Staff photo by Jake Daniels Shaw Industries, based in Dalton, Ga., is a leading maker of floorcovering.
The entire floorcovering industry breathed a sign of relief when it became clear that 2010 wasn't going to be another 2009.
While the commercial sector has yet to show signs of recovery, the residential market is gaining traction, and new technology has spurred retail demand.
With half the carpet in the world produced in the region surrounding Dalton, Ga., most carpet executives believe the industry, while changing, is here to stay.
Here are what major floorcovering companies are doing and eyeing.
* Chattanooga-based Dixie outperformed the industry in 2005-08, but took a big hit in 2009 and began to come back in 2010.
* In spite of losses, the company launched new wool lines, which are popular with environmentally conscious consumers who appreciate natural fibers.
* High-end filiment polyester has become Dixie's fastest-growing segment, due to its softness.
* Nylon remains the major fiber of choice for most consumers.
* Only 10 percent of Dixie's sales in the first quarter of 2010 were for new houses.
* Dan Frierson, chairman and CEO of Dixie Group, believes that with labor making up only 6 percent to 8 percent of carpet's final selling price, the Southeastern carpet industry will continue to compete well with foreign manufacturers.
* Dixie continues to compete on style, design and beauty rather than price.
* Mr. Frierson believes that by 2011, demand for commercial carpet will begin to pick up.
Source: Dan Frierson, chairman and CEO, Dixie Group
* Following a 21/2 year downturn, Dalton, Ga.-based Shaw has seen hard-surface sales increase in popularity.
* Shaw research and development executives have continued to work with the home furnishings industry to come up with carpet coloration that matches products put out by others.
* For colors, carpet and hard-surface products have been heavily influenced by the color gray for the year 2010. This is because with less money on hand, consumers who are only able to replace one aspect of their home want something that will be neutral and go with everything else in their home.
* For wood flooring, interest has spiked in wider planks and darker hand-scraped wood.
* White carpet is also seeing renewed interest, due to growing consumer confidence in R2X stain technology.
* In marketing, Shaw offers consumers the ability to upload a photo of their home to a website and see what different types of carpet would look like on their floor.
* Consumer interest in environmentally friendly carpet has declined in favor of competitive pricing.
* Rather than a V-shaped economic recovery, Calhoun, Ga.-based Mohawk executives say the industry has been skimming along the bottom and is slowly moving up.
* Grew market share in 2009 on the carpet side of the business.
* Mohawk has focused on three aspects of its business: Its brand, innovation and consumer interfacing.
* The company has invested in print, TV and online advertising even as competitors have pulled back
* Launched a new carpet fiber called SmartStrand, combining aspects of both nylon and polyester. The Federal Trade Commission agreed to give the product its own name: Triexta.
* The company partnered with Scotchgard on the hard-surface side to reassure consumers about the durability of their wood products.
* Mohawk launched a new online ordering system that allows retailers to have detailed information on orders, from production to delivery.
* Like all carpet companies, Mohawk has been affected by rising oil prices, which are a major component of its raw materials, and has been forced to raise prices.
BEAULIEU OF AMERICA
* Dalton-based Beaulieu of America teamed up with Stainmaster to offer stain-proof and odor-proof carpet in its new Bliss line.
* CEO and President Ralph Boe led the charge for his "Million Mile Challenge" to encourage all Beaulieu associates to walk each day for better fitness and health by practicing what he preached. He walked 613.1 miles in 2009, and the company collectively achieved 1.35 million miles in 2009. This year, the company plans to go for 2 million miles.
* Beaulieu moved toward softer carpet with its SoftSense technology, which is new for 2010. Primarily targeted at female consumers, the company loaded the new line with a lifetime stain warranty, Scotchgard protection, odor-reducing treatment and made the product available in 48 nylon colors and 14 polyester styles.
* Sherwin-Williams honored Beaulieu as its Vendor of the Year for 2009.
* Improved residential market position in the last three years despite compressed market and lack of consumer confidence.
* Beaulieu designers identified three emerging design trends as retro-themed "Vintage With a Twist," bright and bold "Eclectic Love," and muted but practical "Minimal but Chic."
* Though the company continues to focus on broadloom carpet, Beaulieu partnered with Armstrong Industries to manufacture carpet under the Armstrong name to be distributed along with Armstrong-produced hard-surface products to builders to improve market penetration.
* The company has seen continuing movement away from spun and nylon products toward polyester filament products. It continues to invest in expanding polyester capacity.
* The manufacturer moved its Nexterra modular tile, made with 85 percent post-consumer content, from its commercial to its residential division to take advantage of the healthier residential market.
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Ellis Smith joined the Chattanooga Times Free Press in January 2010 as a business reporter. His beat includes the flooring industry, Chattem, Unum, Krystal, the automobile market, real estate and technology. Ellis is from Marietta, Ga., and has a bachelor’s degree in mass communication at the University of West Georgia. He previously worked at UTV-13 News, Carrollton, Ga., as a producer; at the The West Georgian, Carrollton, Ga., as editor; and at the Times-Georgian, Carrollton, ...