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Business

Rug Vendors Gear Up for Atlanta & Vegas Markets with ‘Omni' Strategies

Vendors weigh the risks and benefits of opening their showroom doors, with some electing to keep their showrooms dark, and others to open with caution.

By Jessica Harlan
8/13/2020
A rug display featuring gray and beige transitional rugs

Surya's hand-knotted Biscayne collection, crafted of New Zealand wool, features a trending palette of shades like gray, butter, burnt orange and khaki.

ATLANTA -- As Atlanta Market opens its doors at AmericasMart later this week, one thing is certain: This will be a market unlike any others. To keep attendees safe during the pandemic, AmericasMart has made significant changes to its procedures, including issuing digital badges, requiring temperature scans at the entrances and enforcing mask wearing throughout the campus. But still, rug vendors weighed the risks and benefits of opening their showroom doors, with some companies electing to keep their showrooms shuttered, and others to open with caution.

RugNews.com took a cross-section of some of the longtime exhibitors at AmericasMart to see what their plans are for introducing new products this market cycle, whether in-person or virtually.

KALATY RUG CORP.


Kalaty Josie Natori N Natori Serengeti (SG-629) reworks classic animal prints for a fresh look.

Kalaty chose not to open its showroom for both Atlanta and Las Vegas markets. "The safety and health of our customers as well as our own health and safety was the chief reason we chose not to open," said Arial Kalaty. But even with a closed showroom, the company has plenty to share. "Throughout the pandemic, Kalaty has continued to move forward with our product line, and we have a number of new collections as well as additions to best-selling collections," said Kalaty.

The company's main focus this summer is on its upper-end offerings.There are new heirloom hand-knotted collections and additions to existing bestselling heirloom groups. Of particular note is the N Natori line. It's an extension of Kalaty's partnership with renowned fashion designer Josie Natori. N Natori's Serengeti, in polyester, features animal print themes, and Bliss focuses on geometric patterns executed in viscose and acrylic. Both are among the first power-loomed rug collections being marketed under the N Natori name.

The company is also adding seven new collections to its moderately priced K-TWO series. The introductions will feature updated traditional patterns as well as abstract designs in modern color ways and innovative uses of accent colors, as well as transitional designs in sophisticated natural hues.

Customers can still get the latest news and product introduction from Kalaty in a number of ways. "Our website and our Kalaty app enable us to stay in constant contact with our customers," said Kalaty. "In lieu of Atlanta and Las Vegas this summer, we are offering virtual market tours to our customers."


NOURISON


Nouison grows its popular Starry Nights (STN07), protected with Nouri-Guard.

Nourison's doors will be open at the Atlanta and Las Vegas markets, with limited staff present, and safety amenities like hand sanitizer, social distancing, and customized Nourison masks. But for customers who aren't traveling, a virtual summer market event will take place on Aug. 18 at 1 p.m. EST. An hour-long Zoom session, the presentation will include a business discussion, a chat with an interior designer, and then a preview of the new introductions for area rugs, carpets, and home accents. E-blasts, landing pages, online catalogs and videos will also help promote Nourison's summer introductions.

"We expect less attendees and appointments at Atlanta and Las Vegas markets and more customers joining us for our virtual market," noted Giovanni Mara, director of marketing and digital strategy of Nourison. "We expect showroom traffic to be attended more by local customers."

For those who do make it to the Nourison showroom or the virtual market, there will be plenty new to see. Nourison is introducing over 100 new products. One highlight is the hand-knotted, Tibetan-inspired Plateau area rug collection. It features textured stripes in an earth tone palette. There will also be expansions to several of the company's successful existing collections. In Prismatic, new styles will have an abstract, painterly look in multicolor and sea foam/silver colors. New products under the Starry Nights collection, which has Nouri-Guard fiber protectant, will include intricate floral patterns with a vintage faded look, in blush, blue, and grey. And Kathy Ireland Home will grow with new designs in classic Persian motifs and vintage looks.

Looking ahead to fall, Mara says the company will open its High Point showroom, but will continue to offer virtual appointments and markets. "We still expect our customers to have limited travel in the fall," he said.


LOLOI RUGS


Loloi expects its new Giada collection (GIA-05) to be a market favorite.

