NOW MORE THAN EVER -- THE MANTRA
FOR SURVIVAL IS DIVERSIFY OR DIE
By Lissa Wyman
DIVERSIFY OR DIE!!!!!!
Excuse me for shouting, but I’ve been saying that for over a year, and I really, really mean it. Now more than ever, retailers must present a mixture of unique and fashionable products in order to get customers into the stores.
Retailers (and maybe even vendors) who have a narrow specialty are not going to weather the current recession well. It’s hard enough to get people into the stores to buy necessities, much less getting them in to buy something that’s postponable.
And let’s face it, what is MORE postponable than a rug?
But maybe you can get someone in to buy a pillow or a wedding gift knick-knack. Maybe, just maybe while they are there they will also see the rug of their dreams, and if you’re lucky, the rug will go home with them, as well.
I’m not just making this stuff up, by the way. I actually see it happening in real life. After the High Point market, I visited relatives in Asheville, NC and stopped in to see our old friends at Rug & Home. Owned by the husband and wife team of Dolly and Rakesh Agarwal, Rug & Home operates two substantial stores in Asheville and Gaffney, SC. I wanted to check out the 5,000 sq. ft. addition at the Asheville unit and take a look at the custom-made “World’s Largest Rug Rack,” which features 12-ft. by 18-ft. rugs on swing-arms. (To see the story on Rug & Home, click here)
Daughter Aanchal Agarwal, who is also the coo of the company, showed me through the store, crammed with occasional furniture, chairs, gifts, lighting, window treatments, pillows, throws, wall art and over 1,000 rugs. "You can’t depend on rugs alone to bring in consumers," said Agarwal.
That summarizes the reality of rug retailing today.
This Winter, the Atlanta International Rug Market will take place Jan. 7 to 12, nearly simultaneous with the Atlanta Gift & Home Furnishings Market, running Jan 6 to 14.
One of the big reasons for the shift in dates is to allow gift and home furnishings retailers the opportunity to shop for rugs. But I think it should work the other way, as well. If rug retailers took an extra day at market to visit the home furnishings and gift showrooms, it might open their eyes to new opportunities in their own stores.
As for retailers who keep trying the same old things that haven’t worked very well for years, (Who do you guys think you're kidding when you advertise 70% Off Suggested Retail Price"????) the wolf is no longer at the door. He’s already destroying the house.
There is no doubt that times are tough for all retailers, even those who are as savvy as the Agarwals. But I have a feeling that once the recession is behind us, Rug & Home and others with the guts to try new things will not only survive, they will prevail.