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Color, USA-Made Tops in Atlanta

MomeniContemporary rug house Momeni brought its new Vintage collection to Atlanta last week.
ATLANTA - Price was still an important issue last week at the summer version of the bi-annual Atlanta International Area Rug Market, but in a show of optimism, suppliers came well-prepared with new product.
     Color was everywhere, and manufacturers with U.S. production put a big emphasis on Made in the U.S.A. marketing.
Some of the highlights:
     • cmi (Colonial Mills Inc.) is shifting some of its sales focus to give more importance to consumers directly. The domestic manufacturer of braided and braided-texture rugs and home accessories, which is based in Pawtucket, R.I., has ramped up its direct-to-consumer marketing efforts by building a social media presence and establishing an active blog dubbed "Take it to the Floor."
      Don Scarlata, president and ceo, told HTT that the new tactic is allowing cmi to "express our capabilities in the marketplace."
     Added Roy Evans, vp of sales and marketing: "And we're trying to reposition our braids as contemporary, new products - they're not just old-school rugs anymore."
     Evans explained that "not all retailers get braids, so we're going out and finding the consumers and taking the initiative to talk to them directly."
     He added: "Our future is about non-store retailing and concentrating on the consumer, directly."
     The effort is already paying off, and so far some of the results are surprising, Scarlata noted.
     "We are finding that natural solids, the simple classics, are what many consumers want from us."
     He said cmi offers an undyed natural wool braided collection that comes in "the various shades of sheep," he half-joked. "No blues or greens here."
     But most importantly about this collection to consumers, he continued, "it's made in the U.S.A."
     That said, Evans noted that consumers are increasingly demanding domestically made rugs, which is what cmi has offered strictly over its 30-plus year history.
     "From that perspective, we can make one rug at a time, and then drop-ship it right to the consumer's front door," Evans said.
     • Capel Rugs, based in Troy, N.C., has seen its signature braided rugs increase its dominance among the company's total soft fl oor covering offerings in terms of percentage of sales over the past two years.
     As the trend escalates, the four-generation, family-owned company spotlighted several new braided styles at market.
     To the traditional braid category, there are two new additions: Home Sweet Home, which features a more updated bright palette, and Countryside, a more traditional offering of spice colors.
     Chalet is another new collection. The French Laundry-inspired grouping comes in three two-toned colorways - gris, bleu, and rouge - each of which is paired with an off-white.
     Copper Ridge features a Capel-exclusive construction, noted vp of sales Allen Robertson, that pairs wool chenille with knitted polypropylene.
     To the existing Hampton collection of braids, Capel has added the new gray and red color options in solid and stripe styles.
     In line with the Americana folk feel of briaded rugs, Capel is seizing the opportunity to stress that these products are U.S.A.- made.
     "We're screaming ‘Made in America'," Robertson said, "as loudly, and as often, as we can."
     • By yearend, Karastan Rugs' total inventory will consist solely of U.S.A.-made products. Steve Roan, vp, told HTT that the company will be a "100% domestic manufacturer" by the end of December. "We've made a conscious effort."
     All of the company's products tout a label that reads "Still Made in the U.S.A."
     "We're getting a lot of play on that," he added.
     Roan explained that the company has "figured out how to make the looks we needed here" - which this year has allowed the company to increase its prices by only 10% as of this fall.
     "We've made a significant investment in our equipment and our people," Roan continued.
     The price increases will take tickets to$499 for nylon rugs; $699 for the new wool-and-nylon blends; $899 for the new 100% New Zealand wool Vanderweil collections; and $1,199 for the company's spool Axminster offerings.
     • Safavieh of Port Washington, N.Y., came to Atlanta rug market with a preview of its upcoming Indian Sojourn collection with David Easton, one of the company's designer license partners for the Safavieh Couture high-end line of designer-made area rugs. The initial offering spans ikats and soumaks in saturated palettes on a wool construction. The full collection is set to launch later this year.
     • Shaw Living showed several new collections. In the spotlight was its Bob Timberlake collection of licensed designs. Rather than direct interpretations, this collection focuses on aspects of Timberlake's work - some of them transitional and others more contemporary in pattern and color. All are machine woven in nylon, making them completely recyclable.