Loloi’s Atlanta showroom is open on a daily basis even when markets aren't in session, and will continue to be open during Atlanta Market. "The showroom was already set up and is being maintained on a daily basis by our locally based showroom manager and team," said Austin Craley, vice president of sales for Loloi Rugs. The same holds true for the company's Dallas Market Center space, which will also accommodate buyers in-person for the Dallas Total Home & Gift Market later this month. But the company chose to opt out of the upcoming summer Las Vegas Market. "We don't have a local showroom manager or sales team, so in our mind, there were too many risks associated [with exhibiting in Vegas]," said Craley.

In Atlanta, the showroom is requiring masks be worn, and while attendees don't need appointments, a safe capacity has been determined, and stickers throughout the showroom will indicate safe distances throughout.

Craley said even though the showrooms are open, appointments are "drastically down" for both Atlanta and Dallas. "We're not expecting much for any of the markets," he admitted. "The international community is not coming in to any of the summer markets, and they usually are a pretty big part of our attendance. I think Atlanta will be mostly a regional Southeast market, Dallas a regional South Central market, and Vegas a regional West Coast market."

Can't make it to Atlanta or Dallas? The company has a virtual market that's already live on Loloi's website. The presentation walks viewers through new products, offering the highlights of each product. Customers can also set up a Zoom call with the sales team at Loloi's Dallas headquarters to look at products more in detail via the video conferencing platform.

"We knew most customers were not going to come to market in the summer, and if the customer's not going to come to us, we have to take our showroom to the customer," said Craley. Loloi is taking a wait-and-see approach to see what is in store for the High Point Market in October. "Depending on how this [pandemic] plays out, [customers might not be comfortable attending market] in October either, which would be painful, because those are good markets for us."


TAMARIAN


Tamarian expects brisk business from clients on the hunt for new looks. Shown, Lamina VW Multi

"Our recently renovated space is a large, open showroom that allows for adequate distancing and unfettered browsing of an expansive sample wall as well as curated stacks of our featured pieces in 8x10," noted Ned Baker, key account manager at Tamarian. Because only a limited number of staff is attending, the company is requesting that attendees make appointments.

"We are anticipating that our Southeastern clients will make up the bulk of attendees, even more so than previous markets," said Baker. "But dealers are eager to replenish and get the best pieces in their inventory ahead of competition, so I would not be shocked if we end up seeing our sales exceed expectations."

In the showroom, two-thirds of the sample wall will be new releases. The focus for these recent introductions includes new color palettes, new designs in the company's Phoenix Weave quality level, and an emphasis on texture. "We love the subtle nature of our TK knot and how it helps color gradients and transitions that become the 'wow' factor of a piece," said Baker.

Virtually, the new products and a trade show presentation is available on the company's newly launched website, while social media accounts will also alert customers to the latest images and news
.

SURYA


Surya's hand-woven Machu Picchu collection, made of 90 percent wool and 10 percent polyester, offers a neutral interpretation of South American classic motifs. Shown, MCU1000-810

Surya's showroom is normally bustling during market, and while it will be open this market, it'll be a different story. Visits will be appointment only, with a limited capacity of only five customers at a time. Guests and staff will wear masks, and Surya employees who will work in the showroom are being asked to self-quarantine before and during market for the safety of all. As a further safety measure the company's popular customer lunch service -- and even bottled water -- will not be available this Atlanta Market.

The appointment calendar is "not even comparable" to previous markets, said Satya Tiwari, president of Surya. Only 10 percent of Surya's customers typically come to a given market; for this summer's markets, he puts that figure at more like only one percent. "We're not pushing for appointments," he said. "We're telling people, if you're coming to market, and you're in the building, we'll make it possible to see us. We want to honor our customers and our business."

Tiwari stresses that the company has historically not conflated market with the reason to introduce products, but instead rolls out new products year-round. While during a normal market, there might be around 800 new products to be seen, though, customers who visit Surya during the Atlanta will only be able to see around 200, as Surya didn't want to send a team of staff to set up the showroom.

For introductions, there are three areas of focus. One is higher-end products in the company's 'better best' price range, including hand-tufted, hand-knotted and hand-woven. "Not everyone will be able to go to India," so Surya wanted to offer new handmade options, particularly in larger sizes like 10x14 and 12x15.

