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Cries and Whispers!
Selling Handmade Rugs in Recessionary Times

In the ever-changing world of fashion and design one might say that oriental rugs are too traditional to ever go out of style. However, what we sell today is hardly the “oriental” rug of the 19th century. As purveyors of fine handmade rugs we have to look farther and farther to meet current market demands, a task made increasingly difficult by a stagnating recession at home, and improving economies in the developing world.

berber rug design
Berber Rug Design

Farewell Queen Victoria
Even those with a love for hand-made rugs find “oriental” designs-a legacy of the Victorian era-less appealing. For them traditional Persian rugs resemble outdated furniture pieces, unhip, and unsuitable for the modern 21st century home. The preferred style is “contemporary,” which has yet to be clearly defined. A return to a more innocent 1950s era design, the “retro look,” has certainly taken center stage.

Kuba Cloth
Kuba Cloth

 Some consider contemporary to be any rug without a discernible design or with minimal color use. For others it might mean a borderless rug with bright colors and a sharply edged definitive pattern. Some want a handmade rug to resemble a bound piece of carpeting and others prefer a whimsical, child-like design conveying playfulness and simplicity.

  In our opinion patterns that are mistakenly called “Primitive”- perhaps a better term would be ethnographic, such as those found in African Kuba cloth or Moroccan Berber rugs, can also be viewed as contemporary.

Fish Design

  Unfortunately, in the world of luxury home ware purchasing inventory leaves little room for guesswork. The business of handmade rugs is
extremely capital intensive, and if we don’t accurately anticipate our clients’ changing tastes we could be left with unsold merchandise for years to come.
  The challenges facing any small size retailer of handmade rugs have always been formidable. But when we add the whims of today’s market to the mix we have almost impossible conditions for a small company such as ours to survive in.

Large World/Small Market
As countries like China and India improve their economies and achieve higher living standards for their citizens, it becomes harder for us to make handmade rugs that meet high quality and design standards while remaining affordable.
  The market for handmade rugs in most Western countries is a niche market. In the United States the majority of rugs sold continue to be of machine made variety. Simply put, most people don’t see a value in purchasing hand knotted rugs, which hold a unique place in the home furnishing market. These rugs require an appreciation for craftsmanship and imaginative design, historical and cultural awareness, and financial means.

Stop Crying and Get on with Business!
Sitting on a plane on route to Kathmandu, Nepal, my brother and I remain haunted by the thought of an unpredictable market. Yet, a love for the product, for the histories and cultures that play a part in its making, not to mention twenty five years of successful business, only make beating insurmountable odds more compelling .


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