Ask ten rug retailers from across the globe the same question and you will get ten different answers. Thankfully the industry is diverse, dynamic, robust (it seems) and always expanding in myriad ways. Trends, whether in design, buying or selling, never follow a single pathway even within one retail outlet but from talking to many individuals from the industry it is clear that similar patterns of behaviour in rug buying are apparent. Back in 2019 (COVER 57) I started the section ‘Rethinking the rug’ (soon to return), comprising articles that question our current methods of producing, selling and designing rugs. Little did I know how much rethinking there really would be ahead of us. The pandemic not only kept us at home and slowed life down but has also jettisoned us into a future reality. Sure, we knew online retail was important before but lockdown hammered this idea home. Most companies spent the quieter months revamping their websites and polishing Instagram accounts. Of course, rugs need to be viewed and touched in person but retail e-commerce sales are moving on up with predictions that in the US they will grow to 23.6% of all sales by 2025.
But having an online presence is not just about selling, it has always been about telling the story behind a brand or product or even a person. With Instagram becoming such an important part of our connection to people, brands and the world, it is no wonder that storytelling and individualism became such big influences of our buying habits. Retail stores have had to catch up and start to tell and sell the stories behind products in their displays and installations. In my interview with Nikhil Kapoor of Tissage in COVER 65 he tells me he sees high-end retailers now more interested in collections and the value in continuity rather than buying individual rugs. As a brand today you need a story that is worth telling. Presenting your product online, from its making to its marketing, has to come with a certain level of transparency. In this Kapoor also agrees, he sees that the customer wants to know everything about a rug: from what material is used to how it is produced and what inspired its design. This is a dynamic change from even two years ago. In one of the COVER 65 Industry voices interviews, Theresa Paulig, CEO of Paulig, comments that transport issues caused by COVID-19 have made the customer more aware of where a product is made (Read the interview here). Customer brand awareness was certainly growing prior to lockdown but the pandemic seems to have propelled this forward again.
If you read anything about the buying habits of Generation Z you will find that this age group has a greater expectation of transparency, authenticity and honesty from its brands. Whether prompted by buying trends or feelings of social responsibility, moving forward every company needs to have a sustainable and ethical proposal in place. As part of its ten-year anniversary this year, cc-tapis produced its New Perspective on Sustainability brief, documenting a change to 100% plastic-free packaging and a bag made of the packaging by GRASSI 10.000. The pandemic has created change and movement, much of it brought about by disruption. Amy Tyson from Auda Sinda has even noticed a disruption to normal buying seasons. Design fairs, particularly those in Europe, have had a shake up and it is not yet clear how this will be reestablished in the near future. Many companies are still holding off their participation in large events and there is no real answer to this yet. Unlikely to resolve soon is the increased cost in shipping that is impacting companies across the globe. Thinking positively, disruption can bring about creative thinking and innovation (where possible) and there has been plenty over the last twenty months. It has been hard to represent all the recent new rugs, collections and ideas in this one issue. Jürgen Dahlmanns of Rug Star created the MZ collection with Mary Zio, Tissage conjured up a significant rebrand, Tamarian embraced a company evolution.
In terms of design almost everyone I ask talks about an increased demand for colour in rug design. Of course this does not play out in all markets. Certain areas of America favour textured neutrals, encouraged by the popular aesthetic of RH/Restoration Hardware. In times of crisis we often call for comfort— soft materials in calming hues— and in 2020/21 cocooning, a term used before the pandemic, really found its moment. But brighter colours and bolder statement pieces seem to also be on the agenda for the year ahead. Whichever side you favour—tidings of comfort or joy—the market will be ready to provide. Rug sales have kept healthy in 2021 thanks to the global increase in house renovations. It is hoped this trend can continue into 2022. After two years of so many colossal changes bombarding us, the best advice seems to be to stay centred in the present, reflective and open to change. How much should we rely on our predictions for the future?