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Cecile Corral

Bold Introductions at Area Rug Market

Price was on every supplier's lips at the International Area Rug Market here, but not to the exclusion of design and innovation.

Traffic picked up by the second day of the event, and buyers had many choices. Design trends straddled transitional to soft contemporary, with organic themes abounding and natural palettes most prominent.

In other trend notes, cowhide, suede and textured leather are being interwoven with synthetics and wools for multi-media looks. Indoor/outdoor varieties are branching out to include "performance" rugs. And high-end traditional brands are being refreshed for today's young shoppers.

Following is a roundup of vendors' offerings.

United Weavers 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 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, 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.

Couristan 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.

Capel Inc. debuted its first machine-made Wilton-woven collection from China — Classic Chobi — a grouping of reproduction Chobis at a fraction of the price of the real thing. The initial offering includes two patterns, Mahal and Oushak.

Other economy-sensitive collections include the recycled leather strap collection Lariat and the braided rectangular stripe Metropolitan.

But Capel is still giving attention to its high-end business, which includes the licensed Biltmore Estate collection. For the first time since signing with the brand about two years ago, Capel has created replicas of antique rugs from the Biltmore Estate — Kuba and Serab.

Obeetee Inc. continues to expand its licensed program with Williamsburg with two new design additions of reproduction looks. Noteworthy is the updated palette used for the Transylvania rug, which depicts golden natural schemes as opposed to the original rugs' traditional palette of reds, blues and other core Williamsburg colors. These high-end pieces are set to retail for about $1,500 for a 5-by-8.

Orian Rugs has taken its one-million-point Shakespeare collection to a new level with the introduction of a sister collection, Silk Expressions. The new line comprises 1.3-million-point, power-loomed rugs that employ the company's LustaSheen yarn system for luster. "This goes after the viscose market with its shine, but it doesn't shed," explained Paul Sullivan, svp sales and marketing. The price is also a notch above Shakespeare: $249 versus the latter's $229.

Central Oriental has a new promotional price point collection in response to the "tough" state of the economy. Interlude is a 100% polypropylene, USA-made collection that spans about 17 patterns in various colorways. A 5-by-8 is priced at $129.

The new Shadows collection is a step up from there, but also cost conscious. The earth-tone, soft contemporary one-million-point rugs use drop-stitch and double point for a carved effect. A 5-by-8 is $299 at retail. And then a step higher is Dimensions, which employs the same mechanical carving as Shadows. These are 1.3-million-point rugs.

Nourison is marrying its 17-year-old sister business of dec pillows and chair pads with its rug business for the first time this market, bringing all three components under the Nourison umbrella. The plan is to cross-pollinate the products closely and offer customers special rug programs that match to pillows and pads. Other product categories in the works include bath and home office decorative pieces, including wastepaper baskets, tissue box covers, photo albums and other items.

Mina Peykar, wife of Nourison principal Alex Peykar, runs this effort.

Elsewhere, the company has added more silk and hand-carved design elements to the Nourison 3000 collection — sister to the longstanding Nourison 2000 program. Made of 100% New Zealand wool and pure silk, the intricate design detailing adds a more upscale feature to the line.

Designer Josie Natori and her bedding, dec pillow and throw licensee JLA Home are together ramping up the upscale Natori line's gift-able assortment of dec pillows and throws in response to a demand from retail partners, both new and existing. "We're finding that the gift part — our decorative pillows and throws — have been receiving an extremely strong response," explained Scott Howard, vp sales for JLA Home. "Right now, these gifts make up 20% of our [Natori-branded] business, and that is rapidly growing."

Throws range from $150 for the bamboo Ogee styles through $700 for cashmere with leather fringe pieces. Dec pillows are retail-targeted from $100 to $300.

cmi, positioned for this market in a new and larger showroom, is introducing its highest-end line ever in conjunction with Sunbrella via a license partnership. The outdoor rugs — priced at $499 for a 5-by-8 — carry the same weather-resistance and high-performance attributes as other Sunbrella products. There are four patterns available in multiple colorways.

Don Scarlata, cmi president, said that while the goods represent a new highest price bracket for his company, the $499 ticket sits comfortably within the growing assortment of outdoor rugs in the marketplace, which is increasingly making room for more such upscale products. "This is our top-of-the-line collection, but not for the market as a whole," he explained.

Sphinx this market hits the top and bottom of its price bracket with a new upscale hand-tufted collection and the debut of a lower-cost promotional machine-made polypropylene line.

Bentley is a grouping of hand-tufted, hand-spun wool rugs in a natural tone palette and priced at $799 for a 5-by-8— a trade-up from the company's typical offerings in this construction at around $499.

On the other end of the spectrum is Hudson, a machine-made polypropylene collection in traditional through contemporary looks that hits $199 — a price the company said is being increasingly demanded by retailers.

Answering to a surge in interest for its Carefree-branded accent rugs, Homefires of Atlanta has come out with as many as 50 new patterns for the acrylic hooked machine-washable collection. New looks include novelty themes like kitchen, updated coastal, pet, seasonal, high country lodge, florals and many others. A 22-inch-by-34-inch is set to retail for $39.95.

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