With a packed house of ColorCenter and Floorscapes aligned dealers in attendance, Jeff Lorberbaum, Mohawk’s chairman and CEO, said the mill is in the “strongest position ever in our history.” While 70% of its business is in the U.S., the $8 billion company has its footprint in over 150 countries, which “gives us better ideas for bringing innovative products and services to market for you.”
He told dealers, “You are where the rubber meets the road. It’s you who provides the solutions consumers need, such as design advice, and are actively involved in your local communities. When people think of Mohawk it is because of you.”
Noting how the company has recently invested $900 million in both new and existing factories, with about half of that dedicated to its flagship SmartStrand carpet along with the new Continuum process for PET, “we have the ability to provide you with unique products and improved distribution across our entire business. It’s all about bringing you the best in sales, marketing, product innovations and services.” In other words, “Solutions.”
Brian Carson, president of Mohawk Flooring, said last year it was about owning the moment, “where the customer comes to your store ready to buy. This year we want to take it to the next level and own the experience by focusing on every part of the buying process—from when she first starts looking for new flooring to going into the store to purchase it to the installation and then after in which she becomes an advocate for you and Mohawk.”
He said in just the last five years the shopping habits of consumers have changed drastically—with everything, but especially flooring—and retailers not only need to understand this change but embrace it so they can capture these in-market customers.
“Five years ago,” Carson explained, “the average buying process was 65 days, and 10% of that time was spent online doing research. Now, the buying process is over 110 days and 60% of that time is spent online. In other words, they are now spending the same amount of time online that they used to spend for the entire process. So the challenge is how do you capture consumers as they are beginning their search and just typing things in to see what is out there and steer them to our products and ultimately to your stores because in the end she will still go to a store to make the purchase.”
With every region of the country expected to grow in 2015, he said, “Mohawk wants to be a part of helping you grab that share. We expect to earn it and don’t expect for you to just come to us.”
So just how does Mohawk expect to earn this business from retailers? With innovative products and cutting edge technology. And at Solutions, Mohawk rolled out plenty of both.
Innovative products took center stage as the mill unveiled a bevy of soft and hard surfaces offerings filled with technological advances and trendy looks, while also filling in gaps to create easier trade up stories. In a number of cases, new merchandising units designed to help retailers get the most out of their space and allowing both the consumer and salesperson to more easily understand and identify with the products were also introduced.
At the top of the list was the latest development in Mohawk’s flagship carpet brand, SmartStrand, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. Tom Lape, president of Mohawk residential, said one of the reasons why SmartStrand is the company’s most successful product introduction in the mill’s nearly 140-year history is the fact “we have never stopped trying to create a better product.”
He said when SmartStrand was introduced it was revolutionary—and still is, based on how successful it has been—but over the last 10 years Mohawk has continually invested in the brand with such innovations as making it the first carpet with bio-based materials, and SmartStrand Silk, which added a whole new level of softness to what was an already soft, premium fiber.
At Solutions, Mohawk officially unveiled the next generation of the brand: SmartStrand Forever Clean featuring Nanoloc technology, which is billed as the toughest, easiest-to-clean carpet on the planet.
Carson said when it comes to SmartStrand, “nothing is more remarkable and it is exclusively Mohawk’s and sits atop the pyramid as the best carpet ever. And with Forever Clean we’re taking it to the next level. It’s like inventing the smartphone for carpet.”
Lape noted by combining SmartStrand with Nanoloc technology, Mohawk has been able to “add a layer of protection that locks out spills and makes the carpet even easier to clean. Nanoloc is an advanced spill-resistant shield made from nano particles that seamlessly lock together, which prevents dirt and spills from settling into the carpet. With SmartStrand Forever Clean, soil is released at three times the rate of other carpets.”
With nearly half a billion dollars and over two years in development, Carson said Forever Clean is “beyond innovation—it’s a revelation. This is not a tiny step forward, it’s a transformation. When consumers see it and touch it the reaction is pure love—just like when they first touched all the other SmartStrand innovations.
One more added bonus that was pointed out by Maya Sethuraman, DuPont’s business development for Sorona commercial carpet, which is the polymer used in triexta, the fiber used to make SmartStrand, the company has partnered with EcoStrate to incorporate used carpets made with the bio-based polymer in highway and street traffic signs. The product got approved for national highways on signs up to 4 x 4-ft. and not only incorporates post-consumer carpet but electronics like computers. Besides being more durable than traditional aluminum signs they are recyclable. “This is a really great story as it allows the diversion of Sorona-based carpets from the landfill.”
Mohawk executives were quick to let retailers know Forever Clean is a “now” product, meaning it is not something they will have to wait six months for. Carson said, “We’ve spent the last six months transforming the entire line and inventory to Forever Clean. In other words, every SmartStrand carpet purchased today is SmartStrand Forever Clean.”
