When it comes to the major floor covering types available in the market, carpet is still the leader.

However, it is drastically down from where it used to be, says Bert Templeton, Business Manager, Flooring and Paper Coatings, BASF.

"When I started in this business 16 years ago, carpeting was probably 60 percent of the floor coverings out there. People did every room in their house, wall to wall, while the hotels were doing everything with carpet. Today, it's probably closer to 40 percent," he says.

Templeton says the significant decline is due to a number of factors, but luxury vinyl products are a main contributor.

"The biggest piece is luxury vinyl tile, luxury vinyl plank, that entered the market a number of years ago, and has really taken a lot of [market] share from carpet, as well as some of the other hard surfaces going into a home today," he says. "Where's carpet now? It's mainly in the bedrooms and not in your whole house... the demand for carpet has really dropped off over the last decade."

One of the main reasons for less carpet in homes these days is because people with children and pet owners like the convenience of a hard surface for cleanups. To try and win back some of that market, carpet manufactures have had a strong focus on making carpet that is easier to clean.

"That technology has come a long way," Templeton says.

In some hotels, high-traffic areas that were once covered in traditional carpet are being replaced with carpet tile due its ease of replacement. Despite these challenges, investment in the carpet industry is starting to return.

"For instance, Shaw Floors is the largest carpet manufacturer. They announced at the end of last year that they're investing $400 million in a fiber facility. It'll be online in 2024. We're seeing carpet manufacturers put money back into the carpeting industry," Templeton says. "The manufacturers themselves see that carpet is going to be growing here again as the economy grows."

This is particularly important because carpet manufacturers employ a significant number of people.

This new [plant] that Shaw just announced will have 300 new jobs coming with it. For some of the smaller towns where they operate, like this one in Aiken County, South Carolina, that's a major employer for the area. So, it's good for the surrounding areas when carpet does well.

Another changing trend in the carpet industry is a decline in nylon demand.

"Fifteen years ago, if you bought carpet, you would buy nylon, not polyester or one of the cheaper types of fibers, because the nylon held up very well. Today, PET is taking a lot of that [market] share," Templeton says. "They've improved the fiber technology so that fiber type performs almost as well as nylon, but at a lower cost."

The carpet market has also experienced significant consolidation for the past few years.

"This last year, two of the manufacturers were bought up by other carpet manufacturers. So, what you end up with at the end of the day is three carpet manufacturers that account for probably 80 to 90 percent of the carpet that is manufactured," Templeton says

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the demand for carpet was extremely high.

"The mills could not make it fast enough, because you had people that were stuck in their houses all the time and they got tired of looking at old flooring. They had some disposable income, so people have been re-carpeting their homes for the last two years," Templeton says. "We are seeing it now taper off very quickly, as the economy starts to putter."

He adds that the carpet industry is a good forerunner of the economy.

"We tend to go into a slower state or recession mode before the country does, because if you're building a house, one of the last things you put in is the carpeting. So, if new home sales start declining, that's the double dip. Because if you're buying a new house, you're going to put carpet in it. With the house you're selling, either you're going to replace the carpet or the people buying your house are going to replace your carpet," Templeton explains. "But when interest rates are six to seven per cent and people stop buying houses, stop moving, it really hits sales hard. We see the slowdown before anybody else does."

One thing is for sure. Despite the ups and downs in the market, carpet is here to stay.

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