Shaw’s Tailored Luxury is a mid-scale stripe pattern. The Couture style features  the cradle-to-cradle recycling story behind the Anso Caress brand.

Here we are, edging towards the fourth quarter of 2009, and this would be a good time to take a look at what’s fresh and making an impact on the carpet scene. If you attended Surfaces in February, then you already know that manufacturers raised the bar on their new carpet introductions. Let’s face it, they not only have other carpet mills to compete with, they are trying to steal market share from all the hard surface companies as well. To do that, they had to incorporate the “wow” factor like never before.

John Frink, Masland Western Region VP, romancing the new Masland Ave. zebra pattern style.

Nourison:Have to give kudos to Nourison for their exceptional styling. The Manhattan Collection was inspiring. Look for Cascade to be a designers’ favorite. The intricate background weave provides a tailored, grid-like loop as the backdrop for a plush over-tuft design. This carpet is the archetype of dimensionality. Cascade lends itself to the imagination, capturing Contemporary design lovers as well as Traditionals. Is the pattern a soft version of a garden path? Maybe it was intended to be a contemporary jigsaw design? Your customers get to make their own interpretation of Cascade and enjoy the versatility of this unique style.

Masland Carpets & Rugs:Masland teamed up with Tuftco to employ brand new tufting machinery and techniques that simulate woven wool products for the Masland Avenue Collection.  According to Kennedy Frierson, Masland president, “the innovation of using machinery capable of advanced computer yarn placement is what makes this collection a stand out.” Skein-dyed yarns in 19 hues are tufted to create color-rich patterns that produce a defined, woven look. The yarn system is Stainmaster Tactesse Luxerell, so expect these styles to have an exceptional hand as well. John Frink, Western Region vp, commented about the collection: “Masland has the first machine capable of manufacturing this kind of product.” 

Cascade from Nourison features an abstract pattern.

Mohawk:Mohawk’s SmartStrand carpets are not new to the marketplace, but what is new is Mohawk teaming up with DuPont to introduce the “triexta” fiber system in their new SmartStrand carpet styles. The FTC decided in March 2009 that DuPont’s PTT fiber far outperforms traditional polyester fibers. As a result, they awarded an entirely new fiber classification (triexta) to set it apart. After reviewing all of the testing, the FTC agreed that PTT (triexta) is definitely more stain resistant and more crush resistant than polyester. Let’s not forget it also possesses excellent colorfast properties as well. Triexta is made from 37% renewable resources, which adds even more allure to these products. In the Portico brand, look for Belmere (Guided Path in Mohawk line) to be a standout as to styling, color, and hand. The trellis design sculpted into this cut/loop carpet is both subtle and romantic--built to get your customer’s attention.

Shaw:Shaw has taken their cues from the fashion runway and built their new Anso Caress Couture products to reflect high style. Seven new Couture styles were introduced this year, among them Tailored Luxury which rocks carpet design with a mid-scale stripe pattern. It lives up to its name in that it gives a prim, tailored look to the floor. With the cradle-to-cradle recycling story behind the Anso brand, it is an added benefit to selling these uniquely crafted styles. Classical Chic and Sounds of Silence also made fashionable statements in the realm of new introductions this year.

Tuftex:With so many outstanding new introductions, what do you think our industry could possibly be missing? How about a little whimsy? How about carpets that are imaginative and playful? And so, Tuftex Carpets Mills has joined forces with the “Happiest Place on Earth” to come up with the Tuftex/Disney Carpet Collection. The collection features a colorful library-style racking system with prominent Disney signage.

I first noticed a style out of the Cars collection. A fun-tastic huge repeat design of tire tracks carved into the carpet. The entire concept of kid-themed carpets hooked me as I leafed through the storybook styles: Cars, Toy Story, Fairies, Winnie the Pooh, and the Princess Collection. 

Mohawk’s Guided Path is a cut/loop carpet with a sculpted trellis design. (Photo courtesy Mohawk.)

The best thing about Tuftex’ interpretation of these styles is they are not juvenile. They convey storybook themes, but in a quiet, sophisticated way that children may never outgrow. Several of the tone-on-tone, subtle woven designs are very grown up companion styles that coordinate color-wise, for use throughout the rest of the house. This new collection is fun, fresh, and will be much in demand. Color lines vary in each themed collection and pave the way to 2010 forecasted colors.

Let’s move on to some other noteworthy Tuftex intros. Once Upon a Time is a heathered pattern carpet featuring a leaf design that’s both classy and classic. It’s 100% cfn and offers 36 fresh, nature-based colors. Funkytown has gone shaggy with a combination of ‘thick-and-thin’ yarns and a hint of glimmer creating a new Tuftex signature product.

While researching these hot new styles, some interesting new marketing strategies came to light with the retailers I visited. Linking great products with creative ways to market them is always of high interest, so here are some of the more memorable ideas I gathered:

• Do you have audio/visual equipment on your showroom floor?  Consider adding a looping CD of your best and most design worthy installations so visitors can see your handiwork along with a separate system used to entertain children while parents shop.

• Is your website engaging and current?  Customers are shopping on-line, before they ever physically set foot in a store. According to George Lowe, president of the Southern California Floor Covering Association and Rite Loom Carpets in Anaheim, Calif., “If you are not on the web, you are dangerously behind the times.” Researchers in our industry agree. Most shoppers hit two websites, minimum, to learn about floor coverings before they venture out the door.

• Create a quarterly newsletter. Another hot idea from Lowe is a quarterly newsletter to past customers. Topics can include informative articles on floor coverings, and a Q & A section. He also spotlights a manufacturer (or distributor) in each issue, profiles one of his own salespeople, and features photography of an in-progress customer job. This newsletter goes to their past customer list, to a VIP local business-owners list, and to a rotating (selected) zip code list of homeowners. Your VIP list could include community groups and personal affiliates, including the local Chamber of Commerce, Rotary Club, Elks Club, and Boys & Girls Clubs of America.   

• Analyze and consolidate your racking systems. I saw excellent examples of custom-built racking systems that housed large numbers and sizes of stone and tile. The store’s owner was able to eliminate five free-standing wire racks and incorporate all of those samples into one, three-tier high, multi-depth unit. That’s a wise and permanent investment that netted more open floor space, as well as a better functioning “library” for tile.

2009 is stacking up the months, but it’s not too late to build some excitement into your showroom. Carpet manufacturers have invested heavily to give you enticing soft surfaces that shake things up. Now it’s up to you to integrate your sample choices, and find your own unique way to turn new styles into profits.