Editor’s Note:Industry Q&A is an ongoing feature profiling members of the industry and their companies. Interested in participating? Contact Jeff Golden atGoldenJ@bnpmedia.comor (818) 224-8035 ext. 2218.
NFTrecently spoke with Ralph Boe, ceo and president of Beaulieu of America, about emerging trends in residential and commercial carpet products, as well as the importance of being a green manufacturer.
What technology and design trends are you seeing in residential carpet?
As the business went down due to the economy, and as raw material costs went up, the spun business has been slowly disappearing. Nylon spun yarns have pretty much gone from the market. Since nylon costs went up considerably more than polyester costs, there has been a shift to more polyester in the industry. We will all need to put more capacity in place to make new bcf yarns out of polyester, as well as nylon bcf.
From a product standpoint, in the last two decades residential has gone from straight-set saxonies to textures and now to friezes and pin dots. There is also clearly a move to softer fibers. Certainly we are doing everything we can there to create nylon and polyester soft products.There is also more of a movement to multi-color yarns and barber pole type looks, by taking two different colors of solution-dyed [fiber] or maybe taking a white yarn and combining it with a spice yarn and over-dyeing the carpet.
What trends are you seeing in the commercial segment?
We haven’t seen the bottom [of the tough economic climate] yet. Hospitality is still in pretty rough shape as a category. Corporate offices are not recovering as quickly as we’d like. Commercial is going to lag behind residential in its recovery.
Commercial broadloom is continuing to decline and tile is continuing to grow; I think the patterns in tile are a little more subtle, maybe a little more forgiving. It looks like tile will continue to be made using predominately solution-dyed nylon and nylon bcf.
Of course, in commercial, the green story is important; much more so than in residential. We have a backing system called Nexterra, with a very high, 85 percent content of post-consumer material in the backing. It’s made from a combination of recycled glass and modified recycled PET. Nexterra has received a platinum rating from NSF 140.
How important is green to the residential market?
Well, people like to think about green. They want the businesses they do business with to be environmentally conscientious. But on the same token they are not really willing to pay for greener products. If the cost is lower or the same it’s okay. If the cost is higher they are much more reluctant.
What are some of your company’s green efforts?
We have a whole polyester recycling bottling company that turns old bottles into 100 percent post-consumer face fiber. We’re using resin from post-consumer recycling for bcf polyester as well.
We’re using more green energy and saving energy. The electricity we use comes off a grid produced from windmills across the country. We’re also able to reduce energy and water consumption in dyeing carpet and coating carpet, as well as reusing a lot of industrial waste, and regenerating that into fibers.
How did your partnership with Invista’s Stainmaster brand come about?
We’ve had a product called Magic Fresh for years now. It’s a substance we apply to the fiber or put it in the backing to reduce odor in the room. We got together with Invista and spent a couple of years convincing them of the benefits of this material. As a result, for the first time they agreed to co-market with a carpet manufacturer on something other than their own technology.
I think they felt this would be an added niche to move Stainmaster beyond where it has been. It gives the collection [Bliss Stainmaster with Magic Fresh carpet] much better positioning at retail. Also, the partnership gives credibility to the Magic Fresh program.
Do you think the economic climate is improving in residential?
We’re starting to see some signs of recovery already. The units shifted this year in residential have grown a bit. The dollars are still catching up because people want to keep the cost of refurbishment down, but overall the carpet business has been a little better. In the second quarter and beyond we think we’re going to see some dollar recovery as well.
- Michael Chmielecki