FAMILY-RUN SUGGS ORIENTAL RUGS THRIVES IN NO-FRILLS RETAIL SETTING
The second generation of Alabama-based Suggs Oriental Rugs is expanding their existing store and adding a second location. Above, brothers Robert and Dale Suggs flank their sister, Marnie Suggs Austin.
MADISON, Ala. -- Customers who first walk through the doors of Suggs Oriental Rugs in Madison, Alabama, will likely be greeted by Max, an Airedale mix pooch who loves to engage visitors in a game of fetch.
Although few rug stores boast a canine salesperson, Max is just one example of how a small, family-run business can find great success in unconventional ways.
"If you can't find the rug you want here, it's going to be hard to find it anywhere." --Raymond Suggs, founder, Suggs Oriental Rugs
And while some rug stores pride themselves on elaborate displays or an upscale atmosphere, Suggs Rugs is relatively no-frills, keeping the focus strictly on area rugs and placing as large an assortment of affordable rugs on the floor as possible.
KEEPING IT SIMPLE
Even without a fancy website or designer-generated vignettes on the showroom floor, Marnie Suggs Autin, daughter of Suggs' founder, Raymond Suggs, reports that the company is flourishing, increasing sales every year. The company declined to disclose its annual sales, but an indication of its success is its plans to expand: Later this fall or early 2018, the store will add on to the existing building, increasing its square footage by 2,000 to 3,000 square feet. And there is also a fall plan to open a second location in Muscle Shoals, where the store's home office and warehouse are located.
Suggs Oriental Rugs customers are greeted by the retailer's mascot, Max, an Airedale mix who provides low-tech entertainment.
"We always tell people that if you're looking for fancy, that's not what you're going to get," says Marnie. Rugs are stacked on rows of tables throughout the store, or hanging on racks along the wall. The company has never really incorporated vignettes into its showroom floor, choosing instead to devote the valuable space to as much inventory as possible. Marnie estimates that the store has about 1,000 rugs in stock at any given time, and a warehouse in Muscle Shoals can replenish inventory as it's sold.
With such a large selection on site, the store doesn't do many special orders. "We think, if you can't find the rug you want here, it's going to be hard to find it anywhere," says Raymond Suggs. "We really try to have a little bit of everything."
Rugs are displayed on tables and hanging racks at the warehouse-style Suggs Oriental Rugs.
AFFORDABILITY IS KEY
The company focuses on machine-woven rugs and synthetic fibers, although it does have a few wool options. Its inventory includes some of the biggest names in the industry, including Oriental Weavers, Kas Rugs, Dalyn, United Weavers, Orian, Karastan and Mohawk.
"I want everybody to be able to have a big selection to choose from, no matter what their budget," says Marnie. "Not everyone can afford a really high-priced rug. And a lot of people like to change out their rugs, so they might not want to have an investment-quality rug lying there when they know that in a few years, they will want to try a different color or style."
To that end, area rugs start at around $169 for an 8x11, and the most expensive are in the $800 to $900 range, says Marnie. "We try to keep our prices as low as we can. If we get a good deal from a company, we pass it on to the customer."
Rugs on walls, racks and rows of tables throughout the store display over 1,000 stocked pieces.
In terms of design, "We try to strike a balance between traditional, transitional, and contemporary," says Marnie. "In our area, we have a lot of people who like the very traditional rugs. But we are also seeing a lot of people now who want transitional or the new traditional rugs with a twist. It's not just the same old look, and I think the rug industry is really delivering on that." Products are sourced from visits to the Atlanta International Rug Market, as well as the Tupelo Furniture Market.
While other rug retailers have expanded into services like carpet cleaning, custom orders, other types of flooring, and decorative accessories, Suggs Rugs concentrates solely on its main focus. They don't offer delivery because it would be difficult with their high sales volume. And the website is simple, serving mainly as a resource for location, contact information, and links to the sites of some of the brands they carry.
A high-fashion abstract transitional design installed at the home of a Suggs Oriental Rugs customer.
Before founding the business in 1989 and turning floor coverings into a full-fledged business, Raymond Suggs moonlighted doing carpet-laying. On a trip to Dalton, Georgia to pick up a carpet order, he purchased a load of area rugs, which he brought back to Alabama and sold via newspaper ads and appointment-only showings.
It wasn't long before the orders flourished enough to support an actual store. The family chose Madison, a suburb of Huntsville, as a location. About an hour away from their home in Muscle Shoals, it was an area that was growing and still is today, thanks to a robust aerospace industry and other businesses.
They tested the market with a stall at Limestone Flea Market, and sales were so strong that in 2007 the family decided to go ahead with plans to build its own store. Suggs continues its presence at the indoor flea market, along with many of the local retailers that use their spaces as satellite stores of sorts. "We sell a lot of impulse buys there, like 2x3 rugs, lower-priced items, and novelty designs," says Marnie. "You'd be surprised how many people would buy a 5x8 rug with a tiger on it!"
The retailer is adding a new location in Muscle Shoals, Alabama to supplement sales at the soon to be expanded original Suggs Oriental Rugs in Madison, Alabama (shown).
The current retail store originally was intended to be part of a strip mall, with additional storefronts that the family could rent out, but they soon realized that the 4,000 square feet they'd allocated for their rug store wouldn't be enough. Instead, they decided to dedicate the entire 6,500 square feet to Suggs Oriental Rugs.
Now 81, Raymond is still very active in the company, attending markets and making frequent appearances on the sales floor. His three children -- Marnie Suggs Austin, Robbie Suggs and Dale Suggs -- have taken over much of the day-to-day running the business. Marnie serves as the head buyer, and her brothers work on the floor as salespeople as well as handling operations. And then, of course, there's Max, who is Robbie's dog. "He's good at entertaining the husbands and kids," jokes Marnie.