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  • Cecile Corral

Show excites vendors, buyers

ATLANTA -Several rug manufacturers are claiming that the recent Atlanta International Area Rug Market last week was the "best ever," with dozens of retail buyers aggressively pursuing new product.

"If I could come up with a better word to describe this show as extraordinarily fabulous, I would," said Jim Claridy, president of Greenville, SC-based 828 International. "It's the best show we've ever had."

Retail buyers also called it a better year-especially in terms of fashion and construction-than many had anticipated.

"A lot of buyers came here with a not-so-positive idea of what they would find, but I think we've all been pleasantly surprised," said Linda Harlow, area rug buyer, Macy's West. "Every vendor has a lot to offer this year, and it's made for a really great market."

After a long day of rug inspecting, Harlow stopped by the 25th anniversary party for New York-based Momeni at the hand-made rug importer's 5th floor showroom.

"I've seen a lot of new things, I like this market," Harlow said. "It's hard because for every rug you want to buy, there are 500 others you can't."

Harlow said she noticed a trend in lighter shades as well as a "huge volume" of transitional designs.

Ed Vairo, director of creative marketing, Saddle Brook, NJ-based Nourison, attributed the industry's enduring strength in the midst of a softening economy to the trend of wood flooring and open spaces in new housing developments.

"People are having their new homes built with wooden floors and open spaces, and area rugs help define one living space from another," Vairo said. "There is a lot going on in lifestyles these days that lends itself to our industry."

Added Patrick Moyer, vp of marketing, Mohawk, based in Sugar Valley, GA: "Kitchens, for example, are getting larger and larger and playing more important roles in new housing. A lot of people are creating rug collections just for the kitchen. We have our fruit designs that cater to that."

In the new Persian Renaissance collection by Karastan, based here, which is made in Belgium, 100 percent silk has been added to accent the weave of the cotton.

According to Jeff Meadows, division vp, Dalton, GA-based Shaw Rugs, wool machine-made rugs, "especially those with silk accents," are one of the company's products "growing by leaps and bounds."

Michael Harounian of Ebisons Harounian Imports, New York, said that his rugs "with gold finishes are still very strong for us."

Bloomingdale's area rug buyer Maria Conrad wrapped up an afternoon at the show having decided on a few new additions to her store's floor covering offerings.

"Couristan has some very nice machine-mades with good texture that I liked," Conrad said. "I've also seen a lot of spectacular rugs in aquas and blues that I think will do nicely in our stores. There seems to be a trend in blue and aqua palettes and shinier rugs in terms of luster and finishes."

Trans-Ocean president Charles Peck reaffirmed, "Blues are coming back indeed. The only criticism we might get is that we don't have enough of it."

Impressed similarly by the new sheen many rugs are sporting this year was Marshall Field's machine-made area rug buyer Debbie Donovan, who made her last stop at Trans-Ocean's 6th floor showroom before leaving the rug show. She said that while overall she was a bit disappointed by this year's offerings, she did manage to find some items that complement "where our stores are going right now."

"I haven't seen a lot of newness," she said. "The biggest thing I did see were wool rugs with silk or viscose or other touches that added a shine to the rugs. It's a welcome change after all the tea wash we've been seeing for several years now. [Rugs with shine] will make nice additions to our assortments."

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