By Matthew Spieler
Hard surface flooring may still be the darling of the industry, but ask most carpet mill executives and they will tell you broadloom is making a comeback. At recent markets and conventions retailers have been purchasing rolls of carpet in larger quantities than officials anticipated. Much of this has to do with the latest developments on the fiber side of the category as both mills and suppliers are producing a variety of yarns that feature greater styling and performance attributes. All this is helping the segment rise to a new level of consumer satisfaction.
One of the big movements in fiber is the development of yarns that are no longer 100% dependent on petroleum—from having recycled content to being fully recyclable to using new types of material instead of oil to make the product.
Leading the charge in the recycled arena is Shaw Industries and its Anso nylon brand. All 2007 Anso products carry the Shaw Green Edge identification. In addition, new Anso products carry N6 identification to tell consumers the products are not only recyclable, but the carpet contains post-consumer recycled carpet content.
And, whether it contains recycled content or is made fully from recycled fiber, Mike Leary, director of Shaw’s External Fiber Sales & Marketing, said there is no difference from broadloom made from virgin materials. And that includes the price. “You couldn’t tell a carpet style made from recycled material apart from the same style made with virgin fiber. In addition to the looks, the durability is still there.”
Thanks to new innovations at the manufacturing level combined with rising public interest in wanting to do the right thing to protect the environment, the company feels the timing is right for this type of fiber and carpet.
“Green is mainstream,” explained Vance Bell, Shaw’s CEO. “We continue to see a tidal wave across corporate America for more sustainable products and in individuals wanting to buy them. Builders are asking for them as well. If you don’t have an answer for them they will look elsewhere.”
Also taking up the green charge is Mohawk Industries with a number of initiatives pertaining to the fiber it uses for making carpet. The biggest and most noticeable is in its polyester (PET) business, where Mohawk recycles plastic soda and water bottles into polyester fiber for use in its carpet and home furnishing products.
Like Shaw, Mohawk officials are quick to note the recycled fibers are equal to if not better than the virgin materials. David Duncan, Mohawk’s vice president of marketing, said because of federal regulations for bottles containing food products, the recycled resin is often higher quality than Mohawk could buy as brand new product from a plastics supplier. “So consumers are getting carpet with recycled materials that is as good—or better—than carpet made with all new materials.”
Before the end of 2007, dealers and consumers will see one of Mohawk’s newest green initiatives as commercial production will begin on the first biobased SmartStrand fiber made with DuPont Sorona polymer. Already one of Mohawk’s most popular product introductions, 40% of the new fiber will be produced from corn sugar instead of petroleum. Duncan said, “This is an example of how technology is giving the industry the ability to replace some petroleum dependence with renewable and sustainable resources.” And, there is no compromise in performance with the new yarn.
More than green
Not all new fiber developments are in the eco-friendly arena. Solutia’s newest Wear-Dated product, Natural Nylon, combines the performance characteristics normally associated with its yarns with a proprietary insert technology that binds the individual fibers together.
The result is, said Marianne Cone, director of marketing, a patented fiber structure with sharp pinpoint definition in solids and distinct patterns. It also allows for a natural “woollike-look” in constructions previously limited to BCF yarns, with superior appearance retention.
She said the benefits of Natural Nylon include “natural beauty and texture of wool, unlimited pattern and color choices, and outstanding resistance to crushing, matting and abrasion.”
In fact, tests show Natural Nylon has a 20% higher resilience than traditional nylons due to its tighter molecular structure, a higher degree of internal bonding and a maximum alignment of molecular chains. “Carpet produced with Wear-Dated Natural Nylon is made to last a lifetime of abuse while staying beautiful, colorful and vibrant,” Cone noted.
At Invista, the supplier has introduced a new Stainmaster brand, Home & Office. Steve Griffith, vice president of residential flooring, said the new fiber meets the unique challenges of home offices, dens and small business environments.
This comes from an innovative process, he added, “that allows for thickness, luxury and fashion-forward designs in soft flooring while offering the performance needed in the small business environment.”
What makes Home & Office special, Griffith noted, is its ability to be “strong enough for the office, yet elegant enough for the home. It allows consumers and small business owners to bring the style and performance synonymous with the Stain-master brand into their establishments as well as special areas of the home.”
|Advances in fiber, such as Anso’s recyclable yarns,|
as seen in Shaw’s Nature’s Element.