Rug lines offer rich canvas to express licensed themes
Thomas Lester -- Furniture Today, September 2, 2013
HIGH POINT - As home furnishings go, few offer more prospects for licensing than area rugs.
From designers to celebrities and lifestyle brands, there are myriad opportunities to create works of functional art that reflect the style and taste of their creators and companies they partner with.
For vendors, licenses create opportunities to extend their brands with names that consumers know and (hopefully) trust. For retailers, licensed collections offer the chance to link their stores to trademarks that capture the consumer's imagination.
"From the vendor's perspective, as well as from the retailer's perspective, the brand name represents a marketing opportunity," said Aanchal Anwar Gupta, director of strategy for retailer Rug & Home, which has three stores in the Carolinas. "Associating your company's brand with big name licenses invokes a sense of validity in the mind of the consumer. And attractive designs by the license help to get the consumer interested in the product, further validated by the license name. This is what makes licensed collections attractive to vendors and retailers."
Gupta said that ultimately, the success or failure of a licensed rug collection has very little to do with the name on the label.
"We find that the number one thing that the customer cares about when buying rugs is the color and design of the product - the brand name is a very low priority for most consumer. The same goes for furniture - the primary concern is the quality and functionality of the product," Gupta said. "If the color and design in a rug or the quality and functionality in a furniture piece is on point with what the consumer is looking for, then the licensed brand name may help close the deal as a form of reassurance, but it is not something that consumers consider initially or that salespeople push."
Mark Moran, a founding owner and buyer for NW Rugs, which has stores in Oregon, California and Nevada, agreed with the assessment that other qualities come into play well before the brand on the back of the rug enters the picture.
"I've always felt a rug needs to be good. Some brands aren't just a single look," Moran said. "Some are good and some aren't. From the floor standpoint, it gives you more to talk about."
He said another important consideration is price, particularly among millennials.
"The younger generation, there's an Ikea mindset," he said. "Often it's the look. A lot of these inexpensive rugs look fantastic; you could show somebody a rug and say how much is that? It's $8,000. How much is this? It's $1,500. If the only difference is $6,500, they're going to get the cheaper one."
So what's the appeal of licensing for vendors?
For Surya, which has licenses with numerous design personalities, its partnership with HGTV star Candice Olson made sense in part because her aesthetic appeals to the company's key demographic, said company President Satya Tiwari.
"We initially approached Candice because we were impressed by the way her eclectic designs incorporate neutrals, as well as stylized and refined details, to seamlessly meld the traditional and contemporary into a look that's both current and timeless," Tiwari said. "In addition, we knew that many of our customers were devoted followers of Candice's inspirational style and we believed that she would bring a recognizable, approachable face to the Surya brand."
With nearly 200 rugs created under the partnership, Tiwari said the license has been exactly what he expected when the deal was inked.
"We've been working closely with Candice for four years now and she's been growing along with us. Her unique approach and fashion-forward designs complement and round out our rug and accessories offerings while resonating strongly with our retail and design customers," he said. "Candice has an exceptional understanding of color and truly understands how products work and coordinate with today's modern living spaces. Her understated yet unique designs, along with interesting color combinations, create a relaxed, comfortable environment that feels current yet also maintains a hint of the past."
Barclay Butera has a line of rugs under the Nourison umbrella. He said that as a designer, having the final call on how the rugs look offers him another avenue to express his creativity.
"With my own line from Nourison I can forecast and choose the colorways then offer my clients the freshest patterns, textures and style in the industry in a myriad of colors to please everyone," Butera said. "Each design is quintessential Butera but the diversity of the patterns and colors makes this collection completely unique. And they are extremely affordable - almost like getting bespoke design for a fantastic price."
Butera said a designer rug can give the end consumer a taste of having a custom-designed room without breaking the bank.
"I have always wanted product for my clients, customers, family and friends that is well-made, incredibly beautiful, and affordable," he said. "My philosophy has always been ‘client for life,' and many times new, young families cannot afford the whole gamut, but they sure can put a few spectacular rugs in their homes, which always reminds them of my style."
While designers and celebrities make for some of the most visible licensing partnerships, iconic brands are represented, as well. Perhaps nothing says American luxury like Asheville, N.C.'s famed Biltmore Estate, which partnered with Capel Rugs for a collection inspired by the home and grounds.
"At this time the only true reproduction is our Biltmore Select Bidjar pattern. The original antique rug that we copied is displayed in the Louis XV Suite at the Biltmore Home," said Allen Robertson, Capel's vice president of sales. "The other designs we have created in conjunction with the Biltmore design team. The Biltmore House (iron works, tile and grand staircase for instance) and Gardens have provided design inspirations for much of our collection."
Robertson said the international appeal of Biltmore made the decision to partner an easy one, as it is for many companies that choose to enter these strategic partnerships.
"The Biltmore Estate has both national and worldwide recognition and this enhances our Capel brand," he said.