ATLANTA--After shoring up its business model and strategy in 2015, Amer Rugs anticipated positive winter markets in Atlanta and expects the momentum to carry through the year. With tremendous growth in its assortment, the expansion into mid-tier prices with its first hand-tufted rugs, entry into e-commerce activities,s and a complete makeover of its showroom at AmericasMart, Amer's president, Tanuj Gupta, elaborates on the company's double-digit growth last year and looks ahead to 2016.
Q: What makes you optimistic about the year ahead?
A: We've had a very successful year, beginning with Atlanta market last winter. Our whole plan was to make winter markets this year as good as January 2015. I believe the momentum is going to carry over into 2016. Buyers are getting out of their comfort zone, and very positive changes are happening. Stores aren't waiting to buy until they get an order. They are experimenting with fashion colors like pink and orange. They're not just buying neutrals.
What was so positive about 2015?
Honestly, we saw 30 percent to 35 percent growth which was very solid. But the best thing about this last year was business was really steady. In the past there were peak seasons--summers used to be very slow, for example. But last year I'm happy to share with you, it didn't matter whether it was summer, winter or fall--business was very steady. Amer ended 2015 on an upbeat note and we're projecting good things for 2016.
To what do you attribute your double-digit growth?
I attribute the growth initially to our entry into the hand-tufted category, and to e-commerce. Last year we increased our e-commerce business by 400 percent. Can you imagine that? We added staff, and an e-commerce manager who is doing a great job. We also worked to improve the quality of our photos, and now have an angle shot, a head-on shot and a lifestyle shot of every design. We don't compromise on our pictures; they have to be the best in terms of quality.
What sells online in addition to good photos?
We really focus on what the customer is looking for online. They want anything that pops off the screen. Yellow and greens sell like hotcakes online for us. Our [brick and mortar] customers won't come into the showroom to buy a yellow rug, but for e-commerce they want colors bright colors and patterns that pop. Online, the rug has to speak for itself.
How are your hand-tufted rugs doing?
Our hand-tufted and hand-loomed rugs were very well received in 2015. But we are still very new to the category. We are like a three-year-old child when it comes to hand-tufted right now. It's not about how much we can sell; it's how much we can make.
Customers have responded to the quality and fashion of our collections. Our parent company [Saraswatii Global in India] is all about hand-knotted rugs, and their hand-tufted production is only for Amer. Their hand-tufted qualities are so good they are comparable to hand-knotted rugs, so they are too pricey for wholesaling. As I said, whatever they can make, we can sell. We are their top priority.
What about Amer's in-stock rapid ship program?
We launched the program in 2015 and it really helped grow our business. Before we introduce a collection we make sure we have inventory to back it up. When a customer places and order with Amer, they know the production is there for them. I hear from so many customers and sales reps about companies that introduce 300 to 400 rugs at market, but have no inventory to ship. The charm of a new collection is lost when there is no production to back it up.