In the face of the growing threat from COVID-19 and despite the impact of the worldwide economic slowdown, the Kabul Carpet Export Center (KCEC) held a highly successful sale of hand-knotted Afghan carpets in Charleston, South Carolina, June 26 to July 5, 2020. The Charleston Afghan Artisan Rug Pop-up (AARPU) was the third and most recent of KCEC’s carpet roadshows in the United States. KCEC is pioneering a new way of selling Afghan hand-knotted carpets through roadshows at a time when the international carpet-selling business is undergoing major restructuring.

In a large tent set up in front of Fine Rugs of Charleston, the Charleston AARPU showed several hundred carpets made by the crafts people working for 10 of the most proficient Afghan carpet manufacturers.

“We more than doubled our expectations of sales within the first three days,” Rob Leahy said. Sales totaled $55,942.30. “Not only were we selling excellent rugs at very good prices, but customers repeatedly stated that they wanted to support the people in Afghanistan, especially the women, by buying carpets.”

Interestingly, a number of customers came back a second day either because they had not found what they wanted the first time, or just to buy more carpets. Very few who came went away without a rug under their arm. One elderly couple who were waiting in the parking lot one morning before the sale tent had opened said they had driven for over an hour because “we know how excellent Afghan carpets are, and this was our chance to buy one.” They bought two.

The decades-old system of carpet importers/wholesalers/retailers has unraveled in recent years owing to many factors, making it harder for Afghan carpet manufacturers to get their rugs to buyers. KCEC has helped them make that customer connection by bringing Afghan carpets to consumers through its Afghan Artisan Rug Pop-up roadshows.