Pavilion is the latest addition to Karastan’s Iconoclast collection of Axminster rugs. Photo courtesy of Karastan.

Despite the challenging economy, consumers are still choosing area rugs by color and design rather than price, according to manufacturers. They say consumers are seeing area rugs as a long-term investment that, if chosen properly, will coordinate with their home furnishings for years to come.

Paradise Retreat, from Fibreworks. Photo courtesy of Fibreworks.

“Today, people are looking for value, not necessarily the lowest price,” said Jim Curtin, Shaw Living’s vp sales. “They demand that the rug comes from a strong and sustainable manufacturer. They want peace of mind in knowing their investment will be a good one.”

Color in area rugs is incredibly diverse, Curtin noted, trending toward tones that are soothing, including “neutrals, earth tones, cool and warm grays, metallic silvers, indigo blues.” He added that the vibrant, vivid colors currently seen in hand-tufted products are expected to filter down to machine-made rugs in the near future.

Additionally, textures and textured yarns are popular, circle designs dominate the contemporary category, and traditional rugs are also gaining momentum.

The Basilica, Multi rug, part of Shaw Living’s Woven Expressions Platinum collection. Photo courtesy of Shaw Living.

Steven Roan, Karastan Rugs’ vp, is seeing rugs trending toward shades of blue and brown, along with a mild resurgence of traditional patterns and lots of textured looks.

“We are very optimistic about the business as consumers continue to focus on their private spaces,” Roan noted, adding consumers’ habits of pairing hard surface flooring with area rugs has helped the segment. “The trend toward hard surface with rugs to accent continues to grow.”

According to Lynne Minchello, Colonial Mills’ sales development and marketing manager, custom options are also providing a boost to the segment. “Years ago, braided rugs were traditional ovals in traditional colors. That is far from the case today. We are able to create rugs to any custom specification, from ovals to rectangles to octagons and geometric shapes; we can use our own yarn/fabric or custom yarn/fabric.”

She added that indoor/outdoor rugs are also growing in popularity. “We see that business to going to pick up in 2011 via the indoor/outdoor rug market. Customers are realizing the versatility of a reversible rug that can be used year round, whether in or out.”

Minchello said, “Color is still the number one deciding factor for a customer. If the colors do not match their décor, then they will not buy the rug, regardless of the price.” 

The Allure area rug from Colonial Mills Inc. Photo courtesy of CMI.

A Look at Rug Imports

Zepol Corp., a leading trade intelligence company, has providedNFTan exclusive look at the rug imports business over the last three years through the company’s TradeIQ™ tool, which lists all U.S. imports through ocean freight. The data represents bills of lading with the word “rug” in the description area. Among the findings:

Shipments: After a soft start, rug imports picked up in 2010, outpacing 2009 shipments. In fact, from January to October 2010, the last month of the report, shipments were higher in every month except January (535 versus 645). In June and July 2010, shipments jumped slightly higher than 2008; in all other instances, 2008 posted better numbers.

Shipping units: Based on TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units; there can be multiple TEUs in one shipment), 2010 has seen a slow rise in imports. Compared to 2009, TEUs remained higher in 2010 except for two months: January (963 versus 1,274), and September (1,010 versus 1,017). No month in 2010 measured up to 2008, but two came close: June (1,223 versus 1,232) and October (1,004 versus 1,011).

Country of origin: In October 2010, the three busiest ports for rug shipments to the U.S. were in Shanghai, China (180 TEUs), Sheva Nhava, India (121 TEUs) and Xingang, China (109 TEUs). The most improved over the previous month were: New Tuticorin, New Zealand (a 600 percent increase to 14); Busan, South Korea (a 281.8 percent increase to 21) and Jawaharlal Nehru, India (a 242.89 percent increase to 70). Compared to October 2009, the highest jumps in activity included Cochin, India (143.08 percent increase to 59); and Xiamen, China (a 139.32 percent increase to 27).