Rug Market Mood Upbeat
Cecile Corral -- Home Textiles Today, 7/9/2012 2:00:00 AM
ATLANTA - The planets just might be aligning this month in a way they haven't in a long time for the area rug suppliers who participate in the bi-annual Atlanta International Area Rug Market.
Even though the July show is typically slower in traffic and mood than its January counterpart, the upcoming rug market - July 12 to 15 - could get a shot of adrenaline thanks to both internal and external factors surrounding the business and the economy.
For one thing, suppliers are by now well adapted to a slower economy and know how to develop products that are suited to shoppers' demands for value at the right price.
In addition, retailers' stricter inventory positions over recent years could force them to shop the market to refill emptying shelves and infuse their assortments with fresh goods for what many hope will be a strong fall season.
HTT spoke to some of the key suppliers in the area rug industry about their expectations for the July rug market, and here is what they had to say:
Allen Robertson, vp of sales
"The big deal is that we have the same number of appointments as last year, and that is god because it's not down, for sure.
"And we really do plan to write some business this time, more than we did last year.
"My expectation is to increase business. We have had five or six different markets recently [around the country] and at each one we've seen sales increase and improve. Each market has been bigger than the prior one.
"Some of our customers coming to see us in Atlanta have already told us they are coming to buy goods. So while inventories are still tight, we see business picking up and we see customers coming to both replenish lines as well as find something new."
Roy Evans, vp of sales
"We expect this market to be slow, as summer markets usually are. The focus will be on the Internet accounts and catalog retailers that visit us each summer - approximately 15 to 20 top-producing customers. We will be working with them on designing and creating rugs that accentuate their fall and winter themes. Our brick-and-mortar accounts do not heavily attend this market."
Larry Mahurter, vp, marketing
"The 70 area rugs we introduced during the [January 2012] winter market will be in stock for this fall, so that makes for a good opportunity for us to sell those this market.
"In addition, we will also be showing 12 new collections, and none of it is season specific, which means we will have a ton a merchandise to offer our customers.
"In my 20 years of working at Couristan, this is probably our largest product development effort across the board, from broadloom to area rugs. And it's a good sign that the business coming back. We are using more organic fibers and more color. Business is healthy. The housing market is improving.
"In terms of traffic, we will be seeing all of our big accounts, the big chain stores, and we expect the traffic to be status quo."
Joe Barkley, evp
"We at Kaleen are bullish regarding the Atlanta summer market. Our appointment schedule is currently fairly close to our winter market schedule, which is usual.
"Typically, summer market runs 20% to 25% below winter appointments. We expect a strong summer market after a few down summer markets."
Brandon Culpepper, vp, specialty sales
"We expect good retailer attendance, with meetings. This market is very much appointment driven. There's really not a lot of walk-in traffic.
"But we do have a lot of appointments and we expect it to be a very good show - which goes hand in glove with the work we do with our sales efforts out in the field.
"There have been some personnel changes at Karastan recently, and [as a result] we will be presenting several new initiatives to our customers at this market.
"We have broadened our price-point spectrum and also broadened our color, design and style, and will continue to do that as we go. Karastan is a brand that covers lots of price points, from medium to high in machine-mades, and that will continue."
Reza Momeni, principal
"I think this will be a good market. Historically, summer markets are slow, but we have seen some momentum in the business, and some dealers are ready this market to bring in new product to their stores. And the timing is right because they can order now for fall delivery as the season kicks in. They can order now and receive the order by late summer or September, which would be great.
"We have some fresh looks that are not specific to a season - just sellable items for all year round."
Alex Peykar, principal
"While all economic reports have not turned positive in our industry yet, Nourison has continued introducing many new and exciting qualities, concepts and price points reflecting the continued demand of consumers who are in the market searching for perceived values."
Oriental Weavers USA
"Based on business over the past couple of years, we're still focusing on the mid-to lower-end products at sharp prices. People are still being conservative in their buying decisions, and the $299 and below price points for 5-by-8s has been our sweet-spot and still continues to be.
"So far we have a good list of appointments for market. I think as far as walk-in traffic, we expect some - not as much as there used to be. We are focusing on the customers who come to market to meet with us.
"Our products for market include new indoor/outdoor offerings. They have really been strong for us."
Mark Ferullo, vp
"We have a pretty good book of appointments - some of the old reliables but also some new accounts for us are coming in to see Rizzy. We are excited about the retailers coming in to see us.
"We are showing several new products that have all been earmarked for fall shipment, which is good.
"Business as a whole is on the upswing. We've had a lot of positive responses, and we are optimistic.
"Rizzy is 54% ahead for the year as of May - we are experiencing steady growth."
Arash Yaraghi, president
"We are expecting more and more institutional buyers to come to Atlanta than in the past when this market focused on brick and mortar stores. Now we see large chains and catalogs with strong internet components, and flash sale retailers becoming increasingly important in area rugs. They are very much in tune with their customers and monitor what sells online in real time. They look for fashion, quality and value, of course. But they also look for rugs that make a visual impact on their websites and compel the consumer to buy."
Kim Barta, brand manager
"With winter market traffic being up, we are cautiously optimistic about summer market traffic being up as well."
Paul Sullivan, svp, sales, national accounts, Artistic Weavers division
"I think this market will be a very interesting in that we are coming off a little bit of uncertainty in the economy. I think with retailers' inventories sill being managed very tightly, we will have them coming in for freshness and newness but also competitive price points.
"Any time the market gets to looking at price points and fast turn-arounds, that is when a mass market brand like Artistic Weavers can step to the forefront. We will stock the goods, fill in at very a very quick rate, and offer very competitive pricing."
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