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Rug Vendors Adapt to Find Success at Atlanta Market

Some area rug exhibitors are adapting to Atlanta Market’s changing attendee buying patterns and tweaking their approach to keep the show relevant — and those moves paid off at the July show.

Jessica Harlan
Image of mat and pillow displays
Trans-Ocean relocates its footprint to better showcase its assortment of mats, pillows and curated rug offering.

ATLANTA —The summer edition of the Atlanta Market is back to normal in many ways: masks were few and far between now that COVID-19 vaccines are readily available, showrooms and halls were bustling with customers, and amenities like lunches and cocktail carts have been restored. What’s more, market organizers reported historic attendance and active buyingby national retailers, independent retailers and buying groups.

Those positive directions haven’t been felt by all Atlanta market area rug exhibitors and the third through sixth floors of AmericasMart Building One remained relatively vacant and three major vendors — Amer, Nourison and Orian — recently pulled out of the show. Yet, organizers are busy revamping the AmericasMart in an effort to boost traffic across those areas that have failed to generate buyer turnout. In fact, in 2023 the International Casual Furniture Association’s Casual Market will move from its historic home in Chicago to AmericasMart,  a relocation anticipated to improve buyer traffic at both markets.

Remaining rug vendors are divided on their opinions on the industry’s role in the show’s future. Some area rug players remain committed, adapting to the new attendance patterns at the market and, for the July event, found new homes in other, well-trafficked or more synergistic locations in AmericasMart, while those who remain in Building One seemed less certain of what the future will hold for their time in Atlanta.

“We’re doing more business here than in the last five years in Building One. We are getting much more traffic, and get a lot of drop-ins.” —Mike Thompson, SVP sales, L.R. Resources

L.R. Resources is one vendor who has relocated to a 17th-floor showroom in Building Two. Situated amongst gift vendors, the company’s small showroom focused more on its occasional furniture and accessories like pillows and poufs than on area rugs, although they were incorporated into displays and shown on racks in sample sizes.

“We’re doing more business here than in the last five years in Building One,” notes Mike Thompson, senior vice president of sales for L.R. Resources. “We are getting much more traffic, and get a lot of drop-ins. They see we have unique products when they walk by.” He also says that variety of customer is more diverse, ranging from gift shop owners to designers to furniture stores.

The showroom is smaller than their previous one, but Thompson said that with the representative sampling of products on display, customers were very comfortable with the quality of the company’s products and willing to order additional products from an online catalog.

Classic Home, which started 30 years ago as a rug company before swiftly morphing into also offering furniture and textiles, is another example of an AmericasMart exhibitor that can draw customers in with its variety of offerings. In its spacious showroom on an upper floor in Building One, a small rack displays area rugs, but more significantly, they’re arrayed throughout the showroom in vignettes. “Often people buy the entire vignette,” says Linda Minjares, vice president of rugs and textiles, adding that the company considers itself a floor-to-ceiling supplier, and develops its rug patterns with the intention that they’ll coordinate will with the company’s furniture and accessories. While she thinks it’s unfortunate that so many rug vendors are vacating the market, Minjares believes that this won’t negatively impact Classic home. “It might even affect us positively, because if there are retailers here who are looking for rugs, we’ll have that opportunity.” Atlanta Market, she notes, “is an important market for us.”

Trans-Ocean by Liora Manne, which features its mats, pillows and a curated selection of area rugs at the show, is also happy with its temporary showroom in Building 2, in a bustling part of the market amidst seasonal and gift exhibitors. Whereas at prior shows, Trans-Ocean was located in a temporary booth in the market’s outdoor category. The new space is in a more general gift and home area on the 3rd floor. “This floor has been very good,” says Dean Smith, vice president of sales. “We are getting people who don’t necessarily go to the outdoor area… now they stumble on us and think, we can sell that too!” He points out that the new location gives the company visibility to a wide range of retailers, including nursery and garden centers who like the company’s outdoor rugs. “For us, this is one of our more important markets, because we are gifty,” he adds.

