In the latest issue, COVER 65, Editor Lucy Upward talks to six international rug retailers about how the pandemic has changed their business and how they see the industry moving forwards in 2022. Here we present the second extended interview online with Alex Farahan, Managing Director of Cyrus Artisan Rugs and Founder of Woven Arts in Minneapolis, MN.
What changes to your company have you noticed occur during the pandemic? Because of the early lockdown during Covid, more people were finding and contacting us through our website. The change to working at home brought more online sales and inquiry to our business. Once the contact was made and our sales staff helped answer the questions that our online clients had, they followed up with a visit to our showroom and helped close the sale.
Low interest rates have really helped in the buying of new homes in our market and really increased interests in the buying of home related products and furniture including rugs. The lack of available employees to hire for stock and delivery became a big challenge. Also, the increase in hourly pay has really placed a pressure on our business bottom line. The high rise of shipping costs will also affect our prices and margins going forward.
Inflation, inflation and inflation will be the big elephant in the room.
Is this something you see likely to stay in place post pandemic? It would be hard to predict what the effects will be post pandemic since we are living in very unusual times and some of the changes that are happening with our daily life may not go back to pre-pandemic times.
I feel that some of the working force will have to go back to working from their work offices but some will work from home for good.
To curb inflation, the fed will have to raise interest rates and that will definitely slow the markets both the stock market and also the real estate market. This will definitely change and slow down the buying patterns of people with home goods.
I hope this will also help to cool down the labour markets in terms of easing the hiring of employees and also curb the rise of the minimum hourly pay. The average hourly minimum wage has increased from the range of $12.50-$15.00 an hour to $17.00-$20.00. Given that, it is still very hard to find help as all the restaurants and hospitality industry are bidding higher to hire the available candidates.
I believe the shipping costs will correct but we will not go back to the low-cost shipping prices of pre pandemic.
Have customer buying habits changed due to Covid-19? We are noticing more supply of hand/power loom rugs and machine made in the market and also more interest in this price range $15 to $25 a square foot in retail seems to be the sweet spot for lower handmade rugs and machine made. In terms of style, rugs with more texture are desired. In the Minnesota market, we are fortunate that our customers have a diverse taste in style from traditional, transitional to contemporary and modern.
How do you see design trends and buying trends developing in 2022? I predict the designs will be more creative and modern with a great deal of play in the texture and mixtures of fibres. In terms of colours, the more neutral and monochrome colours are more in demand as the big trend setters like Restoration Hardware and other big box and catalogue companies are displaying more of these colours with their furniture.
However, most of our designers we work with like to suggest more interesting and colourful rugs that their client don’t see everywhere. A more tailored look to their client’s personality and less generic.
On the buying trend, I feel is really base on the macro economy and how the inflation plays out. At Cyrus we focus on the higher end rugs and I feel no matter what the adjustments there will be in the economy, these clients will always be able to afford the rugs they like.