After a near three-year process, the Federal Trade Commission
(FTC) has determined that PTT, the fiber used in Mohawk
SmartStrand carpets and previously classified as polyester, merits
its own subclass. The ruling comes in response to a petition
jointly initiated by Mohawk Industries and DuPont in 2006.
Going forward, the fiber of which Mohawk's exclusive SmartStrand
carpets is constructed, will be referred to as triexta, which is
marketed by DuPont under the trademark Sorona. The two companies
petitioned the FTC to establish a new fiber subclass for triexta
after independent testing and retailer and consumer testimonials
revealed it takes durability, stain resistance and softness to a
new level and shares with polyester little more than a chemical
The ruling is significant, not only for Mohawk and DuPont but for
the carpet industry as a whole. This is the first extension
approved by the FTC for textiles in five years and the first for
residential carpet since nylon in June 1959.
Mohawk said it filed the petition in response to retailer feedback
that it was difficult to clearly communicate the benefits of
SmartStrand when it fell into the same category as traditional
polyester products. "There did exist some real world confusion
amongst retailers, sales associates and consumers on this
product," said Tom Lape, president, Mohawk Residential.
"Attaching just the word polyester to the product does not
adequately and accurately represent the superior attributes in
softness and durability. Not only is it different, but it meets
the FTC standard, which requires material differentiation in
attributes deemed important or that make an impact at the consumer
level." He went on to illustrate that a polyester that floats may
be a differentiated feature, but it has nothing to do with the
performance of the product in the consumer's home.
For Mohawk, the FTC ruling validates what it says it has been
seeing and hearing from retailers and salespeople: "That this
product is truly different in what the retailer has historically
experienced in polyester," Lape said. "Most importantly, we have
what we believe to be the most substantial third party, the FTC,
agree with our representation of how different it is from the
ordinary polyester products on the market today. We think this
will allow retailers to better sell the benefits of carpets made
with triexta vs. nylon options."
While Mohawk stands to benefit more so than other mills because of
its strong PTT position, Lape and others see it as favorable for
the industry as a whole. "Anything we can do to help the consumer
make an educated decision at point of sale, we as an industry win
long term," Lape said. "Consumers find shopping for our product to
be a challenge. Anything like FTC validation is good for the
industry. There is no downside to a better educated consumer."
Ralph Boe, president and CEO of Beaulieu of America, said even
though his company does not currently market a PTT product, the
ruling can be looked at as a positive for the industry as a whole.
"I think it carries on the growth of polyester. Triexta is a
polyester, so I think it will help retailers who carry PET as
well. That's where the growth has been over the last couple of
years, and I expect that will only continue." He believes before
long, half the market will be polyester.
He also believes anything that's being done that can add
excitement to the carpet industry is a good thing. "Just like what
we've done with our own introductions, like Bliss and Healthy
Home, giving the consumer new [stories] is very positive."
Despite the creation of the new subclass, Beaulieu has no plans to
add PTT to its assortment anytime soon. "The fact you can talk
about something different is great, but it's a more costly
compound to deal with, and a little more difficult to process," Boe said.
"Polyester at one point had a negative connotation in the
marketplace, but not anymore. And with the advent of polyester
filament, the product performs even better. With all the
consolidation over the last 15 years, all the players ensure the
quality is right."
Shaw Industries, which is in the process of discontinuing its two
PTT styles, does not see this reclassification having any
significant impact on the company. "PTT has been sold in the
carpet industry for about eight years," said Reggie Newton, vice
president of marketing. "In fact, Shaw launched the first Shell Corterra
PTT style in 2001."
Newton said Shaw is ceasing production of
its PTT styles in response to Shell's decision to exit the PTT
resin business, leaving DuPont as the only remaining supplier.
That business will be transitioned into nylon products designed
for the segments into which Shaw's PTT is currently sold.
But at the end of the day, the creation of the triexta subclass of
polyester is a victory for both Mohawk and DuPont. Lape noted that
SmartStrand continues to be the most successful and smoothest
product launch in company history, and believes the product has
about 70% market penetration. "This ruling will help those
retailers that are still on the sidelines and give more confidence
to those who got on early."
Jeff Lorberbaum, Mohawk's chairman and CEO, summed it up: "We are
thrilled with the FTC's ruling, particularly because of the
business benefits it brings to our retailers." Specifically, the
creation of the triexta subclass gives retailers the ability to
emphasize and focus on the features and benefits of the product
instead of defending the negative perceptions sometimes
accompanied with the word polyester. "Carpets with triexta offer a
true performance advantage to consumers."
The Carpet and Rug Institute declined to comment on this story.