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Industry should recognize flash sale retail channel

Lissa Wyman Rug editorLissa Wyman Rug editor
The day before I left for High Point Market, I got an email from a family friend. Mark works for a furniture importer that has recently opened a flash sale retail website selling a variety of home categories. They needed rugs, and Mark knew nothing about them. Could I introduce him to a few rug vendors?
     My first reaction was that this was a pain in the butt. But of course, I agreed. When civilians ask me about rug sources, I make sure they know I cannot recommend a specific company. (Gotta maintain journalistic neutrality.)
     I ask what price range they are looking for and then suggest three or four resources. After the introductions, I step back and let nature take its course.
     I chose companies for Mark that had a fairly wide range of products in terms of price, construction and styling. I also chose medium to medium-large companies I felt were likely to have Internet sales programs in place.
     I don't know about Mark, but this adventure was an education for me. It was NOT a pain in the butt.
     A couple vendors said they had an Internet specialist on staff, but that he or she had already gone home. (This was Tuesday.) Nope, no one else could help. Call so-and-so when you get home.
     Another vendor didn't seem to know what Mark was talking about. Another one whipped out a price sheet and promised to give him an extra 10% off.
     I was beginning to feel a little embarrassed about my beloved rug industry. None of these people even offered to show him their rugs.
     But then we hit the jackpot. Mark was whisked away on a showroom tour that (he told me later) included a review of the company's philosophy, a tour of the entire line and a quick education about which rugs sell best on the Internet.
     One of the vendors we bumped into was just a personal friend who didn't even carry rugs. But he rose to the bait and took Mark around. He romanced his accessory category sufficiently to convince Mark that this was the product that could make him a million bucks.
     I have been reading about flash sales for about a year. I confess I've made a couple guilty-pleasure trips to Rue LaLa and Gilt.
     For GenYs and Millennials particularly, flash sales are downright habit-forming. This is shopping as entertainment, with a dash of gambling.
     Mark and I certainly did not hit all the rug companies in the two hours we toured together. But I did see enough to realize that the rug category can do a much better job of identifying and exploiting this retail channel with specific, unique programs.
     Retailers and vendors who don't recognize the opportunities of this channel risk losing the young adult customers they want and need the most.

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