On top of the benefits of having a carpet that is easy to clean and maintain, Mohawk has created an innovative extruding process that allows its carpets—not just SmartStrand—to have a heavier hand at a lighter face weight. In other words a 50-oz. product has the bulk and feel of a traditional 60-oz. carpet. With SmartStrand, this new yarn system is being implemented within the Ultra Essentials collection, but it can also be found on Wear-Dated nylon carpets.
Seth Arnold, Mohawk brand director, said, overall, this allows retailers natural trade up stories from EverStrand PET, which also received numerous, innovative enhancements, to Wear-Dated nylon up to SmartStrand. “We are giving consumers new products with maximum bulk, comfort and performance, even at lower weights. By leveraging Mohawk’s leadership in manufacturing innovation, we are able to offer a denser, thicker construction that is proven to perform over time.”
With all this, the company didn’t leave out its high-end luxury brand, Karastan. As Bill Storey, senior vice president, noted. “We remain committed to clearly re-defining Karastan as the fashion brand for the mid- to high-end market. We are bringing fashion and design back to a brand that has always been known for smart luxury—with carpets made of the softest, most durable fibers in the greatest styles. To this end, in 2015, you will see lots of new patterns; new looks, and clean, crisp finishes. These additions to an already diverse and energized line will even further differentiate Karastan from its competitors.”
Mohawk didn’t forget about its hard surface offerings when it came to adding a touch of innovation.
The biggest news was in laminate as Mohawk introduced two collections—Chalet Vista and Rare Vintage—featuring its popular ArmorMax technology, which up until now was only available on select hardwood products.
Roger Farabee, Mohawk’s senior vice president of marketing, said the addition of ArmorMax, which came at the suggestion of the company’s retail advisory council, makes its products two times as durable than the average laminate on the market.
“We’re investing in this category,” he explained, “because we are still seeing a lot of sales of laminate and, in the last year, we’ve seen even more success selling it to builders as it gives them the popular visuals consumers want without the hassles and all the while helping to keep their budgets down.”
The company also unveiled a commercial LVT under the Aladdin brand, which has been rebranded by coordinating colorways and offering enhanced styles across broadloom carpet, modular tile and LVT. Arnold said this gives the brand “focus and a fresh appeal for all types of commercial projects.
There were also introductions in tile utilizing Mohawk’s Reveal Imaging technology, which the company calls “one of the most sophisticated design application processes in the industry,” as well as in wood, where the company combined multi-width and longer plank offerings with the textures and styles consumers are seeking.
Beyond actual products, Mohawk’s digital offerings have been enhanced to help drive ready-to-buy consumers to retailers. Kent Clauson, Mohawk’s vice president of brand and digital, said last year we launched the Cloud, and this year we’re going beyond with four key buttons (ideas): Find, Love, Buy and Share. It’s all about how we find the consumer who is online looking for flooring and help her fall in love—become passionate—about our products and then connecting them with our dealers to give them the confidence to buy, and finally to share it all on social media.”
To help with this effort, Mohawk has relaunched its website, mohawkflooring.com.
He said for dealers, “We want you to meet your new salesperson, as the site was designed to deliberately drive her to the dealer by being both user friendly and intuitive so it helps her widdle her choices from the thousands of products/SKUs available to the few that truly meet her wants and needs.”
Mohawk also presented its aligned dealers with a plethora of other initiatives—including partnerships with realtors and financial institutions—all aimed at helping to bring business to their doorsteps. “The consumer is changing the way she shops and buys floor covering and to be successful we all have to change,” Carson said. “We need to be players, not bystanders.”
Retailers overall were impressed with what was presented during the convention.
Craig Press of Impressive Floors in Bedford, Pa., and a ColorCenter Elite member, echoed the sentiments of many when he said Forever Clean will be a “game changer…by keeping us ahead of the competition.” He was also very impressed with the new yarn system to create a heavier hand. “It’s very apparent, as the consumer is very sensitive to this because they are always checking the fullness of the product and with this you can definitely feel the difference.”
Just outside of the Karastan area, Marty Schallock of Malkins Flooring in Menomonee Falls, Wis., said he certainly noticed the heavier hand in the carpets. “They look and feel wonderful.” And when it came to Forever Clean, “I think people will like the terminology as the consumer can really relate to those words.”
Loren De Wit of Vander Berg Furniture & Flooring in Sioux Center, Iowa, said Forever Clean “adds to our story as we’ve already been selling SmartStrand as the toughest, most durable carpet and this gives it even more creditability.”
Nationally known interior designer Chip Wade, who is also a spokesperson for Mohawk, said whether it is soft or hard surfaces “Mohawk has always been at the forefront of aesthetics but now it upped the stakes on function by making products that are essentially worry free which allows people to really enjoy their purchase. I’m so confident in recommending these products to my clients because it will make them feel better in their homes.”