A constant challenge for any retail business is staying on top of trends. For carpet manufacturers, awareness of new styles - as well as continued acknowledgement of classic lines - is vital to maintaining and, ideally, increasing sales. For this reason, current product trends must encompass a variety of colors and styles so that any consumer will always be able to obtain carpet that complements his or her individual personality and taste.
"The dominant feeling this season is one of pleasantness and tranquility," says Kathy Young, as she previews designer deckboard collages of contemporary room scenes, fabrics, color chips, and carpet swatches in the color studio at Shaw Industries' Research and Development Center in Dalton, Ga.
"It's an emotionally pleasing palette," she adds. "Pale but not pastel. Rich, clear, delicate color that soothes - like walking into a flower garden."
As marketing product manager for Shaw's Queen/Sutton division, one of Young's tasks is to design carpet products that reflect the current and future directions in home fashion. These, of course, are influenced by national and international trends.
"Our responsibility as a manufacturer is to go across the country doing research on customer needs and fashion trends," she explains. "Demands differ according to region, and we make sure each area has the right color palette and look. At the same time, we offer core colors and styles - the basics."
"But these new colors are so delicate and beautiful - timeless, really - that some may become 'instant classics,'" she says. " It's going to be easy and fun to build fashionable products this fall."
And what colors inspire such enthusiasm? According to Shaw's design team, the following selections are the season's big winners:
greens and blues that blur into each other, or blue-greens and green-blues.
"Colors are being seen in fresh and unusual combinations, too," notes Shaw designer Maria Scott. "This is contributing to the excitement."
Current design influences - both in home fashion and clothing - are no less exciting. These influences reflect several diverse themes such as the impact of Moroccan, Middle Eastern, and Asian culture; folk art; French Provencal, with its olive branch and wheat sheaf motifs; and florals including roses, amaryllis, and gerber daisies in vibrant oranges and reds.
"Water is also a prevalent image, represented not only through color but in its physical presence in interiors." designer Jan Dyer points out. "Fountains are everywhere!"
"Overall, we're seeing a very eclectic group of trends representing various lifestyles - urban sophisticate, exotic multiculturalism, Hollywood glamour, spa comfort," says Senior Stylist Kathi Golden. "The idea is to unclutter and personalize one's space, to create an oasis that provides tranquility while reflecting the character of the individual."
And when it comes to identifying all these trends, each of the Shaw stylists has a preferred method.
"The International Home Furnishing Market in High Point (N.C.) is my favorite resource for colors and trends," Golden says. "We also watch fabrics closely."
"We're all members of the Color Marketing Group," Scott interjects, "which publishes a quarterly newsletter, maintains a great website and meets twice a year. CMG is an excellent source of design and color ideas."
Once the trends are felt in the country at large, it doesn't take long for them to influence carpet styling.
"We're on top of it," says Young. "With the softer fibers we're using in carpet, and these lovely clear colors, the combined effect is even more luxurious. The consumer who's shopping for floor covering this season is fortunate because the colors will draw her, and then she'll fall in love with the silky touch."
With so much texture and color in carpet these days, Young believes it's easier than ever to create an atmosphere of both physical and psychological comfort.
"Today's carpet customer is savvy and sophisticated," says Young. "She follows design trends. She has become increasingly aware that the floor need not be a big expanse of neutral background. It can, and should, be another marvelous design element in her home."
And that floor-as-design element can be essential to developing the fashionable statement today's homeowner wants to make. "Carpeting in a beautiful, clear color and lush, silky texture definitely says 'wow,'" Young concludes.
Carpet Marketing Hints for Flooring Dealers
When it comes to putting current floor covering design trends in perspective with other popular home furnishings, few merchandising means at the flooring dealer's disposal are as eye-catching and forceful as the vignette.
"One of the most effective presentation tools for a store is the lifestyle vignette," says Shaw designer Maria Scott. "It's an arrangement of items found in a well-decorated home and chosen according to a visual theme or type of look, such as ethnic/safari, modern/urban, old world/heritage, etc."
Scott's design colleague Jan Dyer agrees that the vignette is the way to go. "It conveys a cozy atmosphere in a small amount of space and helps customers visualize how carpet will actually look in a room setting."
An effective, aesthetically pleasing vignette might consist of:
Shaw's Kathi Golden adds other suggestions for vignette creativity. "Use what's available," she advises. "You might cover a container in moss and 'plant' some silk flowers. Find flea market chairs with a retro feel, and use them with a funky lamp. Reupholster that old ottoman in gorgeous fabric and tassels.
"Suspend old wooden windows with peeling paint to suggest an outside wall, and play up the gardening craze," Golden continues.
"All kinds of looks are popular now. Pick one and let your imagination go. Develop an effective lifestyle vignette, and it will resonate with female customers."