Aaron Gray does not need an economist to tell him about ominous business conditions and whether it is safe to venture outside. As marketing director at Oriental Weavers USA/Sphinx, Gray knows first-hand that the economy has improved, at least for his company. Now he wants to take full advantage.
In the last year, the Dalton-based supplier has aggressively expanded its product assortment with the introduction of 150 new patterns. “Not only have we introduced sever- al new collections that are value priced below our normal offerings, but we have also added new collections that offer the finest quality and most sophisticated designs in our history,” said Gray, who joined the company in 2006 after serving as national accounts manager for Karastan and Mohawk Select.
Why such a bold move, which includes higher price points, in what most agree is still a struggling economy? Because Oriental Weavers, especially Gray, does not view it that way. “A couple of the reasons we decided to offer higher price points is because we are preparing for the return of the economy, and retailers are focusing their partnerships with a handful of suppliers. Retailers are consolidating their supplier base, and we want to be able to meet their needs in various categories and price points.”
Gray said Oriental Weavers began seeing signs of an economic turnaround 15 months ago. While some business sectors—flooring or otherwise—have experienced dips during that time, Gray has seen acceleration in business. Which is why this is no time to act conservatively.
“Many dealers had reduced inventory so much that as we started to see some recovery it was necessary for them to bring in some inventory and hanging samples,” he said. “We look for that momentum to carry into next year.”
In the last 18 months, however, the difficult economy has driven price points down for all flooring suppliers, Oriental Weavers included. It is the way it has responded that is noteworthy. The company has come back with several new offerings that were value-priced below its normal offerings. “We are finding that consumers who would have traditionally purchased 5 x 8s at $999 and above are now buying at the $299 to $399 range, which overall hit our price points,” Gray said.
With economic conditions having improved—at least in its eyes—Oriental Weavers plans to announce in the next few weeks another major product category expansion, slated to kick in during the fourth quarter. Gray would not disclose what that category is, other than to offer the teaser, “Everyone will have to stay tuned for that announcement.”
Exploring and advancing into new opportunities is a major thrust of Oriental Weavers’ game plan. The company has expanded into four product categories in the last three years: broadloom, custom rugs, area rug pads and broadloom pads.
As a global supplier with manufacturing and distribution facilities on five continents, Oriental Weavers has the clout to conceive, design, create and execute on a global level. This capacity allows the company, the largest machine-made rug manufacturer in the world, to achieve the best possible cost advantages, regardless of whether the product originates in Cairo, Egypt; Dalton, or one of its many other locations around the globe, according to Gray. Driven by its U.S.-based design team, Oriental Weavers has revamped its more traditional patterns with fresh colors and created transitional designs with traditional motifs. The result has produced healthy sales for its woven broadloom lines.
A growing green story
Every flooring company has a green story these days, and Oriental Weavers/Sphinx is no exception. To date, two of its products—Knightsbridge area rugs and Kensington broad- loom—are made of New Zealand wools and carry the Carpet and Rug Institute Green Label Plus designation. Green Label Plus is an enhanced program that sets a very high standard for indoor air quality (IAQ). The label is assurance that customers are purchasing the lowest emit- ting products available on the market. Gray said the company is proud of the designation and is looking to introduce more green products in the future.