Wool remains key carpet material despite high costs
Makers lower composition, consider alternatives as fiber rates climb.
India carpet suppliers are looking to reduce wool content to 50 percent even as they retain the fiber as the line’s primary material. Current models have a wool composition reaching 70 percent.
Companies are adopting this strategy to ease spending as costs spiral upward. Rates for New Zealand wool, for example, have surged more than 160 percent in the past year to $7.64 per kilogram amid strong demand. India and other international carpet hubs, including China, count the Pacific nation among their key sources for the fiber. Makers also procure wool from the Middle East and locally.
Carpet Handicrafts Export has lowered wool content from 80 percent to 70 percent. Further, the company has reduced the number of knots and is accepting small orders to sustain business.
Overseas Carpets Ltd, on the other hand, is maximizing its existing wool inventory, which is good for six to eight months, in the face of rising costs. The supplier adopts semiworsted wool on request.
Makers encounter cost challenges even in secondary materials. Cotton and silk rates have doubled in the past 18 months. Rayon and polyester are actually more expensive than domestic wool. Their use raises carpet production costs by more than 10 percent.
In contrast, jute brings down expenditure by over 20 percent. Gupta Textiles employs the fiber, specifically in handtufted carpets, to expand its low-end selection. The company also adopts polyester, rayon and waste fabric. The materials are sourced within India.
High procurement costs have forced suppliers to augment prices by as much as 20 percent to protect margins, which have fallen 60 to 70 percent.
This puts extra pressure on manufacturers as India carpets are inherently more expensive than versions from other overseas hubs. India models, for example, are 20 to 30 percent higher than China pieces because they are designed and produced by hand. Most China types utilize CAD systems and are machine-made.
Projections point to relatively steady quotes through 2012. Companies expect wool costs to stabilize in the months ahead.
Handcrafting as differentiator
India suppliers continue to emphasize labor-intensive methods although this adds to costs. Companies combine such processes with vibrant colors and traditional motifs to stay competitive amid the proliferation of mass-produced styles.
Kashmir and Gabbeh are popular among export-bound models. Both feature handknotting.
Styles in the former adopt pure silk or 80:20 silk-cotton. Designs, influenced by Persian themes, have nature, bird, animal, romantic, historical, floral and geometric patterns. The carpets are treated with several brightening and protective chemical washings after knotting.
Versions from Carpet Handicrafts come in a combination of silk and cotton, and wool and cotton. Nature themes highlight a mix of traditional and modern, and floral and leaf patterns.
Handknotted models from Overseas Carpets are made of pure silk, or silk-cotton or wool-cotton blends with an 80:20 ratio.
Capry Expotex’s pieces are in 80:20 wool-artificial silk, silk-cotton or 100 percent silk. Designs feature traditional Bidjar and Herati patterns in dark and royal blue, red and cream.
A less-expensive version of Kashmir types, Gabbeh carpets are made of 75:25 cotton-wool. They are thicker and coarser, and have simple tribal designs.
A growing number of suppliers, however, are opting for handtufting due to rising labor costs. The method involves punching wool strands into canvas using a hand tool. It is not as skills intensive as manual knotting and requires less labor.
Carpet Handicrafts has started employing electric tufting guns, reducing the need for manual work further.
Gupta’s tufted and woven models have balls, swirls, daisies and leaves. The company uses handoperated cotton yarn spinning, weaving and tufting equipment.
The shift to handtufting supports makers’ emphasis on low-end models in response to heightened price consciousness.
For this category, Gupta employs Bikaner wool with a 2cm pile and weighing 2.5kg/sqm, and latex for backs. Designs are created using a blend of chenille and polyester, or jute and waste fabric.
Colors include maroon gold and rustic hues for US-bound versions, moss green and other earth shades for Japan, and pastels for Europe.
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