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Revamped floors in Atlanta full of possibilities

Lissa Wyman -- Furniture Today, January 28, 2013

As I made my rounds at the Atlanta International Area Rug Market a couple weeks ago, I was reminded of a quotation by the writer Viktor Frankl: "When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves."
Americasmart launched an ambitious program of change in January, aimed at getting more cross-pollination between rugs and home fashions. The main idea was to get a more diverse group of shoppers - specifically more home furnishings stores - on to the rug floors.
The fourth floor, once part of the Area Rug Center, was re-christened "Rug & Home" as Four Hands opened a 12,000-square-foot home accessories showroom on that floor. Meanwhile, Surya, a pioneer in the diversification movement, moved to a 13,500-square-foot showroom on the 11th floor Home Floor. Other rug vendors such as Safavieh and Momeni opened adjunct showrooms to show off home accents.
Surprise. The reality seems to be slightly different than what was originally planned. And it's all good.
I did not see too many hard-core home accent and gift buyers on the rug floors. That movement will definitely take some time and I hope that everyone has the fortitude to stick to their guns on this concept.
However, the rug retailers were really interested in expanding their product mix. Seeing more home accents on the rug floors gave them some new dreams for their own stores. The dreams may still be hazy, but I can imagine that a lot of people went home to start making them a reality.
I am talking about pure RUG retailers, not the home fashion retailers that all the rug vendors are enamored of lately. (I saw plenty of them, too. But they've already been converted.)
I saw a group of buyers from a Massachusetts rug store having a great time trying out chairs and fiddling with lamps. "We've got room for this stuff!" they exclaimed. "We can sell this."
I spoke to a Midwestern rug retailer who knew that change was necessary, but wasn't yet sure how she was going to do it. "I'm comfortable with rugs, but I don't know anything about these other categories. But maybe my vendors who are adding accessories can help me," she told me. "I want to have smaller items in my store so customers can buy something, even if they aren't ready to commit to a rug."
Two rug companies that have a diverse product mix in their showrooms in Las Vegas and High Point told me they are now thinking about adding home accents to their Atlanta showrooms.
"Clearly there is a need for all of us to diversify, whether we are retailers or wholesalers," said one. "Retailing is changing. The industry is changing. We've got to face the new realities and make changes, too."
I've said this before and I will say it again: Diversify or die.

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