// Art Hide produces and sells custom rugs globally. Founder Kura Perkins shares how they manage their supply chain during Covid.
//SN: Could you introduce Art Hide? What make you guys unique and who are your main clients?
Art Hide is a custom rug company that works with premium sustainable hair-on-hide cow leather. We have been in business since 2010 and just celebrated our tenth birthday.
We operate out of Perth, but also have a U.S. warehouse in Charlotte, North Carolina. We’ve effectively had a U.S. operation for four and a half years now. Our primary clients are end clients and interior designers. We also sell our rugs on major [online] marketplaces, where we drop ship to their clients.
//SN: How do you source your hides?
We have three different makers, two who we work with primarily. Our imports arrive ready for the client. The makers source the hides. In some cases they tan and colour them.
We only work with makers with stringent controls across the supply chain, with respect to sustainability, ethics and child labour.
//SN: That’s pretty hard, to ensure no child labour specifically.
Some countries have endemic child labour issues. We don’t have any production in India … India is multi-religious, but most Indians are Hindus who revere cows. So they import scraps and the rug quality isn’t great. We also avoid tanneries in Bangladesh, which are known for bad systems and procedures.
Our primary makers are in Argentina and Pakistan. Both are third generation leather makers with a history of sustainable providence and high quality production.
//SN: What kind of sanitization measures did you adopt since Covid? Were your workers allowed to go to work?
We had a little bit of disruption. Fortunately, both Argentina and Pakistan have had considerable regard for the importance of exports. There are sanitization measures similar to Australia’s. Our makers are family businesses. They have smaller facilities and rely heavily on the income we generate.
//SN: Relying on smaller businesses – did that make your business less exposed to COVID-19?
I don’t think they’re less exposed. It’s just that our products are handmade and these are smaller family businesses, making our products special. It’s really important that we look after them and know that they looking after us. One of them we’ve been with since beginning and the other one we’ve been working with six or seven years.
//SN: Did you run into difficulty shipping rugs?
The biggest difficulty was – and is – with international freight. Because air transport is less frequent and there’s literally less flights, we potentially ship late. Normally, Australian parcels arrive in Perth, but now we just accept whatever airport the flight goes to.
For example, a parcel came into Melbourne. Usually it leaves Pakistan, arrives four days later and we would have it in hand within seven days max. Five to seven business days and we would be ready to ship to our client.
It left Pakistan five weeks ago, came into Melbourne ten days late. Australian customs booked it for random inspections, taking a week. Toll, the freight provider, took a week to move it out of customs, lost a box and then took another week recovering the box!
//SN: How do you try to account for that?
We communicate closely with clients – almost daily – so they don’t feel like they are being kept in the dark. Earlier I couldn’t get a shipment into our U.S. warehouse, so I sent a parcel [from Pakistan] to our Perth warehouse and shipped it directly to a U.S. client via DHL.
//SN: Were there shortages with your stockists?
Not really. Our product is fairly expensive and does not exactly fly off the shelves in a retail environment.
//SN: What about e-commerce? How much of your sales and revenue come from that?
I’d say e-commerce accounts for 20% of our sales overall and is rising as people shop more online. We have Zip Money, it’s like a lay-by system. We also have one in the U.S. called Affirm.
Do you have advice for companies sourcing animal products worldwide?
One of the biggest things that a product based business is to be holistic and omni-channel. With small operators it can be difficult, but it’s the way for product businesses. Big platforms like Temple and Webster have got all the eyeballs, and marketing budgets that far exceed those of small product businesses.
Being on them is very important.
Kura Perkins has recently started business coaching and podcasting via The Product Lounge. This interview has been edited for brevity.