Consumer demand is on the rise for carpet, and intense focus and investment is making these soft surfaces attention-grabbers once again. Despite hard surface continuing to be the preferred choice for most of the home, carpet regained some share during the second half of 2020, according to Catalina Research.

“Folks are wanting to get back to the warmth and comfort of carpet,” said Jamie Welborn, vice president of product management, soft surface, Mohawk. “Maybe carpet will never be like it used to be, but I do see us having a better chance to get some revival jobs right now because of how far the technology has come with color and design.”

During the pandemic, with people working from home and their children doing virtual school, carpet offered homeowners a softer, quieter and more comfortable backdrop to their hours at home. Homeowners increased spending on do-it-yourself flooring projects since stay-in-place orders made consumers leery to have a professional installer enter their home. While this gave a boost to purchases of engineered wood, laminate, and rigid-core luxury vinyl planks, area rug sales also benefited. Homeowners continue to purchase rugs as a way to soften hard surface flooring, and they are also a less expensive and less permanent way to refresh the look of a room. During 2021, however, homeowners will be more willing to have professional installers work in homes as more people get vaccinated.

Advances in design, tufting technologies, and improvements in backings and constructions making an impact in broadloom and carpet tile, in both the commercial and residential spaces.

“I am very encouraged we are seeing after that valley of sales reports in the late first and second quarter of 2020,” said Tim Baucom, president and CEO, Shaw Industries. “The second half to the year we saw a dramatic improvement in year-over-year sales, particularly in the residential sector. All of these people staying home have recounted they need to refresh their home and a lot of the choices they are making consider children and dogs—they recognize the aesthetic and acoustic benefits of soft floor covering. I think we will see this trend continue for a while.”

Innovations in Clean Carpet

Now more than ever, a key consumer concern involves the cleanliness of their homes. In Mannington’s research, almost 90% of consumers responded that they want a floor that helps to keep their home cleaner. Microban antimicrobial surface protection helps protect the surface of the floor 24/7 against the growth of bacteria and remains 99% cleaner than untreated surfaces.

Phenix Flooring, a division of Mannington, announced the launch of FloorEver, a new collection of durable carpet that can withstand the demands of active households, including pets and kids serves up. Exclusive to Phenix, the collection features the lifetime protection of Microban antimicrobial technology, that helps protect 24/7 against the growth of bacteria, mold and mildew and remains 99% cleaner than untreated surfaces.

“This state-of-the-art fiber provides inherent stain, fade and soil resistance,” said Jason Surratt, vice president of residential carpet, Phenix Flooring.  “And because it’s made form durable nylon, the carpet will bounce back time and again, looking newer longer. We have also included selected SureSoftSD polyester products in the FloorEver program so consumers can shop a single display and find something that fits their budget.”

In addition, the company added a new style in its popular Modern Contours collection, which also features Microban. Inspired by curated styles and textures that emulate luxury fabrics found in high-end fashions, the materials and knitting techniques used to create this collection create flooring masterpieces that bring a vibrant, sophisticated look to a room. The newest product to be added to the collection, Pristine, focuses on creating a warm and  comforting atmosphere in the home. Fusing both Japanese and Scandi design styles, this style  offers a balanced backdrop for neutral, off-white beiges.

The Modern Contours display attracts fashion conscious consumers and allows the shopper to see inspiration as she approaches the display. The front card provides a full-flooring solution with three unique color palettes and the display features a larger showcase of product which allows her to more vividly imagine the product in her own home. For the retail salesperson, it will now come standard as a spinner to optimize space on the retail sales floor.

Several of Shaw Floors’ 2021 new introductions, including Harmonious III, Framed View and Iconic Way, combine solution dyed, piece-dyed and dye variant SKUs all in the same product. All of these are guaranteed to prevent color loss and fading as a result of bleach and other common household cleaners, making it easier for homeowners to care for their surfaces, according to Teresa Tran, vice president of Shaw Floors retail channel.

Mohawk is refreshing its stylish, environmentally-friendly EverStrand carpet line to make it even easier for retailers to provide homeowners with a solution for a cleaner home while also contributing to a cleaner planet.

“There is a good opportunity now to have messages around cleanliness and cleanability with health and wellbeing top of mind in 2021,” said Denise Silbert, vice president marketing, soft surface, Mohawk.

With consumers, particularly millennials, preferring sustainable flooring options more than ever before, EverStrand allows homeowners feel as though their carpet selections are making a difference.

“Our polyester carpet features the highest-quality PET fiber made from up to 100 percent recycled content including plastic bottles,” Welborn said. “These bottles are recycled daily through our Continuum process. Since we started Continuum, we have recycled more than 50 billion bottles. This patented process allows us to help keep plastics out of oceans, waterways and natural environments.”

While EverStrand contributes to a cleaner planet, it also offers additional advantages for busy families: stain and soil protection of EasyClean protects EverStrand carpets from spills and makes them simple to clean, keeping carpets looking newer, longer. Additionally, EverStrand Soft Appeal provides enhanced softness and ForeverFresh odor-reducing technology.

Reduced cleanup time and simplified maintenance means families can spend more time making memorable moments and less time worrying about their floors.

“We are focusing more on the benefits that the process and innovations bring to consumers,” Silbert said. “Reduced cleanup time and simplified maintenance means families can spend more time making memorable moments and less time worrying about their floors. Plus, they can still feel good knowing they’ve selected an environmentally conscious carpet option.”

