HIGH POINT, N.C.—Ribbon cuttings, expanded showrooms and crowded spaces gave International Home Furnishings Market attendees and exhibitors hope that the economic slowdown that has so badly affected the home furnishings industry is gradually on its way out. To that end, Brian Casey, president and CEO of the High Point Market Authority, expressed the fall version of the market, which took place Oct. 16 to 21, did “quite well.”
The heightened activity wasn’t confined to High Point’s furniture retailers as many floor covering showrooms reported increased interest. “Retailers seemed to be a bit more excited, upbeat and optimistic,” said Kim Barta, brand manager for Shaw Living.
Momeni, which, like Shaw returned to High Point in the spring, was “excited to once again have a permanent home at this very important market,” said Marlys Giordano, director of marketing and product development. Attendees had plenty to be encouraged about. There were expressive colors, beneficial programs, quality constructions and even new technologies to draw in crowds. While contemporary patterns and affordable prices continue to attract business—especially for the youth, college age and newlyweds—high-end looks, but with added value, are pluses for a wide range of retailers.
“We continue to see value driving business,” noted David Adams, executive vice president, Dalyn Rugs. “The best colors and designs at retail price points of $299 and below for a 5 x 8 continue to be successful for us.”
Elise Demboski, executive director of Wools Of New Zealand, believes luxury consumers are seeking more high- end looks. “However, their purchasing behavior has changed; they are seeking more value for their money. It is becoming increasingly important for the products to carry a greater story that links to environmentalism, point of origin (traceability of product), healthy home and safety.”
Wools of New Zealand is working with retailers who are committed to selling wool and educating their staff and consumers about the fiber. Some of the Wools of New Zealand collections being shown at the market included Momeni’s Charcoal in Elements, a contemporary power-loomed pattern with hand carving and hand finishing that retails at $439 for a 5 x 8. Also, Shaw’s Stucture Collection, tufted one stitch at a time of 100% New Zealand wool, offers 15 designs in a variety of textures, including shag, loop and cut pile. Suggested retail price for a 5 x 8 is $1,899.
Shag making a comeback
Shag, in fact, is still racking up orders at High Point, Adams added. Dalyn’s Cosmo collection is a soft and shiny shag that features nine colors and four standard sizes. Constructed from polyester in what he dubs a “chic look,” the rug is an affordable $199 retail for a 5 x 71⁄2. While shags represent more of the 1960s style, looks from the 1970s have inspired not just textures, but palettes as well. Momeni points to avocado green, pumpkin and golden yellow as the rage for some home decors, with warm browns accenting these hues.
Company C decorated its showroom in pink to bring attention to breast cancer awareness, with 20% of rug sales supporting the cause. Since the mayor of High Point is a breast cancer survivor, Company C had her speak during the market. Besides pink, the mill unleashed a bright and vibrant collection appropriately named Colorful Outdoors. These rugs are 100% polyester, can be hosed down to clean and come in a variety of patterns such as mosaic, cabana, trees and geometric looks.
The toned-down, earthen colors can be paired with brights to add contrast, Shaw’s Barta said, noting consumers are more aware of and interested in environmentally friendly products. Silhouetted botanicals and organic motifs have become popular patterns as well. Shaw Living continues to build green product offerings through its machine-woven Evertouch nylon products.
Feizy also introduced transitional styling accented by small pops of vibrant colors as contrasts. The Vardo collection is a recent collaboration with designer Tracy Porter. The line includes six styles in multiple colorways and is constructed of hand-knotted, premium, hand-spun wool.
Custom rug programs also continued to garner attention at this market. “We continue to see strong growth in our overall custom rug business,” Adams said. “Our custom rug programs allow retailers to present thousands of colors, designs and sizes at affordable price points with minimal inventory and floor space investment. With easy-to-understand merchandising, an online virtual customer rug builder and two-week turnaround, our custom rug programs are a bright spot for retailers in these challenging economic times.”
Shaw Living helped make it easier for retailers by creating a kiosk that requires only 25 square feet of retail floor space. The unit boasts a dramatic design, according to Barta, and has a video loop featuring Kathy Ireland. In addition to the 68 sample boards with 12 x 19-inch substrate samples and “inspirational” room sets, shoppers are also invited to “Find My Rug” on an interactive touch screen. By keying in personal choices in styles, colors, sizes and shapes, shoppers are shown some of Shaw’s top-selling rug designs.
Barta explained the display/kiosk is designed to make rug selling easier and more economical in a smaller space.
“Retailers can offer their customers choices from more than 5,500 rugs through a very small footprint,” said Jim Curtin, Shaw Living’s vice president of sales.
During the market, Innovations International showcased new technology for rug retailers. The ecatalog system boasts a powerful search engine that allows viewers to look at multiple rugs from different vendors by color, size, price and style.
The ecatalog and irugz were developed by David Khazai, who is a fifth-generation family member involved in Oriental rugs. He developed a Windows-based POS software based on his own business and retail experience to provide a quality inventory management system to the industry. He says ecatalog and irugz are designed to increase inventory and give businesses a leg up in a struggling economy.