By Jennifer Quail
NEW YORK–Importers and manufacturers are capitalizing on the possibilities of the wool market, noting a clear connection between the rising synthetic prices and an increased interest in wool products.
The proximity in pricing for those categories has carried on for long enough now to be considered the wave of the future, and not simply a passing trend.
Ray Myers, co-owner of Myers Carpet, said his wool business has been keeping strong, at least in part due to the rising costs of synthetics. Myers also noted “the wool guys really need to push the natural aspect.”
And push it they are. This past year saw an increased focus on wool, an interesting move for an industry that has been dedicated to the material for generations. Vendors have noted the consumer’s interest in wool and her belief in its quality, durability and eco-friendly characteristics.
Osby Borchardt, vice president of product development and marketing for Fabrica, said his company sees “a lot of promise in the wool category and is committed to offering sustainable carpets that support our retailers’ need for higher margins, higher profits and repeat business.”
To achieve that business, suppliers said their retail customers have come looking for greater variety in wool, hence, the massive demand for texture and creating interest beyond the face of a pattern.
One great indicator of what retailers are looking for in the wool market can be seen in the winners of this year’s Fashion Dynamics contest, held annually by Wools of New Zealand. More than 375 retailers voted in this year’s competition with awards going to product that showed preference to the use of color and texture to provide depth and added perceived value, a trend that has been holding in both the area rug and broadloom sides of the business.
“People really respond to our wool shags,” said Bill Graves, president of Unique Carpets, which won for Best Overall Tufted Product. “They love the incredible texture, color and the level of interest they add to the floor. It’s a category that sets us apart and continues to grow in new and exciting ways.”
Unique’s practice of combining cut-and-loop yarns and varying heights of cut pile have been the keys to success for many during the year’s initial markets.
Another practice coming up more often is the move toward a custom business, be it custom colorizing for individual customers or a broadloom division making its wall-to-wall patterns available as custom area rugs.
“One big push for us now is the custom rugs,” said Julie Rosenblum, brand and design manager for Nourison. “It’s done through our broadloom division and available to buyers, designers, whoever is interested.” Rosenblum added the push is in an amplified effort to cross-merchandise the company’s full abilities.
Executives noted the custom business is gaining ground as consumers increasingly look to create a decorative concept for their entire home.