Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Artificial Turf Manufacturing, Market Potential

The US carpet industry goes back hundreds of years, yet there are only a handful of skilled tufting companies that focus on manufacturing artificial turf materials; many are located here in the North America. Manufacturing plants, in the US, are currently located in Texas, Alabama, Tennessee and Georgia.

Artificial turf construction for sports fields, golf applications and landscape projects is a steadily growing industry. Volumes may exceed 140 million square feet this year, up a cumulative 40% over 2005 volumes. (est. 2007)

Confidence in continued market expansion is evident as a major fiber and backing manufacturer, TenCate [Thiolon Grass], recently announced the allocation of $12 million in renovation and expansion to their US based yarn and fiber operation in Tennessee and several key players in tufting mills in Georgia, Alabama and Texas; producing work for major brands Fieldturf, Sportexe, Sprinturf, Astoturf, among others; have recently expanded manufacturing and warehouse capacity or opened new facilities.

After an explosion in the sports field market 5-6 years ago, nearly doubling sales figures overnight, industry wide numbers are climbing at a healthy pace of 15-20% annually.

According to a study, published in 2006 by AMI Research, the artificial turf market expansion, which includes a 30 to 40% growth factor in the fledgling landscape and leisure sports market, has been steady for over 4 years.

According to a spokesperson from Dow Chemical, manufacturers of artificial turf components, backing materials, infill and finished goods; sales of artificial turf materials account for approximately 5% of annual US carpet volume.

Dramatic growth outside the familiar sports market metaphor and consumer demands for a wider variety of choices for landscape and leisure sports has expanded the vision and development of new product lines. Artificial Turf Market Growth Explored

Complimenting and enhancing known fiber manufacturing and texturing processes used in the carpet industry for eons; yarns and fibers for artificial turf are manufactured to provide realistic feel and natural colors; extreme UV protection, anti-static, anti-microbial, flame and slip-resistance. Take a photo tour of how yarn and fibers are manufactured at ASGi.

Like so many industries today; artificial turf is manufactured by a few companies, repackaged, enhanced and sold under different brand names and delivered to local and regional markets through dedicated solutions providers, dealers, and distributors in a complex network of market partnerships where competitors one day are providing each other support the next.

While mills develop their own line of artificial turf styles, based largely upon the type of looms and finishing equipment they have, systems integrators engineer creative ways in which to deliver natural looking, durable goods to niche markets.

Responsible for over 90% of all artificial turf installed on the planet, sports field builders and systems integrators have driven the designs and engineered specifications for the artificial turf market since the beginning in the mid-1960s. Their customers’ ideas and needs have set the tone of the styles, colors and textures of turf available.

These systems are branded and brought to market under a variety of nationally recognized names and are generally sold through experienced, professional, artificial turf installers; licensed builders and value added dealers and brokers.

Some brands only market online or through landscape materials and building supply centers. A few system integrators have structured their offerings as franchise partnerships and others as protected dealer or distributor territories.

Until just a few years ago, business development outside of the lucrative and dependable sports field market was almost non-existent. One sees little product awareness, identity or corporate branding campaigns in the residential and commercial (B2B) market space. Even today, investments in channel development; co-op, rebate, terms or flooring programs are just being explored by most to include a plan that will incorporate landscape and leisure sports uses as a viable growth market; along with several others such as uses in airport, public works construction projects and public and private daycare facilities.

Credit for the substantial investments made in product and engineering research, development and increases in capacity must go to the pioneers of artificial turf fibers, backing and tufting, along with the systems integrators and their sports field builders.

Acknowledgement must be given for building momentum and global adoption of landscape and leisure sports projects into residential and commercial property markets to the grass-roots efforts of the dealers and installers on the local and regional level.

It has been the long hours, goodwill and dollars invested in niche marketing efforts that has captured the attention of consumers and delivered the goods to neighborhood markets which have built the strong foundation for the continuing horizontal growth we are enjoying today. Keeping on track with today’s growth, landscape and leisure sports market share will double in less than three years, providing increased opportunities for existing and new market partners.

No market is recession proof - however, double-digit growth during a construction slump speaks of the value of artificial turf as seen by consumers with funds to invest in high-value, professionally installed, home improvements.


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