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Atlanta Rug Show Roundup

Buyers Scour Market for Exciting and Fresh Product Offerings

Cecile Corral, Staff Staff -- Home Textiles Today, January 31, 2005

Atlanta — Contemporary and casual looks were the design drivers at the Atlanta International Area Rug Market earlier this month, with retailers avidly shopping the show in search of a new generation of linear and graphic styled rugs donning more European palettes.

“I came looking for new color trends and new designs, and to see as many (suppliers) as possible,” said Doug Matheny, product merchant, Home Depot. “We're resetting all of our rug departments in the stores with more rugs in the same square footage using new displays. We're excited for 2005.”

May Co.'s Hecht's and Filene's Basement divisions had representation, both looking for more modern styles but at opposite ends of the price bracket.

“We're looking for ways to grow our casual and contemporary business and solidifying our best-selling higher-end rugs business to give our customers more of what they want,” said Brian Doherty, buyer, area rugs and floor coverings for Hecht's.

At Filene's, it was the more competitive price points that rang orders.

“I'm looking to diversify our assortment,” said Shawn McCormack, buyer, Filene's Basement. “We do the majority of our business in traditional and elegant rugs for the Northeast. But I want to expand with more casual and contemporary looks at mid to low price points.”

Suppliers responded, trending their offerings out of traditional and into more abstracts in red-orange-yellow combinations as well as aqua and chocolate colorways, as seen in Heimtextil, also earlier this month.

Here are some of the other highlights from the market:

The Nebraska Furniture Mart is looking to build up the fledgling bath rug program it began as a test last summer with a small offering of four to six skus.

Gary Cissell, director of flooring, said that due to perpetually growing sales in the category, he came to the Atlanta market to shop for additional styles and varieties to grow the category offering to 20 skus. He is also in the process of creating a separate bath rug section, “a type of spa boutique,” Cissell said, within the store's flooring department as part of Nebraska Furniture Mart's commitment to grow the category.

“We have learned that our customer wants her bathroom to be just as fashionable as her living room,” he said.

Looking to stay competitive, Nebraska Furniture Mart's offerings will comprise cotton and nylon varieties in various sizes that hit retail price points from $9.99 to $29.99, he said.

Among its many introductions, Nourison expanded its licensed program with the Calvin Klein brand with a new machine-made category of area rugs titled Loom Select. It features the densest machine-made construction the company employs, explained Ed Vairo, director of creative marketing.

This new offering is available in 12 designs. While still made to hit the brand's target retail of higher-end department and specialty stores, pricing is more competitive, set at $700 for a 6-by-9.

Balta U.S. Inc. introduced two new sizes — 8-foot and 10-foot oval-shaped rugs — through the launch of its new Visiona collection, said Patrick Moyer, president, area rugs division.

Visiona is made of polypropylene in a cut-and-loop construction and features a 16mm pile height. It is currently available in 12 designs and two colorways but the company is adding up to four new colorways to be ready for early spring delivery.

Orian Rugs has eliminated its $49 retail promotional line from its assortment in an effort to “trend up” the category to a $79 retail offering, said Don Newton, senior vice president of sales and marketing.

The new Essentials Collection comes in eight designs and is made of polypropylene.

In related news, the company is adding 8-foot rounds for Christmas and holiday looks as well as 8-foot rounds and squares to its main line.

Also, the company debuted its J. Garcia collection of rugs that interpret the watercolor and sketched artwork of the late Jerry Garcia of The Grateful Dead.

Newton said the company will be signing with a new license later this year and will launch that collection in January 2006.

Veratex, for the first time, made an appearance at the Atlanta market through the introduction of an uncharted category — soft flooring — offering a variety of hand-tufted and indoor/outdoor rugs, as well as all-cotton bath and accent varieties.

The company recently hired James Saleh to head this new flooring division and part of his former team, including Donna Hintson, from his now-defunct company JWS-Associates. Saleh shut down his company Nov. 1 because of insufficient capital to support continued growth.

