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The Future Arrives at The Rug Show

by Michael Christie, Editor Rug Insider

It is traditional to review a show by discussing the illustrious, the noteworthy, or in the social media marketing parlance of The Rug Show, the esteemed exhibitors and all of their new and interesting work. Tradition further dictates as a matter of professional courtesy a trade publication should generally write that every iteration of a show is the best, with great attendance, delighted buyers, spectacular rugs and carpets, and promises for an ever better show next time. This is said not as a startling revelation, rather merely as preface to a break with said normalities. Just as all traditions were once novel, they also fade with time and it is with this commentary on the Fall 2017 The Rug Show, which took place September 10-13, 2017 at New York City’s Javits Center, Rug Insider starts anew, with deference to the established, but with eyes toward the future.

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The Rug Show New York 2017

The Rug Show proved to be successful as it too appears to be at a crossroads betwixt tradition and the future. The show once again did indeed set new records for the number of exhibitors, arguably making it the ‘best one yet’ but the accolade is not awarded on numbers alone. The show and it’s organizers certainly hit the best mark by broadening the exhibitor base to include numerous foreign brands and manufacturers, many of whom may not have been welcomed under a more strict manufacturer-importer-retailer arrangement as was more indicative of trade shows of the past, e.g. Kirkit, Bereket, Yilong Carpet, and Yerra. As the market has increasingly seen buyers from furniture stores, mixed flooring shops, and speciality rug retailers pursue direct importing arrangements in order to bolster their bottom line, The Rug Show seems to be wisely — if not also selectively and slowly — moving with the market instead of lamenting the erosion of more orthodox distribution models.

 

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Azerkhalcha’s rugs brought traditional Azerbaijani styling directly to the North American market.

Further praise for the show must also be sung for the extensive, if not also verbose, embellished, and marginally tangental, full embrace of the modern era of media and content distribution via social media. Gone it seems is the need for any media outlet to report on those aforementioned ‘spectacular rugs and carpets’ — that is to say the ones the exhibitors are promoting pre-show — as a preponderance of new rugs and carpets have already been disseminated via social media by @therugshow. We encourage you to follow them, equally embracing this new paradigm of information, and in the same au courant vein, in lieu of a delineated listing of truly noteworthy carpets herein, also invite you to follow along on Instagram as @ruginsider highlights our editorial selections from The Rug Show New York — as curated by our Editor @theruggist — in anticipation of the upcoming High Point Market.

Modern technological creep is an oft discussed topic in the world of rugs and carpets. Whether discussing mechanized processing of raw materials, design and graphing, new less expensive means of production which tarnish the purity of ‘handmade’, or simply the efficiencies email has brought, it would be remiss to ignore this progress. While it seems unwise to weigh in on much of the technical details of construction, commendations for an increasing number of firm’s utilizing technology to increase sales must be made. Searchable realtime inventories such as those offered by Art Resources, Tamarian, or Jaipur, or the proper use of software — be it proprietary or commercially available — to streamline design and production, are helping to move the anachronistic nature of handmade rugs into the future and were readily apparent among the exhibitors.

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‘Art Day at The Rug Show’ offered attendees a peek into the creative process.

Another note of praise for The Rug Show goes toward their efforts to broaden attendance at the show by hosting events designed to attract designers and architects. ‘Art Day at The Rug Show’ produced by Creative Matters in conjunction with COVER Magazine offered an inside look into the firm’s signature creative process while simultaneously providing continuing education credits for designers, as participants explored various media and techniques of artistic creation. While attendance at the various sessions was relatively even, the session offered to students of FIT — the Fashion Institute of Technology — had superior attendance and serious efforts to not only understand the process, but to create a viable carpet design. While the high-end of the industry routinely expresses the need for ‘more educated consumers’, this degree of foresight into fostering said customers is rarer and it is with no hesitation we give the utmost of praise.

All of these factors illustrate the changes underway in the North American rug market are not on the retreat, rather accelerating with traditional traders attempting to adapt to a markedly changed and shrinking consumer base — at least at the high-end. A major positive development for The Rug Show will see the show opening a dedicated rug pavilion within the Suites at Market Square during this fall’s High Point Market, October 14-18, 2017. Christened ‘The Rug Show at High Point’ and located on the third floor with approximately 10,000 sqft of space sublet to many of the very same vendors seen in New York, The Rug Show is making an aggressive push to be the dominant rug trade show brand not only to those traditional ‘buyers from furniture stores, mixed flooring shops, and speciality rug retailers’ but also to position itself as the source for quality rugs and carpets to designers and architects. While this is the first foray into High Point for The Rug Show, tentative plans are already underway for a larger spring 2018 appearance as well — one that would supplant the now former Los Angeles show in the spring.

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The Rug Show expands to High Point for the Fall of 2017

Even with a degree uncertainty in the market, make no mistake there is a burgeoning global competition for rug buyers by way of trade shows as is evidenced by the growth of not only The Rug show but DOMOTEX as well. It seems the only questions remaining to be answered are: ‘Would The Rug Show resonate with Europeans should it choose to endeavour that far afield?’ and to extrapolate a logical next step, ‘Would DOMOTEX North America (if it were to come to be) resonate with North Americans?’

All of these praiseworthy par excellence moves however do not fully convey the importance of this show to buyers seeking to source rugs without traveling abroad. While the trend of retailers sourcing rugs directly, becoming a de facto small scale importer, is likely to continue, it possesses additional commitments and risk exposure for these newly minted importers. On the other hand, those buyers who choose to forgo these risks and trust in established firms with good reputations, would be hard pressed to find a better selection at any other show.

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The ever popular Rug Show Party offers great networking with a spectacular vista.

Even though the more polished look of heavily produced trade shows such as ICFF, DOMOTEX, Maison et Objet, and appropriate for this discussion, the spectacular aesthetic of what appears to have been the final New York International Carpet Show (NYICS) in 2016 is easy to appreciate, realities of the current wholesale industry however best support a show whose focus is on the product, the rugs and carpets, the camaraderie and networking, and a desire to be a compressive source for rugs and carpets across all market segments.

If one were to be required to provide critique, faults lie not with the organizers, nor their contracted marketing and social media management team at COVER Magazine for their efforts, rather they lie in the diversity of this industry. In informal off the record conversations with buyers who attended both The Rug Show and then later Istanbul Carpet Week, mixed criticism with no apparent trend was the norm. Some don’t like the days it runs while others find it too long. Trivial concerns are also voiced, such as the ridiculous requirement — due to its subpar customer service — that The Rug Show use the in-house catering services of the Javits. I will commit on record to say the hallways are too wide and not conducive to ever give a ‘hustle and bustle’ bazaar like feel, but buyers like the ability to pull carpets into the hall, spreading out their selections for a better look. For every criticism it as though there is an equally valid contrary view and thus The Rug Show, not unlike the rest of the industry, is simply bound by the phrase: ‘You cannot be everything to everybody.’ At this point it seems the only thing The Rug Show could do better in the eyes of buyers would be to attract even more exhibitors, as virtually every buyer expressed their excitement for the genuine critical mass the show has now obtained.

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