New York – It has taken plenty of coordination for rug producers to juggle the industry’s myriad challenges: soaring costs for containers and long shipping delays; low labor retention; competition for raw materials; tight margins; and higher operational expenses across the board.
Each company found its own method. Maples Rugs began converting its entire fiber operation to polyester from polypropylene and nylon. Natco Home continued expanding its domestic manufacturing. Nourison ramped up its custom services. And Mohawk Home touted its automation and innovation, to name a few.
“We have the same challenges as everyone else – shipping costs through the roof, delays at the ports, and other transportation issues. But we’ve been able to help mitigate them with the massive expansion of our Georgia warehouse,” explained Giovanni Marra, director of marketing and digital strategy, Nourison. “It’s allowed us to pull in larger quantities of product to have more inventory on hand for our customers.”
In addition, the company “worked out some efficiencies” to simplify its pick-and-ship process. That ultimately led to stronger business with larger national retailers, including warehouse clubs, furniture stores and off-price chains.
“We got more market share,” Marra continued. “E-commerce was strong but less so than 2020 as people returned to stores. Brick and mortar had bigger growth for us, and we supported it with more in-store displays and more customization services.”
One such new program launching this season is the Studio Collection, which allows customers to design their own rug by color and size from a bank of designs.
Kaleen Rugs is also finding success in customization. The company launched its vertical broadloom operation six years ago and has since evolved it to include custom-size area rugs.
“We’re creating a lot of them, and turning them around in just 10 days,” said Monty Rathi, chief operating officer. “We create any size a customer wants, from as wide as 16 feet and as long as 85 feet, and then we can either hand-serge or machine-serge it. It’s been a big business for us when area rugs in general have become a commodity.”
By comparison, a 5-by-8-foot machinemade wholesales for $50 and a hand-tufted for $150.
“Last year our regular rug business was flat because although we sold a lot of units, we didn’t make the dollars because of all the supply chain issues, Rathi continued. “However, our broadloom rug business was phenomenal – driving bigger dollars than our machinemade or hand-tufted rug sales.”
Maples Rugs is working its way around “through-the-roof” price hikes for polypropylene by converting its operations to polyester and some nylon.
“This is a major change, and it’s across all of our tufted and printed operations,” noted Wade Maples, co-owner. “It was a big task that took almost six months for us to complete and really occupied most of our product development initiatives and capabilities.”
The company also doubled its printing capacity with the purchase of a second large printing machine.
These significant investments are already seeing returns, added company president John Maples.
“The outlook for consumer demand of our products looks good,” he said. “And our printing business is very promising.”
Natco Home is allaying supply chain hurdles by “complementing what we do overseas with what we do domestically.”
Hence, the company’s purchase of its 13th loom for its woven rug manufacturing facility in Maine.
“Retailers are all looking for domestically made products,” explained Mark Ferullo, executive vice president. The plan is to have the new loom up and running by first quarter 2023.
“When we started in Maine we had four or five looms, and now we’re up to Lucky 13 – which we’ve achieved through controlled growth,” he said.
On the import side, Loloi Rugs has been reinvesting its gains over the pandemic back into its business operations overseas.
“With the home category explosion at retail over the past couple of years, we’ve taken advantage of those good times to reinvest in our infrastructure and sourcing capabilities, adding more boots on the ground to ensure we are taking advantage of every opportunity to stay ahead of the supply chain.”
As consumers started returning to more normal routines last year, in-store shopping began to pick up. And brick-and-mortar stores seized the opportunity to improve their selling floors with better displays and expanded offerings of available inventory goods – including area rugs.
Feizy Rugs wooed new business with its healthy in-stocks of rugs, noted Justin Yeck, vice president of omnichannel sales, marketing, product development & design.
That included new placements normally reserved for upholstered furniture and case goods that were otherwise stuck at port or still en route.
“A lot of retailers were supplementing their open-to-buys with rugs,” he went on. “If they couldn’t get new upholstery and case goods in a timely fashion, they were refreshing their assortments and store displays with rugs and decorative accessories that they could bring in.”
And then there are “tons of new accounts we’ve opened” that have recently expanded their in-store footprint for rugs due to increased interest from shoppers and growing category sales.
“The entire in-store experience is better, as retailers have been going the extra mile to present better product showcases and offer more services, like designer services and at home or virtual consultations. These things are happening more at the store level, and it shows in their transactions of rugs.”