Dale Talbert, vice president of Veratex, said the new category is part of the company's effort to expand its offering beyond its core bedding line. Veratex has a permanent showroom on the third floor of the AmericasMart. It will also preview its rugs at the February Mini-Market in New York but will make a formal presentation in April at its new showroom in 261 Fifth Ave. Veratex's rug line focuses on hand-tufted area and accent rugs from India and China, indoor/outdoor polypropylene area and accent rugs from Egypt and cotton bath and accent rugs from India.

Mohawk Home's Karastan division opened the doors earlier this month to its Mohawk Select 1,700-square foot showroom in space 3-F-1 at the AmericasMart, adjacent to Karastan's third floor showroom.

Mohawk Select is a recently developed brand the company is selling and marketing through the Karastan division to better serve independent rug and furniture dealers and smaller stores, explained Anne Carley, director of rug marketing for Karastan. The company also has dedicated a rug sales force for this added enterprise.

Mohawk Select rugs comprise polyester, machine-made varieties, with most 6-by-9 rugs priced between $199 and $399. For this market, the brand expanded its offerings to include the Estate collection, a grouping representing a broader array of designs from traditional and transitional to contemporary and tribal looks. Mohawk Select offerings also include rugs designed by artist and home goods designer Susan Sargent through a licensing partnership.

“Mohawk Select gives us a golden opportunity to reach the specialty retailers we weren't reaching with Karastan or Mohawk Home,” said Carley.

Milliken Rugs introduced its new “Easy Change” computerized system for retailers and customers to custom-design individual rugs based on their specific decorating needs.

While the program was more formally launched at the Surfaces event in Las Vegas, the company previewed the program to retailers.

It includes more than 35 rug designs and 160 skus for broadloom. Currently, only Milliken's Signature Collection is part of “Easy Change” but, by the spring, the company will include capabilities for its Pastiche and all of its wool collections, said Brian Denning, brand/market manager, area rugs.

In other news, Milliken Rugs has expanded its offerings of accent rugs in the athletic teams, seasonal and Camo designs to include area rug sizes. These new dimensions are intended for dens, studies and family rooms.

Natco Home/Central Oriental is gearing up to expand its offerings of accent-sized rugs and indoor/outdoor mats and rugs, categories the company currently does not focus on. A preview is set for February Mini-Market in New York. The official launch is set for April at the New York Home Textiles Market, with eight to 10 collections that include kitchen, hearth and regular accent rugs that are either made domestically by the company or imported from overseas, said Bryan Bogas, executive vice president, rug division.

Other new ventures for the company include increased product synergy between its two divisions. Bogas explained that for later this year, October market in New York being the target date, the company will begin offering cross-coordinated collections comprising product from all of its existing categories — window treatments, table linens, decorative pillows, rugs and kitchen textiles.

In related news, the company is opening a new and larger showroom at 295 Fifth Ave. in New York. The 8,000-square-foot space is on the third floor and will be ready in time for Mini-Market.

Capel Inc. said it is donating a portion of its 2005 first quarter proceeds to aid the victims of the tsunami in Asia.

Capel, established in 1917, has a long-standing friendship and business partnership with many rug manufacturers in India and designs and imports hand-tufted, hand-knotted and flat-woven area and accent rugs and a variety of bath rugs from the country yearly.

In this effort, Capel will donate a portion of its proceeds from the sale of all Indian-made rugs from January through March. Donations will be distributed through the American Red Cross Tsunami Relief Fund.

“Perhaps, through the sale of our rugs and the consumers who buy them, we can all help assist these people,” said Leon Capel Jr., executive director. “It is great to be a part of a company with such spirit that is willing to give back. As part of a family-owned business, we understand how important the family unit is and we are thankful to be able to help other families in need.”

Couristan recently re-launched its Web site with upgraded features and capabilities made to better educate customers and direct them to the company's retail partners.

The site combines flash motion with lifestyle imagery and jazz scores. A thirty-second introduction into the site plays like a television commercial and echoes the company's existing print advertisement campaign featuring lifestyle vignettes.

“The Web … allows us to create a very visual experience that leverages our product line,” said George Couri, chairman. “Our site allows us to have a one-on-one dialogue where we can leverage our solutions and communicate our core messages, to drive the prospect to the next stage in our sales cycle.”

In addition to Corporate Profile, the user can select one of three other options: a residential showroom; hospitality concepts; and design trends. Secondary options include dealer locator, catalog registration and site map.

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