Rahesh Agarwal, Aanchal Agarwal and Dolly Agarwal, all of Rug & Home in Gaffney, S.C, examine Nourison’s new products with the suppliers’ product manager Jonathan Peykar, left.

Severe winter weather and unease about market conditions didn’t seem to dampen the optimistic mood at this year’s Atlanta International Area Rug Market. Attendees on hand generally agreed there was cause to be enthusiastic for the coming year based on the slate of new products and line extensions unveiled at the soft surface showcase.

“Business is tough, but still strong,” observed Rahesh Agarwal, chief executive of Rug & Home in Gaffney, S.C. who added that the high end sales remain vibrant. “We’re in the process of expanding, adding 6,000 square feet to our stores and also looking for another location.” He said he was looking for high-end tufted goods. Similarly, Scott McCarver, owner and president of Jackson’s Carpet in Rock Hill, S.C. noted that the market conditions have inspired him to sharpen his focus. “I’m more excited about the next couple of quarters than most people. People know it might not be a great year, but they’re committed to doing the best business they can.”

Steve Sieracki, of Shaw’s Residential division, said he was encouraged by the reaction. “The mood is very good,” he said. “Does that mean it’s going to equate to a good 2008? The TV commentators say ‘No,’ but we’re continuing to invest in products, displays and new technology that the dealers can take to their consumers.”

A number of retailers stressed that merchandising remains a challenge. The products they said have never been more innovative, but there needs to be more focus on the process of selling to consumers. As such, a clear focus was POP material.

Shaw, for example, unveiled Vision Savvy Spaces, the company’s first freestanding display that integrates hard surface with carpet. Categorized into Luxury, Casual, Retreat and Urban, the display uses samples of laminate, ceramic and hardwood matched with patterned and solid carpet designs. “It’s intended to inspire the shopper to coordinate carpet and hard surfaces,” explained Sieracki.

Attendees also said sales are being spurred by rug collections designed to ease the transition between rooms found in today’s open floor plans. Milliken’s Connections collection, for instance, offered rugs in seven sizes and a choice of Wilton or plush constructions, as well as its new Lake District assortment offered on-trend colors including “watery blues” and “chocolate browns.”  “This collection makes it easy for consumers to go room-to-room,” said Rob Beistline, market manager for Milliken Carpet. “Both designers and retailers loved the new direction of the layered designs, fashion forward colors and ensemble groupings.”-- Jessica Harlan

Rug Mart a Shaw Thing

Departing from its practice of exhibiting at a nearby hotel, Shaw Industries this year held its regional Innovations market at AmericasMart concurrently with the Atlanta Rug Market.

Company officials said the move resulted in “record attendance” and a steady stream of satisfied retailers and designers. In addition to Shaw’s existing showroom space, it exhibited on the first floor of the multi-level Mart. Featured were area rugs, and residential and commercial carpeting as well as hard surface flooring.

“Many dealers commented they liked the access and convenience to the Rug Market,” said Stephanie Hardy, Shaw’s divisional marketing manager. Steve Sieracki, director residential product marketing, added  “This is a much better space. We’re able to get more product in, and the lighting and layout is better.”