Rug vendors make sales despite slow traffic
Alex Lemonde-Gray -- Furniture Today, July 23, 2012
ATLANTA - Rug exhibitors at this month's Atlanta International Area Rug Market, reported steady order writing despite slow traffic.
"This is primarily an appointment-driven market," Wendy Reiss, key accounts manager of sales and marketing for Kas Rugs, said at the July 12-15 show. "Traffic may be slower than the winter market, but if the traffic you do have are writing orders, it doesn't really matter."
Most exhibitors said that the lackluster showroom traffic wasn't indicative of the state of the industry. They said that after suffering during the recession, the rug industry is starting to make headway thanks to product and retail innovation as well as a restructuring of companies' sales strategies.
"For the past three years we've all been focused on survival," said Allen Robertson, vice president of sales of Capel Rugs. "Now we're looking to grow. The value of product in our industry is consistently much better than it was."
Michael Harounian, principal of Ebisons Harounian Imports, said retailers are helping with the rug industry's tentative comeback.
"I'm very optimistic about the outlook for the rug business," he said. "Things have been very slow the last three years, but I believe retailers have adapted to the ‘new norm al' conditions by adopting new practices to help them succeed."
Keeping up with quickly changing design and fashion trends has helped some rug sources keep their product offerings relevant to the modern consumer, exhibitors said.
"Anything distressed or with an antique look at a good price has been performing particularly well recently," said Cyrus Loloi, Loloi Rugs marketing executive.
Nourison also reports success with this look, replicating traditional vegetable dyes to create a worn look in transitional patterns that will not fade further in its Dune Collection.
The other major trend apparent at market was the return of flat-weaves. Many new flat-weave collections or designs were prominently displayed, typically dhurrie constructions but a few kilims as well. Exhibitors touted their flat-weave offerings for their ability to be layered atop broadloom carpet or other rugs in homes, as well as for their often more accessible price points.
Amer Rugs is finding growth by diversifying its product offerings and producing lower price point hand-tufted rugs that attempt to replicate the company's successful hand-knotted lines.
"During the last 18 months, the company has moved into hand-tufted rug constructions with lower price points and is changing its sales strategy to more directly target big box retailers," said Tanuj Gupta, the company's president. He said Amer Rugs currently has eight to 10 big box accounts.
Nourison also says it's making investments to increase its production of lower price point rugs that are attractive to big box retailers and department stores.
"Nourison expanded its operations in China for producing lower-end printed rugs," said Thomas Itty, marketing director at Nourison. "Our signature printed and carved rugs, like those in our Graphic Illusions Collection, retail at $299. We have the capability to do all price points; we're in a great position to do that."
Anderson, S.C.-based Orian Rugs has already passed its sales forecast and anticipates increased growth, thanks in part to the company's recently enacted sales plan to actively court furniture retailers, said Mikala Moller, director of marketing and merchandising.
Moller also attributes the company's success to its Made in America product story, which resonates with independent retailers