begun making inroads in the commercial carpet market.

I'm always interested to hear what flooring retailers and distributors are noticing from there perspective and appreciate hearing your comments here.   - Lew Migliore

Lew Migliore is President of LGM and Associates, a technical consulting firm specializing in all aspects of product and installation performance and education. He is also a consultant with the Floor Covering Institute.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Getting Started: Social Media For Floor Covering Businesses

Christine B. Whittemore - Getting Started: Social Media For Floor Covering Businesses
Getting started with social media can be overwhelming, particulary if you're already feeling pressed for time just to deal with normal floor covering business priorities.

At the same time, ignoring it isn't wise because social media tools aren't going away, customers have adopted them and flooring businesses aren't immune to the digital and social forces affecting us all.

If you don't believe me, check out Erik Qualman's hot-off-the-press update 3 of his Social Media Revolution video.

[Subscribers, click on this link to view Social Media Revolution 3 Video on YouTube.]

Luckily, more and more in the floor covering industry have been paying attention. They are becoming more digitally immersed with tools such as blogs [see Social Flooring Blog Index - April 2011 which refers to 168 vs. 88 blogs], Facebook Fan pages, LinkedIn and Twitter, and also more engaged in the conversations taking place [see Social Flooring Index Conversations - April 11].

In the process of becoming digitally immersed and socially engaged, many are discovering that the tools of social media can help attract customers. Not only does having a presence online on blogs and in social networks help raise awareness of their flooring businesses, but it also allows these flooring professionals to realize efficiences from being able to answer online customer questions about flooring.

Furthermore, trust-building with customers can begin before they even step through a business' doors - which means they're more likely to buy than simply kick the tires some more.

Social tools allow businesses to get found by new customers, thereby generating relevant customer leads, building relationships with those leads and eventually converting them to customers. In other words, social media can definitely support lead generation, the topic of my recent presentation at MarketingProfs B2B Forum 2011.

Before reaching that point, though, it matters to get started with social media.

If you're serious about getting started, consider downloading my new Top Ten Tip Sheet for Getting Started with Social Media. It will help you manage what might otherwise seem too overwhelming to even consider.

If you're still holding back, will you let me know why in the comments?

Christine B. Whittemore
Chief Simplifier - Simple Marketing Now