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Graham Head Takes RugNews.com Behind the Scenes at ABC Carpet's Luxe Antique Rug Sale

ABC's Graham Head says the store's annual antique rug sale has evolved over the past 12 years to appeal to a larger audience and the next generation of collectors.

Lisa Vincenti
portrait of ABC Home executive
Graham Head, vice chairman of iconic retailer ABC Carpet & Home

NEW YORK -- Rug industry guru Graham Head, vice chairman of ABC Carpet & Home, takes RugNews.com on an exclusive behind the scene tour of the retailer's signature antique rug sale, and details the evolution of the rug business at ABC in the past decade and its strategy moving forward.

Head shares his thoughts on Millennials and their buying habits and tastes, the significance of handmade and artisanal products, and how bringing one-of-a-kind designs to ABC's assortment has become a raison d'etre.

This year's annual Antique Rug Sale, which runs through May 1 at ABC's flagship location at 888 Broadway, as well as online at abchome.com, includes more than 1,000 rare, one-of-a-kind antique rugs sourced from around the world, and from private collectors.

How does the annual antique sale fit into ABC's strategy with regard to rugs?

G.H.: Once a year we get to show some of the best antique rugs available in our ABC Carpet & Home showroom. It's galvanizing to show off these pieces alongside the rest of our collections, because today there are few places left that have a large antique assortment.

The annual ABC sale offers antique rugs in a range of prices, including this antique Oushak wool rug, crafted in Turkey, retailing for $49,000.

When did you host your first annual sale? How have the sale and its impact on ABC's strategy changed through the years?

G.H. - We began our annual antique rug sale over 12 years ago. The assortment has evolved over the years to appeal to a larger audience specifically a younger consumer who we like to define as the next generation of collectors. 

This has influenced our assortment, encouraging us to bring in rugs with unconventional designs and colors that will complement contemporary and modern interiors. 

How has the role of rugs changed at ABC Carpet & Home since the founding of the company? How has your strategy within the rug department changed? Why?

G.H. - Today we are a vertically integrated company. Our manufacturers have become our partners in the creation of our ABC Carpet & Home rugs. Our overseas partners come to the table with exciting ideas for new pieces and we work collectively, and creatively, to bring those ideas to life. 

Doris Leslie Blau, a long-time ABC partner, offers several rugs for the annual sale, including this blue and cream antique Chinese rug. 

How have the changes in your rug department been affected by the buying habits of shoppers? What are ABC Carpet shoppers looking for?

G.H. - Our consumers are much more particular. They are seeking one-of-a-kind pieces that are unique and unconventional. The world has changed dramatically with the internet providing customers with endless access. In order to compete in the crowded eco-space we need to provide consumers with products that are not accessible elsewhere, hard to find, rare and collectible. 

How, if at all, has the importance of rugs in a home's interior design changed in the past few years?

G.H. - Rugs and art have become the most important pieces of expression in open plan living spaces. We've found that big blank canvases are the new trend in homes, allowing for more entertaining space. To fill that space, individuals are selecting prominent focal pieces for the room, each special and considered. 

How does ABC Carpet & Home plan to remain competitive in the future?

G.H. - The future for ABC Carpet & Home is utilizing our producers overseas as artisans. Creating special one-of-a-kind works of art that continue to allow ABC Carpet & Home to be the showroom for unique and timeless rugs. 

A one-of-a-kind antique Turkmen rug, hand woven from vegetable dyed wool in Afghanistan, features an allover pattern of 'gul' motifs.  

What will it take for rug retailers to succeed?

G.H. - We consistently need to make sure that we are creating rugs that are special enough to hold up against other products. We cannot lose the handmade quality, the artisanal work that brings to life the most imaginative and desirable rugs that we've ever seen. 

What are you most excited about with regard to the rug industry?
G.H. - I'm excited that we're creating an industry that young individuals can come into. The world is changing and the millennial generation is gravitating towards artisanal handmade items. We hope this is not just a trend and it will influence the future of production. 

Where do you go to look for inspiration?

G.H. - I find inspiration from all over the world. Throughout my travels working with artisans in different countries, I learn new techniques in rug weaving. I find inspiration from the colors of the cities, the art and the architecture. 


A sprawling 15x22 antique wool Kerman rug rounds out the broad offering that is part of the ABC Carpet & Home annual event.

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