“For us, this is one of our more important markets, because we are gifty. We are getting people who don’t necessarily go to the outdoor area … now they stumble on us and think, we can sell that too!”  — Dean Smith, VP sales, Trans-Ocean

Vintage rug purveyor Eliko also found a symbiotic home in the antiques temporary area at Atlanta Market. “Here, we get better designer traffic,” says David Basalely, owner/partner. The company used to have a permanent showroom, but because of its specialty in antique rugs, found that surrounding itself with other antiques vendors made sense.

Regionally, the Atlanta Market is an important one for Eliko and the company plans to continue to exhibit here. “A lot of our customers are based in the South, and those in the Southern states shop in Atlanta,” Basalely notes. “We have been pretty busy so far.”

Some exhibitors find that their showroom at AmericasMart can be used for more than just during markets.

Balta Home, for instance, which debuted in Atlanta in 2020, recently moved to a sunny showroom on the 10th floor. While the space functions as a showcase for its product lines, the company also uses it as an office space for its creative and marketing teams. “All our young talent live in the city,” points out Brandon Gavic, senior vice president of e-commerce, so AmericasMart’s downtown location is more convenient for them than Balta’s Rome, Georgia, office. The showroom has work tables, inspiration boards, and a library full of resources and yarn samples. Gavic says the space is also used as a virtual showroom for video tours; the company has a camera on a rolling tripod specifically for this purpose. “It’s a flexible space; we can reset it as needed,” he says.

Loloi moved from its fourth floor showroom to a new 6,500-square-foot space on the first floor, formerly occupied by Nourison, directly across from the market registration stations and the escalators. “The visibility is unparalleled,” says John Thompson, vice president of sales, Southeast region, Loloi. He says that the company’s licensed brands are highlighted in this showroom, and the better selling collections are featured as vignettes. While a second showroom on the 13th floor houses all of Loloi’s one-of-a-kinds, including vintage rugs, artwork, and pillows and poufs.“Atlanta is a great strong market for us, and this region is very strong. If we have the ability to support that community, we will.”

Part of Loloi’s intent to move to the first floor was its plans to make the showroom open and available year-round to retailers, designers, and other visitors. This makes it the company’s second permanently manned showroom, the first being at Dallas Market Center. Thompson says that the Atlanta Market has shifted from being a national event for the rug industry to being a more regional one. That said, he notes that this market has seen traffic from all over. “We’ve seen folks from Maryland, Illinois, Michigan, the West Coast,” he says. And with the new space, “We’re getting a lot of first-time customers because of our first-floor location.”
“Atlanta is a great strong market for us, and this region is very strong. We’re getting a lot of first-time customers because of our first-floor location.”  — John Thompson, VP sales, Loloi

Tamarian, meanwhile, remained in its sixth-floor space, at the end of a hall of shuttered showrooms. Chris Saliga, vice president of sales, says that Atlanta Market remains important for the company. “This is an easy market for people from Alabama, Florida, and Georgia,” he says. “And it’s useful for us to get the wool in front of our clients. [Being here] has paid off.” Saliga did say that in addition to in-person visits, the showroom is being heavily used for virtual tours. “We possibly have more Zoom appointments than in person,” he says.

French Accents Rugs was one of the few occupied showrooms on the fourth floor, and owner Danny Shafanian, CFO, was not sure where his company would end up once the market staff finished relocating showrooms to make room for the renovations. With a year and a half left on his lease, Shafanian plans to stay, and hopes that he’s given some favorable options for a new showroom.

French Accents has been an AmericasMart exhibitor for 30 years, and Shafanian is grateful for the doors the market has opened. “I now have a group of customers I’ve met in Atlanta from all over the East Coast,” he says. “Where would I find that again?” He feels that with the dwindling area rug exhibitors, there is little incentive for rug-focused buyers to come to Atlanta.

Jaunty, too, was in its usual space on the fifth floor. But Kami Navid, president, says this market is their last in Atlanta. “Most of our customers will be attending High Point and Vegas, so these will be the two primary markets we will focus on,” he says. The company also shows in Dallas with a sales rep group.

Although Navid said that they were able to get some appointment with customers, the sense of the rug category declining in Atlanta was strong. “Things seem to be phasing out of Atlanta as far as rugs go,” he says. “Twenty to 25 years ago, it used to be our biggest market.”
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