• Alexa Boschini

Rugged Terrain

Outdoor rug popularity strengthening as trends, technology evolve

Sawgrass MillsSawgrass Mills, Violet in Pebble Yellow
As outdoor living spaces evolve into true outdoor rooms with an array of accessories accenting furniture, indoor/outdoor rugs are emerging as an anchor that defines the outdoor floor area and infuses outside spaces with fashion-forward design.
     According to research conducted by Casual Living and Apartment Therapy, 18% of consumers currently have an outdoor rug in their outdoor living area. And according to vendors of indoor/outdoor rugs, that number should only increase.
     "I think it's intuitive that people create outdoor spaces," said Cyrus Loloi, principal with Loloi. "They furnish their patio, their pool area, their front porch with chairs, hammocks, what have you. And the rug is a nice way to pull that space together and kind of unify it. Otherwise the furniture looks like it's on an island, because there are no walls to define it."
     Capel VP of Sa
Surya, StormSurya, Storm
les Allen Robertson said he thinks the desire for outdoor rugs has been prevalent for years, but developments in technology have expanded the design possibilities. "Almost 20 years ago, we had a major retail furniture chain ask us for rugs that could be used on patios," he said. "We realized there was a broad demand for the product after our dealer did a sell-thru. Our research indicated there were hundreds of patio and casual shops that had interest in outdoor rugs."

     Today, that interest seems to be strengthening as vendors report rising outdoor rug sales. "Sales are definitely increasing this year, and we anticipate this to continue in the fall," Robertson said.
     According to VP Jonathan Witt, Oriental Weavers has experienced double-digit growth in its indoor/outdoor category year-over-year since 2008.
     "Year after year, outdoor rugs are our fastest growing product segment," Witt said. "We introduce at least two new collections each year and also develop private label programs for retailers around the world. We expect this trend to continue as consumers continue entertaining mor

The Rug MarketThe Rug Market, Salisbury
e in their homes."
     Home accessory brand Surya first introduced indoor/outdoor rugs in 2007, but revamped the line about two years ago. Today, the indoor/outdoor category comprises about 10% of Surya's inventory, and President Satya Tiwari said he expects that figure to rise as interest in the outdoor segment escalates. "It's growing not just because our rugs are being put outdoors, but also indoors," he said. "I really think in the next two years, it will be about 25% of our product portfolio."
     Jaipur introduced outdoor rugs in 2008 after seeing "a need for beautiful rugs for outdoor spaces with the same design aesthetic as indoor rugs," company President Asha Chaudhary said, and demand has steadily increased since then.
     "This category is 25% above last year, and for the second half we are expecting this number to increase to 30%," Chaudhary said. "It is a great category for us and we are excited about adding more amazing designs for the upcoming catalog."
Sawgrass MillsSawgrass Mills, Violet in Pebble Yellow

     Loloi said he thinks the indoor/outdoor rug business has been growing across the industry in recent years. To keep up with demand, the company will release three new indoor/outdoor collections at the October High Point Market, he said.
     "We project it will only get bigger and bigger," Loloi said. "For example, we've had requests for rounds and oversized indoor/outdoor rugs. The demand is not just some small niche anymore. It's a growing part of the business that I think the rug industry is finally starting to fulfill."

     According to Trans-Ocean President Charley Peck, the process of manufacturing outdoor rugs is largely similar to that of indoor rugs, but different materials must be used to ensure the rug can withstand harsh outdoor elements.
Oriental WeaversOriental Weavers, Montego

     "The three key things to us that make it an outdoor product are it has to be 100% synthetic, the yarns have to be UV stabilized and if there's latex used, the latex has to be washable," he said. "The concept is it's 100% synthetic, and that was kind of revolutionary in that machine-made rugs were always made with jute and tufted rugs were always made with cotton. Finding the right polyester to punch into, finding the right polypropylene to weave into, those were the biggest challenges."
     Capel's first outdoor rugs were braided using polypropylene dyed with a UV-treated solution. Today the company still uses polypropylene, but has expanded the types of constructions available.
     "We manufacture our Capel Anywhere braided and machine-woven rugs from solution-dyed polypropylene," Robertson said. "Our loop hook rugs are a combination of solution-dyed acrylic and polypropylene, and our bordered rugs are a solution-dyed polypropy
Loloi, VeniceLoloi, Venice Beach in Goldenrod Ivory
lene base with solution-dyed acrylic borders. Basically the construction is more dense with a lower pile height. These rugs are much less expensive due to the shorter life cycle expectancy."
     The Rug Market America produces hooked rugs made from UV-coated polyester. President and CEO Mike Shabtai said about 15 years ago, the company approached its factories in China about developing yarns for outdoor use that would still reflect The Rug Market's sense of style.
     "This was a tedious process especially because the colors we use and the design patterns we create would not be easy for them," Shabtai said. "Since the growth of this division has been well received, we are now in the midst of introducing a new innovative quality that we will reveal soon."
     As technology has advanced, treated polyester and polypropylene fibers and latex backings can more easily withstand sunshine and water. Since the ability to create stain-, fade-and mildew-resistant products was mastered, Loloi said outdo
Sawgrass MillsSawgrass Mills, Cristal in Pesto
or rugs can now be produced in a wider variety of constructions.
     "In terms of the construction, they're getting more and more sophisticated, kind of mimicking indoor rugs in ways," he said. "Our Enzo collection has a high-low (texture). It has a hooked base for most of the pattern and then on parts it's raised at the pile."
     Surya makes its indoor/outdoor rugs using polyester and polypropylene and offers an assortment of constructions and price points. "We have good, better, best, so we have entry level, medium and high-end," Tiwari said. "Entry level is retailing anywhere from $99 to $149, and then $149 to $199, and then we have over $399 that's outdoor as well."

