|FLOORING DEALERS SHARE TIPS ON SELLING RUGS, REMAIN COMMITTED TO THE CATEGORY
EDITOR'S NOTE -- There is an often-quoted flooring statistic that says 68% of people who buy hardwood floors will buy area rugs in six months. By logical extension, as sales of hard surfaces continue to grow, rugs are expected to come along for the ride.
But realistically, the majority of area rugs will not be sold by specialty flooring dealers thanks to the increasing clout of mass merchants and Internet sellers. And some dealers have stayed away from the category due to the space it takes and the inventory required.
Still, many have remained true to this important segment, fine-tuning area rug assortments, services and promotions to appeal to specific niches of customers.
In this special report, RugNews.com speaks with seven dealers from various sections of the country who are doubling down on the category. They share their tips on selling rugs, and how to compete in today's changing retail landscape.
Carpetland Colortile, with stores in Flint, Mich. And Kokomo, Indiana, is growing its rug departments.
Despite the boom in e-commerce rug sales - especially among millennial customers -- Sidney York of Carpetland Colortile in Flint, Michigan is convinced that stocking rugs is the way to go.
"Millennials like immediate gratification. They want to come in, buy something, take it home today and lay it down. They don't want to wait for an installer.
"I talk to a lot of interior decorators in my stores, and they often tell me I have a high advantage because two out of three people that order rugs online return them -- primarily because the pictures online don't adequately show the carpet or the color."
"As a stocking dealer, my customers see the exact rug they are going to get, which makes it easier to make a decision," York explained.
WHY RUGS NOW
||"It's a great time to be in the rug business." -- Sidney York, Carpetland Colortile
"It's a great time to be in the area rug business because wood floors are soaring in sales," York told RugNews.com, "and the average American home has two and a half rugs in the household."
He's also made note of another trend: consumers are layering rugs. "They put one rug down that is something like a Crate and Barrel base grade -- a plain basket weave for example. And then they put another rug on top with color in it. They often place the rug on top at an angle to give it even more pop," he reports.
"Most of the vendors I saw in High Point last month were talking about layering rugs. They were also talking about bright colors -- a little shiny, but not too shiny. In the past, shiny rugs were less expensive, but these were heavy rugs with beautiful colors and just enough shine to give it some pizazz.
"Consumers today also like changes: immediate changes. Most are changing their rugs every four to five years - and that's another good reason to be in the area rug business."
He's also seeing a move to larger sizes in area rugs. "When I first got in the flooring business 27 years ago, 5x8s were by far the best selling rugs. Older homes with smaller family rooms bought 5x8s. Now 8x11s are the rug of choice," York said.
TIPS FOR SUCCESS - DEALERS DISH
Hadinger's is a full line flooring retailer in Naples, Fla., serving a wide swathe of the state's Gulf coast demographic.
Keep Inventories Fresh
From hand-knotted to tufted to power-loomed products, Hadinger's complete inventory sets it apart from the big boxes, according to Judy Hadinger, rug buyer. The Naples-based full-line floor covering retailer freshens its inventory frequently and pays close attention to which products are selling through and which are not and need to be replaced. "The area rug business is a full-time job," she said.
The Rug Mart Carpet One
The Rug Mart focuses on customer service, and matching rug fibers to the consumer's lifestyle.
Know Your Fibers
Sales guru Chris Pindar at The Rug Mart knows a thing or two about fiber; therefore, he knows a thing or two about rugs and what works best for which customers. From materials to design, he helps customers choose the best product for their lifestyle and taste. "A big part of that choice will be picking the fiber your rug will be made out of since each fiber has different performance benefits or characteristics," he said.
The Rug Mart creates its own custom rugs. It also separates itself from the boxes and other flooring dealers by offering a rug cleaning and rug repair service. The retailer even services rugs that were not purchased at its store.
O'Krent's Abbey Flooring
San Antonio, Texas
O'Krent's buyer Margie O'Krent justifies stocking rugs because sales have increased accordingly.
More is Better
Most floor covering retailers have a hard time committing to rugs because it is difficult for many of them to justify the cost and space requirements necessary to be in the rug business. O'Krent's showroom is expansive, however, and this century-old dealer happily showcases the breadth and depth of its inventory. "In short, the more you inventory, the more you'll sell," advised Margie O'Krent, rug buyer.
The Rug Rack & Home Decor
The Rug Rack personalizes the rug shopping experience for Chattanooga area customers.
Know thy customer
Customer service is one thing; intimacy is quite another. At this Chattanooga establishment, it's about getting to know your customer in a way that a big box store or online seller never could. "We make it personal," owner Miriam Thompson said. "My handle has become we are a striving rug maven, always searching, always trying to learn more about the hand-knotted rug facet of the industry."
The Rug Rack procures the ideal rug for its customers, which is not something a big box or online retailer can compete with. "We can say 'this is perfect for you' or 'you will regret this purchase in a year based on the rug fiber vs. your family lifestyle'. In a lot of cases, after our conversation, our customers purchase a higher quality rug because they have learned the benefits of the fiber its construction."
"We tie rug sales in with a customer loyalty program." -- Mark Compston, Mark's Floors
Having perhaps squandered an opportunity in the past, Mark's is all in on rugs, stocking about 600. Owner Mark Compston said he will tie rug sales in with his loyalty customer program. "All I am trying to get from her is the first look. We will offer additional discounts because she is a repeat customer [having purchased a wood floor], and we therefore have leverage." Compston's believes that if a customer is willing to spend $10,000 to $12,000 on hard surface flooring she will have no problem spending an additional $2,000 on area rugs to complete the job.
The Rug Gallery
The Rug Gallery focuses on the products targeting the upper-end and 50-plus markets.
Sam Presnell acknowledges he cannot compete against the big boxes and Internet sellers, so he doesn't try to. His approach is developing his own brands at the upper end and focusing on the older 50-plus market. "I heard someone say you never buy a Mercedes on your first five to seven cars. but eventually you will on the eighth, and you aren't going back to the low end after you own one. Rugs are like that, too. This is ours: we need to own this space."