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Ga. Tufters to double importing

Accent and bath rug and top-of-bed manufacturer Georgia Tufters has embarked on a program that could more than double its imports over the next year, simultaneously revamping its entire product line with new categories and designs.

Imports account for less than 10 percent of the company's line, but current plans will bring that rate up "by double or even triple, to as much as 25 percent of our line," said David Record, vp, national sales manager.

"We are looking for new products that make sense and can coordinate with the rugs and bedspreads we already make," he explained.

Georgia Tufters expects to add coordinated product categories to its mix, including goods imported from India, China, Turkey and elsewhere. Record said the major imported collections it currently carries are flokati rugs from Greece and printed accent rugs from Egypt, both of which target mostly specialty and mid-tier stores.

The core of its line will remain the products it manufactures domestically, Record said. However, he admitted, "We can no longer ignore the cost savings involved with importing. We recognize that to stay competitive we need to import more, and that's our plan."

As part of the reorganization plan, Georgia Tufters recently hired Sally Ann Jacobs, who joined the company this month in the new post of creative director, based in New York. She reports to Tommy Caldwell, president and coo.

Jacobs most recently worked for Pillowtex as its director of design for floor coverings. Prior to that she was with The Cecil Saydah Co. as its creative director for the decorative pillow division.

Earlier in her career she owned and operated Round Trip Designs, which produced a variety of home textiles — throws, table linens, top-of-bed, window treatments and other products, most of them made in India — for U.S. suppliers.

"She has a strong sourcing background and a real flair for design and color," Record said. "She is exactly what we needed to help us in this new strategy."

When Georgia Tufters was established in 1938 by the grandfather of current owners Jeff and Rick Brown, ceo and president of sales, respectively, it started out as a producer of chenille bedspreads. The company added washable bath, accent and scatter rugs to its offerings in the 1960s.

Today, the product mix is composed of 75 percent accent and scatter rugs and bath rugs and 25 percent top-of-bed goods.

The company currently has three people on its design team.

While Georgia Tufters wants to stay within the realms of its current customer base of mass, mid-tier and specialty merchants, Record said the strategy is intended to enable the company to attract a broader base.

Early stages of the plan will be visible in introductions for spring market in March, with a wider launch slated for the fall, Record said.

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