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Bath rugs makers add versatility

NEW YORK -With fashion-forward consumers placing their bath and accent rugs in every nook of their homes, bath rug makers are being forced to come up with creative combinations and assortments of rugs that move effortlessly from bathroom to kitchen to bedroom to living room.

"We are now making two or three options within one line of product for different areas of a home and we are getting a very good reception," said John Hale, vp of sales at Lacey Rug Mills, based in Fairmount, GA. Of Lacey's product, 20 percent is accents and 80 percent is bath rugs. Of the latter, 70 percent are solids and 30 percent are multicolored and/or patterned.

Manufacturers are combining materials, color schemes, patterns and styles to create that one product that can float around the house and yet never look out of place. They are just being savvier about how their product is pitched at retail.

"We have some products now that we consider multifunctional," Hale said.

Such multifunctional pieces are:

  • Tonally not quite as strong as accent rugs but not as plain as solid bath rugs;

  • Produced in both the natural fibers used traditionally in bath rugs as well as the synthetic materials typically used to make accents;

  • Have been expanded into larger sizes, like 27 by 48 and 30 by 50, to fit into the larger bathrooms being built in new homes.

Based on first-hand experience, Calhoun, GA-based Georgia Tufters credits retailers with provoking the shift of bath and accent rugs. One mid-tier store carrying Georgia Tufters has taken one of the manufacturer's Chromajet zebra pattern accent rugs and has added it to in-store bathroom displays featuring bath accessories that coordinate with Tufters' accent rug.

"So far, that rug has sold very well because it coordinated so well with the other accessories," said David Record, vp and national sales manager, Georgia Tufters. "In fact, it's still doing so well that that same retailer has taken another one of our accent rugs and added it to a new bath display in their stores."

And yet for Georgia Tufters, "the bath business is still very big and the accents are not as strong a component," Record said.

Eighty percent of Georgia Tufters' business is rugs, of which 50 percent are bath rugs and the other half are accents. And of the company's bath rugs, 80 percent to 90 percent are basic solids and 10 to 20 percent are fashion solids (which are deeper in texture and tones than its basic solid counterparts).

Aside from retailers' strategic positioning of product at the store level, Sugar Valley, GA-based Mohawk was credited by some of its competitors with pushing for more and more consumers to move accent rugs into the bathroom.

"That's fair to say," said Pat Moyer, vp of marketing, Mohawk. "We are constantly trying to stretch the usage of our products, and that trend of using patterns and multi-colored rugs in the bathroom-as opposed to only solid colors-only helps the effort. It's helping everybody in the business. We have a significant collection of either/or, so we feel strongly about our place in the industry."

At Mohawk, bath rugs are "a significant part of our total business," Moyer said, or more specifically 30 percent. Of that, 75 percent are solids and 25 percent are pattern rugs.

For one, Record said Georgia Tufters has not consciously made an accent rug and pitched it as a bath rug to any of its retail customers. "But we do have a bath rug of which we make a variation of it in oblong and sell it as an accent rug," he added.

But overall, Record said, "rarely do you run into a bath rug buyer itching to put an accent rug into his or her assortment unless it coordinates with other accessories."

The move of accent rugs into the bathroom is a "natural extension but nothing new," Record said. "But I don't see it as a big impact in the [bath rug] business."

While the thrust of the bath rug business-85 percent to 90 percent-still lies in solids, patterns are an important aspect that manufacturers use mainly for promotional reasons.

"It's important for us to update our colors and styles each market," said Bonny Calloway, a consultant for design and product development for Mohawk's Newmark division. "A lot of the industry is promotional, letting your customer know that you know the trends. Even if they see [our new Havana Brights bath rug line featuring bright, Caribbean color schemes] and they like it but still walk away with the neutral solid bath rug, that's OK. We just want to have those trendier options available for them if they want them."

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