In machine-made, the company is also focusing on higher-end options for retailers and design customers. "Not everybody can buy handmade, but how do we give them high-end design?" he said. Here, some of the design focal points include abstract, distressed classics, and neutrals or neutral grounds with colorful accents.

Surya is sharing product news with its customers via a digital catalog and periodic e-blasts to roll out the introductions. "We are not trying to have just a market as a way to show newness," said Tiwari. Salespeople have been trained on digital content so they can be comfortable communicating with customers in a video format. "Everyone is adapting," said Tiwari.


AMER RUGS


Amer expects its Legacy collection of hand-knotted designs with geometric motifs to resonate with buyers.

With all recommended guidelines in place, Amer will keep its doors open during Atlanta Market. Anupriya Choudhary, director, Amer Rugs is expecting the market to be relatively slow compared to past markets, with mostly regional customers in attendance.

"We are showcasing all categories," said Chouhary. The company has launched several new collections for 2020, with new rollouts expected soon Two highlights of new introductions are Cairo, a power-loomed rug collection that features abstract, textural designs in blue, gold and gray, and Legacy, a hand-knotted collection with geometric influences, such as checkerboard and stripes.

ORIAN RUGS /PALMETTO LIVING


Orian Rugs/Palmetto Living's plush and soft domestically made collections remain a popular choice with rug buyers. Shown, Cloud collection Dream State

Instead of opening its showrooms in Atlanta and Las Vegas, Orian plans to focus on its new market introductions via a virtual showroom experience.

"First and foremost, properly managing the health and well-being of our employees along with appropriate customer interaction" is what prompted the decision, said Dave Matamoros, senior vice president of specialty sales at Orian.

Matamoros said the sales people and sales management team have stayed engaged with customers during the past five months, and their efforts were rewarded with strong sales and a "clear vision of what our customers are telling us is important today."

While the virtual market is still being developed, Matamoros says that it will likely incorporate the company's Anderson, South Carolina-based corporate showroom, with audio and visual resources that will enable the sales team to meet virtually with customers.

With regard to new products being launched this year, Matamoros said the company continues to focus on its domestic production, with an emphasis on styles, coloration, and values to meet the needs of the market. The new products seen during the summer's virtual market will be available in the second half of 2020.

Matamoros says Orian is hopeful that the October High Point market might be the first time that the company can interact in person with its customers since the pandemic began. "We expect set customer appointments will be the mode of operation, with our customers being hyper focused on doing their business aggressively and then heading home," he said.



TRANS-OCEAN


Trans-Ocean continues to add to its indoor rug assortment with the power-loomed Taos collection. Shown, Chevron

Trans-Ocean didn't have to make a decision about whether or not to show at Atlanta Market because the market organizers limited the August event to permanent showrooms only. Trans-Ocean has exhibited in the Gardens temporary spaces for the past few years, so the decision was made for them.

Stephen Hoberman, vice president of business development, said if they'd been allowed to, "we would have had a presence, although I don't know to what extent," at the market. Instead, though, the company is stepping up its communication in other ways.

"It's tough because a lot of [our clients] are smaller, independent stores, and they're used to doing all their shopping there. The remote selling strategy is somewhat new to them."

But, because the majority of Trans-Ocean's customers are still open and selling, they're still interested in what's new, and the New York-based rug maker, created by designer Liora Manne, is trying virtual presentations and ensuring its website is current with new product introductions. The company has made it a priority to update catalogs with better detail, while giving dealers options to order and check inventory online.

And there's a lot to communicate, says Hoberman. "We've had a busy summer, we've been sitting at the computer designing," he said. Among the many new products is an indoor collection called Taos, which is a value-priced, machine-made line with a modern/transitional feel. The 10 rugs in that assortment incorporate a lot of texture into the design for a high-end look at a reasonable price. Portofino is also new, an innovative indoor/outdoor collection with more than 10 design options. The collection focuses on a space-dyed effect in a new color palette, with fashionable motifs like gingham. Finally, the company's popular door mat business will expand with a nearly doubled assortment of design options in Illusions, a washable doormat line.

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