Showing rugs in furniture stores not easy, but worth it
Lissa Wyman -- Furniture Today, April 23, 2013
When I ask rug vendors about growing distribution channels, they invariably say "furniture stores."
But what does that mean? The furniture store category includes multiple sub-types such as national and regional chains, independent "carriage trade" stores, rent-to-own, discount and off-price stores, Internet retailers, interior design shops, home accent stores and probably several more that escape me now.
Each of these channels-within-a-channel requires different price points, styling, merchandising and marketing. Rooms To Go has a different business model from ABC Carpet & Home. The smart rug vendor has to tailor product and marketing to suit each type of furniture store.
And what do furniture stores think about the rug category? Historically, they've been leery. Either they feel they lack the expertise necessary to sell rugs or they are hesitant to invest in the necessary inventory to show a broad selection. Some fine furniture stores, recognizing the necessity of having a complete selection of interior furnishings, have established leased rug departments (or "concessions") within their stores. They let professional rug merchants establish a full rug department. The down side is the furniture store owner loses a great deal of control over merchandise and personnel.
Other furniture stores use rugs in vignette settings. The advantage is they are shown in a naturalistic environment, and they are coordinated with the furnishings. The problem is that the rugs are often viewed only as props, by both the consumer and the sales staff. It's almost as if they carry a big "NOT FOR SALE" sign. They don't turn. I wholeheartedly endorse the concept of showing rugs in room settings, but this approach should be used in combination with other merchandising techniques.
Some furniture stores bite the bullet and get a rug rack. Usually they set it up at the back of the store and unless the sales staff has a powerful incentive (like spiffs), the customer won't go back there. There is another problem: one rug rack is not a rug department. A store should have a selection of styles, constructions, colors and price points. A department with about 100 rugs sounds like a lot, but it's not.
Once a furniture store decides to take the plunge into rugs, it's important to choose products that are congruent with the other items on the floor. It's easy to fall in love with beautiful hand-knotted rugs, but if everything else is value-priced, those beauties are going to sit there for a very long time. And don't fall into the trap of thinking they will increase in value. They won't. It's not rocket science. Expensive rugs go with expensive furniture. Inexpensive rugs go with inexpensive furniture.
I hope I haven't been too discouraging. I strongly believe rugs should be a part of every furniture store's repertoire. They are beautiful and can be profitable add-on sales. But nobody said they were easy.