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Atlanta ice no match for eager rug buyers

ATLANTA—Neither snow nor ice could keep optimistic patrons from the Atlanta International Area Rug Market held at AmericasMart from Jan. 13 to 16. Despite a deep freeze in the Deep South, droves of buyers bustled into the market with an air of anticipation for a bright 2011.

“People are doing anything they can to get to market— either by planes, trains or auto- mobiles—braving the inclement weather,” said Chas Sydney, senior vice president of area rugs for AmericasMart. “Traffic started picking up Friday, leading to a successful weekend.”

This year’s Rug Market boasted the largest single collection of home products Building 1 has seen since its 1961 opening. “We are proud of this expansion considering economic times,” Sydney continued. “People are investing in their products and we’re investing in the industry.”

The outlook among exhibiters was positive, illustrated by populated showrooms and back- to-back appointments. “Customers didn’t have as much grumbling and declared a better 2010—especially the fourth quarter with the best Christmas companies have seen in several years,” said Kibbe Waters, regional vice president for Dalyn Rug Co.

Aaron Gray, director of marketing for Oriental Weavers, added, “Most traffic is appointment-based customers, serious about purchasing across the board to stock shelves. Consumers are starting the year redecorating and refreshing, and we have several introductions to meet their needs at all price points.”

Value does not mean less

With a cautiously optimistic approach to 2011, companies are recognizing the consumer expects more with each purchase. “We’re trying to get back to what we are known for: value at every price point with higher expectations of quality and beautiful, trendsetting appeal throughout,” said Gerard O’Keefe, Nourison’s vice president of national sales.

Nourison’s 2011 introductions feature hybrid collections with a more versatile approach to traditional design elements. Color Couture epitomizes the pure custom approach for hand- tufted New Zealand wool with a sample display system accompanied by online support for retailers to build their own renderings for custom design and colors from a 120-color yarn bank. The Fifty to Infinity display further assists retailers in meeting their customers’ needs for custom sizes in addition to the 50 running line offerings.

Further, the company reinvigorated the Calvin Klein Home brand, planning to introduce even more products under the collection at Surfaces from Jan. 25 to 27.

Value was also front and center for Oriental Weavers. “Our introductions insist on value without impeding on fashion,” Gray said. Montego, the company’s second-generation approach to indoor/outdoor, highlights fresh, bright hues of nature such as citron green, clean terracotta, bright mineral blue, burnt oranges and deep cocoa brown.

“Just because it’s outside doesn’t mean it can’t incorporate a designer appeal to accompany any décor.” David Adams, executive vice president, Dalyn, reiterated value is the core of all the company’s introductions. Following the success of its Innovations solid collection comes Visions with 18 designs made from core pile pattern shag appealing to the contemporary casual.

Back to basics

After several years of bolder hues, many exhibitors distinguished a shift in 2011 to basic tonal creations for use as the can- vas in designers’ decorating schemes. Companies are also reviving their roots, enhancing what they are known for by stimulating the value-savvy designer.

Oriental Weavers introduced Odyssey, the highlight of its 2011 arrivals. “For 20 years, Oriental Weavers has been the only company that can accomplish from a machine the look of antique striation with a blend for different variations throughout the piece,” Gray said. Manufactured in Egypt, Odyssey is a cross-woven collection offering the appeal of a handmade piece in a more affordable and family-friendly fiber and construction.

Karastan reintroduced its signature piece in Heritage Kirman, a remake of the 1941 pattern with updated colors. Made in the U.S. of New Zealand wool, the staple carries virtually unlimited colors.

“It takes a special retailer to be a Karastan retailer and we offer them the best,” said Steve Roan, vice president of Karastan Rugs. “The response from customers regarding the Kirman reintroduction strengthens the notion of ‘don’t fix something that’s not broken.’”

Celebrity spotlights

Licensed lines also were expanded throughout the Mart. For example, Shaw Living enhanced its popular Tommy Bahama Home collection with four styles to complete its compilation of island-inspired designs that will “transform any home into a well-dressed oasis,” the company stated. From historic iron gates to bohemian flair, all introductions portray the timeless, relaxing and elegant designs for which the Tommy Bahama collection is known.

Rounding out the Shaw rug introductions was the Angela Adams Modern Comfort line, which the mill expanded with three styles representing organic modern design instituting an earthy palette that compliments the marriage of contemporary and casual features.

Safavieh used the Atlanta Market to officially announce its Ralph Lauren licensed rug program during a ribbon cutting ceremony in the new 3,000-square-foot Ralph Lauren rug showroom within Safavieh’s space.

“Anyone familiar with Ralph Lauren stores and advertising knows rugs are an important element of the Lauren look,” said Cyrus Yaraghi, a Safavieh principal, “including reproductions of antique Persian carpets, sisal rugs, Navajo and Southwestern looks or safari themes. Each of the brand’s themes are represented in the new rug collections.”

The collection has two tiers: Ralph and Lauren. Both are inspired by traditional lifestyles with modern flair, he said. “The tiered approach offers top quality at two price points for the unmistakable charm the brand is known for.”

Accompanying the Ralph Lauren brand was Safavieh’s second-largest release of rugs under the Martha Stewart moniker since it began working with the design doyenne. Yaraghi said the 26-SKU enhancement is instinctive of Nepal, heavy in wool and silk. The collection is nature-inspired with soft hues, giving special attention to the attributes of each locale, such as the natural fibers, dyes, weaving techniques and manufacturing equipment.

-Julienne Redwood