By David Gill
NEW YORK–With the prevailing trends toward adventurous design and eco-friendly fibers, quality and value have come to rule over the bath-rug market.
Both trends owe much of their strength to the fact that today’s bathrooms are growing larger. Newly built homes feature one or more fairly capacious bathrooms, and those in existing homes have renovated their bathrooms to add size.
Larger bathroom spaces offer rug designers more opportunities in design, according to Don Scarlata, president and chief executive officer of Colonial Mills. “The smaller scatter-sized rugs look lost in these bathrooms,” Scarlata said. “As these rooms get larger, people are looking to decorate with larger area-sized rugs. In the past, bath rugs were typically cotton because they needed to be absorbent, but a lot of that has changed now. People are looking more at the decorative aspect, and manufacturers have become bolder in yarns and designs.”
The trend toward innovative design has given manufacturers the opportunity to tweak the looks on traditional solid-color products. “Textured solid-color bath rugs have been increasing in demand at retail, as the looks offer a change from the basic plush-cut pile styles,” said David Graham, business manager for rugs at Bacova Guild. “The combination of bright-luster and low-luster yarns in certain styles continues to gain interest.”
Also, “there is a real push to develop innovative fiber and yarn blends,” said Hester Longley Cook, design director for Trade Am. “Now you see rugs made with microfibers and cottons, which create beautiful yarns. Everybody in the bath industry is always looking for interesting basics.”
The trend toward innovation in design and construction ties into the other key movement in bath rugs—toward what Cook termed “environmentally progressive fibers.” Probably the most obvious example of this trend is bamboo, which is appearing in an increasing number of bath rugs.
“Bamboo is a wonderful fiber,” Cook said. “When you spin it into a fiber, it’s shiny and quite soft. It’s also a sustainable product that falls right into the green category. Last year, we launched our eco-friendly line called Ethica, which includes products from all different categories, including accent, area and bath rugs; decorative pillows; and throws.”
“We’re all into this green mode,” Scarlata said. “On bamboo, a lot happened in ecological reports and interest that got consumers’ attention, and soon people were saying that we should have one in our line. I think it will also get more attention from consumers as we go into 2008, too.”
Cook agreed that “green” rugs will remain a major growth area in the new year. “We’re trying to lead our [retail] customers that green products can have color and add interest,” she said. “I think other vendors will also grow with their customers on this.”
Textured rugs also appear to have a solid future this year. “The trend for 2008 will continue with textures and an emphasis on low-luster, soft-cotton-look nylon styles, with an increase in 100 percent cotton rugs as well,” Graham said.
Angela Adams, co-founder, president and creative director of the company that bears her name, said, “Nature-based patterns have been embraced, but we shouldn’t consider that a trend because nature should always be at the top of our minds. Authentic, creative translations of nature and of our ideas is what I am hoping to see more of” in 2008.
Sales of bath rugs have grown at a healthy rate in recent years largely because of these quality points, and that growth trend should hold up this year. “Consumers are responding to the quality of the a,” Cook said. “The quality has improved substantially over the past few years, and consumers are getting great values. That’s why I see another sales increase in 2008, about the same amount of growth as we had in 2007.”