Mohawk also reinvigorated its SmartStrand collections, introduced more than 15 years ago, by appealing to consumers with a story of easy care, durability and environmental friendliness. SmartStrand and SmartStrand Silk include Mohawk’s exclusive All Pet Protection warranty. In addition, SmartStrand Silk is constructed with 700 silk-like, stain-resistant fibers. That is three times more individual fibers than found in traditional carpets—making it a soft and luxurious choice, the Welborn said.

“Because of its relevance to today’s consumer, we are expanding our messaging for all SmartStrand and SmartStrand Silk products to reinforce its environmental impact. SmartStrand carpet fiber is OEKO-TEX certified free from harmful substances and made in part from annual renewable plant-based ingredients. That way, RSAs and consumers can easily understand that SmartStrand is safe for homes and the environment. Additionally, we are rolling out an enhanced warranty for SmartStrand products this year so that we can further differentiate the line.”

Innovations in Style

Shaw Floors has been intentional this year about simplifying and amplifying the timing of its product launches. “Large product introductions year after year can be overwhelming, as we know RSAs have a lot on their plate,” Tran said. “Strategic, phased product cycles allow us to focus our product training on targeted styles and service sample orders quickly. We can also further understand and respond to shifting market needs, monitoring consumer trends and purchasing habits to ensure our customers get the right products at the right time. Our phase one new introductions offer true solutions by helping to reduce noise levels in the home or sprucing up a new home office with a custom rug- and at price points that won’t break the bank.”

Simply The Best Values is a collection of value products. The price point is highly competitive but still offers exciting visual and variety. These floors offer a 15-year warranty. The Foundations collection offers timeless styles to endure the test of time. The collection is made of classic style from solid, accents, natural sisal loops, bold and small patterns. It offers R2X protection.

Godfrey Hirst kicked off the new year with a renewed focus and energy on high-end, fashionable carpets. The 2021 collection consists of 12 new products featuring multiple constructions, stylings and colorations designed to target the premium segment of the market.

“Retailers can expect a fresh, updated feel to the Godfrey Hirst brand,” said Jason Randolph, senior vice president of residential sales, Karastan. “We have expanded our assortment of products, which feature nylon, wool and SmartStrand fibers, with a variety of constructions and colorations designed to coordinate with any décor. The unique styling and differentiated assortment will also provide our retailers with an opportunity to increase margin and overall sales ticket.”

To complete the new product assortment, Godfrey Hirst is expanding its marketing and merchandising assets. These include targeted promotions, advertising assets and customized displays. These updated merchandising systems are available in multiple sizes and configurations, showcasing up to 50 styles. “Godfrey Hirst continues to offer an alternative to heavily distributed brands by providing a curated assortment of unique and fashionable styles with select distribution,” Randolph said. “Godfrey Hirst expands on its reputation as the leader in tufted wool styling and is elevating its premium synthetic offering with best-in-class style and design.”

For Karastan, advances in tufting technologies have enhanced designs for 2021. Karastan is expanding on the recent launch of its KaraLoom technology. These products replicate the look of woven wool carpet. This year, the assortment includes six new styles in of popular visuals. The new products feature large, chunky loops, intricate patterns and bold multicolor loops with fashionable color palettes. In 2021, Karastan will introduce 24 new products—one of the largest broadloom introductions in the history of Karastan. This assortment features a wide variety of constructions including patterns, loops and textures in the latest and most fashionable colorations.

“Karastan has always been an industry leader in color, and our new ColorMax technology expands on that leadership by providing beautifully blended colorations with superior color clarity,” Randolph said. “The proprietary dyeing processes create a high-definition visual with unmatched color depth, uniformity and clarity. We will also be expanding our KaraLoom technology, which replicates hand-crafted woven wool visuals with new constructions and colorations, including ColorMax.”

Dixie’s latest tufting innovation is TECHnique, where state-of-the-art technology blends pattern, color, and texture in harmony. “Through TECHnique, our design team has applied fashion sense and creativity with precision design to create stunning, woven-like visuals,” said Dan Phelan, vice president of marketing, Dixie Group. “We are very excited to feature six amazing new TECHnique qualities in 2021, including styles made with wool and EnVision66 nylon in our Masland and Fabrica divisions.  These products are well suited in wall-to-wall broadloom installations or as custom sized area rugs or runners.”

Keynote styles featuring the innovation include Masland TWOstep and TAPdance (nylon), and in the wool category, SMOOTHjazz and SOFTrock.  Fabrica WATERcolor and BRUSHstrokes, each featuring depth and dimension that is produced by blending multiple yarns of different dye variants and lusters to create the tonal effect in these patterns.

“TECHnique provides the high end retailer and designer segments with an exciting new portfolio of luxury in soft surface floor covering,” Phelan added.

Simplified Specifications and Installations

On the commercial side, Open Air by Interface is an expansive platform of affordable, high-performing carpet tile styles that makes it simple for contractors and designers to offer a great selection of flooring choices for open spaces. The platform’s introductory offering, Open Air Neutrals, includes an array of 22 unique geometric, linear, organic and textured patterns – all available in Interface’s best-selling neutral colors and at the same attractive price point. Select styles in the collection also feature Interface’s innovative i2 design methodology, which enables the tiles to be installed in any order or orientation, making installation and selective replacement easier.  As part of Interface’s commitment to Climate Take Back, each Open Air carpet style includes 100% recycled content nylon and is carbon neutral across its full life cycle through the Carbon Neutral Floors program.