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Cecile Corral

Rug Makers Value High Point

Despite the domino effect of the growing crop of markets around the country competing for vendor and retailer attention, many area rug suppliers say they have come to regard the biannual High Point Market as "important, "No.1" and a "big opportunity," to quote a few.

"High Point is our No.1 market, and that has not changed at all," said Seth King, vp of business development for Calhoun, Ga.-based Surya, which this market opens the doors to its new showroom. The space is more than 5,000 square feet, representing more than double the size of the company's former 2,200-square-foot showroom. "As we grow, our High Point business grows with every show."

High Point Market's rank among home furnishings and textiles markets has experienced some shifts over the past few years — especially in the area rug product category, which straddles both domestics and furniture departments — as vendors and retailers find themselves with abounding choices but limited dollars to spend in the current economy.

With fewer and fewer major retailers dominating the landscape, competition for attendance has forced markets like High Point to carve a niche — whether by choice or by accident.

"There are so many shows now that buyers have to pick and choose and they are spread thin," said Wendy Reiss, key account manager for Somerset, N.J.-based Kas Rugs. "But High Point is still important to us because it has the pull from the furniture companies that are in High Point, N.C. We still see the major furniture store players and serve many furniture accounts from there. We really do have a pretty good appointment list for this market."

Added Steve Mazarakis, president of Brooklyn, N.Y.-based Hellenic Rug Imports: "Even if High Point eventually becomes a more regional market, which was already starting to happen in a way before Las Vegas started, the East Coast is home to two-thirds of the U.S. population — more people than the West Coast. That's why [High Point] will stay important."

It's true some suppliers, like Shaw Living and others, have opted out of the show, not renewing showroom leases and refocusing efforts on other emerging venues.

But King's and Mazarakis' attitudes are not uncommon among many rug industry players. Even as the economy remains sluggish (and unchanged over the past six months), rug suppliers are looking to their appointment books for the upcoming High Point market event for signs of a silver lining.

"Were setting up appointments already and it looks good so far," said Mazarakis. "Some of our majors are coming, even some from the West Coast." Hellenic has chosen High Point market as its stage to unveil its new Southern Living magazine-licensed collection, which caters to a customer with traditional tastes, he said.

Capel Inc., based in Troy, N.C., admits attendance might not be as strong as in the past, "but we find people who are coming are buying," said Allen Robertson, vp sales. "We're seeing bigger dealers who are buying more, because there are fewer rug companies showing."

Outdoor rugs are what High Point retail shoppers are buying from Fort Lee, N.J.-based Couristan, said Donielle Arabia, assistant director of advertising and marketing.

"For us, High Point has definitely become a big opportunity in terms of capitalizing on our outdoor living category," Arabia said. "Buyers are making major purchases for outdoor furniture at High Point, so it's a great place for us to showcase our product assortment."

Just as Couristan banks on the outdoor lifestyle trend, Surya and Concord, N.H.-based Company C are turning to home textiles to become more relevant among furniture stores and answer their greater needs.

Surya is using its newly expanded showroom to showcase its rugs with matching throws, decorative pillows and wall art in vignette settings for complete décor presentations.

Similarly, Company C is for the first time branching out into a new category — fabrics — to give its furniture dealer customers more decorating options.

The 24-sku fabric program consists of cotton, cotton woven and cotton-and-linen blended fabrics that, like all of Company C's area rugs, fall under the company's Global, Camp and Cottage, and Modern design themes.

"We're doing it so people can have the complete Company C look," said Kristi Lefebvre, marketing manager.

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