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Wool remains key carpet material despite high costs

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Knotted carpet

Overseas Carpets' TMDR-135 RD model is made of 80:20 wool-cotton.

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.


Knotted carpet

Related article:
Woven carpets: India carpets highlight culture, handiwork

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.

Products & prices

Knotted carpet

Priced at $91.80 per square meter, the 9-60 Quality model from Carpet Handicrafts features a handknotted design.

India carpets are characterized by intricate traditional motifs, vibrant colors and craftsmanship. Natural azo-free dyes are employed as part of environment-protection endeavors, although less-expensive carpets also adopt synthetic pigment.

Low-end handtufted releases come in wool, polyester, cotton and jute, and go for $10 to $20 per square meter. Models are plain, have an 8 to 10mm pile and a density of 1,700gsm.

Handknotted types in this price level are made of 70:30 wool-cotton and have 76,000 knots for every square meter. They have five to 14 colors and are 8x10ft.

Under the midrange, handtufted carpets have a 10 to 12mm pile and weigh 2,000gsm. Such models use the same materials as low-end varieties, but more intricate patterns bring up quotes to $35.

Midlevel manually tied styles adopt 70:30 wool-cotton, have 200,000 knots and are priced at $610 to $900.

Exceeding $35, high-end handtufted carpets feature a combination of traditional and modern themes. Pile is from 12 to 20mm and density tops out at 2,500gsm.

Handknotted pieces in this category usually go for $910 to $2,500, although some are even more expensive. Models use 70:30 wool-cotton or 70 to 80 percent wool. They have 375,000 knots per square meter.

There are about 800 manufacturers of handknotted carpets in India and nearly 50 offering handtufted models. Most are midsize and large companies. The former turn out 8,000 to 10,000sqm every month.

Meanwhile, many of the estimated 2,000 small suppliers have shut down due to losses. Government subsidy and duty drawbacks help support the remaining operations.

The entire carpets supplier base in India is locally owned.

Makers target Brazil, Argentina, Japan, South Africa, Singapore and Malaysia where demand for the line is strong. This helps generate better margins than shipments to the traditional markets of the US and Europe. Business to these destinations has yet to recover.

The key hubs for handknotted wool carpets are Bhadohi, Mirzapur, Varanasi and Agra in Uttar Pradesh, Amritsar and Panipat in Punjab, and Rajasthan’s Jaipur. Panipat is also the main production center for handtufted models.

Gabbeh styles are mainly from the Bhadohi-Mirzapur area. The location has emerged as the largest carpets hub in India, boasting more than 500 manufacturers.

Product gallery

Knotted carpet

Capry Expotex

Model: Serapi
MOQ: 1 piece
Delivery: 60 days
Price: $65 per square yard
Description: Handspun; 100% 5/32 New Zealand wool; geometric, floral pattern in red and blue; with fringe

Knotted carpet

Carpet Handicrafts Export

Model: 5-40 Quality
Delivery: 60 days
Price: $40.80 per square meter
Description: Handknotted; 70:30 wool-cotton; 76,000 knots per square meter; multicolor square, leaf and floral pattern; 200x300cm

Knotted carpet

Carpet Handicrafts Export

Model: 9-60 Quality
Delivery: 60 days
Price: $91.80 per square meter
Description: Handknotted; 70:30 wool-cotton; 206,000 knots per square meter; leaf and floral pattern in black and yellow; wide border; with fringe on short end; 250x300cm

Knotted carpet

Gupta Textiles

Model: 258
MOQ: 500 pieces
Delivery: 60 days
Price: $18.90
Description: Handtufted; Bikaner wool; 60 count; 20mm pile density; 2.5 kg per square meter; latex back; black and white, and brown, and dotted prints

Knotted carpet

Overseas Carpets Ltd

Model: Tabriz Mahi RDV
MOQ: 1 piece
Delivery: 60 days
Price: $176 per square meter
Description: Handknotted; 80:20 wool-cotton; 14/14 wool quality; 196 knots per square inch; maroon and beige border with floral pattern

Knotted carpet

Overseas Carpets Ltd

Model: TMDR -135 RD
MOQ: 1 piece
Delivery: 60 days
Price: $28 per square meter
Description: Handtufted; 80:20 wool-cotton; rust and maroon square pieces arranged in concentric circles

Note: All price quotes in this report are in US dollars unless otherwise specified. FOB prices were provided by the companies interviewed only as reference prices at the time of interview and may have changed.

Disclaimer: All product images are provided by the companies interviewed and are for reference purposes only. Those product images featuring products with trademarks, brand names or logos are not intended for sale. We, our affiliates, and our affiliates' respective directors, officers, employees, representatives, agents or contractors, do not accept and will not have any responsibility or liability for product images (or any part thereof) which infringe on any intellectual property or other rights of a third party.

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