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Live from the Atlanta International Area Rug Market   

Atlanta -- It's Day 1 of the International Area Rug Market here, and suppliers are mindful of their price points -- some more than others, but all in one form or another.

The halls are still quiet, but expected to pick up by tomorrow, vendors agree. Design trends straddle transitional to soft contemporary, with organic themes abounding and natural palettes most prominent. Here is a sampling of news stemming from suppliers:

-- United Weavers (Dalton, Ga.) made an "early, smart" move by liquidating all of its closeouts and excess inventories back in October, said director of sales and marketing Diane Carleo, to make room for the debut here of a much expanded assortment of promotionally priced BCF area rugs.

The retails are considerably lower at $69.99 than the company's earlier opening price point lines ($200). But the 18 new patterns for this market are a step up from before, giving more attention to popular themes like lodge and wildlife, pet, Western gear, and horse motifs among many others. "We're tapping new retail customers with these new styles," Carleo said.

Also new for United are three additional Hautman Bros. licensed looks -- the shore-side lighthouse pattern At the Beach; We'll Meet Again, which depicts a white-tailed deer jumping a fence; and the "Watchful Pause" wolf scene.

-- Momeni (New York) is branching out in design to emphasize its capacity for transitional and traditional looks as it continues to build its popular (for more than a decade) New Wave collection of soft contemporary rugs. Marlys Giordano, director of marketing, said, "We've always been known for our contemporary looks. But we want people to think of us as more. We continue with New Wave, which is still a top seller for us. But we want them to come in and see all of our other products."

Whereas contemporary was once Momeni's dominant design direction, today the assortment is evenly split into thirds among contemporary, traditional and transitional patterns. Examples include the Arabesque, Allure and Zarin collections.

Other news includes the launch of Momeni's first youth area/accent rug line for infant, juvenile and tween bedroom decor. Titled Lil' Mo', the collection is sorted by gender and age range for infants, juveniles and tweens. The latter two assortments comprise acrylic rugs, and the infant line encompasses cut-loop cotton rugs. 

-- Karastan (Dalton, Ga.), high-end area rug sister company of Mohawk Home, keeps to its roots with the debut of three upscale design additions to existing collections. Bel Canto is part of the premium New Zealand Wool-branded Shapura collection and features a clean-edge with a lightly framed striated frame created by the ground of the transitional overall pattern. Eastport, for the Original Karastan collection, makes Prussian blue the focal point of a striated transitional pattern. And Serapi, from the Antique Legends collection, deepens the company's terra cotta palette with a sophisticated casual statement.

Anne Carley, director of rug marketing, said that while Karastan's strategy for this market was "not to slash price points -- that's just not who we are," the company is nonetheless "sensitive to the conditions of the marketplace" and is working with retailers "in many ways" to be accommodating by offering anted special buys, advertising deals and other  strategies.

On this same vein, Karastan presented its most aggressively priced offerings yet -- the woven shag Twisted Stripe and Ombre patterns in its new Scandia Shag collection under the umbrella of the Studio By Karastan label. The rugs are set to retail for $399 for a 6'-by-9'.

-- Couristan (Fort Lee, N.J.) builds on its indoor/outdoor "family friendly and pet friendly" rug offerings with expanded assortments. The company has added eight new skus to the Sunscape collection of cut-loop pile 100% polypropylene rugs, which originally debuted with two skus last July. The new styles here are recyclable and feature multiple colors in each rug.

New to the category is Covington, an indoor/outdoor collection consisting of what Couristan calls "performance rugs" because of their resistance to weather, fading, mildew and mold – but with softer designs that lend themselves to high-traffic indoor areas of home. These 100% polypropylene rugs feature six to eight colors each and are hand-hooked.

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