After years of traveling around the country to various showrooms and design events, Chad Stark, senior vice president of STARK, received similar feedback across the board. “I would constantly hear things like, ‘Oh, I love STARK, but my clients just can’t afford it,’” he tells Siweb. The New York City-based luxury rug and fabric empire once served as the go-to resource for high-end designers with big, often endless budgets. In 2017, as a result of an increased demand from designers for rugs at more accessible price-points, STARK launched Stark Studio Rugs. Now STARK is taking this new approach one step further with their most price-friendly line to date: Stark Studio Rug Essentials (SSR Essentials). Not only will this collection be offered to the trade, it will also be available online at , , and , as well as a handful of select dealers. "With Stark Studio Rugs Essentials, we have cast that net even further with the same goal—build lifetime relationships with designers all over the world," Stark says.
While the new collection will be of equal quality to the brand’s higher-priced offerings, a more cost-efficient production process—including pre-cut rugs which are stored for quick ship delivery, and no option to customize—lowers the cost of labor and materials, thus reducing the final price. “This initiative will help us broaden our customer reach while ensuring we protect our trade clients by offering them a less expensive, quick-delivery option that they currently cannot find at STARK,” Stark says. While STARK’s latest foray involves a more direct-to-consumer option, it will still remain trade-focused, giving a wider range of designers the opportunity to include STARK products in their designs. STARK’s Trade Benefit Program—which gives members of the trade access to the best prices—is still effective through the new SSR Essentials line.
We got the chance to speak with STARK's senior vice president, Chad Stark, on his decision to expand into a whole new market, and what the future holds for the company overall.
ED: High-end design is becoming much more accessible—and important—to everyone regardless of their budget. How has the demand from consumers changed the way you approach your collections?
CS: We find that consumers across industries are very fickle—they want the best products and services for the lowest prices with next-day delivery. This increased desire for luxury home products is great for our industry because people genuinely care about the brands in their home for the first time. Stark Studio Rugs Essentials is just one of many different efforts we have to address this feedback. By pre-making the rugs at our mills to avoid waste yardage and labor costs, we are able to provide some of our best-selling broadloom items at a much lower price and faster delivery time in standard sizes and finishes. Most of our current clients want custom sizes with hand finishes, so this collection expands our assortment to make our company more accessible and convenient to independent design firms around the country.
ED: Have you seen a shift in the way designers shop for products that influenced your decision to launch this line?
CS: We have absolutely seen a shift in the way designers shop for products that influenced our decision to launch this line. Everyone knows that foot traffic in retail settings is decreasing—in all industries, not just ours—and designers now have access to hundreds of sources via a quick Google search, which is fundamentally different from how it used to be. Designers no longer discover products by walking into showrooms, they discover these products by browsing social media and suppliers’ websites. The most powerful change we’ve seen is that designers are buying a lot of products for their projects online via retail product marketplaces and we know that if we don’t have any items for sale in these marketplaces then the next generation of design professionals won’t relate to our brand like the last generation did. This change in shopping habits influenced our decision to list these products on select marketplaces that we feel align with our brand and our target clients.
ED: Does making your rugs more accessible mark an important shift in the brand?
CS: We hope the Stark Studio Rugs brand, and more specifically the Essentials collection, will educate independent design firms that STARK has well-made, highly styled products that can fit their budgets. I don’t see this as a hugely significant shift in our brand because we have always strived to be a one-stop shop for designers and have introduced new qualities at different price points every year. Now with so much access to nice products at lower prices, this is just an example of us expanding our assortment to fit designers' needs. The Stark Studio Rugs brand gives us the opportunity to communicate this new assortment via separate and differentiated messaging.
ED: On that same note, how are you working to ensure that—despite offering lower price points—designers who love STARK will still view it as a high-end, high quality brand?
CS: We often joke internally that no company talks about $10 per square foot machine-made rugs and $150 per square foot silk hand-knotted broadloom in the same sentence. We spend significantly more time developing innovative products for the designers who have higher budget projects. This year alone, we launched the industry’s first hand-knotted silk broadloom–the most luxurious broadloom ever introduced by anyone in the world—and we will be launching three amazing offerings this fall that address client requests for quicker custom, in-stock handmade rugs, and performance fibers. Additionally, the products we have introduced with the SSR Essentials collection are no lower in quality that what is offered in our showrooms—the price is just a reflection of pre-making the items instead of only offering them made-to-order.
ED: What are you most excited about with the unveiling of this new collection? Can you tell us a little bit about how you curated the selection?
CS: I’m most excited to have an answer to designers who don’t shop with STARK because of their perception of our price points. By curating the selection from items we already know to be winners, we believe that this collection will open us up to a whole new market of trade professionals who we can start working with. And as they grow in their careers and have clients who do want those custom silk rugs, we will already be there for them.