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Area Rug Suppliers Test Higher Prices

Atlanta — While foot traffic was admittedly slower than normal for a January event, the Atlanta International Area Rug Market earlier this month still drew "quality" customers, to suppliers' relief.

"There may not have been as much quantity at the show, but we had quality, as they say," explained David Moyer, general manager of Mohawk Select, adding that his company drafted orders with several existing and new independent flooring store customers despite fewer retailers shopping the halls.

The same was the case for Capel Inc. and Nourison, both of which expanded their assortments of upscale offerings to meet increased demand for top-tier goods and higher price brackets.

Stirring their own recipes for success were Kaleen and Feizy, each of which recently signed on with Food Network celebrity chefs.

Kaleen's Paula Dean collection includes indoor/outdoor rugs and classy-but-casual styles; Feizy turned to Sandra Lee for inspiration in creating its new line of area and accent rugs.

Other highlights from area rug suppliers:

Nourison traded up, looking to tap business from high-end customers with a healthy helping of "more innovative, more upscale rugs," said Julie Rosenblum, brand manager. "We came with very specialized, very niche goods that demand a better price point," she said. "We went deeper into the things we do best and hit the market with some higher price points."

Among these were two new "natural" collections under the company's Calvin Klein designer program. The Prairie collection comprises rugs made of real animal skins. They are set to retail for $1,699 for a 5-foot-6-inch-by-7-foot-5-inch. CK Organic Weave is all-natural flat-weave rugs in tonal patterns and colorways, more aggressively priced at $999 for a 5-6-by-7-5.

To its Signature line, Nourison added 2000 and 3000 collections and the new Silk Point line, all priced from $1,199 to $1,799 in their more decorative, higher quality constructions.

Surya, layering on the new categories of wall art, dec pillows and throws, re-branded itself, dropping the word "Rugs" from its original name to better portray its broader offerings. Satya Tiwari, president, told HTT, "We're trying to listen to our customer, helping them diversify to be more efficient. Plus, these new categories help us improve our presentations and refine our approach. With the various product lines, we're able to come up with smarter color stories to create a cleaner overall design story."

In October, decorative tabletop (vases, etc.) and lighting will be added to the mix, followed in 2009 by small accent furniture pieces, like end tables, Tiwari said.

Capel, with its Atlanta showroom reconfigured, significantly anted up its assortment of one-of-a-kind, hand-knotted rugs to woo upscale shoppers. Allen Robertson, vp sales, said where 25 such rugs were previously stocked at the showroom, 300 were brought in on new displays for this market.

"And it went really well for us," Robertson said. "We're giving attention to our high-end goods because they are definitely our stronger part of business right now." The most popular have been pastel-colored, antique-style Chobi rugs; price points range from $2,000 to $10,000 for models in the 8-by-10 and 9-by-12 sizes.

United Weavers called the Hautman Brothers its first "real successful license," said Diane Carleo, director of marketing and sales: "I'm thrilled to death with Hautman. All of our customers ordered it."

This, Carleo added, despite the higher prices: $199 to $229 for a 5-by-8 vs. the company's previous $179 to $199 range.

"I was afraid people would object that they carry a higher cost, but their answer to us was these rugs are worth every cent," she remarked. The collection comprises 12 lodge and wildlife designs interpreted on 10-color heat-set olefin rugs. The most popular patterns so far include The Bear Family and Northwood Moose.

Oriental Weavers USA launched a broadloom division and hired industry veteran Andy Brumlow as vp to spearhead the effort to sell fashion-forward woven and tufted carpeting from facilities in the United States, Egypt and China. He was formerly with Carpets of Dalton for more than 12 years

Mohawk Select, which serves independent carpet and rug dealers with mid-priced area rug collections, is now offering recycled rubber door mats and matching accessories, and a portable display rack to spotlight these "impulse purchase" items.

"A lot of retailers today are open to anything that can drive more traffic and create more sales, and we think this helps," explained David Moyer, general manager of Mohawk Select.

Designs include lodge and cobblestone looks; accessories include 9-inch-by-35-inch rubber treads for outdoor steps. Mats to retail at $14.99 for 18-by-30; $24.99 for 23-by-35. Treads are priced at $9.99.

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