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As I See It

What’s Underfoot at Couristan?

Couristan has been a style leader in the floor-covering industry for more than 80 years. This global company, based in Fort Lee, N.J., manufactures and imports rugs from around the world for its residential and hospitality customers. Couristan burst onto the outdoor-living scene in 2003 with area rugs that have style and quality that rival those of any of its indoor designs. Patio & Hearth Products Report recently spoke with Ron Couri, president and CEO, to find out more about this emerging player in the outdoor-living market.

P&HPR: Tell us a little about Couristan.
A: Couristan was established in 1926 by my father and uncle, George J. Couri and Basil J. Couri, as a direct-importing business specializing in fine handmade area rugs from Persia. Today, we remain a family-owned business with an internationally recognized brand. Our company serves both residential and hospitality clients, and our product line includes handmade area rugs, power-loomed area rugs, outdoor area rugs, custom-sized rugs, roll runners, and wall-to-wall carpet.

On the residential side, our customers range from top-of-the-line design centers to specialty flooring boutiques and home decor/furniture retailers to interior designers, catalogs, and Internet dealers. Our outdoor area-rug category has helped open new channels of distribution, such as patio/garden centers, specialty outdoor-living retailers, and home-improvement stores.

P&HPR: How did Couristan make a name for itself in the rug industry?
A: From the company’s inception, we have always been known for our exceptional quality in product manufacturing and for our full-service sales support and customer service. Our customers not only receive the service of our world-class sales force, but the support of our marketing-and-advertising team, which provides dealers with sales materials and creative ideas to make selling easier.

Perhaps our most powerful secret to success, though, is the unique balance we have achieved in our product assortment. With a variety of styles, from classic to contemporary, we have designs at virtually every price point, as well as designs with regional appeal. This is particularly relevant in our outdoor category. For example, outdoor rugs with a tropical/floral motif work particularly well in Southern regions, like Florida, while rugs with geometric shapes and stripes sell well in the Midwest.

P&HPR: Why did you decided to pursue the outdoor-rug category?
A: As innovators in the floor-covering industry, we saw an opportunity to grow our business by becoming pioneers of the outdoor/indoor category. There was a clear trend among homeowners to outfit their outdoor-living spaces with furniture and decor, and we knew that adding luxury with rugs would appeal to those consumers.

Couristan launched its first outdoor-rug collection, Recife, in 2003, and was one of the first manufacturers to offer a product of this kind. Since then, the Recife collection has received countless industry awards, and it has become one of our best-selling collections among our entire power-loomed assortment. Today, Couristan offers seven different outdoor/indoor area-rug collections.

P&HPR: What do you think today’s consumers are looking for in an outdoor rug?
A: Today’s homeowners want their outdoor living spaces to reflect their indoor style. They want fashion, luxury, and performance quality, all in one product. Working with mills across Europe, we have developed some of the most highly advanced outdoor area-rug constructions, and we use sophisticated trend-forecasting techniques to create fresh styles that complement the latest in outdoor furnishings.

Couristan has its first patent pending in the outdoor category for the EverHome® collection, which features a unique cut-pile construction with a million points per square meter. Couristan also uses exclusive looms, not available to any other manufacturer, to create various outdoor rugs with high/low textured surfaces.

P&HPR: What attributes should a long-lasting outdoor rug possess?
A: The most vital attribute of any outdoor rug is the quality of the material used in its construction. The only fiber, as of today, that is 100-percent water-resistant is polypropylene. All of Couristan’s outdoor rugs are made with 100-percent Courtron™ polypropylene. This includes the pile and the weft—a point of distinction among many other outdoor-branded rugs.

This is also what makes Couristan’s outdoor rugs 100-percent recyclable. Another extremely important quality is that the rugs pass all ultraviolet (UV)-stabilization certification tests. All outdoor rugs will display a small degree of fading after years of constant sun exposure; however, UV-stabilized rugs provide longer-lasting color retention.

P&HPR: Which Couristan outdoor rugs have been standouts for 2009?
A: Couristan recently introduced two new outdoor collections that have received tremendous feedback among our dealers. The Covington collection brings artisan-crafted style to the outdoor category. This handhooked collection has a distinct look that showcases colorful motifs with delicate details. This is what we consider to be the next generation in outdoor area rugs because it offers a level of true artistry and a sophisticated look in either indoor or outdoor spaces.

Our Urbane collection also looks likely to be a promising new line for 2009. This collection is a bit more edgy and fashion forward. It features a diagonal flat weave with intricately placed cut-pile accents that form various designs. Outdoor rugs with textured, high/low surfaces are becoming very popular.

P&HPR: How are you partnering with retailers to help them grow their businesses?
A: Couristan has always been committed to helping its retailers reach their target customers and maximize sales. The first step is to evaluate a dealer’s current rug assortment to determine what voids need to be filled, in either price point or design.
Once a retailer has the ideal assortment in place, Couristan often provides product-knowledge sessions with the internal sales staff. This is particularly important for the outdoor category, as these rugs require a very different sales approach. Couristan offers collateral materials designed specifically to promote the outdoor market, including brochures, point-of-purchase pieces, and advertisements with room scenes that depict our rugs in outdoor settings.

We then help our dealers merchandise their outdoor rugs. When we first entered this market, many dealers were hesitant to give permanent space on their showroom floors to what they considered to be a seasonal product. To overcome that hurdle, Couristan introduced the Outdoor Living merchandising box, a small, space-effective unit that requires a minimal investment of 20 rugs. We provide this box free with an initial purchase and give discounts on bundled refill orders.

The program has turned out to be quite successful for retailers. The box acts as a silent salesperson, showcasing editorial-style images and product features prominently on the outside. The small size of the Outdoor Living box allows retailers to feature rugs easily in high-traffic areas or near furniture vignettes.

P&HPR: What emerging design/ style trends do you see in outdoor rugs?
A: In terms of design motifs, the most popular trends continue to be nature inspired, ranging from traditional florals to large-scale palm-leaf patterns and even animal prints. We’re also seeing growing success with geometrics and stripes.
The biggest emerging trend in construction is the introduction of texture in outdoor style. Couristan has moved beyond flat weaves into cut-and-loop–pile and all-cut–pile outdoor area rugs. We are also experimenting with the possibility of outdoor shag area rugs. The colors to look out for are deep eggplant purples and rich tones of green and chocolate.

P&HPR: What do you see as Couristan’s biggest opportunity and challenge?
A: Couristan’s success in the outdoor-rug category is a good example of how to survive, and even thrive, in a challenging economy, such as the one we’re experiencing today. The new business opportunities that are available to us because of this product category are allowing our business to grow when many companies are facing the difficult decision to close their doors.
At the same time, competition within the outdoor area-rug category continues to grow every day, which is why Couristan must and will remain ahead of the curve in design and construction innovation, as well as in marketing and merchandising.

P&HPR: In your opinion, what does the future hold for the outdoor-rug market?
A: We feel that the outdoor category, as a whole, will continue to expand as more and more homeowners are entertaining at home. I believe that outdoor-rug sales will become a major part of many retailers’ business models, and that they will become less of a seasonal item and more of a year-round staple.

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