S & H STRESSES MODERN BUSINESS PRACTICES IN THE TRADITIONAL WORLD OF HAND KNOT RUG IMPORTING
Ori Wilbush, president of S&H Rugs, and James Arjmand, Oriental Rug Specialist.
By Lissa Wyman
CARLSTADT, NJ -- S&H Rugs, headquartered in the heart of New Jersey's Oriental Rug district, is applying modern marketing, service and distribution techniques to the traditional business of hand-knotted rug wholesaling.
"We specialize in the right color, the right price and the right service, which means same-day shipping to our customers," said Ori Wilbush, president of S&H.
"The world has changed rapidly in the past 20 years, and we have to adapt to those realities. Modern communications and the Internet have made the planet very small, and retailers can easily go direct to the overseas factories. For a wholesale to succeed in today's business, you can't be just a middle man. We have to bring customers the best products, use modern communications tools and offer outstanding financing and service. It's all about the right color, the right price and the right service. Any rug in our system can be shipped on the same day."
"S&H currently stocks approximately 10,000 rugs and we are now adding a collection of pre-Embargo rugs from Iran," said Wilbush.
One of the key ingredients of S&H service is managing inventory and shipping in a tightly controlled way. At S&H, every rug is photographed and electronically identified at the distribution center, and that photo i.d. allows for the rug to be easily picked, shipped and traced.
In a world where instant gratification has become the norm, customers have zero tolerance for delays. "It's necessary to be totally organized at every step of the process," added James Arjmand, Oriental rug specialist, who is also responsible for the company's internal operations.
Arjmand became involved in the rug business when he inherited 5,000 rugs from family in Iran. With that stock, he started an Oriental rug wholesale and retail business in State College, Pa. where he was a student at Penn State. Arjmand brought that expertise with him when he joined S&H two years ago.
Wilbush founded S&H in 1990 as an antique rug specialist. But the company has gradually shifted its specialty to contemporary hand knotted rugs.
A native of Israel, Wilbush began his career in the U.S. representing an Israeli machine made rug manufacturer. The experience with machine made rugs became a gateway to hand knotted rugs. "I became interested in fine rugs and I started collecting and trading Antique rugs," he said. "Antique rugs are still my personal passion."
Wilbush then became interested in Peshawar rugs from Pakistan, which he immediately perceived as a modern interpretation of hand knotted rugs.
"Twenty years ago, investing $100,000 in Peshawar rugs was considered a very bold move. But I knew what the American consumer wanted," he explained.
"We felt that the Peshawar rugs offered a broader opportunity to attract new and younger customers who wanted to go beyond traditional rugs. We phased out of antique rugs and began to branch out into more modern interpretations of knotted rugs," he added.
Today, Wilbush only half-jokingly says the company's specialty is "rugs that sell." In addition to Peshawar designs, the company currently stocks knotted rugs made of bamboo silk, sari silk, ikat designs and overdye looks. Traditional rugs are also an importnt part of the product mix. Principal producing countries are India, Pakistan and China.
"We also develop our own designs and color. We are guided by principles of good taste and a modern sensibility," Wilbush added.
Looking ahead, Wilbush said the company is moving to a more custom approach to design and service. "We work closely with designers and their customers want products that are truly unique. We are working toward that," said Wilbush.
S&H's core customers are bricks-and mortar specialty stores, interior designers and auction houses.
"The world is constantly changing and we have to change constantly as well. We are always looking for ways to improve our products and our services. We can't sit still," said Wilbush.
The mechanics of the business are just one part of the company's success. "We're known in the industry as having a 'good hand,' " said Wilbush. "It's easy to do business with us. We hope it's always a pleasant experience."
S & H remains committed to the hand knotted rug segment of the business. "The tufted and machine made rug business is booming, but we have made a conscious decision not to go in that direction," said Wilbush.
"While high knot-count rugs are becoming prohibitively expensive for all but the luxury end of the market, we believe that there is room for significant growth in lower knot-count products," Wilbush observed.
"Our strength is in the 100-knot category, with production in three-to-four months rather than a year or more. Those rugs can retail at approximately $2,000 in 8x10 size. Not too expensive, not too cheap. That is becoming the bread-and-butter of our business," said Willbush.
One last question -- what does "S & H" stand for?
"Oh. It just means Shipping and Handling," Wilbush revealed.
S&H staff at company headquarters in Carlstadt, NJ. Left to right: Daniel Franco, Aliet Cruz, Ori Wilbush, James Arjmand, Maria Carcamo, Juan Jose Salgado andCarlos Giovani
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