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  • Cecile Corral

Rug vendors up ante in face of tough market

Drumming up business during the sluggish summer market has never been an easy task. But in the face of a weak economy, area rug manufacturers are working harder than ever to make the Atlanta International Area Rug Show this week a positive experience.

Pat Moyer, director of marketing for Sugar Valley, GA-based Mohawk Home, offered these encouraging words: "You have to plan and not get bothered by any negative, preconceived notions that the market will be slow. You can't go into a market expecting it to be bad, regardless of the economy. You have to prepare your offerings as if the economy was tremendous."

At the market, Mohawk Home will introduce area rugs to serve two extremes of retail — mass and department stores.

"That's usually where business is best during a slow economy," Moyer said.

The new 400 Montage collection, part of the existing Velvet Impressions line, features a plush, 12-millimeter pile height and up to 60 shades of color per 50 designs.

CMI, based in Pawtucket, RI, will also introduce its own "Montage"; however, this collection pursues a mid-tier customer. Made of a blend of brightly colored chenille yarns and a potpourri of fabrics for a confetti look, Montage offers the textured looks customers have been asking for, said Don Scarlata, president.

While Scarlata isn't expecting market "to be that busy," he said he will use the event as an opportunity to perfect his new lines. Montage, he said, will be presented as a preliminary introduction to a bigger collection launching next year.

"We're working on getting a reaction on Montage from buyers before we make necessary changes for January's show," he said.

Ed Vairo, director of creative marketing for Saddle Brook, NJ-based Nourison, said manufacturers and retailers should interpret the adverse climate as an opportunity to "be inventive."

"I don't think that moderate-price-point customers disappear in a soft economy," said Vairo, noting Nourison will introduce new upscale roll runner collections featuring existing successful designs from previous collections. "You just have to think harder and build a better mousetrap. It can't just be business as usual."

Dalton, GA-based Shaw Rugs anticipates a showroom bustling with buyers, said Jeff Meadows, division vp.

"We're very optimistic because we have some major buyers coming just to see the launch of our new Tommy Bahama line," Meadows said. "People who weren't planning on coming have decided to. We're also introducing 12 new Kathy Ireland rugs to her collection, which is a bestseller. So we're feeling confident."

Meadows was quick to also note that as a result of Shaw Rugs' new introductions, the company will probably inadvertently help "spread some wealth" among buyers.

"We imagine this [attracting buyers] will help out our competition, whether we like it or not," he said.

Whatever the case, Michael Harounian, a principal at New York-based Ebisons Harounian, said he believes there is one concrete reason why manufacturers need not worry about dwindling traffic at the market.

"Because buyers did little shopping in the spring, their inventories need to be replenished," Harounian said. "They will come to Atlanta to do just that."

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