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Are you STILL “just cleaning carpets”?

Yes Mr. Dylan, the times they are a-changing. Steve, Chuck and I (or as one recent SFS graduate called us “The Three Amigos”) started out cleaning carpets over 40 years ago.  (Has it really been that long???)  Way back then we cleaned mostly ugly earth tone shag carpet with jute primary and secondary backings.

We were macho carpet cleaners and didn’t deign to clean any other surfaces except maybe a few Herculon sofas!  Acrylic carpet was very popular, but nothing approached the popularity of nylon. As Tom Petty likes to sing “It’s good to be king.”  And carpet (and the people who cleaned it) really were “kings”!

In fact, as we moved through the 70’s carpet was ready to steal Sherwin Williams Paint logo about covering the earth. In 1986 DuPont shook up the carpet world by introducing Stainmaster and carpet sales averaged two billion yards of carpet annually.  That’s a LOT of carpet.

Then Amoco fibers introduced polypropylene to the flooring market. You know that old saying about “if it sounds too good to be true- it is”? Polypropylene, also called olefin, was tufted into Berber carpet and the party was over for carpet cleaners!  Over-the-top marketing convinced consumers that olefin Berbers were indestructible. Carpet cleaners despised Berber so much that we almost longed to see an avocado colored shag carpet!

Now the long slow slide downhill really has begun for carpet. Back in the good old Stainmaster days carpet reached an all-time penetration of over 80% of all floor covering installed.  Now carpet has slipped to under 50%!

NOTE:  The one bright spot for carpet cleaners is the amount of rugs covering all those new hard surface floors. Currently rugs are responsible for almost 15% of all flooring being sold.

These percentages look especially bad when you look at the fact that the entire flooring industry lost a third of its value in recent years. According to Floor Focus Magazine ceramic tile was up .6% with wood and resilient up .1%. Laminate floors lost a little market share but of course the big loser was (you guessed it) wall-to-wall carpet!

So what does this mean for you as a carpet cleaner?  No, you don’t need to sell your truck mount!  There is still a LOT of carpet being installed and especially so in the commercial market. Plus there is a huge installed base of carpet that will need maintenance for many years to come.

BUT going forward if all you focus on is carpet you might want to read up on the buggy whip industry!  Instead, search for additional services you can provide for your customer. After all, once you have built a trusting relationship with your customer they will be thrilled to have you clean other materials in their homes.

After all, when the Shaw Industries website (the world’s largest producer of carpet) has area rugs, tile and stone, hardwood and laminate all sharing top billing with carpet- you really should pay attention!

In fact, the next time you pass a Shaw Industries truck take a gander at the Shaw logo. It says “Shaw- Where Great Floors Begin!” Not a word about carpet!  Seriously consider following Shaw’s lead with carpet cleaning being just one of many services you offer your client.  And yes, Jon-Don and the Strategies for Success program will continue to be your “Partners for Success” as you diversify for the future.

Bill Yeadon

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One Response to Are you STILL “just cleaning carpets”?

  1. BurdicksCleaning May 25, 2011 at 2:01 PM #

    We’ve been doing tile and grout for about 10 years now and it is very profitable. Small inital investment to get the turbo and a gecko if you already are running a truck mount. We charge between $1.50-$2.00 per sq. foot to clean it and $1.25 per sq. ft. to seal the grout lines. It’s very profitable diversification.

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