NEW YORK -- Area rug executives prepping for New York Home Fashions and High Point markets were hit with the news on March 12 that both shows were called off over concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic.
Those seismic events proved a double-whammy for rug industry players, many already coping with notices from major retailers and buyers -- among them Amazon.com, Target and Walmart -- that they are restricting non-essential business travel. In addition, at press time, major rug vendors also began limiting travel to slow the spread of the pandemic, as big cities like Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and Seattle closed schools and non-essential government offices, and began limiting public gatherings, access to restaurants, and closed theaters.
In this rapidly changing crisis, area rug executives are nimbly shifting the industry's traditional in-person market strategy to a remote system that will get products to retail buyers around the country. "Nourison is dedicating significant time and resources to prepare for COVID-19 and the impact it will have in the coming weeks," Andrew Peykar, Nourison president, stated in a letter sent to clients. "Nourison is taking steps to help reduce the chance of infection by limiting travel for all our employees, both internationally and domestically."
Satya Tiwari, president of Surya, told RugNews.com, "Depending on the duration of the COVID-19 outbreak, we do anticipate that there will be a decline in demand, but we do not anticipate it being anywhere close to 2008 levels. As a company and industry, we have learned many lessons from previous downturns, and Surya is committed to provide the products and service that our customers need on a timely and uninterrupted basis."
In this exclusive industry news report, RugNews.com surveys area rug executives to find out how they are coping with market closures, their strategies to get the latest designs in front of retailers, and sheltering in place.
Couristan showcases the power-loomed Marblehead Calcutta Onyx 8422-877 digitally.
At Couristan, which shows at both New York and High Point markets, communication will be key to success in the face of market cancellations, said Larry Mahurter, the company's vice president of marketing and advertising. "We feel we have taken all the measures possible to communicate with our accounts in proper forums. Our primary focus during these unprecedented times is to continue providing our accounts with the best possible services we have to offer through all of our available customer service management resources."
The company, which balanced new collections with line extensions to its most popular best-selling collections for winter 2020, extends that strategy for spring with intros to both indoor and outdoor assortments. "Our product development team has done a wonderful job in being proactive with a full assortment of introductions across all of our categories and we are extremely excited to be presenting each to all of our accounts," Mahurter told RugNews.com.
Dynamic Rugs has a three-pronged approach to coping with market closures and to get its latest designs, such as Sunrise-6681-899 shown, in front of buyers.
"Our buyers, whether through their own decision or through a company-wide policy, are canceling traveling plans, especially to high-traffic events such as markets," said Matthew Rouhanian, founder of the Frederick, Maryland-based Dynamic Rugs, which participates in New York Home Fashions Market.
"Obviously, this is going to have a huge financial impact on the rug industry, especially since NY Market was geared heavily towards appointments with big box stores -- it's not one-off rug sales we're talking about. But on a larger scale, the entire global market is being impacted. It only makes sense that the rug industry falls within that scope," he continued.
Added Anoosha Rouhanian, "Depending on travel restrictions, we plan on scheduling direct one-on-one meetings with buyers either at our warehouse/main showroom in Frederick, or we will visit them at their offices. We are also sending samples, including corner swatches, to buyers for examination. And third, we are ensuring high-res photography is available of all our products, including the latest one, complete with detailed pile shots."
Feizy is adjusting to the new business climate by shifting new product presentations to digital format. Shown, AUR-3563F
Feizy, which presents its latest introductions in both New York and High Point, already has a strategy in place to work with retailers."We have not skipped a beat in shifting our presentations to digital and video for our non-attending clients," said Feizy's Justin Yeck, vice president - sales, marketing and product development/design. "Going forward we will be focusing more on digital assets, as well as video presentations and direct to client videos we are currently recording to highlight our collections. We are also revamping our presentation space at corporate to host our buyers when they are able to travel again."
HAROUNIAN RUGS INTERNATIONAL (HRI)
HRI has a strong Plan B in place to introduce big box and e-commerce buyers to its new performance line crafted of Sunbrella fiber.
HRI's showroom, which doubles as company headquarters, is expected to be open for business on an appointment basis depending on what restrictions go into place in NYC. Greg Jordt, executive VP, sales and marketing, said, "We have a very robust action plan to service and introduce new product to all of our customers and potential new customers, going forward."
