Area Rug Industry Dominated by Domestic Manufacturers
Home Textiles Today Staff -- Home Textiles Today, 11/21/2011 2:00:00 AM
NEW YORK - It's become very difficult to find any products that are still manufactured from start to finish in the United States, particularly in the home textiles sector. But area rugs still have some foothold here.
The number of domestic manufacturers producing rugs isn't too impressive. Only four are totally vertical U.S. operations. Another handful manufactures a portion of their assortment here, supplemented by imports.
But still, among the home textiles industry's top five rug manufacturers, Maples, Mohawk, Oriental Weavers/Sphinx, and Shaw still produce domestically - and their "Made in the USA" offerings continue to have clout in the business.
So how do they - and their smaller counterparts - do it?
The key ingredient for many domestic rug manufacturers is family.
"Because we're a family-owned business and we're the type of the company that pays a lot of attention to detail, we have always been able to thrive on being efficient, innovative and timely and catering to the direct needs of our [retail] customers," said Arnie Stevens, vp, Maples Rugs.
The company opened its doors in 1966 and is today run by second-generation co-owner Wade Maples, his wife, Pat, and their son, John. A manufacturer of area and accent rug as well as bath rugs - all made in Alabama- the company has long occupied top billing on HTT's Top 5 list of category players, last year reporting $130 million combined in area rug and bath rug sales in 2010.
Capel Rugs and Brumlow Mills are two other key category manufacturers with family roots in the business that help them maintain domestic operations.
"We've carried the banner for ‘Made in the U.S.A.' for a long time," said Allen Robertson, vp of sales for the 94-year-old, family-owned-and-operated Capel.
Originally founded as a domestic manufacturer of braided rugs, Capel Rugs has over the years expanded its assortments to include a broad array of imported varieties - a tactic the company was almost forced to adopt to remain competitive in certain category segments.
But Robertson said Capel's U.S.-made lines still make up about half of total sales.
Driving its domestic business are two rug collections - braids and indoor/outdoor border rugs, made at headquarters and the company's Dalton, Ga. plant, respectively.
While the braids remain a core signature offering from Capel, its newer fabric border rugs are rapidly growing and are expected to double in sales by yearend over 2010.
"We have a big facility in Dalton to allow us the capacity for the sales growth, Robertson said.
Third-generation home textiles manufacturer Mitchell Brumlow cited two reasons his family-run business, Calhoun, Ga-based Brumlow Mills, claims "a competitive edge" in an import-laden industry.
"We are a low-cost producer, and we have a fast turn-around to market," he said.
Brumlow Mills' assortment includes polypropylene, printed and solid-colored rug styles. To support recent growth, the company last year installed a new 16-color Chromajet dye-injection printer into its facilities.
The move represented a milestone for the company, Brumlow noted.
"We've been printing for years. In fact, we were the first to do printed accent rugs," Brumlow claimed. "But we just became fully vertical with the addition of this machine."
"Soup to nuts" is what is served at Orian Rugs, which since its founding 1979 has made all of its rug programs at its Anderson, S.C., headquarters.
"Our company works on lean manufacturing and vertical integration," explained Mikala Moller, director of marketing and merchandising. "We offer everything in-house - from yarn manufacturing to product manufacturing, design, marketing, customer service, inventory management, basically soup to nuts."
She added that Orian is a "solution-oriented, full service manufacturing operation, which really differentiates us from the importers because we can provide the best cost and service to our customers."
Orian is now gearing up to move into a 6,000-square-foot showroom at AmericasMart in Atlanta - triple the size of its former space.
"This new showroom goes along with the expansion of our business - we need it to meet with the growing demand," Moller explained.
Demand is also coming in the form of marketing. The recession has bred resurgence in American-made pride, and some rug manufacturers said retailers are asking them to bank on this sentiment with a stronger message in the form of new labeling and advertising.
"Retailers, manufacturers and consumers alike understand the importance of domestically-made goods as an essential part of our economic growth on a local, regional and national level, and the ‘Made in the USA' logo/icon is a great reminder for many," said Jeffrey Seagle, Mohawk's director of marketing and product merchandising.
Mohawk, which has been creating home textiles in Georgia for its 120-year existence, sees "Made in the USA" resonating with the American consumer "more than ever," Seagle continued. "We believe, to a certain extent, it always mattered to the customer as a matter of pride and badge of quality. Now it seems it is really beginning to matter to our retail partners. As the economy continues to struggle, consumers still seek a great value, however they are also very mindful how American made products contribute to future growth of our economy." cmi, which has been producing all of its rugs and more recently soft accessories at its Pawtucket, R.I., headquarters since 1979, is "definitely marketing our ‘Made in the USA' more because it has become much more important to our customers," said Lynn Minchello, marketing manager and daughter of company founder, owner and president, Don Scarlata.
Added Roy Evans, vp of sales and marketing: "Overall, being Made in the USA is an additional positive feature about a rug, but not the primary reason a customer buys our rugs. The color, style, price and availability must fit the customer needs first. Then, to find out it's made in the USA is an ‘Oh, that's nice' feeling. If there's a toss-up between two rugs, it usually tips the balance in our favor."
Recently, "more and more retailers are asking about it so we're focusing on that through our presentations, labels and factory information on our website and in person. It's another selling angle to take when price is a concern," he said.
Not far away, in West Warwick, R.I., multi-category suppliers Natco Home/Central Oriental manufactures 80% of its area rugs here.
Jim Thompson, vp of sales and marketing, agreed that, "ultimately, it comes down to color and design," for a shopper when selecting a rug to buy.
But because the company's designers and colorists "are based here, and are shopping the U.S. market, they understand American color and design. They understand the trends and we are able to adapt to them quickly. This is a fashion business, and as manufacturers, we allow retailers to change out assortment faster thanks to our quick turnaround and short lead times. They can even order less quantity more often, and update their assortments more often."
Natco Home/Central Oriental bought its polypropylene rug manufacturing plant five years ago in Sanford, Maine, and has been progressively expanding and updating it since then, most recently having installed its eighth loom about one month ago.
"We went from being primarily an importer of Belgian and Turkish machine-made rugs to now manufacturing 80% of our line - and growing," Thompson said.
Natco Home/Central Oriental also owns and operates a conversion facility in Dalton, Ga., where it makes basic solid-colored utility-type area rugs out of carpet remnants.
Shaw Living, a division of Berkshire Hathaway-owned Shaw Industries, produces 99% of its rugs domestically at its plant in Ringgold, Ga., according to Kim Barta, brand manager.
"Made in USA is something Shaw has been talking about for many years," Barta said. "When people started importing, we stayed here. And now, it's at the forefront on what consumers want. They want to support American businesses."
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