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Atlanta Market Sets Stage for Optimism in 2011

ATLANTA - With the Atlanta International Area Rug Market as their launching point for business in 2011, category suppliers are exhibiting their optimism for improved business trends in the New Year via the myriad new product offerings they are bringing to this biannual event.
     "Because of the slowness in business lately, our new introductions had been fairly soft last year. But this year we are introducing a disproportionate amount of new products for our customers," said Steven Peykar, principal, Saddle Brook, N.J.-based Nourison. "We have developed a lot of new looks and a lot of great products in different price categories that we feel are more updated and on trend."
     Peykar described 2009 and 2010 as a recessionary period that "is really the longest one since I've been in business. So this year we are hoping for some better results."
     Stronger sales activity from retailers during the fourth quarter has given reason to hope for a brighter 2011, said Arash Yaraghi, principal, Port Washington, N.Y.-based Safavieh.
     "We are encouraged that retailers [were] actively buying and promoting product in the fourth quarter of 2010 and we expect this to continue as they see consumers respond," he said.
     If this trend continues, suppliers will be better equipped with the many obstacles - stemming from raw material price hikes globally - they face this new year.
     "Raw material prices have increased in China and as a result the dollar is weakening there," Yaraghi continued. "We forecast that prices will continue to increase in 2011, so we are reducing costs to compensate. Safavieh is doing this by using new materials, new constructions and techniques that provide the values consumers want without sacrificing quality."
     Carlstadt, N.J.-based Momeni sees price "on everyone's minds as we get ready for the upcoming markets" and as such is launching "a great selection of beautiful machine-made collections that won't break the bank," said Marlys Giordano, director of marketing and new product development.
     Examples include: the Dream collection, a group that features a drop-stitch technique for textural looks; Belmont, an assortment of elegant traditional designs made in a dense polypropylene construction; and several design additions to the Sydney, Sensations, Delhi, 'Lil Mo, Spencer and Veranda.
     Safavieh is launching its latest designer license - Ralph Lauren - which targets a higher retail set.
     "We see cross-merchandising opportunities with Ralph Lauren licensing partners as a new avenue for added exposure to an January 10, 2010 entire new category of customers," Yaraghi said. "The partnership gets us into new retail categories like furniture stores and international export. We're seeing tremendous interest from Europe, Asia and even the Middle East because the Ralph Lauren brand is so strong overseas. That's plus-business for Safavieh."
     While lower priced products have been churning sales at retail, suppliers are hoping to bring retailers and shoppers back to the mid- and even in some cases high-end brackets.
     "It's good to offer a variety of products that appeal to a lot of different retails, and the lower price points are what kept us a float in 2010. We made it a big emphasis of our last year," he said. "But now we're starting to push back to the middle because the problem with lower prices is that even though we sell lots of units, it is hard to keep up in dollars."
     For Atlanta's market, Nourison is bringing rugs "that fall in all price categories," Peykar noted, "including some more exciting product that retail for $299 to $1,499 for a 5-by-8."
Surya Inc., based in Calhoun, Ga., last year ramped up its offering of more aggressive rugs to help along sales even though the crux of its business - mid-tier $299 to $399 hand-crafted pieces and better machine-mades - was largely credited with helping Surya increase total sales by 47% in 2010.
     "That is where we are really strong, and these rugs we focus on furniture stores," said Seth King, vp of sales and marketing. Dallas-based Feizy Import & Export is making several adjustments in its backend to accommodate business shifts and overcome hurdles caused by price hikes in 2011, noted Leah Feizy, assistant to the ceo.
     "We are assessing our internal systems for upgrades that will help us improve our efficiency both domestically and internationally, and we're also revamping our marketing/advertising themes, which we do every year," she explained.
     Additionally, Feizy has "refined" its palettes for the many new collections the company is presenting at market. "Really excited" about the new year is Steve Mazarakis, who heads the rug division of Linon Home Décor Products.
     "We are introducing what I believe to be great products for this economy," he said. "2010 was still very tough, but I got a good read on what our customers can sell, and the ones that survived are selling good looking low-priced goods."
     Also going the way of designer licenses is family-owned- and-operated Capel Rugs in Troy, N.C., with is new line of Kevin O'Brien-branded rugs.
     "New textile designer Kevin O'Brien is bringing some exciting, creative new looks, some of which are targeted specifically at bedrooms since Kevin has been successful with top-of-bed products as well," said Allen Robertson, vp of sales.
     Capel also plans to announce in the early spring some new promotional events for its dealers, he added.

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