YAPHANK, N.Y. -- As carpet and area rug fibers become increasingly more durable, cleanable and stain resistant, floor covering manufacturers have also stepped up innovations that improve the products' appearance. These advances have led to the rise in popularity of indoor-outdoor soft surface broadloom and area rugs.
Closely watching this trend is Manny Vickers, President and Co-Founder of Fiber-Shield Industries Inc., a leading supplier of specialty protection products and related materials that has specialized in carpet treatments since 1979. In fact, Fiber-Shield Industries Inc. helped major broadloom and yarn suppliers behind the scenes at the dawn of the 'miracle fiber', providing private label carpet protection products which were applied by the manufacturers for their easy-care yarns.
Now the company is bringing a new super-hydrophobic carpet and rug treatment called KARPETCRYL® to industry professionals worldwide (read full story). Fiber-Shield Industries Inc. is marketing this state of the art product to floor covering specialty retailers and to carpet cleaning companies in a program he says makes for a happy customer and an improved bottom line.
Manny Vickers, President and Co-Founder of Fiber-Shield Industries Inc., says KARPETCRYL® will make for happy customers and repeat and new business for carpet stores and cleaners.
TREATMENT DEPENDS ON YARN TYPE
Vickers believes additional carpet protection is vital today, even as the performance of synthetic fibers continue to improve. And, he says it's essential for wool and other natural yarns, which dominate the mid-to upper end of the market. For petroleum-based carpets, Fiber-Shield Industries Inc. has developed water-based protection products. But it offers solvent-based products for oriental rugs made of wool. "We would not recommend water-based protection for wool rugs because water does not go very well with wool. It usually shrinks it. Our private label solvent-based carpet protectors have been successfully used for many years on oriental carpets, and I think it's time the industry became aware of our products for this segment."
MIRACLE FIBERS NEED HELP TOO
Asked why a 'miracle' fiber rug or carpet would still need his protection products, Vickers is quick to explain that they are indeed great fibers. "But we can make them better," he says. "They've only been treated one time, so water will penetrate in-between the fibers. You're not going to get all the protection you need in those miracle fibers because they're polymers made from petroleum. It's basically hard oil; polymerized oil. They will last a long time, and don't wear down as fast under normal conditions, but you still need to protect the rug.
A demonstration shows a carpet sample treated with KarpetCryl® super-hydrophobic carpet and rug treatment helping liquid bead up upon contact.
Although consumers have been conditioned to buy pre-protected products from carpet manufacturers, Vickers say they'd been surprised how little protection the carpets provide. "I would tell consumers to test it. Manufacturers do provide various degrees of protection, but, unless you add that individual protection service, you're not going to be at the maximum level you can be. Retailers are not going to have happy customers. And they're not going to be making any money."
INTRODUCING A BRANDED PRODUCT
When Fiber-Shield Industries Inc. entered the aftermarket segment, most of its sales were directed to carpet and rug stores and carpet cleaners. "These companies would buy a private label protection product from us and then resell it to their own customer base. That has been the bulk of the business, but, now we want to reestablish our image. We're rebranding our own brand.
WHAT'S THE BENEFIT
Vickers says Fiber-Shield Industries Inc. provides a very important service to its customers, "especially if they're selling oriental-type carpeting -- or any type of carpeting in general. It makes that carpet stay cleaner for a much longer period of time. It also provides stain-proofing qualities that could repel oil, soil, alcoholic beverages, fruit juices, or food.
"It would really make a big difference to the customer. They would have a very positive image -- not only of the carpet, but also of how to maintain the carpet. That fortifies the image of the store," he says.
To those carpet stores or cleaning companies who object to a better product because they assume it translates to less frequent return visits by their customers, "It's good for business," Vickers said. "They're going to have a lot more satisfied customers out there, and, thus, more repeat visits -- and positive word-of-mouth."
"They're going to tell their friends that the company they bought the carpet from is great to deal with because they have a stain-proofing service and a cleaning/maintenance kit. It's going to make a huge difference the first time the consumer spills something and she can wipe it right up. It makes an important impression on the customer."
"Another benefit of this service is that you increase the bottom line profitability of the store," according to Vickers. "Every time there has been a recession, retailers tell us they've stayed in business because they had extra income coming in from the aftermarket. That's important to a carpet store. When times are good, they're great. But sometimes things are not so good. So, you're providing an important service to your customer. It improves the image of the store. You get positive word-of-mouth, and you improve your bottom line," Vickers explains.
Asked the price of the service at retail, he says depending on the carpet and the amount of work, it can range from 50 cents to a dollar per square foot.
"It's highly profitable. For the carpet store, every penny counts, so it's intended as a tool for survival. We've been around for 40 years, and we have a long track record for on-site carpet protection. We don't get complaints. I'm happy that our products are environmentally compliant and that they work."
Fiber-Shield Industries Inc. carpet protectors are very easy to apply, but Vickers still prefers professional application over application by the consumer. "Pros are trained and experienced, and they are apply the product directly so that the application is evenly distributed," he says, noting that the in-store application for an average 9x12 carpet takes about three to four minutes to apply.
Some carpet and rug stores treat everything, he reports. "They have a 97-95% closing ratio. Even the people that say they don't want it still get a treated carpet - because it saves a tremendous amount of labor."
Fiber-Shield Industries Inc.'s product is designed for use before the product is delivered to the consumer, as well as at aftermarket carpet cleaning stores. "Oriental carpets have to be cleaned carefully because water has a tendency to make them shrink. If you're protecting them with our product, the great thing is that the water doesn't penetrate as much. The carpet won't curl as much, and there's less stretching to be done. This improves the productivity of the carpet-cleaning specialist. It reduces labor, because the stains will come off quickly and easily."
He sees potential at companies like Stanley Steemer and a broad range of carpet cleaners. "Steam extraction is vital," Vickers explains. "The most important thing when you clean a carpet is that the detergent residue has to be removed to the fullest extent possible, although nothing is going to be removed 100%. If you're going to have detergent residue, you're creating a hydrophilic state of affairs, which means it becomes water loving. It also means it will absorb and retain soil. That's why we prefer steam extraction to any other method."
NEW REVENUE TO CARPET STORES
An open market for Fiber-Shield Industries Inc. is carpet stores without cleaning services. "Once you have the protection, you don't get stains," Vickers says. "You get residue sitting on top - which the customer can quickly clean up. A happy customer is a repeat customer, and one that will recommend others to come into your establishment."