For spring buyers, HRI is showcasing its expanded line of Sunbrella performance rugs, launched at High Point last fall and dramatically expanded at Las Vegas Market this January. "As we grow our Sunbrella performance rug collections, we are most excited about expanding our distribution channels into launches with big box and e-commerce accounts," Jordt said.
Jaipur Living plans to roll out new digital tools for online retail buyers to shop its latest looks, such as Boheme, above.
Asha Chaudhary, Jaipur Living president and CEO, stated, "We are actively taking the CDC-recommended safety precautions to protect our customers and our employees, including working remotely whenever possible.
Thousands of our rugs, pillows, poufs, and throws are in-stock and ready to ship. To date, we have not experienced any significant disruption in the flow of new inventory from overseas. Our sales and customer services teams remain ready to help if clients have any questions.
"Our new, fully shoppable website is also here to meet customer needs with detailed, up-to-date inventory. In response to the postponement of High Point Market, we have additional digital tools that we'll be rolling out soon." In addition, online shoppers can also order swatches of rugs to see and feel them in person."
Natco is shifting its strategy to get its market introductions to buyers. Shown, the new 7210PV Edwina
"Despite the cancellation of the upcoming markets, Natco Home is quickly pivoting to meet our customers' needs and ensure there is no downtime in our business," Jillian Jones, director, product management, sourcing, and development, Natco Home, told RugNews.com. The company sees clients in both New York and High Point, but Jones noted, "Although markets are a great time to showcase new product and meet with a lot of customers at once, it's definitely not the only way we do business - it's just one piece of how we work with our customers.
"Throughout the year, we are constantly meeting with our customers at their offices and they visit our showrooms and factories as well. However, because even these types of meetings are now being disrupted, we are finding new ways to effectively communicate and 'meet' with our customers. For example, we are sending samples directly to them and then video-conferencing to review. We're also providing our customers with market materials that were already completed so we don't miss a beat on continuing to present new product. Communication via video, phone, and e-mail has become our focus as we all adjust to the change."
Nourison is placing travel restrictions on its employees and will offer alternatives to in-person meetings. Shown, CES15
Nourison is among the rug vendors asking employees to limit travel both domestically and internationally, thus hampering in-person meetings with clients. "We are monitoring the situation closely for any changes or developments that may be impactful," said Andrew Peykar, president. "As well, we are taking steps to continue doing business with our partners and dealers with as little disruption as possible."
Added Steven Peykar, co-CEO, "We are continuing market conversations with retailers and walking them through our new lines," said Steven Peykar co-CEO. "Still, we have had a good start to the year and the sentiment with our customer base remains positive."
For those mass merchants and e-commerce buyers that typically attend NY market, Nourison added new collections and designs that feature its top-selling looks. "Abstract and contemporary designs were the winners for last year. Our best-sellers continue to be the neutrals grays and blues," Peykar said.
Surya takes its new product rollouts to a digital format. Shown, Cardiff 2300-6796
"Since we will not be showing in New York and High Point, we will instead be working individually with clients to show our products and key introductions digitally," Satya Tiwari, Surya president told RugNews.com.
Surya, which has been fine-tuning its trade show strategy for the past several years and has opened its own year-round showrooms in Chicago and Boston, is accustomed to providing access to its products at the customer's convenience. "As we continue to open these showrooms in key metro areas around the country, markets will play an even smaller role in our customer interactions," Tiwari explained.
In fact, Surya typically sees only 10 percent to 20 percent of its customers at markets, opting instead for an omni-channel experience in the last two to three years. "Although several of the upcoming markets have been cancelled, we are developing digital tools and rich media content to provide our customers with access to the products and information they would have experienced in person at our showrooms."
Tayse, despite the cancellation of NY Home Fashions Market, continues the dialogue with customers to showcase its latest collections. Antik, shown.
With the cancellation of NY Market, Tayse is also developing smart alternatives, and plans to visit East Coast customers at their offices if possible, given the evolving restrictions on travel.
"We are doubling our efforts on the phone and computer to contact cancelled appointments/customers to make sure they know our latest 'Market Specials' and new product" said Jay Dogan, co-owner, "And we have developed strategies to be sure retailers get to see our spring collections."
The company expects to introduce its customers to its new Antik collection, alongside its top-selling Wakefield, Madison and Veranda collections (read the full story)