     Designs include: Salem Glass, a stained glass-inspired pattern in a rich palette; Quilter's Art, an oversized encircled star pattern taken from a handmade blanket; Garden Vine, a transitional interpretation in modern earth hues like ocean, ivory, cranberry and light green; as well as several others.
     "We took elements from his paintings," explained Kim Barta, brand manager, in describing how Shaw developed the rug collection from the artist's work. "We worked very closely with him to create these rugs."
     • 828 International Trading Co. is hoping to build on the response to its Accents cotton collection of rugs by offering a more affordable alternative in polyester that it calls Siena.
     The new Siena assortment employs the same types of transitional and even some novelty-tilted looks as its higher-ticket counterpart, but at a fraction of the retail cost.
     John Shepherd, president and ceo, told HTT that while raw material prices have started to decline, cotton remains high.
     Because the hand-hooked cotton Accents collection "is one of our best-selling lines, and our best-selling handmade collection," Shepherd said, "we've added Siena, which by being a polyester hand-hooked collection, can retail for $199."
     By comparison, Accents rugs are set to retail for $359 for a 5-by-8.
     "The cotton rugs are brighter," he admitted. "But the polyester rugs are all nice, and really a good product," he continued. "So far, the customers who have come in [to our showroom] have liked it. We've already sold quite a few [Accents] rugs."
     • Central Oriental, sister company to Natco and based in West Warwick, R.I., just ramped up its capacity with the purchase of a new loom - the company's eighth. Last summer the company bought its seventh loom.
     "Our factories are very busy, and we're doing very well," Jim Thompson, vp of sales, told HTT. "We continue to expand our U.S.-made offerings, while sprinkling in some imports that we can't do oursleves," such as hand-carved and some shag styles from Turkey and elsewhere overseas.
     CentralOriental brought several new and expanded collections to market. Among them is the Fusion collection, which employs a chenille-and-polypropylene blended construction that is made domestcially. It is set to retail for $149 for a 5-by-8.
     Also new is the Stone Creek collection, which is made in a one-million point construction with drop stitching. These rugs are priced to sell for $299.
     • Calhoun, Ga.-based Jaipur Rugs debuted its new Raymond Waites collection for the first time here, following its original launch at High Point market in April. Sectioned into three groups, the designer licensed collection comes in three constructions and style stories. At the top of the echelon is the collection's Uptown grouping, which comprises hand-knotted high-end constructions featuring updated traditional looks in unexpectedly welcome color palettes and combinations; Midtown, which at the mid range spans tufted varieties; and Downtown, a grouping of Tibetan weave contemporarily-styled rugs targeting a younger customer.
     • Momeni Inc., said it is giving shoppers a chance to walk away from "boring browns" and tired transitional looks that have long been prevalent in the marketplace with its new and affordable collection of traditional-inspired rugs, Vintage.
     The company drew inspiration from Old World prayer rugs and the one-of-a-kind patchwork styles made by stitching together pieces of old rugs and came up with its own version that can retail for $599 versus the $10,000 originals.
     Marlys Giordano, director of marketing and product development, explained to HTT that she has been developing Vintage for the past nine months.
     "For so long, people have been buying neutrals and transitionals because they are safe in this kind of economy and they can sell for $299," she said. "But now people are getting bored of all the browns and tans. People want to come home and be happy, and I think these rugs help do that."
     But because shoppers continue to be price conscious, Giordano needed to come up with a viable ticket.
     Her first try at Vintage resulted in $799 rugs. "The economy is still not ready for that," she said. "So we redeveloped it and came up with a $599."
     Made of 100% New Zealand wool, Vintage collection rugs and made on an eight-color loom in Egypt.
     These rugs feature the same color effect of their more costly overdyed Turkish chobi counterparts, and compensate in the stitching detailing and antique look with special techniques that Momeni employed in creating its new rugs - including hand-sheering, color variety, and finishing," Giordano noted.
     Of the 12 designs currently in Vintage, two are ikats and the others include solids and patchworks.
     Come January, Momeni is adding about 10 new designs.

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