Recently, I attended a national franchise convention that featured a well-known consultant from Dalton, Ga., as the keynote speaker. His mission was to inform the attendees of trends in the carpet manufacturing industry that will eventually impact their business. I listened attentively to Lew Miglore as he attempted to predict trends that will impact the cleaning industry in general. My role as IICRC president, of course, is to glean information that will impact IICRC issues, especially the certified firm program and the S100 Carpet Cleaning Standard Committee, both now and in the future.
I’d like to share with you some of the comments that really caught my attention:
- The carpet manufacturing industry’s consolidation continues. At the beginning of the ‘90s there were 400 mills; about 90 exist today.
- Shaw is the largest carpet manufacturer and has emphasized vertical integration from fiber to carpet; from distribution to quality assurance; from installation to cleaning (hence their decision to use only IICRC Certified Firms to maintain warranties on many carpet styles starting Jan. 1, 2008).
- Mohawk is the largest floor covering manufacturer, producing carpet as well as other floor covering products.
- The big three – Shaw, Mohawk and Beaulieu – produce some 80 percent of all residential floor covering. Approximate market shares are: Mohawk, $8 billion; Shaw, $6 billion; Beaulieu, $1.1 billion; Tarkett, $0.73 billion; Mannington, $0.69 billion; Interface, $0.56 billion, and the Dixie Group, $0.31 billion.
- Carpet is sold three ways: approximately 35,000 retailers sell the majority of floor covering. Home centers – big-box outlets, such as Home Depot and Lowes – are next, and finally, the carpet manufacturers directly.
- Mohawk is the manufacturer name most recognized by consumers (8 percent of population), while “StainMaster” continues to be the carpet brand most recognized by consumers. Interestingly, DuPont never made any carpet, only fiber. But DuPont did spend $50 million to introduce the StainMaster brand in 1986 and their successors have continued to promote it since. Today, Koch Industries (Invista) continues to spend $50-$100 million annually to promote the StainMaster brand.
- Both nylon and polyester (now) are being produced in continuous filament form for higher production efficiency, whereas polyester used to be all staple.
- More nylon and polyester fibers are being solution dyed.
- Commercial carpet fiber percentages for the transport (automobiles), hospitality, healthcare and institutional markets were, as of 2006: nylon, 90 percent; polypropylene (olefin), 2 percent; and wool, 8 percent. Olefin and nylon often are blended in commercial goods.
- Backings: Soft Back, originally produced by Shaw, is being used in Mohawk and Beaulieu products. Thermal backs (no latex or polypropylene secondary) provide better fusing of face yarns and backing to virtually eliminate delamination and tuft sprouting. Adhesive backed or “free-lay” carpet is easy to recycle, which represents a growing trend.
- Consumer buying priorities (much like carpet-cleaning service purchases) include: quality, value, service, performance, color and price. Note the priorities, with price being last. Sounds a lot like a good marketing priority list for a successful cleaning service business.
- New trends include carpet reclamation, recycling, and soy and corn-based fiber to replace oil-based.
- Tufted carpet styles increasingly will include: more elaborate tufting patterns are entering the commercial market; tufting patterns are increasing in the residential market as well; California shags (egad!), that can’t be vacuumed or cleaned, combine cabled and frieze yarns because customers want something different; manufacturers constantly are searching for the latest “Wow!” factor; computer-controlled video tufting patterns (70% of carpet cost is in pile yarns) – a computer reads a complex pattern and then tufts it in a straight line; six-frame computerized broadloom tufting machines increasing to 12-frame machines, and computer yarn placement (CYP) tufting as the future trend.
- Total flooring market share includes: carpet – 17.62 billion or 68% of the market; hard surface – 33.2% or 8.74 billion (ceramic is first, followed by hardwood, laminate and rubber), and rugs continue strong growth, currently gaining some 25% of total production in Dalton these days. If you aren’t in rug or hard surface cleaning yet, you should consider taking an IICRC-approved Rug Cleaning Technician (RCT) certification or Floor Care Technician (FCT) courses soon.
- The big companies: Mohawk and Shaw will continue to get bigger.
- Luxury flooring continues to fare well in the consumer market place. Specialty carpet manufacturers are doing well.
Recent industry findings include the following:
- Consumer’s biggest concern with carpet is soiling – maintenance and cleaning, something that the Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI) has identified through consumer focus groups. Indeed, the carpet manufacturer’s biggest complaint is soiling.
- Consumer complaints are what instigated the CRI Seal of Approval (SOA) program for chemicals and equipment, which is recognized by the IICRC.
- “Cleaning green” is a major priority, particularly on the consumer side. This instigated the CRI Green Label program.
- The CRI-SOA program is a major step toward addressing consumer concerns about carpet as the “floor covering of choice.”
- Major mills’ alliance with the IICRC is predicted to have a major impact on resolving consumer concerns about carpet maintenance and cleaning.
- Several carpet manufacturers have entered the professional carpet cleaning business.
- All manufacturers and new programs are emphasizing IICRC Certified Firms with certified technicians performing referral work. Check out the CRI website . . . you’ll find a reference to IICRC including the website link and 800 number.
- The importance of proper maintenance and cleaning is emphasized in several areas: for residential warranty maintenance; to make carpet last longer; to maintain better appearance for longer periods; for routine maintenance, and to solve warranty service problems for carpet manufacturers.
- Common-sense recommendations by cleaners for consumers: spots add substance that attracts soil, stains add color and discolorations remove color; patterns hide spots, stains and soil; carpet color has a major impact on soil perception, and yellow and light blue are the worst colors to choose
- Implications for industry professionals: Mill warranties now demanding cleaning frequencies to maintain warranty, typically at least every 18-24 months using IICRC Certified Firm. Consistent advertising and marketing wins business big. Successful cleaners maintain closer links with the industry through IICRC promotional programs, manufacturers, buying groups and carpet dealers.
Bottom line, carpet is still very popular and clean carpet is in! Carpet protectors are improved and are demanded by consumers, but only if you remind them of the importance of applying it to their clean carpet.
It is my hope that this abbreviated overview of the flooring market will be helpful in guiding the future decisions of industry professionals. Today, more than ever, the time is ripe for industry professionals to unite under the IICRC banner as Certified Firms. Not only are your industry colleagues depending on you, but so also are carpet manufacturers, consumers and allied affiliates in other industries.