By now, most everybody in the home furnishings industry has adapted to the shifting market calendar created by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Although dates for the various markets have changed over the past year, with more to come over the summer, production cycles remain constant. With that said, how have rug manufacturers adjusted their introductions to meet this altered market cycle?
The work continues
While the market calendar has been in flux since last spring, rug production has gone on at a steady pace.
“We work on product development every day of the year,” said Greg Jordt, executive vice president of sales and marketing for Harounian Rugs International. “Our product development is not based on any market cycle. If a new look or construction is approved for introduction and marketing, and if we have it on loom, we launch the introduction. Our rollouts of new looks happens on our schedule.”
Justin Yeck, vice president of omnichannel sales, marketing, product development and design for Feizy, said the shifted calendar has created opportunity for rug manufacturers willing to commit to adding a rug to full production even before it’s been previewed at a market.
“Thankfully it hasn’t disrupted our introduction cycle,” Yeck said. “We work constantly on our introductions, so by having markets pushed it’s allowed for us to not only introduce the best product but also product that’s in stock and ready to ship. We have very strong vendor relationships with India and own our factory in Turkey, allowing us to control our processes. The overseas teams have worked tirelessly to provide us with new product suggestions and we have made trips to Turkey to develop new machine-made product.”
And while production has maintained its pace, communication has been key in keeping customers abreast of the latest news and introductions, according to Brianne Coradini, marketing associate for Kas Rugs.
“We have been very focused on filling niches in our assortment and working with vendors in a virtual way to see new products,” Coradini said. “We have many new introductions this spring that we are excited to introduce either on a virtual platform or in person when the time comes. We’re all hands on deck here at Kas and our sales reps have done an amazing job at informing customers of what’s new, in stock and shipping.”
Digital is the new physical
Jaipur Living hasn’t shown a rug at a market since High Point Market in October 2019, but that hasn’t stopped it from rolling out introductions. To counteract the lack of markets, the Acworth, Ga.-based manufacturer started monthly online introductions. This initiative began in June 2020.
“We’re excited to introduce our product in this way as it was inspired, in part, by input from our customers,” Asha Chaudhary, president and CEO, explained when announcing this introduction method in May. “Having a huge number of rugs to consider at one time can be daunting. We believe by breaking our releases into smaller introductions they will have a greater impact, making it easier for our customers to help create beautiful lives for their customers.”
Even with markets, Loloi also bet big on virtual introductions, with videos narrated by some of its licensed partners, including Joanna Gaines, Rifle Paper Co.’s Anna Bond, Justina Blakeney and others as a way to showcase its latest offerings.
Most recently, the Dallas-based producer introduced its Winter 2021 Virtual Market with a 10-minute video that goes over new products and key information.
“Our Virtual Market last fall was a big hit and we wanted to offer it again for the winter markets,” said company principal Cyrus Loloi, who appears in the video along with Steve McKee, general manager. “This format gives buyers the option to watch a showroom video presentation safely and online on their own time, or they may request a tour in real-time, led by a Loloi sales representative. Either way, it’s a convenient format for viewing the latest collections until we can all safely get back together in person.”
Kas Rugs also leaned into introducing product virtually. It created a virtual showroom tour and a series of highlight videos on a special landing page on its website as well as additional virtual outreach initiatives.
“We’ve introduced a market video series with a High Point Recap Video and Virtual Showroom Tour providing a detailed look at rug racks and new introductions,” said Coradini. “We’ve also displayed these on the Virtual with Kas page on the Kas Rugs website dedicated to a close-up look at our rug program, color trends, design trends and themes. We’re promoting our new videos through our newsletter, social media and e-blasts.”
Nourison has also turned to the virtual marketplace as a way to get its newest introductions in front of its customers.
“We still continue to introduce new product during our virtual markets and at market showrooms and continue to communicate when product is available and in stock,” said Giovanni Marra, director of marketing and digital strategy. “Our virtual markets have been key to showing our product to customers who could not attend market and an opportunity to show product to potential customers who don’t normally attend market.”
Jordt said HRI listened to customer feedback to craft new ways for introducing product in lieu of face-to-face meetings.
“2020 required that we create new ways as to how we introduce new product and stay in contact and interact with our current and potential customers,” he said. “Through our virtual showrooms, unique e-blasts, targeted promotions that address the needs of our customers, and the very innovative ways our salesforce has developed to make contact and presentations to accounts in their territory. We came up with these new initiatives of doing business by listening to our customers, as to how we could help them get back to and into business.”
Many feel that the market calendar will normalize by the third quarter of this year as the COVID vaccine becomes more widely available and the population receives it. But even once herd immunity has been realized, many industry stakeholders are likely to want to continue to view introductions virtually, or when they would like, rather than have it dictated by a calendar.
Rug vendors say they’re willing to accommodate their customers and work with them to ensure that the product gets to them when and where they’re most comfortable.
“We will continue to host virtual markets in the future, in conjunction with scheduled markets,” Marra said. “We will also continue Zoom meetings, virtual showroom tours and new product introductions with customers when convenient for them.”
Coradini said now that virtual has become the norm and customers have become accustomed to its advantages (less travel, on-demand availability, etc.), Kas will continue to implement it as an overall piece of its strategy moving forward.
“Virtual meetings, videos and information have proven to be convenient and easy for many of our customers, we don’t expect this trend to go away anytime soon,” she said.
Jordt agreed, noting that the skills acquired in 2020 are now part of the new toolbox.
“We will continue to utilize all of the new ways of doing business that we developed in 2020 going forward, whenever and whatever the market schedule is,” he said.