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  • Cecile Corral

Buyers search for value sweet spot

Cecile Corral, Staff Staff -- Home Textiles Today, January 27, 2003

Atlanta — The buzz was "value."

The means to achieve that sense of value was fashionable product, sturdy constructions and nothing less than aggressive pricing. Indeed, suppliers at the Atlanta International Area Rug market romanced their product intros for just the right combinations to pull retail buyers.

"The market has slowed a bit, so [consumers] want more value from their rugs," said Ken Petke, global product merchant for soft flooring, Expo of Home Depot , based here. "So we are looking for specials, but not necessarily basement prices."

The challenge confronting the suppliers, of course, was to avoid turning it into a pure price play — to sidestep the lure of promotional quicksand. Features and benefits — color, design, construction and then price — were the commonly heard mantras. It might just as easily have been, "Give the buyers what they want," to borrow a phrase.

Recognizing that buyers at the market were "most definitely looking for values at that $299 sweet spot" was Jonathan Witt, vp of marketing, Dalton, GA-based Sphinx. The company's high-definition, 100 percent wool Yorkshire collection is set to retail at that price for a 5' x 8'.

Parent company Oriental Weavers offered its customers two similarly priced, 100 percent heat-set olefin collections — Sophistication and Solutions, both 12-color traditional and transitional rugs with $299 price tags for 5' x 8' sizes.

Dalton, GA-based Balta U.S. introduced a new line of flat-weave polypropylene rugs that were made to look like sisal and are set to retail promotionally for $79 to $99.

"Buyers are looking for margins," Patrick Moyer, president, said. "That's the buzz we're hearing, so that's what we're doing for them."

Anne Poglitsch, soft flooring buyer, The Great Indoors, Hoffman Estates, IL, said she came looking for neutral transitional, "easy-to-decorate-with" designs as well as — and equally as important — "sharp price points."

Fort Lee, NJ-based Couri-stan introduced "a lot of tufted, natural looks in neutral colors that represent value and a lower price point," explained Larry Mahurter, director of advertising and sales promotion. Two such examples he cited were the company's new 100 percent wool Casual Living and Super Indo-Natural collections — $380 for a 4'10" x 7'10" and $399 for a

6' x 9', respectively.

Hellenic, New York, added four new designs licensed by two artists to its Indian-made Essential Nature collection of hand-knotted and carved wool rugs set to retail for $599 for a 5'6" x 8'.

"It's that perceived value that we are offering with the construction and the fashion," Steve Mazarakis, president, said.

As it typically does, Mohawk Home, Sugar Valley, GA, maintained its edge on competitive price point offerings with the launch of three new woven collections — Bella Rouge, Cordova Group and Hampshire — that start at $149 in area rug sizes.

Mohawk's upstairs Karastan division did its part for the effort with two new rugs — Manchester Plaid and Metropolitan — made in a soft nylon construction with a $399 price point for a 5' x 8'.

"We're updating the line to reach a new, younger customer who might not be able to invest in some of our other, pricier rugs just yet but who still wants the fashion," Merle Johnson, vp, marketing, Mohawk Home, said.

A similar effort is being made on the retail side by Rich's/Lazarus/Goldsmith's, offered Keith Arlinghaus, floor covering buyer.

He said he was considering new "pleather" — plastic faux-leather rugs — he saw introduced at Sphinx and Trans-Ocean, based in White Plains, NY.

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