Tarrytown, NY—Floor covering retailers have two new brands from The Dixie Group that capitalize on consumers’ current propensity for higher end products. 1866 by Masland and Décor by Fabrica offer 96 mainly wool products—30 of which are new styles—that provide dealers with attractive margin opportunities.
This endeavor is obviously not The Dixie Group’s first wool rodeo. The company entered the business in 2007, primarily tufting its own wool. Six years later, Dixie purchased Robertex, a Calhoun, Ga.-based wool manufacturer with its own dye house.
The products it sold were always marketed as Masland Wool or Fabrica Wool within their respective brands, but last year The Dixie Group doubled down on its commitment to the wool business, carving out its own platform and hiring Len Andolino, a 38-year veteran of the wool business, to lead the charge. Andolino and TM Nuckols, president of Dixie’s residential division, said they wanted to give the wool business its own identity and 1866 by Masland and Décor by Fabrica were born. The brands consolidate all of Dixie’s wool offerings.
Over the past 10 years, wool has received minimal exposure, ceding headlines to fibers like nylon and enhanced polyester. But with carpet experiencing a resurgence since the pandemic hit, especially with higher-end products as consumers invest more in their homes and purchase expensive second homes the time was right for Dixie to reinvest in the wool business.
“Last year was a record year for us,” Andolino told FCNews† “And that record year was driven by our highest level—Fabrica. People are buying better goods today because buying habits have changed. They’re not necessarily buying carpet for the whole house; they’re specializing in that signature, statement room.”
At the same time, the exploding real estate market is also driving growth at the high end. “The sale of second and third homes has risen so much, especially in the luxury category,” Andolino explained. “Somebody who’s going to buy a $4 million house is going to want to put something new in there that makes her feel comfortable in her home. Some rooms will require wall-to-wall carpet, but every one of our soft surface products can be fabricated into a custom-sized area rug.”
Andolino estimated that the fabricated rug business in these new brands could account for 60% of sales. “A custom size or shaped fabricated rug can be made out of our inventory and the consumer could have it in two weeks or less.”
There are plenty of reputable companies in the wool business—Stanton, Couristan, Nourison, Kane and Prestige, to name a few—but The Dixie Group is different in that the others are strictly importers. “We are the largest manufacturer of tufted wool carpet in America today, and when you combine the imports, we’re now committed to wool in a very major way,” Andolino said.
Dixie will stick to the manufacturing/import blend to ensure a diverse product portfolio. “First of all, we’re importing Wiltons because we don’t have the machinery,” Andolino said. “Second, a lot of our products are face-to-face goods in heat set polypropylene or wool. We don’t have face-to-face weaving capacity. Third, a big chunk of our wool is made by hand. And I assure you there is nobody who can mass produce by hand in America. Bottom line: Anything that we have the machinery and the technology to do ourselves we’ll do ourselves. Anything that we can’t make ourselves we’ll import.”
Dixie’s expertise as a carpet manufacturer colors its view of the industry and its approach to the business. “We look at our inventory through a manufacturer’s lens, not necessarily through an importer’s lens,” Andolino said. “For instance, we introduced 30 new styles this year—20 in 1866 by Masland and 10 in the Décor by Fabrica. Our commitment to inventory across those 30 products is dramatic.”
Sales, merchandising support
One of the things that Dixie was set out to do is make sure its retail partners have the ability to make a healthy profit. To that end, 1866 by Masland products will retail between the low $40s to high $80s while Décor by Fabrica will retail slightly higher. The reason is there are some synthetic products in the 1866 line at opening price points.
Dealers also benefit from not having to take on new displays as Dixie is using its existing wool footprint. The Fabrica Wool 36-pin display will be retrofitted to Décor by Fabrica. On the 1866 side, Dixie is promoting both a 60- and 26-pin merchandiser. “We’re quickly going to revamp the line,” Andolino said.
“We’re going to look at our current product line that’s being transitioned to 1866 and those products that are successful will be transitioned over. Others may simply be recolored. Obviously, there’s going to be some discontinued styles.”
Both brands will have selective distribution but not territorial exclusivity. “The second you start looking at the wool business outside the carpet business is when you limit yourself,” Andolino said. “One of the reasons why some of our competitors are so successful is because they took on the nylon mentality of distribution. When I got into this business 38 years ago, the whole business was if you had 10 dealers in a city, you sell one or two. Now, if there are 10 dealers in that city who really understand high-end product, and they are quality people, we’re going to sell all of them.”
With that said, Décor by Fabrica will be a little more limited “in terms of who we’re doing business with,” Andolino added.
Another asset that will drive these two brands is one of the most respected sales forces in the industry. “I think the core of what makes us really good as a company is our salespeople,” Andolino said. “1866 and Décor will have the Masland and Fabrica sales force. That was enticing for me about this position because everybody knows the Fabrica and Masland sales force are the best in the business. They know how to sell a high-end product, they are experts in luxury selling and they’re dedicated to making this happen.”
For Andolino, the goal is to be the dominant player in this end of the market. “We feel we have the sales force, the wherewithal, the manufacturing and the will that in five years we will be at the top of the mountain on the decorative side of our business.”