     Given the sophistication of indoor/outdoor rug production today, manufacturers can more readily translate their most popular indoor looks to outdoor environments.

Surya, RainSurya, Rain

     "We have to give them a reason to buy it - the color, the design, the trend," Tiwari said. "If we see a chevron trend, an ikat trend, geometrics, lattice, Moroccan, we have to bring it outdoor. Outdoor shouldn't be just a limited selection. We design outdoor like any indoor collection with color and design in mind. We bring in freshness all the time."
     Peck said when Trans-Ocean first introduced indoor/outdoor rugs around 1999, designs were limited to a handful of colors and patterns. Today, consumers are responding to a multitude of styles.
     "It's really transitioned from a design standpoint," he said. "They were very leafy and clearly belonged outdoors, but now they're just pretty rugs. We still have some designs that are more outdoor, like the tropical leaf rugs, but we have some very traditional suzanis in the line. It really runs the gamut."
     Vibrant, colorful designs are among the best-sellers in Oriental Weavers' indoor/outdoor seg
Jaipur, ColoursJaipur, Colours, Raise The Bar
ment. "Color is trending," Wittsaid. "Manufacturing used to be limited to one or two colors for outdoor rugs. Now, we can offer up to eight in a single outdoor rug. Our five-color Caspian collection was the hit of spring 2013 introductions."
     Chaudhary counts cools blues and bright, warm tones as some of the best-selling color schemes in Jaipur's indoor/outdoor line. "Blues are always huge for this category," she said. "It lends to a more coastal and soothing feeling for outdoor living spaces. But, we always do well with yellows and oranges because they are bright and cheerful."
     Shabtai said he's found consumers are more willing to take risks with outdoor rugs, experimenting with bold designs to infuse outdoor spaces with color. This attitude lends itself to a creative, free-spirited design process, he said.
Oriental WeaversOriental Weavers, Bali
    "Outdoor products enable you to be more fun and colorful," Shabtai said. "Indoor rugs are a little more conservative in design and colors as they tend to be placed in rooms that are generally more traditional."

     As outdoor rug production continues to evolve, Chaudhary sees an opportunity to maximize sales by marketing outdoor rugs for use indoors as well. "A high percentage of our indoor/outdoor rugs are used indoors," she said. "Our goal has always been to use the same level of design with outdoor rugs so they are an extension of indoor spaces and or can be used indoors and still look amazing. That's why this is a year-round category for us and not seasonal."

Trans-OceanTrans-Ocean, Capri, Oriental Square
     Peck said about 40% to 50% of Trans-Ocean's rugs fall under the company's "Everywear" category, emphasizing ease of care anywhere rather than strictly outdoor use.
     "When we talk about our indoor/outdoor product we don't call it indoor/outdoor because it's grown way beyond that," Peck said. "The idea is if it's good for outdoor it's great for indoor - it's cleanable, it's durable, the kids can't ruin it, the dog can't ruin it."
     Shabtai said The Rug Market America has also seen an increased interest in using its outdoor rugs indoors, an idea the company will continue to market.
Jaipur, ColoursJaipur, Colours, Step by Step
     "Being able to clean these rugs hassle free has made it more in demand for indoor use," he said. "Consumers are purchasing outdoor items now because they can place them in dining areas such as a kitchen or place it in a playroom where kids tend to get messy."
     Surya has grown its indoor/outdoor business by launching outdoor pillows and poufs in addition to new outdoor rug introductions. Tiwari said he hopes to expand the category for Surya further by exploring new distribution channels. "Being an indoor company, we've initially hit our indoor retailers who are doing outdoor," he said. "E-commerce is helping us reach that customer, but some of our reps are trying to better understand outdoor retailers in their territories.
Capel, ThailandCapel, Thailand, Diamond Chambray
     "We have the right product, the right mix. We'll help you merchandise with your outdoor furniture. Our success in indoor has been going into stores and saying, ‘Your business is furniture - we want to accessorize it so you can sell more furniture as well as more accessories.'"
  Witt said Oriental Weavers has seen strong sales from e-commerce and catalogs, but the company hopes to sell to more casual specialty stores as its indoor/outdoor business continues to grow and thrive.
     "The catalog / Internet channels continue to be the fastest growing distribution channels for area rugs in general - especially in retail price points of $299 and under," Witt said. "The majority of outdoor rugs retail for less than $299 even in the larger 8'x10' room size,
Treasure GardenTreasure Garden displayed its Cabana Stripe Rug with its Shanghai 10’ Round collar-tilt umbrella and a pair of outdoor chairs during the ICFA Preview Show.
so outdoor rugs are a natural for this channel.
     "That being said, we see great potential for growth with specialty retailers that focus on the outdoor, patio and pool products. This is a channel that was untouched in traditional rug distribution strategies, so there are many new relationships to cultivate."
     Treasure Garden is the latest manufacturer to enter the outdoor rug category. Retail buyers at the ICFA Preview Show in July saw a sampling of the solution-dyed 100% polypropylene collection, which will be launched at the Casual Market in September. The Tower Rug Display Rack also was a hit. "Ninety-eight percent of our dealers are in love with it," said Jeff B. Dorough, VP of sales and marketing. "The rug will help sell the umbrella and the umbrella will help sell the rug."
     Both dealers and sales representatives were excited about Treasure Garden's extension into this accessory category, said Benjamin Ma, who oversees the new rug department. "Our sales reps say this is going to fly," Ma said.

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