To confirm what many specialty floor covering retailers/contractors and designers/architectural specifiers already knew, carpet cushion is an important part of any carpet sale — and highly profitable part, at that.

To arrive at this conclusion, National Floor Trends. commissioned another in our ongoing series of market studies designed to help retailers/contractors enhance the success and profitability of their businesses. Identifying current product/sales trends, and projecting the industry’s future direction, is imperative to making strategic decisions that ensure growth and prosperity.

Our carpet cushion findings are based on responses culled from a representative cross-section of the dealer, contractor and architectural specifier segments of NFT’s subscriber base. The study was designed and conducted by the market research staff of Business News Publishing Co., in conjunction with the editorial staff of NFT. A sample of 1,000 active qualified floor covering dealers/contractors and dealers/architectural specifiers was selected on an Nth-name basis from the domestic circulation list of NFT subscribers.

How can our findings help your business? Consider your product mix and percentage of carpet sales in light of our study results. Have you underestimated or overlooked the potential impact carpet cushion can have on your own bottom line? Let’s examine the data.

First off, 81% of survey respondents indicated that they fully understand the importance of making carpet cushion an integral part of the carpet sale. And 72% recognize the significant profit potential carpet cushion adds to any carpet sale.

The study explored the use of the various types of carpet cushion currently manufactured for the residential and commercial sectors. A whopping 98% of respondents said they recommend carpet cushion to residential buyers “always” or “most of the time.” On the commercial side, 27% said they always recommend cushion, 23% said they do most of the time, 27% said they “sometimes” recommend it, and 23% admitted they “rarely” do. In addition, the type of cushion sold with most carpet jobs breaks down as follows (mean percentages): separate cushion, 60%; direct glue-down, 27%; attached cushion, 8%; and double glue, 5%.

Types of Cushion Specified (multiple responses allowed). The industry is dominated by Bonded/Rebond/Chip Foam cushion, which is sold or specified 87% of the time. The next most popular types, in descending order, are: fiber, 42%; rubber/latex, 36%; and polyurethane foam, 31%.

Respondents identified the overriding trend in cushion as moving toward higher densities, with higher quality cushion being specified. Concerns raised by study participants focused on retailers not giving customers a choice, as well as consumers falling victim to frugal salespeople who fail to ensure that their customers receive a quality, installation-appropriate product.

Reasons for Specifying Carpet Cushion. According to the study findings, the most important reasons for specifying carpet cushion are “added carpet life,” “comfort/feel,” and “sound reduction.”

Reasons Against Specifying Carpet Cushion. “Cost,” “wrinkling” and “installation re-stretch problems” were the three most frequently mentioned reasons against specifying carpet cushion.

Carpet Cushion Benefits. According to 93% of survey respondents, consumers and specifiers feel that a comfortable surface is the most important benefit associated with carpet cushion. Next in importance is increased occupant comfort at 87%, with carpet appearance retention following at 83%. Extended carpet life ranked next at 81%; and increased savings due to less frequent carpet replacement came in at 54%.

Better sound insulation, at 49%, was found to be the next most important benefit, followed by easier maintenance at 47%; better thermal insulation, 44%; and recyclability, 24%.

Using a Good, Better, Best Selling System.Both the retailer/contractor and designer/architectural specifier segments use a three-tier program for selling cushion. Our survey shows that they definitely place greater emphasis on the “better” and “best” levels. Notice in chart, the frequent use of the “best” program in the residential and commercial categories.

Knowledge of Carpet Cushion. Clearly, education constitutes the path to increased product sales. This maxim definitely applies to carpet cushion.

In terms of their familiarity with cushion, 34% of our study respondents rated themselves as “very knowledgeable” and 61% described themselves as “somewhat knowledgeable.” On the subject of product education, respondents said they sought cushion sales and training from (multiple responses allowed): the cushion distributor, 48%; the cushion manufacturer, 43%; carpet manufacturer, 29%; and installer, 11%.

Seventy-one percent of respondents said they received from their cushion representative training adequate enough to enable them to answer questions from the consumer/specifier. Among the 29% who said that had not received adequate training, the underlying response, to paraphrase, was the cushion rep was more interested in selling cushion than explaining the benefits to the consumer/specifier.

Free cushion offers definitely send a mixed message to the consumer who is purchasing carpet. Today, consumers are aware those “free offers” carry increased pricing on other products and services associated with the sale. And, a free offer may also undermine your ability to sell up the “good, better and best” cushion categories.